Sunday, March 22, 2020

Co-(vid) Education

Whither Betsy DeVos?

Here is the Secretary of Education at a crisis point in American education and she is...silent. Don't get me wrong; under normal circumstances I would welcome, indeed pay for, silence from Ms. DeVos. Her disdain for, and ignorance of, public education, will unfortunately become one of the lasting effects of the Trump Administration and the era of conservatism that seems to be unraveling. I certainly understand that public schools are the purview of the states, but it would be nice to have the Secretary of Education deliver an address or a letter that outlines the objectives that all schools need to meet with online education. I guess if you don't educate for money, Ms. DeVos doesn't want to hear from you. This is more than disappointing. It's malpractice.

Of course, we know that this administration as a whole is educationally-challenged, beginning with the president. His history of undermining and ignoring science has finally caught up to him, and us. In the last few days, he's even hyped drugs that people with lupus need to live as a possible remedy for Covid-19 (19, 20, whatever it takes). This bit of irresponsibility could cause severe shortages for a medicine that we don't know will actually address the virus. And that doesn't even take into account the fact that the president says he knew there would be a pandemic, after denying it and blaming the hype on the Democrats. Could they also have White House briefings where people stand six feet apart from each other? Anthony Fauci should know better. I want to see him in a space suit.

And speaking of blaming it on the Democrats (we were and don't you deny it), along comes this parable about conservative FOX-watching Americans who were sure that Covid-19 was a fake until...wait for of their own contracted it. I sincerely hope that the man who is sick gets better soon and I am not in any way engaging in schadenfreude. What gets me is that people actually believe politicians in times of health emergencies. Or in this case, they believe that the Chinese created this disease for the purpose of unleashing it on their people and Americans in order for the Democrats to subvert the president and undermine his leadership. I just don't understand that serpentine illogic. The article also tells of how the conservative media saw the Covid threat as overblown, so the people dismissed the warnings and didn't take the necessary precautions. That's the danger inherent in an administration that blames and vilifies the media.

Finally, what happens when there's a shot for Covid-19 and the anti-vaccinators rebel? I don't have an answer. I just pose the question.

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Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Covidian Epoch Begins


What do you think will happen with this company?

If you eat enough matzoh, you won't need as much toilet paper. I know that it's not Passover just yet and it's forbidden to eat the new matzoh before the first Seder, but these are unique and troubling times. If God has anything to do with Covid-19, how much angrier could he get if we rip open the Yehuda and solve a supply and demand problem? You could add some horseradish for flavor, and after three days you will not need to worry about paper shortages.

Do you still know somebody who denies that the virus is real? Here's a handy guide to articles that you can use to answer them, if indeed you are still on speaking terms with them. I know that it must hurt some people's brains to hear the president and others say that the virus is a foreign weapon or an impeachment grade left-wing terrorist plot one day, then say that it is indeed real and that the president actually had dinner with it last week (as with most things related to Trump, it came back negative). I guess anything can get into Mar-a-Lago if it knows somebody. The worst part, though, is that Brazillians of people could now be exposed. And will the president pass his test? Film at 11.

Not to sound too imperious, intelligent and superior, but this blogger began stocking up on necessities three weeks ago. I bought canned goods, pasta, Tastykakes (Juniors and Kandykakes, peanut butter and chocolate), chicken and paper goods at the warehouse boutique, and filled up the mower gas tank just in case the Russians and/or Saudis got frisky with the world supply. Turns out I overpaid on early gasoline, but the interest on my equity loan is now less than a whole number, so I'm going to let x equal whatever it wants for a while.

And a while it will be before the students and I traipse back through the schoolhouse gate. It's Zoom and Skype and Google Meet and sharing documents across the divide for at least two weeks while we flush out the bad humors from the tony woods of Somerset and Morris Counties. We are still running a timed schedule and do have to meet with our students over the interweb, so it will be an adventure for a while. Of course, if you have younger children in grade school, I'm not sure how that will work. Nap time will now be graded.

If you like good news, you can always take a gander at the daily polls, which, and I know it's early, show that there seem to be more and more citizens out there who don't want the president around the White House after January 20. Even Arizona looks a bit wobbly for the Republicans at this juncture. If the market rebounds and the virus doesn't approach doomsday predictions, the president could make a comeback, but it seems like every time he has what's called a good week, he steps on it with statements or actions that clearly show that he's broken up with facts and science. If they were ever seeing each other.

Stay safe. No high-fives. Six feet apart. Read a book.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Saturday, February 29, 2020

M-M-M-My Corona

When you've been anti-science for most of your administration, then science is going to eventually catch up to you. And when you've based your entire agenda on tweets that say little more than things are great, then when things get not so great, it will catch up to you.

And it has.

The president and his allies have politicized the Coronavirus to the point that he now owns everything about it, including our health, its effect on the stock market, consumer confidence, and his administration's emergency response abilities. So far, the virus has not spread beyond a few cases, but viruses don't belong to political parties, nor are they Democratic Socialists. What is true today could be entirely different tomorrow. I hope that means that things will get better, but like most of the president's efforts, I can't say that I am confident in  his abilities to manage a volatile situation. He creates one heck of a volatile situation, but managing? Prove me wrong.

I can't say that I'm any more secure in the knowledge that Mike Pence is in charge of the anti-virus efforts. Here's a man who, as Governor of Indiana, had to pray for two days before approving a needle exchange program to curb the spread of HIV. Say what you want about my lack of religious faith, but when it comes to saving lives, especially of those who can spread deadly diseases, I don't need more than a few minutes to make my decision. It's part of my heathen charm.

And this is why I'm suspicious of the anti-science, religious crowd. I understand that Pence didn't approve of drug users, but essentially thinking about letting some die because they were leading immoral lives is unacceptable. Remember that even the patron saint of the GOP, Ronald Reagan, waited five years before acknowledging AIDS. Millions of people died while he dithered and refused to listen to his science guy, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, and ignored warnings that this could spread to other populations aside form gay men. And it did.

So you'll excuse me if I do not ultimately trust the instincts of the even-more religious people in the presidents orbit. This is not divine retribution. It's a virus. By all means, pray for its demise and for the health of humans everywhere, but I don't want to hear that Mike Pence or Mick Mulvaney or Mike Pompeo are using anything but science to defeat it.

As for the economy, the stock market is reflecting the seriousness of the outbreak on the global supply chain and corporate profits, but the real story is Mick Mulvaney's plea for more immigrants. It's one thing to control the border; it's quite another to ignore decades of data that shows how much the United States depends upon immigrant labor for the growth of our economy. In many parts of the country, including New York, immigrants have provided the only growth in the population. The president's immigration policies, but more significantly, his rhetoric about the evils of immigration will be his, and our, undoing. The economy is creating jobs, but if there aren't enough employees, then all kinds of nasty things will happen including an inflationary spiral as dollars chase a limited supply of workers.

Economics is a science, no? And we know how this administration loves science.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest