The Day After Memorial Day

The weather around here was awful on Memorial Day, which for some damn meteorological reason is an annual tradition, and although it was only a cold steady rain rather than twohe usual severe thunderstorm it was enough to keep most people inside. Around most of the country the weather was more welcoming, and so far as we can tell from the news many thousands of people went into the world as it if were it just another Memorial Day.
One can well understand why, as a house is awfully confining after a couple of months or so and people have a natural need to interact with other people, and Memorial Day is traditionally a time for drinking beer and charcoaling beef and enjoying friends and warm summer weather, while giving a passing moment’s thought to the fallen heroes who made it possible. Had the weather been better around here, we’d have been tempted to do the same.
Except for the predictably awful weather this Memorial Day seemed different, though, in the same way that last Easter seemed different, and that the next Independence Day might seem as desultorily different. There’s a virus going around the entire world that has already killed nearly 100,000 Americans, which is more than died in every American war since Vietnam, and although the rate of deaths has been steadily declining over the past few weeks it’s still out there and finding new hot spots in rural America. There’s also a case to be made, which all the credentialed experts are currently making, that the decline in deaths is due to people having kept their distance from one another these past grueling months, and that if everyone resumes getting together at the beaches and lakes and bars and churches to commingle their germs there will be another spike in deaths in a few weeks..
All the recent lack of human interaction has taken a terrible toll on the world’s and America’s economy, with our unemployment rate and gross domestic product rates currently at Great Depression levels, and late spring and early summer is often so very enticing, so there’s a predictable and persuasive push for getting back to business as usual. There’s also a predictable pushback from people more concerned about another spike in deaths, and of course that’s the political debate du jour.
These days we’re mostly stuck at home and find ourselves relegated to the political sidelines, with no rooting interest in President Donald Trump’s full-steam-ahead and damn-the-coronavirus strategy, nor the Democrats’ most alarmist voices. and for now we’re making our decisions about about how to buy beer and other essential groceries according to our best inexpert judgement. our guess is that things won’t be nearly back to normal even by autumn’s Election Day, if that comes to pass, and it will probably come down to a referendum on who deserves the blame.
Until then, we hope you and all of your loved ones have a happy summer and a healthy fall. and that the center somehow holds.

— Bud Norman

The Upcoming Contentious Election

Our hope is that the coronavirus miraculously disappears in time for American voters to safely visit their local polling places, but we’re not so hopeful about that we aren’t thinking about how to run a fair election just in case. One possible solution is having registered voters cast their ballots by mail, and although we don’t like it we’d prefer that to not voting at all.
President Donald Trump seems to disagree. He’s recently “tweeted” threats that he would withhold federal disaster funding from Nevada and Michigan unless they abandon plans for widespread voting mail, saying that it’s illegal and an invitation to voter fraud, He’s not made any such threats against several states that have Republican governors and are more likely to give their electoral votes to Trump, but we’ll assume that’s because those states have systems that are tamper-proof and perfectly legal.
Even so, something about Trump’s stand offends our traditional conservative sensibilities. American elections have long been run by state and local officials, which is in keeping with federalist traditions and has long bolstered the public’s faith in the voting process because they’e easier to keep an eye on, which is the sort of time-honed thing that conservatives once wanted to conserve. A president strong-arming state and local officials for arguably self-interested reasons is another thing conservatives used to grouse about, and we’re not going to abandon that principle for the likes of Trump. Trump is also “tweeting” threats to defund the United States Postal Service, a constitutionally-mandated function of the federal government, and we’ve got conservative objections to that.
Pretty much every Michigander we’ve ever known have been delightful people, and Trump’s specific targeting of their state strikes us as very stupid. Michigan has seen a large number of coronavirus cases and Covid-19 fatalities, its manufacturing-based economy has been worse than decimated by the economic downturn, the central third of the state is literally underwater after a 500-year-rain storm and dam failure caused by lack of state and federal infrastructure spending. Given that Michigan gave its electoral votes to Trump last time, albeit by the slimmest of margins, we can’t see how withholding much-needed federal disaster aid feuding with Michigan’s more-popular-than-he-is Democratic governor and a state Attorney General who seems on solid legal footing by mailing applicati,s to vote for is going to help him in the state.
Trump and his more articulate allies can make a compelling case that voting by mail permits potential voter fraud, but they made the same arguments when Trump lost the popular vote by nearly three million last time around, and we retain some faith in American ingenuity. Let Michigan and Nevada and all those Republican states come up with their own solutions for holding an election in time of potential plague, and let all those neighbors who are Democrats and Republicans and kooks work it out on the state and local level, where we can better keep an eye on them. Some good might come of it.
No matter what the United States collectively come up with not everyone will be satisfied. That’s partly due to humankind’s infallibility and even more to do with humankind’s tendency to think the universe is rigged. Trump will contest the results even if he wins, the Democratic nominee might well have some legitimate objections if he loses, and in either case much of a divided country will regard their democratic republic as illegitimate. The legitimacy of our of democratic republic is the thing we most wanted to conserve in our political life, and we’d hate to see it become another victim of the coronavirus.

