Category Archives: Truth to Power

use for our brave citizens

At the Supreme Court, a Troubling Photo

This photo of the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., “protected” behind a wire mesh fence topped by barbed wire, really gets to you. The “framing”, of course, was added after the capitol riots on January 6, 2021.

The Supreme Court is where ultimate justice is rendered.  Anyone with a grievance that rises to the level of being heard by the nation’s courts can expect it to be resolved fairly by the nine-member Supreme Court if the dispute gets that far. The building’s entrance is topped by the words “Equal Justice Under Law”.

The Supreme Court building shouldn’t need protection. Instead, its occupants protect all of us.

Texas Hit By a Climate Punch

 

Texas being smacked with an unexpected, and largely unplanned for,  cold snap in February 2021, demonstrates how important it is to think more strategically than defensibly about one’s readiness for weather and other emergency situations.

Events don’t always unfold as we expect them to and it’s only fair that we limber up our readiness to deal with unexpected challenges.

“A cold snap unusually powerful for the state crippled Texas’ electrical grid this month,” The Wall Street Journal reported.  “It left more than four million Texans without electricity and heat, many for days in subfreezing temperatures, and resulted in 80 deaths.”

“Nearly 185 generating units, mostly gas and coal-fired capacity, tripped offline. The resulting shortages and unexpectedly high demand led to soaring electricity prices,” The Journal reported.  “Wholesale power prices were more than 400 times last year’s average.”

Regulators are now reviewing the state’s electrical grid, which functions largely utility by utility and has little tolerance for weather emergencies. Yet they occasionally occur, more frequently, possibly, with Earth’s changing climate.

When a utility “system” collapse occurs, it can hit very hard. “We need to make changes, and rethink, from the bottom up, how we deliver energy and keep it reliable, ” said Gina McCarthy, head of the White House  Office of Domestic Climate Policy.

“Rethinking” may well be the need of our times for many of us, not only Texas utility executives.

(In the photo with this post, note how the traffic lights on a Texas street were off, like the electric power everywhere else there.)

Ever So Important: A President’s Priorities

There came upon my iMac screen a Washington Post story that made it exceptionally clear how President Trump has failed to serve as the leader the American people have needed during the coronavirus pandemic.  It should illustrate for all future presidents how to get their priorities right: The people first and always.

The Post gave the piece an appropriate heading:  “The inside story of how Trump’s denial, mismanagement  and magical thinking led to the pandemic’s dark winter.”

Should we need reminding on what a president is elected to do, it’s to pick the right aims on behalf of the people and to lead in accomplishing them. As, for example, wearing face masks early on to help check the spread of the virus while seeking ways to counter it, principally vaccines. Donald Trump still is hardly ever seen with a face mask.

A president also establishes his staff’s priorities: “After their warnings had gone largely unheeded for months in the dormant West Wing, Deborah Birx, Anthony S. Fauci, Stephen Hahn and Robert Redfield together sounded new alarms, cautioning of a dark winter to come without dramatic action to slow community spread.

“White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, among the many Trump aides who were infected with the virus this fall, was taken aback, according to three senior administration officials with knowledge of the discussions. He told the doctors he did not believe their troubling data assessment. And he accused them of outlining problems without prescribing solutions.”

“The doctors explained that the solutions were simple and had long been clear – among them, to leverage the power of the presidential bully pulpit to persuade all Americans to wear masks, especially the legions of Trump supporters refusing to do so, and to dramatically expand testing.”

On and on the Post’s piece goes, along with the virus’ largely unchecked spread.

Donald Trump and Pandemic Reality

Fellow citizens, please take note: A President of the United States needs to be concerned not with circumstances as he or she would like them to be, but as they really are, and to lead the nation diligently through them.

President Donald Tump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, however, has been far different.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Bob Woodward in February of 2020,  “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Mr. President, it’s not what you like,  but the realities of things as they are, like a coronavirus pandemic. Presidents are in office to lead, not to mislead or dissemble. They can get lots of help from government agencies as well as understanding from fellow Americans, akin to FDR’s New Deal.  Instead we have something akin to a charnel house.

Despite knowing that the virus was “deadly stuff”‘ and highly contagious, Trump often  said that it was under control and would go away.

That is so mistaken, the opposite of leadership. A stance like that, in fact, goes far to justify the subtitle of Mary Trump’s book on her Uncle Donald, “How My Family Created The World’s Most Dangerous Man”.

Dissembling is always dangerous. But when you are President of the United States, it can have far graver consequences.  Like coping with a pandemic that has so far killed over 200,000 Americans.

Here is a timeline of what Trump said of the virus from January when there was one case through September 23, when there were 7.26 million cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. and 207,000 deaths.

As the Virus Persists, ‘Hurry Up and Wait’

In a time, like the present, of challenge and peril, wishing will get you nowhere. Patience needs to prevail, and that can mean a grueling wait.

In the U.S., from the White House to countless other locales, impatience seems more the rule. We’ve got to ‘open up’, get back to normal, restore jobs, get on with living sustainably.

The problem is, though, the virus has its own timetable and it’s going to take longer for a vaccine to be available then we sometimes feel we can endure.  Witness, as The Washington Post reports,  the situation that exists in Beirut, Lebanon. 

“Lebanon on Tuesday became the latest country to reimpose restrictions after experiencing a surge of infections,” the Post reports, “almost exactly two weeks after it appeared to have contained the spread of the virus and began easing up. Authorities ordered a four-day, near-complete lockdown to allow officials time to assess the rise in numbers.”

“Authorities” everywhere need to be mindful that virus-based events are currently following their own calendar, and to go with the flow of whatever’s best for people in the short to longer-term. Patience and fortitude are today’s highest behavioral and, indeed, political, values.

In South Korea, The Post adds,  President Moon Jae-in is warning the country to “‘brace for the pandemic’s second wave,’ calling the battle against COVID-19 a ‘prolonged’ fight.” And, alas, in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where it all began,  “authorities on Tuesday ordered the testing of all 11 million inhabitants after a cluster of six new infections emerged, five weeks after the city had apparently rid itself of the disease.”

It’s much the same in Germany, “which is widely regarded as the model in Europe of a balanced coronavirus response.” 

Reality these days takes patience, lots of it. In Lebanon, where we began, “authorities have imposed a new four-day lockdown.” Four days only?

 

Downplaying the Coronavirus

The presumptive President of the United States, Donald Trump, says the Democrats are “politicizing” the coronavirus, that it’s “their new hoax” – that’s what he was saying at a rally yesterday in South Carolina. Of course, Trump isn’t our “presumptive” president at all, he’s for real in the role – and that could mean woe is us.

The President, of course, has placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of coordinating the federal response to the virus threat. From Trump’s tone yesterday, Pence shouldn’t have much to do, and we know that’s not the case at all.  The first death from the virus has just been reported in Washington State, And the virus appears to be spreading up and down the West Coast and heading inland.

Scoffing can be taken too far. Defenders of the President say he didn’t call the virus itself a hoax.  But if there were ever a time for choosing one’s words carefully, this is it and Trump spoke rather spitefully.

There are times when Trump’s handling of his nation-leading job seems as much prompted by whimsy as reality, and this is one of them.  We should be expecting more of the President – caution in the face of a health hazard that threatens us all. Yet the coronavirus is “the Democrats’ new hoax”. We couldn’t let that one pass by. That wouldn’t be fair to a nation whose apprehension is growing  over the prospect of the virus spreading from coast to coast.

Let’s hope it doesn’t, but let’s not downplay the possibility either.