For you today…

It’s a scary time. Whoever you are, you may feel lonely, scared, sick, overwhelmed, desperate, hopeless. If you come upon this post, this is me praying for you, that you feel a sense of God’s peace and comfort. More than that, that God will show you a tangible sign of his love in the next day or so. Amen.


When Covid numbers are the battleground, they have to be right

According to the Florida Department of Health’s website, Orlando Health recently tested 522 people for the Covid and all but ten of them were positive, a 98% positivity rate. The actual positivity rate was less than a tenth of that staggering number, 9.4%.

The Damned Covid

As statistics become the new battleground in the political fights over proper responses to the pandemic, the accuracy of those statistics is vital. In an evolving, fluid circumstance, some of the data will be wrong or misleading. People are people and make mistakes. But when data has limitations, they need to be spelled out. And when a number looks impossibly high, or low, further investigation is required.

Last week Florida made news by having more than 15,000 cases in one day, the most of any state anywhere since the beginning of all time. Except even that number was misleading. According to WTSP in Tampa, Florida, 7,000 of those 15,000 cases went to GENETWORx. Although those 7,000 cases were reported as happening on a single day, they could’ve occurred over four to five days. If you spread the 7,000 cases over 4 days, the correct number would be about 13,250–a lot, but not the record it was claimed to be.

To be fair, the positives happened within a few days of when they were reported to have happened. They didn’t go away. They weren’t something cooked up to affect the election this fall.

But when any assertion is met by an army of people scouring the Internet for sources that contradict that assertion, data accuracy is required.

The public relying on this data for any number of decisions, from whether to send their kids to school to who to vote for in November.

More important, decision-makers are using this data to try to walk a balance between a health apocalypse and economic disaster.


Israel’s experience shows that opening schools is like pulling the pin on a grenade

The Los Angeles Unified School District is the largest in the country. It won’t open its doors when classes start for the fall semester. Neither will schools in San Diego, Atlanta, Nashville, and Polk County, Florida, just east of Tampa. In most, classes will be virtual. In some, openings are being delayed.

These actions, with more likely to follow, are in response to rising numbers of Covid-19 cases in California, Georgia, and various other hot spots around the country. The come in spite of pointed demands to open schools for complete in-person education from President Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and several governors, primarily in red states.

Israel reopened and it didn’t go well. Israel had 10 cases on May 17, the day they announced they’d re-open schools. They’d already started with first-through-third-graders, who were taught in small independent groups called capsules. This approach didn’t cause any increase.

After the capsules worked, Israel threw open the doors and called everyone back. By early June, 244 students, teachers, and staff tested positive for the Covid. As of yesterday, more than two thousand have tested positive. More than 28,000 are in quarantine because of possible infection.

To be clear, it’s unlikely that everyone quarantined will wind up positive. But the numbers are high enough that earlier this month, Israel shut down its summer program in 393 schools. In June, nearly half of the Israelis who tested positive were infected at schools.

If sitting in a bar next to others for a drink or two is at the top of the risk profile, how can sitting in a classroom with a couple dozen other people for six hours not be?

And though children are less likely to catch the Covid, they aren’t immune. They can become carriers and take the disease home to their families. They can have mild cases, but the future impacts are completely unknown. And that’s before you consider the risk to faculty and staff.

Hillsborough, where Tampa is located–and the eighth-largest district in the country, will mandate masks when student return August 10. But students will be in school five days a week. So will staff and faculty.

In Pinellas County, Florida (just west of Tampa), teachers are protesting a re-opening plan that calls for a mix of in-person and online learning. Their protest comes as four Pinellas County hospitals have announced their ICUs are full. Their call for delaying in-person learning until Pinellas County has 14 consecutive days with no new cases. While that may not be feasible, neither is what next-door Hillsborough’s plan, even with masks.

Pinellas County teachers protest a hybrid re-opening model. (Tampa Bay TImes)

And yet, in spite of the science and proof from places like Israel, the push to continue forward continues forward. The complaining about masks continues, with some parents (including at least one woman I know), refusing to send their children with masks.

Masks are a pain in the ass. If I had to wear one all freaking day long, I’d be cranky about it, too. But if my wife or someone else I love died because I didn’t wear the mask, I’d be a lot more than cranky.

To go back to school every day with a full roster is foolhardy. This has nothing to do with the presidential election or my feelings about President Trump. It’s a data-based statement from a country that tried it.

Yes, teaching children in person is better than distance learning for a plethora of reasons. But not sending home thousands of ticking Covid time bombs is more harmful than another month or semester of virtual or hybrid training models.

