November – Anxiety and Drama

The election and a a surging pandemic promise even more uncertainty and craziness. We’ll see what November offer.

November 30

It’s a rainy Monday in Haymarket and will likely rain through the day. Although it’s relatively warm, around sixty degrees, the day looks like a fall day. The hearty cosmos flowers that had brought a blast of late season color to the yard are now just weathered and brown stems waiting to be cut back. There are only a few lazy susans left in bloom.  

The imagery seems to fit our current situation. Our “garden” is currently in rough shape. For 27 days now, we have had over 100,000 new infections per day and we are now getting close to 200,000 a day. Deaths are creeping up to the 2,000 per day level.  Hospitalizations seem to get higher every day. Yesterday, there were over 93,000 people hospitalized. Health care workers and facilities are overwhelmed. 

It’s pretty disastrous. Even the states that have been most effective in their response are losing ground. We are drowning in a sea of bad news.

Our failure as a nation in responding to this pandemic cannot be denied. We have 4% of the world’s population. We have 19% of the world’s pandemic deaths. 

But we can’t let our weariness with this struggle overwhelm our common sense. One family so longed to be together to celebrate a family birthday. They held a small gathering… just close family members. Now 15 of them have COVID. That is what happens when we let our guard down. 

This morning I saw folks on the news who said they “just needed a vacation.” They were tired of dealing with the virus, they said. They offered excuses: it would be too expensive to cancel their flight or that they missed their families. But the bottom line is that they have chosen to fly, literally and figuratively, against the best advice of science, against the needs of our society, against the dictates of common sense. 

We keep on reminding ourselves and others about the reality of this disease and how pervasive and deadly it is, in the hope that it will sink in. It probably won’t. That’s why the garden looks pretty grim this morning.

The “lazy susans” that offer a splash of color and glimmer of hope in the morning news comes on the vaccine front. Moderna is applying today for emergency use authorization, joining Pfizer in that process. Their vaccine has been shown to be 94.1% effective against the virus and 100% effective against severe illness. Over the next four to five months we’ll get the vaccine widely distributed and more and more of us will get protected. But, between now and then? We’ve got a crisis. A deadly one.

And we have no leadership. Trump will fail us as a lame duck president every bit as much as he has failed us over the past four years. Our citizens are dying, the virus is out of control, and he does nothing. Health care workers are in despair. Hospital garages are being converted to hold beds. Trump does nothing.

The economy is sliding again. The assassination of Iran’s nuclear chief threatens conflict in the Middle East. And still, Trump does nothing.

Instead, of leading in his final months, instead of putting our nation and our people first, he continues to sulk and pout and tell his supporters he didn’t lost the election. He is creating his own urban legends about voter fraud. Total fictions about votes mysteriously switched, voting machines tampered with, corrupt officials in every city and state where he lost. His claims of massive voter fraud are on a par with tales of Bigfoot. He believes that if he says it enough, claims it vigorously and unrelentingly, he’ll convince folks. 

And he will. At least some. His fiction will become reality for the gullible and the true believers who worship at the altar of Trump. To listen to him shamelessly lie again and again makes me ashamed for our nation. That this man is our president is bad enough. That so many of our “leaders” — and I use that term with reservations — refuse to speak out against this assault on the truth, on our electoral system, our democracy, and on the men and women who managed a democratic election in the most difficult of conditions, is just shameful. I’m embarrassed. 

I know that my garden out back will bloom again and with a bit of tending it will be colorful and vibrant as spring and summer come again. The future of America’s garden is a bit less certain. We once led the world. Now, other nations look at us and shake their heads. 

The road back will be long and hard, even after the pandemic is managed, and the future is uncertain, but the I’m hoping it too will bloom and flourish once the danger that currently sits at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is pushed — kicking and screaming most likely — out the door.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy. 

AND… tomorrow is Giving Tuesday. If you’re inclined to give, I hope you’ll consider supporting Engage Nepal. The link to our year end fundraising project is here.

November 29

Happy Sunday. 

The monolith has disappeared. Yep. As mysterious as it was to discover the shining 12-foot silver monolith in the remote wilds of the desert in Utah, it has now disappeared, leaving behind only a small triangular top.

The commentary is that it’s almost surely man-made. Almost. But no one knows for sure, apparently, and no one can explain why it was placed in such a remote area and where it has gone. Were there tire tracks? Was there any sign that is was a publicity stunt? Has anyone claimed credit? Not so far — at least from what I’ve been able to see.

It’s fun to muse about it. God only knows we can use a diversion from all that swirls around us. It’s a tough time. The pandemic and Trump are a double gut punch — but there’s so much more than that. The issues of climate change, systemic racism, economic inequality, joblessness and hunger, gun violence… the list goes on and on. 

There’s plenty to cause us worry, and plenty that might cause us to lose hope. Although the challenges are huge we can meet them. We have to meet them. And I hope that in 2021 we’ll see things move forward in a positive way. 

Now, I’m not suggesting that the monolith holds a key that will change the future, but it’s an intriguing thought. Maybe a benevolent alien intelligence will transform our world. But… until that happens… it’s up to us.

One way we can make a difference is on Giving Tuesday. It’s two days away. Opening our hearts and our wallets does matter. I know from the work I’ve done with Engage Nepal that we can make a difference and touch lives. And it is the right thing to do. 

Would I welcome your support for Engage Nepal on Giving Tuesday? Of course. We need all the help we can get. $10, $20, $50, or whatever you can give. Every penny will go to Nepal and every penny will matter. But whether you give to Engage Nepal, whether you give to fight cancer, protect the environment, to fund food banks — it all matters.  

You’ll get plenty of solicitations. I’ll just say that you can find links to give to Engage Nepal all over my Facebook page, on the Engage Nepal Facebook page, and at I hope you’ll consider donating, because I don’t think the monolith is going to be our answer… at least not this year.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 28

Today is another family celebration — albeit remotely. Our youngest son turned 38. I suppose he’ll insist on aging… as his siblings have done… and before you know it all three of them will be in their forties. It started with our daughter who willfully passed that milestone a few years ago even though I told her it was not allowed. I COULDN’T have a child — much less two, so far — in their 40s. Because, of course, in my mind I was the one who was still in his 40s. Those cheeky children, however, decided to remind me otherwise.  

I’m getting used to the idea, though. I’ll even wish Tony a Happy Birthday without cringing. I’ve even come to realize that being a bit older has certain privileges… like being able to say whatever the hell you want in blogs like this. 

That comes in handy when, as this morning, you’re doing a slow burn over those things that are stupid… things that are incomprehensible… things that are dangerously reckless. 

The COVID numbers are insane. Record hospitalizations in half the states across the nation. Record infections. We added a million cases in the past six days. And record numbers traveled over Thanksgiving giving rise to fears that this will get even worse — if that is possible. 

And meanwhile, I turn on the TV and see football games or other sports being played — except when the games are cancelled because players keep testing positive for COVID. It seems stupid to me. But, again, it’s all about the money isn’t it? Not what makes sense. And what is particularly galling is when we realize that these pro athletes (and college athletes, too) are getting constant testing but across the nation about two-thirds of nurses have NOT been tested even once. What does this say about priorities? 

Bars open, but schools closed. Athletes protected, but nurses and teachers who are deemed essential are afterthoughts. Tell me how this makes sense. And although some folks may want to argue that we have to protect the economy, the longer this pandemic runs out of control the greater the long term economic costs, no matter how many games are played, and no matter how many drinks are poured for patrons not wearing masks in the confines of packed bars.

I’ve been trained over the years to try and see both sides. I’m having a hell of a time doing that… I’m not sure there is another side to stupid. And that’s what some of these choices are.

And then, as much as I try not to get sucked down the Trump rabbit holes, I have to say that there are moments when you have to ask if the man who sits in the White House is truly deranged. Of course, that is something we’ve debated for four years, but to listen to him rant and rave these days… 

 “Biden can only enter the White House as President if he can prove that his ridiculous ‘80,000,000 votes’ were not fraudulently or illegally obtained,” That’s his latest nonsense. His efforts in the courts are being sharply rebuked even by judges that he appointed. And he continues to turn on his own, attacking the Republican Secretary of State in Georgia, the Georgia governor, and the entire electoral system in Georgia, even as other Republicans are trying to build unity in the face of the two Senate run-off elections that will occur there in January.

As his support falls away, and as the transition moves on, just what insanity will his ego and his insecurities drive him to next? I have faith that we’ll survive this and that our institutions will endure. But at what cost? And what damage might Trump yet do? 

Such craziness. 

And, sadly, COVID will still be here tomorrow and so will Trump and his insanity, but today, as I do so many days, I’ll breathe deeply and carry on. Yesterday, the Christmas tree with it’s lights and garland went up (and, yes, we’re decorating even though we won’t have the usual crowd gathered for the holidays). The ornaments will go on today. The outdoor decorations will go up today as well. There’s plenty to do right here at home.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 27

Thanksgiving was yesterday. In case I had forgotten, the scale was quick to remind me this morning. Even vegan feasts have calories to account for. It was worth it, though. We ate well. Creamy mashed potatoes, gravy, apple cider roasted brussel sprouts, a plant-based turkey roast that was excellent, butternut squash with cranberries and a jalapeño cornbread dressing. The vegan pumpkin pie from Whole Foods was exceptional and the homemade pecan pie was pretty darn good, too. A little fruit salad balanced the pies. Tasty. Every bit.

Zooming with the family was great too. I think everyone was in a bit of a food coma, but it was so good to see everyone. To know that everyone has remained safe and healthy. At least so far.

I am conscious, though, of just how hard things are right now for so many of our fellow citizens. There are far too many who are increasingly desperate about making ends meet. And for whom just putting a meal on the table is a challenge. Thanksgiving feasts are not within the realm of the possible for them. Children going hungry. Seniors going hungry. We’re heading in the wrong direction. In America. It’s not supposed to be this way.

And, as we enjoyed the holiday, the pandemic probably did too — and god only knows how many new infections were sparked in settings where folks didn’t take enough care. It’s so frightening to think about where we might end up.

There will be so many days ahead, though, when we will be talking about all these issues related to COVID. Virginia isn’t as bad as Minnesota or Wisconsin, where we have a lot of family, but numbers are rising rapidly here as well. No state is going to go untouched. We learned yesterday of additional family members (not our immediate family) who have been infected. Most have recovered or are recovering but we know how dangerous this is and how problematic it could still be, even for those who recovered, in the long term. We just don’t know what the long-term health impact will be. The smart play? Do all you can to stay safe now. It’s best for us all.

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of attention being given to the Supreme Court ruling regarding New York’s restrictions on the size of religious gatherings. There are those who suggest that this reflects the increasingly conservative orientation of the court, and who will make much of the fact that the Chief Justice sided with the liberal side of the court. Lots to be gleaned from the tea leaves, perhaps. But it may be a bit early to jump to conclusions. 

I haven’t read the ruling itself — just reports of it. But it seems that the court fundamentally said that churches couldn’t be treated differently, in terms of COVID regulations, than secular entities. You can debate whether there might be reason to impose different restrictions on churches than on bars and restaurants.  Clearly there are arguments to be made on both sides… that’s why the court split. The ruling itself, though, doesn’t seem to be totally off base.

The more fundamental question may be why so many religious denominations are fighting so hard against the restrictions that are intended to keep us all safe. I wonder how much of this is driven by the desire to come together to worship and how much it is motivated by the reduced collections for the churches when they don’t have folks packed together and feeling a bit more inclined to give when surrounded by their fellow congregants.

Maybe that is too cynical. But I can’t help but feel that, like so many other choices made over the past nine months, economic concerns are more important than public health or the front line health care workers.

What else is getting attention? The child in the White House, of course. I have to believe that there is not a graceful or decent bone in his body. Yesterday he was adamant that HE get credit for the vaccines. It was all him he said. Not the scientists, not the doctors. It was him. Hospitalizations have topped 90,000 for COVID… yet another new record… but all he is concerned about is his ego and who should get credit for the tremendous effort made by so many to create vaccines.

He truly is an embarrassment. Yesterday, he chastised a reporter because he didn’t like a question. He thundered, ”Don’t talk to me that way. You’re just a lightweight. I’m the President of the United States. Don’t ever talk to the president that way.”  

