Herd Immunity

We’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas.”– The Simpsons

The quote above is one of my all-time favorites from the Simpson’s. It is the one episode where we meet Ned Flanders’ parents. The quote above described their approach to discipline. For us, it might as well describe the administration’s approach to the pandemic.

Beyond the numbers, the style points are going to matter next Tuesday. Early voting has already set a record nationwide and we still have five days left of early voting. The referendum is out on this presidency and the latest appearance from Mark Meadows (White House Chief of Staff) on CNN pretty much seals the deal in terms of optics.

Meadows was admittedly all over the place in the interview. He was coming up with every excuse in the book and finally seemed to rest on, “we’ll beat it because this is ‘Murica.” However, the one line that stood out was where he admitted they weren’t going to try to prevent it. They were going to continue to treat it.

It might have seemed like the prudent thing to say at the time. Jake Tapper was grilling him about Mike Pence and the fact that five of his aides had tested positive. Maybe the vice president should be quarantining instead of campaigning. After all, it was a public event that caused the White House super spreader experience a couple of weeks ago. Nope, we aren’t trying to stop it anymore.

It dovetails into the president’s quote from the debate that we are learning to live with the virus. So, the plan seems to be that there is no plan. You just carry on like you always have and maybe wear a mask if you feel like it. If you catch the virus, 99 percent of you will live. Maybe that number is higher if you are young and healthy.

Whether you believe 225,000+ deaths are too big or just right, this whole situation is a referendum on leadership. Essentially, if you broke down this whole situation into a few sentence summary you would say that it began with Trump declaring a national emergency early on and then doing absolutely nothing to mitigate that emergency. He left it up to the states and local governments. He let them bid against each other on PPE and medical supplies. He let them sweat the bed shortages in hospitals. He let them sweat testing. Make no mistake, he takes credit now. We test more than anyone. We provide supplies for other countries. We haven’t seen the death rate we did in the spring. All of this is true. Ask yourself what he did to bring that about.

We know the winter will bring another spike. We are beginning to see it in the numbers. Yet, the administration isn’t going to try to prevent it. A vaccine is coming. Doctors are figuring out treatments. Americans are slowly learning to avoid doing stupid things. In other words, someone else gets to do the heavy lifting. That’s what get passed off as leadership these days.

Some of that might be unfair. No one ever handles any crisis alone. Even the best leaders need the help of selfless people that do great things and take no credit. Good leaders let them do their work, but they lead from in front. They craft a coherent message and deliver it consistently. That should have been to avoid large gatherings, socially distance yourself when possible, and always wear a mask in public. You not only tell people that, but you demonstrate that through your actions. The administration failed to do this.

When you declare a national emergency it means you are in charge. You take charge of distributing supplies to states and localities. You take charge of producing those supplies. You take charge of messaging and determining when it is safe to reopen. You can easily phase that in based on local trends with the virus, but you are still in charge. The administration said it was an emergency and then dropped the ball and told everyone “good luck, we’re all counting on you.” Nothing says you are a failed leader like leaving decisions to someone else and then criticizing them for the decision they made. That’s been the administration’s mantra all along.

If this is the kind of leadership you are comfortable with then go ahead and vote for it again. You will get what you vote for. If you think we can do better and must do better then it is time to take back the presidency and put it in the hands of someone that knows what they are doing. Trying nothing and having no ideas is not good enough and never should have been.

What exactly is a joke?

And the sea isn’t green. And I love the queen. And what exactly is a dream? And what exactly is a joke?” — Syd Barrett

People that know me know I always had a fascination with Pink Floyd and its orginal front man Syd Barrett. Barrett was erratic and often non-sensical, but occasionally he would utter something profound. As Roger Waters would later say in “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” he wore out his welcome with random precision.

The lyrics above were from “Jugband Blues” which would be his last recording with Pink Floyd. The song made little sense and was a window into the soul and mind of man struggling with the ravages of schizophrenia. Yet through all the mutterings of that song came the haunting final line. What exactly is a joke?

Donald Trump proved he didn’t know when Joe Biden got in the quick retort of calling Trump Abraham Lincoln. Trump didn’t understand. He demanded an explanation. Those of us watching got the joke. Trump continued to stick his foot in his mouth and proving the power of the joke by claiming he was the least racist person in the room. This was with a moderator with mixed African American and Native American ancestry. I’m sure we were all amused.

