Cancel EVERYTHING – July

A COVID-19 Diary (Of Sorts)

July 31

Yesterday, as John Lewis was laid to rest, the President of the United States declined to even say his name. Even in death, Trump could not overcome the fundamental differences between himself and John Lewis, and he could not forgive the fact that Lewis was sharply critical of him.

It was the same with the death of John McCain. Trump could not bring himself to be gracious or show the generosity of spirit we have seen so many other statesmen and leaders display in the past. We can disagree but still respect each other — at least most of us can. And we can recognize the sincere contributions that others have made to our nation — or at least most of us can.

But there’s a pettiness about this president. We’ve seen it before. The mean-spirited name-calling and the soul-numbing bullying. The degrading and dismissive attacks on women who challenge him, the implicit and explicit racism, the mocking of the disabled. We’ve all seen it and heard it and many of us have been dismayed by it.

Yet, his supporters gloss over it. They excuse it or ignore it or even encourage it. But, although they can pretend he hasn’t done and said all these things, he has. He has exposed himself for who he is — not that we didn’t know before if we paid any attention — and in November we will have a choice, once again.

And, so far, it appears as though the tides are turning. But we can’t assume and we can’t take for granted that we will see the change that, in my view, is so desperately needed.
We should never take our democracy and our liberties for granted — that is a sure way to lose them. And this man who sits in the White House is threatening both.

He believes he can use federal troops to enforce his will — ignoring basic civil liberties, the constitution, and the authority of our states and local governments. And now he is repeatedly calling into question the upcoming election — the ver =y essence of democratic expression.

We should delay it, he says. It will be phony, he says.
Rigged. Mail-in ballots, used across the nation for years, are suddenly a tool of those who want to “steal” the vote.
We know what this is all about. He is worried he’ll lose and he’s laying the groundwork for declaring the results illegitimate. He’s putting excuses in place.

It can’t be that he’s an abject failure as a president.

It can’t be that he has failed in the coronavirus response, that tens of thousands have died who didn’t need to, and that things are getting worse rather than better.

It can’t be that he abandoned our values, been made a fool of by our enemies and shamelessly catered to dictators and strongmen while alienating our friends and allies.

It can’t be that he has given comfort and encouragement to racists and bigots and continued a long tradition of ignoring racial injustice and inherent inequities in our economic structure and the administration of justice.

It can’t be that he has attacked, demeaned, and demonized vulnerable immigrants and asylum seekers stripping children from parents and never caring what happens to them.

No… it’s none of those things. If he loses the election it will be because of mail-in ballots Not because of who he is, what he has done, and what he has failed to do.

So let’s just postpone the polls, delay the vote and let him stay. Because he’s a very stable genius and those of us who believe that making it easier rather than harder to vote are, in his words, “stupid.”

Even the very conservative Federalist Society has condemned Trump’s statements. And they should. As should we all.

God only knows what Trump will do in the coming months or what he will do after the election is over — assuming that it will be held. God only knows what obstacles he will pose, what crises he may try to create, or what will happen in the weeks ahead.

Time will tell. Make no mistake though, we can’t just dismiss this as Trump being Trump. We can’t think this is just “talk.” His remarks are dangerous and threaten our democracy and the fabric of our society. We can’t just ignore them. Today or any other day.

And so the week ends. The virus continues, our democracy is threatened, and our nation is sharply divided.

Ninety-five days from now we may be able to begin to heal. Thirteen more Fridays. I’m counting the days.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

July 30

No matter how painful the lessons, some people won’t learn them.

Today Herman Cain, former Republican presidential candidate and one-time CEO of Godfather’s Pizza died of coronavirus. He contracted it not long after attending the Trump rally in Tulsa that people feared would be a hot-bed for transmission. An event where masks were hardly seen and where social distancing was not respected despite the fact that Tulsa was in a significant upsurge in the infection rate.

No one knows if Mr. Cain got coronavirus there or somewhere else. He was not a respecter of the call for masks and apparently had done a lot of travel. But Tulsa seems a likely candidate for the infection site. And if it wasn’t, there are others who WERE infected at the Trump rallyr (emember the campaign making people sign a waiver holding Trump’s folks blameless if they got infected?).

It all seemed so reckless and foolish. The lesson should have been learned.

But it wasn’t.

Trump held another event yesterday in Texas — another coronavirus hotbed. And once again masks were hardly in appearance and social distancing was ignored. And you can’t help but wonder how many will be infected, and who will die this time?

But Trump and his team won’t learn the lesson. They won’t wear masks. They won’t take the steps needed to keep people safe and set an example for our nation. They won’t do the right thing. It’s as simple as that.

Instead we’ll continue to get irresponsible nonsense.

Congressman Gohmert of Texas refused to wear a mask. He got up close and personal with other members of Congress. He wasn’t afraid… but he has COVID-19 now, too… and how many did he infect in the process? How many staffers did he put at risk after berating them for wearing masks. No masks in his office, he declarred. They were going to show folks there was nothing to fear from a little disease. But there was.. and is.

Over 150,000 are now dead. Experts worry that many more will die as well. We all have heard that. But Trump doesn’t seem to care except to say maybe we should postpone the election because of the virus. Suddenly the virus is useful to him if it can keep him from being voted out of office.

Such hypocrisy. Such stupidity. Even the spineless Republicans who populate the Senate have pushed back on this absurdity.

We can laugh at this. Scoff. But I can’t help but worry that if Trump sees an opening he’ll take it, and the constitution — and our rights — be damned.

And this idiocy unfolds on the day we lay a truly courageous leader to rest. John Lewis’ voice will be missed. We need that kind of clear sighted moral vision more than ever. As his death approached, he shared final thoughts that were published today.

His words give me hope. They remind me that right can triumph if we care enough, if we commit ourselves… if we act.

I wish everyone in America would read his words and truly “hear” them. Let them resonate. They are powerful and they are powerful because they are true.

I share an excerpt here:

“He (Dr. Martin Luther King) said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something.

“Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.
“Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it…

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe.

In my life, I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”

RIP John Lewis. And thank you for your service.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy

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July 29

Yesterday was the worst day of the pandemic in terms of deaths in some time. Over 1,200 deaths.

There’s really only so much that can be said. Dire numbers and very troubling warnings from the health care professionals. Such challenges. And such contradictions. We need to keep schools virtual to protect our kids and teachers, but won’t close the bars that are a key vector in fueling the community spread. And the extensive community spread we are seeing in some areas is why schools are not opening with in-person classes.

So… does that make sense? It’s counterintuitive to me.
In good news, the infection numbers in Texas and Arizona may be stabilizing. Time will tell. Masks and heightened urgency from leaders there are having an impact, I hope. And people there may have “gotten religion” on the issue as they watched numbers spiraling out of control. But stabilizing at the high levels they currently see is not good enough and numbers are on the rise elsewhere.

And all this comes during the time of year where we were hoping for a lull before the fall flu season and the risk of a second wave.

I don’t know what to think, but public health officials are, if anything, sounding more and more alarmed. Debbie Birx, the coronavirus task force leader is offering sharp warnings to Mississippi, Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma, Georgia, Idaho, and Arkansas — all of which are seeing infections increasing at a rate that puts them at risk of new surges. And now Ohio, which had done well, is also seeing new challenges. It seems an unending problem. We’ll likely see continued ebb and flow, but little chance that it will miraculously disappear.

But — and here’s a news flash for you — Trump disagrees with the experts. The very stable genius apparently will put his medical expertise up against anyone’s. Did you know, for example, that there are parts of the country that are totally free of COVID-19? It’s funny how none of the medical dashboards tracking the disease have identified them. Funny that there are no studies looking at how those bits of disease free paradise managed to be oases of health.

But Trump says they exist… so they must.

And yesterday, he was once again touting hydroxychloroquine. Despite the fact that the NIH, FDA, and countless experts have deemed it to be ineffective against coronavirus and that carries serious potential side effects, he knows better.

To defend his position, Trump, yesterday, cited “very respected doctors” including one who he said was “spectacular in her statements about it.” That someone was Dr. Stella Immanuel, a doctor from Houston.

Now — unlike the president — I’m not inclined to assert that I know more than a real doctor when it comes to medicine. But….

Dr. Immanuel, also the pastor of Fire Power Ministry:

• Falsely claims there is a cure for the disease,
• Says we do not need to wear masks,
• Has tweeted a “double dog dare” at Tony Fauci to give her a “urine sample” in order to expose him for taking hydroxychloroquine,.
• Believes that reptilians help run the government,
• Says that Jesus will destroy Facebook,
• Thinks “children need to be whipped,”
• Claims doctors use “alien DNA” in experiments,
• And warns that witches may poison women with demon sperm during sexual encounters while sleeping.

Thank you very much, Mr. President, but… no thanks.
It would be laughable… I’m sure that the late night comics will have a field day with this… but it’s scary when the man sitting in the Oval Office actually promotes this nonsense, retweeting this fringe doctor (and I’m being charitable in that assessment) when talking to the nation about how we will manage this hugely challenging crisis. It’s sad. It’s scary. And it’s more than a bit unhinged.

I’d note here that it’s never been my intention to make these posts about Trump, but to record those elements of this experience that most strike me. Others would likely choose different things to highlight and that’s fine but, for me, leadership is central to the story, and the mindset of our own leader is part of that narrative. I can’t help it that his mindset is what it is. It’s not as though I am making it up. I wish I was.

In addition to the craziness, Trump spent a fair amount of time yesterday whining about how people seem to like Tony Fauci and Debbie Birx more than they do him. They have better poll numbers on the COVID-19 response effort. Gee… I wonder why. Perhaps because they are tackling the issues in a meaningful way rather than advancing crackpot theories and sounding like a sniveling school boy worrying that the other kids like Tony better than they do him.

That’s what it sounds like. And it’s followed by the usual Trump response: claim publicly that “I like Dr. Fauci just fine” and then use the coward‘s approach of retweeting attacks on Fauci that other’s authored but Trump promotes — the last resort of a social media bully.

That’s what we’ve come to. That’s what we got from our president on a day that 1,280 more of our fellow citizens died from COVID-19.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

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July 28

Well, Trump’s more measured tone about the virus we are facing lasted all of a week. He’s back to his cavalier remarks about states facing problems being able to “turn the corner” very, very quickly. And he is again pushing hard to get states to reopen even faster and criticizing those that are pulling back due to surging COVID cases.