His overweening ego was on full display. It can’t end soon enough. 

But enough of him. He doesn’t really deserve our time or attention. 

Leftovers are calling. I will answer. It’s only the right thing to do.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 26

Happy Thanksgiving.  

There’s something special about this year’s Thanksgiving. I know that many of us are apart from those we love the most… our children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, or dear friends. All those who bring richness and joy to our lives. All those who know us best and who love us in return. And it makes me realize how very much I love you all and how much you bring to my life. 

I’m thankful for all of you.  And, because you mean so much to me, I’m willing to be apart from you this year so that we all can stay safe and so that we will have many more years of Thanksgivings and Christmases and birthdays together if the gods are kind. 

This pandemic will end, and I want you all to still be part of my life for what comes next. 

Yesterday, President-elect Joe Biden offered a few thoughts for the holiday. He is not a gifted orator known for soaring rhetoric and poetic turns of phrase. But, the decency, the empathy, and the hope for the future that permeated every line of his address was more than enough. 

The contrast with the current incumbent for whom it is always about him was so starkly powerful that I was touched more than his words alone would warrant. I don’t know what Biden will be able to achieve, but one thing is clear… he’ll be fighting for us, not for himself. 

His message was about what we can do together and spoke of a future of hope. I’m willing to sit tight today know that those better days will come. 

So, this afternoon I’ll help put together a holiday meal, chat on Zoom with the kids and grandkids, and be grateful for all of you. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 25

There are days where it would be easy to just skip writing, but after 250+ days of daily scribing it just seems wrong, somehow, to not maintain the streak.

So I’ll put fingers to keyboard yet again and see what comes out. 

Trump, I see, is going to Pennsylvania for a “hearing” on vote fraud. What a bunch of nonsense. His oversized ego, however, won’t let him admit to defeat. He can’t entertain the idea that around 80 million voters rejected him. So he’ll continue to offer the “stolen election” theory that he had prepared for his race against Hillary but didn’t have to use then. Now, he needs it. How telling a lie again and again… a lie he knows is a lie… protects his fragile ego is beyond me. It is what it is.

Hopefully, as the days pass, he’ll be less and less part of our public consciousness. I know that he won’t disappear. His preening narcissism won’t allow that. But he will diminish. I wonder if he will become a pathetic figure struggling to be relevant… a caricature of himself… much as Rudy Giuliani has become a figure to be pitied almost as much as one to be scorned. He was once “America’s Mayor” who acted decisively following 9/11. Now he’s followed Trump down the rabbit hole of lies and wild-eyed conspiracy theories and each new fiction embroils them all the more in a fabric of falsehoods from which they are so deeply mired they may never escape. A briar patch of their own making.

Ugh. I don’t even want to talk about him. He’s done us so much damage. Has shown such disrespect to the office he holds and the people he serves. It’s time to just move on. It’s hard, I know. For some, the past four years have been a time consumed with contempt for this charlatan in the White House, but we have the future to face. There’s plenty for us to tackle without spending too much time caught in our own briar patches where bashing Trump preoccupies our time and thoughts.

And there is, of course, the pandemic. But what more can I say today that I didn’t say yesterday. Countless people are traveling. I listened to the news as some were interviewed. Family was too important, they said, not to be together. Folks had to make their “best decisions” about how to protect themselves and what was “best for them.” Etc, etc, etc. They all knew that they wanted to be with others at Thanksgiving, and it felt as though they were doing all the mental gymnastics they could to justify ignoring science, ignoring the CDC, ignoring the risks. 

I know that family matters. I love my own family deeply and wish so much we could all gather together for the holidays. I get it. But I also get the realities we face, the dangers of the virus, and know that the best thing I can do for them — for all of us — is to share our love from afar.

Tough days mixed with signs of hope. That’s what the holiday season is likely to look like for most of us. We’ll get through it.

Meanwhile, life goes on. Yesterday, I re-situated our multi-station bird feeder. It has been on the top of a slope and its placement was proving to be too precarious when it came to managing the refills. But boy… digging a new hole, securing it in place, and then trimming all bushes and doing fall yard maintenance reminded me in no uncertain terms that the passing years do make some things a bit more of a challenge. 

Today is a recovery day… lol. Off to the store to pick up a few things for dinner tomorrow (we’ll be double masked and it will be a precision operation). Maybe a quick walk for the pups and then back to work getting ready for Giving Tuesday for Engage Nepal and trying to get “The Ambassador’s Dog” onto the Amazon platform while encouraging a few more sales at the Shopify store.  There’s never enough hours in the day, but I tell myself it is good to be busy… and it is. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 24

I hope we’re all breathing a bit easier this morning. The transition has been authorized to begin, which is a huge plus, and increasingly a degree of what we have always though of as normal is reasserting itself. We owe a vote of thanks, it seems to me, to all the judges who — no matter which President appointed them — made decisions founded in law and not partisanship. Thank you as well to local election officials, ballot counters, and all involved with the process across the country whose integrity and dedication, even during a pandemic, gave us a free and fair election. And thank you to those officials, involved with the certification process who withstood the pressures and the abuse and the threats, and who did the right thing.  

I had faith in our institutions and our people, but you had to wonder. There was so much that was unprecedented in the past four years. So much pressure brought to bear on the foundations of our system of governance, so many good people pushed out of the process, so much that was crazy and partisan that worry was not misplaced. And the damage won’t be repaired easily. There will be those for whom the idea that the elections were rife with fraud, will be an article of faith. Rebuilding trust will be hard. I just hope it is not impossible. 

I can’t give much credit to the Republicans, who supposedly — and finally — began to push behind the scenes for Trump to end the clown show and allow the transition to begin. In their servile acquiescence to Trump over the past four years, they contributed to the undermining of our democratic process and gave Trump license to engage in his wild and reckless acts that were fueled by his sense of grievance and his frightening view of the world. A world in which patriots are suckers, where the “other” are to be feared and reviled, where women are demeaned, and where making America great again meant making America white again. 

They never called out his outrageous acts. Never pushed back on his ugly and divisive tweets and the dog whistle politics. So I can’t give them much credit for finding their spines now that Trump has been defeated and his loony tunes legal challenges have only served as a pathetic embarrassment to those who supported his “pursuit of appropriate legal remedies.”  Nope. They aren’t on my list of “heroes” this morning. Too little and far too late. We don’t need “behind the scenes” right now. America needs those who will stand up for our nation and our democracy. Those Republican officials (I can’t bring myself to call them “leaders”) have a lot to answer for.

There are other heroes out there this morning who have continued another fight even as the political drama has fizzled out for Trump. The doctors and nurses and first responders across the nation who are coping with a pandemic on steroids deserve our recognition every damn day. The suffering and pain they are seeing. The fear and heartache. The overwhelming demands on their energy as they look at the surging numbers, the overflowing hospitals, and they know they can’t manage it all. There are not enough of them but they try. They give of themselves. They save as many as they can and they comfort those they cannot save so they don’t die completely alone and forgotten.

It is a grim and heartbreaking tale. It is one that experts were predicting months ago. I remember writing about the concerns about the shortages of hospital beds and of the huge surge we’d see. It’s coming even earlier than feared though, and the countless people who aren’t heeding the warnings about Thanksgiving gatherings and the like will only add to the problem. The vaccines are great news for the future. But the next few months will be disastrous on a scale we haven’t seen in America in my lifetime. It’s frightening.

Any of us who aren’t listening to the experts, who aren’t taking the precautions, who are unwilling to forego a turkey dinner to help us lessen the danger… we’re as complicit as the Republicans who stood idly by as Trump took a wrecking ball to our democracy and the norms of governance.

I heard a doctor in Minneapolis this morning talking about a patient who, after a month in the ICU, was making a COVID recovery. It should have been cause for good news and they kept trying to reach her family. The problem was that while the woman had fought for her life, her husband and daughter had both lost theirs to COVID. How do you deal with that? How do you break that kind of news — again and again. Tragedy after tragedy. 

This is what we’ve got in America today and the greatest tragedy of all is that it didn’t have to be that way. We know Trump and his administration totally failed in their duty to protect the nation and to lead responsibly in a time of crisis. By the time Joe Biden comes into office there will still be scope to make a difference, but we cannot wait two months and, in the absence of leadership from on high, we have to take on the responsibility to lead by example. We owe that much at least to those on the front lines who are putting themselves out there for all of us.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 23

One thing about writing every day… it compels me to make note of the day of the week. Working part-time helps me to keep the days straight as well. Though, there are other subtle clues here and there. News coverage on the weekends is different. The anchors are different, the focus is different. It’s about catching up on the week. COVID numbers are always down, it seems on the weekend and reporting slows. Then, on Monday, all sorts of things come flowing in.

As we start this week, certification is moving forward in several states. If Trump is unsuccessful in his meddling, Michigan and PA should certify shortly. At that point perhaps Ms. Murphy at GSA will feel she has sufficient cover to allow the transition to move forward. Folks aren’t just fussing over nothing on that issue. A transition is a highly complex process and our nation’s ability to keep all the wheels turning and to protect our national security as well are indeed affected by allowing the process to begin well in advance of inauguration.

Trump’s continued intransigence is feckless and irresponsible. But what else do we expect? And his increasingly desperate efforts to slow the inevitable are pathetic and dangerous — a point worth making again. Maybe it will begin to sink in for some of his more rational supporters. 

And we’ll likely see more Biden cabinet picks start to emerge. He even got a jump on the Monday news cycle as stories came out last night about his pics for Secretary of State, Ambassador to the UN, and National Security Advisor. Boy… what a breath of fresh air.

He has chosen professionals, well-grounded in reality and in the challenges of International relations, rather than novices and ideologues. Tony Blinken, who has vast experience, including as Deputy Secretary of State, is Biden’s pick for Secretary of State. An outstanding choice. He understands the challenges, is realistic about the threats, knows the importance of partnerships, and knows how to listen and to lead. 

His choice for Ambassador to the UN, which seemingly will be a Cabinet level job again under Biden, is Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a friend and colleague I know and respect. A career diplomat. She was our Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs when I was Ambassador in Uganda and a former Director General of the Foreign Service, as well as a former Ambassador to Liberia. She is smart as a whip, an exceptional leader, mentor and colleague, and brings a wealth of diplomatic experience to the table. 

Jake Sullivan for National Security Advisor is also a strong choice. He brings impressive experience at State, and in the national security community. He understands not only foreign policy but the interagency environment in which decisions are made. Most importantly, all three are known quantities for the President-elect, can work effectively as a team of professionals, and both Blinken and Thomas-Greenfield are likely to be readily confirmable. Our ability to get a team on the ground quickly is important and to have one that already knows the lay of the land and how to work together will be of incredible value given the array of problems we face — problems compounded by the willfully disruptive actions of the departing president.

For a Monday, it’s not a bad way to start the workweek.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 22

It’s Thanksgiving week and I hope we’ll all stay smart and safe. It’s going to seem lonely around here. We’re so accustomed to having the kids, grandkids, and granddogs with us — at a minimum. But we won’t this year. It’s better for all of us,

I don’t mind making the sacrifice. I don’t mind doing what is right. But I do mind the feeling that our current leaders aren’t prepared to make the same sort of hard choices. We’re seeing states close schools, where the kids at least wear masks, but leave open the bars and restaurants where they don’t.  Tell me how it makes sense. 

I get the economic costs of closures and I know that they are considerable. We can take steps to mitigate the impact though. We can help to get this pandemic under control, we can save lives. We can be smart. But we aren’t acting. We delay and we take half measures or no measures at all. It feels like what we were doing back in April where we resisted taking the steps which circumstances demanded we take.


And Trump is even more irresponsible, if that is possible. Not only does he do nothing as 2,000 people die every day in addition to 200,000 new infections being entered on the books, but he blows off a G-20 meeting on controlling the pandemic in order to play golf. It’s hard to imagine any leader being more irresponsible. But he isn’t finished yet.

He refuses to do anything that even remotely resembles the job of the president. He is still sulking. He apparently has decided he doesn’t have to do the work anymore even though he has two months left in office. He is abandoning the people of the US — not that he ever had our backs. It was always about him, not about our nation. And if he doesn’t benefit, why should he care if we die? Why should he care if he undermines our democracy, or if he diminishes our future?  

