America’s List of Things to Fix When the Pandemic Subsides: Item #1

The last few weeks have caused me to notice a few things we have neglected to take care of in our society, aka, the Greatest Country on Earth. The experience of a frightening and deadly pandemic has argued for certain social and economic policies much more forcefully and persuasively than the liberals in the “Democrat” party have been able to with everyday facts and logic.

Universal health care has been on the table since the days early in the 20th century as a proposal from organized labor. Democratic presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Barack Obama have supported the idea. Congressman John Dingell (D-Michigan) first introduced a universal health care bill in 1943. It has been re-introduced in every session since then by Dingell, his son who succeeded him in office, and his daughter-in-law Debbie Dingell who continues the family tradition as the Representative from Michigan’s 12th congressional district. The bill has never moved beyond a committee hearing in all those years.

In 2010, President Obama barely eked out a much compromised bill to increase the availability of health care in the US. The Republican Party immediately set out to kill it and has been trying ever since, in spite of its popularity. It took one Senator to get off his death bed to pass it and another, a Republican this time, to keep it from being rescinded.

While the rest of the developed world moved toward universal health care, the U.S., for the most part, continued to treat it as a fringe benefit attached to employment. It has become staggeringly clear what a bad idea this was when we saw unemployment shoot up to almost 20% over the last few weeks.Suddenly, people who were used to having coverage found themselves naked in the face of a deadly pandemic.

Moreover, many of the people they counted on for service in food establishments, hotels, and even their own homes had always been without coverage and now presented themselves daily as vectors of the epidemic. Many, more likely most, had no health insurance, no sick leave policy protection, and no alternative but to continue working to pay for rent, utilities, and food. 

It is a formula for a public health disaster, and we walked right into it with our eyes wide open. Indeed, the Democratic Party knew the value of good social policy yet even most Democrats had no appreciation for the perfect storm scenario Republican skinflintism had created.

Obamacare is a good place to start. Add a public option. Then, over time, work toward a Medicare-for-All plan. Personal health is a public asset. Nothing says it quite like a pandemic.

So the need for universal health care is number one on our list of things to do post-pandemic. I will add a few more things to America’s To-Do List in the coming days. But this has to be the one aspect of social policy that requires immediate attention.

Day 32: Lake Jackson Coronavirus Lock-In.

We tackle the garage again. It is an adventure in which we travel back into our past, winnowing through our collections to sift out the treasures and tote the rest out to the trash. And we do it all in service of making space in our suburban two-car garage for two cars.

I threw myself into the project with relish when I spotted my U.S. Army duffel bag on a high shelf in the back of the garage this morning.

My Army duffel bag contents 50-plus years after being released from duty ca. January 19, 1970.

It was fifty years ago this January that I dragged it off the luggage conveyor at the brand new Houston Intercontinental Airport. I threw the bag into the trunk of our car and took it home where I changed out of my travel uniform, stuffed it in as the top layer of the bag and threw it all in a closet. I kept it just handy enough that I could find it in case international politics required me to get the haircut again during my four year reserve commitment.

There it has stayed fifty years unopened except to pull that travel dress uniform off the top layer to have it adapted into a Halloween costume for our son. (DOD, be at ease. There was no official insignia displayed that would have caused the enemy to think the United States was drafting children.) He was dressing as General Eisenhower, five stars and all. I think he probably copied the fruit salad of medals from an encyclopedia and I would bet he had them pretty close to true.

Continue reading “Day 32: Lake Jackson Coronavirus Lock-In.”

Day 25 of Lake Jackson Lockdown

From time to time, I used to do thought experiments in which I would watch the president and pretend that I am a supporter. I didn’t try for the mind set of one of the Republicans in the Senate who may actually have something to gain from their obsequiousness, but rather more like a member of “The Base,” — one of his adoring fans who attend his rallies, wear MAGA hats, get most of their political input from Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, and have everything to lose by pumping up his ego and giving him power over their lives.

Friends, don’t do it. Don’t try to pretend you are a Trumpist. At first I thought it would be good to try to see the world from their point of view but I gave it up as a dangerous experiment. When I tried it, it made me a basket case. I felt I had leapt right into that basket of —dare I say it?— deplorables. .