— Bud Norman

How Science Stuff Works

President Donald Trump made a surprising announcement on Monday that he’s been ingesting hydroxychloroquine for nearly two weeks to ward off the coronavirus. Assuming he is telling the truth, which is by no means a safe assumption, we can only wonder why the hell Trump would do that.
Hydroxychloroquine has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as either a prophylaxis or cure against the disease caused by coronavirus, and early scientific results from Veterans Administration hospitals and other hospitals here and abroad have found that covid-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine were more likely to die than other patients and have an increased risk of potentially fatal heart problems. Given such empirical evidence, those nosy “fake news” reporters from the “lame stream media” naturally asked why Trump was taking the drug.
I think it’s good,” Trump explained, choosing not to dodge the question by insulting the reporter. “I’ve heard a lot of good stories. And if it’s not good, I’ll tell you right. I’m not going to get hurt by it. It’s been around for 40 years.”
Trump is correct that hydroxychloroquine has been around for a while, as a provenly effective response to malaria and lupus and other obscure diseases, but that doesn’t mean it’s any more effective against coronavirus than it might be again pancreatic cancer or the common cold or dishpan hands. Those peskey reporters couldn’t resist a follow up question about what evidence Trump had to justify his actions.
“Here we go, are you ready? Here’s my evidence,” Trump defiantly replied, eschewing his usual insults about the reporter. “I get a lot of positive calls about it. The only negative I’ve heard was the study where they gave it — was it the VA with, you know, people that aren’t big Trump fans gave it.”
Trump had an uncle who was a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institutes of Technology and according to his unsubstantiated claims all the scientists at the Cwnters for Disease Control were awed by his scientific knowledge, and he claims to be a very stable genius with a very big, ugh, brain. We’ve taken this into consideration, but remain unassured that our president has the the slightest idea about what he’s saying.
Our dad was an outstanding avionics engineer and his dad was an autodidact oil patch foreman who famously figured out how to extinguish an oil well inferno, but you wouldn’t want us anywhere near your airplane or oil patch fire. A friend who’s a former professor at Harvard and currently runs the University of Texas’ genetic engineering program once opined we’re the smartest guy he knew, but that was more due to our witty repartee than anything useful, and we don’t claim to be very stable geniuses or have a very big, uh, brain. We did pass some seventh and eighth grade science courses despite some surprisingly rigorous public school teachers, though, and can confidently spot all sorts of fallacies in the President of the United States’ reasoning.
You’ll all hear all sorts of great things about lots of things from lots of people, but in our desultory experience of life as fairly intelligent people on that doesn’t mean they’re all true. We learned enough in the seventh and eight grades to know that you need control groups an double-blind testing and peer review and replication of methodology and all that other scientific mumbo-jumbo to reach a reasonable conclusion. We also confidently know enough to not reject advice just because it came from people who disagree with us on political or other matters.
And since when is the VA “people that aren’t big Trump fans”? The only reason the VA has distressing data about hydroxychloquine is because it’s been using it with Covid-19 patients, and the most likely reason for that is they were following Trump’s expert if entirely unscientific recommendations. So far they’ve not tried Trump’s suggestions of ingesting household disinfectants to either prevent or cure the coronavirus, nor has Trump, and we’re glad of that.
At this point our best hope is the President of the United States is once again lying his ass off by talking about taking hydroxychloroquine and recommending it for everyone. Why he would do that, though, raises more questions.
One possible explanation is that Trump and his family have a stake in the company that makes hydroxychloroquine. It’s only a small stake, providing only a tiny portion of the wealth Trump makes unsubstantiated claims about owning, and you’d have to be pretty darned cynical to think Trump would endanger the public health for such a relatively mere pittance. When you’re the only president in decades who hasn’t has put his wealth into a blind trust to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, however, such cynics as ourselves feel free to point it out. Some people are saying, you know.
The more likely explanation is that way back when the coronavirus had only killed a couple thousand Americans Trump touted hydroxychloroquine as a “game changer” that would solve all of his and the country’s problems, and that something in his stubborn nature won’t allow him to back off a claim. Trump demoted the government scientist in charge of finding a coronavirus vaccine after the scientist disputed Trump’s claims about hydroxychloroqine, saying he didn’t know the guy but had “heard bad things,” and even though hydroxychloroquine had faded from the news cycle Trump does not let feuds die.
We’re admittedly laymen about all this, but our best advice is to not stay home and wash your hands and not ingest hydroxychloroguine or household disinfectants and hope for the best.

