Trump seems to have emerged from Covid-19 denial…

April 1, 2020

The good news is that if we keep up with this social distancing stay home thing we might survive, or like a store clerk observed to me, “some of us will”.

She looked at me strangely when she said it. Wasn’t sure where the emphasis on “some of us” was directed.

The lady, by the way, was not commenting on social distancing. She was just apparently commenting on the danger of infection.

Her take (and this was maybe a week ago) was that the “media” was blowing the Covid-19 thing out of proportion. She went on to claim that the “mainstream media” was refusing or neglecting to report the fact that the pandemic was leveling off in China, where it began. Well as a consumer of the so-called “mainstream media” I can attest that claim is inaccurate.

Hopefully we can trust that it is and that such bodes well for the rest of the world, including the USA, of course.

Today it seems that President Trump is finally taking the Covid-19 pandemic seriously, with a minimum of self-serving digs at others and with a fewer pats on his own back, while still reminding us he acted early in ordering entry to the U.S. from China by people other than U.S. citizens be curtailed, or tightly controlled.

I think he is on to the fact now that listening to the medical experts and not undercutting them is good politics, besides being the right thing to do.

Of course he is most unpredictable and might at any moment go back to his usual pattern of name calling and threats.

But if we as a nation pull out of this before the election, it seems as if he will win another term. The news is that he is actually polling well now with some Democrats, while his Republican support stays strong but has leveled off.

And if we are still in the shutdown mode in November but Trump is following doctors’ orders, so to speak, the electorate as a whole might be reluctant to change leaders in the middle of the greatest crisis in a lifetime.

This really is Trump’s real first crisis as president. He began by a seeming denial, but with the spread of the virus and the multitude of deaths even he could not deny it.

Like that clerk who indicated that the danger was overblown — even she handed me my change at arm’s length, careful not to let her hand touch my outstretched hand.

You can’t deny such a thing when there are thousands of deaths all over the world and a projected 100,O00 to more than 200,000 for the U.S. this year (it is hoped, via indications from current data that the ongoing social distancing can bring the real ultimate death count down).

As to who should have done what when, I’ve come to believe that is a complex question or at least the true answer is complex.

More important is: what are we doing now?

By now the answer might be what Nancy Reagan told her husband the president to say to a gaggle of news people over the roar of whirring helicopter blades on the White House lawn: “We’re doing everything we can”.

I’m still not a Trump fan. His demeanor and many of his policies (possibly Covid-19 not completely withstanding) do not set well with me.

But at least he’s not hiding in the rose garden, as one president did in a crisis.

The total death toll worldwide from Covid-19 stands at more than 44,000 as of April 1, 2020.

Most will know to whom I refer concerning the rose garden. And I feel almost guilty for using that president as a punching bag. But hiding from a problem is just as bad as trying to deny it.

Personal note: washing my hands frequently with soap and water, when I can, otherwise using my home-blended hand sanitizer that contains plenty of alcohol.

My job as an over-the-road truck driver has not changed appreciably, yet. I am always almost self-isolated.

But a prolonged shutdown certainly will bring the total freight volume down.

And I am wary of infection as everyone else.


Asking tough questions is not a threat; reporters are not PR agents…

March 30, 2020

I admit, I am biased against President Trump. But I particularly dislike the way he berates journalists who ask critical questions. He declares that they are poor at their job. Just saw a video where he suggested to a proven professioanl PBS correspondent that she should be “more positive”, and he also seemed to insinuate that she had moved between jobs due to lack of ability. He claimed her questions were “threatening”.

I don’t care what your politics are, pro Trump or anti-Trump or indifferent. A true journalist’s job is to ferret out the truth. Yes, some will ask so-called “gotcha questions”, which when asked solely for showmanship are possibly out of order. But if asked to bring out the truth, they are in order. A confident and wise president could turn a gotcha question into a positive for himself. And I mean without changing the subject at hand or otherwise dodging the question, or threatening questioners.

