The Biscayne Times

Tuesday
Aug 11th
Time to Start Thinking PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Sell, BT Contributor   
April 2020

Locally and nationally, crisis is a time for a rethink

TPix_MarkSell_4-20he Earth stands still as events cascade. We lather our hands, stand back, and observe the protocols.

This is Friday, March 20 -- ancient history by the time you read these words. Paradox reigns. Alarm mounts, yet all seems quiet. We think of others and try to reach out, but must keep our distance. We will get through this.

Just nine days ago, on March 11 -- a remote epoch -- the traffic at NE 151st Street jammed before sunrise as we lurched past high-schoolers in backpacks, the crossing guard, early birds at the elementary school, old Toyotas zooming way too fast to FIU, strollers, skaters, and dog walkers along the Arch Creek East Nature Preserve and along 135th Street.

Today the temperature is 72 with light clouds, an orange sunrise crowding out an ascending crescent moon as the sky’s azure lightens. Past FIU, through the nature walk and all the way to the wide passive park on 135th Street, not one human, beast, or moving car is in sight.

Hours later, I post the scene on Facebook and get this reply from activist Jim Garrett:

“No unnecessary spending on sweetheart contracts, deals, and leases for your contributors’ friends and no city-sponsored parties, luncheons, dinners, celebrations, seminars, special events, and concerts paid out of the city’s general fund and CRA fund backed by the city’s taxpayers. It is a beautiful day in North Miami.”

Even gathering tsunamis offer unintended blessings. The city is running a $7.5 million deficit today, according to the citizens’ transparency portal, and even with big one-time payments coming in, it faces structural problems and bloat. It is good to stop the music and stick with essential operations

On the way back, a few rollerbladers and dog walkers appear. Two days ago, one young woman with headphones skated by in a black sleeveless jersey with the slogan: “Everything hurts and I am dying.” Today I think I spy her again, but this time the jersey is black with no text. Perhaps we’re calibrating our humor as the news darkens, thinking of Italy, our future by the time you read this or in a month, and people at risk. We greet each other from a dozen feet, not six, and I wonder about the properties of the yellow and purple wildflowers at the side of the road. For me, this is new, and welcome.

On the way back, at David Lawrence K-8, a custodian is hauling a refrigerator to the front, where two women in light-blue shirts and latex gloves wait to distribute drive-up chocolate and regular milk and an apple to drive-in students. Business, they say, is brisk.

At my building, with its skeletal cleaning and maintenance staff all wearing gloves, the neighbor and two dogs enter the elevator, and I wait for the next one, as would they.

Just yesterday, a significant friend led a Zoom virtual meeting and one-hour daily meditation offered by Mindful Kids Miami. With a wobbly Internet, we placed our hands on our hearts and breathed deeply and slowly. One woman was caregiving an ill loved one while herself recovering from pneumonia. She started weeping and collected herself. An e-mail comes from our small church, announcing virtual services. I feel a pang of spiritual hunger and communion.

The cringeworthy financial news brings to mind the quote from the British physicist Ernest Rutherford: “Gentlemen, we have run out of money. It is time to start thinking.”

Projects, work, and money are suddenly on hold, or gone. The pinch is coming to local, state, and federal governments. The last will use its power to print money.

Camera-conscious President Trump presides over the coronavirus press conference as the arrayed government officials look on, as if suppressing pain. The eyes and ears turn to Dr. Anthony Fauci. Grievance powered Trump’s political career and rallies. He prefers to divide and rule rather than unite and govern. That does not work for this moment.

Roosevelt had his hundred days in the depths of the global depression in 1933. Hitler had his at exactly the same time. Both governed from the top and went to work fast, with wildly differing results. One wonders which hundred days the current president would prefer. As historian Robert Caro says, power doesn’t corrupt; it reveals.

Here we are again, and it starts at the bottom, from each of us. Yes, this new pandemic originated in China, as did the Black Death, which started there in 1347, took four years, and killed a third of Eurasia’s population. The global influenza pandemic of 1918 killed 50 million, including 675,000 Americans, before petering out in a year. In the United States, that pandemic was traced to Fort Riley, Kansas, and spread through troop ships to the charnel house of the Western Front. It may have been America First. More than ever, we share one boat and one planet.

Today I am paying close attention to best practices, to science, evidence, health experts, local officials, first responders on the ground, and cautionary voices from Italian hospitals and homes.

As of today, according to two polls, Trump aces Biden in Florida roughly 48-45 percent. More than half of Americans approve of his handling of the coronavirus epidemic so far. It is natural to give the leader, however flawed, the benefit. If he is defeated, he will not go quietly, and some Very Fine People could make things ugly indeed.

Yet when millions of lives are on the line, not even Donald Trump, for all his insistence on the “Chinese virus,” wants more than 2 million Americans dead. There is more to life than winning. One can only be grateful that he has not fired or rage-tweeted Dr. Fauci.

For this is war, and it is time to get creative. The Federal Reserve and government are out of ammunition, with interest rates near zero and trillion-dollar deficits from tax cuts sure to rise. Michael Bloomberg just called for an infrastructure bill before April recess. Nearly $47 triillion in pension and insurance funds around the world -- as of February -- is waiting to invest in sustainable, scalable, local infrastructure projects. It’s time to call in private equity and set up a smart partnership with rigorous standards so thousands of cities and 50 states can participate.

As with the climate crisis, pandemics do not care how red or blue you are, whether your name is Trump or Bloomberg, or even if you like or hate each other. This is one boat.