— Bud Norman

On Trump’s “Very Good” and Very Angry People

President Donald Trump has peculiar tastes in people. He ounce “very fine people” on among the white supremacists and neo-nazis who led a deadly protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. The protestors who brandished long guns and confederate battle flags and nooses and signs urging the lynching of various public officials while protesting at the Michigan state capital were praised by Trump as “great people” that the governor should “make a deal” with it. After a local television reporter in Long Island, New York, was harassed and menaced by protestors angry about the states restrictions in response to the coronavirus, Trump “re-tweeted” the reporters video and added that “People can’t get enough of this! Great people!”
Maybe we’re taking this personally, as over more than three decades we’ve found ourself surrounded by some abusive and menacing crowds, but we don’t share Trump’s opinion of that angry mob. They struck as rude, hateful, and hostile to the American values of civility and a free press. Damned stupid, too, as it’s pointless to hold a protest rally if you plan on scaring away in media coverage.
The protestors were convinced that the reporter routinely peddles lies, but none seem inclined to offer examples or have a peaceable discussion about his perceived biases. The reporter filed what the video evidence suggests was an accurate of the rally, and if that made the protestors look bad he can hardly be blamed for that.
Some people apparently can’t get enough of that kind of self-defeating behavior, though, and now they’ve a President of the United States egging them on, praising their patriotism for confronting the “animals” and “scum” and “enemies of the people,” and has mused that “You know what we used to do in the old days when were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.” Sooner or late some deranged rally-goer will decide to deal with the traitors in his midst the old-fashioned way, and perhaps by then Trump’s “good people” and perhaps even Trump himself will have finally gotten enough of it. Of course Trump will be able to say he was being sarcastic, and can’t help it if some deranged killer took him literally.

— Bud Norman

Better Not to Know

President Donald Trump made another trip to a swing state factory that manufactures face masks on Thursday, once again declining to wear a face mask, and as usual he said some interesting things to the assembled media. He continued to brag about all the coronavirus testing that’s going on, but also said that testing “might be overrated, it is overrated,” and then mused it could even be the reason the United States has so many coronavirus cases.
“And don’t forget, we have more cases than anybody in the world. But why? Because we do more testing,” Trump said. “When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.”
Which leads us to wonder why Trump is so often exaggerating the amount of testing that’s going on. If we weren’t doing any testing at all, Trump’s reasoning suggests, we wouldn’t have any cases at all and everyone could go back to work and resume drinking in crowded bars and the economy would again be robust by Election Day
Although don’t have any more medical credentials than Trump, we think it possible that we’d still have many hundreds of thousands of coronavirus causes but not know about it. That might suit Trump’s political purposes, for now, but eventually everyone in the country will know someone in increasing pile of corpses, and in the long run he’d be better off finding to actually stop coronavirus infections.
To do that Trump will need the help of the most excellent medically credentialed people in government and academia and the private sector, but they keep saying gloomy things that don’t jibe with Trump’s upbeat rhetoric. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s most respected infectious disease expert since President Ronald Reagan’s administration, told a Senate committee this week that schools might not be able to open in the fall, and Trump told the press “That is not an acceptable answer.” On Thursday Dr. Rick Bright, until recently in charge of the government’s effort to find a coronavirus vaccine, criticized Trump’s response to the coronavirus before a Senate committee, warning of the “darkest winter and quoted another official saying “We’re in deep shit,” so Trump dismissed him as somebody he never even met but heard bad things about and a “disgruntled employee” bent on revenge for a well-earned demotion.
Somehow we are not reassured that the president didn’t know the man he had in charge of finding a vaccine for America’s greatest public health problem in more than a century, or that he demoted him based on what he’d heard from some people. Bright was demoted after publicly disagreeing with Trump’s endorsement of hydrochloroquine as a cure for coronavirus, which Trump and his media allies touted until studies came in showing it does more harm than good, and hydroxychloroquine faded from the news, at one point supplanted by Trump’s suggestion that infections of household disinfectants might work on coronavirus patients, but Trump was back sticking to his claims on Thursday.
At this point, we’re inclined to stop the reading the news. If we did, perhaps our president wouldn’t be saying and doing such stupid things.