He sows the seeds of division. He spreads lies about the election that are repeated in his right wing echo chambers. He is doing all he can to make governance difficult for Biden with reckless foreign policy choices, dangerous anti-democratic actions at home, and his willful choice to do nothing but play golf at our expense while we pass the 12 million infection mark and more people die. 

There’s nothing new in any of this. That is perhaps the saddest thing of all. It’s a heck of a note on which to begin the week, but I’ve got plenty of other things to do today, so I’ll get on with it. I’ll keep trying to be smart and responsible. If only Trump and others would do the same.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy,

November 21

What happened? What happened to those days, early in the pandemic, when we asked ourselves how we’d manage all that new found time on our hands as we stayed at home? Jigsaw puzzle sellers faced unprecedented demand, entertainment streaming services were swamped with new users, online lectures, plays, opera… you name it, folks watched it. 

It was a challenge for many people. How would they fill all those hours? They suddenly had to ask themselves not only what they liked to do but, at least to some extent, who they were. For many it became a time of reflection as we watched the pandemic unfold and we considered our vulnerability to the power of a disease and the consequences of failed leadership. It was against this backdrop as well that we saw some of the worst of our nation emerge. Selfish arrogance, ugly racism, self-serving partisanship. We said we were all in this together but, quite clearly we weren’t.

We had to ask ourselves who we were as a nation… and we’re still asking. 

But I digress. The question for today is what happened to those days of empty hours stretching ahead of us begging to be filled. They were, I think, an illusion. The hours that lie ahead of us are always empty… waiting for us to make the choice of how we will fill them. The pandemic just compelled us to make some different choices and with the uncertainty about what each day would bring,  we prioritized differently.  We made a choice to step back from the “busy.” We made a choice to distinguish between what was truly a priority and what was a distraction. We refocused ourselves and created a new balance in our lives. 

In the early days of the pandemic we found a new freedom. Not just in our ability to work from home in our pajamas or in t-shirts, shorts and flip flops, but in the relaxed expectations from our employers, family and friends.  The demands on us — the expectations — that shaped so many of our waking hours eased. The demands we imposed on ourselves eased as well — to be busy, to get to the gym, to run the errands, to socialize, to travel. It was a chance to redefine what the hours in our days would look like — and it was nice.

“Was” is the operative word, however. At least for me. Somehow, even as the pandemic reaches its most dangerous and threatening levels yet, we’ve acclimated and old expectations have fallen back into place. Employers expect us to have adapted to the new realities and somehow it is again “business as usual” even if it is conducted in far different ways. Virtual interactions fill hours in the course of the week as we find new ways to maintain the ties to family and friends we care about. 

Our lives have a way of regaining our attention. Who we are has a way of reasserting itself. Me? I’m happiest, I guess, when there’s too much on my plate. The hiatus I welcomed in June or July paled as we hit August and September. And now as we near the end of November I’m coming up for air and asking “what happened?”  Where did those slower days go? 

Most days now are crazy busy once again. I work at least three or four hours every day in my consulting gig. I spend more time on Engage Nepal as we struggle to make a difference for people devastated by the pandemic there. I write this daily blog. I work on the baby alphabet sampler for our newest grandchild whose birth is just a few months away. I promote “The Ambassador’s Dog” (please buy a copy — you’ll be glad you did) including doing interviews, blog posts, and more. I just wrote a forward for someone else’s book on leadership. I am doing Zoom calls about the democratic process, or talking to a college class, or lecturing online at the Joint Forces War College. 

And I still want to walk the dogs, tend the yard, play music, cook, work out, read. The days are full once again. Every minute feels packed. Maybe it’s like water seeking it’s own level, maybe I’m just inevitably reverting to type. I like being busy. I like being engaged. But still… I remember some of those mid-summer days when things seemed to slow for a while… when life felt different somehow… and I ask again, “what happened?”

It’s just something I was thinking about as the day began today. And so, since this is kind of a “front of mind blog” that ’s what I wrote about. I needed a break from the pandemic and I needed a break from the politics.  

Enjoy your Saturday. I’m going to reclaim a few hours, I hope, and just enjoy a slower day. I can’t guarantee I’ll succeed, but I’m going to try.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 20

The week is coming to an end. It’s hard to know what to say. I don’t want to add to the chorus of voices that are sounding alarms on so many different levels, but if you look objectively at all that is unfolding around us, even the most dispassionate analysis ends up having an alarmist feel.

How about the pandemic? It’s hard to focus on the future hope of a vaccine when we see the heartbreak and devastation of this disease every time we turn on the news. Over 2,000 deaths yesterday. Another record broken with over 180,000 new infections. Over 80,000 Americans are now hospitalized and the number grows every day. And today the Institute for Health Metrics Evaluations has upped its prediction of deaths by March 1 to 471,000. It’s scary.

Doctors and nurses are overwhelmed and many are in despair. For all that we have seen and learned we still have seemingly inexplicable actions. By all accounts, those areas of the country where infection rates allowed schools to reopen safely have managed to keep the schools operating reasonably well.

Good for them. It’s better than many of us expected. But, as numbers start to rise, the schools are being closed… and that’s OK if it’s part of a committed public health effort to protect children, families, and our communities at large. BUT… how does it make sense to focus on schools that have been a smaller part of the risk equation while we leave bars and restaurants, which are key components in furthering the spread, open?

How do we explain this to people? How does it make sense? Yes… bars and restaurants provide jobs, they generate revenues. Schools don’t. But those bars and restaurants also are drivers of this incredibly dangerous disease. They are part of the reason why we have the record numbers of infections. But in too much of the country we leave them open. Our priorities are screwed up. Either we care about public health or we don’t. 

It’s easy to blame Trump for so much. And the lack of a coherent strategy at the federal level and the lack of national leadership doesn’t help. But in our states and our cities we have to be smarter. We can’t just put it all on individuals. We are giving up Thanksgiving. Wearing masks. Keeping our distance from those we love. But we’ll leave the bars and the gyms, and the restaurants, and churches and too many other venues for spreading the disease, open. Go figure.

Yep. It is hard to talk about the pandemic without sounding alarms. So let’s shift gears… but wait… alarm bells are ringing everywhere we turn. Donald Trump is shamelessly — in full public view — attempting to overturn the results of the election. I want to believe it will be impossible. It’s almost laughable to see the crazy extent to which they are going. Rudy Giuliani’s bizarre press conference drawing on “My Cousin Vinny” to explain his legal positions as his hair dye ran in rivulets down his face. 

He had every reason to sweat. He was lying. Lie after lie. But that’s what we get from Trump too. And from his press secretary. They do all in their power to discredit our elections, take away the power of our votes, and destroy a democratic process that had once been a model for the world. Even some Republicans are calling it a soft coup. A coup. In America. And Trump would do it if we let him.

Our courts stand in his ways. State election systems stand in his way. What is left of a free press will stand in his way. Many of our elected officials and career public servants, in whose ranks I served for decades, will stand in his way. And we… men and women who care… will stand in his way.

Make no mistake. Trump hopes we are too tired. He hopes we will dismiss the concerns as overblown, as inconceivable. He hopes that he can bully and lie his way into a permanent hold on the presidency. He would if he could. Today he is seeking to suborn the Republican leadership in the Michigan state legislature. There is talk he is reaching out to Pennsylvania state legislators too. He wants to change the rules, change the results, and change our future. He wants us to go along… he wants us to think we are helpless. But we are not. 

I know that I’m not saying anything that new. Plenty of voices are being raised so why bother? Because it matters. Because the letters we write to senators and representatives matter. Because the outrage we feel and share matters. Because the choice to pay attention, to not be gulled, to insist on our rights, to have our voices heard, and our democracy preserved… all matter too.

It’s not about being alarmist or shrill. It is about caring for our nation, our democracy, and our rights. I’ve already been thinking about how many masks should be worn simultaneously to provide extra protection if we end up joining protest marches. It hasn’t come to that… yet. But it could. And if it does, we all will have to make the choice to be heard or to sit on the sidelines. I am pretty sure I know what my choice will be. 

Meanwhile, today is President-Elect Joe Biden’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Joe. I credit him for his measured and disciplined response. The care he has taken to leave bridges intact, the faith he has shown in our institutions and our people. Good for him. He’s taking it a step at a time. We all should. But we stand ready to… well… to stand. Stand for America. Stand for Democracy. Stand for the future.

And with that, I’ll tuck my soapbox back into the closet and enjoy the rest of a beautiful day in Haymarket. Have a good weekend.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 19

You might think the wellspring of my outrage might have run dry after my missives of the past few days. It hasn’t.

But, today, it is tempered just a bit. Not by events here at home. Those are as problematic — and as worrisome — as ever. But, every now and then we’re reminded that no matter how deep our funk over the challenges before us, there are those for whom life is far, far grimmer. 

I spent an hour this morning on the phone with the mayor of Shankharapur, a small municipality located high in the hills, in a remote spot some thirty miles east of Kathmandu. There, virtually none of the community, made up largely of day laborers, has been able find work for months due to the pandemic. Few of them even have a small plot of land to grow potatoes and vegetables. They have no income. Not even the few rupees needed to buy simple facemasks to protect themselves and their families. 

Small children are suffering from malnutrition. Most families can’t afford winter clothes to keep the kids warm. And older children are being lost to the education system because their families can’t afford school fees or online classes. Health care systems are practically non-existent and the mayor, looking at his weakened community, worries about their ability to withstand the coronavirus. 

So yeah… things kind of suck here at home. But if you take a look at Shankharapur, you get a bit of perspective. 

Elsewhere on my page I’ll be posting an appeal from Engage Nepal for the year end “giving season.” I hope a few of the folks who read this blog may opt to respond. We’re hoping to help 1,000 of those malnourished kids with important nutritional supplements for the next few months. We’re hoping to buy kids in threadbare clothing a woolen sweater, a cap, and new trousers. And we’re hoping to keep 1,000 kids in school so that they aren’t forced into child labor or early marriages. 

Our partner interviewed one girl the other day. She was 16 — and she’s been married for two years already. Her 18 year old husband has no work. He drinks locally home-brewed alcohol with the other men and she sits at home alone. She showed the interviewer the empty pots lined up along her hearth and began to sob. That’s part of life in Shankharapur.

So, I do hope some of you will donate as the year ends, as you have so kindly before. And I hope that some of you will donate for the first time. But that’s not why I’m writing. I’m writing about it because it occupies my thoughts. The mayor’s concerns echo in my mind. And I’m reminded that as hard as things are, most of us are still safe, and warm, and fed. Our loved ones are largely OK. We don’t doubt that our grandkids will have a good supper tonight, sleep in a comfortable bed, bundle up in jackets to face the weather, and continue to learn even if it’s online and even if it’s not perfect.

I’m not suggesting that we don’t face real challenges. Our worries and concerns and the threats to our well-being and to our nation are not to be dismissed. But there are times when a bit of perspective helps. I got my dose of perspective this morning. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 18

Yesterday, one thousand seven hundred and seven Americans died from COVID-19.  Every fifty seconds we lost another of our citizens.  

For the past week we have seen an average of 1,100 deaths a day and that number will climb. Over 77,000 Americans are sick enough from the virus that they are in the hospital. Hospital beds are at a premium. Soon people will be turned away. Folks will die at home. Die in their cars waiting for admission. That’s what hospital administrators fear at least. And it’s not a misguided fear.

It took us 98 days to reach the first million infections. Now we add a million a week and, by January we may be adding a million new cases every three days. It’s staggering.

The lines of folks seeking a test are impossibly long. A testing site in a park a block or so from our home closed an hour after opening, They lacked the capacity to meet the demand. How can that be? How can it be that we STILL see the problem of failed testing strategies playing out across the United States despite the constant call for more effective testing strategies that every public health leader has pleaded for ten months? HOW can that be?

The vaccine news is good, but it won’t come soon enough for tens of thousand who will die in the coming months. 

And Trump? He does nothing. Nothing. 

Well… that’s not true. He does do something.  

He continues to Tweet, claiming he won the election. 

He continues to Tweet, lying about massive fraud across the country in the election. 

He continues to fire people by Tweet, removing the Homeland Security official who managed cybersecurity and committed the cardinal sin of telling the truth;  that the election systems were secure, free, and fair.  