Never mind that it was the same sort of insistence on early reopening that was a driving force behind the mess we are facing now. A mess that is the result of impatience to reopen. A willful disregard of the expert advice to go slow, to wait for two weeks of declining numbers, to respect the virus enough to insist on masks and distancing even once a measured reopening began.

But Trump doesn’t care about the experts and the science. He wants the economy on track. Now. He doesn’t seem to care that his insistence runs counter to what his own health professionals are saying. He just wants things done.
The only surprise in all this is perhaps that he lasted almost a week before going totally off the reservation again on this pandemic.

In contrast — and a sharp and striking contrast it is — I listened to Dr. Tony Fauci do an interview last night on CNN. There wasn’t a lot new… but it was the tone. The effort to be thoughtful, responsible, and responsive, was striking. Some of it was grim as he acknowledged that, unless we get our arms around this issue quickly, we will see tens of thousands more deaths in the coming weeks and months.

He spoke as well, with some hope, about the vaccine process. It was interesting and encouraging but, again, tempered by realism. The NIH has been part of the Moderna vaccine effort and I couldn’t help but be heartened by his explanations of the process and the prospects.

There are no guarantees, however, and even with record progress, wide spread dissemination of an effective vaccine is still a long way off into 2021. And this will become a topic for further debate — and potentially for division — in the months ahead.

Who should be prioritized in the initial distribution? Who will make the decisions. Doctors and ethicists and public health officials? Politicians? Will it be a decision made at the national level or local? Whose voices will be heard?

Then there’s the debate over whether folks will get the shot or not. News outlets make a big deal over recent polls saying 50% say they might not. But that’s misleading. We need to know more to understand that number. Is it because they’re vehemently anti- vaccine and see this as an infringement on personal freedom or are they — like many of us — just waiting to learn more about efficacy and safety before making a decision?

These are not always binary choices but nuanced considerations. We do no one any favors if we try to hype the issues, but that seems the first instinct of the political leaders and the media.

Setting these issues aside, there’s still plenty to think about. If the vaccine is only 60% effective (a hypothetical Fauci offered) what does that mean? That may be good enough, especially if so many people get the vaccine that the net impact is to bring the number of active cases down significantly. If we do so, then even if the vaccine protection isn’t 100% we improve our odds and our ability to handle the pandemic as a nation considerably, I would think.

All these issues and more will be teased out as we go forward. I just hope the science will be clearly heard amidst all the other noise which will inevitably arise and try to crowd out more reasoned discourse.

And with that, it’s off to the kitchen. Palak Tofu, Veg Tikka Masala, and some air fried Brussels Sprouts with Garlic, Balsamic Vinegar and Tamari. That’s one way to stay sane.

Happy Tuesday.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy

July 27

Alright. Here we are starting another week. And I have to admit to feeling a bit antsy. The desire to move. To get out and do things. How nice it would be to just get up and go somewhere if we could. But we can’t just run off as freely as we’re accustomed to and we’ve come to terms with that. But there are days that are just a bit harder than others. Today is such a day.

It’s hard for everyone though. And I have to admit, we probably don’t have it as tough as many people. I’ve been seeing various reports about the mental heath implications of this pandemic.

Depression is a growing problem. The sense of isolation and the constant worry take their toll. And then you add in the anger and divisiveness that have plagued us as a nation over the past decade or more and that have been exacerbated by the Trump presidency. The combinations are toxic.

Finding ways to keep a healthy mindset and positive focus are more challenging by the day it seems.

But it’s hard when we’re beset every day with news that is so troubling. There are a few positive notes this morning. Arizona’s hospitalizations may on the decline and Texas seems to have plateaued. That’s good if it holds. California is on the rise still, though, and so are 28 other states. Every day is full of ups and downs and the same contradictory advice that has gotten us to where we are today.

Doctor Debbie Birx is on the road telling states struggling with the pandemic to close bars… but we’re also telling them to open schools. I get it that these are different settings and different risk groups but all the guidance says we shouldn’t be opening schools while community spread is on the rise rather than declining. Just how do you reconcile these messages? You don’t.

This administration is more concerned about the president’s reelection than it is about public health. That is crystal clear. And it’s wrong. We could get all of this under control if we had the political will to do so. But we don’t.
Look at Italy. In March we watched with sorrow and shock as the death toll mounted and the pandemic overwhelmed the nation. Today, they have minimal new cases. We don’t. We’re worse than ever.

Italy, however, had the resolve to do what had to be done. Stringent shut down measures for eight weeks. They starved the pandemic, denied it new cases on which to grow, and now are able to effectively manage any new cases that do crop up with a testing and tracing regimen that conforms to the approaches our own experts advocate — but that we don’t act on.

We could do the same. But we won’t because it won’t look good. It will be hard. It might hurt the economy. There are all sorts of reasons, but none of them hold water
when we look at the broader long-term costs of this ongoing pandemic. History will judge this president and his team harshly, I believe, and deservedly so.

They hoped that our shut down in March-April which was neither stringent enough nor long enough — would allow us to somehow get by and that the momentum would last until a vaccine came along. Well… we’ve seen how that has worked out. Badly.

I guess it’s no wonder that people are upset, confused, angry, scared and depressed. We’re on a runaway bus and the driver is just sitting and tweeting and doesn’t seem to care that the bridge ahead is out. (We’ve all had that dream, right?).

In any event, it seems the fitting image on which to end Monday’s musings. Let’s see if we’re still here on Tuesday, or if the bus has plunged into the abyss.
Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

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July 26

It’s time, perhaps, for a mulligan. A redo. A fresh start, clean slate, tabula rasa, new beginning. Any or all of the above. It doesn’t matter what we call it. But we have to begin again, I think.

Obviously, somewhere along the way our coronavirus response went horribly wrong. We got it right in some parts of the country — after a lot of pain and suffering and deaths — but we have failed miserably in others. And even where the pandemic was tamed to a large degree, it lurks, ready to come back if we slip up. And small islands of control in a sea of chaos may well, at some point, be overwhelmed once again.

It’s not too late to consider a fresh start. We still have perhaps 90 percent of our population that has NOT been infected and those citizens — which include my entire family and probably many, if not most of yours — are worth protecting.

In saying this, I’m echoing a group of 150 public health experts who called this past week for us to shut down, start over, and try again. It is not too late, they said. It is not too late to still get it right, to make a difference that matters. It is not too late to save lives.

Their statement came as projections about likely deaths between now and November grow. Now it is estimated we will see more than 215,000 deaths by the end of October. Before the year ends, we could see a quarter of a million Americans dead from this virus. A quarter of a million. I can’t believe any of us envisioned that in February, but here we are. This is our reality.

Yet, as the group of public health professionals observed, even as the pandemic numbers rise and the rate of new infections grows, “In many states people can drink in bars, get a haircut, eat inside a restaurant, get a tattoo, get a massage, and do myriad other normal, pleasant, but non-essential activities.”

Shutting down again would indeed be painful and it would be costly. There’s no doubt. But so will letting the disease run rampant. So will allowing hundreds of thousands more to die when we can prevent it.

The simple fact is that there are no easy choices. There may not even be good choices. But clearly, there are stupid ones. We’ve seen them at play already. And we can see what they have yielded. One of the worst performances against the virus anywhere in the world and a fatality rate that should find every one of us outraged.

I don’t want to see more people out of work. I don’t want to see more people in line at food banks. I don’t want to see the overall economy crippled. But I also don’t want to see loved ones fall ill and die, kids exposed recklessly, and our health care system collapsed under the overwhelming pressure of an out of control pandemic.

Because we weren’t willing to make the hard decisions and stick to them months ago, we’re once again confronted with a devilishly difficult set of choices now.

We get to start fresh on Sundays. And that is what it seems we should also be doing for America. Will we do any better this time around? Maybe not. But can we do worse? Food for thought.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

July 25

Captains Log.

We are the voyagers of the Starship COVID. We have been abandoned in space by the Federation after being judged to be a threat to all mankind. The fault is mine. As Captain I failed. Failed to listen to the warnings. Failed to take precautions. Failed to care for my team as they fell ill.

And so now it’s Spock and Bones and me. We’re all that’s left — left to wander in space until our days end.

It’s hard to imagine that James T. Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard, or any of the other dauntless commanders of the Star Ship Enterprise would have failed so completely in their responsibilities, of course. But, had they done so, they would have indeed accepted the responsibility and then at least tried to fix what they had broken. That’s the way it works on Star Trek.

If only real life was as easy as a television drama.

Sixty minutes is all it takes our TV heroes to wrap their heads around even the most complex of problems, sort through the challenges, resolve the conflicts and then, before time runs out, find a solution.

And, although what we’re dealing with right now is reality, not fiction, we sure could use some of the wisdom, moral certitude and vision that a fictional Jean-Luc might offer.

Such is my wishful think and idle musing on a steamy Saturday. And I know I’m not the only one wishing that America had a clearer vision for managing this crisis. I think many of our international partners who once viewed us with respect and admiration now shake their heads in puzzlement and dismay. Just how did the most powerful nation on the planet — one that is arguably the most advanced both scientifically and economically — become a failed state when it comes to managing this public health crisis?

No one has more deaths. No one has more infections. Few are seeing the continued dramatic increases. And even when we do per capita infection rate comparisons, only Chile has a higher infection rate than we do. It goes on and on — endlessly it seems.

So you have to ask yourself, “Why?” Why are we so far behind the curve? Why are we doing so badly?

In my view — whether on Star Trek or in the real world — it’s all about leadership. Or, more precisely, the failure of leadership. And… to be crystal clear it’s the failure of THIS president’s leadership.

But, unlike my narrative above, this leader’s “Captain’s Log” will NOT find him accepting any responsibility. The buck doesn’t stop with him. It’s not his fault. It’s Dr Fauci, or the governors, or China, or Democrats, or the media who are to blame. Or maybe it’s us. We — the people of this country — did elect him after all. And the fault really WILL rest with us if we do so again.

Elections have consequences. So many remind us of that and we’ll be reminded countless times again between now and November. But the consequences of the last one have yielded particularly bitter fruit. We have to do better this time.

It’s the weekend at least… there’s always that.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

July 24

On this day in 1943, my parents were married. The nation was at war. My Dad was in the service. The future was uncertain. But they made a choice to face it together. I miss them both. I’m glad that they aren’t here and vulnerable to the risks of this pandemic, but how I’d love to get their perspective. Because we are at war too — with the pandemic — and our future too is uncertain.