— Bud Norman

Who to Believe? The So-Called “Experts” or What Some People are Saying?

To hear the government’s top experts tell it, the coronavirus crisis is very dire and likely to get worse if states prematurely lift restrictions on businesses and public gatherings and reopen schools.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified before a Senate committee on Tuesday, via a video link due to his possible exposure to the coronavirus inside the White House, and warned that it might not be safe to open schools next fall. On the same day Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control, made the same warnings. Dr. Rick Bright, until recently the head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development in charging of finding a coronavirus vaccine, previewed his testimony on Thursday with a written statement warning that due to a lack of needed testing and tracing efforts a premature reopening could result in “the darkest winter in modern history.”
Which is why President Donald Trump and his spokespeople at Fox News and on talk radio would prefer you not listen to the experts, and instead hear their happy talk about a quick end to the epidemic and a rapid economic rebound in time for Election Day.
Trump told reporters he was surprised by Fauci’s answer to a question about reopening, and that “To me that is not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools.” He went on to say that Fauci “wants to play both sides of the issue,” then predicting in the same run-on sentence that next year’s economy will be “phenomenal.” Redfield somehow escaped similar criticism, even through Trump and his spokespeople have been plenty critical of the CDC for allegedly over counting the coronavirus death toll. Bright was recently demoted from his job leading the government’s efforts to find a vaccine for coronavirus, so Trump dismissed him as a “disgruntled employee.”
None of which is quite convincing. Presidents probably shouldn’t find expert opinion unacceptable just because it’s bad news, and we have no idea what Trump means when he says Fauci “wants to play both sides of the issue.” Trump has been touting the extraordinary measures he’s taken against the epidemic but also insisting that it’s not really such a big deal and that states should defy his administration’s guidelines, while insisting he has “total authority” over the states’ restrictions but that it’s up to the governors and “I take no responsibility at all.” That’s what we call playing both sides of an issue.
The CDC can be justly criticized for a slow response to the crisis, but that might well be because its leadership was afraid of offending Trump, who was bragging that the coronavirus was contained and that cases would soon be down to zero and that the stock markets shouldn’t be spooked. Since then the Trump administration has been refusing to release more dire CDC reports, and was probably furious about the leaking of a White House task force report finding an astounding 1,000 percent — that’s right, 1,000 percent –increase in infections in the rural areas of rural states where Trump still enjoys political support. Bright was demoted after he publicly demoted after he disagreed with Trump’s endorsement of hydrochloroquine as a miracle, and subsequent studies have vindicated his judgment, so we can’t blame him for being a disgruntled employee, and don’t worry that he’s lying before Congress to exact his revenge.
These guys all have excellent academic credentials, and have been rewarded for good work by steady promotions to the top of their profession during decades of Republican and Democratic administrations alike, with Fauci’s distinguished career going all the way back to the good old days of President Ronald Reagan, and they seem unlikely conspirators in a conspiracy to prevent America from being great again. Trump’s scientific credentials are an uncle who was a professor of physics at the Massachussets Institute of Technology and as a genetic result he has “a very big, uh, brain” and how he wowed all the doctors at the CDC were by how much he knew about virology and epidemiology, and what some people say about his very stable genius, but he also went on live television and urged the government’s scientists to investigate the possibility of injecting household disinfectants into the human body.
So far all the public opinion polls show that a vast majority of the public is more inclined to believe the so-called experts than Trump, but that the Republican portion of the populace is increasingly siding with Trump. We attribute this partly to the normal human aversion to bad news, but also a populist resentment of pointy-headed government officials telling thrm what to do, and mostly to the average Republican’s blind faith in whatever narrative is most helpful to Trump’s political fortunes. No matter what happens during Trump’s time in office, even in the bleakest scenarios, they’ll always have someone else to blame.
Sorry to sound so gloomy and doomy, but we expect to be hunkering down for at least a few more months of the unbearable status quo, and aren’t counting on it all magically going away in time for school and Trump’s reelection. Our many Republicans friends are entitled to differ, and to act accordingly, but we’d advise them not to be over-confident.

