Trump’s Trifecta: Update

Three months ago, I wrote: “We’re in the middle of a slow-motion catastrophe.  The consequence of disease, depression, and Donald.”  Sadly, U.S. conditions have gotten worse.  The latest GALLUP POLL indicates, “[only] 13% of U.S. adults are satisfied with the state of the nation.”

The Pandemic: Late in April, the U.S. had 1 million coronavirus cases (and 56,000 deaths).  Now we have 5 million cases (and 163,000 deaths).
The best summation of our current situation was written on April 18 by New York Times science and health reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr, “The Coronavirus in America: The Year Ahead.”  (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/18/health/coronavirus-america-future.html)

“In truth, it is not clear to anyone where this crisis is leading us… Exactly how the pandemic will end depends in part on medical advances still to come. It will also depend on how individual Americans behave in the interim. If we scrupulously protect ourselves and our loved ones, more of us will live. If we underestimate the virus it will find us… Resolve to Save Lives, a public health advocacy group run by Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the former director of the C.D.C., has published detailed and strict criteria for when the economy can reopen… Reopening requires declining cases for 14 days, the tracing of 90 percent of contacts, an end to health care worker infections, recuperation places for mild cases and many other hard-to-reach goals.” [Emphasis added]

Donald Trump has not been willing to apply these criteria.  Instead he has asserted that the pandemic is not serious and pushed for an immediate reopening.

Trump has not provided the leadership required to deal with this tragedy.  He has shown no remorse for our 163,000 deaths: “it is what it is.”  Writing in Mother Jones, David Corn observed: “Since the start of this epidemic, Trump has gushed out a series of idiotic and false remarks: The virus is no big deal. It will go away. This is a hoax. We will have a national testing program within days. We will have a vaccine within months. Try hydroxychloroquine. Maybe injecting bleach will help. Case numbers are high because of testing. I take no responsibility. I’ve been right all along. We’ve done an amazing job.”

Given Trump’s inadequate response, it comes as no surprise that most voters give him low marks on the health crisis.  According to the 538 website (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/coronavirus-polls/ ) only 37.7 percent of Americans approve of how Trump has handled the pandemic.

The Economy: In June, the U.S. officially entered a recession (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/09/the-us-is-officially-in-a-recession-will-it-become-a-depression.html).  In the first quarter the real GDP decreased by 5 percent and in the second quarter it decreased by a whopping 32.9 percent — the worst plunge ever recorded. “The second-quarter cliff in economic activity was driven by a drop-off in consumer spending, which appeared as a 34.6% drop in the personal consumption metric in Thursday’s report… Consumer spending comprises about two-thirds of the US economy, and prior to the pandemic had been the main engine of economic growth.” (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/q2-gdp-us-economy-coronavirus-pandemic-consumer-171558880.html )  Consumer sentiment has also fallen off a cliff.  (https://www.visualcapitalist.com/economic-impact-of-covid-h1-2020/)

The current unemployment rate is 12.1 percent — down from 19.7 percent in April.  The unemployment rate is the largest since it sunk to 25.6 percent at the depths of the Great Depression. To get back to where we were before the pandemic, the U.S. economy has to add 30 million jobs. ( https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/29/nearly-half-the-us-population-is-without-a-job-showing-how-far-the-labor-recovery-has-to-go.html)

Which workers are laid off depends upon where you live.  Here in Sonoma County, in northern California, there are more than 40,000 furloughed workers: primarily hospitality jobs, agricultural work, and retail occupations.  Most workers won’t regain full employment until the economy can safely reopen.  It’s unclear when this can happen.

Donald Trump doesn’t have a plan to deal with this recession. The latest Quinnipiac poll indicates that only 44% of people approve of the way Trump is handling the U.S. economy. (By the way, Trump plans to spend this weekend playing golf.)

At this writing, Congressional Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on the form of a new stimulus bill.

Meanwhile, there’s a historic disconnect between consumer perception of the economy and the Wall Street Indices — such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average.  (https://www.visualcapitalist.com/understanding-the-disconnect-between-consumers-and-the-stock-market/)  Two factors have contributed to this: first, the DJIA is skewed (weighted) towards information technology technology companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Facebook — companies that have done well in the pandemic.  Second, stock prices are being supported by the Federal Reserve.  In any event, the relatively robust state of the stock indices presents a distorted view of the economy.

Donald Trump:  Trump is incapable of the leadership this catastrophe requires.

On August 3rd, Trump was interviewed by Jonathan Swan — an Australian journalist who works for Axios.  (https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/donald-trump-interview-transcript-with-axios-on-hbo )  It’s difficult to watch this interview and not be deeply disturbed by Trump’s performance.  For example,

“Trump [The pandemic is] under control.
Jonathan Swan: How? 1,000 Americans are dying a day.
Trump: They are dying. That’s true. And it is what it is.”

The interview indicates that Trump has no understanding of how serious the pandemic is and no idea of what to do about the situation.

“Trump: And there are those that say you can test too much. You do know that.
Jonathan Swan: Who says that?
Trump: Oh, just read the manuals, read the books.”

More frightening than Trump’s ignorance is his lack of remorse for those who have died or been seriously harmed by COVID-19.

According to the 538 website, only 41.3 percent of voters approve of the job that Donald Trump is doing.

So we’re in a difficult situation: the pandemic continues without an end in sight; the economy has fallen into a deep recession; and Donald Trump is falling apart — if anything, he’s making matters worse.

Hold on tight.  We’re heading for rough waters.

Stuff


“You can’t take it with you.”
Surprised
Kathy’s late cousin George.
His Hillsborough house was a
testament to
stuff.
George loved model airplanes
in every room
half-assembled projects
belt sander
saw
assorted tools
glue
paint.
George believed in bulk buying.
We removed
200 cans of pop
100 rolls of toilet paper
14 gallons of Roundup
11 jars of mustard
8 boxes of “Rice-a-Roni”
and MORE.

I fight my battle with
stuff.
Sold LPs
CDs took their place.
Donated novels
art books line my shelves.
Downsized from two homes to a
storage locker filled with
stuff.

Quakers aspire to
simplicity.
Friends believe that a person’s spiritual life and character
are more important than
the quantity of goods he possesses
.”

Eschew
stuff.

Sleep Disorder

Awake
dark bedroom
quiet house
warm bed

“Neurons, start your engines.”
The tasks pass the reviewing stand
row one:
. need idea for this week’s poem
. finish song with David
. call  vet about Milou’s paw
row two:
. modify FSO website
. balance Schwab account
. call electrician about 30amp connection
row three:
. mow lower meadow
. schedule tree work
. answer John’s email
chores fly by the reviewing stand
like eucalyptus leaves in the Santana wind.

“Maybe I won’t be able to go back to sleep.”
3:20 am
drink water
try to get comfortable
“You know, this isn’t good for your health.”
My critic awakes
“You ate too much, last night.
You know you can’t eat dessert.”

Heart pounds
“You’ve been lucky, so far.
Your luck is running out.”

Chest tightens
“How will Kathy cope, when you are in the hospital?”
eyes open
a shaft of moonlight graces the far wall.

The puppy snorts.
“Maybe I’ll have to take Belle out to pee.”
She calms.
“I’m lucky to have Kathy
and the dogs.
Lucky to live here.
lucky for my family.
Lucky for a lot of things.”

My blessings fall down like rose petals
caressing me to sleep.

Malignant Trumpware

The United States is beset by two viruses: COVID-19, which is highly contagious and causes respiratory distress; and Donald Trump – a form of malware, which is also contagious and causes acute psychological damage. COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, and loss of smell and taste; some cases progress to acute respiratory distress syndrome and 3.5 percent result in death. Trumpware causes massive loss of judgement; some cases progress to cult-like behavior and, in a small percentage, a willingness to grant Trump dictatorial power.

There is no known antidote to COVID-19.  We’re all trying to avoid contracting it by preventative actions such as washing our hands often, avoiding close contact when outside our homes — maintaining a protective distance of six feet, and covering our mouths and noses with cloth face covers.

There is an antidote to Trumpware; it’s the presidential election on November 3rd.  Nonetheless, in the next 100 days, there are steps you can take to avoid being contaminated by the Trump social virus.  The first is to understand it.