 

Feedback: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

The Earth stands still as events cascade. We lather our hands, stand back, and observe the protocols.

This is Friday, March 20 -- ancient history by the time you read these words. Paradox reigns. Alarm mounts, yet all seems quiet. We think of others and try to reach out, but must keep our distance. We will get through this.

Just nine days ago, on March 11 -- a remote epoch -- the traffic at NE 151st Street jammed before sunrise as we lurched past high-schoolers in backpacks, the crossing guard, early birds at the elementary school, old Toyotas zooming way too fast to FIU, strollers, skaters, and dog walkers along the Arch Creek East Nature Preserve and along 135th Street.

Today the temperature is 72 with light clouds, an orange sunrise crowding out an ascending crescent moon as the sky’s azure lightens. Past FIU, through the nature walk and all the way to the wide passive park on 135th Street, not one human, beast, or moving car is in sight.

Hours later, I post the scene on Facebook and get this reply from gadfly Jim Garrett:

“No unnecessary spending on sweetheart contracts, deals, and leases for your contributors’ friends and no city-sponsored parties, luncheons, dinners, celebrations, seminars, special events, and concerts paid out of the city’s general fund and CRA fund backed by the city’s taxpayers. It is a beautiful day in North Miami.”

Even gathering tsunamis offer unintended blessings. The city is running a $7.5 million deficit today, according to the citizens’ transparency portal, and even with big one-time payments coming in, it faces structural problems and bloat. It is good to stop the music and stick with essential operations

On the way back, a few rollerbladers and dog walkers appear. Two days ago, one young woman with headphones skated by in a black sleeveless jersey with the slogan: “Everything hurts and I am dying.” Today I think I spy her again, but this time the jersey is black with no text. Perhaps we’re calibrating our humor as the news darkens, thinking of Italy, our future by the time you read this or in a month, and people at risk. We greet each other from a dozen feet, not six, and I wonder about the properties of the yellow and purple wildflowers at the side of the road. For me, this is new, and welcome.

On the way back, at David Lawrence K-8, a custodian is hauling a refrigerator to the front, where two women in light-blue shirts and latex gloves wait to distribute drive-up chocolate and regular milk and an apple to drive-in students. Business, they say, is brisk.

At my building, with its skeletal cleaning and maintenance staff all wearing gloves, the neighbor and two dogs enter the elevator, and I wait for the next one, as would they.

Just yesterday, a significant friend led a Zoom virtual meeting and one-hour daily meditation offered by Mindful Kids Miami. With a wobbly Internet, we placed our hands on our hearts and breathed deeply and slowly. One woman was caregiving an ill loved one while herself recovering from pneumonia. She started weeping and collected herself. An e-mail comes from our small church, announcing virtual services. I feel a pang of spiritual hunger and communion.

The cringeworthy financial news brings to mind the quote from the British physicist Ernest Rutherford: “Gentlemen, we have run out of money. It is time to start thinking.”

Projects, work, and money are suddenly on hold, or gone. The pinch is coming to local, state, and federal governments. The last will use its power to print money.

Camera-conscious President Trump presides over the coronavirus press conference as the arrayed government officials look on, as if suppressing pain. The eyes and ears turn to Dr. Anthony Fauci. Grievance powered Trump’s political career and rallies. He prefers to divide and rule rather than unite and govern. That does not work for this moment.

Roosevelt had his hundred days in the depths of the global depression in 1933. Hitler had his at exactly the same time. Both governed from the top and went to work fast, with wildly differing results. One wonders which hundred days the current president would prefer. As historian Robert Caro says, power doesn’t corrupt; it reveals.

Here we are again, and it starts at the bottom, from each of us. Yes, this new pandemic originated in China, as did the Black Death, which started there in 1347, took four years, and killed a third of Eurasia’s population. The global influenza pandemic of 1918 killed 50 million, including 675,000 Americans, before petering out in a year. In the United States, that pandemic was traced to Fort Riley, Kansas, and spread through troop ships to the charnel house of the Western Front. It may have been America First. More than ever, we share one boat and one planet.

Today I am paying close attention to best practices, to science, evidence, health experts, local officials, first responders on the ground, and cautionary voices from Italian hospitals and homes. As Trump speaks at the televised coronavirus press conference, the eyes turn to Dr. Anthony Fauci and notice the strangled facial expressions of the officials.

As of today, according to two polls, Trump aces Biden in Florida roughly 48-45 percent. More than half of Americans approve of his handling of the coronavirus epidemic so far. It is natural to give the leader, however flawed, the benefit. If he is defeated, he will not go quietly, and some Very Fine People could make things ugly indeed.

Yet when millions of lives are on the line, not even Donald Trump, for all his insistence on the “Chinese virus,” wants more than 2 million Americans dead. There is more to life than winning. One can only be grateful that he has not fired or rage-tweeted Dr. Fauci.

For this is war, and it is time to get creative. The Federal Reserve and government are out of ammunition, with interest rates are near zero and trillion-dollar deficits from tax cuts sure to rise. Michael Bloomberg just called for an infrastructure bill before April recess. Nearly $47 million in pension and insurance funds around the world -- as of February -- is waiting to invest in sustainable, scalable, local infrastructure projects. It’s time to call in private equity and set up a smart partnership with rigorous standards so thousands of cities and 50 states can participate.

As with the climate crisis, pandemics do not care how red or blue you are, whether your name is Trump or Bloomberg, or even if you like or hate each other. This is one boat.

 

Feedback: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 

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