Trump didn’t even pretend that he had any reason to fire Chris Krebs, other than Krebs did not back his lies about the election.

Yep…Trump is busy. He’s busy with lies. He’s busy with deceit. He’s busy with blocking Biden’s transition which will put even more lives at risk. He’s busy ignoring the pandemic, the infections, the deaths. 

And there are so many who excuse him, who enable him, and who seem to think that if they pretend all is okay we’ll dismiss the reality we see before our eyes. For example, there was the kerfuffle on the Senate floor this week when Sherrod Brown (a Democrat) asked Dan Sullivan (a Republican) to wear a mask when speaking before the Senate. 

Sullivan declined. Just as Chuck Grassley did when he chose not to wear a mask on the floor this week. Grassley, of course, is now in quarantine because he has COVID. Did Grassley ever think that he should at least CONSIDER the risk to which he exposed Senate staff forced to work in close proximity? Did Sullivan? Apparently not.

Sullivan said he doesn’t like being lectured. Too bad. He said the Senate wanted to show Americans they could work safely through the pandemic. Bullshit. 

Our country is in chaos, our President can’t tell the truth, people are flooding food banks, our national leaders have abandoned our medical professionals. Science and facts are rejected to advance a president’s personal interests, and his party enables his lies and lacks the courage to put our nation first. Every story we read is yet another example of a nation in crisis.

It defies description. Never did I think I’d have seen our nation fail so badly on so many fronts.

But Trump doesn’t care. Cruz and Graham and Sullivan and so many others don’t care. They seem to think they’re special. They’re not. 

You want to shake them and scold them and tell them how shameful their conduct is as they betray the very essence of service. You want to ask them how they can abandon our citizens to the chaos that besieges us while they pander to the delusional denialism of a defeated candidate.

Respect is earned. They are not earning it. In years past, I would have given respect almost automatically to our President, our Vice President, and the legislators of both parties who committed themselves to serve our nation — to serve us. They weren’t perfect, but they cared and, in moments of true crisis, they were able to look beyond party to do what was best for the nation. 

I know that real leaders like that are still with us. They may be thwarted by the selfish, the foolish, and the soulless among their ranks, but there is hope. I know that. But, right now it’s hard not to feel frustrated and angry and to want to give in to despair. 

I don’t recognize this America. And I refuse to learn to accept it. I want our country back. So I’ll fight back in whatever ways I can. I’ll donate to Ossoff and Warnock in Georgia. I’ll speak out. I’ll engage when opportunities present themselves. I’ll do what I can. Because we must. Because we do want our country back.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 17

So… the Governor of Iowa has suddenly figured out there’s a pandemic and ordered a mask mandate among other things. It would have been nice if the governor could have come to that conclusion when leadership might have saved lives and made a difference. You have to wonder, with positivity rates in the 40%+ range, if it may not be too late to help as much as folks there need at this point in time.

The same holds true for the Dakotas where positivity rates are well in excess of 50%. In one county in North Dakota, the other day, over 80% of those tested were positive for the coronavirus. But still, most folks there aren’t wearing masks. Still, the South Dakota governor, who has been so irresponsible all along, remains in denial about the pandemic.

It’s all about “freedom.” The freedom to infect others, the freedom to fill hospitals to overflowing due to your irresponsibility, the freedom to die alone while still complaining that this can’t be true… it’s not fair… after all, it’s just a hoax.

There are some heartbreaking stories coming out of the nation’s heartland. It’s hard to hear the anguish in the voices of those who are mourning the loss of a mother or father, sister or child. No one is going to say “I told you so.” But we know that the tragedy is compounded because so much of this could have been avoided if only Donald Trump and the Republican Party had not chosen to politicize a public health crisis.

It’s insane. What else can we say?

And meanwhile the “long sulk” continues. Trump does nothing to help address the crisis, but he does seem able to energize himself to prevent Biden from effectively planning for the future. He reportedly watches TV, he plays golf on the weekends, and he tweets… again and again. His anger and resentment are evident in each post. He plots his revenge and seems to be Nixonian in his paranoia and focus on the list of all those who he has deemed “enemies.”

It’s frightening. First, his removal of senior leaders at DOD and now he seems almost eager to throw our foreign policy into disarray before Biden can assume office. He seeks to force hasty withdrawals in Afghanistan and Iraq that could have dangerous repercussions for our allies and for our nation. He even reportedly has explored options for strikes into Iran that could plunge our nation into a conflict we’re ill-prepared to prosecute as we deal with the pandemic’s disastrous impact here at home.

Why? Is there any other reason than a mean-spirited desire to sabotage a new administration before it can begin? Just as Trump, in his pettiness, has relished tearing down anything President Obama had done, so, too, does he seem hell-bent on ensuring that his successor is given the worst possible scenarios ever at the start of his administration.

Trump’s failures to build a legacy leads him to want to tear down those that others left and to prevent President-elect Biden from creating his own. It’s all about making himself look better in comparison and no one will tell him that ship has sailed. He may fool his cult-like followers, but history’s eye is far more discerning.

He will be remembered not for making America great, but for the damage he has done. He will be remembered not for meeting the greatest challenge of his administration head on, but for abdicating his responsibility as the pandemic ravaged our nation.

He’ll be remembered as a bully. He’ll be remembered as a narcissistic showman preening one moment, pouting the next. He’ll be remembered for his lack of vision, his irresponsibility. He’ll be remembered for failing us when we needed a leader the most.

And he’s not quite done yet. He can do a lot of damage in the next 65 days.

I hope folks around the world are praying for us. I think we’re going to need it.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 16

Well, Monday has chosen to appear yet again. I guess it beats the alternative. But not necessarily by all that much.

Still, there IS a positive note that I can start on. Today the Moderna COVID vaccine trial results were also released. Its effectiveness rate, like Pfizer’s, is over 90%. That’s very positive news for all of us who are so weary of this pandemic with which we have struggled for almost ten months now. The idea of getting back to a degree of normalcy, even if it is a somewhat different normal, is so very appealing.

We’re all weary of the litany of bad news and of living with the risks and fears associated with the pandemic. So, the thought that over the coming months the pandemic will not be constantly “front of brain,” is a hopeful one. I haven’t read or heard yet whether the Moderna vaccine has the same distribution challenges as Pfizer’s but, even if it does, this is still good news.

That said, we nonetheless have to recognize that, even if some shots start going into arms in late Decembe, as the most optimistic reports suggest, we still have months yet of facing the worst ravages of this pandemic.

The tremendous rate of spread across the nation seems so much worse than any of the earlier waves. That’s troubling because you would think that, ten months into this, we would now be better able to slow the spread. Masks, social distancing, restrictions on those businesses and places where people gather should all be helping. Yet the number of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, are all accelerating. 

It’s frightening. Are we missing a critical component of prevention or is this just a function of the fact that a significant number of our fellow-citizens still don’t get it? Certainly the “don’t get it” part of the equation is at least a factor, if not the primary driver, of the problem.

In South Dakota, where the positivity rate is at 58%, masks are still optional and reports suggest that far too many folks have chosen to disregard all the public health advice about wearing them. And, with a governor who has chosen to make COVID denialism and “freedom of choice” the theme of her pandemic response, we will have a chance to see the herd immunity theory tested in action in her state. As they run out of hospital beds though, and if the escalating crisis morphs into a humanitarian disaster, we’ll see if she thinks it was all worth it.

That reckless response to the pandemic is playing out in other states as well — mostly led by Republic governors who echo the President and his cronies like Dr. Scott Atlas. It is a reminder that leadership matters and we are all poorly served when our leaders offer misguided and dangerous public health advice.

In fairness, states that have responsible leaders and that have practiced good public health strategies are also seeing numbers rise too. That’s what is particularly worrisome. I’ve yet to see anyone really explain why we see this happen, no matter the region, the leadership, the weather, etc.  

But, even if this disease confounds our efforts to control it, it certainly does NOT help when Scott Atlas publicly calls on the people of Michigan to “rise up” against the public health measure the governor has put in place. “Dangerous” and “irresponsible” doesn’t even begin to describe how recklessly criminal his words seem. 

And Trump, meanwhile, continues to block president-elect Biden’s transition process. That would be troubling enough if we weren’t in the midsts of this raging pandemic that threatens our health, our economy, our security and our future.  But to prevent Biden’s team from working in partnership with government experts truly is dangerous for us all. 

We need to let Biden coordinate and to work with those planning the vaccine distribution effort. To keep the scientists from sharing information is wrong on every level. How long will Republican leaders remain silent in the face of the selfish narcissism that fuels Trump’s refusal to accept defeat and let our democratic process move forward? If the past four years are any guide, the answer is depressingly familiar; they will remain silent forever. 

Meanwhile, the far right conspiracy theorists, and the politicians and commentators who pander to them, are using Parler and other platforms designed to give them a fact-check-free echo chamber to let loose their venom and make irresponsible charges. We might criticize Twitter and Facebook for not doing enough to police their content but they look like models of propriety compared to what is happening on Parler and other similar sites like Rumble. 

Even as Fox is being challenged by even more extreme right wing propagandists at NewsMax and OAN, we are also Twitter and Facebook being challenged by Parler.  The Trumps, Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity, the Proud Boys, QAnon, and others are opening accounts there and telling their followers to join them on Parler. 

On Parler, they are free to offer any unhinged narrative that they want about how the election was stolen, about how the rest of us hate America, and about how the Democrats are blood drinking satanists and pedophiles. No one fact checks them. No one challenges their falsehoods. No one says that this goes too far. It’s a far right free-for-all. 

On the face of it, the name of the platform could be drawn from the French word ‘parler,’ meaning ‘to speak.’ But it’s pronounced like ‘parlor,’ conveying the sense that it is meant to be a homey place where we just sit and chat for a spell. The conversations that would have unfolded in a parlor, however, were bound by conventions of the community and of the family in whose home you sat. They were governed by basic decency and civility and respect for one another.

That’s NOT what you find in this Parler where the most extreme and hateful views can be expressed in the name of “uncensored” free speech. The Parler app has been one of the most popular downloads in recent weeks. It cannot compare to Facebook (over two billion) or Twitter (330 million) in terms of its reach but it has surged to over 8 million subscribers and the number continues to grow.  

It’s not just about numbers though. Parler may never grow to challenge the existing platforms. But it doesn’t need to have two billion followers to be a dangerous force. The lies, the vitriol, and the false accusations will flow unchecked, and the presence of Hannity and Cruz and Trump and others who do nothing to call out the dangerously false conspiracy theories will give a patina of legitimacy to all of it. 

And, whether Parler followers decry mask mandates as tyranny or attack Biden as a wild-eyed leftist whose followers are stealing the election from Donald Trump, they incite their audience and create a climate of anger and grievance. It creates a subculture that is dangerous to our nation, and, in seeking to avenge the ills they believe that they have suffered at the hands of liberal elites and the media, seems predisposed to act outside the democratic norms that have always guided us as a nation.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had conspiracy theorists, racists, and others threaten and bluster, but this feels different than anything I remember seeing before. I worry that this is far more insidious and dangerous — and more deeply rooted. And I worry that the extremists within this growing subculture will ultimately choose to engage in acts of violence directed against our institutions and our leaders. 

I hope that these are just “Monday worries”. Maybe it’s low blood sugar talking. But I can’t help but feel unease and disquiet as I look at the landscape. Maybe a walk on a sunny and crisp fall day will be the antidote I need. I’ll give it a try.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 15

I don’t know how worried we’re supposed to be. 

My gut tells me the answer is… a lot. 

Whether it’s the pandemic, or the politics of election denialism, this is a concerning time.

We know that the pandemic is out of control. The record number of new cases, the record number of hospitalizations and the record number of daily deaths are daunting and dangerous. 

The projections for the coming months are frightening. Despite the progress we’ve made in treating the virus, despite the lower percentage of fatalities, the sheer number of cases leaves us with projections of another 200,000 deaths in the next three months or so. And, so far, we see little to change the trajectory.

I heard Tony Fauci this morning offer words of reassurance. He said the vaccine will start being distributed in December with more doses following in January and February. “Help is coming.”  He argued that if we combine the introduction of the vaccine with good public health measures we can blunt the models that project so much pain and suffering for so many families.