Eventually, this virus will be tamed. But just what will the world look like when that happens? How will it be forever changed? What will be the impact on our children and grandchildren? And how many of us will die before it is over? Every one of us is a combatant. Every one of us is at risk. And any one of us could still contract this virus and die. There is no certainty. No guarantees.

As I write this, we know that over 4 million Americans have contracted the virus. Deaths have risen to over 144,000, and we now project over 220,000 deaths by November. And the virus will still, almost certainly, be going strong. It may very well be far worse — it almost certainly won’t be better.

Another day of close to 70,000 new infections. It was around 20,000 per day early in the month. Another day of 1,000+ deaths. Earlier in the month the number was as low as 250 or so.

As I said yesterday, we have become inured to the numbers, I think, but it’s important to be aware, nonetheless. To have a sense of our progress, or lack thereof, and to remind ourselves that there is a human toll associated with these numbers. The families who have suffered loss know it. And before this is done, many more of us will be in those ranks and then, suddenly, this will become much more personal.

Meanwhile, we still are mired in the morass of fiction, lies, and confusion, that has come to characterize Trump’s response to the crisis we face. He still insists that school should open up and that, except perhaps for a few hotspots, it is safe to do so. But although he says it is safe enough to take chances for our kids, it’s not safe enough to hold the public acceptance speech he had planned in Florida to mark his renomination. So he cancelled that event. But still insists schools reopen.

But, of course, Dr. Trump (he is a qualified medical professional, right?) says it’s different with schools. Kids aren’t vulnerable. Kids barely get the virus and they don’t spread it. EXCEPT… Dr. Debbie Birx, one of his actual medical professionals, is telling the news outlets this morning that we don’t really know how at risk kids are or how much they might spread it. Great.

I don’t fault Birx. There’s a whole lot we don’t know about this virus. But pushing school reopening when we don’t know what we’re dealing with, and when so few locations meet the criteria of declining community spread numbers is, quite simply, as irresponsible as it is foolish. I almost said it was the height of irresponsibility but it’s so hard to choose what really is the “height”… advising folks to take a drug with dangerous potential side effects and unproven efficacy to fight COVID-19? Pushing states to reopen the economy prematurely and undoing any progress we made with the shut down in April and May? Or how about discouraging people from wearing masks, undermining governors’ efforts to save lives by shutting down (remember “liberate Michigan?”) or suggesting the infamous internal disinfectant approach to fight the pandemic?

Yesterday he claimed that there were no outstanding requests from states for PPE or other needed equipment. Countless governors claim that they have many requests pending. Who do you believe? He now tells folks that masks may be patriotic to wear, but, yet again last night, he was out in public doing photo-ops, shoulder-to-shoulder with supporters, and no one was wearing a mask.

The failures of leadership are so apparent, so constant, and so disheartening, that you have to wonder how this war will end.

And so my thoughts return again to my parents. They had Franklin Roosevelt to lead them through the tumultuous times they faced. He inspired. He had a vision. He had a will and determination to make a difference. I’m glad they’re not here to see how far the presidency has fallen, and this pale imitation of leadership that we have before us today. I think their generation went to war convinced that they were on the right side of history and had a leader they could count on. Can we say the same today?

Glad it’s Friday.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

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July 23

I wish I understood all that is unfolding around us. It’s such a challenging and confusing time.

As many of you know, I still am doing work in support of the people of Nepal, so I try and follow developments there closely. And I’ve been confused over the past few days as the COVID-19 numbers that had been rising so quickly have suddenly slowed down considerably. Moreover the government has suddenly ended the lockdown and reopened the tourism sector.

The fact is that the threat almost certainly remains high by all accounts. The fact is that the number of cases being reported is probably far from accurate. And, the fact is that the nation is likely woefully unprepared to reopen the tourism sector or ease public health restrictions. But, like so many countries overwhelmed by the public health risks on the one hand, and the risk of economic disaster on the other, what are they to do? And it’s even harder when even IF they had a plan to tackle the public health risks they lack the medical infrastructure to do so.

As a result, the government seems to have made the choice — as many nations perhaps will have to — of just casting its fate to the winds. Let the chips fall where they may. People will die. It will be ugly. But… “What to do?”

As I said, it is not just Nepal that struggles with these choices. Many nations do. Perhaps they have no choice but to let the virus run its course and hope that herd immunity will eventually be achieved. But at what costs?

And here in the US, although we have the wherewithal, at least theoretically, to manage the public health challenges of this disease and maintain a semblance of control until a vaccine is developed, we are failing in our efforts to do so. Could it be worse? Of course. We have to remember that we’re still at only one percent of our total population with confirmed cases of the virus and, if if there are ten times as many undiagnosed cases, that’s still a relatively small percentage of total population.

But, as our numbers keep growing and our control seems to slip, you wonder what happens if we get overwhelmed because we didn’t do enough on a national level when we had the chance to do so. There’s still a lot of room for this virus to spread and for more bad things to happen. We don’t have to be like Nepal or other countries lacking in both medical infrastructure and economic reserves. But we continue to wallow in confusion. Trump continues to misrepresent the severity of the problem, mislead on the facts, and declines to share a platform with the experts who can answer the questions.

One official in Texas called hospitals there “war zones.” The numbers are insanely out of control, but we seem to have become inured to them. It wasn’t that long ago that we were concerned we couldn’t get below 20,000 new cases a day. For the past couple of weeks though we’re seeing 60,000-70,000 a day or more and the numbers are still rising.

We barely talk about the deaths it seems. We’re becoming accustomed to them too. Just another statistic. And that perhaps is most worrying and dangerous of all. We still have at least 90% of our nation that is at risk of contracting this virus and a fatalistic acceptance and complacency could yet be our undoing. But that is exactly what the political leadership seems to keep serving up. Maybe we’re not that different from Nepal after all.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

July 22

How angry is too angry? At what point does our anger blind us to reason or to the good that exists around us? Some translate that anger into action. Some transform it into the biting humor we get from a Steven Colbert or a Trevor Noah. Others shut down or lash out at the world.

The four years of the Trump presidency have been a time of anger. Anger and grievances, and a dark vision of an America at threat from bloodthirsty immigrants of color on the part of the president. An anger that has played into every conspiracy theory and into every racist screed of white supremacists.

And then there is the anger that many of us have felt since Trump was elected, and that too has grown week after week. Anger over the betrayal of the values on which our nation was founded. Anger over children of asylum seekers being taken from their parents. Anger over calculated pandering to the gun lobby while our citizens die from rampant gun violence. Anger over willful blindness to racial, social, and economic injustice. Anger over a president who wants the glory but not the responsibility and who, when the difficult choices must be made, is missing in action.

But, I believe that this can change. All of it. It will, of course, require that we survive the next few months and that enough people who care turn out and vote. I believe that there are people of good will who are determined to build that “more perfect union” we aspired to and for whom decency, equality, and compassion, drive their engagement with the world. And I believe that the pendulum will swing back — that it is not too late to build a future of hope and promise for our grandkids.

It isn’t guaranteed. It never is. There are many who have internalized the fears that Trump plays to, and who worry about their place in a world that is changing. They were scared and angry and lost before Trump came to power and will be still after he is gone. And — irrespective of the pandemic — our world will continue to change with a speed that is daunting, and with that change will come further economic and social dislocation and adjustments. They too, though, are part of our nation’s fabric and we must find a way forward together.

We will need the wisdom and vision to manage all that lies ahead — the pandemic and more — both here at home and internationally. And today I am taking a deep breath to let my anger and frustration to be tempered by a hope. It feels much better that way.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

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July 21

My head is spinning tonight. It’s like whiplash.

Two days ago Trump tells us that we’re winning the fight against the pandemic. We’re managing the “embers.” Our response is a model for the world. Our mortality rates are great… “Best in the world.”

Today he says wearing masks is “patriotic.” The pandemic will “get worse before it gets better.” Yes… it is head spinning.

Forty states see hospitalizations rising. Deaths are rising. Infections are rising. I know there’s nothing new about this. What’s amazing, though, is that after all we have been through already, today is the first time in months that Trump has spoken to these issues seriously — and even when doing so, he offered no vision, no plan, and… to be honest… no hope. I could weep. Truly.

But why… why should we be surprised? I won’t swear to know what drives the president, but when so many reports say that he is finally speaking out because he’s worried about his poll numbers, you have to feel more than a bit of outrage.

And his coronavirus briefing today? Why did he start them again? He said the other day he was going to do it because he gets “great ratings.” “I like the time slot,” he told Fox News. Politics or pubic health? Which do you think is driving him?

Meanwhile, he continues to undercut health pros like Tony Fauci and even though today he said folks should wear masks (that IS a good change, admittedly), he still is not wearing them himself when he goes out in public — like at a fundraiser last night at his DC hotel. Words but no action. Do I struggle to find anything he says credible? I do. And with good cause, I think.

I wonder if things can get crazier in our country. The answer, I fear is yes.

Many of us are increasingly familiar with Q Anon — the bizarre organization fueled by conspiracy theories built around their belief that the nation is under attack from a deep state within the federal government led by Satanists and pedophiles. It’s crazy… right? Except many people believe it. A representative of the New York police federation sat for interviews with his Q Anon coffee mug prominently displayed.

And Donald Trump? Let’s see… he just nominated John Gibbs — one of his appointees at Housing and Urban Development with no experience in either housing or urban development — to be Director of the Office of Personnel Management. Gibbs, unfortunately doesn’t have any apparent experience in personnel management or human resources either. But what Gibbs does have is a legacy from Trump’s presidential campaign when he promoted the repeatedly debunked conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were Satanists and that John Podesta attended a satanic ritual. Sound familiar?

Seemingly, though, you can be crazy as a bedbug and advocate any trash you want in Trumpworld, so long as you display unwavering commitment to advancing the president’s political fortunes. So, do I have trouble believing much that comes out of Trump’s mouth? Do I find him lacking in credibility? Yes. And do I worry that he and his minions will do anything to win? Yes.

Fake news is real. Trump is right about that. And he and his supporters are the most prominent proponents of it. From the White House briefings to the social media bot accounts that seek to sow the discord and division Trump’s politics are rooted in, they are masters of fake news and disinformation.