His followers picked up the slack when they pounced on a state representative from Georgia. She apparently had never heard the term “coyotes”. Most of us know that refers to drug smugglers that come over the border. She apparently had not heard that term. So, conservative twitter and conservatives on Facebook decended on her like a plague of locusts.

We include the link the original Twitter post that got it all started. She thought the president was referring to actual coyotes. It was indeed a huge blunder. Yet, one can understand it on some level. I’m guessing Georgia doesn’t have a huge problem with drug smugglers from south of the border. Of course, I’m just guessing on that count.

Conservatives on social media were quick to pounce on that. They proved to have more humor than the president. As you might imagine, there were all kinds of pictures and memes released to poke fun at the representative. My favorite is posted below.

So, what does all of this mean? Well, just like any situation it means more than one thing at the same time. The first meaning is rather obvious. Someone said something stupid and got owned on social media. It’s quite common these days and a great cautionary tale for young people as they figure out how to navigate social media.

The second is somewhat more complicated and dovetails into our opening quote. What exactly is a joke? More accurately, who exactly is the joke on? Well, we could say it is on her and that would be right in the interim. However, over the long-term I’m not so sure. The president was downplaying a horrific humanitarian situation by denying the real-life situation of families being separated at the border. Besides, they should feel lucky to be in such nice and clean accommodations.

Instead of responding with compassion or concern we are ready to pounce on this poor woman and those that show concern for these kids. I’ll admit it. I laughed. I shared the photo online as an example of how stupid this person was. I even conceded that conservatives won that round. However, there are battles won and then there is the war.

The war is waged over our soul. Who are we really? Are we a compassionate people that care about those around us? Do we care about the plight of those that yearn to be free? Do we care about the plight of those that want a better life? Do we care about those that are less fortunate than ourselves? Clearly, some of us do and some of us don’t. Those that do gain more evidence that there are some of us that don’t. So, maybe that’s the final joke. The only question is what is going to be the punchline.

The Buck stops…..over there

Conservative friends kept telling me that Trump would kick Biden’s ass in a debate. That’s why Biden kept ducking him all that time. It wasn’t that he was frightened of catching the virus or that some independent commission kept changing the rules to increase safety. It was that Biden didn’t want to face Trump. He was intimidated by his brilliance.

Well, last night we got to bask in the glow of Trump’s brilliance. They cut off mics and let the candidates speak, so his brilliance was on full display. He managed not to act completely like a petulant toddler, so I suppose we saw Trump at his very best. Interesting that he released video of a 60 minutes interview on the same day. Both were illuminating.

In terms of the debate, Trump’s strength is repetition. He managed to slam home the same two or three points throughout the evening. Of course, as the 60 minutes video showed us, there were few details. I guess he’s leaving that to someone else. His job is to “Make America Great Again.”

So, let’s consider these one by one.

“Joe Biden has been here 47 years and he still couldn’t get it done.”

That’s a nice line if you utter it once or twice. When you bust it out ten times or 20 times it leads to a few questions. First, who is the incumbent? I know that’s an awfully big word, so let me rephrase it. Who has been in the White House the last three years and change? Oh, that’s right it’s Trump. Why isn’t he defending his own record? There was some of that. He tried to tell us how opportunity zones, criminal justice reform, and prison reform makes him the best president for African Americans since Abraham Lincoln. Oh, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The second problem with the above is that it thoroughly demonstrates that he has no idea of how Washington works. He seems to think a single man can wave a magic wand and just make everything the way its supposed to be. You just do it through sheer force of will. Then, things like the Crime Bill get turned around and laid on one man’s door step. It’s a shocking double standard but true to form in that it isn’t the work of 535 men and women. It’s all supposed to be one guy.

Joe Biden has taken money from every major foreign power. The Bidens are the most corrupt political family in history.

This is what psychologists call projection. It is basically the central theme of Trump campaign. Take what we do and turn it around and accuse the other side of doing it. The fascination with Hunter Biden is unsettling. Let’s say Hunter is shady. Let’s say he did take advantage of his situation. Let’s say he does have a massive drug problem. Hunter Biden is not on the ballot and even those shady news stories that Trump used to peddle this garbage had shaky to zero connection to Joe Biden. So all he succeeded in doing is in making Hunter Biden look bad. Great, I won’t vote for him.