I trust Tony Fauci, and he made sense, but I hope you’ll excuse me if I have my concerns. Will the vaccine come as quickly as he thinks? Will it be as effective in practice as trials suggest? Will enough people accept it among the vast universe of Trump supporters who are also COVID deniers? Will we really be able to effectively manage the distribution and logistical challenges — especially with the requirement that the medical community maintain a cold chain that few facilities currently have the capacity to manage? 

I just don’t know. 

What I do know is that we’re still months away from a Biden administration that would take this far, far more seriously than Trump ever has. And meanwhile, Trump still blocks efforts that would allow Biden’s public health advisors to engage Trump’s coronavirus task force. And Trump and his team still obsess over vote counts, and how best to advance their narrative of delusion and deceit, rather than doing their best for the nation in the time that they have left in office.

That brings me to my other worry. I’ve heard so many commentators voicing their belief in the inherent strength of the democratic process. They are convinced that ultimately the transition will unfold, Biden will be sworn-in, and a new era will begin. It will likely be fractious and difficult, especially if Trump remains part of our political life. But democracy will prevail.

Overall, I agree with them. I do think Biden will be sworn in. I think the process will move forward. The Trump claims are spurious in the extreme, there’s no basis for his claims of fraud, and the courts seem to be throwing his lawsuits out as quickly as they are filed. Many, even rock-ribbed Republicans, acknowledge Joe Biden as the president-elect and want to get on with our nation’s business.

But many don’t and Donald Trump is foremost among them.

Trump tweeted again today. He is still claiming that “he won,” and advances yet another conspiracy theory to dispute the reality that is so plain to most of us; he lost. 

So, now he alleges that the “massive fraud” he blames for his defeat wasn’t in the voting or the counting — it was due to the software that somehow was manipulated to change the tens of thousands of votes and tip the election to Biden. 

There is not a thread of evidence for his claims which run counter to the assessment of all the experts — including Trump’s Homeland Security experts — who saw this election as the most secure ever and declared it to be free from the fraud that Trump’s supporters allege.

His desperation to avoid admitting defeat is pathetic. It really is. And I wish we could just ignore his deliberate and increasingly desperate lies. But lies like this, which are seized on by his supporters, are dangerous. They strike at the very foundation of our electoral process and our democracy.  

Even more worrisome, perhaps, is the fact that, even as we seek to document the truth, we know that for Trump and his supporters it won’t really matter. 

They don’t want the truth. They aren’t looking for the truth. 

Instead, they want to be vindicated in their faith in the charlatan in whose name these claims are advanced. To admit otherwise is to see the fabricated reality which gives coherence to their world begin to crumble. 

It is far easier, it seems, to believe there is a vast electoral conspiracy led by socialist liberals, advanced by a manipulative media establishment, and abetted by electoral officials (Republicans and Democrats alike) in states across the nation. 

It is apparently easier to believe that there is an evil cabal, determined to destroy their construct of a christian white America.  One that is unencumbered by the unrelenting demands of intellectual elites and racial minorities. One that can ignore women’s demands for control over their bodies and their reproductive rights. 

In their world it is easier to believe that threats like climate change or COVID are just hoaxes meant to give the cabal control over them than it is to tackle the problems. It appears that in their world it’s easier to just believe what Trump and his far right supporters tell them rather than to think for themselves or seek the objective truth.  

What we’re seeing is scary and ugly. These folks are convinced that any news that goes against their vision of the world is a lie. And in their desperation to find validation for their world view, they are increasingly susceptible to becoming even more radicalized by QAnon and the other conspiracy theorists. 

For some, Fox News is no longer “pure’ enough in its support for Trump, so we are seeing a ratings surge for some of the even more wild-eyed purveyors of far right lies. Outlets such as NewsMax and OAN.  The offer the “news” that those who prefer to deny reality crave; conspiracy theories that advances lies about massive fraud and a stolen election and that assure viewers Trump will prevail and serve a second term.

And these networks, in their pursuit of ratings, seem not to care that they knowingly offer lies and nonsense, so long as it gives their viewers what they need.  What they crave.

Truth doesn’t matter. Ratings and ad revenues do.  

But each lie just inflames their viewers more, so these propagandists must then churn out even bigger lies to keep the viewers coming back and to fuel the ratings. It is a vicious circle. And a dangerous one. 

It is also one that Trump encourages and exploits. 

Democracy can give way to demagoguery far too easily when the emotionally satisfying lie is more welcome than objective truth. 

We can’t let Trump or anyone use that to debase our democracy and take away the rights that have defined us as a society. But he just may, if we aren’t careful.

I think we’ll muddle through both the pandemic and the politics. I do. But I still worry. We all should. 

We’re poised on a slippery slope strewn with banana peels. A Biden inauguration — which I do assume will happen — won’t mark the end of the challenges. 

It’s our nation, our democracy, our future that’s on the line. We need to pay attention and we need to stand firm.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy

November 14

Today is the second day of Tihar — known as Diwali to many, but it is Tihar in Nepal. It is the Festival of Lights.

As you come to know Hinduism, you learn that there are many tales of the role that various gods have played in giving vitality and meaning to this festival, but you don’t have to practice Hinduism to value the intrinsic message of the light over dark, good over evil, of love over hate.

Each day of the festival has its own significance. Today was Kukur Tihar or Kukur Puja. A day in which kukur — dogs — are celebrated and worshipped. Dogs were recognized by the gods and played roles as messengers and guardians. And so we thank them today. We thank them for the love they offer unconditionally. For the companionship they offer even on the darkest days. And for the loyalty they offer even when others might fall away in moments of challenge.

This morning we participated in a Kukur Tihar celebration virtually with friends and partners from Fredericksburg, Virginia, and counterparts in Nepal. Fredericksburg has a robust and extremely active sister city relationship with Kathmandu — perhaps the most dynamic example of true partnership and bridge building between cultures that I have seen.

The seeds of friendship have been nurtured with care and have blossomed into warm ties that span from the banks of the Rappahannock River to the snowy slopes of the Himalayas. It just felt good to be part of an event like this along with Nepal’s Ambassador to the US, Dr. Arjun Karki, Fredericksburg Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw, and so many other friends and well-wishers.

I was asked to share a memory of a special kukur in my life — a Nepali kukur who became part of my life on a remote trail in Nepal’s Upper Mustang 8+ years ago. That pup became Lo Khyi, who many of you know or have seen pictures of, and he is still with us today. This morning, we garlanded him, and our other pups as well, and Leija placed the tikka on their foreheads and we fed them special treats. They deserve their moment for all they have given us. And the tale of how Lo Khyi came into our lives and how the nameless abandoned pup found his name and his future is now captured in a work of love — “The Ambassador’s Dog.”

I hope those of you who haven’t pre-ordered a copy will do so. This is a story that should be told and shared and read aloud. It is a tale that fits the spirit of Tihar. It is a story of compassion, of love that is full of light and of hope. At least that’s what I feel every time I read it. Without fail, it lifts my heart. Here’s the link to look at the pre-order site.

Bhim Dahal, who is leading the Fredericksburg partnership this year, commented today that the pandemic is driving us to engage differently. We might not have opted for a ZOOM event had we not been compelled by public health concerns, but it opened the door for us to be part of a moment shared not just locally but across the nation and across the world to Nepal. Having so many Nepali friends join in, including seeing the smiles and the celebratory dances of the children at the Sagarmatha Children’s Home whom we have come to care about so deeply (we support them through Engage Nepal) was truly a joy.

Later, Bhim commented that the grim realities we face as we struggle with the pandemic give the Tihar message even more relevance. Light vs dark is a universal theme across cultures … from man’s earliest days, the dark always associated with danger and threat and today, as the pandemic is devastating Nepal on so many levels, that darkness looms. Bhim said that now, more than ever, we need to care for each other, support each other, and show the spirit of love that Kukur Puja embodies.

I couldn’t agree more.

So, although I generally try to keep this blog separate from my work on behalf of Engage Nepal, today I will not. Because, as we prepare our end of year giving campaign, we need more friends than ever to feel that spirit of compassion, of empathy, and or love. We will showcase the work we want to do in just one small municipality — Shankharapur — in the Kathmandu Valley. It is not all we will do to help, but it exemplifies the need.

In Shankharapur, we have identified 850 children and 100 pregnant women who face desperate shortages of nutritious food. We have identified 1000 children from what could be called ultra-poor families whose incomes have disappeared with the pandemic, and who will not have warm clothes as winter sets in because their families have no money to buy them. And there are 1000 children who need our help to continue their education which we know will transform their future. The young girls among them are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Early marriage, trafficking, being forced to begin work at far too young an age, and in environments that expose them to far too many risks.

The need, of course, is so much greater than just what we see in Shankharapur. But we must begin somewhere. And, with your help, we will. We’ll change the future for 1000 kids. We’ll change the future for the children of Sagarmatha Children’s Home. We’ll embody the spirit of hope and love and loyalty that we celebrate today and that fills “The Ambassador’s Dog.”

So, here is a link to contribute to our efforts at Engage Nepal (we are a 501(c)(3) charity recognized by the IRS, so your gift IS tax deductible).

Please consider giving.

Consider caring.

On this day of Kukur Tihar, transform your Compassion into Action. It matters.Happy Kukur Tihar to all. Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 13

Friday the 13th. I kind of scoff at it. The whole damn year has seemed like a succession of Friday the 13ths. It’s hard to get worked up about another one.

So… to recap. COVID remains a huge threat (157,000 new cases yesterday. Donald Trump remains missing in action, offering not a word in public since his electoral defeat and not, apparently doing a thing to ameliorate the damage being done by the pandemic. In other words, the “long sulk” continues. Thanksgiving promises to be a bust or a super spreader risk… take your pick as to which option you’ll choose. And it is 68 days, yet, until the Biden-Harris administration comes into office. It can’t happen soon enough.

Slowly but surely the sheer weight of reality is breaking down the delusional denialism of some in the Republican party and it’s chipping away as well at the viselike grip that Trump seems to have on the spines of Republican legislators. Trump’s own cyber security chief offered a ringing endorsement of the electoral process, dismissing claims of fraud and malfeasance and asserting that this may have been the most secure election we’ve ever seen. In state after state, local leaders, including prominent Republicans are leading reviews of the process and endorsing the integrity of the election results.

It’s done. And most of the world does understand that. Except Trump. And Don Jr. And Eric. And, sadly enough, millions of their followers who are gullible enough to accept as fact their baseless conspiracy theories and accept their discredited silliness they offer as evidence. It’s hard to believe, but, there are many in our nation who will always believe that this election was “stolen.” Those are the folks we’ll never reach, never convince, never change. But I don’t think that all 70 million of those who voted for Trump will buy it. At least I hope not. And that’s a good thing. But, the damage is done. The election denialism and the harm it does to our trust in our democracy is another part of the legacy that Trump will carry with him as he leaves office.  

There are still those in the Trump White House who publicly proclaim that they are proceeding on the assumption that there will be a second term. They perpetuate the craziness. 

I applaud Biden, though, for not getting drawn into the clown show. He is being as disciplined as he was during the campaign. He is focused on what needs to be done and first priority, Trump and his obstructionism notwithstanding, seems to be the pandemic. It is a no-brainer, but it seems almost inspirational to see a president who gets the obvious, who understands what needs to be done, and is stepping up to the challenge even before he is on the job. 

That gives us a sense of what kind of president he will be. He may face impossible hurdles, but I believe he’ll try. I believe he’ll care. And that counts for a hell of a lot with me after the last four years.

I won’t belabor the obvious about the risks of this pandemic. In part because all you have to do it turn on the news anywhere to get an unrelenting dose of the challenges and concerns and in part because my day is too busy to write much. I need to mask up, throw the sanitizer in my pocket, and make a grocery run — something we only do when absolutely necessary. Perhaps we’ll be going back to ordering groceries for delivery again. Time will tell.

The weekend awaits. Enjoy it — safely and at a distance.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 12

I started writing this daily record of our journey through the COVID experience on March 11. It is a personal narrative. It’s not meant to represent the reality of this unique time in our nation’s life for anyone else. But, I think that there is a common understanding that many of us share. I think we know that this is one of those defining events on which the future pivots. 