Pandemics and Q Anon. A less than palatable blend, but we reap what others have sown this summer.

A glass of wine calls. Loudly. I must answer.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

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July 20

It’s another Monday. And today the world can take care of itself.

Not that I have any illusions that writing about the issues — which plenty of folks are doing — is an answer in itself. But, it is a way of staying engaged… of continuing to think about while trying to understand the challenges we face, and that, in turn, leads me to always ask — what can I do to make a difference.

But today, I’m not thinking much about any of it. I realize how my COVID-19 routine has evolved and how much that days are starting to fill up with the tasks that have to be tackled. From weeding the gardens in the early morning before the heat becomes unbearable… to managing finances, cooking duties, writing this blog, and teleworking three to four hours a day. Then there’s the work I’m doing on behalf of Engage Nepal, which is taking a good amount of time and effort as well. Add in the reading I want to do, the shows I want to watch, and a bit of time with the dogs and… well, you get it. It’s busy.

The days of the pandemic are not days of restless isolation, but of redefinition of how to spend my time effectively. It’s not about being “productive” — it’s about feeling part of the world and engaged as richly as ever, even if the modalities for doing so are different.

So today I’ve been busy with all of the above. I’ve taken a break from the news and a break from the world to look inward. We need days like that. So I’ll get back to it.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

July 19

Happy Sunday.  

Homemade pizza tonight.  Yes… I’m thinking about food.   Again.  Though I’m pleased to say that we haven’t gained any weight over the COVID months.  To the contrary, have lost a couple of pounds at least.  So far.  It helps, though, that we’re eating healthy.  Not much in processed or restaurant food, and that helps too.

Meanwhile,  we are closing in on 4 million cases and 140,000 deaths in the US.  Globally there were over 250,000 new cases of the virus yesterday and, overall, 14.5 million cases and 610,000 deaths are now in the books.  And it is not slowing down.  You know that.  Even a very casual observer knows that.  

There’s really nothing more to say.  We’ve got record numbers. Things are out of control.  And Trump either ignores the realities or makes matters worse with foolish statements.

He said again, yesterday, that he won’t support a national mask mandate even though every public health expert will tell you that is the single most important thing we can do to stop this virus — or at least bring it under control.  And Republican governors like Georgia’s Kemp and Desantis in Florida, toe the line, even as their states descend further into crisis.

It’s about personal freedom, says Trump.  It’s about abdicating leadership, I say.

I know that you can have a debate on these points.  But freedom, they always say, isn’t free.  We make choices and sacrifices to live as part of a society that delivers benefits for all.  A society that recognizes that we are all stronger when individualism is preserved, but does not become the altar on which we sacrifice the benefits of cooperation.  

If we wanted to impose a mask mandate to prevent the spread of the common cold in the winter we’d all likely say it is overreach.  The personal freedom argument might hold up.  Conversely, if this pandemic killed 50% of those it infected there’s no question we’d say “personal freedom be damned — wear a mask.”  No issue.  Even Trump would agree I think.

And I have to believe that even if the death rate we’re seeing is “only” 5% that’s still horrific when we look at the number of infections.  Then, there are also the huge costs of this virus in terms of the impact on our health system overall, on peoples’ lives, on their incomes, on kids and schooling, on our economy and on our future — to name just a few!  Certainly there is reason to conclude that a mask mandate is critical rather than dismissing it with facile and unexamined assertions about “freedom of choice.”

There’s much more I could say.  Instead I’ll just say… pizza.  That, after all, is the answer to all great questions and vegan pizza… mmmmm… I never knew what I was missing.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

July 18

There is so much that is going on. I find it a challenge to keep up.

I don’t even want to talk about the virus today. It’s the same story day after day. Confusion. Failed leadership. Bad decisions. I saw that in Texas, in the county around Corpus Christi, there are 84 infants infected. So worrisome.

And we’re starting to see death rates rise. Science is once again being proven right —sadly. Deaths lag 2-3 weeks behind the infection rate and now, as rates continue to surge, we’ll continue to see deaths catching up in the weeks ahead. That’s not good news either.

And it’s not just the virus that is in the news. Farmers are struggling — and with people not eating out and restaurants that have closed, some farmers are finding no markets for their eggs or their poultry, meat, and produce. Things sit in storage and eventually spoil. And meanwhile, food banks still face record levels of demand. There’s no sense to any of this. But we’re not taking any measures at a national level to address the issues that I can see.

Now we’re getting reports of masked and unidentified security forces detaining people and taking them off in unmarked SUVs. They apparently are Customs and Border Patrol folks. It seems. But who knows. It is scary as hell, though.

This is the sort of thing you see in third world dictatorships. I know. I’ve seen people live with the fear of the nameless security forces appearing in the night and taking people away. Nameless. Faceless. Unaccountable. No way for family members to know what has happened to loved ones. No one to hold responsible. I can remember confronting security leaders in countries I served to try and discover where people might be held and to press for their release. I know what their families went through. I never thought that this would become part of our narrative in America.

Is there turmoil in some of our cities? There is. And it’s understandable when legitimate grievances have gone too long unaddressed. Look at all we have learned… all that we have opened our eyes to in terms of systemic racism, police abuses, and the inherent divides in our society that the pandemic has exacerbated.

That is not to excuse violence or attacks on police, but there are alternatives to turning to the frighteningly repressive actions associated with dictators and secret police services. And they include listening and responding thoughtfully and empathetically to the concerns being expressed — something that is NOT happening at the national level.

There are so many stories, including the loss yesterday of John Lewis, the conscience not only of the Congress — as Nancy Pelosi called him — but perhaps the conscience of this nation on issues of racial justice. Also lost was Reverend C.T. Vivian who was less well-known to many of us, but who was also a force in the movement for racial equality in our nation for decade after decade. They helped drive much change… but as they lay down their burdens there is so much that is left to achieve in the struggle they helped to lead with dignity and courage over the years.

I can only hope that we move forward in this effort we see progress for all rather than new threats emerge that transcend race and that touch us all as desperate leaders take desperate measures putting the rights and our liberties enshrined in our constitution at risk.

I don’t mean to sound alarmist or dramatic. But our institutions have been under attack week after week throughout this presidency. They undermine freedom of the press again and again. Remove agency watchdogs. Destroy the credibility of the FBI and the Intelligence Community. Make it harder and harder to separate truth from fiction with “alternative facts” and blatant lies that, repeated often enough, become confused with truth.

Continue by attacking congress and rejecting their authority. Demean the Supreme Court if you don’t like their rulings. Abandon the principle of three separate and co-equal branches of government and declare the presidency above the law. No need to respect Congresses’ subpoena power, no need to reveal information to the public from tax returns to coronavirus recommendations. No need to do anything other than what you want to do if you’re the president in the land called Trumpland.

No… I don’t think it’s alarmist. I think that, and much more, is the reality we have lived with for four years. It doesn’t make for a great Saturday, which is perhaps why I resisted writing until later in the day.

And now it is done.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

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July 17

Here we are. Another Friday during the summer of COVID.

It’s pretty daunting to realize that yesterday set yet ANOTHER record. Over 77,000 new infections reported in a single day. That’s three times greater than our rate just one month ago. And no, it’s not because we’re testing so much more. It’s because we’ve got many more infections, many more hospitalizations and, sadly, many more deaths. To offer perspective, our current rate of infection is 13 times that of the European Union.

And I’m getting more concerned about how much we’re really going to know about what is going on as the administration has ordered COVID-19 data to be sent to HHS now instead of to the CDC. Not clear why, but it’s highly doubtful, in this political environment, that Alex Azar at HHS is going to share data publicly the president views as unfavorable. That’s just not the way this administration works.

And now, on top of that, we’re learning of reports from the corona virus task force that lays out specific recommendations for states struggling with rising infection rates. Apparently, they call for significant restrictions, mandatory mask orders, and more. But they aren’t published, they aren’t shared, they aren’t acted upon. And so those leaders who want to do the right thing, and who are looking for some political cover, are denied the recommendations by experts who will give them some degree of “cover.” And we are now denied access to the information that will inform our understanding of the challenges we face.

Maybe Trump will order the information to be released and shared. But I am not going to hold my breath.

And as we get closer to school starts across the nation we seem no closer to answering the question of how we will do it safely or whether we even can. People point to other nations where kids are going back to school. But those are nations where the virus was largely contained BEFORE the schools were reopened. Different localities will face different realities, and that’s OK, but there are way too many areas of the country where the virus is far from contained, and those are areas where sending kids back seems a fool’s choice.

Even in the areas where there is a degree of success in containing the virus, this is an iffy proposition. Israel had done a good job of bringing numbers down for awhile, but then they reopened schools and are now dealing with a significant resurgence. And it seems, by all indications, to be linked to the choice to bring the kids back.

We seem so eager to have simple answers, but that is leading us to make assumptions that go beyond the data. By all accounts children do indeed seem to be less susceptible to the virus and may indeed be less likely to spread it. But less susceptible and less likely to spread does not mean that they don’t catch it, that they don’t spread it, or that some may not even sicken and die from it.

Reopening schools for millions of kids as the Trump administration has repeatedly urged seems a huge risk. Some of them will become infected, and some of them will infect their teachers and other school staff, siblings, parents, grandparents, and more. And when you’re talking about millions of kids in the classrooms, the broader impact could be akin to what is happening in Israel — and that’s not good.

In other words, the second half of the year began badly and is only getting worse, and there’s no sign that anyone has got a plan to keep us from going completely off the rails. That’s a hell of a note to end the workweek, right?

Stay strong. Stay safe, Stay healthy.

July 16

These are interesting times in America.

The CEO of Goya Foods, Robert Unanue, was at the White House for an event the other day. When asked to speak, he said, among other things, “We’re all truly blessed… to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder.”

The tone was very Mike Pence-ish. Sycophantic. Eager to please. But in fairness, he said other things. He announced a donation of 2 million cans of Goya products to food banks and he talked about his immigrant grandfather who was a builder “like the President.”

I’m not sure that Mr. Unanue deserves widespread condemnation. He is entitled to support the president if he believes that his positions and actions reflect his own views. It’s OK.

But, it’s equally OK for people to cringe, as I did, when I heard the fawning tone. And it’s OK to have differing views from Mr. Unanue, and to be so disturbed by the actions of this administration that I choose not to support the companies whose donations to the Trump campaign will fuel his reelection. A reelection that I think would be dangerous to our nation’s future and well-being.