I don’t know how anyone can watch his recent coronavirus daily briefings without concluding that he operates below the knowledge level of most fourth graders, possesses the language development of a 1980s citizen band enthusiast, the manners of a pro wrestler, and the leadership skills of a low level mobster.

He was elected as the head of our government and he knows less about it than most of the college freshmen I encountered in my basic government classes. When I read his remarks in print later, I grade them as kindly as I can and give him a D. And that is giving him a little extra credit for knowing a few bits of presidential trivia. What color is the presidential mansion? What shape is the president’s office? What is the name of the first African-born American president? He gets creativity points for that last one.

We are in Day 25 of our coronavirus lock-in here in Lake Jackson and after several days of watching the afternoon briefings from the White House I stopped watching. When I pretended that I was part of the president’s fan base they turned my brain into one of those mushroom soup casseroles that are a staple of Methodist pot lucks. But just watching them as an average citizen trying to stay informed was doing the same thing. There seemed to be no point in adding to his ratings since there was no useful information to be gained and I risked tipping his rating scale up one more tiny point by tuning in.

So I wait for the morning papers and read the reports in my internet editions of The New York Times and Washington Post. I read a little in the Houston Chronicle and The Facts. I pay for all of those but I freeload on The Guardian. They do the best job of keeping up with their own copycat Trumpist P.M. who has this day gone into the ICU with his case of Covid-19. I appreciate The Guardian and I do not enjoy admitting that I freeload on their journalism but my priority is to support the press in this country first. The queen never claimed the press was the enemy of the people.

Aside from reading in the mornings and catching up with news analysis on cable (Go ahead and guess!) in the evenings, we have been cleaning out the garage.

What a joy it is to go through old photographs and see my sisters, both of them little girls standing in the front yard of our house on Flaxman Street in Jacinto City. To graduate from high school again. To re-live some college years. What an adventure to live again in 1968, to feel the pain of being drafted and leaving a young wife on her own. To hold once again those precious band medals and the trophies from gymnastics meets, math competitions, and more. To read the poetry and science fiction my son wrote in junior high.

One of his science fiction stories was about a US biological warfare lab that had developed both the killer virus and, so they thought, the vaccine. A former president who had authorized the venture wanted to see the dramatic tests at the end of their experimentation. To make a short story even shorter, the virus succeeded but the vaccine did not. One of the infected monkeys went berserk after being stuck with the hypodermic needle and jumped against the glass separating the ex-president from the laboratory and the virus. The monkey infected the ex-president and he became the first casualty of his own biological warfare weapon.

My son was savvy enough to leave the ex-president unnamed, although his reference to his number in the presidential succession made it clear that he had fictitiously killed off President X. I will not name him but leave it to your imagination instead.

So that’s the kind of thing we get into as we probe around in 50 to 60 years of things that seemed too important to throw away yet not important enough to look at again for all those years. Today we are going through it all and judiciously deciding what parts of the memorabilia should be kept for another half century or so.

A small stack of photos and letters has come inside the house again. Approximately eight sizable boxes of refuse sit on the curb waiting for the City of Lake Jackson Sanitation Department to make the rounds and squeeze it all into the back of a truck to take off the the city dump.

Lost forever is my master’s thesis bibliographic card file that would tell you all you could ever wish to know about American political parties, circa 1964. How quaint was the state of political partisanship then.

The President Discusses Wind Energy with Young People

The president addressed a group of young voters yesterday at something called the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida. I have copied his remarks from the White House web site where you may read the entire official transcript. His remarks follow:

We’ll have an economy based on wind.  I never understood wind.  You know, I know windmills very much.  I’ve studied it better than anybody I know.  It’s very expensive.  They’re made in China and Germany mostly — very few made here, almost none.  But they’re manufactured tremendous — if you’re into this — tremendous fumes.  Gases are spewing into the atmosphere.  You know we have a world, right?  So the world is tiny compared to the universe.  So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything.  You talk about the carbon footprint — fumes are spewing into the air.  Right?  Spewing.  Whether it’s in China, Germany, it’s going into the air.  It’s our air, their air, everything — right?

