Saturday sense and sensibilities

It is going to be another hot one today, maybe too hot for “Saturday in the Park,” which was my first title. Instead, allow me to borrow from Jane Austen to summarizing a few sense and sensibilities.

The president has denied calling fallen soldiers “losers and suckers,” even though it has been corroborated by four news agencies, including Fox News. A few additional reasons to believe the comments were made are his on-the-record comments about Senator John McCain only being a hero because he was captured, plus calling him a “loser” and not wanting to lower flags to half-staff when he died. He took on a Gold Star family who had the temerity to criticize him. And, his favorite name calling word for critics is “losers.” Apparently, he has used such expressions on more than one occasion, saying soldiers who fought in Vietnam were “suckers” per a Fox News report. I guess he is forgetting that “draft” thing and how he avoided going.

PBS Newshour had an excellent report on the Australia, UK and Switzerland response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have each handled it better than the US, with the UK having to wait some on its Prime Minister’s initial cavalier attitude to change (until he was infected). The keys are telling folks the truth, leaders not doubting the science, and central management of the problem. Having national healthcare, helped as it took the issue off the table who will pay for things. Sadly, the US crossed 187,000 COVID-19 deaths yesterday. Trump gets good marks for funding the vaccine research and this new simplified testing release, but overall his mishandling and misinformation has contributed to our poor results. Too many Americans do not take this seriously enough, starting with the president.

On the good news side, 1.4 million people went back to work in August, lowering the unemployment rate to 8.4%. Economists are pleased, but cautious as the number includes 238,000 temporary Census workers and the numbers are expected to fall off again. One economist from Grant Thornton noted, the unemployment rate is actually closer to 10%. And, many economists worry about that cavalier COVID-19 attitude above, where some think reopening things means returning to normal. It does not.

Finally, we saw two visits to Kenosha by the presidential candidates. One stood in front of a burnt building, while the other visited with the victim, his family and community. The latter sat down with members of the community and listened. As Jonathan Capeheart and David Brooks said in the weekly review on PBS Newshour, one candidate’s visit was political, while the other was presidential. The presidential one was done by the one who is not president. Brooks noted it is good that Biden is condemning violence and looting saying they are not protesting. That needs to be said, as protecting people, their homes and their businesses is important, as well. It is not an either/ or paradigm as the president points out. We need better and fair policing that supports all in the community.

Fool’s errand

Over 152,000 Americans have died due to COVID-19. The US has 4.3% of the global population, but 23% of the COVID-19 deaths and 26% of the global cases. Yet, those facts seem to not sink into the minds of supporters of the president.

The president resorted to misinformation on COVID-19, his modus operandi, when briefed on the pandemic risk back in January. This person who wants to be liked and viewed as great leader, chose not to lead in fighting the pandemic, choosing instead to call it a hoax and naysay it. And, it continues to this day – both the misinformation and the pandemic. Fixing the problem is secondary to fixing the blame.

Conservative pundit David Brooks has offered two pertinent quotes over the term of the incumbent president. First, he noted “The Trump White House is equal parts chaos and incompetence.” Second, he said “Trump lacks a sense of decency or empathy.” Adding in attorney and fixer Michael Cohen’s comment under oath, “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con-artist and he is a cheat,” and it paints a picture that is troubling about any person in leadership. Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the United States of America and our planet.

As for sycophants who carry water for the person defined above, I do not wish COVID-19 on anyone. But, it is not a surprise, when people flouting mask wearing and social distancing get infected. Herman Cain and Bill Montgomery, two conservative leaders, have died because of COVID-19, with Cain maybe picking it up at a Tulsa pep rally for Trump (where several staff members tested positive). Congressman Louie Gohmert has also contracted it and in so doing has galvanized criticism by Congressional staff for their bosses to take the virus seriously. They are being exposed because their bosses must carry water for the president and heretobefore have not acted cautiously.

Taking the president at his word is a fool’s errand. Now, many Americans are in danger and a many have died needlessly. Putting one’s life at risk for such a corrupt and deceitful person is beyond unwise. It is a fool’s errand.

Planning and more planning to reopen schools (then plan some more)

Listening to a well-rounded discussion on NPR on going back to school makes one realize the need to plan. Buses, class sizes, cleaning, masking, outside vs. inside schooling, etc. All with a back drop of limited budgets. If this is the path forward, we should not be planning today, what should have been done months ago. The continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic should not have been a surprise with the caution-to-the-wind re-openings fueled by the president and some impatient governors. So, planning ahead should have started before the past few weeks.