— Bud Norman

Charles Bishop, RIP

We awoke earlier than usual on Tuesday and donned a tie and coat for the the first time in ages, then drove 25 miles or so south of Wichita on Highway 81 to attend a funeral at the Belle Plaine Cemetery. Charles Bishop was being laid to rest, and it was important we be there.
Bishop was an elder and the preacher at the West Douglas Church of Christ, a small but staunch congregation in the rough Delano neighborhood where we weekly worshipped until the coronavirus shut everything down, and we liked and admired him, and he taught us much about Christianity and bolstered our faith in it. He had a formidable intellect and scholarly understanding of scripture, and in his sermons he would sometimes get bogged down talking about which New Testament translation of a certain scripture was truest to the original Greek, and although he’d always apologize for the digression we found it fascinating. We’d often tell him after services that we found him very rabbinical, and being a philo-Semitic student of the Old Testament he took it as the compliment we intended.
He was a most interesting fellow in a lot of ways. Born in Wellington in the Great Depression year of 1939 he grew up in nearby Belle Plaine, part of a fervently religious farming family that hewed to the Church of Christ’s strict rules against dancing and watching movies on Sunday. As a rebellious youth he argued that he couldn’t find anything about that in the scriptures he carefully read, and even as an aging preacher he didn’t back down from that, but from his youth to his death he was proud to preach about the love and forgiveness and giving spirit he had discerned from the scriptures. As he aged and faced his mortality, God’s grace and the sacrificial suffering of His son Jesus Christ became the usual theme of his carefully-researched and well-spoken sermons.
He preached it in Malaysia and behind the Iron Curtain of the Cold War, and didn’t quit until he was kicked out by the alarmed authorities. When back in Kansas in the big, bad city of Wichita he made a good living for his family as a pharmacist, having graduated with honors in pharmacology from the University of Kansas, and although he was a man of science he’d often preach against scientism, which he defined as a hubristic belief that science is the sole source of understanding the human condition. There was something slightly prideful about his arguments, but he’d freely admit that, and then give reasons why he was right that were hard to argue with.
On one rare occasion Bishop boasted he’d been a standout basketball player for Belle Plaine, with his six-foot-one-inch height and healthy youth allowing him to dominate the paint in small town high school games at the time, and if you coaxed him he had good stories about traveling by bus in Malaysia and behind the Iron Curtain, and the interesting people he’d met at various Churches of Christ. He was a good father and a loving husband, and after his first wife’s death he was a good to husband to an absolutely delightful woman we’re lucky to know, and unless you’re an anti-religious bigot we’re sure you would have liked him, too.
Belle Plaine is one of those very pleasant Kansas small towns that you might want to escape to in case of apocalypse, and it has a fabulous and famous arboretum you really should visit if you find yourself in south-central Kansas after the coronavirus, and the drive from Wichita is always scenic, and on Tuesday all the wheat was gorgeous green. A cold and wet and gray spring day at the Belle Plaine Cemetery is very bleak, though, especially when a congregation of Christians is socially distanced from one another and the specter of death suddenly seems omnipresent.
When we came home and fired up the internet we found that more 81,000 Americans had died of coronavirus, and that the government’s top public health expert was warning congress via video feed that thousands more will die if the government continues easing public health measures. The Supreme Court of the United States had a “virtual” hearing about whether President Donald Trump’s tax returns should be made public, Trump was “tweeting” more accusations that his critics are guilty of felonies and should be jailed, and another federal judge was making it hard for Trump’s Department of Justice to drop charges Trump ally Michael Flynn had already pleaded guilty to.
All the more reason we feel blessed to have known Charles Bishop, and to hear his compelling preaching that God is good and in the end His plan for all of us is perfect.

