Earth Day and Gaylord Nelson

So, it is another beautiful day in Happy Meadows. That is, it was beautiful yesterday when I started to write this. However, it is now today, a dark and stormy day. I hope you are all well and somewhat, at least, enjoying your new life in the midst of a crisis. Unfortunately, for many it is hardly enjoyable. This would include the sick, the elderly, the newly unemployed, the financially strapped, the homeless, the hungry, the overworked healthcare workers, public safety workers, public servants who have to make hard decisions, and those for whom life is not enjoyable even in more normal times. Many people, though, are enjoying an opportunity to slow down, spend more time with their families, breathe cleaner air,  and spend less money.

With so many people staying home, many consequences you would never have thought of have occurred. On Monday the price of oil went negative. That meant that if you had a tanker of oil headed for port, looking for a buyer, you would have to pay someone to take the oil off of your hands. Like that would ever happen. But the demand has plummeted. Air travel is down over 90%. Other businesses have lost their customer base. There was an article in the paper yesterday morning about a pet walking and sitting service whose business has dried up because people are staying home. There were 3 pictures of the owner of the business in the paper, a lot of coverage for this kind of story. I checked, and there were only 2 pictures of the governor of Georgia in the paper (unless you want to count Mike Luckovich’s cartoon, which depicts the governor in a reprise of that stupid campaign photo where he was pointing a shotgun at some kid. I think it was his son.) If you count the cartoon he ties the pet service owner.

And speaking of the governor, he has stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest here in Georgia this week, and is getting a lot of ink in the national press. How did he do this, you ask? He had ordered a “shelter in place” for the state early this month, which seems to have been working to slow the increase in deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic. We don’t really know how wide-spread the virus is because of the very limited number of tests that have been done. As of 2 days ago somewhat over 82,000 people had been tested in a state of 10 million people. That is less than 1% of the population. We have had a little over 21,000 positive cases and so far 846 people have died. Scientists agree that the only safe way to open things back up towards normal will depend on having the capacity to do wide-spread testing and aggressive contact tracing for people who test positive for the virus. We are not close to being able to do that. We also need to be able to test to see how many people in the population have antibodies to the virus that would make them immune from recontracting and spreading the infection.

The state is in a very serious financial mess because of the shut-down in business. Tax receipts are way down, and we are going to experience a significant shortfall in revenue. The state is required by its constitution to have a balanced budget, and the budget has to be passed by June 30. Georgia is running short for this fiscal year, and the legislature isn’t even in session because of the epidemic. Without a huge infusion of cash from the federal government Georgia is in big trouble. So, I would agree that the governor has a major headache to deal with, and I’m glad it is his problem and not Mike’s.  The challenge is to try to save both lives and livelihoods.

Surprisingly and seemingly prematurely though, on Monday the governor announced that he is relaxing the shut-down order and allowing some businesses to reopen. For some reason, he found it necessary to make himself look ridiculous in the process. How did he do this? He did this by specifying barber shops, massage therapists, bowling alleys, and tattoo parlors as among the first businesses to reopen.What was he thinking, and doesn’t he have people to advise him on policy decisions? He took a page from the Florida governor’s book. Ron DeSantis has declared professional wrestling to be an “essential service” in Florida. Mike says that on Friday he is going bowling, and on the way home stop for a haircut and a tattoo. Maybe he will get a tattoo of the governor holding a shotgun pointed at some kid emblazoned on his chest. And next week the restaurants will be allowed to reopen. I think people will be very cautious about getting back into circulation. Most business owners are very responsible, and will operate first out of safety considerations. Probably, the governor is depending on this. Shockingly, the president last night criticized the governor for his action. This after expressing urgency to open things up, and telling the governors the decisions are up to them. Some people say the president’s public health team encouraged him to try to slow things down. Mike suspects he just took an opportunity to bust the governor in the chops, still resenting him for not appointing his own choice, Doug Collins, to the senate. In any case, we are getting mixed messages from our leaders. Not helpful.

And, the haters are coming out of the woodwork. Conspiracy theorists are blaming the Jews. Mike saw a post on line structured as an official post from both the CDC and the WHO. It was headed “What to do if you get COVID-19.” Among the suggestions were to visit your local mosque, visit your local synagogue, spend time in diverse neighborhoods, and spend the day on public transport. In other words, spread the disease to as many “undesirables” as possible. SAD!!!

So, yesterday was the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, the idea of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, a progressive liberal and ardent conservationist. He was born and raised in Clear Lake, Wisconsin. How could anyone from a place called Clear Lake not be an environmentalist? He was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School, and served 2 terms as governor of Wisconsin. He revived the Democratic Party there just at the time that Senator Joseph McCarthy was dragging the Republicans down with his anti-communist witch hunt. He initiated a strong environmental program in Wisconsin with a great deal of public support. Elected to the senate, he carried the same energy and enthusiasm for the environment into his legislative efforts while meeting with a great deal of resistance from industry. So, he turned to the people and proposed April 22, 1970, as a day of protest about the state of the environment. The rest, as they say, is history. Congress went ahead with significant reforms in a series of environmental preservation laws including the Clean Water Act, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and the Clean Air Act. He did not limit his energy to saving the environment, and was an early and vocal opponent of the Viet Nam War, as well as a supporter of President Johnson’s War on Poverty, and of civil rights legislation. Gaylord Nelson was one of Mike’s heroes. Here is a statement of Nelson’s philosophy: “Environment is all of America and its problems. It is the rats in the ghetto. It is a hungry child in a land of affluence. It is housing not worthy of the name; neighborhoods not fit to inhabit.” In 1995 Senator Nelson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. No one has deserved it more.

So, that is all for today from Happy Meadows. We send all of you our love, and hope you stay safe and healthy, stay positive, and don’t let anything get you down. Don’t forget to do your part to make the world a better place, in small if not in large ways. There is and always will be a lot that needs to be done.  Bye, bye!


Author: Black Magic

Black Magic is a handsome, charming, and self-absorbed cat who lives with Mike and Judy Gordon in Marietta, Georgia. He is about 7 years old, and he will remind you at every opportunity that his grandfather was Black Jack, that famous cat who wrote his own autobiography. Black Magic has a great many opinions, and despite his natural feline arrogance, he seems to be genuinely spiritual. But the reader can decide for him/herself.

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