Archive for May, 2020

Now, class, I’ve got three graphics to show you today, so don’t doze off on me.

The first is the number of new coronavirus cases in the Kansas City area as of Monday. The area includes Kansas City and Jackson, Clay and Platte counties in Missouri and Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas. On Monday, according to The Star, the area saw its “sharpest rise in the number of new COVID-19 cases.”

That’s not the sharpest in the last week or so — the sharpest since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The next graphic shows the number of new cases in the New York City metro area.

The last graphic shows the number of new cases in the rest of America.

Now, if I was President…or governor of Missouri or Kansas…or a mayor in any of the municipalities in our metro area, I would be hard pressed to tell my constituents, “OK, let’s get about opening things up.”

And yet, state by state, area by area, we are reopening. Clay County and Platte County began opening the gates Monday; Kansas City is having a “phased reopening” starting today and expanding on May 15. Jackson, Johnson and Wyandotte counties are “closed” until Monday, and I’m not sure what’s going on with those jurisdictions after that.

I understand the pressure our elected officials are under to reopen businesses and let people get back to work so they can start getting paid again. And I understand, to a lesser degree, the libertarians who fuss and fume and say, “You can’t shackle me!”

But, my God, I fear the price. Nationwide, we are now at more than 71,000 deaths officially, and the real number is probably a lot higher. We’ve all heard the predictions of a much higher incidence of new cases and additional deaths, and with this stampede to reopen it looks to me like we could easily be at 140,000 deaths by the end of June of middle of July.

…Well, Patty and I are not among those champing at the bit to go back to the restaurants, department stores, box stores, even the grocery. I learned my lesson March 24, which was Day 1 of Kansas City’s lockdown. I wrote blithely about going to six stores that day…Yes, six! A few readers rightly chastised me, including our son Charlie, who works at the University of Chicago Medicine. One reader told me to limit myself to one store once a week and added, “Be a good citizen.”

The rebukes hit me like a bucket of water in the face, and I immediately reformed. Since then, I’ve averaged no more than one store a week, and, for the most part, we have relied on Instacart for our groceries.

Most of the people who are screaming to get out of jail free are younger and less vulnerable to COVID-19 at its worst. I sense that most older people, like me, are more willing to wait another one, two or three months to make sure the case numbers have been going down instead of staying steady or rising.

Before this pandemic hit, I didn’t know much at all about the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, but we’ve all heard a lot about that now. And we’ve all heard, haven’t we, about the pandemic’s deadly second wave — more deadly than the first — and the third wave in 1919?

History is staring us in the face, and it has presented us with a gun, which we’re holding in our collective hands…It looks like we’re about to squeeze the trigger.


There is only one perverse positive element to this situation…It is Baby Boomers, by and large, who elected President Trump, and it is they who will suffer the most from these premature reopenings. If it gets grim, as I suspect it will, more and more people of my generation will turn on Trump.

It’s not much to cling to because I think Trump has already done himself in. But it’s the only glimmer I see on the dim horizon.

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What to make of this Joe Biden problem?

Along with a lot of other Democrats, I’ve been struggling with that question the last couple of weeks.

If there’s not an outright fire, a lot of smoke is swirling around former aide Tara Reade’s assertion that Biden pinned her against a Senate building wall in the spring of 1993, kissed her neck, put a knee between her legs and penetrated her vagina with his fingers.

Reade said that when she resisted the advances, Biden said, “Aw, man, I heard you liked me.” Then, she alleged, he pointed a finger at her and said, “You’re nothing to me.” And, finally, according to her account, Biden shook her by the shoulders and said, “You’re OK, you’re fine” before walking away.

Reade, who had begun working for Biden in December 1992, was fired in August 1993.

Let’s take a look at some of the probable incriminating factors in this case and also at some of the possible exculpating and curious factors…(These are not all of the factors in this case.)


:: Reade’s account just sounds plausible, in the details and especially the terminology: “Come on, man, I heard you liked me.” That’s the way Biden talks; everyone has heard him say, “Come on, man,” or something like that.

:: Speaking to The New York Times a few weeks ago on the condition of anonymity, two friends of Reade corroborated parts of her story. One said Reade had told her about the alleged incident in 1993. The other recalled Reade telling her in 2008 that Biden had touched her inappropriately and that she had experienced a traumatic event while working in his office.

:: Last week, two more people came forward to corroborate parts of Reade’s story in interviews with a publication called Business Insider. Lynda LaCasse, a former neighbor in California, said Reade described the incident to her in 1995 or 1996. “This happened, and I know it did because I remember talking about it,” LaCasse was quoted as saying. Adding to LaCasse’s credibility is her party affiliation. “I personally am a Democrat, a very strong Democrat,” she said. “And I’m for Biden, regardless. But still I have to come out and say this.”

:: The other woman who came out last week, Lorraine Sanchez, worked with Reade in the office of a California state senator in the mid-1990s. Sanchez said Reade told her at the time that Biden had harassed her and that, because of that, she had been fired.

:: Also last week, video emerged of an unnamed woman Reade says was her mother calling into a 1993 broadcast of CNN’s “Larry King Live.” The show was about the culture of Washington, DC. The woman claimed her daughter had run into unspecified “problems” with a U.S. senator. She said: “My daughter has just left there, after working for a prominent senator, and could not get through with her problems at all, and the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it out of respect for him.” The call came from San Luis Obispo, CA, and CNN has confirmed that Reade’s mother, Jeanette Altimus, now deceased, lived in San Luis Obispo around that time.

