Tag Archives: Travel

The West Stays Weird

New Orleans      We humped the highway back home through Texas.  It was a great trip.  It was time.   We have some observations for what they are worth.

We read that the governor of New Mexico is angling for a job in a potential, hoped for Biden administration as the head of the Department of Health and Human Services.  Good for her.  She was head of New Mexico’s public health department before rising to win the governorship.  She has been on the Sunday talk shows and had a brief moment as a prospective VP candidate on the Democratic ticket based on her leadership on the pandemic response in New Mexico  Our experience for what it’s worth is that the 14-day self-quarantine that is widely touted for any visitors is only a press release to outside news sources to discourage visitors.  There were no signs anywhere in the state that suggested quarantines for anyone.  Nor did anyone anywhere in New Mexico raise a peep about any such requirements.  Though the Navajo Nation’s has been a widely reported national hotspot and their website indicated a requirement that even drivers through the reservation should mask, this was also pretty much a dead letter as well from our experience.

Coloradans in the general Four Corners area were better masked then Texans and New Mexicans with Texans being the worse.  Walmart, where masks are supposedly mandatory, showed improvement and compliance by the staff, but their unwillingness to actually enforce the requirement meant that some walked around unmasked and in Pagosa Springs, one fellow was clearly only intent on testing the ban from what we could tell.  He wasn’t alone.  A fly shop covered half their door with a broadside against the Colorado governor’s requirements.  A popular Natchitoches gas station off of I-49 in Louisiana, where people line up for area’s popular meat pies, took a similar shot at Governor Edwards.

In restaurants, the only clear line was dine-in or takeout-only.  Once it was dine-in, there seemed to be no real limits or, if any, only in the most cursory fashion in the states we visited.

Trump support was largely invisible in these red-alert areas.  We saw two or three Trump signs around in Childress and Chillicothe, Texas on the Amarillo to Dallas stretch and only in the towns.  We saw one or two Trump-Pence bumper stickers over several thousand miles.

Passing under a highway overpass in Canton, Texas, found us looking up at about thirty maskless Trump folks rallying in full MAGA-gear with big Trump banners and signs hanging over both sides of bridge to catch all traffic going and coming.  The whole scene was wild, weird and, frankly, scary to see.

I’ll say this.  If Trump is trying to juice up his base with pictures of folks in Portland and other cities demanding justice exuberantly, Biden folks might achieve the same level of incentive from their voters with footage of wild “no-maskers” cavorting for Trump in Texas.

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Talking Organizing in Atlanta

New Orleans  Having not flown in months, I was curious what was up in the airways.  My 6:15 AM on a Saturday to Atlanta was the first flight out of New Orleans.  That was already strange.  It used to be one of many.  Where was the 5:28 AM to Houston?  The 6:00 AM to Chicago?  The early flight to New York?  Nowhere, that’s where.  The next surprise was that everything went faster.  I was the only one in the TSA-PRE line.  They screen for temperatures at the gym, but not on the airlines.  Better have a cup of coffee at home, because there was nothing open anywhere in the airport.  Not leaving at least.  Only Chili’s coming back.  It was a ghost town.  On Delta, zones were on the boarding pass, but the boarding was by rows, back to front.  Bringing back the old school, and I liked it.  When the bell rang on landing, I jumped up.  I was surprised that everyone ahead of me kept sitting down.  Social distancing, I guess?

But that was all about what’s up in the air, the real takeaway from Atlanta in my meeting with folks about organizing there, is the on-the-ground benefit of being in the same room in a different city taking part in the valuable cross fertilization of ideas that comes from face-to-face-mask-to-mask conversations.   I’ll give you a couple of examples to prove the point.

  • Talking about the long lines in Georgia polling stations and the similar problems around the country in Louisville, Milwaukee, and elsewhere, a constant refrain in the excuses of election authorities is that the reduced number of manual polling sites was because they didn’t have the poll staff willing to work. Anyone who has ever voted has seen the crew at the polling stations.  This is like the waiting room of a Social Security office.  The ones without gray hair are political cronies making an extra day’s wage complete with donuts for breakfast and fried chicken for lunch.  Talking to my colleagues and new friends in Atlanta, here was an idea for a quick campaign:  an organization should mass file names of “volunteers” willing to be trained to handle the polls in November so there would be a full force.  Who could turn that down?  In states trying to run from the mail ballot, it matters that we have as many open polling locations as possible!
  • In cities like Atlanta and Memphis where the rent amnesty is ending July 31st, local activists are predicting a tsunami of evictions. In New York City on July 1st for example they are expecting 50-60,000.  In these cities the new big landlords are connected at the hip to huge Wall Street private equity companies, so it’s a twofer.  In the wave of resistance now, how about a mass protest and campaign to block the landlords from filing to evict that puts pressure on courts and civil sheriffs to refuse to process evictions?  Supplemental unemployment will still be good, so the troops are out there.  Given the massive support of grassroots donors this day for new activism, it might even hit a cord and raise some money.
  • Training? People are suddenly desperate for a way to up skill for this moment!

See what I mean?  The back and forth of listening, discussion, and synthesis is not something that the Hollywood Squares of Zoom is best at handling.  As hard as it always is, and as virtually impossible as it is now, there’s a reason that organizers have to travel to get closer to people who want to make things happen and help them along.  Atlanta was calling, and it was hard not to pick up the phone.  We’re open for business again!

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