NPR also played several vignettes from interviews with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. She led off several comments with “As everyone knows…” Actually that is a false introduction, as everyone does not know. It is a ploy to make the listener cede her point. Here are a few things to consider, which are not being so considered, in this binary discussion of to re-open or not.

– Schools include teachers, administrators, staff, bus drivers, etc. who are not children. Some are even in their fifties. They will be at risk as will be the folks they come in contact with.

– Kids may be less susceptible to dying, but they can still get COVID-19 and can become carriers. They have parents and grandparents and come in contact with other adults and children as will these folks.

– Kids can be harmed by COVID-19. A rising senior who had COVID-19 says walking to the bathroom even now that she has recovered leaves her out of breath. So, she is frightened by coping with walking the halls of the school. She could not even read her own story on a local NPR show, as she did not have the wind capacity, so a reporter read her narrative.

I know parents and kids want to go back to school. We all want our economy back to normal. But, we let misinformation create false hope. Misinformation has and still gives people a false sense of security. Masks, social distancing, hand-cleaning, less hand-to-face contact, etc. are keys regardless of the path we choose. What we lose sight of is the exponential risk of contact.

So, we need to plan for all variables. We need to allow for the safest path forward. That may be delay for some. That may be online schooling for others. That may include small class sizes with outdoor learning. Whatever it is, the path will not be a normal one for quite some time. And, if any politician tells you differently, then they are not shooting straight with you. So, we must look out for each other. Is that too much to ask?

A few thoughts from the 1st Homeland Security Director

Former Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Ridge was asked by President George W. Bush to be the first Director of Homeland Security. Witnessing the president’s sending in unrequested and unmarked federal agents to Portland and Chicago, Ridge had some comments worth noting.

Here a few exceprts from an editorial analysis called “Trump’s Portland crackdown is controversial. The man spearheading it might be doing so illegally” by Aaron Blake of The Washington Post. The editorial can be accessed below.

“In Portland, Washington and other U.S. cities shaken by protests in recent months, the Trump administration has leaned on the considerable authority and assets of the Department of Homeland Security — an agency formed to prevent another Sept. 11, 2001, attack — to spearhead the federal response.

Images of militarized Border Patrol agents clubbing protesters and stuffing them into unmarked vehicles have alarmed civil liberties advocates and administration critics, and the displays of government power echo tactics long associated with authoritarian rule.
Legal analysts say that while the department has broad authority to enforce federal laws, officers’ actions — especially in Portland, Ore. — seemed to be pushing the boundaries and pulling DHS into a domestic policing role.

Tom Ridge, who served as the first Homeland Security secretary under George W. Bush, said Tuesday that DHS ‘was not established to be the president’s personal militia,’ and added, ‘It would be a cold day in hell before I would consent to a unilateral, uninvited intervention into one of my cities.’ Former DHS official Paul Rosenzweig called the operation, which has come to be known as Operation Legend, ‘lawful but awful.’

On PBS Newshour the other night, Ridge was interviewed. He noted several key points – he worked in “partnership” with the cities and states to solve problems after they were “invited in to help.” He also noted what happened in Portland was a “reality show” exercise to garner votes. That action will not solve anything, as it was not designed to.

On Fox News, Judge Andrew Napolitano noted in Portland, actions of federal agents are unlawful, unconstitutional and harmful. To unpack this, he noted the federal agents are permitted to protect federal assets and travel to and from the asset. They are not permitted to do what local police does and arrest people without probable cause or warrant. And, they cannot wear clothing that does not identify who are they are and what they represent. A person being accosted has to know who is so doing.

Getting back to the issue at hand, civil protest is more than fine in our country. Yet, people who have taken a violent approach to protest are diluting their message and, are feeding into a narrative that allows a corrupt president to break the law and squelch them. Let me say this clearly – both the violent protestors and the president are in the wrong. Civil protest does not make the news like the violent ones, so the violent ones are overreported and the civil ones are underreported.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/07/22/trumps-actions-portland-are-controversial-man-spearheading-them-might-be-doing-so-illegally/

President claims others are lying

The following letter was forwarded to my local newspaper yesterday. I hope they print it. Please feel free to adapt and use.
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I find amusing the headline “President says everyone else is lying.” This headline involves a president and his sycophants attempting to blame others for his misinformation and mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic which continues to this day. Per an ABC/ ISPOs poll, 67% of Americans disapprove of his handling of the pandemic. Until he focuses on helping Americans instead of how it makes him look, he will continue to misinform us and more Americans will get sick and die. Pandemics do not care about optics.

