Wondering about re-opening too soon

I believe I have developed an acute case of coronavirus pandemic heebie-jeebies.

It’s got me spooked, man. The nervous jerks kicked in when I heard about Texas’ major university systems announcing they intend to return to in-person classes this fall. All Texas public schools — from grade school to college — suspended that activity while the state launched its fight against the pandemic.

Now they’re going to open the classroom doors once more. In the fall. Just a short period after Gov. Greg Abbott launched his gradual, phased-in reopening of Texas business, which has ground to a halt during this pandemic matter.

There’s more to it, of course. The universities are going to play football. In the fall. How are they going to do that? How do they fill Memorial Stadium in Austin, or Kyle Field in College Station or Jones Stadium in Lubbock?

Do they put only a fraction of the fans into those big-time venues?

Hey, I am anxious for college football to start its season, too. I don’t have a Texas favorite, but I do have a favorite college team in my home state. The University of Oregon Ducks are facing the same quandary. In-person classes shut down there as well as in Texas. Furthermore, the Ducks have a big game scheduled Sept. 12 in Eugene against the Ohio State Buckeyes; I want the Ducks to beat them Buckeyes. But should they seek to do so this early?

I don’t know. I am leery. I am anxious. None of us wants a second or third hideous spike in infection or, worse, in death.

I simply fear the worst could happen if we move too quickly to return to what we used to think is “normal.” I believe we have crossed the threshold into the “new normal” that we need to prepare to accept as the way it will be.

VP Pence: As grotesque a liar as POTUS

REUTERS/Nicholas Pfosi

That did it.

Vice President Mike Pence has demonstrated what I have long suspected, that he is as much a liar as Donald John Trump.

The VP showed up at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., walked into the renowned research hospital, saw that everyone around were wearing surgical masks to protect them from COVID-19 … but then greeted patients and staff without covering his own puss with a mask.

Now we hear from Karen Pence, the suck-up’s wife, that he didn’t know about Mayo’s mask-wearing policy until after he departed.

Good grief! Who do these people think they’re kidding?

Mike Pence’s own excuse for eschewing the mask was as lame as it gets. He said he is tested regularly for COVID-19, that he’s still infection free, so he felt safe going without a mask. Two points I want to make: Millions of Americans have gone without any form of testing at all, yet the VPOTUS says he is tested routinely; I guess power has its privileges. Also, he walked into a medical facility that declared it notified Pence directly about its policy requiring masks, which tells me he instructed his wife to lie, dragging her into the middle of this credibility chasm that afflicts the Donald Trump administration.

Mike Pence is as morally lacking in leadership credibility as the individual with whom he pretends to serve the nation that elected them. Disgraceful.

‘New normal’ has arrived

I hereby make this declaration, which is that I believe we have entered the era of the “new normal.”

What’s more, in due time — which might arrive much sooner than we expect — the “new normal” will just become, um, “normal.”

As I ran my errands this morning to the Post Office, to the garden supply shop, to the grocery store, I witnessed hundreds of people wearing masks. I covered my own mug with a mask.

We keep two masks in our truck, one for me and one for her.

It is now becoming routine for us to reach for the masks in our truck, strap them to our noggin and go about doing whatever essential business we intend to do.

This is what has become the “new normal” in the age of the coronavirus pandemic. We are living through a plague, folks. It ain’t pretty. It ain’t the least bit fun … but am getting resigned to an unmistakable fact, which is that this is the way it’s going to be for, well, maybe for the duration.

The new normal also includes a new way of watching arena sports. Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, track and field, motor racing all likely will occur in a different sort of forum. I am trying to imagine when we’ll be able to sit in a stadium packed with fans cheering on our favorite team. The same concern arises with plays, movies and all manner of outdoor festivals.

Indeed, my hometown of Portland, Ore., had to postpone its annual Rose Festival from June to September. The roses are blooming in June and the City of Roses honors that glorious season with festivities over several days that include the Grand Floral Parade that draws close to a million spectators into downtown Portland.

How in the world do they keep that up with the threat of a deadly viral infection lurking — potentially! — in the individual standing right next to you along a packed parade route?

So, here we are. Welcome to the new normal. Let’s get used to it.

Allegation against Biden well might explode in Trump’s face

I have expressed my concern about how Joe Biden should handle the sexual assault allegation leveled against him Tara Reade, who said Biden assaulted her in 1993.

Biden needs to deal forthrightly with it. The allegation needs to be vetted carefully and thoroughly. Biden’s ardent denial of doing anything that has been alleged won’t make it go away.