Finding the balance is hard and the impulse to try to move back to normal is understandable. Sticking to that impulse in the face of rising caseloads, emerging science, and an applicable example that an approach doesn’t work is dangerous and foolhardy.


The difference between canceling and boycotting

Last week, more than 150 liberal writers and activists signed a letter opposing cancel culture. To be clear, these weren’t Trump fans. Signers included Noam Chomsky, Salman Rushdie, and Margaret Atwood, all three liberal icons. Of course, there’s been pushback.

Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez responded in a Tweet, saying, “People who are actually ‘cancelled’ don’t get their thoughts published and amplified in major outlets. This has been a public service announcement.”

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez went on to say that the term cancel culture comes from entitlement, that the people who use it somehow have a right to a large captive audience. People who feel cancelled are being “challenged, held, accountable, or unliked.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

If that were true, she’d be right. Writers, singers, political thinkers, everyone has the right to speak or post their opinion. And everyone has the right to disagree. People even have the right to call for a boycott of that opinion and try to convince others to join the boycott.

It was right when it happened to the Dixie Chicks and it’s right when it happens to more or less conservative opiners today.

It’s all is part of the cost of free expression. When you say something and a lot of people find it repugnant, you should expect to take crap for it.

A boycott does that. Criticism does that.

Cancellation is different. It says that you–the canceller–have decided that certain expression is so heinous that it must be removed. It says that a group of like-minded people will act as gatekeeper for everyone to decide what expression is allowed.

It’s the difference between protesting an unpopular speaker and threatening violence to get the speaker uninvited. The former is protected as a basic part of the First Amendment. The latter is suppression of free speech.

And when the latter happens with enough regularity to seem codified, anything is subject to cancellation for the most arbitrary reasons.

The difference is important. Authors are pulling books back from publication because a group of the anointed purity police have deemed their work to be so bad that no one should be allowed to read it.

When that’s the case, as much as it pains me to say it, Noam Chomsky is right.

And Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, who doesn’t seem to be a close friend of free expression, is wrong.


The Redskins name change is a step forward, but for die-hard fans, it’s a big deal.

When I got married in Northern Virginia in 1992, I exerted very little control over the day’s festivities–which is as it should be. It’s not my day. But I did have one iron-clad rule: at our wedding reception, no more than one repetition of Hail to the Redskins would be allowed.

It was insane how big the Redskins were during the first Joe Gibbs era. To be fair, there was no baseball in Washington at the time. The Bullets were awful and the Capitals were mediocre. But from the time Vince Lombardi came to the Redskins in 1969, through the George Allen era, all the way through Joe Gibbs three-Super Bowl run in the 80s and early 90s, the Redskins owned the sports scene in the DC area.

John Riggins, becoming a Washington legend in Super Bowl XVII

It didn’t hurt that the at least one of the Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles were very good during that time period. Dallas week was a tradition, but the Giants and Eagles weren’t far behind.

For the better part of a quarter century, the Redskins were a premier team in sports’ premier league. Presidents came and went, but the Washington Redskins were part of the fabric of the area.

Yesterday was the last day of the Redskins existence as a sports entity. They’re in the process of renaming the team and will announce today that they’ll no longer be the Redskins. A new name will be picked later.

For most fans, sports evokes strong emotions. I hate the Redskins. It’s a sports hate, which is to say I’ll ridicule them, root against them, and opine that no picture of Joe Theismann is authentic where his mouth is shut.

Joey T, with his mouth shut

I’m a Jets fan because I am and always have been. Same thing for Redskins fans. A true fan develops his or her connection in childhood, and though there may be dalliances here and there, they’ll always be true to their team.

It’s probably appropriate to rename the Redskins. Even though the team logo is, in my view, majestic, the name itself is considered a slur. And fans can’t seem to help themselves from desecrating sacred things, like war paint and headdresses. For me, it’s the same as a priest running around at Padres games, throwing around the sacred body of Christ (sponsored by CheezIt) and blood (sponsored by Welch’s purple grape juice).

But I can understand why fans would push back. For them the word Redskins means the football team. That meaning transcends all other meanings. They grew up on it. If they’re old enough, the celebrated the Redskins. If not, they’ve cursed the Redskins in ways only a fan can.

A young lad finds his first love, and signs up for a lifetime of heartbreak

So yes, the renaming is a step in the right direction. But also yes, people who’ve held a devotion to the team that took that name their entire lives should get some space to get used to the change.

And yes, people have been lobbying against the name for decades, but the actual change itself played out over two weeks.

Most of the fans will probably make the transition. After all, it’s still the same team and the colors and uniforms are unlikely to change in the near term.