All at the same time we are supposed to ignore that Trump has a daughter that has taken advantage of her position in the White House to get trade deals with China for her products. Her husband has profited more off the opportunity zones mentioned earlier than everyone. All three adult children have been involved in the Trump Foundation that has proven to be a criminal enterprise. Meanwhile, if Donald Jr. doesn’t have a large scale drug problem he certainly is self-medicating through the end of the campaign.

I’m the least racist person in this room.”

Last night was a great one for those playing debate bingo. We had all of the one-liners from the past four years. He also told us he would release his taxes as soon as the audit is over. Thank God we didn’t make a drinking game out of it. This line is by far the most hilarious though. Of course, it’s hilarity is only true in the sense that few believe it.

I say few because I still see folks on Facebook that try to argue that he isn’t racist. It’s all been debunked they say. I’m not sure that word means what they think it means. They are exactly like him. They don’t provide proof that it has been debunked. They just assert it as fact and move on. They are probably following some kind of old-fashioned debate rules where if you assert something loudly enough and often enough then it becomes fact when the opposition just grows tired of your bullshit and leaves you alone.

The evidence is just too overwhelming to really get into. He couldn’t even acknowledge that parents and children were being separated at the border. He didn’t have an answer as to how he was going to reunify families. All those kids were being brought over by coyotes he said.

Who knows what is exactly in his heart. Maybe he doesn’t hate black people or Hispanic people. Maybe he’s just willing to use other’s hate for black people and Hispanics to get himself elected. Maybe he just denigrates them to make you feel better about yourself. After all, if drug smugglers are bringing ALL of the kids over, then we don’t feel so bad about them being in cages. Oh, did you know those cages were built during prior administrations? Certainly building the cage is far worse than actually using it right?

We are going to protect preexisting…”

In typical word salad fashion, Trump seems incapable of even finishing the phrase. In his 60 Minutes Interview you could hear America’s question in the background. How? How? How? How? How? How? That’s one of the two or three major themes of this whole campaign. He doesn’t know how. He seems to live in this alternative universe where you can simply wish things and they would become true.

I don’t want the ACA but I want to protect preexisting conditions. Except it is the ACA that calls for the protection of preexisting conditions. He supplied 60 minutes with a thick book of empty pages. Those were the plans to replace the ACA. Empty pages. Give him this. He sure can supply a pretty powerful symbol.

Ask him about the virus and he still seems to be uttering the same thing he uttered in the spring. It will all go away. It was supposed to go away when it got warmer. It didn’t. Maybe it will go away when it gets colder. Either way he is still saying it. So, his plan appears to be that someone else will do something. A miracle will happen. Big pharma will do it out of the kindness of their hearts. They will produce a vaccine and roll it out to hundreds of millions of people. You’ll see.

Add it all up

If a debate is the triumph of style over substance then I guess you could claim he won the debate. Biden spent the majority of the time trying to correct the record and explain why Trump’s oversimplications were incorrect. I suppose it is a strategy that works on some level. If you spew enough crap then you force your opponent to spend the majority of their time addressing it.

As a debater your choices are to ignore the crap and just talk to the American people, block every piece of crap thrown at you, or find your own crap to throw at him. Biden tried all three last night. Maybe he would have been better off picking one and sticking with it. I suspect it doesn’t matter. Nearly 50 million people have voted nationwide and those that haven’t have largely made up their minds.

Remember this Number: 545

545 is the number of children who were separated from their parents at the border and have yet to be reunited with their parents. That’s going on three years for most of them. Some of them have been away from their parents longer than they were with their parents. As you might suspect, many of them will never be reunited with their parents.

The Washington Post brought us this bombshell yesterday. Immediately, we should point out a couple of things before we move forward. This was not an Obama era policy that the Trump administration continued. Factcheck.org is clear. There was no deliberate policy to do this in previous administrations. This one is on Trump and Sessions. Former attorney general Jeff Sessions repeatedly spoke publicly about the deliberate change in policy. He once said, “If people don’t want to be separated from their children they should not bring them with them.” It was a deliberate message. It was meant to be a deterrant.

