About Punt King

Punts, Kicks

A knot in my stomach developed three and a half weeks ago (March 9 and 10) after reading and watching accounts from doctors and nurses in Bergamo, Italy.

After about ten days worth of dawdling, New York City finally got its cue to stay home at close of business on March 22.

The reluctance by those in charge here and everywhere to issue confinement orders is driven by the crushing economic impact of restrictions on movement, albeit un-enforced. Weighing heavily on the governor of New York as he dragged his feet on a shutdown was consideration of panic.

It was a balancing act that delayed prudent and firm guidance. I kinda get it. Cuomo knows the delicate axis the city is spinning on and chose his words carefully. He took to task those using the misguided “shelter in place” phrase. Stay at home, he said instead. Go out for a walk if there’s space. Grocery shopping and booze runs are ok.

Cuomo is getting plaudits for his daily TV performances. A crisis like this creates excellent opportunities for leaders to lead. Cuomo has seized it. But it doesn’t erase the uninterrupted, bush-league disrespect he gives our mayor. It also doesn’t make all the dirty cash in Cuomo’s campaign account turn clean.

But it’s who we got right now. Cuomo at noon every day with the fact-based power point slides and family sketches and “we’re gonna kick Corona Virus ass” declaration. Then the mayor comes on at 5 PM with heroic Dr. Katz representing our uniquely open-armed public hospital system. When deBlasio and Katz finish, the tabloid kids lob degradation-of-humanity queries at him about portable morgues and who-gets-saved when we run out of ventilators.

On the latter concern, we’re learning from Cuomo and deBlaz that only 15-20 percent of Covid patients who go on a ventilator come off alive.

Even with those odds, both are scrambling to understand what the next few weeks look like as NYC health care capacity splits at the seams. Katz estimates ventilators run out Sunday upcoming.

I quit watching the President. When he took visible and verbal delight at news that Romney had self-isolated out of concern he’d been exposed, that was enough for me.

The double-byline piece by Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman on the front page of the March 22 Times perfectly summed up Trump’s management of this crisis. It said in part: “Mr. Trump’s performance on the national stage in recent weeks has put on display the traits that Democrats and some Republicans consider so jarring – the profound need for personal praise, the propensity to blame others, the lack of human empathy, the penchant for rewriting history, the disregard for expertise, the distortion of facts, the impatience with scrutiny or criticism. For years, skeptics expressed concern about how he would handle a genuine crisis, and now they know.”

The double edged sword for me personally is the job is still going. I’m going in every day on an increasingly unreliable subway train at 215 in the morning. Almost all the workers who used that train up until the virus took over are at home now. They were my safety buffer. Remaining only are the people who don’t have a home and the troublemakers who suddenly have a blank canvas to paint their next picture. It’s scary at times. Ridership in the middle of the night now comprises vulnerable, unhealthy people who want out of an ill-equipped shelter system, crooks and just a scant few “essential” workers trying to navigate a way into work. When I saw a guy dressed in medical scrubs on the platform at Grand Central a few mornings ago, I followed him into the same car. But a lot of nights when I get on at Delancey, I’m on the edge of my seat for the first time in my life using public transit.

Once I get to work, I don’t feel in any way essential watching/coordinating near-empty flights as they come and go. It actually feels reckless to put people on a plane from LaGuardia bound for less-infected cities at this point.

Why are we continuing to operate flights to and from the current epicenter of the pandemic? The lone public person I’ve seen discuss this question is Chuck Todd on Meet the Press last Sunday. He asked Dr. Birx how commercial flight activity in and out of New York meshes with stop-the-spread guidance. Birx said the flights are needed for movement of health care professionals.

The only other explanation that makes an ounce of sense came from a co-worker who said the airlines want to show the country that “they’re not giving up.”

My hope has been and continues to be that LaGuardia gets shut down temporarily – allowing either or both of the two international airports on either side of the river to act as outlets for coordinated emergency flight activity.

Most depressing aside from the images, interviews and reporting on the human toll at the hospitals are all the shuttered businesses across the city. Behind all the handmade signs announcing closure in the store windows are people at home without an income source.

There’s zero pulse on the Lower East Side, the East Village and Jackson Heights where I walked a few days ago. Stores selling food that are still open have long lines outside the entrance. People look scared. It feels like people are sizing each other up as healthy or not.

Stating the obvious, the virus isn’t at all compatible with how this city works and all that makes it great in good times, even previous bad times.

The knot in my stomach is the result of the anxiety I feel about what the city has become, what it will look like when we come out of this and how much worse it’ll get before we get to the other side.