However, now he faces the possibility of campaigning against a president with an admitted record of sexual assault, philandering and otherwise boorish behavior with women.

How does Donald Trump handle this issue if it still lingers while he campaigns for re-election the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee? He ought to leave it alone. Don’t touch it. Not even in a hazmat suit.

You see, this is the kind of issue that could explode all over Donald Trump if he or his campaign team decides to make hay over an unproven allegation leveled against Joe Biden.

Then again, maybe he ought to go for it.

Is it right to expect a one-term Biden presidency?

I haven’t heard of anyone asking Joe Biden a question that has been nagging at me for some time.

It would be this: Mr. Vice President, are you going to commit to running for a second term as president if you are elected?

Biden would be the oldest man ever elected president if he wins in November. He will be 78 years of age were he to take office. President Reagan was the oldest man ever elected; he was 73 when he won re-election to a second term in 1984 and was 77 when he left office four years later.

I know what you might be thinking. It is that Joe Biden isn’t as sharp as he used to be, that he is showing some signs of slippage. I am not going to endorse that notion.

However, he already is an older man. It’s a fair question to pose to someone of his advanced years. It is fair to ask whether he will serve only a single term, which makes his selection as vice president even more critical.

Politically speaking, it would be foolish for any presidential candidate to say while campaigning for the office what he or she intends to do if elected. Indeed, it might not even be wise politically for a president to state his or her second-term intentions early in a first presidential term. Doing so would bestow lame-duck status immediately on the incumbent.

None of this should preclude a journalist from posing an admittedly difficult question of a major-party candidate for president. It then falls on the candidate — in this instance, Joe Biden — to offer an adroit answer that keeps us guessing at least while he is running for the office.

As the presumptive Democratic Party nominee scours the landscape for a running mate, it becomes imperative that whoever he picks is ready to assume the presidency … or will commit to campaigning for it in 2024.

Memo to Trumpkins: Voting by mail is secure … period!

I have a number of Trumpkins among my many social media contacts. Some of them are actual friends of mine; others are members of my family; the rest are just, well, folks who take some measure of joy out of blasting my anti-Donald Trump thoughts on this blog.

Let’s try this one: Mail-in voting does not invite voter fraud. It is not corrupt, as Donald Trump his own self has alleged. It works in the states that allow it.

We ought to be able to vote by mail for president of the United States in November.

You know already that voting by mail is not my preferred method. I would rather troop to the polling place, stand in line and then cast my ballot on Election Day.

Circumstances, though, have overtaken that process. We have this thing called the coronavirus pandemic that’s infecting thousands of Americans daily. It has killed more of us than those who died during the Vietnam War and that number of fatalities continues to climb.

So what is the alternative to traditional voting for president this fall? Mail-in balloting works for me. It ought to work for all Americans who are interested in having their voices heard.

Have I mentioned that I want Joe Biden to defeat Donald Trump in that election? I guess I just did.

My concern about the upcoming presidential election is steeped more in the preservation of our fundamental right as citizens. We should be always encourage more citizens to vote, not seek to suppress that participation, which could be one result of declining to allow mail-in balloting and exposing Americans to the threat of a deadly viral infection by requiring them to cast their Election Day votes in polling places.

Texas isn’t exactly clamoring for the chance to vote by mail. We remain behind the electoral reform curve on that issue, just as we have been lagging in testing equipment available to detect the COVID-19 infection among Texans. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, furthermore, said he plans to appeal a judicial ruling handed down recently that paves the way for mail-in voting in Texas.

Trump wants to tamp down voter turnout. He denigrates mail-in balloting by saying it is “corrupt.” He offers no proof. He just makes reckless, ridiculous accusations. Meanwhile, secretaries of states that work in states that do allow mail-in voting tell us that they secure those ballots; they require voters to prove their eligibility; they report the tiniest of fractions of voter fraud. In effect, they tell us that there is no evidence of the voter corruption that Trump and others say exists.

If we want good government, then we need to have more — not fewer — citizens participating in the fundamental right of citizenship. If mail-in voting is the cure for what ails us while we battle a killer infection … then bring it!

Wishing re-opening of Texas can work … but doubts remain


I want to wish Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has done his due diligence in determining the time is right to restart the state’s economic machinery.

Oh, man, the doubt persists.

Abbott said he is going to grant permission for restaurants, malls and movie theaters to welcome guests beginning Friday. Yes, it’s a cautious approach, but I remain deeply concerned about whether even this timid approach will cause another spike in the infection rate caused by the COVID-19 virus that has killed more than 700 Texans.