So they make these things and then they put them up.  And if you own a house within vision of some of these monsters, your house is worth 50 percent of the price.  They’re noisy.  They kill the birds.  You want to see a bird graveyard?  You just go.  Take a look.  A bird graveyard.  Go under a windmill someday.  You’ll see more birds than you’ve ever seen ever in your life.  (Laughter.)

You know, in California, they were killing the bald eagle.  If you shoot a bald eagle, they want to put you in jail for 10 years.  A windmill will kill many bald eagles.  It’s true.

And you know what?  After a certain number, they make you turn the windmill off.  That’s true, by the way.  This is — they make you turn it off after you — and yet, if you killed one they put you in jail.  That’s okay.  But why is it okay for these windmills to destroy the bird population?  And that’s what they’re doing.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Because they’re idiots!

THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughs.)  This is a conservative group, Dan.  (Applause.)  No, but it’s true.  Am I right?  (Applause.)

I’ll tell you another thing about windmills.  And I’m not — look, I like all forms of energy.  And I think (inaudible) — really, they’re okay in industrial areas.  Like you have an industrial plant, you put up a windmill — you know, et cetera, et cetera.

I’ve seen the most beautiful fields, farms, fields — most gorgeous things you’ve ever seen, and then you have these ugly things going up.  And sometimes they’re made by different companies.  You know, I’m like a perfectionist; I really built good stuff.  And so you’ll see like a few windmills made by one company: General Electric.  And then you’ll see a few made by Siemens, and you’ll see a few made by some other guy that doesn’t have 10 cents, so it looks like a — so you see all these windows, they’re all different shades of color.  They’re like sort of white, but one is like an orange-white.  (Laughter.)  It’s my favorite color: orange.  (Applause.)

No, but — and you see these magnificent fields, and they’re owned — and you know what they don’t tell you about windmills?  After 10 years, they look like hell.  You know, they start to get tired, old.  You got to replace them.  A lot of times, people don’t replace them.  They need massive subsidy from the government in order to make it.  It’s really a terrible thing.

A Thought for the Democrats in Congress

Why stop at two articles of impeachment? The president is addicted to superlatives. He could be the president remembered for the MOST (caps, of course) documented and prosecuted impeachable offenses in a truncated term in office.

He would take that as the equivalent of a reality television Oscar. Maybe Speaker Pelosi could hand him a statuette of Oscar (the Grouch) along with a six volume condensed set of impeachment resolutions. He would be so thrilled that he would start planning his presidential library with some books that, having lived them, he could not be criticized for failing to read.

November 21, 1963

Late November in one of my happiest years:

we wrapped ourselves in the soft thrill of friendship

not knowing how rare it was and how hollow -

for lack of it - would be the days and years ahead.



Chattering with the sophistication of underclassmen

we crossed a vacant city lot grown over with weeds,
toward the road that exited the airport.

The young president and his wife had landed and would

pass here on their way to speak in Houston.


His red hair flamed

in the late afternoon Texas sunlight. 


He waved and each of us stored the memory

of an instant as the car sped by, 

the woman at his side,
 his shining hair,
the slightest wave of his hand, 

the memory – a still photograph in each of our minds.



In less than a day, he was dead;
hit by two rifle shots. His wife was returning,

spattered with his blood
to the emptiest of homes, the White House.


Another memory – but this one with the remove

of miles and overwritten with the static snow
from our 
early technology television sets.



Those same sets had been on that morning before he died

as we searched to see if there would be news of his visit.
Maybe a camera had caught us as well
and our friends would see us so close to history.
Instead, we saw four floppy-haired singers
from Britain who were planning a visit to America. 



A few hours later, there was only the news 
that the man
on whom we had hung our hopes was dead.


Friendships that we thought were the most precious
gifts 
in our lives that day,
faded with the years.


Each of us had lives to live, purpose and gifts to give. 


The floppy-haired Brits gave us the happy crutch 

we needed to weather war and loss,
and, not least,
 the death of that soft thrill of friendship
we still had heart to feel
on November 21, 1963.