JFK was good at that. He seldom bristled at tough questions. He just answered them. Full disclosure: I am aware, though, that his press conferences were said to have been at least somewhat set up. Even so, he answered what appeared to be questions that could make him look bad. He also admitted sometimes that he was wrong, as I recall.

To not be able to admit you could be wrong could cause you to constantly make bad moves. Pride cometh before a fall. I think that could fit here.

Journalists who only ask softball questions designed to make the recipient look good are not journalists at all. I think they are called “public relations” people.

As a news consumer I want objective information. I even prefer that in opinion articles or so-called news analysis pieces. Issues need to be examined fairly from all angles when possible.

Unfortunately, much of the news we get today appears to be at least a bit tainted with bias. As I have stated in this blog, it is not presented in the even-handed way I was taught it should be in journalism classes when I was in college, pre-internet days.

I still trust the New York Times and PBS and NPR, and do not trust Fox. But I am occasionally disappointed with my mainstream favorites. They seem to sometimes blend non-attributed opinion with objective and attributed material. Of course one cannot simply overlook or fail to mention when Trump simply tells a bald faced lie or makes up or misuses statstics and other material. But simply running constant headlines that the president is lying somehow sounds like a campaign against him, even if it is true. One can simply report what he said but also include factual backround. That can be tricky or dangerous too because there is a fine line between background and information and advocacy and bias and editorializing. No one said honest and professional journalusm is easy.

Also, broadcast journalism, where so many catch what news they can, by its very nature tends toward a more simplistic wrapup and explanations by whoever is presenting it, rather than quotes from a variety of sources.

Print journalism nowadays seems to have copied that format to some extent. The average person, I suspect, does not feel he or she has time to read long pieces. Instead they want quick reports and summaries.

Those who would try to fool the people prefer the people remain ignorant or unaware or even unconcerned with all the facts or points of view on any issue.

And then you have this thing called Fox News, which seems to have been created by appealing to a demographic that feels its concerns and views have been ignored. Fox has a market in both hardline, far-right partisans, and just average folks who prefer to hear what squares with their own pre-conceived notions. Too, I think it appeals to conservative folks who see some of their cherished values, i.e., God and and pro-life, the flag, and the preservation of the status quo in society threatened by too liberal ways of thinking. To some extent I can see that, right or wrong.

I don’t like to make snap judgments on what others believe.

But no matter what I myself believe or what side I take, I prefer an objective examination of the issues. Except for my belief in individual freedom and capitalism with fair market protections or constraints, I do not care to be chained to a set of pre-ordained ideals.


Drop the politics, listen to the science…

March 28, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic. This is by far the biggest national and world crisis of my lifetime, which began Aug. 13, 1949, my lifetime began then, that is.

China fell to the communists in 1949. We had the Korean War in the early 1950s. I was just a baby or toddler. In my coming of age we had the national tragedy of the Vietnam War (so much miscalculation). I as so many others found myself in the military. I was fortunate in that I was sent to what was then called West Germany. One of my brothers was sent to Vietnam but fortunately came back alive. My other brother retired from 20 years in the military service in that time.

(I don’t think any of the three of us are war hawks, but at least we can all say we did our part in the military for Uncle Sam. So many war hawks never served.)

There were the gulf wars. There was 9/11, the baby boomer’s version of Pearl Harbor perhaps.

But as far as I can see, Covid-19 eclipses all (except for those who lost their lives or their loved ones in the other incidents).

Covid-19 does not care who you are, what your race is, where you come from, or your economic status. And it is bringing the whole world to a virtual standstill. To those who would play politics with it, no matter what your ideology, I say shame on you.

To the politicians I say, please assist the doctors and scientists, and do your part to simply formulate your policies around that. You do have to sort through differing opinions even among the experts, of course. But I wish that President Trump would do more of the right things he may be doing and cease his back and forth contradictory statements that seem to be designed to pander to some of his know nothing base (by “know nothing”, I mean people who do not want to be confused by facts). If we all get through this and the economy picks up, you, Mr. President, will probably win re-election. You have even a better chance if you quit your nonsense and your insulting and intimidation of people who dare to disagree with you. Show you are a bigger man that that, if you can.