But they should also have a little time and space to make that transition.


Julian Edelman shows how to do 2020

Since, this past March, about 23 years ago, I’ve developed a constant low-grade anger and impatience. Sometimes it boils over and I turn into a raging idiot.

Mostly, though, it’s just there, looking for a time to poke it’s way to the surface, like that monster that used to pop out of John Hurt’s chest.

The last time I punched someone in anger, Jimmy Carter was probably President. But if someone were to cough in my face or aggressively approach me about a mask, a large part of me wants to lay them out.

You think you feel threatened now? I’ll drop you like a big whiny Jenga stack, dude.

Or, you know, if you go 33 in the 35, I might get all medieval on your ass (or whatever bad ass quote you want to insert).

I don’t like these things about myself. I suspect I’m not alone.

But, we’re living in complicated times. the George Floyd situation happened and everything from the nation’s capital’s professional football team to the biggest bedroom in your house became potentially racist.

And wearing a mask? Not a hygiene thing. Not a health thing. It’s a political statement involving your love or hatred for truth, justice, and the American way.

Everything is a litmus test.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS CHEESE SELECTION?!?!?!1

In other words, if you’re cranky, it’s probably a sign of sanity. You aren’t wrong to be a little on edge. Accepting that can help you channel it and deal with it better.

Personally, I think if you trash part of a store, act like a three-year-old who hasn’t slept in six weeks, or cough in a cancer patient’s face over a damn mask, you’re acting like a schmuck.

But yelling at you, being condescending, or–God help me–dropping you like Joe Frazier (a really old boxer)–might feel good, but it doesn’t help. It just adds to everyone else’s angst.

Down goes Kare–err, Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!

Last week. Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who is black, used social media to quote Adolf Hitler (erroneously). As you might expect, the quote was wildly anti-Semitic. It traces back to the Black Hebrew Israelites movement. The Souther Poverty Law center has designated 144 of that movement’s groups as hate groups. There are also connections between that movement and a mass shooting at a kosher deli in New Jersey a few months ago.

Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, who is Jewish, had every right to metaphorically drop Jackson like a Jenga stack. Instead, he invited Jackson to tour the Holocaust museum with him and offered to also go to the Museum of African American History and Culture.

Julian Edelman. (Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Even though he’s a member of the New England Patriots, we could use more Julian Edelmans. We need people to ease that low-grade anger, not throw gasoline on its fire.

In that, Edelman should be seen as an inspiration and a challenge to the rest of us.


The Dodgers don’t tag up when clubhouse attendant Chico’s in the outfield

Every once in a while, something frivolous makes you feel a little better, even in the midst of the Covid and the racial issues and everything else that 2020’s had to offer.

This year, the Los Angeles Dodgers outfielders would make about $64 million if a full 162-game schedule was played. But it’s 2020 and the covid is forcing teams to play intrasquad games to help get ready for (theoretical) opening day later this month. And that means sometimes you have to pick up whoever you can to fill in the gaps.

And that brings us to a guy named Chico Herrera, the Dodgers clubhouse attendant. Chico’s a pretty decent ballplayer. He was even invited to a tryout a couple of years ago, but didn’t make the cut. He’s a former Dodgers bat boy

In the last inning of the game–which was televised–Chico filled in in left field. There was a runner on third with less no one out. A fly ball would score him. Cody Bellinger hit the fly ball to left center field.

And Chico caught it and threw a perfect strike on the fly to the Dodgers catcher. If he’d tagged up, he’d have been out by about six miles.

As the Dodger’s announcer said, you don’t run on Chico.


Celebrate the checkbox accomplishments

Except for rest days (and long periods of injury recovery), I try to run almost every day. I start out with a goal and feel accomplishment when I hit the goal. And sometimes I’m irritated at myself when I don’t hit it.

The goal this morning was a little more than five miles. After a spring layoff because of injuries, I’ve had to build back up in the heat. And the heat kicks my ass.

It’s been a slow build, a minute more each day. I reached an hour this week. And going into this morning, I’d managed an hour for a few days and allowed a plateau there. So that was the goal. Sixty minutes, a little more than five miles. (I’m not fast.)

About a mile in, it became clear five miles would be a major push. Two miles in, it became clear five miles wasn’t in the cards. By two and a half miles, I was walking. I finished with a little more than three miles, if you include the walking.

I undershot my goal by 40%.

And that’s okay. It was 81 degrees when I started. And because it’s Florida, it was brutally humid. (After yesterday’s run, my shoes were still a little wet early in the afternoon.)