Malicious software –malware — has been around since at least 1988.  It is software designed to intentionally damage elements of a computer network.

Donald Trump has been around since 1946, but it can been argued that his malware career began in 1988 with the opening of the “Trump Taj Mahal” casino in Atlantic city.

The initial malware — computer viruses and worms — were primarily cruel pranks; such as forcing obscene material on someone’s home screen.  Since 2003 the majority of malware has been more malicious, designed to take control of a computer environment for illicit purposes: spying, damage, or ransom.   (Ransomware takes control of an environment and will not relinquish control until a fee is paid.)

From 1988 until 2003, Donald Trump was not taken seriously; he was, in effect, a cruel prank.  Since 2003, and the advent of The Apprentice, Trump has become more malicious.  In 2016, Trumpware assumed its modern forms.

In some voters, a Trumpware infection is relatively benign.  It takes control of the right frontal lobe and causes loss of rational decision making.  For example, devout Christians begin to believe that Trump is one of them; that he was “chosen by God” to represent their cause.  As another example, formerly principled conservatives adopt the stance that the ends justify the means: “I don’t like Trump personally, or his tweets, but I love his policies.”  Or “fiscally conservative” Republicans look the other way while the Trump Administration increases the federal deficit ($864 billion for 2020) and runs up the national debt (currently $20.5 trillion).

Unfortunately, in some voters, Trumpware takes on a more malicious form: cultware.  Trump has boasted, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”  For a significant percentage of Republicans, this is true.  For these voters, Trump can do no wrong.  Members of the Trump cult reject suggestions that he is unfit for office and cling to the notion that Donald will magically provide them with a big slice of the American dream.  (Some believe that, in the process, Trump will have to “blow up” Washington; in essence, destroy the U.S. institutions that have served Americans for the last 250 years.)

The extreme behavior of members of the Trump cult has fostered the ransomware version of Trumpware: Trump and his supporters threaten, “Give us what we want or we will bring down American democracy.”  Trump demeans civility and encourages violent behavior at this rallies.  He threatens the November 3rd elections by advocating various forms of voter suppression.  He sends paramilitary forces to disrupt peaceful demonstrations.

Computer ransomware takes control of an environment and will not relinquish control until a fee is paid.  Trump has control of the White House and is holding it for ransom.

Gotta Come Out

“One night I was layin’ down
I heard mama and papa talkin’
I heard papa tell mama
‘let that boy boogie-woogie

It’s in him and it got to come out.'”
John Lee Hooker, “Boogie Chillen”

Music was always inside me
singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” with my grandmother
church choirs
L.A. pop radio (overlaid with my lyrics)
school choirs.
But the full expression of my own music was
stopped up.

In 1955
an epiphany
The Johnny Otis: Rhythm and Blues Hit Parade

My musical landscape shifted
from Bing Crosby to Bo Diddley.
A thousand new suns:
Clovers, Drifters, Flamingoes, Temptations,
Hank Ballard, Jerry Butler, Sam Cooke, Joe Turner,
Ray Charles,
Lowell Fulson, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf,
John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Thelonious Monk…

I began to dance and
music inhabited all of body.

Thank you
Johnny Otis
for activating my
boogie woogie.

Searching for Optimism

We’re halfway through the worst year most of us can imagine and it’s difficult to feel optimistic about the future. In the United States there has been a resurgence of coronavirus cases. The economy teeters on the brink of a depression. And President Trump has abandoned his post. Nonetheless, there’s a ray of hope: once you acknowledge the social order is broken, you can set about rebuilding it.

A June 30 Pew Research Poll (https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2020/06/30/publics-mood-turns-grim-trump-trails-biden-on-most-personal-traits-major-issues/) found Americans to be angry and unhappy: “As the United States simultaneously struggles with a pandemic, an economic recession and protests about police violence and racial justice, the share of the public saying they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country has plummeted… to just 12% today.”  Citizen understand that we have a serious problem.  Conditions are ripe for change.

At this point it appears certain that the November 3rd presidential election will be held in the middle of a pandemic and an economic depression.  It looks like Joe Biden will win and that Democrats will take control of Congress.  On November 4th we’ll still be in a deep hole, but we can begin digging out.

