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Let’s Do This!

(I wrote this for the Urban News in October 2020.)

It should come to no surprise to anyone who reads this that I’m a trauma surgeon. Why am I a trauma surgeon? Because I love taking care of people in need.

There is almost no one more needy than someone who is having a normal day and then something awful happens. They were in a car crash; they fell off a roof; they fell off their bike; or, God forbid, they got shot. Trauma patients need help. I guess you could look at my job as someone who repairs injuries and protects patients from further harm.

Harm

The President of the United States takes an oath to protect the American people. I understand that on the one hand, such a broad promise to protect all Americans can never be kept. Right now, as I’m typing this, someone is downing a drink and is getting ready to drive—and putting themselves and others in harm’s way. Somewhere else an angry husband is threatening his wife, and a child is about to run out into the street into the path of an oncoming car.

So, we can have unrealistic expectations of what our presidents can do. Yet, when a pandemic comes, we expect our president to do everything in his/her power to protect us from whatever this evil is. We expect them to mobilize the resources of the federal government. We expect that personal protective equipment will be available to all medical personnel. We expect that patients who require medications to save their lives will get them.

Unfortunately, under President Donald Trump, none of this happened. Hospitals have run out of shoe covers, operating room caps, and the all-important N-95 masks. Some hospitals even ran out of ventilators. The president’s son-in-law even refused to distribute some equipment where it was needed, saying “It’s ours.” And Americans died.

Just the other day, the Wall Street Journal covered a New Jersey nursing home, Menlo Park, in which 101 nursing home residents died from Covid19. Residents were not encouraged to wear masks. The nursing home did not isolate infected patients from those who were not infected. Nor did they encourage (much less enforce) social distancing.

This nursing home was, in my opinion, incompetent. This nursing home was reckless. And more than 100 nursing home residents died because of this recklessness.

Yet, sadly, we have seen this exact same behavior from our president. He is having rallies (which is not safe). He is having announcement parties at the White House with over 500 guests (which is also not safe). He is not wearing a mask. He does not encourage others to wear masks. There is no social distancing. So, the fact that the White House became a “super spreader” location should come as no surprise to anyone.

Donald Trump and the White House have ignored medical advice. Over 20 people, including the First Lady, Senior Advisor Stephen Miller, two or three GOP senators (including North Carolina’s Thom Tillis), the White House press secretary, former advisor Kellyanne Conway, and former NJ Governor Chris Christie have all tested positive for the coronavirus.

Irresponsible Recklessness

Donald Trump has given progressives ample reasons for us not to support him and his reelection. He pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accords. He pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal which was working. He did his best to destabilize NATO, comprising our closest allies, while aligning us with our deadliest rival, Russia.

Trump pulled us out of NAFTA, only to rewrite a deal that looked almost exactly like NAFTA. He started a trade war with China with no stated objective and hurt American farmers with trade policy—and then used taxpayer money to keep those famers from blaming him. Furthermore, Trump is openly a racist and a sexist. I think that he is also a rapist—and there’s ample evidence that he’s a crook, a tax-cheat, and a money-launderer. Progressives have a lot of reasons to vote for anyone who is not Trump.

The beauty of Donald Trump’s response to his own Covid 19 infection underscores his own irresponsible recklessness. (more…)

By |2020-11-02T20:46:25-04:00November 2nd, 2020|Civil Rights, Domestic Issues, Elections|Comments Off on Let’s Do This!

May 2020 Newsletter – Worst President Ever

I wrote this for the May 2020 issue of the Urban News.

I have been trying to think of some tune that would elevate my mood. I thought of “Love Train” by the O’Jays. Of course, there’s Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” Then there’s Katrina’s “Walking on Sunshine.” But none of these tunes really seem to hit the spot. Ricky Martin’s “Living La Vida Loca,” James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” is a perennial pick-me-up, but not this time. Finally, there is “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

Well, I’m sorry, but I’m in a funk. None of these tunes is changing my mood. As of this writing, the United States has more than 1.1 million Americans who been infected with the coronavirus and more than 70,000 deaths. 70,000! That is more than three-quarters of the population of Asheville. (To put this in perspective, there were 39,773 firearm deaths in the US for all of 2017.)

This is why I am dysphoric. I know that Jared Kushner, president’s son-in-law and top aide, recently said that the administration has done an outstanding job with the coronavirus. My first response is “HAH!” That is not reality; that is political posturing. The Trump administration has done a terrible job.

Petri Dishes for the Coronavirus

Last month, in this newspaper, I stressed that I was worried about nursing homes. In nursing homes there is the perfect combination of elderly patients, close quarters, and a population with multiple comorbidities. That is the perfect environment for the coronavirus to grow, thrive, and kill.