My immediate family members are all sound and well accounted for at the moment in suburban Chicago. That gives me comfort. My middle brother has enabled the video function on our phone conversations so I can see his clan virtually.

For the gap in live music, I’ve warmed to the rock and rollers doing virtual gigs via Instagram including a wonderful set from several Exploding in Sound artists last week. Dan Francia did a fantastic cover of Blink’s “Time” and Becca Ryskalczyk (wearing a Buffalo Bills sweatshirt) belted beautifully on her Bethlehem Steel song “Deep Back.” The volume of her howls were such that at song’s end she looked up at the ceiling of her apartment. “My neighbors are gonna kill me,” she grinned.

Carl from the band Kal Marks played the first tune of his set in the key of F. Why?, he said with a smile, “Because we’re all F’d.”

When the President of France tries to steer away from hard-won tenets of an advanced social democracy, the people there take to the streets. 

Here in the U-S, we watch our executive-in-chief trash government traditions rooted in decency and respect of law without any broad ground-based resistance.  Instead, we’re pinning false hopes on impeachment.   

It all feels hollow and tiring at the moment.  

Lifelong diplomats advancing US policy interests abroad watched Rudy push them out of the way so he could extract a political favor from a vulnerable just-elected President of Ukraine.  We have enough people under oath now to consider that fact.  

Had Trump (with Rudy as the bag man) just stayed out of the way and green-lit aid without condition, the exhaustive Hunter Biden probe would have come from better, American-based journalists anyway.  In fact, the New Yorker piece that was published July 1 laid the foundation of what Trump was looking for.      

Yeah, the New York Times is in blatant “there’s nothing there” mode when it comes to Hunter Biden drawing checks from a crooked Ukranian gas company while having few qualifications beyond linkage to his Dad.  But the inevitable glare on a presidential campaign would unearth the dicey-ness of Biden’s time in Ukraine if it didn’t already in the New Yorker piece.   

After news of the whistleblower complaint broke, I personally remained opposed to impeachment based largely on how bad the Democratic Party leadership in both chambers botched the Mueller hearings.  I had zero faith a way more complex politicized process would proceed in a fashion that is orderly and respectful of the constitution.  

I hear those like AOC who say this administration’s egregiously underhanded conduct with a foreign government – and the President’s unwillingness to allow a shred of transparency on those interactions demands formal repudiation because his actions constitute election meddling. 

But the chance for true repudiation comes in the form of a vote for president on the first Tuesday of November in 2020. 

The people elected this guy in 2016.  Using impeachment to dislodge him requires a big stack of bipartisan support in the upper chamber – and that’s not happening.  Even if by some miracle the senate convicts, we’re into next year and the full grind of the 2020 campaign. 

Is not a cleaner, more decisive and healthier result in an advanced democracy a win in the electoral college?   

My distaste for the current president lies not with his art-less, outside the boundaries dealmaking – rather it’s his recklessly obsessive and gravely damaging contempt for the environment and immigrants.  

The two images I’ll never be able to erase from my memory of this man: 1. when he tossed rolls of paper towels as if they were footballs for a photo op at a relief distribution center in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria destroyed large parts of the island (while he pinched the pursestrings of meaningful aid and feuded with elected leaders there as they were submerged)  and 2. his Tweet mocking Greta Thunberg and her speech at the UN. 

The only value I see in the impeachment hearings so far is learning about how career diplomats at the state department (George Kent was especially enlightening) carry out their duties.  

Back to the France tie-in:  The weekly gilets jaunes demonstrations across that country (pictured above – from the large Toulouse march I observed on 10-12-19) are now a year-long and counting social movement reacting to the same types of abuses of power seen here.  In terms of duration and intensity, the gilets jaunes are becoming one of the greatest sustained protest movements of my adult life. The French take to the streets and make decision-makers rethink or at least weigh the consequences of their actions.  Similarly powerful regular people-driven movements are happening in Hong Kong and Santiago, too.

Here, we limit our voices.  We sit back and watch a slow, waste-of-time show aimed listlessly at undoing an election.  The people behind the ouster effort take the same dirty money from polluters and defenders of the wealth gap as the guy and his supporters on the other side of the fight.

We don’t react loudly and forcefully enough to make the power abusers uncomfortable about their outrageousness.  

If anything, impeachment and all that goes with it will strengthen the will of this President’s uniquely set-in-their-ways supporters who I would have hoped might have walked away from him in 2020 on the merits.  

As I sit here one year out, I can’t fathom a re-election win for Make it Great but if he gets four more, I’d hope the lines he’ll continue to cross will be met with a loud and strong citizenry that needs to get off its collective ass.