China, where it all began, seems to have managed to get through the crisis. If we can believe what comes out of there (and in a communist country that is a question), then there is hope the Covid-19 will level off here in, say three months or a little more? China has the advantage in that it is a police state that can simply order its obedient citizens to stay put when it wants to and they will obey like domestic dogs. But free Americans have the sense to do what is best for their (our) own health, I would hope.

Assuming that we survive, I think, I hope, the best that can come out of this global crisis is a little more respect for science. I don’t know how we in some cases have gone back to the Middle Ages in our distrust of science (so many distrust it, it seems; maybe just a vocal minority). Why do so many people assume that science is just something political? That is not to say, that some don’t use it for political purposes, but in the whole science is just based on what can be seen through an objective process, what is provable to our own brains.

Religion is based on faith. It has its place. And it can co-exist with science. Faith that God will protect you is good for your soul, but wash your hands.

p.s.

Another upside is that pollution levels have gone way down with the shutdown. That may be short lived but on the other hand if this continues for a time, we may develop friendlier habits to the environment. Once you experience clean air you might not want to go back.


No money in the budget for the homeless but when everyone else is threatened…

March 27, 2020

With the news of the $2 trillion stimulus bill (now law) in my mind, and after a finally successful search for hand sanitizer, I drove home and along the way I saw what I always see so much of these days, homeless people.

The thought occurred to me: it is bad enough we with places to live have to endure this pandemic, but what about the homeless?

And this really galls me: so, before all of this, politicians (and the general public) just threw up their hands about the homeless situation. Tsk, tsk, tsk, but what can we do? Just not in the budget to do anything.

Oh, but come the Covid-19 pandemic that threatens us all (the whole world), young and middle aged and old, rich, middle class, lower class, homeless, suddenly out of the thin air the federal government, with a Republican (you know they are fiscally conservative) in the White House and a Republican-controlled senate, that effectively controls the gate on all legislation, yes suddenly out of thin air, $2 trillion in one bill, the most expensive ever passed. My Lord!

But we did not have anything for the homeless. What would Jesus say, all of you God-fearing Republicans? And for that matter, all of you God-fearing whatever you are.

I know the homeless situation is a complicated problem. Really. Who are these people? How did they get into that situation (so many people are a paycheck away)? How many of them are in such poor mental and physical shape that they would never be part of the regular working society? Do you find individual homes for them? Who pays for that? Do you make camps for them? Can people be forced to live in a camp, which might have its own security problems? And where would these camps be (not in my backyard, many would say)? And years ago, Sacramento County (California) tried to force the homeless to stay in a specific quarters only to be told by a court that such an order was unlawful.

Whatever. Humanity, common decency, and health for everyone for gosh sakes, demands we do something about and for the homeless. And no I don’t think one has a right to be homeless — to put it bluntly, not when you poop on the street or in the backyards or in the parks. It is not healthy for the homeless or the rest of society. And it is a blight.

To my mind, there should be camps. They need to be safe and reasonably comfortable but they do not have to be plush, spartan might do. The rent would be to take part in keeping the place up to the best of one’s ability.

It will cost money.

Just like that $2 trillion stimulus bill.

p.s.

I’m not a Bernie Sanders fan, but I was with him when he mocked those Republicans who objected to people on unemployment getting $600 on top of what their state might alot for their, I guess, weekly check. Oh my god the world will fall apart! he mocked.

In some cases people might make more on unemployment than working. One can see that in at least two ways: getting more not to work is not a good incentive to work or maybe the employers should be paying more money in the first place. Of course the idea is that people are being paid as an insurance and only till they can secure employment again. But how millionaires and billionaires can fret over such pocket change (in their world) is a little disgusting to me.

You see, these folks live in a very different world, far from the madding crowd.

What they might keep in mind, however, is that crowd outnumbers them. Guess maybe that is why they voted for the $1,200 for individuals and more for families, and the unemployment bonus, along with the billion-dollar giveaways for big business.

p.s. p.s.