So I’ll support the boycott that sprung up in the wake of Mr. Unanue’s remarks and I’ll do so without apology. He has his views. I have mine. We all get to choose.

What bugs me though, is how the Administration is so spun up over the liberals who have the temerity to exercise the power of their pocketbooks to make a political point. But it’s OK if the Koch’s spend billions to support conservative causes and to undermine liberal candidates.

The hypocrisy is compounded — and starts to border on the criminal — when the President and Ivanka start publicly shilling Goya products. See the photos below. The President and his daughter — also a federal government official — using the power of their positions to promote selected private companies. How would you feel if you were Goya’s competitors? Do you think that this might just convince Goya to throw a few more bucks behind Trump?

After all, in Trump’s world, one hand washes the other… right? That’s what it’s all about. Government ethics be damned. But I know that when I was serving as an Ambassador, I took extreme pains to always avoid the appearance of favoritism or inappropriate use of my office to advance one business, or one charity, or one group of our citizens, in any field, at the expense of another.

Even-handedness. Fairness. Ethical conduct. Those words mattered in the government that I served. The Trumps make a mockery of all that and they do so seemingly without thought. Once again, the rules in Trumpland are different. Perhaps there is no Office of Government Ethics there, but whether Trump and his promotional model wannabe daughter, Ivanka, like it or not, there is one here. And if anyone around them had the courage to call them out they’d tell them that they have… once again… crossed a line.

And what really sticks in my craw is that THIS is what the President spends his time worrying about. Not the 5.4 million American citizens who have lost their health insurance — along with their jobs — in the midst of the worst health crisis we’ve ever seen. Not the fact that some states are bringing in refrigerated trucks as their morgues are overloaded. Not the fact that new hot spots are coming to the fore in places like New Mexico even as Texas, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, are in a crisis that seems to only grow worse.

We get to worry about how to deal with schools and hospitals in crisis, and surging infections, and Trump will worry about Goya beans, and defending the Confederate flag, and getting upset when journalists ask questions about black citizens being killed at the hands of police. (In Trumpland, you see, it’s actually white people who are the victims of police violence to a far greater degree than black people.)

The world IS turned upside down. BUT that sad reality — and a devastating virus — are what we’re stuck dealing with. I don’t think that’s how any of us planned to spend the summer, but we carry on.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

July 15

Now that we’re well into the seventh month of the year I marvel at the adaptability that so many people have shown even as we deal with the worst public health crisis of our lifetimes. We are learning and reinventing so much.

When this is done, the idea that we are tied to a workplace will, I think, be fundamentally changed. The idea that you have to be in a classroom to learn will be fundamentally changed. The nature of social interactions will be changed.

That is not to say we won’t work in offices, that kids won’t go to schools or that we won’t want to sit together with friends and families in close personal engagement. But we will recognize that there are alternatives.

We were moving in this direction in any event. But this virus has forced the acceleration of the process, and it’s fascinating to consider what our society will come to look like. We know that in the years ahead, much will change. Not only how we work, but what we work at. Now is the time for the sort of visionary thinking we will need to build an effective economy for the century — the one that our grandkids will experience and that will be far different from the one we know.

All of this will be horribly disruptive, of course. Not all of us are as readily able to leave a physical workplace and work remotely. Many of us lack the flexibility to manage care for our children, and to manage our workplace obligations.

Not everyone has the advantages of easy internet access, of sophisticated computers, of education that allows them to take advantage of the technology that will increasingly change our lives and how we engage the world. Here, too, we need visionary thinking to create a new paradigm for our social compact. Andrew Yang’s proposals during his presidential bid helped to socialize the idea of guaranteed basic income. That will be part of the discussion that lies ahead too, I wager. At least we are looking realistically at helping all our citizens manage what will be a period of disruption and dislocation.

All of these ideas merit much further discussion than mere mentions in my afternoon musing today, but they are part of what’s on my mind. And to be honest, I’d rather think about these things than worry about how we will get through the next six to nine months. I worry that we will be struggling for at least that long, if not longer, with the challenges posed by this virus.

Yesterday was another record day of cases — 67,000+. The number of deaths per day is consistently creeping up as well — over 900 yesterday. There are plenty more statistics I could offer. They’re all grim. But we do become numb to the numbers, I know. And we can remind folks that the 136,000 who have died so far are real people with families who loved them, but if you haven’t experienced loss yourself, you just don’t feel it the same way. Know that it’s true, though… and know that the number will climb to 200,000 or more in just the next few months. That’s our sad reality.

As for the President? What can you say. His press conference yesterday was a rambling litany of self-pity, complaints, attacks on his foes and baseless claims about how his border wall is almost done (of course, it isn’t). There was more, but no point in spending time on nonsense.

What struck me though was not just the lack of focus on the one major crisis we are facing, but what seems to have become his indifference to the subject. He can’t be on center stage, he isn’t the hero, and he refuses to take responsibility for his failings so we’ll ignore it. And that indifference is insulting and damning. Indifference to the losses that the families of over 136,000 or our citizens have experienced. Indifference to the risks faced by our kids if they are forced back into schools that are not ready to educate them safely. Indifference to the enervating pressures on medical first responders and indifference to those who are struggling in the face of COVID cutbacks (the market may be booming, but the everyday citizens he forgets are in line at food banks).

The list is long. And it’s wrong. We need leadership, vision, empathy, compassion — not the cold indifference of a self-centered martinet who can only see the world in terms of how it affects him. And in the months ahead it will only be worse. The CDC Director, Tony Fauci (who the White House still is attacking) and every other public health leader I’ve heard warns that at this rate, the coming months will be horrible, and the winter possibly the worst we’ve ever had to face.

But Trump, doesn’t care about this or about the future of learning or work or how our society can be guided on a path to change. Trump just cares about Trump.

And that’s the way the world looks from my living room this mid-summer’s day.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

July 14

Numbers grew globally by over one million cases in just 5 days. Florida’s cases are doubling every two weeks and they now have more cases than all but 8 countries globally. (Remember Governor DeSantis taking a victory lap a few weeks ago? It looked foolishly premature then, and facts are now showing it was not only premature but dangerous.).

California, Texas, New Mexico, and Oregon, are among those states that are shutting things down. Ordering restaurants to close, banning public gatherings, and taking all the steps we abandoned far too soon earlier this year.

Getting test results is taking longer rather than being quickly responsive. We are once again worrying about shortages of PPE and ventilators, having failed to use the time since March to invoke the Defense Production Act to get ahead of the curve.

On every level this seems to be one set of poor decisions after another, with the problems compounded by what certainly seems strikingly poor performance on the mechanics of response — even when taking into account the huge challenges offered by this pandemic.

We’ve seen too many countries get this right to just dismiss these failures as being overwhelmed by a relentless virus. When this began, the expectation was that the US — one of the world’s wealthiest nations with an advanced health care system and countless resources — would show the rest of the world how to manage this disease. We failed. Miserably.

I take no joy in seeing these challenges grow or recounting the failures of the Trump administration. Every failing is a family affected, a life lost, someone suffering from a debilitating disease or infecting others. Every new case puts others at risk of infection. It’s a mess. My frustration and anger, which I know so many others feel too, remains unabated. But I grow weary thinking about it at times and today is one of those days.

So, it’s to the kitchen I go. Thai roasted cauliflower. A red curry soup. Maybe a stir fry. Tomorrow, perhaps, my energy levels will be renewed. In the meanwhile, as infections grow all around us, please…

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

July 13

Every day brings new cause for bafflement as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hammer our nation and as our leaders make choices that defy description. This is like a badly written farce… or a dismaying tragedy. I’m not sure which.

Give the people bread and circuses was the strategy in ancient Rome. Keep people distracted from their real problems. And if that doesn’t work introduce a new villain to hate — someone to blame.

So, what do we have today in America? We have states in crisis. Record numbers of cases per day and, overall, we’ve exceeded 3 million. Infection rates are going up in 40 states. They are decreasing in only two. Deaths are steadily ticking up. In early June we averaged 560 deaths a day. We’re now averaging 719. It does not bode well.

Hospitals in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and other states, as well, are under intense pressure as ICU wards are reaching capacity and beds in general are in short supply. There is nothing good in this picture. If Florida was a nation, it would rank fourth globally for most new cases in a day. It had more new cases in one day — 15,000+ — than the entire country of South Korea has had throughout the months-long course of this epidemic.

The President and his team, however, don’t seem to have a plan of any sort. So they offer our modern day equivalent of bread and circuses. Let’s start the day with another distraction. Perhaps the President could retweet a post by that noted medical expert, Chuck Woolery, a game show celebrity best known for hosting the Love Connection. HE declared that the CDC, the media, the Democrats, and our doctors, are all liars. They’re lying to us about the pandemic. They’re lying to us about everything.

Of course, Mr. Woolery did not tell us what their lies are. He did not offer specifics. He does not offer evidence. He just rants. And the President deems this worry of a retweet… even when it attacks his own medical leaders at the CDC. Is it because Trump believes Mr. Woolery? A scary thought. Or is it because he wants us all spun up and talking about this latest idiocy (and forgetting for the moment about the failures of his administration to tackle this problem). That’s horrifically manipulative and just as scary in it’s own way.

Whatever the motivation, this is an odd choice of focus for the president in a time of crisis. At least it would be an odd choice for most presidents. For this one, it seems to be his norm.

And what else has the White House chosen to do to start the week? They’ve released an opposition research-like screed attacking Tony Fauci. As I said, why not offer a new villain. Someone to blame. Someone to point a finger at. This is our most distinguished infectious disease expert who has served six presidents. He has dealt with some of the most challenging medical crises of our time but he’s never had to deal with a president who deliberately undermines his efforts and who is jealous of the fact that people listen to him.

So, the White House now seems determined to destroy his credibility and effectiveness when we need him the most. The most appalling thing in my view is the disingenuous and selective cutting and pasting of Fauci’s past statements, to try and make him look incompetent and ill-informed. He’s a good man, in my view. I’ve seen his work for years. And to now try and destroy him to serve Trump’s political interests and shift blame that lies squarely with the President is shameful and indecent.

But it’s Monday. What else can we expect.