I just don’t know how this is going to work.

My wife and I plan to stay at home. We aren’t going to frequent restaurants; we will stay out of movie theaters; we aren’t going to the mall to mingle with others; we will continue to wear cloth masks when we go to the grocery store or put fuel in our truck. We will maintain social distance.

Abbott said he would rely on the doctors and data to determine his decision. I will take him at his word that he has done as he pledged to do. I just wonder if the time is yet right to start that return to what we used to call “normal” in Texas.

As Ross Ramsey writes in the Texas Tribune:

The protesters and holdouts are interesting, but to see how this is going, watch the people in the middle — the actual mainstream Texans. That big group wants to get things running but also thinks social distancing is a pretty good idea right now.

Their actions will speak louder than anyone’s — even Greg Abbott’s. And they seem to be the group he’s watching, too, as he anxiously opens the door.

I will act as if we’re still under restriction.

Ancestral homeys make me proud

Many of my friends are aware of my ethnic ancestry; I guess my last name is a dead giveaway … you know?

One of them sent me a link from The New York Times that contains a story about how well Greece has responded to the coronavirus pandemic.

You can see the story here.

What fascinates me is how well the Greeks have responded to the pandemic in light of the intense criticism that has come their way over the years with their myriad financial issues, their reneging on national debt, the bailouts given to them by the European Union, not to mention the political chaos that kept waters roiling in Athens.

It appears that Greece got way ahead of the curve when the pandemic began leveling Europeans. They enacted “social distancing” measures right away; they began imposing restrictions on gatherings; they shut down business and effectively shut down their borders. They didn’t celebrate Orthodox Easter in the traditional way, as the picture attached to this post attests.

They have recorded fewer than 150 deaths from the viral infection. The Times article notes that Belgium, an EU member of comparable population, has suffered thousands of deaths and far more reported infections than Greece.

OK, have said all that, the report card isn’t a straight-A grade. Greece has tested a small percentage of its population of 10.7 million citizens, which means the reports of infections might be understated.

Still, according to the Times: Now, a country that has grown used to being seen as a problem child in the European Union is celebrating its government’s response and looking forward to reopening its economy.

“Greece has defied the odds,” said Kevin Featherstone, director of the Hellenic Observatory at the London School of Economics.

I have been critical of my ethnic brothers over the financial hassles that they have brought on themselves. On this matter, they make me proud that they have responded proactively — and successfully — in response to a worldwide crisis. Other nations and their leaders ought to pay attention to how they have responded.

Yes, that means you, too, Donald Trump!

Nice try with the one-way shopping lanes

I want to give a shout out to Wal-Mart for trying something novel in its effort to stem the infection caused by the coronavirus.

It has placed shopping lane signs on aisle floors. The signs are intended to force shoppers to observe certain traffic patterns. You can enter a shopping aisle on end, but not the other.

Well, nice try … but I don’t think it’s working, at least not in our store in Princeton, Texas.

Here’s the problem: Shoppers are too busy looking up at the shelves for the products they want to purchase; they aren’t paying attention to the signage at their feet.

At least that’s what I observed this morning when I went to the store to pick up some items.

The intent is to keep shoppers six feet or father apart in observance of “social distancing” requirements that seek to prevent the spread of the deadly viral infection.

How do they make it work? I guess they need to put bright yellow “crime scene: do not cross” tape across the top of the aisles. Whaddya think?

Oh, the irony is so rich

A Facebook acquaintance of mine has drawn attention to what he believes is an amazing, rich irony in the dispute by pro-Donald Trump protesters who oppose the government-imposed restrictions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

He wrote this: I’ve recently noticed Trumpers embrace the slogan “Freedom of choice”, or “My Body My Choice” as seen on a pro-Trump placard.

Set aside the flawed logic in thinking a highly transmissible disease with no vaccine or effective treatment only affects you, but do they not see the irony in eviscerating the reproductive rights of women?

Hmm. What do you know about that?

One might argue, I suppose, that there is no direct parallel between the coronavirus restrictions and reproductive rights. Still, when avid anti-choice advocates trot out mantras used by their foes, they had better be ready for the blowback they are receiving.

To be fair, I need to remind you that the irony travels in the opposite direction, with pro-choice advocates seemingly endorsing the restrictions that government imposes as we wage this fight against a killer virus.

Irony is a bitch … ain’t it?