I realize that even some people of more modest means might see padding out the unemployment checks as fiscally irresponsible and wrong but one has to realize this is a special situation — and the idea is to somehow keep the economy going with a huge amout of people forced to stay home in this pandemic. Will it work? Seems to me if it contineues for long it would create inflation. I mean governments through history have printed money to keep afloat and it did not work.

But right now more important than economics is science — we really need to heed the doctors on this one and turn a deaf ear to some pandering politicians.


Finally I feel blessed to be a truck driver…

March 22, 2020

From time to time during the past 25 years I have cursed my fate of having to make that midlife career change and going into truck driving (don’t get me wrong, some days I love it). But now I thank my lucky stars. At least for the moment I seem to have all the work I want and then some, while so many people are suddenly out of a job (at least temporarily and who knows how long that temporary will be?).

The Covid-19 pandemic is still in its infancy, so I don’t know how this will shake out for me. But I am home for not much more than 34 hours, which allows me to get what is called a “restart” on my allotment of 70 hours per seven days, the regulation for most over-the-road truckers. I guess there are now some emergency exemptions to the hours of service rules for critical goods, but in my job I have not been made aware of them yet. And before all of this I was happy that with the new electronic logs I would not be made to work over the 70 hours (owner operators might not like that, but for me, I can only work so much and then I need to rest).

So, what is the effect of this pandemic on trucking as far as I can see (and I am only talking now about me — I cannot see the big picture yet)? Well right off the bat the plus is LIGHT TRAFFIC! I drove into LA the other day during rush hour. Never have seen such light traffic. I drove out in rush hour. Amazing! Never got out of LA that fast.

Am I hauling critical goods? Well I haul just about anything and everything that can be put in a box that I call my van-type refrigerated (does not have to be on when hauling dry loads) trailer. About 50 to 80 percent of the time (just estimating) I haul produce. Since this pandemic was named as such I have indeed hauled produce. But I also hauled a shipment of bottled water. The outfit where it was bottled said they had not had so much business ever (even in the heat of summer). And I hauled it to a Costco store in the LA area. Even without the pandemic and its panic buying I know Costco shoppers love their bottled water. Once I hauled a load into a Costco store in the San Francisco Bay area that had run out. People were offering to buy it off my truck before I could get to the dock. It was not mine to sell of course.

But I also in the past many days have hauled a lot of beer. Well people need beer. Most of the bars are closed but the supermarkets are open.

The sit-down restaurants at the truck stops are only offering take-out now. The drivers’ lounges are closed (but I never have time to lounge anyway, or if I do, as in waiting for a load or waiting for unload, I lounge in my truck anyway).

Have not been affected by the toilet paper shortage — yet. The trucks stops so far have it in the restrooms. I even have some at home (and since I only get home briefly, no problem — yet). Hand sanitizer? I have almost run out and cannot find any at the stores. My youngest daughter has offered me a pack of alcohol wipes — I might have to drive my truck near her place to get them.

Right now I am wondering how this stay-at-home and closed-border policy is going to affect the fruit and vegetable harvests. Not sure if there will be a shortage of labor in both the fields and packing houses. And much of my income comes from that production. I mean my company (the one I work for) hauls all kinds of stuff, but produce has been our mainstay.

Been mentioning this a lot lately, that is the fact that I am 70 and still working pretty much full time (I have been taking like two-month vacations — to Spain, which looks iffy this year, to say the least). But here it is. Because I was foolish and did not start my retirement savings till relatively late in the game, I find it necessary to work. But I think it has turned out to be a blessing for me. It keeps me healthy (possibility of infection with Covid-19 notwithstanding) and self-sufficient.

Life on the road can be very good and it can be very bad. It changes from moment to moment is seems. Yeah, the love/hate thing.

But for now I am counting my blessings.


Panic buying? Can you really blame folks?

March 22, 2020

Shoppers are being criticized for buying too much toilet paper and hand sanitizer and other items and told they are engaging in a senseless panic during this ongoing Covid-19 world pandemic.