It’s all I can stomach today to talk about this. We’ll see how the rest of the week unfolds.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

July 12

Sunday… ahhh.  A day for peace.  A day for prayer, if you are so inclined.  A day for reflection and relaxation.  Just don’t turn on the news.  Don’t listen to the radio.  Don’t read a newspaper.

The cacophony of voices can be so daunting and discouraging.  And this is the day that the president sends his surrogates out to blanket the airwaves.  Delivering the gospel according to Donald.  

It’s a gospel that offers the litany of “reopen the schools full-time.”  But that takes no responsibility for the consequences.  The CDC guidelines are only suggestions… the federal government has no role… local communities have to sort out the questions of safety for children and teachers themselves.  It’s not for the national government to offer any clear ideas, or benchmarks, or vision — except for insisting that the schools reopen.  It’s a travesty and it’s scary and I worry for the local leaders who are grappling with such tough decisions and with no offer of meaningful help — either in terms of direction or resources. 

In Fairfax County, Virginia, where our daughter teaches, they have over 200,000 students.  The benchmark in terms of distancing is 18 inches at present.  To accommodate social distancing as prescribed by the CDC (which is a laudable goal) AND to bring ALL the kids back full-time would be physically impossible without doubling the amount of space — essentially double the number of schools.  They have to look at other approaches, but the administration has singled them out as misguided or not thinking it through.  Someone indeed is not thinking things through, but I don’t think it’s the school administrators.

It was also a day when some of the top Administration spokespeople unexpectedly cancelled appearances at the last minute.  Perhaps they didn’t want to try and defend the indefensible.  Virus numbers that are out of control (Florida alone had 15,000 cases yesterday and death tolls are again climbing).  Perhaps they didn’t want to defend that.  Or maybe they didn’t want to defend the blatant abuse of the pardoning power when the President pardoned his good friend Roger Stone.  I won’t dwell on the details — they are well known — but the message is clear.  

Refuse to testify against the President, or lie when asked about his actions, and even if you’re convicted, the President will take care of you.  You take care of him… he’ll take care of you.  Sounds like the mob.  But that’s what we’ve come to expect from this President.  

There’s more.  There always is.  But I’m going to stop now and enjoy what I can of my Sunday.  I’ll pretend I didn’t hear or read anything and try to enjoy the day despite our 17 straight day of 90 plus degree temperatures.

Happy Sunday.  

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

July 11

Remember when we were appalled by Georgia’s governor’s lack of understanding about COVID-19? He was shocked that there could be asymptomatic spread at a time when experts had talked about it for weeks. And after he was resisting shutting down for so long he was one of the first to rush to reopen. And now Georgia is a COVID-19 disaster zone and, for Atlanta, it’s the first major city to go back to Phase One shutdown status. Such a sad state of affairs.

A friend expressed concern that I sounded despondent. I’m not. What I am is angry. And every one of us should be. Not an unreasoning or unproductive anger, but a righteous anger, if you will. An anger that drives us to push for change. To engage ourselves in a determination to make a difference. My friend pointed out that there are good things happening within communities. That people are working together and supporting each other. And that’s great.

We need to effect change where we can. We need to make the differences that we can. But right now, my focus is on the broader systemic problems. The failure of leadership and the urgent need for change on that level.. It’s not as though I personally can effect that change but we, collectively, can. Part of that requires that we stay informed. Part of it requires that we act — that we write or call legislators and that we let our concerns be known. And part of that is demonstrating individual responsibility in terms of wearing masks, maintaining distance, and just doing what we know must be done for the benefit of all.

But none of this unfolds in the abstract and we need to ensure that the lies and the nonsense that spews from the president’s mouth every day does not shape our collective understanding of what we are seeing. I would love to believe him when he says, as he just did again yesterday, that “we’re getting back on track.” But that strains credulity when four states alone have seen an 800% increase in coronavirus infections since reopening and when, as a nation, we have seen a 1,237% per cent increase (yes — you read that right — one thousand two hundred thirty seven per cent) since May 1.

And we know, given the experience of Canada, Germany, Denmark, New Zealand, South Korea, and others countries, that it did not have to be this bad. So, I won’t deny my anger or shy away from it. I’ll embrace it.

I used to tell folks in countries like Uganda, that they had to fight for their democracy — that, if we take it for granted, it is a sure way to lose it. That they needed to speak out when they saw corruption, abuse of power, and disregard for the rule of law. They needed to act. So do we. We see all this today in America, and we do our nation and our children and grandchildren a disservice if we ignore it or if we leave it to “others.” It begins and ends with us.

That, for what it’s worth, is what I’m reflecting on this Saturday in July. Now it’s time to move on to more weekend-worthy musings so enjoy you day and…

Stay strong, stay safe and stay healthy.

July 10

Today marks the end of my fourth month of daily musings about life in the time of the pandemic. It’s pretty crazy. I hadn’t thought when I began that I’d have written so much or that each day I’d be inspired to sit down to do it again. But the habit of writing becomes engrained. It’s a good habit, I think. At least for me. Even if no one ever reads it, it nonetheless give me a chance to pull my thoughts together and prepare myself to face the day or — depending on the time of day that I finally write — to make sense of what has transpired.

So, what am I preparing myself to face today? More of the same, I’m afraid. Yesterday was another record day of infections. Over 63,000. There were over 1,000 deaths and that toll seems to be increasing rapidly and daily. Very troubling news. Three states had record numbers of deaths (Texas, Florida and Georgia) and their positivity rates on tests are skyrocketing — ranging from 18 – 33.5%.

In fact, the numbers are so bad in those three states, as well as South Carolina and Louisiana, that public health experts are arguing that those five at least should shut down now. But they won’t. And that’s really disturbing. Instead they push ahead. Florida is the most egregious example of the willful refusal of some leaders to admit that they, and the president that Governor DeSantis so slavishly follows, have screwed up royally.

Florida reopened too soon. We all saw it. We all know it. And now they are paying a horrible price. But DeSantis wants to double down and insist that all schools reopen fully in just a few weeks. He said… and this just blows my mind… if we can reopen Home Depot we can reopen schools. Yes… indeed… he reopened Home Depot and countless other businesses. But he didn’t do it safely.

He sowed the seeds of disaster and sparked a massive resurgence of the pandemic. And now we want to do the same thing with the schools? Should we reopen schools in Miami-Dade County, where the positivity rate is 34%? Is this going to keep kids safe? Teachers safe? Or is he just going to further fuel the speed of the epidemic across the community? We know what the science tells us. If you bring these kids together when infection rates are as high as they are we are just opening the door to more problems.

And although the evidence suggests that kids may be less likely to contract the disease, less likely to spread it and less likely to die, “less likely” may not be good enough… especially when we find every day that this pandemic is more threatening, and more full of twists and turns, than we might ever have imagined. So you’ll forgive me if Ron DeSantis’ record on this issue does NOT inspire confidence or makes me feel as though I want to let him make the decisions that will affect the kids of the state.

Yes… it’s a mess. But how can we be surprised? The virus is acting exactly in the way that the experts told us to expect. Still, we had more people traveling over the 4th of July weekend than we did on Memorial Day, and that will have consequences. But when Trump tells us it isn’t getting worse — it’s only that we’re finding more cases through testing — he just gives people an excuse to be irresponsible. He has to know by now that what he is saying isn’t true. He has to. So he has to be deliberately misleading us. Has to be determined to offer a twisted narrative to cast himself and his administration in the best light possible.

Such behavior is, quite simple, shameful, with the consequences as dire as they are. But on top of it… he’s not gaining anything by it. The number of folks disapproving of his handling of the virus has grown to 67%. A course correction is desperately needed but I fear its too late.

It is outrageously beyond words that we didn’t use the short lull we gained by our original efforts to flatten the curve to prepare. But once again we’re facing issues of shortages of protective gear and hospitals that are packed to overflow. All the gains we made have been lost and we didn’t take any meaningful steps to get ourselves better positioned. Quite simply, two months ago we were all talking about the need for a massive integrated testing program coupled with an equally comprehensive contact tracing program. These, it was argued, were the essential elements to reopen safely once we flattened the curve.

We didn’t have these in place when we rushed to reopen and we’ve seen the costs. And we don’t have these in place now. Why not? We’ve had months to try and put it all together. But we’re no better off than when these points were highlighted back in April. To me, it is incomprehensible incompetence.

Yesterday, Tedros Ghebreyesus, the director of the World Health Organization, said the true enemy was not the virus itself but “the lack of leadership and solidarity at the global level and national levels.”

“How difficult is it for humans to unite to fight a common enemy that’s killing people indiscriminately?” he asked at a briefing in Geneva. “Can’t we understand that the divisions or the cracks between us actually are to the advantage of the virus?”

As the world toll exceeds 12 million cases and close to 600,000 deaths, Those words are a critical wake up call to the international community and also to us domestically. Will we listen? It is doubtful, I fear. We will not come together here at home and we will not be part of an international effort. Instead we will proceed blindly. Leaderless, unfocused, and ever more at risk.

That all sounds grim. But that is the reality we face today with Donald Trump and his merry men bumbling along.

Enough said. Have a good weekend.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

July 9

As we look at the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, the numbers are truly striking, but so is the speed with which things are again unraveling. It took 99 days for us to reach the first million infections. Fifty days to reach the second million. And only 30 days to reach the third. Crazy.

Deaths are starting to climb too, and that is worrisome. It’s not surprising given the rapidity with which new infections have risen, but still you hope that maybe… just maybe… we’ll catch a break. We haven’t.

Tony Fauci is struck by the incredible efficiency of this disease in terms of its spread. There’s no question about that. Which is why we have to be so very diligent about masks and distance and not allowing large gatherings. But we keep on trying to avoid the tough decisions and that only make matters worse in the long run.

Fauci even went so far as to say that states experience these crazy increases in numbers might have to consider shutting down again. Later today he changed that to suggesting that they might want to “pause” in their reopening instead. I don’t think there’s much doubt that Trump’s team probably urged him to recognize his language. The President is already at open war with his medical advisors.

Most recently he was perturbed with the CDC on their guidelines for reopening schools. He thought they were too tough. Apparently, those medical experts were valuing public health and the safety of our kids, teachers and other school staff, more than Trump’s reelection prospects. The Donald doesn’t want to tell folks that things aren’t safe and easy and that it’s all rosy. He doesn’t want to deliver messages that people might not like but that they need to hear. And he doesn’t want Tony Fauci or Dr. Redfield of the CDC to do so either.