I’ve said before that this pandemic is more than a medical crisis. It has exposed so many fault lines in our society. Economic, racial, and social divides have been more sharply highlighted. We’ve seen an ever-sharper divide between those who believe in science and facts, and those who live in an alternative reality where wild conspiracy theories abound.

Although politics are, by definition, partisan, I wonder if in this increasingly divided society our political leaders are able to make choices that are best for our nation rather than those that are best for their parties or their careers. Even something as simple as the wearing of masks remains a contentious issue in the culture wars that rage around us. 

We need leadership. It is missing. The President has gone from lying about the coronavirus to ignoring it completely. In the face of unprecedented infection numbers we get silence. We get silence in the face of escalating deaths. And we get silence in the face of a health care system strained to the breaking point.  

Trump’s abdication of leadership is mirrored throughout his party as, one after another, the majority of Republican leaders refuse to address the real issues, refuse to allow the president-elect to prepare as effectively as possible for the daunting challenges ahead, and refuse to stand firmly on the side of the heart of our democracy. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. But they have made it one.

Pandering to the vocal fringe isn’t leadership, it’s cowardice. Real leadership isn’t about taking people where they want to go, it’s about taking them where they OUGHT to be. Many have said that in the past, and there is a reason… it is true. We must use our platforms to speak to what we believe is right, not to what is popular. We have to build a consensus based on values, not on misguided partisanship and prejudices. 

If we cannot deal with the most dangerous public health crisis of our times as a united people, how can we have hope for the future? I am willing to believe that not all is lost. I think that a Biden-Harris administration has the potential to restore real leadership and to take us where we ought to be… where we need to be. We need them to be able to start now. And we need to be unrelenting in the pressures we bring to bear on those who stand in the way. 

Yesterday, 142,860 new cases were reported in the United States. Yesterday, there were at least 1,431 new coronavirus deaths in America.  How can these numbers not shock our sensibilities? How can they not compel us to act? How can this experience of despair and death and chaos not shift the arc of our national experience. And how can the failure of stewardship we have seen not cause us to reject the charlatans and demand true leaders.

This is a pivotal moment. Our nation’s future will be different because of it. 

I hope it will be better, but our divisions are so stark — as witnessed by all those who voted for Trump — that we must not take anything for granted. We must fight for our democracy and fight for our future. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

October 11

Happy Veteran’s Day.  

I wager that the day will be overshadowed, as even the wildly out-of-control pandemic is, by the petulance and unpredictability of Donald Trump as he struggles to come to terms with his defeat at the hands of Joe Biden.

It is truly crazy. And, I know I shouldn’t be shocked that the Republican leadership has been wildly partisan and irresponsible in their response. As they have for years, they continue to put their own political interests ahead of what is best for our nation.  

There are the two runoff elections to be held in Georgia in early January, and that will decide control of the Senate. The Republicans don’t want their supporters to be discouraged. They don’t want Donald Trump to be discouraged. So some observers suggest that they are perpetrating the fiction of fraud and holding out the false hope of a second Trump term to try to ensure energy around the campaigns of their candidates in Georgia. 

It certainly seems credible. And it certainly seems wrong. Our democracy is diminished when our leaders, in an effort to gain partisan political advantage, undermine faith in the electoral process, and respect for the outcome that we, as citizens, shaped. It is just wrong. 

Would the Democratic political leadership do it differently if the shoe was on the other foot? I’m not sure. Principled leadership seems to be in short supply across the board. Not non-existent, but there are too many willing to do the expedient rather than what is right. And that, too, is disheartening and undermines our faith in our democratic process as well. 

This may be part of the reason young people feel so frustrated and alienated from government. This is why the case for reform, on so many levels, merits careful consideration. We can do better. I believe it. And we must.

As this manufactured political drama plays out, we lose focus on what is truly urgent. Today, new infections in 45 states are moving in the wrong direction. A month ago, we blew past the 9 million infection mark and now 10 million is also in the rear view mirror. Will we see 11 million next week? 12 million by the end of the month?  With 100,000+ new cases every day and no new efforts afoot to contain the spread, what else can we expect? 

Weeks ago the alarm bells were being sounded (and ignored by the Trump administration) about the danger that we’ll run out of hospital beds by early in the new year and that the health care infrastructure across the nation will be overwhelmed. We already see the reappearance of refrigerated trucks to serve as morgues and plans to repurpose convention centers and hotels as hospitals are being studied in cities across the country. Hospitalizations have now exceeded 60,000, setting another new record number during this pandemic, and it will only get worse. 

Even more troubling, what we see right now is a result of the infections that were contracted 4-5 weeks ago when new infections were occurring at a rough rate of 50,000 a day. So, what will we see in the coming weeks given that new infections are now running at 100,000 – 150,000 a day? For those who are paying any attention at all the answer is obvious. And so is the danger for us all.  

It’s great that we’re moving ever closer to a vaccine. It’s great that we’re learning how to treat this virus more effectively and reducing the death rate. But make no mistake, we’re going to see this wave continue and by late January and early February we’re going to face frightening and grim realities and, despite better treatment, the sheer number of new infections will guarantee waves of new deaths as well.

This WILL get worse before it get’s better. Let’s be sure we stick around until it does.  

Please. Be careful. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Stay distanced or, better yet, stay home when you can. And don’t let the political theater distract you from other things that count. Like our health, our safety, and our lives.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 10

It’s truly sad that Donald Trump doesn’t give a damn about our country. There are millions, I know, who would argue with me on that, but it’s hard to escape that conclusion. 

Today, as we face a totally out of control pandemic that Trump failed to manage, he seems as determined as he can be to now derail the transition to his successor, President-elect Biden. At a time when we should be focusing on how we deal with a disease that has taken almost 240,000 lives in our country and that has led us to record numbers of new infections and hospitalizations, we are wrapped around the axle by Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the clear will of the people.

Make no mistake, the outcome is clear. There is no evidence of fraud or electoral irregularities on a scale that would lead to a difference in the outcome. It appears likely that Biden is on track to win 306 electoral votes and his legal challenges, even if successful (and very few, if any, will be) will not change the outcome. Allegations are NOT evidence. Conspiracy theories are not proof. But, as we know, in Trumpworld, facts don’t matter. 

And sadly, Trump’s allies, afraid to risk the ire of Trump’s core supporters, refuse to tell him to get on with the nation’s business. They refuse to reassure the American people that our electoral process did work — even in a pandemic. They refuse to stand up for us, for our democracy, and for our future. 

Not only is Trump irresponsibly keeping the transition from moving forward and thus impeding Biden’s ability to rapidly confront the huge challenges we face, but he is adding to the risks to our nation with reckless acts like the firing of Defense Secretary Esper yesterday. The worry is that the Director of the CIA and the FBI Director may be next —with troubling implications for our national security at this critical time of transition. 

Anyone who truly loves our nation and who cares for its future would have taken a deep breath and then put country above self. That is what leadership is. But that is not who Donald Trump is. He cares not for the country, but for himself. 

I believe that 69 days from now, Joe Biden will be sworn-in as the 46th President of the United States of America. But the damage that Trump may do before that happens could make the challenges Biden faces all the more daunting and put us all that much more in harms ways. Even in his last days in office, Trump still hasn’t learned what it means to lead or to care and what a horribly sad story that tells about him.

We will survive. But these days are not without continued pain. 

Stay strong, stay safe, and stay healthy.


November 9

Well… it doesn’t take long for the craziness to reassert itself. The “Stop the Steal” movement is a reaffirmation of just how unwilling some folks are to accept news they don’t like. I guess it was inevitable. Crazy doesn’t just disappear, especially when Trump and his sons and such incendiary voices as Rudy Giuliani fuel the nonsense. 

We’ve seen all along that we live in two different realities. It continues. The question is whether this will diminish over time. Will it end with a whimper or a bang or will it become a permanent part of our political culture? Will we have a group of political figures who build their future by catering to the crazy? 

It’s bad enough what we hear from Trump. But when other Republican leaders are afraid to tell their supporters the truth, when Ted Cruz or Lindsey Graham go on the Fox network and perpetuate lies, that they know are lies, about Republican observers being “thrown out of” counting sites in Philadelphia, we get a pretty clear picture of the state of our politic.

And even good news will be added to the list of grievances. The release today of news from Pfizer that early data on their coronavirus vaccine suggests that it may be 90% effective is so hopeful. But you can bet that Trump’s supporters will tell us that it’s no coincidence that it came out AFTER the elections. The conspiracy theorists will go to town. Sigh.

But it IS good news. It is hopeful. It is not absolute. This is just a press release. The experts haven’t seen the data and we have to take a deep breath, but it is promising. 

And meanwhile, the virus rages on, totally out of control. That’s why this news is so important. Even with this promise of hope, the next few months are going to be ugly and dangerous. And we must take care. 

THAT is something, that the Trump supporters won’t acknowledge. They kept asserting that the virus would miraculously disappear after the election. They believed it was a political ploy not a real threat. Well, it’s not going away. It is not disappearing, and it remains a threat to us all. 

So, I applaud the new Coronavirus advisory board that Biden has appointed. With or without a vaccine, there is much to be done and since the Trump administration won’t act, Biden will lay the groundwork for quick action come January. And the briefings and messaging from Biden and his team will, I hope, begin to reshape the narrative about this virus. 

As with so much else unfolding around us, the answer is… we’ll see. 

There’s so much to do. So much to worry about. But we knew that would be true. Viruses don’t miraculously disappear and neither will Donald Trump and all the discord he has fomented. 

More than ever, we all need to stay engaged, and… 

Stay strong, stay safe, and stay healthy.

November 8

Is it my imagination or is the sun shining just a little brighter this morning? Does the air smell a bit sweeter? 

We all have said — repeatedly — that this election was the most consequential of our lifetimes. It was. 

This poll wasn’t just about the character of the candidates, though character does lie at the heart of this. I know that I am just one of millions of Americans who longed for a return to decency, civility, and respect. I am one of the millions who wanted an end the name-calling, bullying, discrimination and division, and racism and misogyny. 

I’m one of millions who believe that the rule of law matters, that respect for our constitution is not optional, and that none of us, no matter our office or bank accounts, are above the law.  

All this and more was on the ballot this past week. We chose, and we chose well. I have hope once more for our nation.

Kamala Harris last night quoted the late Congressman and civil rights icon, John Lewis. He said, “Our democracy is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it.”  Well, as we all know, and as Kamala said, democracy was on the ballot and our nation’s soul was a stake. This week we ushered in a new day for America. And we should be proud.

Am I concerned about the future? Of course. You have to be wearing blinders not to be concerned. The problems before us are so daunting, so challenging, and so dangerous to our futures and our democratic polity, that we have to be worried. 

The pandemic threatens our health and our economy. It could take the lives of those we love and the economic impact may leave the most vulnerable doomed to struggle for years. Climate change is a threat that we have left unchecked for far too long. If the systemic racism that plagues our nation goes unaddressed our democratic polity could be damaged beyond repair. 

If we don’t find a way to bring health care to all, to more equitably address the distribution of wealth, if we don’t create an America where the number of families going hungry grows rather than declines — if we don’t at least TRY to honor the dream that has defined us, we will ultimately fail as a nation no matter who is at the helm.

The problems are huge indeed, and who knows if we can if solve them. But the removal of Trump is the essential first step and — whether he accepts the realities of the election results or not — that decision has been made. So yes. The sun shines brighter and my heart is lighter than it has been in so very, very long.

Even though I was confident about Biden’s victory after four days of following each shift of the vote totals across the battleground states, I was still so incredibly relieved when the word came: Joseph R. Biden is the President-elect of the United States of America. The fear, anger, despair and disgust that have been almost constant companions for the past four years didn’t know where to go as hope and promise and joy crowded in. I was reminded again about just how invested I have become in speaking to, and caring about these fundamental values that matter so very, very much. 

Going forward, while I will still worry about the future, I hope it will be a future we will face together. I hope that even if my grandchildren will be forced to face the challenges we bequeath them, they will at least be dealing with them in a world in which division and bigotry and discord are not words we associate with our leaders. I hope that they will live in a world where our nation stands up to despots and dictators rather than embracing them, and a world where we work in partnership with allies demonstrating in every way our commitment to decency, to human rights, and to building a world that works for us all.