Some days are like that. Some days you have to just check the box, call it a day, and move on.

I could’ve gone outside, felt the nastiness, and decided not to go. I could’ve called it after a mile.

For the record, my legs feel spent; my thighs feel heavy. So maybe it wasn’t the heat and humidity. Maybe my body was saying to ease off a day.

So I did what I needed to do, more than I could’ve done. And I’m satisfied with that. I wasn’t lazy. I’ve still run almost fourteen miles the last three days. By backing off today, tomorrow will go better.

Sometimes less has to be enough. Sometimes you just have to show up and honor the effort. You can kick yourself for it, or you can celebrate your checkbox accomplishment.


The sad, just story of Mary Kay Letourneau

A lot of people suffer severe childhood trauma and don’t wind up having sex with a 12-year-old when they’re 34. Mary Kay Letourneau wasn’t one of them.

When she was 11 years old, she was in the family pool playing with one of her brothers, Jerry, when her three-year-old brother Phillip drowned. Letourneau, then Mary Kay Schmitz, was a rising sixth-grader at the time. Her father, John Schmitz, was away on business. Her mother, Mary, was working on a campaign to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. She was left to look after the kids.

Phillip was wearing his life jacket at the time, but took it off, and stepped into the deep end of the pool. Dr. Julia Moore, a psychiatrist who evaluated Letourneau before she was jailed as a sex offender in 1997, said her brother’s death as a contributing factor in her downfall. Dr. Moore diagnosed her with manic depression.

Mary Kay Letourneau at her trial

Her father started an affair about the same time as Phillip’s drowning, taking up with former student, a German immigrant with whom he had two children. The betrayal of their mother and family hit hard, particularly Mary Kay.

None of these things make up for the damage Latourneau did. Her, uhh, affair with her student, Vili Fualaau, became tabloid fodder when they were discovered in the back of minivan near Seattle in June 1996. She became pregnant a few months later and in 1997, the same year she gave birth to Fualaau’s daughter, she pled guilty of child rape. On a plea deal, she served just three months in prison, released on the condition that she not have contact with her children, Fualaau, or other minors.

By February 1998, she was found again with Fualaau in a car Her husband, Steve Letourneau, who she met as a student at Arizona State University, divorced her in 1999. The plea agreement was revoked and she served seven and a half years in the Washington (State) Corrections Center for Women. While in prison, she gave birth to the second daughter she had with Fualaau.

Mary Kay Letourneau, Vili Fualaau, and their two daughters, both in their 20s now.

In 2004, she was released from prison and by May 2005, she and Fualaau married. They legally separated last year. She died of cancer this week at the age of 58.

Mary Kay Letourneau, for all the romance attached to her crimes more than two decades ago, raped a rising seventh grader. Her crime is exactly the same as a male teacher having sex with a 12-year-old girl. She blew up her family, causing the same pain–and maybe more–for her children that her father caused her.

She was a convicted sexual predator who couldn’t be around children for a long time because of it. All of that is just and appropriate.

At the time, the media didn’t see it that way. They do now, for the most part.

Most people who victimize other people have been victimized themselves. That doesn’t eliminate their responsibility or the cost of their actions.

But if God dispenses grace, as my faith tradition teaches, then there’s hope even for her. And maybe now some of that pain she carried with her is be salved.


H*milton is evil and must be cancelled. Because race or something.

When Hamilton debuted, there was angst among some conservatives because of the shout outs to immigrants and the fact that several white people were portrayed by people of color. It didn’t matter. Hamilton cleaned up in the 2016 Tony Awards, taking 11 wins. After Vice President Mike Pence attended, his boss, Donald Trump, started a #boycottHamilton campaign. Trump was criticized by the Washington Post, which said his reaction was racially divisive.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and actor in Hamilton

If you got in to see it, you were lucky–you won the ticket lottery (that’s how we got in).

This weekend, to capitalize on people staying home to avoid the Covid, Disney+ made a movie version of the musical, including the original cast, available on streaming.

Now, four years later after its initial release, the reaction is different. A lot of people, including people who couldn’t get in to see the touring version, still watched it.

This time, another boycott Hamilton movement emerged, this one from the left. Only it wasn’t a move to boycott, which says “I’m not going to see this and you shouldn’t, either.” It was a move to cancel it, meaning “no one should be able to see it.” This CNN article says the play’s “righteous, multicultural patriotism…seems now at odds with Black Lives Matter’s strident call for radical change.”

“I’m disappointed.” — Chris, uhh, Hamilton (My absolute apology for my last name.)