The CDC guidelines, however, highlight the fundamental challenges of reopening. There will be considerable costs in reopening and no one knows where the money will come from. Trump wants everyone to be open again now, but he’s not willing to commit resources to do it right. Instead, he’d rather that we just make the provisions for reopening less stringent. Stupid. That’s all I can say.

The numbers on every level are frightening. We’re now surging to around 65,000+ cases a day and there’s no saying that’s the ceiling. We’re seeing deaths in recent days running well over 900 a day. It wasn’t that long go that we were worried that we couldn’t get below 500 a day!

I wish things were easier. I wish we didn’t have to worry all the time. But for now, we do. So hold those you love near. Find your zen. And know that we’ll ultimately find our way out of this.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

July 8

Hump Day, once again. If only we could truly say we’re over the hump. Heading down the backside of this pandemic. But we can be sure THAT’s not happening, Here in Virginia we saw the highest day in weeks for DC, Virginia and Maryland — but why should we be different from the rest of the country? Over 60,000 new cases yesterday. Highest ever. It’s insane.

And, even though the Administration wants to downplay all this, the State Department at least — and I’m assuming many other federal government agencies — is still at Phase One with no plans to open more broadly at least for a few weeks. And that’s far from guaranteed.

But Trump tells schools that they must reopen. Completely. And he threatens to pull federal funding if they don’t. But don’t worry… his loyal sidekick, Mike Pence, tells us that “all Americans know it is safe to reopen our schools.” Except, of course… we don’t.

This is the same dynamic duo that told us in April and May that it was safe to reopen the economy. Open bars and restaurants and churches. Liberate our states, they cried. It’s safe. We’re ready. And what has that gotten us? Record numbers of infections. Over the past thirty days we’ve AVERAGED 51,000 new infections a day. Yesterday was another new record — over 60,000. When we were trying so hard to flatten the curve we had brought the number down to around 20,000 a day. Just what does that tell you about Trump’s and Pence’s assurances? What does that tell you about their understanding of this pandemic or their concern for people’s welfare?

Trump points to Germany and Denmark and other countries that have reopened their schools. But Germany had 200 some cases yesterday. Denmark had ten. Even adjusting for population differences that would be under 1,000 cases in each country if their population was the size of the US. Let me repeat that — UNDER 1,000. We had 60,000 plus! We can’t compare our situation to theirs. Trump can try, but it’s foolishness beyond words.

Perhaps we have the ability to reopen schools safely, but they won’t look like the classrooms of the recent past. And schools are struggling mightily with just how to do this and to keep teachers and students safe. Given the realities of a raging pandemic, no matter how much we want it, this seems foolishly premature and wishful thinking. We saw this in the rush to reopen before, when we let our desires get in the way of science and our ability to manage the challenges. I am so worried we’re going to do this again, with the safety of our kids and teachers at stake. And I’ll admit… it scares me.

I don’t trust that the leaders at the national level will give us good advice. And that disappoints me and scares me. How can we trust their words when the HHS Secretary, in trying to tell us how safe it is, and claimed, “We have health care workers, they don’t get infected because they take appropriate precautions.” Just WHERE has secretary Azar been living? 94,000 health care workers have been infected. 500 of them have died. Like Trump and Pence, he must live in Trumpland — that magical mystical place where the virus really ISN’T a threat and all their stories come true.

And, as we debate the safety of reopening schools, we have to consider, as well, yesterday’s report from the WHO that the virus can linger in the air longer than believed and travel farther than previously thought — calling into question the social distancing guidelines that we have seen as the magic formula. As we have seen again and again we don’t know what we think we know about this virus — and that poses even more risks. But I suppose we can ignore those risks because Trump is withdrawing us from the WHO — obviously we don’t need their science, their reports, their data, or their advice because we have done SO well on our own.

This all sounds so much like a replay of the earlier debates we have had. We can only hope that we’ll get better decisions this time around.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

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July 7

Today the White House is apparently going to wade into the debate on how/when/if schools reopen. It’s an important question. We’re talking about our kids and grandkids. We want to get this right. And, given that we’ve gotten so much wrong up to now, it’s a bit unnerving. There’s a lot at stake.

I’m no expert on education, nor on the public health, so I am not going to offer any pronouncements or solutions. I’m not sure that even the experts can. But I’m worried this morning that if Trump starts to opine on this, he’ll turn this into a political debate that further fuels the cultural divides in our nation. Rather than a careful assessment of what makes sense, we could see this become another badge folks wear to show their support for, or resistance to the president. That is not what we need.

I hope we’ll not lose focus on the critical issues; what matters most is the education of our kids and that we keep them and their teachers safe.

I heard one expert this morning talking about how hard it was for parents working from home to look after the seven year old and still telework. I hear others talk about the importance of school for providing meals for disadvantaged kids. Those are tough realities and we need to know that they influence the debate.

But I hope our decision making will be driven, first and foremost by educational and public health concerns. Our teachers aren’t a substitute for day care. They aren’t supposed to be babysitters. They’re educators. And as frustrating as it can be for parents to deal with these challenges of how to balance child care duties and the demands of work, those issues shouldn’t be the driving factor behind reopening schools.

Safety for kids and teachers, and devising a program that gives them the best educational options in the face of a bad situation, should, in my view, be the first priorities for us to consider.

We’ll see where that debate goes. And we’ll be considering it against the backdrop of rising Infection rates in over 30 states. A situation that Dr. Fauci described as us still being knee-deep in the FIRST wave of this pandemic. ,

And the president? What’s HE worrying about. Not fighting the pandemic. No. He’s still obsessing about protecting statues of long dead Confederate generals and the battle flag of the Confederacy.

If that is setting the tone for the campaign he will run — full of dog whistles and divisions — the next four months will feel like four years. But that’s what we’ve come to expect from Trump and I don’t think he has any intention of disappointing.

And so it goes on a hot and muggy Tuesday in Virginia.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

July 6

It’s Monday and the start of a new week. Refreshed from a long holiday weekend we’d normally be settling into our summer routines — maybe taking a bit more time to relax, enjoy the outdoors, and perhaps be looking forward to a get away at a beach or a road trip. If only. This summer there’s no routine. And, at least for us, there’s no beach visits or road trips planned. There were plenty who saw it differently though this past weekend. Just look at the picture below.

After multiple days of our highest infection numbers ever, some experts are declaring the U.S. to be in free-fall when it comes to the virus. I was troubled this morning to hear that Austin could run out of hospital beds soon — our son and daughter-in-law live there. But Austin is not alone. In Florida, Arizona, and many other states, hospitals are under pressure and capacity is overwhelmed.

This is a scary time and I just don’t see what the answer is. Yesterday was another exercise in Senate Republicans dodging and doing all they could to protect Trump, despite his increasingly bizarre choices as to what is important. Today, he Tweeted about NASCAR and suggested that their ratings were down because they had acted to investigate the noose found in a black NASCAR driver’s garage and then also banned the confederate flag.

First, is it more important to do the right thing, or is it more important to worry about ratings? I know where I come down and I applaud NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag to begin with. But Trump wants to focus on this stuff. He wants to inflame passions. Wants to stoke the racial divide by seeming to defend the Confederate flag and to demand a black man apologize to all the NASCAR community for something that he had no direct role in except as a possible victim of hate.

THIS is what Trump apparently thinks is more important than the pandemic. This is what he wants people to talk about… not the endless number of deaths, not the record number of infections, not Russian bounties on US forces, not the families struggling to put food on the table. Nope. Not him. He wants to fuel greater divisions around race rather than trying to heal. He seems to think pitting us against each other is the key to reelection and he thinks we’re so naive (and some are) as to be distracted from the real issues every time he makes another outrageous pronouncement.

I hope we have figured that out by NOW. Some never will, but enough of us have, I think, to make a difference in November. We’ll see.

So… another bad Monday on the coronavirus front and another day of shameful and insensitive Tweeting from Donald Trump. In other words… sadly… there’s really nothing new.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

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July 5

Today we will reach the unwelcome level of 130,000 deaths in America from the COVID-19 virus. We may, in fact, depending on whose numbers you use, have exceeded it. But yesterday at the White House, Donald Trump claimed with no evidence (because it is false, and there IS no evidence) that 99% of COVID-19 infections have been harmless. Tell that to the 600 Americans who will die today. And the 600 who will die tomorrow. And the 600 or so who will likely die every day this week.

And it’s not only the death toll that gives lie to Trump’s claims. There are also tens of thousands who have suffered the debilitating impact of this disease before they ultimately recovered. And the jury is still out on possible long term problems that they may have.

This pandemic is NOT a harmless inconvenience, and Trump does all of us a disservice in pretending it to be so. How he can lie like that; how he can just pretend that the deaths and pain and suffering don’t exist, is beyond me. Saying it’s wrong doesn’t begin to capture how truly abhorrent this sort of behavior from our president is.

We would never have accepted it from a president before, but we have lowered the bar for this incompetent buffoon to an incredible degree. Perhaps we needed to do so to preserve the illusion that he’s an actual leader and not just a narcissistic child driving us towards disaster. But, as the election draws ever closer, we can’t afford any illusions about who or what he is, and we need to not only have higher expectations of our leaders, but demand that our leaders meet them.

I saw the images of the packed beaches and the packed bars around the country yesterday, and you likely saw them too. How is it that so many of our citizens can so casually put themselves and so many others at risk? It’s another of the many things I don’t understand about this pandemic.

So, I’ll tackle what I do understand. It’s too hot to garden, but I can head into the kitchen. Yesterday I made vegan dirty rice — a recipe I created and that received the seal of approval from my taste tester. Also whipped up a tomato bisque that is so good. Today I’ve got plans for one of two quiche recipes and maybe I’ll do some vegan “egg” salad — it’s so good to spread on toast or crackers for a quick bite.

A peaceful day to all as the three-day weekend ends.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

July 4th

I was up early today. I wanted to beat the heat. And before ten o’clock, the garden was weeded, cilantro and dill harvested, stepping stones leading to the bird feeders were reset in the ground, and the aforementioned feeders were loaded with new treats for the birds.

The garden is a profusion of growth and color right now… but those weeds do need tending. And so I tackled them before the heat and humidity made the day unbearable. It was good.

Democracies need tending too. Weeds need to be plucked and we have to recommit ourselves to getting up early, dealing with the heat and discomfort, to strengthen the body politic.