Leadership matters. It can transform, it can inspire, it can uplift. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris did that last night. 

Joe said that this is the time to heal. It is. He said that we need to bring to bear the forces of decency, of fairness, of science and, of hope in the great battles of our time that confront us. Those are forces I can get behind. That is the hope that fills me. 

So let us believe in, and let us demand for our nation: 

Truth over lies,

Unity over division,

Love over hate,

Facts over fiction.

Biden over Trump.

Such a good way to start a week.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 7

And the election continues… lol.  It would be amusing, if it wasn’t so frustrating. Like the pandemic that won’t end, the clown show that has been the Trump Presidency also refuses to come to a close either. Please… let it stop.

What an election it has been. Democrats are frustrated and say that they didn’t do as well as they should have. Upon reflection, I wonder if they might not reconsider that. Over 70 million people turned out to vote for Trump. Even more turned out to vote for Joe Biden. With a turnout like that — a turnout that was SO much higher than the blue wave of 2018, the fact that Republicans recaptured some of the house seats that they lost in 2018 isn’t a surprise. And, with Trump driving record turnouts in Republican-leaning states like in Iowa, North Carolina, Montana, or South Carolina, the fact that Republican incumbents have held on to their Senate seat really shouldn’t be a shock.

Two years ago there was great skepticism that Democrats could win the Senate. More recently there was a belief that they would. But that’s why we have elections. We get to decide. Not polls. Not analysts. 

The pundits can posit that the Democrats somehow failed but, with turnout such as we experienced, I have to wonder what else they could have done. I think anyone who looks at the election has to say that the Biden-Harris ticket had amazing success in turning out the numbers that they needed overall. But, although they even did far better than might have been expected in Republican strongholds, the incredible turnout that Trump engineered still was enough, for example, to save Joni Ernst and Thom Tillis. 

The bottom line, though, is that the Trump Presidency will end. He might have been a disaster but, he was an incumbent with a shocking — to me — degree of support. The fact that Joe Biden will almost certainly be declared the President-elect today is a success for the Democrats that matters more than anything else that happened on Tuesday. Finally we can start to look to a future of hope.  

You have to ask yourself, though, why Joe Biden even wants the job. Thank god, he cares enough to be willing to take on the challenges that await. They are daunting. And the sooner we get to move beyond the election and start to focus on them, the better we will be.

I respect that Joe Biden is already at work and is focused tightly on the most critical issue before the nation. The coronavirus.

The past three days have seen 102,000, 114,000, and yesterday, 126,480  cases. We were worried when we couldn’t get under 20,000 a day. Now we can’t get under 100,000. We have had over 1000 deaths a day for each of the last four days. Hospitalizations are surging across the nation. The positivity rate in South Dakota is 52%. Iowa is 43%, Kansas is 37%. You get the picture. More than 30 states are at 10% or greater. 

There is nothing good about any of this. And meanwhile, the government does nothing. Trump does nothing. He should be removed for that reason, if nothing else. And his chief of staff Mark Meadows who refused to wear masks and who would get irritated with reporters who asked him to do so to protect them all? Well, Mark Meadows now has the coronavirus and who knows how many more he has infected as he has moved in and around the White House, apparently even after he knew he had the virus. What a horrible example. But that has been typical of the Trump administration throughout the crisis and no one had been a worse example than Trump himself. 

I can only hope that the 70 million people who have voted for Trump eventually see him for who he is. A meme I saw captured it all and conveyed a clear, and sadly accurate, message: Trump did more to stop people from voting than he did to stop people from dying. 

The choices to bring this pandemic under control are not going to be easy. I fear we’ve reached the point where masks and distancing are not going to be enough. It is spiraling out of control. We will likely need to impose some greater degree of restrictions again. We will have to make tough choices. Trump’s lies and failed leadership on this will make it even harder for a President Biden to bring us together and build a national consensus on the responsible actions. 

We all have to be part of that effort. Please. Continue to be smart. Continue to be careful. Continue to take care. It’s going to be a rough ride.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 6

They say, “be careful what you wish for… it might come true.”

Well, many of us wished that the election would just be over. And we got what we wished for but, sadly, now we have to live with the aftermath — and it threatens to be worse than we imagined.

Donald Trump is out of control. He can’t accept losing. He can’t accept that 74 million  or more Americans have rejected his leadership. He can’t accept that a majority of Americans have said “you’re fired.”

He is out there right now declaring electoral fraud without any evidence. He is feeding into every conspiracy theory and now his acolytes are turning over every rock, talking to every partisan, and chasing every wild allegation to try and justify the unjustifiable.

The election itself went surprisingly well. It was what democracy is about. And across the nation, in the cities, in the small towns, on Native American reservations, in the most affluent communities and the poorest, our fellow citizens not only cast their ballots but managed the election process effectively including the unprecedented challenge of managing an overwhelming wave of mail-in ballots. 

Countless volunteers — our friends and neighbors — served as poll workers, as vote counters, as elections judges and more. They did it despite the pandemic, despite the risks it poses, and they did it despite the vitriol being directed at many of them from those who don’t like the results. They, and the government officials in state after state responsible for managing the process, have handled the pressure with dignity and with integrity. It is what democracy is supposed to be — and I’m proud of the process.  

But Donald Trump isn’t. Despite the cameras at the counting centers, despite live-streaming of the process, despite the presence of observers from both parties, despite the intense scrutiny from the media and the politicians, Trump beats his drum making unfounded charges about fraud and illegal votes. Since he has no evidence, his minions are now forced to desperately cast about for anything at all to justify his claims.

Of course, in the world in which I grew up, you wouldn’t allege something as deadly serious as electoral fraud in a presidential poll in America unless you had reason…unless you already had evidence of malfeasance. But in Trumpworld everything is stood on its head.

What makes this even more pernicious, though, is that we already have a divided nation where trust in each other seems non-existent. We have Trump supporters who are so wedded to their hero’s fate that they are prepared to believe any allegation, any wild-eyed internet conspiracy — and they will believe until the day they die that the election was stolen because that’s what Trump claims.

Part of the reason our system has worked for so long is because the participants in it have always accepted the will of the people. They believed in the process, and they demonstrated to their supporters that we were all Americans and we had to accept the voice of the majority. Look at John McCain’s truly statesmanlike concession speech when he lost to Obama in 2008. I posted it last night on my Facebook page. He was a patriot. He cared about America and he trusted the people of this nation and respected their verdict.

Trump is no John McCain. Trump’s default position seems to always be confrontation and division rather than graciousness and decency. He cares about Donald Trump, not about America. Al Gore, even when he had a true basis to challenge the election results in 2000, opted not to pursue his challenge, putting the greater good of the nation ahead of his ego. But Trump will fight to the bitter end and put our nation at risk in the process.

No process is perfect, I know. Perhaps they should have let the observers come closer to the counting in Philadelphia from the very beginning. Was it because fo concerns about COVID, a desire to keep them from getting in the way, or just about trying to do things efficiently? I don’t know, but no one has offered ANYTHING to suggest that it was part of an effort to engage in vote fraud of any sort. Nonetheless, yesterday, in response to a court’s ruling they did adjust procedures and allow observers to be closer to the action. And as they continue to count the votes the results continue to be for Biden and at the same level. Hardly suggestive that there was something untoward going on!

Maybe there will be a few examples of process faults here and there across the country. That is the norm in any election. But make no mistake. There is NO evidence of fraud. There is NOTHING that suggests that the election was stolen and it’s a travesty that we even find ourselves even discussing this. 

But that’s what Trump does. He uses his lies and bombast to shift the narrative. He forces us to defend a process that shouldn’t need defending and, suddenly, we find ourselves pushing back against amorphous but dangerous nonsense. 

We should be focusing on issues that really matter — like 117,000 new COVID infections yesterday alone. We should be moving on and looking to the future. But Trump will not let the spotlight shift from him, he will hold our democracy hostage, and we will continue to suffer.

And Republican leaders? Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, and others still dance to the puppet master’s tune. Graham and many other Republicans were saved politically by the massive turnout that Trump admittedly helped to drive. And they remain afraid of the power of his mobilized base. They remain afraid of the buzzsaw of Trump attacks. So they dance and they parrot Trump’s false claims and create dire scenarios of disaster for America following a “stolen” election (in which, ironically, folks like Graham were nonetheless successful).

I want to believe that they are the last desperate gasps of a President that is going down to defeat. I want to hope that this will NOT be what we can expect throughout the Biden Presidency. It could be, but let’s wait and see. 

There are decent folks out there who care about our nation. And right now, more than ever, we need to care… not as Democrats or Republicans…but as Americans. 

Our love for our nation, and our commitment to the preservation of our still-evolving experiment with democracy, cannot be filtered through an ideological perspective. And although that is a responsibility we all share, right now Republican leaders in particular are faced with a stark choice; will they stand for America or will they hide behind Trumps lies and bitterness solely to protect their own political interests? I hope that they will choose America… but I fear that they won’t.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 5


That’s not the voting margin in one of the battleground states in this still unsettled election. It’s the number of new COVID infections we saw in the US on Wednesday.

102,831. The first time we have been in six figures. We had over 600,000 cases… well over a half a million… in just the past week. Records are falling all over the place and not one of those records is one to celebrate. We’re creeping up on 10 million infections in the US.  We’re at over 233,000 deaths.  Remember when Trump tried to compare this with the flu? Our deaths are so far about five times what we might see in an average flu season and there is still so far to go. 

In a normal world, I’d say that no matter who wins this election, this crisis would be the first and most compelling order of business. But, of course, if Trump wins, we’re likely to see the same failure to lead and to act. Just sit back and hope for a vaccine while countless folks are infected, suffer, and many will die.

If Biden wins, the story will be very different, but he won’t be inaugurated until January 21. Over two months. I wonder if he’ll use his platform as president-elect to start trying to shift pubic consciousness. It wouldn’t surprise me. But we’ll also have to see what Trump does or does not do as a defeated candidate to undermine the incoming administration without regard to the cost to the American people. 

So, here we are. The election has knocked the virus off the front pages but it’s still there and it’s not just waiting… it’s actively infecting and killing us. Now, more than ever, we need to be careful, we need to take good public health measures, we need to be smart. I hope we will be.

As for the election? We may see an outcome today. Probably. Maybe. The trend line still favors Biden. 

I make no pretense of hiding my preference. Of course, I hope for Biden’s success. And I so value his continued emphasis on healing… on leading as an American president, not as a “blue” president. We have to find a way and Biden has a history of working across the aisle. We need that now, more than ever. I hope that the Republican leaders in the Senate and elsewhere will choose to meet him halfway and not take to their tribal bunker and be only obstructionist.

The past decade or so gives us little reason to be optimistic. But I’d rather hope than just assume that it is impossible for us to find a way forward together. I know that many of us feel so raw from the years of Trump’s horrific leadership and from the bullying partisan behavior of Republican lawmakers that it could be good to give them a taste of what we experienced.

I get the inclination. But I don’t think that’s the answer. Extreme partisanship and tribalism looks no more attractive on the left than it does on the right. I want change. I want progress. But I also know we need to find a path forward together. It is NOT impossible but it will be difficult. Biden may not succeed but he will try. And we need to support that effort. 

To be honest, Democrats don’t have much choice in any event. They don’t have control of the Senate, they will likely have a narrower margin in the House. We will have divided government for at least two years. Divided does not have to mean destructive. It does not have to mean stalemate and stasis. It does not have to mean that our nation falls deeper into crisis on every front, that we can’t make progress on social and economic justice, on climate, on health care, and on so much else that needs to be done. 

We can try. We must try. I don’t see that there is any other option, and if fail, let it be because of Republican intransigence.

We won’t forget our anger at what Trump has done to our nation. We won’t forget that many (not all) of the 69 million people who voted for Trump share his vision of a white America mired in the past. We won’t ignore the fact that racism and racists exist in our nation. We won’t forget that there are far too many who have forgotten — or never knew — what it means to work together for the common good of our nation. 

We won’t forget. But we can’t let anger blind us to the possibilities inherent in engaging each other and making progress, even if it is just a step at a time.  