The second part of this is much darker and more disturbing. The administration failed to keep detailed records of where parents and children were being kept. Now, from here we could go in two different directions. Either this was done on purpose and they never wanted to reunite the children with their parents or they were too incompetent to do it correctly. As Trump famously said, it is what it is.

545 is a staggering number. It’s an elementary school worth of children. It’s one of those news stories that shouldn’t be ignored. It can’t be ignored. It’s something we all knew deep down inside. We knew this was going to happen when they started separating families. We knew when we heard that they weren’t keeping accurate records that it would lead to this. We didn’t know the exact number or scope of the problem in our head, but we had a pretty good idea.

545 is a real breakdown in moral leadership. It isn’t theoretical. It isn’t a scenario one imagines in their tiny brain. It isn’t a hypothetical we throw out to scare people. It is a real failure of leadership. It is a real description of how horrible we have become. It is a dramatic and overwhelming surrender of moral leadership by the administration. They don’t get to claim it anymore. They are done.

545 may pale in comparison with the number of abortions that are done every year. Abortions reached their peak in 1990 (when George H.W. Bush was president) and have been on a steady decline since. There were a little over 1.3 million in 1993 when Bill Clinton first took office. There were just over 850,000 when he left office in 2001. That number dropped only 60,000 during the George W. Bush years, but dropped from nearly 790,000 in 2009 to 623,000 in 2016 under Obama.

545. 623,471. Why all the numbers? We measure morality and moral leadership not in what we say when the cameras are rolling but what we do when the cameras aren’t rolling. Obama and Clinton supported a woman’s right to choose and then supported policies that helped reduce abortion rates nationwide. Sure, you can claim they didn’t help. Fine. They also saw sharper decreases than during the Reagan, Bush, and Bush administrations.

545 children are without their parents today. 545 children may never see their parents again. 545 children have just become wards of the state. 545 children have suffered significant psychological damage that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. 545 children may never recover. 545 children may now need heroes to step in and take care of them.

While the totals of these children pale in comparison with the numbers of abortions, those numbers don’t show us what anti-abortion activists think they show us. Ultimately, morality is built on what you do and not on what you say. You can talk up a big game about being pro-life. Ultimately, the only thing you can control is you. What you do matters. Your vote matters.

You can choose to vote for people that say they are pro-life, but never seem to do anything that actually stands for life or you can vote for people that actually stand up for what’s good and decent. They may not talk a big game. They may defend a woman’s right to choose. Not a single one of them would defend ripping a child out of his mother’s arms and throwing them both in separate jails for a misdemeanor.

Not a single one would do that and then keep shoddy records so that reunification wasn’t possible. Not a single one would do that and then put the blame on those parents for not caring enough about their kids to reunite with them. They are the wolves. Wolves separate sheep from the flock. Wolves destroy the lives of sheep. A wolf may try to convince you they are a sheep. They can dress like one. They can talk like one. Watch what they do. A wolf has to show you they are a wolf eventually.

The Kids are Alright

I don’t mind other guys dancing with my girl
That’s fine, I know them all pretty well
But I know sometimes I must get out in the light
Better leave her behind with the kids, they’re alright
The kids are alright.” — The Who

It’s hard to get past kids in an election. There seems to be an unwritten norm (remember talking about norms yesterday?) that kids under the age of 18 are off-limits in politics. When you have two geezers running for president the chances are good you are going to be dealing with kids older than 18. When you start talking about multiple kids you are increasing the odds that one of them will have an issue.

Enter Hunter Biden. Those siphoning off some life off the Trump campaign are trying really hard to get Biden on something. I get it, It’s all a distraction. So, there’s all kinds of stories about Hunter. He got a cushy job in Ukraine even though he has no discernable skills. He had a major drug problem. Now, there are even rumors that he had sex with minors in China. Maybe he was the Zodiac killer.

There are two immediate takeaways when you take a step back. First, why should we care? Hunter Biden isn’t running for president. He isn’t even running for dog catcher. So, why do we care about what Hunter Biden has done in his life?