Well to me it’s like what comes first? The chicken or the egg? I mean first we are told that we need to stay at home if we can and if we can’t at least use hand sanitizer when we can’t wash our hands with soap and water.

People seeing a grave crisis that could disrupt supplies naturally want to stock up while they can. Some get greedy I suppose. And who knows what are the best things to stock up on? In our modern society we are used to using toilet paper and don’t know a practical substitute (no jokes needed here). And I imagine a lot of people are thinking if they do get sick they may need lots of tp. Not to get graphic, but maybe wash cloths that can be washed for reuse might be in order there.

Maybe we should all install bidets that are so popular in Europe. They’re kind of fun.

I have not gotten in on the panic buying as it is called. Been out on the road on the big truck (have not been hauling the afore-mentioned items, though). But I don’t necessarily blame folks for wanting to stock up. I mean I have not been able to find those items to buy and if I now did, I would try to buy ahead.

Early on we were assured the panic buying was not necessary, new orders were on their way. Well guess not. The shelves are still bare where I shopped.

If you are polite you don’t buy any more than you need. You also will be left without what you need later.

Now supposedly toilet paper and hand sanitizer are domestically made products for the most part, so they are not on the slow boat from China.

Manufacturers reportedly are doing their best to ramp up production. But it has been such a shock to the supply chain that things are backed up. I also read that not all stores are equal. The big box stores have more pull in getting the products because of their size.

One story said this is not like a localized demand, such as caused by a hurricane. The whole nation, the whole world, is affected. Our supply chain is not capable of reacting to such a thing in a timely manner.

A lot of things in our modern supply chain are amazingly efficient. At the same time a lot of them are way behind the times.

Anyway, again, while I would not like to see myself as one who would rush in and grab way more than he immediately needed of something, I can see why with all this uncertainty people are worried the stuff they are looking for might not be there the next time. Heck it is not there now.

With people being told to stay home, it is hard to see how anything is going to get done.

And no one seems to be able to define essential work or industries — at least not after medical and food production and sales. But we depend upon so much more.


A prolonged shut down could bankrupt us; public order might break down…

March 20, 2020

UPDATE: Medical experts say the covid-19 virus has a higher death rate than the seasonal flu. It spreads easier, with even those without symptoms carrying and spreading it. A vaccine is expected to be at least a year off before the population at large can be immunized.

Everyone staying home and business at a virtual standstill would bankrupt the economy in a short time, that is if this all (stay at home orders) lasts more than a couple of weeks, a Wall Street Journal opinion piece warns. The government itself will not be able to sustain us for long.

I don’t want to be an alarmist but I am concerned that if this virtual lockdown of the nation continues for long and people run out of money and food and so on public order is likely to break down. The other day I heard that gun shops were doing land office business. I can see why people might want to protect themselves, even though I am not a card-carrying gun rights advocate. My interpretation of the Second Amendment differs from them (but I accept that the common attitude among many is that citizens simply have a right to posses guns — there has to be some restrictions and there are.)

What we need is steady leadership. We do not have it at the top. But I think that state and local officials are stepping up to the plate.

—– —- —- —–

My last post was a little over a week ago (March 10, 2020). All I was worried about at that time was getting my hands on some hand sanitizer. Never did. I still have some left in a small plastic bottle. Toilet paper, I have some left at home but I am on the road. So far the restrooms have that.

So what can I say about this covid-19 virus pandemic, this world-wide crisis? I can say it is without a doubt the biggest deal of my whole 70 years on earth. I think about it almost every waking moment and not at the same time. I mean I am a truck driver, and I have found myself lucky so far. My job as of now continues unabated. What comes next? I have little idea.

—– —— –‘– —– —–

Well, this just in: California’s governor has just ordered all residents to stay home. Essential services or activities are exempt, I think. The order will not be actively enforced by police, it was reported. But the fear or belief, it was reported, is that up to 50 percent of the state’s population could become infected with covid-19. Most would not suffer serious consequences. But those with compromised immune systems are in danger, for example. The thought is that social distancing in the extreme could cut down drastically on the spread of the disease.