You see, I love our country, as corny as that may sound to some. I served it for the better part of my adult life and I took pride in that service and that of countless other Americans — official and unofficial — who reflected values that matter.

We were on the side of the underdog. Gave voice to those who had none. Offered hope to the forsaken. We believed in human dignity and human rights. We cared about women and kids, and LGBTQ community members who were often at risk simply because of who they are and who they have loved.

We addressed the challenges of hunger and malnutrition. We fought malaria and Ebola and we led a crucial worldwide effort against HIV/AIDS. We saved the lives of mothers as they gave life. We stood against dictators, and we argued for a world in which the rule of law and cooperative engagement mattered more than the size of your armies. I know this to be true because this is the work I was honored to do alongside the distinguished women and men of our Foreign Service with whom I served.

And at home we did our best to live up to values as well. No — we didn’t always succeed, but our society has continued to grow and change and evolve. Today, more than ever, we are alive to the need to continue that evolution.

I believe that there is a new commitment to address the threat posed to our social cohesion by racism that is far too prevalent and too readily overlooked by those who don’t feel it’s horrible destructive impact on our lives.

I believe that we will find a new commitment to address the existential challenge of climate change. I believe that we will begin to demilitarize our society and the threat posed by far too many guns and gun violence. I believe we won’t allow stupidity and ignorance and mindless bigotry to define us.

I believe a lot of things. And, I believe we as a people are, for the most part, decent and strong and caring, and that we can shape the future.

The virus we are struggling with is horrible. Our leadership is even worse. But on this 4th of July I’m going to let hope guide me. I’m going to remember how proud I was to serve, how my heart would swell as I saw our flag displayed and heard our anthem played, and I’m going to believe that we can and will be all that we stand for and aspire to. We can make it happen. We must.

Happy Fourth of July.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

July 3

I really don’t know what to say today. There’s so much to read and talk about and absorb. And it all can make you crazy.

It turns out that the VP has canceled his campaign events in Arizona and Florida a day after defending the decision to hold them. You wonder if the positive cases found yesterday in his secret service detail had an effect. Or if the fact that eight staffers tested positive after attending Trump’s Tulsa event. I know that all these would make ME reconsider. But I’m not sure what makes Pence tick.

I’ll give him credit for the decision, though, and for stepping outside of his normal mantra which is usually a riff on the “Trump is the greatest leader ever” theme to admit for the first time in ages, to vow — again — to flatten the curve. Maybe this time he’ll stay on task and not let politics or his boss’s idiocy get in the way of focusing on what matters. But I’m skeptical.

Yesterday, that boss of his wanted to tout “record breaking” job numbers. He has yet to talk to us, though, about some more critical record breaking numbers — the number of new COVID-19 infections — we are seeing day after day. Over 51,000 new infections yesterday.

I’ll concede that Trump didn’t ignore the pandemic completely. Here’s what he had to say: “The crisis is being handled. Some areas that were very hard-hit are now doing very well. Some were doing very well, and we thought they may be gone and they flare up, and we’re putting out the fires,”

Handled. Putting out the fires. Record numbers in Arizona, Florida, Texas, and many other states. We’ll be at three million cases within days. This isn’t about fires being put out. And the only hard-hit area doing well is the north-east and that’s because the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut did it right. Not because of Trump. The country is in crisis. Look at the chart below.

Trump STILL is saying this morning that the crazy surge we’re seeing is ONLY because of more testing. However, every single expert… including all the medical professionals who work for Trump, are saying that is just… not… true. It is a lie. And it has been debunked repeatedly and the President has to know and and, if he doesn’t, then he is totally oblivious to the world around him and to his advisors. I can only conclude he is either continuing to spread a narrative that he knows is a lie or he is delusional.

Neither bodes well for our nation.

It’s bad enough that he dismisses the virus, and that when he speaks, he lies about it. But, even worse, unlike his VP, he has refused to step back from encouraging and attending major events planned for this this weekend. He’ll be in South Dakota at Mount Rushmore for fireworks — an event about which the governor said (almost defiantly, I thought}, “We won’t be social distancing.” Oh… and masks aren’t required — just in case you were wondering. Sheer idiocy. Tomorrow he’s going ahead with fireworks on the national mall as well and will put even more people at risk in the process.

Sure… we all can make our choices. No one forces anyone to go to these events. And some of the anti-maskers and those who demand the right to put themselves in harm’s way are quick to remind us about America’s commitment to “Personal Freedom” (yes… it always seems to be capitalized when the say it). And I’ll admit that it DOES sound way better than “The Right to be Stupid” — but they are much the same thing under the circumstances.

If you look at Canada, you’ll see that they have crushed the pandemic. Truly crushed it. It can be done. The other day, on Canada Day, PM Justin Trudeau went to a food bank to mark the day. That’s it. That’s all he did. Low key. Socially distanced. Appropriate for the time and place.

For his part, however, Trump will expose thousands to a dangerous virus because he WON’T do the right thing, apparently valuing the symbolism of fireworks (and his image) over human lives. Once again I say, sheer idiocy.

In this time of crisis, Trump has spent the week worrying about statues. Tweeting about them. Demanding that they be protected by US Marshalls. That’s how our President spends his time. But he won’t act with similar urgency to protect our fellow citizens.

Statues of Confederate leaders vs. the well-being of Real. Live. People.

For the president the choice seems clear. That’s inconceivable. But it’s true.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

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July 2

I really don’t know what to say today. There’s so much to read and talk about and absorb. And it all can make you crazy.

It turns out that the VP has canceled his campaign events in Arizona and Florida a day after defending the decision to hold them. You wonder if the positive cases found yesterday in his secret service detail had an effect. Or if the fact that eight staffers tested positive after attending Trump’s Tulsa event. I know that all these would make ME reconsider. But I’m not sure what makes Pence tick.

I’ll give him credit for the decision, though, and for stepping outside of his normal mantra which is usually a riff on the “Trump is the greatest leader ever” theme to admit for the first time in ages, to vow — again — to flatten the curve. Maybe this time he’ll stay on task and not let politics or his boss’s idiocy get in the way of focusing on what matters. But I’m skeptical.

Yesterday, that boss of his wanted to tout “record breaking” job numbers. He has yet to talk to us, though, about some more critical record breaking numbers — the number of new COVID-19 infections — we are seeing day after day. Over 51,000 new infections yesterday.

I’ll concede that Trump didn’t ignore the pandemic completely. Here’s what he had to say: “The crisis is being handled. Some areas that were very hard-hit are now doing very well. Some were doing very well, and we thought they may be gone and they flare up, and we’re putting out the fires,”

Handled. Putting out the fires. Record numbers in Arizona, Florida, Texas, and many other states. We’ll be at three million cases within days. This isn’t about fires being put out. And the only hard-hit area doing well is the north-east and that’s because the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut did it right. Not because of Trump. The country is in crisis. Look at the chart below.

Trump STILL is saying this morning that the crazy surge we’re seeing is ONLY because of more testing. However, every single expert… including all the medical professionals who work for Trump, are saying that is just… not… true. It is a lie. And it has been debunked repeatedly and the President has to know and and, if he doesn’t, then he is totally oblivious to the world around him and to his advisors. I can only conclude he is either continuing to spread a narrative that he knows is a lie or he is delusional.

Neither bodes well for our nation.

It’s bad enough that he dismisses the virus, and that when he speaks, he lies about it. But, even worse, unlike his VP, he has refused to step back from encouraging and attending major events planned for this this weekend. He’ll be in South Dakota at Mount Rushmore for fireworks — an event about which the governor said (almost defiantly, I thought}, “We won’t be social distancing.” Oh… and masks aren’t required — just in case you were wondering. Sheer idiocy. Tomorrow he’s going ahead with fireworks on the national mall as well and will put even more people at risk in the process.

Sure… we all can make our choices. No one forces anyone to go to these events. And some of the anti-maskers and those who demand the right to put themselves in harm’s way are quick to remind us about America’s commitment to “Personal Freedom” (yes… it always seems to be capitalized when the say it). And I’ll admit that it DOES sound way better than “The Right to be Stupid” — but they are much the same thing under the circumstances.

If you look at Canada, you’ll see that they have crushed the pandemic. Truly crushed it. It can be done. The other day, on Canada Day, PM Justin Trudeau went to a food bank to mark the day. That’s it. That’s all he did. Low key. Socially distanced. Appropriate for the time and place.

For his part, however, Trump will expose thousands to a dangerous virus because he WON’T do the right thing, apparently valuing the symbolism of fireworks (and his image) over human lives. Once again I say, sheer idiocy.

In this time of crisis, Trump has spent the week worrying about statues. Tweeting about them. Demanding that they be protected by US Marshalls. That’s how our President spends his time. But he won’t act with similar urgency to protect our fellow citizens.

Statues of Confederate leaders vs. the well-being of Real. Live. People.

For the president the choice seems clear. That’s inconceivable. But it’s true.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

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July 1

Buffoonery. That’s the best word for the farce we see unfolding in some places. Last night I watched a clip of Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor. A few weeks ago he was taunting the media and the scientific experts. He was very “in your face” scoffing at those who had said his policies would leave Florida looking like New York as a new coronavirus hotspot.

His message was … “just look at how great we’re doing. I was right. You were wrong.” That was a few weeks ago. He looked like an arrogant buffoon then. And even more so now when those experts’ words have been proven true and his policies so woefully wrong. Saying “I told you so” offers little satisfaction, however, when we’re talking about tens of thousands of additional infections and hundreds and hundreds of deaths.

And then, there’s Trump. On the mask question he says he doesn’t want to trample on anyone’s “personal freedom.” He says we can “leave it to the individual to know how to protect themselves.” Right.

That, of course, doesn’t mean he can’t offer guidance and advice. That doesn’t mean he can’t share expert advise with our citizens that might save some lives. Even Senate Republicans are starting to distance themselves from the President on the issue of masks. It’s the responsible thing to do. But they’ve waited far too long to find a voice or a conscience.

And so it goes. We can worry about how to reopen schools and when. We can worry about how bad it will get and how we will keep everyone as safe as possible. We can worry about the new swine flu. We can worry about tons of stuff… or we can live our lives, play Animal Crossing, cherish the ones we love, and have faith that for all the challenges, we WILL find our way.

Happy Hump Day.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.