This point needs some extension. The argument is that Joe Biden used his power and influence to give Hunter some breaks and to cut him some slack. If Joe were running for father of the year we would have a definite conversation. There is no doubt that Joe loves his son just as he loved Beau and his other children. There is also no doubt that he chose to help Hunter by doing everything he could to help him overcome his problems. Maybe he should have used tough love. You could certainly argue that. Still, there has been no credible reporting (emphasis on credible) that he used any undue influence he held as vice president or a senator to help him overcome his problems.

The second point is that when you bring in one kid into the conversation then we must look at the other children as well. Trump has four adult children. One just graduated from law school. Good for her. The other three are knee deep in their own legal quagmires. Eric Trump recently plead the fifth when asked to testify about more problems with the Trump foundation. Ivanka could be knee deep in unfair business practices concerning trade deals she has gotten for her personal products.

Donnie Jr. may not have those specific problems, but he is the one that has appeared to be high in public appearances for the campaign and on video. Meanwhile, daddy was busted by the New York Times on his returns both paying all three a salary and then writing off expenses where he paid them as consultants for doing the same work. Thus, the story of this whole campaign is coming down to Trump making lots of accusations of Biden, but only being guilty of the same thing to a greater degree.

Mind you, Donald Jr is a grown man that is nearly my age. He has his own broken marriage and no one is really quite sure what he has accomplished on his own. If he has a drug problem it is nothing to laugh about. Drug problems are no laughing matter. I’d be all for leaving him and his siblings out of this whole thing. Let them face whatever music they need to face, but let them face it with a shred of privacy and dignity intact.

This is one of those areas where Donald Sr. appears to be almost human. He wants to shield his children from as much harm as humanly possible. At the end of the day that is what we all want to do as parents. We never want to see our children get hurt. Balancing that desire with the desire to see them become full functioning adults is the whole ballgame when it comes to parenting. Maybe Trump failed on that count with one or more of his children. Maybe Biden failed on that count with Hunter. Does that mean either of them are unqualified to be president? Maybe. Maybe not. It might simply mean that we can’t vote for either for father of the year.

What do we do next?

This is by far the hardest question I have ever had to address. The honest answer is that I don’t know. However, I should set the stage before I dive too far into the minutia. Several prominent people have been pontificating about what a Biden administration should do to address the many illegal and immoral acts of the Trump administration. Robert Reich (Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton) weighed in on Twitter.

When this nightmare is over, we need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It would erase Trump’s lies, comfort those who have been harmed by his hatefulness, and name every official, politician, executive, and media mogul whose greed and cowardice enabled this catastrophe.

Leave to a liberal to suggest something complex and scary sounding in the form of a tweet. Obviously, a number of people reacted comparing such a suggestion to what the Nazis or some other oppressive group would do. Liberals are notoriously bad at framing issues. In point of fact, it is usually done when dictatorships are transitioning into democracies. The idea is to get the truth to come out without necessarily attaching legal ramifications to what comes out of those commissions.

Obviously, the legal recourse is to prosecute everyone involved through traditional means. This is probably the most popular option amongst liberals and progressives. Even middle of the road people would like to see someone pay. A full throated legal repudiation would certainly send a message, but it is not without its drawbacks.

We have a history and norms to consider. I know that seems counterintuitive following an administration that has shattered every norm known to man, but millions like those norms. They feel safe with those norms. Those norms are comforting. The norm here is that we don’t criminalize politics. The losers accept defeat and the winners let the vanquished return home to lick their wounds.

Mind you, this isn’t to say that nothing will happen. People will continue to write books, insiders will tell their stories, and history will record more pieces of the truth. Eventually, we will have a pretty firm handle on what happened during these four years and government bodies will install safeguards to keep it from happening again.

Those are the options on the table. Criminalizing politics has its drawbacks. Before Nixon, we only approached impeachment once. Since Ronald Reagan, articles of impeachment have at least been suggested during every presidency since. This is not a coincidence and certainly every case should be judged on its merits, but if we take a step back and look at the overview we see that criminalizing politics has become more of the norm.

So, coming up with a truth commission or having the Justice department actually file charges against the current president and his staff might feel like the thing to do. We have to consider the balance between what that will do in the short term with what that will do in the long term. The Republicans will return the favor. Another norm will be shattered. Hopefully, if we’ve learned anything, we have learned how much damage can be done when we eliminate norms.