Donald Trump will not go away. He’ll foster further discord and he will keep the politics of grievance alive. And the Republicans will have to decide if they will continue to sell their souls to a defeated president. There may indeed be room to build new partnerships. The political dynamic will change. But we all have to come to terms with just how divided this nation is and figure out who we want to be and who we CAN be.

There is much to be done. Biden will try if he is elected. He will be a president for America, not just for Democrats. And we should follow his example. The nation will be better for it.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 4

So. What can I say that countless folks haven’t already said? The pundits are flooding the airwaves and probably have far sharper insights than my foggy brain can offer this morning.

I can’t bring myself to contemplate the prospect of a second Trump administration and I can’t bring myself to entertain the hope that Biden will win.

The whipsaw of emotions is exhausting. And even though Biden may yet win this election — in fact, some analysts are very bullish on his chances — I am struggling to get my head around all of this. And the most difficult thing for me to understand, irrespective of the final outcome, is how so many of our fellow citizens voted for Trump. The divisions in our nation are more stark, and more sharply defined, than I can understand.

It’s not just that they support Trump. It’s that I truly can’t understand their view of our nation and the world in general. Trump supporters, in exit polls, seemed to dismiss the coronavirus (only 5% thought it major concern) and issues of racial justice (only 3% thought it was an important issue). Biden supporters were at the opposite end of the spectrum on both. We are SO divided and we have such very different priorities and concerns. How do we even begin to find a way forward together?

We see these numbers and divisions playing out across the nation. On some levels, it is deeply troubling but, it is also a reminder that, no matter how strong my convictions and the certitude I feel about the “rightness’ of my values and beliefs, there are others who feel as certain that their diametrically opposed view of the world is equally correct and equally “right.” I won’t despair, even though I will disagree. This IS what democracy looks like. It can be ugly and messy but the massive turnout is to be celebrated even though it was as strong for Trump as it was for Biden,

And, although some may want to rant and rave about the electoral college it seems to me that the real issue isn’t about the process. The real issue, as the huge turnout on both sides reminds us, is that we have two Americas and the struggle for our nation’s soul, and its future, continues.

I guess I have to accept that, to advance the values that I believe are important to us as a nation, there is a huge amount of work to be done on both sides. If we want our nation to work and if we are going to build a future together we have to find ways to bridge the gap.

Continued stalemate is not the answer. Divided government, polarized by tribalism and incapable of action, serves us not at all. When will we say enough is enough? When will we decide together that scoring partisan points is less important than finding approaches we can all live with

I don’t know. Perhaps it needs to get worse — and it could — before it gets better and before we realize that none of us wins if we ignore the concerns of half our nation. I hope, though, that we can do better than this. I hope the legacy we leave our grandkids will not be one of a broken nation.

So, I’ll turn back to the news. I’ll wait like everyone else, knowing that, no matter the outcome, the way ahead will be difficult but, forgive me for believing that the path will be easier if Joe Biden emerges successful.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 3

Whatever happens today, I will know I played my role. I voted — that’s first and foremost. I contributed to presidential and senatorial campaigns — multiple times. I shared my views and sought to encourage others to engage. I tried to understand the issues and to think for myself. In other words, I tried, as best I could, to play the role that any citizen in a democracy should.

We have to play that role if we want to preserve our democracy. And, having lived in countries where people have died fighting to gain what so many of us take for granted, I truly believe our democracy is worth preserving.

I fear that many of us have allowed our anger and frustration to devolve into cynicism or apathy (or both), rather than using them to drive our engagement and determination to fight for what is ours. 

Nothing changes unless enough of us care and act. Our democratic process does not have some sort of autopilot that course corrects for us. We need to be part of the process and, if we fail, we allow those who would abuse the system for personal gain, for power, and to advance views and values antithetical to the core values on which our nation was founded, to have their way.

I know it is hard to find the time and energy to be active citizens. But I hope that the value and importance of being engaged is a lesson that will emerge from having experienced the wrenching dislocations of the Trump years — which I hope will end today. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, we wait for the results. And I hope that we will not only wait with patience for ALL the votes to be counted but that we will accept the choice of the American people once the results are known.

Accepting the outcome doesn’t mean we have to LIKE the outcome — and, either way — there will be millions of Americans who will wish the vote had gone a different way. For many Trump supporters the idea of a Biden victory is as unpalatable as the idea of a second Trump term is to me. But accept it we must. 

My worry — that so many share — is that acceptance is not part of Trump’s plan if he loses. When he hints darkly at rejecting the outcome, when he suggests that mail-in ballots shouldn’t be counted if it takes too long, when he paints this process — that a record number of Americans are participating in — as a sham rife with fraud, he lays the groundwork for an unprecedented rejection of the choice that we make as citizens exercising our right to vote.

If we allow Trump to break our process — to undermine our faith in our electoral process just as he has undermined virtually all our other government institutions and the fundamental pillars of our democracy — then our future as a united nation truly is at risk.

That is the worry. But I believe we, as a nation, are strong enough to overcome any desperate attempts to hold on if he loses, and we will be strong enough to move forward to the challenges that lie ahead. I believe that we will emerge from the chaos of the last four years and we will, I hope, be stronger for having been reminded of the fragility of our democracy if we fail to protect and nurture it.

We’ll take it a step at a time. Today we conclude the voting process, we begin to tally the results and we hope. 

And then, once the results are known, we turn to face the future — hopefully with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris leading the way.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 2

It’s crazy windy here in Northern Virginia today.  I like to believe that it’s the winds of change blowing. 

OK… I know that I’m projecting my hopes into the weather forecast. I am hopeful, but still, as I‘ve said the past few days, anxious.

I don’t know that anyone is paying attention to what the candidates are saying any more. The lines are drawn and it’s now a matter of getting out the vote, I guess. And if you are waiting for Election Day to cast your ballot please… whatever you do… don’t fail to do so. You voice needs to be heard. Your ballot matters more in this election than ever before. 

Meanwhile, while we wait for the process to unfold, we continue to see disturbing attacks on the electoral process coming from Trump and his campaign. There are suggestions that he’ll declare victory prematurely, that his armies of lawyers will attack the legitimacy of the mail-in ballots, that they will do all they can to sow doubt and throw it into the courts, or that he’ll just declare “fraud” and refuse to accept the results, setting up a new crisis.

I know folks are worried about violence or disruptions at the polls or after the results become known. And, given the mood in the nation, the events we’ve already seen, and Trump’s reckless endorsement of truly troubling and dangerous behaviors by his supporters, those worries are not baseless.

As my mother might have said, though, there’s no need to borrow trouble. If it’s out there it will find us, I fear. But, for now, I’m going to put my faith in our democracy and in our fellow-citizens. 

We’ve survived challenging times in our nation before and I will remain positive and hopeful about our future and our ability to move forward together. I’m not naive. I know it won’t be easy and that there are huge challenges but, for now, let me hold onto hope. 

That’s all for today. I’ve nothing new or fresh or insightful to offer. The tea leaves have been read, the magic eight ball consulted, the ouija board asked, but the answers are all the same… it is yet to be known. So, like us all, I’ll wait and I’ll hope. There’s nothing left to do.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

November 1

Yet another month is in the books. And, even though we are beginning November and the year is winding down, the level of tension and anxiety is so high you’d never know it. The combination of an out-of-control pandemic and an election two days away is more than any of us should have to deal with.

So, I turned off the news programs this morning. They were making me crazy. On the one hand you have The Economist giving Biden a 94% chance of winning, and Nate Silver’s 538 puts it at 90%. 

But pundits are pointing excitedly or nervously, depending on their loyalties, at one poll in Iowa that swings back towards Trump. Others talk about the voters the pollsters missed last time who turned out to elect Trump and assert that will happen again. 

And, although Biden holds leads in PA, AZ, NC and GA that seem to be at the far end of the margin of error other commentators portray these races as too close to call.

The bottom line is that anything CAN happen. We learned that in 2016. Even the 10% chance comes true one time in 10. So who knows? But the tone of the discussion only sparks more anxiety and when it is coupled with the craziness of the news it becomes impossible to listen to it without becoming angry or depressed.

Topping yesterday’s “hit parade” was the story of Trump supporters in Texas ambushing the Biden campaign bus as it was en route to an event in Austin. The Trump loyalists actually hit the car of the Biden team while driving on the highway and they risked driving the bus off the road completely. Their reckless and dangerous attempts to intimidate Biden supporters and stop them from campaigning is ugly and horribly sad to see in our nation. That we have come to this still has the capacity to shock and infuriate me. And Trump? He compounds it all by encouraging his supporters in their excesses and applauding their actions. The threat of violence and use of fear is OK as long as it’s on his behalf, apparently.

Then there were the police in North Carolina pepper spraying a march to the polls by BLM supporters. Police cited unspecified “actions” and an “unlawful” march as the justification for their action. You want to believe we’ve moved beyond this sort of thing but we know, sadly, that we have not.

Then we were treated to the spectacle of Trump’s new coronavirus guru —  a neuroradiologist with no training in the field of infectious disease — interviewed by a Russian propaganda network. He continued his dangerous advocacy of a herd immunity strategy that puts us all at risk when he wasn’t attacking Dr. Fauci who IS a leading infectious disease expert who has served half a dozen presidents. 

And then, if we weren’t troubled enough, Tony Fauci warned in a Washington Post interview that our nation is “in for a whole lot of hurt” and that we could not be in a worse place as we move into the colder weather. Somehow hearing Dr. Fauci, who has been so circumspect and who has tried so hard to not be alarmist, bluntly state what we all can see unfolding, just makes it all the more unnerving.

It’s insane. I want to believe that the truth about the administration, about its policies, about the coronavirus, about… everything… is clear. And if we believe in the truth, our choice should be equally clear. 

But the reality is that Trump has so twisted and perverted the meaning of “truth” that many in our nation believe there can many “truths” as defined for them by Donald J. Trump.

That’s frightening. 

The truth is the truth. Facts are facts. 

They are not subjective pick-your-own reality stories. We don’t get to argue that the sky is blue or the sky is purple and choose which “truth” we prefer. That is NOT how it works — or at least that’s not how it is supposed to work.

But THAT is exactly what Trump wants us to believe. So, in many ways, this question of whether we believe in THE truth lies at the heart of this election. 

Trump does not want us to believe in an objective truth. That is why he practices — either instinctively or by design or both — what one author calls the technique of “intentional wrongness persuasion.” (I just call it lying like a champ.)

It’s an approach that Jared Kushner actually tells folks to look at if they want to understand Trump. He seems to think it’s a great gift. A quality to be admired. As discussed in Bob Woodward’s “Rage,” the argument is that Trump can invent any reality and his followers will buy it, so long as he offers his “reasons” and never apologizes no matter the outcry over the wrongness of his remarks. Trump even counts on the outrage and he conditions his supporters to expect that he’ll be called a liar (because he always is, because he always lies). And Trump’s followers buy it all, and they nod their heads and just dismiss those who call out Trump’s falsehoods as the usual anti-Trump attacks. 

And the new “truth” as crafted by Trump is embedded in their consciousness and they are ready to accept the purple sky version of reality.

It sounds ludicrous but, it is what we’ve seen again and again.. 

The world has been turned upside down. And the viciousness, the division, and the discord that Trump’s false narratives inspire are amplified by twitter bots, Russian disinformation, and by all those who know that autocracy thrives on fear. They threaten the very fabric of our democracy. And that is what is at stake in this election.

We need “the” truth to be paramount — and to be accepted. One commentator said that “truth lubricates our democracy” — no wonder then, that Trump wants to bury it under the deluge of alternative facts and “intentional wrongness persuasion.” 

The bottom line is that Trump is not just an uncontrolled habitual liar — he is a liar with intent. 

I wonder how hard it will be to rebuild the trust in government he has destroyed. I wonder how hard it will be to restore faith and confidence in the truth. We may never know if he is reelected.

On Election Day, and in the days that follow, we will likely experience an even more unrelenting assault on the workings of democracy if the Biden-Harris ticket is successful. We can only hope that the results — the truth — will be clear and unassailable. 

But, I guess if you are Donald Trump and can deny the reality of a pandemic out of control and if you can ignore and deny 99,000 new infections in a single day, then you can certainly deny the validity of electoral outcomes that cost you the presidency. And the sad thing is… there are those who will listen and believe.

Two days to go.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.