Unfortunately, I was right. Many states did not enact any specific legislation to safeguard nursing homes. Facilities across the country became a fertile breeding ground for the coronavirus. Here in West Virginia, in Wayne County, 30 of the 41 residents at one nursing home tested positive for the novel coronavirus, as did 34 of the 68 staff—50%—in a county with a total population of less than 40,000. There were seven deaths from this one nursing home. After nursing homes made the national news, governors across the nation began enacting proclamations to make nursing homes safer, but it seems a little too late.

Unfortunately, when I was writing my newsletter last month, I didn’t even think about prisons. Prisons are overcrowded. So it’s not a surprise that at the Cook County jail, in Chicago, 276 inmates and 172 correctional officers tested positive for the coronavirus. Again, this is the perfect combination of people in close quarters who can easily and rapidly spread the virus between each other. Some prisons are trying to release some prisoners early in order to decrease overcrowding. One federal prison in Washington DC is shipping over 100 prisoners to West Virginia to decrease overcrowding. I am not sure if it is possible to do social distancing in a prison. This is a problem that no one seems all that eager to solve.

Huge coronavirus outbreaks are taking place at large meat processing plants. It appears that the owners of these plants did little to change their practices to try to decrease the possibility of a coronavirus infection. Over 20 of these plants have closed down because of coronavirus outbreaks—and now even Wendy’s is running out of hamburgers at some of its outlets! In his infinite wisdom (please understand, I’m inserting as much sarcasm as I can with eyerolling), President Trump signed an executive order ordering meat processing plants to stay open. Trump did not order these meatpacking plants to furnish all their workers with masks. He didn’t order them to begin testing all of their workers for the virus. He didn’t order frequent hand washing or social distancing. Instead, he issued an executive order which seems to make the problem worse.

(more…)

By |2020-06-02T06:35:28-04:00June 2nd, 2020|Coronavirus, Elections|Comments Off on May 2020 Newsletter – Worst President Ever

My problem with Bernie

Bernie Sanders is a smart, thoughtful senator from Vermont. I remember, before he ran for president in 2016 or, this time, in 2020, he was a regular on the Thom Hartmann radio program. He was there almost every Friday. Sen. Sanders and Thom Hartmann, one of the smartest man in radio, would discuss the events of the week. Bernie Sanders would then take calls from people who called into the radio program. If he didn’t know something, he said he didn’t know it. Frequently, though, he was able to expound on what ever question the caller had and explained what the progressive solution would be to that problem.

My problem with Bernie Sanders is threefold. First, Bernie Sanders is only a Democrat when he is running for president. The reason that he decided to run as a Democrat is because it is nearly impossible to win the presidency as an independent. Bernie Sanders needed the Democratic apparatus. There is nothing wrong with this. It is just an important thing for us to factor into the whole equation.

Secondly, Race. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has lived in America for more than 1/2 an hour that we have a race problem in this country. Is the problem better than it was 40 years ago? Yes, undoubtedly. Black families and Hispanic families have a total net income which is significantly less than white families. This is a fact. Why is this? What can the government due to help fix this inequality? These are questions which Sen. Sanders is uncomfortable in addressing. We all remember four years ago when he was confronted by Black Lives Matter. Bernie Sanders froze. He had no answer. He had to get with his advisers and he spent three or four days formulating a policy before he could answer. His answer was halting. It was not fluid. It was awful. In my opinion, no matter what problems we face in the United States, we have to come up with multicultural solutions in order for the solutions to work for everyone.

Thirdly, Sen. Sanders seems to have an all or nothing approach to politics. Politics is about give-and-take. Politics is about negotiation. Bernie has lots of great ideas – Medicare for all, no tuition colleges and more. Yet, it really doesn’t matter what kind of progressive wave crosses the United States, it is nearly inconceivable that the Democrats will have super majorities in both the House and the Senate. Without super majorities, he’s gonna have trouble passing any sweeping legislation. Democrats will not all fall in line like Republicans. Many Democrats will want to negotiate the finer points in the legislation. Many will have their own ideas which they will think are better than what Sanders has put forward. If Sen. Sanders doesn’t want to negotiate, then the legislation doesn’t get passed. Right now, we need victories. We need to slowly move the country in a progressive direction. I’m afraid that an all or nothing approach will leave us with nothing.

Finally, in spite of the fact that Bernie Sanders has a very energetic and passionate following, I’m not sure that’s going to matter, in the end. Somehow Bernie Sanders went from being the obvious front runner after winning Nevada to being a second-tier candidate after losing South Carolina and super Tuesday. Whatever momentum Bernie Sanders had, he has lost it. In order to win in November, we need a united Democratic party. We don’t need animosity. We don’t need bitter feelings. Can Bernie Sanders help fix this? I really don’t know.

By |2020-03-06T18:09:38-04:00March 6th, 2020|Elections|Comments Off on My problem with Bernie
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