— Bud Norman

On Monday’s Presidential Performance

President Donald Trump is clearly in a foul mood. He spent Sunday sending out angry “tweets” at a rate one of every 17 minutes, and on Monday he snarled his way through a press briefing before abruptly ending it and walking away in an unmistakable huff.
Trump’s perpetually enraged die-hard supporters surely loved it, but to the rest of the country it looked as if the man who has promised to get coronavirus under can’t control his temper. Most viewers probably also noticed that Trump continues to say a lot of things are provably untrue, and that he doesn’t have any answer to a lot of fair questions about it.
One of Trump’s more than 100 “tweets” on Sunday accused President Barack Obama of “the biggest political crime in American history, by far!” Except for “re-tweeting” a conservative writer’s unsubstantiated claim that Obama “attempted to “target incoming officials and sabotage the new administration,” Trump did not elaborate. So we can hardly blame The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker for asking exactly what crime Trump was alleging, and whether he wants to the Justice Department to lock Obama up.
“You know what the crime is,” Trump explained. “The crime is very obvious to everybody. All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours.” Rucker didn’t seem to know any better than we do, although we assume he reads as many newspapers as we do. “Obamagate,” Trump further explained, “It’s been going for a long time, it’s been going before I got elected. It’s a disgrace that it happened, and if you look at what’s gone on and you you look at now all of the information that is being released, and from what I understand, that’s only the beginning. Some terrible things happened, and it should never be allowed to happen in our country again. You’ll be seeing what’s going on in the coming weeks.”
In other words, which we hope are more parseable, Trump can’t quite say what Obama did or provide any evidence to back up the allegations, at least for now, some reason, but you can believe it’s coming, that he can say, OK? Rucker didn’t get a chance to ask why Trump is withholding evidence of the “biggest political crime in American history, by, far,” but the die-hard supporters have faith that everything will eventually be explained.
Ever since the coronavirus started crowding everything else out of the news, Trump has been trying to convince the public that’s really not such a big deal, and has lately suggested that it’s no reason not to go to work or on a shopping spree. So naturally he was asked about the news that testing has found a military valet who served Trump’s meals and Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary — who is also the wife of senior advisor Stephen Miller in the nepotistic administration — had been infected with the coronavirus.
Trump assured the nation that he’s safe because everyone he comes into contact with has been tested, quite falsely claimed that every American and all of their co-workers can now be tested before returning to work, and then explained that testing is overrated because people can get negative results until they acquire the virus. He also endorsed the White House’s new rules about everyone, except for himself and Pence, wearing a face mask while in public. Questions about an appearance of inconsistency and double standards were simply sneered at rather then answered.
A face masked Weijia Jiang of CBS news asked why Trump boasted of how much testing the United States was doing relative to other countries, “as if it were some kind of international competition,” and by that point Trump had clearly had enough pesky questions for the day. He could have been grateful she hadn’t asked why the United States was lagging behind so many other countries on a per capita basis, or simply explained that international comparison were a useful benchmark, but instead he replied “Well, they are losing their lives everywhere in the world. Maybe that is a question you should ask China. Don’t ask me. Ask China that question. When you ask China that question you may get a very unusual answer.”
We’re sure that if Jiang did ask China why Trump says the things he does that she’d get a very unusual answer, but we would have liked to have heard Trump take a stab at the question. Jiang asked why he would direct his question to her, apparently thinking that her Chinese ancestry might have had something to do with, but he ignored and pointed to another reporter. When she didn’t immediately step, waiting for the president to answer her colleague’s follow question, Trump scolded her and refused to hear her question and ended the briefing with a terse “Thank you, thank you very much.
Somehow, we are not reassured Trump has everything under control.