It might well be worth it. I’m just not so sure. You are talking about spending the bulk of your time litigating the past. Sometimes you have to do that in order to move forward. Sometimes you are just spinning your wheels. This is a difficult question to answer and I just don’t have the answers. Maybe there is someone out there smarter and wiser than me that could answer that for us.

Meet the Hypocrites

Ask anyone the difference between liberals and conservatives and they will tell you that liberals like to spend money while conservatives like to save money. After all, the root word from conservative is conserve. We are saving something right. They often use the analogy of the household and how when we are spending too much, we have to tighten our belts and do without some things we want.

In the abstract it makes perfect sense. Many of us have done this throughout the pandemic. Of course, doing so wasn’t necessarily that difficult. Vacations were often set aside and it’s not like we could go to the mall or out to eat as often as we once did. Yet, many of us just shifted our spending. Amazon suddenly did a lot better and people found extra projects for contractors around the house.

In a similar way, our national spending habits have mirrored that of the local household in some respects. We are all spending money. The question is what we choose to spend money on. Now, I don’t want to paint conservatives with the same broad brush. There are Libertarians that subscribe to a purer form of the budget process. Yet, they are pissing into the wind when it comes to electoral politics.

Admittedly, the numbers I am about to show you are somewhat cherrypicked. All numbers are when you get right down to it. Obama’s first three years saw huge deficits. They also were battling the Great Recession that started at the end of Bush’s presidency. However, we have had good economic times since 2013 or so, so let’s compare Obama to Trump

2014: 485 billion 2017: 685 billion

2015: 438 billion 2018: 779 billion

2016: 585 billion 2019: 984 billion

Again, the first three years of the Obama presidency were higher than all three years of the Trump presidency represented. Facts are facts. Yet, when you consider the economic conditions it makes sense. John Meynard Keynes always said you want to go into deficit spending when times were bad and make up for it when times were good.

The above years all represent when times were good. Economists could differ about which three year period was better. Some would say Trump’s economy was better. Others would say Obama’s was better. Reports just came out about 2020’s deficit. It will come in at 3.1 trillion. That’s 3010 billion.

Now, we must remember this when the Democrats take over the presidency and both houses in Congress. Mark my words, conservatives will suddenly become deficit hawks again. It’s as predictable as the sunrise. When the ACA or any other program is being debated, the battle cry is always that we can’t afford it. However, we have no problem spending nearly one trillion annually on national defense.

There is a popular meme going around Facebook that compares the United States and Norway. As memes go, it leaves out some salient information, but the overriding point is still true. Both populaces pay a similar percentage of their income in taxes. What they are able to spend the money on changes drastically.

I like to collect jerseys and hats. The jerseys get pricey so I don’t order them often, but I’ve managed to collect about a dozen vintage jerseys. Each time I put the money in the bank or in the family pool to pay for the jersey. As long as I do that no one has an issue. My wife will spend money on sewing and/or little projects around the house. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Congress and the president work the same way. There isn’t one party that likes to spend and another one that doesn’t. You have two parties that like to spend. They just spend it on different stuff. One party likes social programs that help the poor and middle class. The other party likes tanks, planes, and corporate bailouts.

Sure, I’ve framed that in a one-sided manner and the other side would frame it their own way. I could do the same with our collective spending habits at home. Make no mistake. We all spend money on stuff that’s important to us. The key is in recognizing that. So, when you vote, make no mistake that unless you vote Libertarian, you aren’t voting for a party that spends less. You are voting for a party that spends differently from the other party. Pick the one that lines up with the way you would want your tax dollars spent.

The New Normal

Realizations about the virus obviously hit us in waves. In the beginning there was the cancelling of school for the remainder of last school year. That was an adjustment but we eventually made it work. Most of us lost our summer vacations and many summer activities, but we somehow made it through those events.

Now, we have the closure of fall and winter activities. Nothing speaks to the failure of the current administration like the fact that many of us are seeing these plans evaporate. Yes, we are coming up on 220,000 deaths. Yes, there have been millions of jobs lost and thousands of businesses that have gone under. It’s really real for those folks. Let’s consider the rest of us.

Locally, high school and junior high extra curricular activities were delayed and some have been cancelled. To get personal for a second, my daughter has seen many of her choir events cancelled and her volleyball season considerably shortented. These are things she will never get back.

My family has a tradition where we have a golfing weekend with 20+ of our closest friends every October. That was pushed back to March for the first time in over 30 years. There are doubts that it will be held then as well. This weekend was the weekend the event was supposed to happen.

My uncle is supposed to host Christmas this year. He is a MAGA guy. He is hurt and in denial. All three of his brothers are trying to tell him that having 20+ people huddled in a house is not the best thing to do right now. He is taking it personally. I understand that on a number of levels.

In many ways this is the negative effect of having a president with mixed messages. Perhaps if we had all closed down for a dedicated month or two early in the spring then maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Maybe if we had a mandatory mask order nation wide with a president that consistently wore masks and had his people consistently wear masks then we would have truly flattened the curve.

Maybe if we listened to the scientists along the way we would be resuming normal activities right now. Maybe we would have had over 100,000 people still living and breathing. Maybe a lot of things. Instead we have a president desperately wanting to return to a normal that just isn’t possible. Every time we attempt to appear normal we have a super spreader event.

Sadly, a November 3rd victory doesn’t change anything in the interim. We have to wait until January 20th until Joe Biden is inaugurated. Things won’t immediately get better even then. All administrations take time to put their own practices in place. This is where the president has utterly failed on so many levels. He doesn’t understand that it takes work. You don’t just wish things to happen and then they magically happen.

For instance, let’s pretend that they actually have a vaccine before election day. How do we distribute the vaccine? How do we manufacture even 100 million doses. How are those doses delivered and administered? How do we pay for that? Are people going to be asked to pay top dollar for a vaccine that will keep everyone safe? What if they can’t afford the price? There doesn’t seem to be any indication that the administration has considered any of these questions. It’s as if he thinks it magically goes from someone else producing the vaccine to people getting the vaccine with no work coming in between.

Beyond the race baiting, trashing of our relationships with allies, withdrawing from world leadership, sexism, and xenophobia it is this failure that might be the worst in terms of lasting effects on the country. He just never really understood the job. We might not return to normal until next summer at the earliest.

If Trump somehow wins then who knows how long we will have to wait to go back to the way things were. He never seemed interested in doing the work necessary to make that happen. It would magically go away when the weather got warmer. Maybe now Big Pharma will come to the rescue. Maybe they will do all the planning, preparation, and roll out for him too. He can continue his hard work of making America great again. We just keep winning.

I voted

We spend so much time talking about high-minded topics here that we don’t talk about basic concepts. I wanted to vote early. I’m having foot surgery this next week. It will put me on crutches for four to six weeks. I figured waiting in line was not the best situation for me. So, my wife and I went out to vote yesterday. We waited in line for five minutes. It probably actually took us longer to vote than it took us to wait and get checked in.

Lina Hidalgo took over the Harris County judge a couple of years ago when she defeated Ed Emmett in the 2018 midterm elections. It was a Democratic sweep as many people voted straight ticket. Emmett was well-respected and an old-fashioned kind of Republican. He worked well with Democratic mayors during hurricanes and was universally well-liked. We were sad to see him go.

Hidalgo is now 29 which means she was 27 at the time she took office. Many of us were understandably nervous. What had we done? Had the blue wave gone too far? Well, all one needs to do is look at how this round of early voting has gone to see that our fears were unfounded. Back in the good ole days, we could early vote locally at our library. The lines usually stretched over a hour. That was before the pandemic and before social distancing.

Hidalgo used some funds to open numerous early voting locations in each area. Instead of voting at the library, we had nearly a half dozen voter locations in the same area. Those voting locations have electronic scanners that will scan your driver’s license instead of having to thumb through a voter roll by hand. They give you what can best be described as a finger condom to put over your voting finger and an alcohol wipe to wipe down the unit after you vote. This streamlined the process and kept everyone safer.

Over 50,000 people voted in Harris County on the first day of early voting. I’m sure that over 100,000 people have done so up to this point. There have been few if any reports of long lines or issues with machines. That also means that fewer people will have to vote on election day. The fact that all of this helps offset the concerns of our governor making it harder to vote by mail shouldn’t be lost on anyone.

What is overwhelming at this point is that this is how good government works. Local officials (namely Hidalgo) put their heads together and developed a plan to get something done. The plan was well thought out and executed well. It has made a process easier that used to be difficult. Mind you, this process is easier for Republicans and Democrats. No one asks for your party affiliation when you walk through the door.

