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Posts published in June 2020

I’m tired of winning

jones

The United States is clearly winning the corona sweepstakes with over 1.7 million confirmed cases as of May 26. Brazil is a distant second with over 380,000 cases, but it is moving up fast. Russia is third with 370,000 reported cases. On May 20, President Trump proclaimed America’s first place as a “Badge of Honor.” He added, “When we have a lot of cases, I don’t look at that as a bad thing,” spinning the world’s worst infection ranking as a virus testing triumph.

America, with 100,000 deaths as of May 26, holds a commanding lead over every other country. Most medical experts, including Dr. Fauci, say the actual deaths in the U.S. exceed the number reported. Incidentally, a recent study estimated that the U.S. would have had 54,000 fewer deaths by early May, if Trump had acted on social distancing on March 1, when alarm bells were loudly ringing.

What do these three countries have in common that might explain their top-place infection ranking? The foremost factor is that the president of each country has disavowed national leadership in the fight against the virus, placing primary responsibility upon regional governors.

President Putin failed to take the coronavirus seriously and has distanced himself from the fight, leaving it up to regional governors to deal with the disaster. Putin is playing both sides of the fence, leaving it to the governors to take the heat, either for a botched response or for unpopular sheltering measures. That game plan has a familiar ring.

After initially characterizing the virus as no more harmless than the seasonal flu and waiting until mid-March to take any protective measures, Trump is also playing both sides of the issue. He initiated the national lockdown, but he is now publicly trashing the measures recommended in his official guidelines.

Brazil’s President Bolsonaro also failed to take the virus seriously, claiming it to be just a “little flu’ and urging people to stay on the job. Regional governors have had to fill the void left by Bolsonaro’s absence from the fight. In the meantime, he has been promoting hydroxychloroquine as a cure-all, despite warnings from Brazilian doctors that it will not help and may hurt those who take it. Admittedly, it is not as dangerous as injecting disinfectant or inserting high-powered light into bodily orifices.

Trump has also ballyhooed hydroxychloroquine, which was discredited by a NIH survey of Covid-19 patients in VA hospitals. Trump claims the study was “a Trump-enemy statement” from two agencies he controls. He said the survey was given “to people that were in very bad shape. They were very old. Almost dead.” Mr. President, these were United States veterans who, unlike you, honorably served in America’s armed forces. Please speak of them with dignity and respect, not as if they were dispensable baggage.

The similarities among the three first-place winners in the corona sweepstakes are presidents who: (1) failed to take the virus seriously, (2) delayed efforts to fight it, (3) foisted a national responsibility onto regional governors, (4) play to both those who want sheltering and those who demand to open up, and (5) promote magical cures like snake oil hucksters. Heaven help Americans, Brazilians and Russians because their national presidents haven’t.
 

Those damned busses

rainey

I’ve never liked protests. And I’ve seen lots of ‘em. Too many. Now, we’re seeing more of ‘em. But, this latest journey into nighttime hell has devolved into just plain rioting. And in some places, killing.

Yes, I suppose there’s a “cause” or two that have warranted public displays of “protest.” But, after all these years in a long life, I’ve not seen many that resulted in immediate or major change.

The heavily armed fools that faced off with the Michigan State Police, while carrying their automatic weapons, created more opposition to themselves than support for their dangerous message. They fomented a lethal situation in the Michigan State House that avoided violence only by the practiced, passive resistance of the police.

Protests in the streets are older than our nation. Some have been peaceful, others have resulted in armed resistance and death. Too often, death.

Those of us who remember the escalating stateside violence of Viet Nam war days can recall societal divisions that went from a few hippie walks down a quiet street to the Kent State murders when the Ohio National Guard killed four students and wounded a dozen others. Unarmed students marching through the campus streets. Protesting. Flags, banners, shouting slogans and singing. Until the armed military showed up and the shooting began.

That same year, I was a street reporter for the nation’s first all-news radio station in Washington DC. That same year, I got my first taste of protests on a scale not seen in this nation before that time. Some were 100-thousand people - some were 200-thousand and more.

Naturally, street reporters for all the major radio and Tv networks were assigned to cover the demonstrations which often meant walking with the marchers and recording the speeches of their leaders. A difficult job in the best of times. In 1970, amid 200-thousand angry protestors, that was not the “best of times.”

Knowing oner specific anti-war march would be huge, Richard Nixon called on an old friend - O. Roy Chalk. Chalk owned the vast D.C. Transit system comprised of hundreds of busses.

The night before the largest march of its kind to that time, Chalk placed about a hundred busses in a bumper-to-bumper ring around the White House and adjoining buildings. The idea was to keep protesters from getting anywhere near 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Nixon hid inside, behind the ring of busses.

What we discovered during the huge demonstration across the street at the Washington Monument was inside those busses were DC cops and secret service armed with rifles and shotguns. They kept a low profile but, watched closely, you could seen them move around.

In the middle of the speeches, suddenly the various police agencies started moving on the crowd. Some, in cars, pickups and even horses, drove straight through the crowd. People - frightened people - started running in all directions.

I was on the edge of the mass of people near the monument where we could patch into the public address system to record the proceedings.

Without warning, a mounted DC cop ran me to the ground from behind. Several others, too. He pulled the horse around sharply and made a second run. No one was hurt but not because he didn’t try.

For a few days after that experience, the thoughts of what I’d been through were ever-present. The size of the crowd. The horses and vehicles running through a defenseless crowd of mostly young people there, many mostly for an after-march concert by Peter, Paul and Mary, Kris Kristopherson and the Limelighters.

But, it was the busses I remembered most. Those damned blue busses with rifle-toting cops inside. And snipers. Snipers there to protect a scared little man who was crazily sending a generation to war with absolutely no definable reason. A war without reason we would eventually lose. America lost on the battlefield.

There were other marches. Mostly peaceful. Large turnouts. Sometimes small turnouts. Most were carefully organized. Some seemingly random. There were so many.

Now, go from that senseless governmen- sponsored reaction dealing with unarmed American youth to the Michigan State House with nut cases carrying automatic weapons to confront police determined to keep the peace with non-violent, passive resistance.

What has happened to us? What has happened to our country? Why are armed “citizens” demanding restaurants, bars, barber shops, mass merchandisers and others open their doors to crowds during the worst, most deadly pandemic this country has faced in a hundred years? What has made an overpriced beer more important than a neighbor’s life? What about fast food workers being shot for asking customers to wear masks?

I still think of those damned busses. Those damned snipers. That damned mounted cop who put me under his horse.

But now - now the guns are on the other side. Automatic weapons are being used to intimidate a government into allowing innocent people to be victimized by an invisible enemy that kills mercilessly. One that will continue to kill if we don’t follow some simple rules.

Protests. Demonstrations. Resistance to authority. Armed resistance. Pick a side. It’s become the new “American way.”