— Bud Norman

On a Stormy Day at Home

Stuck at home on a cold and stormy Kansas day, we spent most of it reading the news. Needless to say, it did not cheer us up.
Turning to Facebook, which is the closest thing we have to hanging out with friends, we found some of nutty right wing friends recommending the latest conspiracy theory video and insisting that the coronavirus death toll is being grossly exaggerated if not entirely fabricated to further a left-wing “deep state” plot to keep everyone at home. They’re all avid supporters of President Donald Trump, so we wonder if they’re disappointed that their hero hasn’t yet thwarted this dastardly plot and locked up the conspirators, but for now they don’t say and we don’t dare ask.
One day Trump will tout the strict guidelines his administration came up with for easing the emergency restrictions, the next day he’ll be “tweeting” his encouragement to states to reopen businesses, and when he’s not vacillating between the positions he’s blaming China and President Barack Obama and distracting Democratic oversight hearings for the problem, and noting that things could be worse. What he hasn’t done, so far at least, is embrace the conspiracy theory that most of the executive branch of the federal government he’s in charge of, including the expert scientists Trump has praised and allowed to speak freely, are carrying out the most elaborate conspiracy in the history of conspiracies.
We also have many friends who are pretty loony left, but for now even the looniest of them are sounding compartively sane. They’re all posting words of encouragement to keep up the social distancing and hand-washing and face-masking-wearing to fight what they perceive as a major public health crisis, and we give them credit for posting ample amounts of information from credible sources to refute the conspiracy theories coming from sources of very dubious repute. They have their own theories that Trump has underestimated the threat posed by the coronavirus and is urging a premature return to business as usual for purely self-interested political reasons, but damn it, we find it harder to argue that.
One of our loony left friends is a very gentle and generous and loving soul but possibly the looniest of them all, and she’s still siding with Trump’s endorsement of hydroxychloroquine even after Trump and his allies on Fox News and talk radio have abandoned the cause, but we noticed all the comments tried to dissuade her and had ample amounts of information from credible sources. We were surprised to see a couple of liberal friends charge that there is a plot to create a false crisis and keep us all at home, but that Trump is in on it, but most on the left prefer the theory that the crisis is real and Trump has failed to adequately respond.
In a rare non-coronavirus story, charges against former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn were dropped by the Department of Justice. What one makes of that is also determined by whether he’s looking at it from the right or the left. If you’re on the overwhelming majority of what’s now the right that supports Trump no matter what it’s a victory for justice, a happy case of a solid soldier and good man prevailing over false accusations wrought by President Barack Obama’s conspiracy with corrupt federal officials to bring down Trump. If you’re on the left, it’s a case of a man who had already pleaded guilty to lying to public officials and was getting money as a lobbyist from Turkey while he advised the president on foreign getting a get-out-of-jail card from a politicized Trump Justice Department.
The other non-coronavirus news that penetrated the front pages and was talk of our Facebook friends circle was that two man have been charged for the murder of a 25-year-old man named Ahmoud Arbery in Georgia. Arbery is black, the two men charged with his murder are white, and as always in America that matters.
By all accounts so far Arbery was an average unarmed American guy with no criminal record out for his daily 2 mile jog when he was gunned down on an empty stretch of road between a forest. The two men charged with his murder are an ex-sheriff and his son, who by all accounts roamed the roads as an unofficial patrol, and there’s video that’s surfaced of them confronting Arbery as a burglary suspect and Arbery being subsequently shot, which after more than two weeks led to the arrest of the two men after two local district attorneys recused themself an the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over.
The left is calling it another example of America’s racist strain, and rightly so, but the right isn’t disputing that. Georgia’s Republican governor praised the GBI’s work, Trump said that Arbery’s death was “a very sad thing,” and no one we know is posting any offensive “memes” about Arbery’s deaths. Our diverse group of black friends often have diverse opinions about the topics of the day, but they all share the same worry that Arbery won’t get justice in an American court, and we try to reassure them that this time will be one of the many times justice has prevailed in America.
Perhaps the worst thing we hate about the Trump era even before all this coronavirus catastrophe is how often find ourselves siding with those damned Democrats we’ve been squabbling with for years, since way back when Trump was a Democrat. At this peculiar moment in history we find ourselves stuck at home and on the political sidelines, our only rooting interest being our hope the center somehow holds. We hopefully retain some hope in the principles and the institutions and American spirit that have somehow guided this nation toward greatness through hard times, no matter what sort of corrupt and incompetent officials had been elected to high office.