Because we’re experiencing a catastrophe, there’s opportunity for transformational change. Change in three areas: personal, communal, and societal.

1.Personal Change: slow down.  One of the consequences of the pandemic is that it has forced most of us — those who take COVID-19 seriously — to slow down.  It’s more difficult to travel so many of us are working at home.  It’s more complicated for us to do all of our daily chores so all those activities take more time and effort.  For those of us with children, we’re having to spend more time with child care.  Most of us are not going out to restaurants and bars.

It’s a good thing for us to slow down.  American capitalism is stressful.  It takes a toll on our health and sanity.  Americans are chronically sleep deprived (https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html).  Compared to other developed countries, U.S. citizens get less time off (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/15/statista-how-far-behind-us-is-in-paid-time-off-compared-to-the-world.html).

Of course, to actually change the pace of our lives requires more support from the larger society.  Many of us live fast-paced lives because we have to work long hours, or more than one job, in order to make ends meet.  For Americans to be able to slow down means that the social safety net has to be substantially strengthened.  There’s a personal element involved — the desire to slow down — and a communal element — support for life at a different pace.

2. Communal Change: invest in people.  The pandemic has reminded us that while technology can help us, people save us.  Community support is essential for survival.

The pandemic has made it clear that we need healthcare professionals and emergency-service providers, in general.  We rely upon the folks that provide our food supplies.  And the workers that keep the lights on and the mail delivered and the trash hauled away.  None of us live in isolation; we rely upon all sorts of folks to keep our support systems running.

Sadly, most of the “essential” workers, that I have mentioned, are the same folks that often have to work long hours, or two jobs, in order to make ends meet; the same folks that are chronically stressed.  We need to pay these workers a living wage and make sure they receive decent benefits like healthcare.  (78 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck (https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/09/shutdown-highlights-that-4-in-5-us-workers-live-paycheck-to-paycheck.html )).

The theme of the coming transformation should be to invest in people.  We must dramatically strengthen the social safety net for all American workers.  In order to do this, we will have to tax the rich in order to provide a humane lifestyle for working Americans.

3. Societal Change: prepare for climate change.  The coronavirus pandemic is a forerunner of the devastation that will be wrought by climate change.  As temperatures increase, sea-levels rise, and weather patterns  becomes more extreme, many Americans will have to make wrenching changes in their daily lives.

Covid-19 has caused a public health crisis.  Climate change is causing a public health crisis.  The coronavirus requires us to either shelter-in-place or flee.  Climate change — for example,   catastrophic storms — means that we either shelter-in-place or flee.  Covid-19 disproportionately impacts challenged populations: the poor and those without good healthcare.  Climate change disproportionately impacts challenged populations.  Etcetera.

Pandemic politics and climate-change politics are similar.  There are pandemic deniers and there are climate-change deniers.  Anti-science Americans rail against pandemic policy — such as mask wearing — and they will rail against climate-change policy such as carbon taxes.

As bad as the pandemic will get, things will get worse with climate change because many U.S. regions will have to be depopulated — for example, because of sea-level rise.

Summary: There’s a lot riding on the November 3rd presidential election. It appears certain that this election  will be held in the middle of a pandemic and an economic depression.  It looks like Joe Biden will win and that Democrats will take control of Congress.  This is reason for optimism.

On January 20, 2021, we can begin rebuilding the United States.

Death Comes to Town

The church bell tolls 12 times.
A tumbleweed careens down
parched mainstreet.

Where is everyone who said they had my back?

At the intersection
Nemesis
dressed in black.

My feet shuffle forward.

Masked faces press against the saloon windows.

I wonder who betrayed Me?
The waitress who didn’t wear her mask over her nose?
The drunk Sacramento couple who wouldn’t wear masks?

The boardwalk creaks.

Grit in my mouth.
Unfinished list in my pocket:
regrets
loves
treasures.

A gopher breaks through the hardpan.

Where have all your brave words gone?

Nemesis’ ivory face
glints.

A barn owl screams.

It’s not over, until it’s over.
Guffaw.

Unamused
Nemesis sets up the table
unfurls the chess board
bids me to move.

White pawn to e4.

Happy Lemming Day

Saturday is America’s favorite summer holiday, Independence Day. In normal times, we celebrate the fourth of July with backyard barbecues or ballpark outings or beach parties. This year, because of the pandemic, most of us will “celebrate”  by sheltering in place.  Fortunately, on the third of July, Donald Trump will inaugurate a new national holiday, “Lemming Day.”

This Friday, Trump will host a political event at the Mount Rushmore national memorial in Keystone, South Dakota.  There will be fireworks and a flyover by the Blue Angels Naval aerobatic team.  According to the Republican South Dakota Governor, Kristi Noem, social distancing will not be enforced and masks will be optional.  (https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/30/politics/trump-mt-rushmore-fourth-of-july-coronavirus/index.html)  On July 3rd, Trump supporters will have another opportunity to infect each other with COVID-19.  Like the mythic lemmings, Trump supporters will be encouraged to huddle together and, in effect, commit mass suicide.

You may ask, “What was Trump thinking when he scheduled the Mount Rushmore event?”  Most likely, Donald was thinking, “This event will generate great TV ratings.”  The United States is in the middle of an existential catastrophe, the worst crisis that most of us have experienced, and what’s foremost in Trump’s mind are his TV ratings.

How did we get in this insane situation?

Although there were many explanations for Donald Trump’s unexpected 2016 presidential victory, three seem particularly relevant today: 1. In 2016, many voters did not trust Washington politicians, “the elite;” 2. Millions of Americans felt they had lost their chance at the American dream; and 3. A significant number of Americans were angry with Barack Obama, because of the color of his skin, and wanted a “whiter” President.

1.In 2016, most Trump supporters saw Donald as an outsider, someone not part of the American elite.  By virtue of his free-wheeling manner, his penchant for Tweets, and his rambling politically incorrect speeches, Trump has exemplified the “outlaw” outsider.  Unfortunately, Trump disparages science and reasoned discourse.  This defect produced his destructive response to the pandemic — a catastrophe that has sickened more than 2.8 million Americans and killed at least 131,000. Nonetheless, today, millions of Trump supporters trust Donald more than the mainstream media or Washington “experts.”  They are part of the Trump cult — similar to the Jim Jones, “Peoples Temple,” cult that ended in the Jonestown massacre.

2. Many Americans voted for Trump because they felt eight years of the Obama administration had not helped their life chances.  They came to believe that Obama, and the Democratic establishment including Hillary Clinton, cared more for millionaires and billionaires than they did working families.  Donald Trump talked like a populist and they believed  him — because he was more “relatable” than Hillary Clinton.  Many of these voters are no longer part of the Trump lemming cult.  At the moment, they are adrift.

3. Finally, in 2016, there were many Trump supporters who harbored racial animosity.  They identified with Donald’s “white supremacist” tendencies and felt a visceral connection with him.  Today, they are still with him.  Trump’s racist supporters may not agree with everything he says and does, but, for them, he’s the only game in town.

On Friday, Trump supporters — from groups 1 and 3 — will gather at Mount Rushmore and celebrate their guy.  United by resentment.

After the rally, the Trump devotees will return to their hometowns and infect thousands with the coronavirus.  Many will get sick and some will die.  Rather than “make America great” they will accelerate it’s destruction.

Happy Lemming Day.

Bonded with the Blues

1958 summer Sunday afternoon
David’s room
smoking cigarettes
drinking beer
playing records.

Little Richard
Fats Domino
Chuck Berry
doo-wop
folk

We’re competitive.
I played a Josh White LP
David parried with
“Leadbelly Memorial Volume 1”

Side one began with “Goodnight Irene”
ended with “Man going around taking names.”
Side two started with “John Henry.”
When we got to “See See Rider”
the earth stopped.

Thunderous 12-string guitar intro
(Hawaiian slack-key tuning)
amplified by a powerful baritone
See See Rider
see what you done done
(repeat)
you made me love you
now your man done come.

Naive white boys
transported to the land of
da blues.

We played “See See Rider” until
the room billowed with cigarette smoke and
the beer was gone.

We bonded.

Then our lives took different paths:
Bob, child of privilege
left for Stanford and
the corporate world.
David, child of the 99 percent
went to a local college
dropped out
worked as a house painter
drifted into addiction and
despair.

Real-life blues

David passed 18 years ago.
My kindred spirit.

Five Things You Can Do About Racism

It’s been 57 years since Martin Luther King, Junior, gave his “I have a dream speech.” And, 56 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Over this period, too little has changed. The United States has a persistent systemic racism problem that must be fixed.

In the most recent Gallup Poll (https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/312875/race-relations-nation-important-problem.aspx) respondents indicated that race relations were the most pressing national problem: “Gallup’s long-standing ‘most important problem’ question provides important context for measuring the impact of the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis… Some 19% of Americans named race relations as the nation’s top problem in our May 28-June 4 survey. This is, by one point, the highest percentage since July 1968.”

I’m a privileged white man.  Therefore, I broach the subject of racism with trepidation.  Nonetheless, here are five suggested actions that white folks can take to improve race relations.  These are actions you can take at home or in your community.

1.Inquire within. Start your personal work on racism by having a serious talk about race within your family, or circle of friends, or church. In other words, have a meaningful discussion about race with people that you care about but who, perhaps, you’ve avoided having this discussion with.  (Rather than talk about race in the abstract, talk about specific situations that affect your family members.)  This will take time; be prepared to go slow, listen a lot, and (possibly) have your feelings hurt when non-white family or friends tell you of their experiences with racism.

My multiracial family has started this discussion.  It’s hard.  What helps is that we all love each other and want to have a totally honest talk about race.

Caution: If you are a white person, GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD.  Racism is best understood on a visceral level.  LISTEN more than talk.

2. Provide financial support for the “Black Lives Matter” movement.  To be sustainable, the movement needs money.

I’m a member of Indivisible and I trust them.  Recently the leaders of Indivisible provided a list of BLM-related organizations to support (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/indivisible-blm? ): “One of many ways that we can show up is by funneling resources directly to Black-led organizations doing the work on the ground to support the uprising and developing strategies and campaigns to advance racial justice.”  These organizations include: Black Lives Matter Global Network, Color of Change, Movement for Black Lives, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, National Bail  Out, National Police Accountability Project, and Unicorn Riot.  (To this I would add my perennial favorite, The American Civil Liberties Union.)

White folks need to do more than talk.  We need to act.  Start by writing a check.

3. Hold Police Departments accountable: Take a long look at your local police department.  Compare how your non-white friends are treated by the police with how you are treated.  Be prepared to be shocked.

Americans must “reimagine” policing; local citizens need to reassert control over their police departments and not leave control in the hands of police unions and the white elite.  Reimagining policing will, not doubt, result in reducing the funds that most cities spend on their police departments.

A fair criminal justice system requires national policy changes.  For example, on June 8th, the House of Representatives passed the “Justice in Policing Act:”  (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/08/us/politics/democrats-police-misconduct-bill-protests.html )  Among other things, this bill outlaws chokeholds and limits police-officer immunity.  All of us should support this initiative.

4. Provide Equitable Healthcare:  The middle of a pandemic is a good time to be aware of how race affects the delivery of health services.

African-Americans, and other people of color, are more likely than whites to succumb to COVID-19.  A recent Guardian study (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/04/coronavirus-black-minority-americans-house-subcommittee) noted: “Black and minority Americans are more likely to be infected and die from COVID-19, because structural racism has left those populations with inferior health, housing and economic conditions.”

The Public Policy Institute of California (https://www.ppic.org/blog/racial-disparities-in-covid-19-mortality/? ) found: “Even after adjusting for age, sex, comorbidity, and income, African Americans appear to be much more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than whites are. Most ominously, though, African Americans who contract the virus are dying at disproportionately high rates— their share of COVID-19 deaths is about 1.5 times greater than their share of the state population.”

The obvious solution is an equitable healthcare system, such as “Medicare for all.”  But that’s a way off.  Start by helping your family and friends get adequate healthcare.

5. Protect Voting Rights: The Civil Rights Act was intended to safeguard the votes of African-Americans, and other people of color.  Nonetheless, for the last 56 years, there have been well-organized white initiatives to nullify the votes of non-whites — and women.  We’ve seen this recently in Wisconsin, Georgia, and Kentucky.