Two quotes from a nice and effective public servant

The Charlotte Observer reported today that Boyd Cauble, a long time aide to many mayors of both parties passed away. Three things stand out about Cauble – he did not bring attention to himself, he was very effective working with officials in Raleigh and DC, and was a genuinely nice guy.

More than several of Charlotte’s major accomplishments can be traced to Cauble’s tireless advocacy. Rather than list such milestones, let me focus on two bookend quotes from Cauble from the article penned by Jim Morrill.

Morrill writes “Boyd Cauble lived by a simple credo: ‘Just be nice to people – you’ll be amazed what will happen.'”

When Cauble retired from the City, in an Observer article called “The City’s most influential guy you have never heard of,” he said at the time:

“‘I am a firm believer that if you don’t care who gets credit, you’ll gey a whole lot of things accomplished.'”

I encourage you to read these two quotes and contrast them to today’s partisan win/ lose debates that are a poor substitute for governance. All politicians (and business people or any team) from top to bottom could learn from these words.

Mayors from both parties lauded Cauble’s efforts. Vi Lyles, Charlotte’s current mayor and long time City leader, said “He helped bulld Charlotte.'”

A message for our black neighbors – by Charlotte clergy and community leaders

The following brief editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer on June 2, 2020, signed by about 80 clergy and community leaders.

In the wake of yet one more unjust killing of an unarmed African American, we clergy and community leaders who are white say to our Black neighbors:

We feel outrage, grief, disgust and remorse.
We stand with you in horror, lament and weariness.
We’re fed up. It’s time.
We confess our complicity, inertia and timidity.
We own our responsibility right now.
With God’s help, we will change ourselves.
With you, we’ll change our institutions and our community.”

Having worked in the human services agencies as a volunteer Board Member, I support these words and have benefitted from working with a few of these voices to help people in need. We all must be the part of the solution. We cannot stand silent when injustice is being done to people who feel their voice is not being heard.

We must ask our police officers and leadership to police their own, identifying and improving on non-exemplary behavior or actions, painfully investigating all deaths to ferret out and punish unjust actions (the Pilot’s Union has a good model with their involvement in investigating plane crashes). Police officers have a tough and dangerous job, and even the best of intentions can go awry in a moment’s decision. But, every group has some bad apples, as well. The repeated and unchecked actions of those bad apples paint all officers with a broad brush.

So, police officers must be empowered and supported to call out their own, especially in the heat of moment of questionable actions. It is hard to call your own on the carpet, but that is what is needed and necessary. There is too long a list of names where such behavior led to a death (Floyd, Arbery Taylor, Cooper, Bland, Garner, Scott, Martin, Garner, Brown, Gray…). Eric Garner was also choked to death and the officer was not charged by a grand jury. But, if the others present had told the officer to “cool his jets” or “the man said he can’t breathe,” Garner or Floyd would still be alive.

I am encouraged by police officers participating in and being supportive of the civil protests. I have seen more than a few officers call out the bad actions that killed Floyd. I am encouraged by the diversity of the civil protestors. I am encouraged by people around the globe also protesting racial injustice.

Yet, I am also discouraged by protestors who have conducted violence and looting. That is harmful to their message and punishes the wrong people. We must speak out against such violence, while shining a spot light on the greater majority of peaceful protests. But, we must seek and get change.

A Democrat governor cares more about Republican Convention attendees than the president

As per usual, the US president is heightening an issue for political gain. In this case, it may back fire. The president has declared via tweet, for the governor of North Carolina to guarantee now the summer GOP convertion in Charlotte must open up for a full audience.

The Democrat governor Roy Cooper, who has been following a data driven process, has been rightfully concerned about the pandemic risk of large gatherings. His Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mandy Cohen, who is a very matter-of-fact and thoughtful public servant, has sent a letter to the Chair of the Republican convention, for them to share what planning efforts they have made to assure the safety of the attendees.

To state the obvious, we are talking about 50,000 delegates, reporters and supporters descending on Charlotte from around the nation and planet. A contagion like this will heighten exposure to locals as well as spreading the exposure when they return home. It should be noted, while the summer may help dampen the risk, the reopening of stores will have (and already is having) the opposite impact heightening exposure.

Three states (Texas, Florida and Georgia) with GOP governors have responded to the president’s threat to move the convention. A couple of thoughts to ponder. Charlotte won the selection to host because all other cities dropped out in the end. Also, Charlotte City Council voted only 6 to 5 to host the convention.