— Bud Norman

The Problem With the Very Best People

President Donald Trump promised his enthusiastic voters he would have only “the very best people” in his administration, and he also made a lot of other extravagant promises about everyone having better and less expensive health care and the governments running on balanced budgets and such. It’s turned out that by “the very best people” Trump meant his son-in-law and his pals and anyone willing to tell Trump what he wants to hear.
Those brave messengers who dare bear bad to Trump tend to be quickly defenestrated, even though they tend to be the most credentialed people he’s got.
The latest example is Dr. Rick Bright, who earned his doctorate in immunology and molecular pathogenesis at Emory University and compiled an impressive resume in the public and private sectors and until recently was leading the federal government’s coronavirus vaccine program at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. He’s now transferred to a “less impactful position,” as a White House statement put it, and he alleges in a whistleblower complaint that it’s because he didn’t share Trump’s enthusiasm for investigating the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus and wouldn’t be involved in cronyism..
Trump has told the press he doesn’t the guy and hard never heard of him but has heard bad things about him, which is his modus operandi when getting ride of people, and notes that he was on the job back when President Barack Obama was in office, which Trump and his fans find suspicious. We fine it worrisome that didn’t bother to introduce himself to the guy in charge of finding a vaccine for the coronavirus.
This sort of bureaucratic reshuffling goes on all the time and is rarely worth noting, we suppose, but in this case Bright’s complaint seems both valid and very noteworthy. Trump did indeed often tout the potentially miraculous effects of hydroxychloroquine in his daily press briefings, with much of the Trump-friendly media on Fox News and talk radio chiming in, and Bright did go on the record in government documents and press interviews to expose his more skeptical opinions. We freely admit we don’t know any more about this medical stuff than Trump or the people at Fox and on talk radio, but we’re the curious sorts who delve into what the methodically scientific studies say, so we’re inclined to believe that Bright was right and Trump was wrong, and that’s probably the reason Bright was demoted.
Christi Grimm was until recently an inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, but Trump decided to replace her after she wrote a report that hospitals across the country faced a short of supplies needed to deal the coronavirus problem. Trump brags about how well he’s done suddenly creating everything a medical system might need to deal with an epidemic, and doesn’t want some previously anonymous bureaucrat saying otherwise, but it seems she was right and Trump was once again wrong, and we figure that’s the most likely explanation for why she was demoted. We’d encourage her to write yet another whistleblower complaint and invite even further House oversight hearings.
Over three long years we’ve noticed that sycophancy is more important to Trump than expertise. Marine General John Kelly and Army General H.R. McMaster had distinguished careers over decades of Republican and Democratic administrations and enjoyed excellent reputations when they became Trump’s chief of staff and national security advisor, respectively, but both were shown the door for their annoying habits of saying things Trump didn’t want to hear. There are plenty of criticisms to be made of erstwhile Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ fealty to Trump’s views on immigration enforcement and state’s rights and civil rights and many other important things, but his decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian interference in the previous presidential election was the right thing to do, and that’s what got him fired.
All of which was annoying enough back when the Stock markets were setting record highs and the unemployment rate record lows and the gross domestic product was expanding at the usual slow-but-steady rate, but given the current statistics and the more than 72 thousand deaths in a death toll throws by the thousands every day it’s downright alarming. Now is the time, as best we can tell, to listen to the people who have some credible reason to believe they know what the hell they’re talking about.
For now the smarty-pants are telling us that we’re going to be largely stuck at home and wearing masks on beer runs and will be poorer for a longer while lest we wind up killing hundreds of thousands of people, and we don’t want to hear that any more than Trump does. but we’re inclined to believe them. Trump had an uncle who was a professor of some non-medical scientific field at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he claims all the scientists at the Centers for Disease Control were all amazed by how how much he knew about this virology and epidemiology and scientific stuff, but he also advised the scientists to investigate the injection of disinfectants into the body as a possible cure, and we’re inclined to go with the degrees and the long records of public service.
Trump still has fans and media allies on the right who trust more in his hereditary gut instincts than any so-called “expert,” whose long and distinguished public service and bipartisan respect are proof of their role in a “deep state” conspiracy to prevent Trump from making America great again. We’ve also got a dear but loony-left friend who is saying pretty much the same thing about hydroxychlorine on Facebook, using weird right-wing sources to prove it’s same conspiracy that’s conspiring to prevent Sen. Bernie Sanders from making America great for the first time as socialist utopia.
By now Trump and his media allies have largely abandoned their advocacy of hydroxychloroquine, and they’re doing somewhat better at providing medial supplies, but no one will acknowledge ever being wrong. Events will soon push the fates of Bright and Grimm and Flynn and McMaster and all the other humble civil servants who dared question Trump off the news and into the history books, but the bigger story will be how this coronavirus problem played out. At this point, we’re betting on the establishment and its dissidents.

— Bud Norman

bright and hydroxy
grimm and ppe
jared and his pals
long history of good folks being defenestrated for doing their jobs