The article says “Hamilton is a minefield of mixed messages: Is our takeaway about its main character that he is a revolutionary hero or flawed philanderer? Is its strategy of non-traditional casting a triumph that allows people of color to ‘rise up’ or are they undermined by the irony of how their embodiment as founding fathers ignores the fact that most of the characters they play were slave owners?”

Because heaven forbid that any production not show people as absolutely evil when they’re maybe a little bit evil. How dare you create a nuanced character! Bad! Bad!

In 2020, one of Alexander Hamilton’s sins, is that while he’s an immigrant (something cheered when the play first debuted), he didn’t face systemic discrimination. So it’s not like he was really an immigrant. Another sin was that he married into the Schuyler family, and Philip Schuyler, his father-in-law, was so horrible that his statue was removed from in front of Albany (NY) city hall.

See ya, Phil. Lin-Manuel should’ve know about you.

In essence, the play should’ve accommodated 2020 sensibilities, even though it was written in 2015. It’s place in history is completely irrelevant. Any failure to accommodate today is grounds for cancellation. Hence, the #cancelHamilton hashtag trending on the Twitter.

In 2020, there’s no understanding of context, no nuance, and absolutely no grace. Once racist, always racist. Hamilton must be retroactively condemned for its 2015 sensibilities. If the play, whose creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is sympathetic to racial justice causes, is worthy of condemnation, what about things whose history isn’t so pure?

Although the Texas Rangers have stopped their racist, violent acts against Mexicans and minorities, the Rangers baseball team must be renamed. The team never actually did any of those things, but that doesn’t matter. It’s 2020.

And if Hamilton must be cancelled, why not Major League Baseball. For sixty years, a color barrier prevented blacks from playing. It’s been 73 years since that barrier fell, but it’s 2020 and any sins are permanent.

Hall of Fame Plaque for Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, whose “integrity and leadership” included defense of the Major League color barrier/ #cancelHOF

And what about people who were younger and did stupid, racist things, like…ohhhh…me? It’s 2020. Those things are unacceptable.

This guy told horrible “jokes” in the early 80s. #cancelHamilton (He could lay off the spice drops, too.)

A huge majority of Americans supports reforms that prevent people from being assaulted and killed for their skin color (or other ridiculous attributes). People of color have been remarkably welcoming to we who are Johnny-come-latelies. Our allying with them has been welcomed.

But purity tests around things like Hamilton, The Masters golf tournament, and even the use of master bedroom or master suite seem to demand complete adherence. If you’re not demanding change of these racist names, you aren’t really an ally–you aren’t anti-racist. And if you aren’t anti-racist, you’re racist.

#cancelHGTV. Dammit.

Yeah, this is probably tone policing, but the play, the golf tournament, and every damn show in HGTV aren’t the cause of systemic discrimination and violence against people of color. And on the list of symptoms of that system, they aren’t in the top million.

Sometimes, it’s just about exercising power and telling people what to do. It’s as divisive as anything Trump does and it doesn’t help with the larger goal.


Want to kill him? Go ahead, but do me first

Over the holiday weekend, a black man named Vauhxx Rush Booker was attacked on public property near Bloomington, Indiana by people who allegedly assaulted him and threatened to lynch him. His Facebook post, including video, is displayed below.

There aren’t words to describe how truly vile this is. In a free country, you don’t get beaten and killed for simply walking on a path on public property.

And while it’s not happening everywhere everyday, it happens enough that a reasonable black person could wonder if they’ll be next murder victim leading the evening newscast.

This isn’t Jussie Smollett making things up. It’s not whining about white Jesus or the Redskins July 4. This is a man being assaulted and threatened with lynching while he walked on public property.

The guy next to the fat guy in the tanktop is Vauhxx Rush Booker, pinned to a tree. They wanted to lynch him.

What the video. Watch all of it.

What would’ve happened if others weren’t there? What would’ve happened if there weren’t people with phones recording it?

What would happen if you were there?

I’d be scared. I wouldn’t want to die. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t leave a fellow human being to be murdered that way.

I hope my response would be something like “Okay. Go ahead. But me first.” Then I hope one of the other people there would say the same thing. And someone else and someone else.

How many people do you want to murder just to vent your filthy racist rage? How long do you want to go to prison for?

You can’t kill everyone. Eventually, if enough people step forward and say “Me first,” the point will sink in.

I don’t care about the damn Indians and Redskins. Not today.

I care deeply about seeing a fellow American assaulted and almost killed by assholes who think God anointed them to be the great white saviors of a culture the deserves to die.

So seriously, go ahead.

But if you’re gonna kill him, you gotta kill me first.