No one denies this is a problem.  See for example, this USA Today story: (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/02/03/black-voting-rights-15th-amendment-still-challenged-after-150-years/4587160002/)  In May the House of Representatives passed the “Heroes Act” which includes funds for voter protection (https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/heroes-act-includes-funding-election-officials-need-run-safe-secure); this bill should be passed by the Senate.

Summary: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was intended to end segregation in public places and ban employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.  While it succeeded in the first objective, it failed to effectively ban employment discrimination and did not achieve the objective of ending segregation.  In 2020, the United States is a segregated society.

Segregation continues to impact the life chances of African-Americans.  It affects their education, healthcare, housing, employment, and access to capital.  For example, a recent Time Magazine article (https://time.com/5855900/segregation-wealth-gap/ ) noted: “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment among Black people in the U.S. was far higher than among white people (6.0% versus 3.1% in January), and median household incomes were substantially lower ($40,258 versus$68,145 as of 2017). As the COVID-19 outbreak exploded across the U.S., the unemployment disparity continued: unemployment among Black workers rose to 16.8% in May, from 16.7% in April, as white unemployment fell to 12.4% from 14.2%.”

The United States has a persistent systemic racism problem that must be fixed. It’s up to white folks to make the changes required so that the United States can actually become a functioning Democracy, “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Patience

Patience: the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

1.”Bob, you were born impatient,” my father used to say.

When I first attended Quaker silent meeting, and realized I had to sit in silence and say nothing for sixty minutes, I thought, “I’m never going to be able to do this. I’m too impatient.” Nonetheless, I learnt to sit in silence for SIXTY MINUTES and not fall asleep.

It took years.

2. Basic patience training.

First, I learned the “one step at a time” mantra:
it’s possible to accomplish anything if you undertake the task one small step at a time.
I used this to lose weight by jogging
ran each day and gradually lengthened the distance
completed “Bay to Breakers”
lost 35 pounds.

At Quaker Meeting, I worked out a simple — one step at a time — strategy
First, focus on getting comfortable.
Next, pay attention to what’s up and acknowledge whatever that it is:
money
sex
the 49ers
my kids
a Bruce Springsteen song
whatever.
Then, agree to set this aside
clear the karmic path.
Finally, as a mantra, repeat the historic Quaker testimonies
peace
equality
community
simplicity.
As in, “This week, what did I do to further equality?”
I found this process comforting
once in awhile, I would drop into deep silence.

AMAZING
baptism of the spirit

3. When I finally was able to truly participate in Quaker meeting
I came to treasure the silence.

As a bonus
came a series of self-realizations.
One of them was that my karmic lesson — for this lifetime — is patience.

4. I’m better at tolerating delay than I am enduring trouble or upset.
If we’re sitting in the airport, and our plane is delayed, Kathy gets anxious.
I am stoical.

When I was in the throes of nummular dermatitis
an illness that took me several years to get over
I was able to manifest forbearance.

5. Now I am experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic
a circumstance that requires toleration of delay, trouble, and suffering.
The hard times trifecta.

Q: “Daddy, how long ’til we get there?”
A: “I don’t know. We’ve never taken this road before.”

Every problem is an opportunity
says the Aquarian.
The pandemic is an opportunity to
take it one step at a time
cultivate patience.

California’s Economic Problems

On June 17th, California “celebrated” the three-month anniversary of Governor Gavin Newsom’s “shelter-in-place” order.  The good news is that we’re serious about dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic; the bad news is that the combination of the pandemic and “shelter-in-place” order has had a devastating impact on the California economy.

So far, California has more than 167,000 COVID-19 cases and 5300 deaths.  We haven’t “flattened the curve” yet; we’re adding more than 3000 new cases per day, mostly in Los Angeles County and the surrounding counties, such as Orange and Riverside.  This means that California is gradually opening up but we have to be careful.  On June 18, Governor Newsom ordered all Californians to wear masks when in public or “high-risk settings.” (https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-06-18/california-mandatory-face-masks-statewide-order-coronavirus-gavin-newsom)

The pandemic-induced “shelter-in-place” order has had several noticeable economic impacts:

Unemployment: California has 40 million residents and a labor force of approximately 18 million workers. Governor Newsom expects the state’s unemployment rate to peak around 25 percent later in the year (with the rate for 2020 expected to be 18 percent). The Public Policy Institute of California (https://www.ppic.org/wp-content/uploads/ppic-statewide-survey-californians-and-their-government-may-2020.pdf ) describes a dire situation: “More than one-third of adults (35 percent) report that they or someone in their household have been laid off or lost their job due to the coronavirus outbreak, and half (51 percent) report someone in their house having work hours reduced or pay cut.” [Emphasis added]

According to the Public Policy Institute of California (https://www.ppic.org/blog/early-insights-on-californias-economic-downturn/?),  “The lion’s share of job loss (more than 80 percent) occurred in three service sectors: arts, entertainment, and recreation; accommodations and food; and ‘other services’ (a category that includes automotive repair, personal care, and dry cleaning).”  These sectors fell significantly faster than they did during the first month of the great recession — December 2007 through January 2008.  (In contrast, during the great recession, the sector experiencing the most impact was construction.)

As California counties learn to manage the pandemic, more businesses are permitted to open.  Here in Sonoma County, we’ve begun to open restaurants, tasting rooms, bars, movie theaters, fitness centers, galleries and campgrounds — we’re preparing for “cautious” tourism.  As this happens, more furloughed employees will return to work.  Nonetheless, not everyone who had a job will return to the same job or hours.

California outlook: Significant unemployment for the rest of the year —  more than 15 percent.

Tourism: In 2019, California made $145 billion from tourism. This year, by mid-April, the Golden State’s tourism business had stopped.  This abrupt halt cost the jobs of most of the Golden State’s 600,000 travel industry employees. It also had a secondary impact: reduction of state revenues — travel taxes are a key source of revenue for California cities, amounting to $12 billion in 2019.

As California counties begin to manage the pandemic, intra-state tourism is restarting.  For example, in Sonoma County, residents of other California counties are beginning to travel here to visit our wineries and parks.  Nonetheless, we’re not seeing visitors from other states or countries and it’s unclear when we will.

California outlook: Out-of-state tourism is dead for the rest of 2020, resulting in a continued negative economic impact.

Budget Deficit: On June 15th, the California legislature passed a pandemic-crisis budget (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-15/california-assembly-passes-budget-that-depends-on-federal-aid).  Bloomberg News reported that California lawmakers “passed a $143 billion general-fund budget for the next fiscal year that counts on federal aid before triggering spending cuts… The bill they approved is a placeholder of sorts for the fiscal year beginning July 1 as they said they will continue to negotiate with [Governor] Newsom and can make changes later in the summer… California is grappling with a $13.4 billion budget shortfall this year and $40.9 billion in the next as pandemic-related shutdowns slam the economy of the most populous U.S. state.”

If the California budget is not bailed out by Federal aid, then California will be forced to cut funds to education and other critical services.  (Most California schools have yet to reopen and many seek additional funds because of pandemic-related health-safety requirements — such as smaller class sizes and increased cleaning procedures.

California outlook: Later in the summer, Congress will probably pass a stimulus bill that provides funds for hard-hit states and cities.  This will help alleviate California’s 2020 budget pain, but the Golden State’s 2021 outlook is also grim.

Agriculture: Although accounting for only 2 percent of California’s economy, agriculture produces $47.1 billion in revenue. Over a third of the United States’ vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California — it’s the leading US state for cash farm receipts, accounting for over 13 percent of the nation’s total agricultural value.

Since Governor Newsom’s March 17th shelter-in-place order, California farmworkers have been declared “essential” workers and have remained in the fields and packing sheds.  Unfortunately, they are beginning to get sick.

Hispanics/Latinos are 57 percent of California’s infected population — 92,000 of 167,000.  Most of the “essential” farmworkers are Hispanic and more than 50 percent are undocumented (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/02/us/coronavirus-undocumented-immigrant-farmworkers-agriculture.html).  So far, the pandemic hasn’t caused major disruptions in California’s agricultural production, but it seems inevitable that there will be problems.

California outlook: As the summer progresses, the pandemic is likely to disrupt aspects of California’s food supply.

Summary: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, California’s economy has taken a big hit.  We’re working our way through the crisis but the big problems won’t be solved quickly.