I’m sure Hidalgo is smart enough to know that making voting easier is a win for Democrats in the long run. The more people you can engage in the process the better it is for Democrats. Still, there are no guarantees that this is the case. Sometimes, when you energize the masses they end up voting for the other guy. A part of motivating people to vote is in convincing them that it won’t be too much of an inconvenience. We’ve all heard stories of people waiting six or seven hours in line to vote. I’m not sure I would have the endurance to do that either.

As per usual, good government requires a team effort. The folks that worked the polls deserve their kudos as well. We voted at the Pipers Meadow Neighborhood center. They did a great job of making sure everyone understood the process from marking the ground for social distancing to making checking in easy and seamless. I’ve heard good things from UHCL and other local voting locations. They’ve all done good work.

Part of the problem with the perception of government is that we are quick to criticize it when it doesn’t work and slow to praise it when it does. It’s also proof that elections matter. Not every issue is an abstraction that doesn’t affect our lives. Some hit very close to home and not every issue is a life and death one. Sometimes it’s the little things that just make our lives a little easier. Voting for people that know what they’re doing is important. It’s always what I respected about Ed Emmett and now I can say the same about Lina Hidalgo.

Our Deepest Sympathies

Let’s take a moment to talk about the impossible job it must be to be a member of the mainstream media. The right has had a nearly 50 year assault on the mainstream media, but the appearance of 45 is like the invention of the atomic bomb in terms of damage, tactics, and abject horror that he causes to those in the media.

Ms. Savannah Guthrie drew the short straw last night and was forced to moderate the event thrown together at the last minute. First, we should talk about the event itself. Why was it being held? Trump pulled out of the debate because he refused to abide by the rules that the debate commission put forth. Why should he be rewarded with prime time airtime? The answer is pretty simple when you think about it.

The right has spent 50 years telling you that the mainstream media is liberal. The reasons for this are simple. Slowly but surely over time they know you won’t trust what they tell you. If you can’t trust traditional news sources then you will turn to unconventional news sources. That’s when folks like Q’Anon take hold. Suddenly a YouTube video becomes news. When YouTube is a more trusted source than the Washington Post or New York Times you know conservative strategy has worked.

The secondary benefit is that mainstream media bends and cavorts itself to seem fair. They report things from both sides and bend over backwards to try to give equal airtime to multiple points of view. So the anti climate changers are given equal airtime with scientists that agree there is climate change affected by humans. Anti-vaccine zealots are given equal airtime with rational doctors and scientists that promote being responsible. Anti-maskers are given equal access to media.

Fair is a four letter word. We teach our children that fairness is not about giving everyone the same thing. Fairness is about giving everyone what they are due. If I don’t offer anything worthwhile and I’m not adding anything to productive conversation then I’m not due anything. Yet, the president and his minions complain and complain and complain and complain and complain.

So, poor Ms. Guthrie is left in the hot seat last night. She has the difficult choice of challenging an incredibly sophomoric bullshit artist and coming off as being mean and a never Trumper or she can let it all slide, lob softballs and hope no one notices she has just surrendered her integrity and dignity. It’s not an easy choice. She is being vilified by his supporters today. I get that if you watched both nights side by side that you would see that if your conception of fairness is that people get treated the same then you would conclude it wasn’t fair.

This is why we are here in the first place. So many people think that’s what it means to be fair. The mainstream media has given into that mode of thinking. If we ask person A a tough question then we must also do it to person B. When we caught Donald in all kinds of unprecedented corruption then we had to harp on Hillary’s emails. We had to harp on Benghazi. We had to harp on the pay for play aspects of the Clinton Foundation.

We couldn’t focus on the degrees of corruption in Trump world. We mentioned it, but somehow considered it equivalent. There are degrees of badness. There are degrees of evil. There are degrees of maleficence. Yet, millions walked into the voting booth and thought. “He’s bad. She’s bad. I’m voting for him.” Now, we’ve hopefully learned that lesson. Yet, the mainstream media is still caught in the trap of normalizing everything. They feel like they have to or else people will see them as biased. Here’s the dirty little secret: they’ll see you as biased no matter what you do, so you might as well actually do some honest reporting and let the chips fall where they may.