— —– —— —— —— —–

One thing I have realized is that I have little stomach left for the conspiracy believers and the Cliff Clavins (the blowhard ignoramus of a postman on Cheers) who spout off their own ideas, such as: it’s all a hoax, or it’s no worse than the flu. I’m not sure what it takes for them to believe otherwise or whether they really believe what they say. I guess our own president was a non-believer or he thought expressing doubt would make it go away. We could only wish. And who knows? Maybe it will all blow over soon (does not seem like it, though).

It is a come to Jesus moment for us all. A time to take stock of our life. Yes, we probably will get through it (most of us), and let’s hope we learn something, and are stronger for it.

I think our great Trump, who is now a believer and claims to have been from the start (yeah, whatever), has likened it to a war. He’s probably right. We should face it that way and marshal all of our resources against it, pull out all of the stops.

But just like WWII, the big one, we let our defenses down. We had let our military atrophy. We or someone in government, could that be Trump? cut spending on epidemic preparedness. He claims he knew nothing about it. Maybe so. But we were caught flat footed. But unlike WWII we are not an island away from the rest of the world. Not today. We are all interconnected in commerce. And the virus was literally jetted to us and all around the world from its birthplace or where it first appeared in China.

So just cut off China. Well too late. Also we depend upon China for so much of our goods for everyday life, including — news to me — much of our medicines, either the pills, or other mediums of medicine themselves, or the ingredients, that often come from there.

President Trump in the beginning tried to minimize the epidemic turned pandemic, calling it a Democratic Party hoax. And I stole the following paragraph from an article in National Review:

On February 26, President Trump described the coronavirus situation this way: “You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” On March 17, he described it this way: “I have always known this is a real pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”

——-

Trump, while beginning to take the whole thing seriously, still makes racist remarks about the “foreign virus” or the “Chinese virus”. While the communist Chinese government deserves harsh criticism or rebuke for trying the keep the epidemic secret, it does no good for the president to use bigotry to stir up the white nationalists, well except perhaps for his own re-election purposes. But we need the cooperation of the Chinese here. They probably know more about this thing than we do.

And of course we are dependent upon world trade for our whole economy it seems. But with the virus, nations, including our own, are resorting to isolating themselves.

And this has never happened. Businesses all across our own nation that are non-essential (and how do you figure what exactly is essential?) are being pressured or forced to close, throwing millions instantly out of work. Republicans of all people have even agreed to a scheme to send nearly everyone, maybe millionaires or billionaires excluded (not sure on that), checks, upwards of $1,000 or more (per month maybe, or at least once or twice — who knows?) to keep the economy going or at least to stave off starvation. Of course $1,000, although always welcome, would not pay the rent for most people these days. But you see, the money people are in a bind. They can’t throw us all out of work and keep making money.

And where does this money come from? It is printed I guess (since Vietnam when we abandoned the gold standard in order to finance a war without requiring a war tax — easier to sell politically). Paper based on nothing more than the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. Do we have or does the world still have faith and credit in the U.S.? We all hope so.

And up side is that with all the increased hand washing and hopefully better personal hygiene over all, not only may we not get the covid-19, we might not get the flu or a cold or other ailments or not pass it along to others.

There is some nonsense precautions, or at least to my eye. Tried to get my personal coffee mug filled at a truck stop this morning. I was told, no, they only will serve you with their own re-usable, disposable mugs. Starbucks is doing that too. Well the reason I went to using my own mug a long time ago (not always but a lot) is that I did not want to have to use one of those lids that we all have to manhandle to get separated from the others. Also who says those disposable cups are not contaminated? I’m not getting the logic on that one. Not a big deal, though. Just glad someone is open.

So many stores are having to close. None of us knows how long this will last or how long our government can keep us going.

And yes, to all you doubters or conspiracy freaks: it is possible all this will blow over soon (but again it does not seem like it). But I don’t think all the doctors and scientists and medical personnel around the world are conducting a hoax. I have to put my faith in them more than you. You just know what you know… because?