:: Biden waited five weeks before addressing the issue publicly and in person. (On MSNBC’s Morning Joe show last Friday, he said, “I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened.”)

Exculpating and curious

:: Last year, Reade was one of several women who came forward with complaints of Biden hugging or touching them in ways that made them uncomfortable, but Reade did not go public with her assault accusation until March 25. She says she tried to share her story with the media earlier but got “shut down.”

:: Reade is the only woman who has claimed Biden sexually assaulted her.

:: The two friends who spoke to The New York Times would not go on the record.

:: No former Biden staff members have corroborated any details of Reade’s allegation.

:: Reade said she filed a general harassment complaint against Biden with a Senate office in 1993, it has not turned up.

:: Reade’s brother, Collin Moulton, confirmed parts of Reade’s account to a publication called The Intercept in March, but, for whatever reason, he would not speak to the Times, which did the most extensive investigation. Moulton spoke to The Washington Post and said Reade had told her in 1993 that Biden had touched her neck and shoulders, but he said nothing about an alleged assault in the interview. In a text message days after the interview, however, he told the Post he also recalled Reade saying Biden had put his hand “under her clothes.”

:: In the past, Reade wrote and posted tweets praising Russian President Vladimir Putin. Recently, she has backtracked, saying she is not a fan of Putin and that her comments were “misguided.”


Back to the issue I posed at the beginning: What to make of all this?

Here’s my read…

Some Democrats, maybe a lot, are doing the equivalent of putting their hands over their eyes, plugging their ears and humming loudly to blank out anything suggesting Reade’s story might be true.

A comparable approach (what a friend of mine prefers) is blaming this on a Republican conspiracy to drag Biden down. One of many problems with that theory is if this is a giant, well-planned conspiracy, it would have to have been launched in 1993, when Reade’s mother made that call to Larry King.

If this was a felony prosecution and I had listened to the evidence that’s come out so far, I would say the prosecution had not proved its case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” On the other hand, based on what I’ve read and heard, I think it’s more likely than not that Biden did what Reade says he did. Regardless of how strongly he has condemned sexual harassment, I can envision how lust, impulse and a sense of entitlement — especially in a much younger Joe Biden — could have co-mingled and prompted an aberration.

That said, am I going to abandon Biden and vote for Trump? Of course, not. Like LaCasse, “I’m for Biden, regardless.”

Nevertheless, this tumult has, at the very least, diminished Biden. He can say it ain’t so, but, like me, a lot of other people are looking at him more circumspectly than they did two months ago.

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The weather forecast for Louisville tomorrow is partly cloudy, a high of 83 degrees and a 10 percent chance of rain.

Sounds like a perfect day for a Kentucky Derby.

The only problem is the Derby isn’t being run today. It’s been scheduled for the first Saturday in September…but there’s even doubt about that.

This will be only the second time since the Derby was first run in 1875 that the Derby will not have been run on the first Saturday in May. The only other time was 1945, when the U.S. government had put a temporary ban on horse racing because of World War II.

Patty and I had planned on going to Louisville for the Derby this year — and we still might — but today we’ll be in Brookside. Not a bad alternative, but, darn!, I hate to see that great tradition disrupted.

I suspect I’m going to be feeling pretty wistful today, and I can only imagine what the emotions are going to be like among Louisvillians. In an ordinary year, they would be culminating two weeks of Derby-related events with “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” the Run for the Roses, in the late afternoon.

I’ve been to quite a few derbies since 1981, and it’s true what Kentucky author and humorist Irvin S. Cobb once said…

“Until you go to Kentucky and with your own eyes behold the Derby, you ain’t never been nowhere and you ain’t seen nothin!”

When Cobb said that, he had in mind, I’m sure, that the best part of the Derby is not the race but the atmosphere — the tidal wave of joy, excitement and energy that comes from an assembly of 150,000 people, all primed to cut loose and have fun and most dressed in the fanciest and most creative outfits they could come up with.

I don’t know what September is going to bring or how long it will take for the Derby to return to what it was, but I’m sure grateful for my Louisville roots and for the good times I’ve had at Churchill Downs on past first Saturdays of May.

On this would-be Derby Day, then, let me show you some of the happy moments Patty, Brooks, Charlie and I have had at past derbies.

At Derby 143 in 2017 — the last Derby I attended — I ran into a guy named Tom, from Indiana, who was wearing the very same hat I had. I’ve still got that hat — straw, by Goorin Bros. It’s good for at least one more Derby.

Derby 140 in 2014 was the last time Patty and I went to the Derby together. When she owned a garment manufacturing business, which she sold last year, spring was her busiest time of year. (She looks just as good now as she did then!)

Here are Brooks and Patty at Derby 137 in 2011. It was the only year all four of us went to a Derby. I bought five single tickets — two in the same box, the others scattered — outside the track, and we rotated in and out of the box all day.

Again from 2011…That’s Charlie on the right and his friend Patrick Schell, who traveled from Oklahoma for the occasion. Charlie had told Patrick, “Come on up; my Dad will get us tickets.” It was a challenge, but I did.

Last but not least, here’s a photo my friend Marcie Blakeney of Louisville sent me a year or two ago. I’m pretty sure it was from Derby 112 in 1986, after I had just turned 40. Marcie’s husband at the time, John Blakeney, had gotten us tickets through the company he worked for, Brown-Forman distillery in Louisville. They were the best seats I’ve ever had for the Derby — third-floor grandstand, just beyond the finish line. A lot has changed since then: Among others, I lost my hair, and Marcie and John got divorced. But I’ll tell you this — Marcie is still beautiful!


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