Finally, something the president is surprisingly terrible at is understanding planning and execution of things. You would think being a developer, he would understand these issues better. Time and again, his impatience and imprudence cause rash decisions which have come back to haunt him.

So, it is unsurprisingly clear Governor Cooper, as a Democrat, is more concerned about the health and welfare of the Republican attendees than the president is. It is unsurprising as every decision the president has made on COVID-19 prioritizes how it makes him look over helping people. The president craves the adulation of adoring fans. But, the convention really is an unneeded affair at this point and the delegates could mail in their votes (pun intended) or vote electronically in a virtual convention.

Now about these governors who raised their hands, their COVID numbers are worse than those in North Carolina. Plus, it takes a city to host, so the governors will need to work with the cities, who may not want the exposure. Yet, one thing which must be said, as a group, Republicans have bought into the president’s misinformation on COVID-19, so the health risk is higher for this audience.

Since I live in Charlotte, I have been OK with the GOP Convention being here. But, if we cannot address the safety issues and as the pandemic numbers worsen, my feeling is Mr. president, if you want to move it, don’t let the door hit you in the fanny on the way out.

What I care about – a note received

I shared that my local newspaper published my letter to the editor whose theme was “Listen to the truthtellers.” I included the letter in a recent post. Today, I received a very gracious letter from someone I do not know thanking me for my letter and “taking a stand and for expressing my views publicly.”

Attached to the letter was a summary prepared by John Pavlovitz (see link below) entitled “What I care about.” I thought I would share that summary below:

“I care that families are being separated.
I care that medical bills are bankrupting people.
I care that we’re drowning in guns and daily shootings.
I care that we’re talking about an asinine multi-billion border wall that won’t solve a crisis, even if there were one – and there isn’t one.
I care that our climate is changing and our planet is warming and our environment being degraded ad we have politicians who see science as an adversary.
I care that this Administration solicited and welcomed foreign interference in a Presidential election.
I care that voter suppression and gerrymandering are making it almost impossible for poor people and people of color to be heard and represented.
I care that racists march without hoods now, that elementary school teachers dress up like border walls, that wrestling coaches cut off a man’s dreadlocks in public.
I care that our President is mentally unfit to lead, and that he is buffeted by a group of professional enablers who know he is unfit and defend him anyway.
I care that every single day brings new legislative attacks on people who are already pushed to the brink.
I care that we have accused predators in the White House and on the Supreme Court.
I care that Muslims are caricatured into terrorists, migrants into advancing hordes, and LGBTQ people into imminent threats, by our elected leaders.
I care about families and sick people and underpaid teachers and hungry kids and unpaid Federal workers and transgendered teenagers – and the millions of beautiful, vibrant, disparate human beings who are daily endangered by the leadership of this country.

That’s what I care about.”

This list boils down many concerns to one piece of paper. It is worth the read and reaction. Let me know your thoughts.

Note: At the bottom of the summary is a quote from Neil Carter, “Why are we voting into office men who don’t even accept basic principles of biology, geology, immunology, and astronomy, and who believe we don’t have to preserve our planet’s natural resources.”

The weblink to Pavlovitz’s blog is as follows:

https://johnpavlovitz.com/

Former Trump official is voice that the GOP needs to hear

Morgan Chalfont of The Hill has penned a piece called “Scott Gottlieb becomes key voice warning Trump GOP on coronavirus” (see link below). Gottlieb is the former Trump appointed director of the Food and Drug Administration who resigned his position for personal reasons after two years. Per the article, Gottlieb is a doctor and cancer survivor and is well thought of by members of the GOP and others.

While he forewarned the White House and Congress at the end of January that COVID-19 was a major concern and called it pandemic before the WHO called it such, he apparently is making needed in roads. Even though the president has tried to rewrite history saying he did not naysay virus, he led the GOP efforts to downplay it, which is still amazing to me. Gottlieb’s comments finally broke through and his message is getting heard by the GOP in March.

The article notes a key reason he is getting heard is he is not indicting people, but that does not stop him from disagreeing with actions. In early March, he said the country is in for a hard couple of months. This kind of candor is needed and I am, at long last, glad people are listening.

Note this has not stopped the flow of misinformation from the president, but it is good to see the issue being addressed with more seriousness of purpose. I saw an editorial cartoon that is fitting – a person was praying for God to ask the president to stop talking. We need to hear more from those who have expertise and medical background like Drs. Fauci, Birx and Gottlieb.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/scott-gottlieb-becomes-key-voice-warning-trump-gop-on-coronavirus/ar-BB12cdCi?ocid=spartandhp