Category Archives: Current Events

Ep. 83 – Tooling Machines to Fight Covid-19

By Noah Graff

Today’s guest on the show is Gordon Erickson, founder of Kwalyti Tool in Batavia, Illinois. Kwalyti specializes in tooling up packaging machines, often for food products such as meat and cheese. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, Kwalyti has played an essential role in combatting the epidemic. The company has tooled machines to package cotton swabs for coronavirus testing. Soon it will be tooling machines that produce pouches for holding N95 masks so they can be sterilized for reuse.

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Do You Trust Yourself?

By Lloyd Graff

Deciphering the path of business through the COVID-19 mess is more difficult than finding your way through Boston without Google Maps. 

Stock markets zoom while Hertz declares bankruptcy. Oil prices fall to $18 a barrel but then double in five weeks. Auto plants shut down en masse but then reopen to parts shortages from Mexico, which didn’t want to produce until GM, Toyota, and VW leaned hard on the government.

The political and scientific elites caution us not to reopen because a mistake could mess up their reputations. They scare us about the “second wave” that may be coming sometime.

Meanwhile, the salon owner worries that she may never comb out another wave at her shop if she can’t reopen.

Small businesses navigate through government bureaucracies to claim the cash to survive, not knowing how much they will have to pay back because the SBA itself doesn’t understand the authorizing legislation. Washington consultants earn their juicy retainers by explaining stuff even the dudes who wrote the laws don’t understand.

People ignore barricade near Chicago’s North Avenue Beach.

The boardwalk fills up in Venice Beach, California, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In Chicago, real people keep knocking down the fences that the park police keep erecting to keep them off the grass. In Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, where the governors took the risk of opening before other states, the caseload from COVID did not change.

There are at least a dozen possibilities for successful vaccines. With a decent chance we’ll have a real one before Christmas, and a drug is being made today that really does help reduce hospital stays.

Yet 100,000 people have died in the United States.

The press makes its living by promoting bad news. Maybe there would be no pandemic without cable news. But there is 20% unemployment, doors are locked, cities have emptied, and I am afraid to go to my own anniversary party. 

Yet somehow Americans seem to retain their optimism. The smart people predicted new home buying would fall apart. Yet yesterday the Commerce Department stats showed that real people put down real money and took out real mortgages to buy more homes in April than in March. People are making airline and hotel reservations. They probably are even nutty enough to plan cruises.

But if you are running a machining business, even if you are making respirator parts, it looks iffy. Will people start buying new cars? There are lots of leases ending, but dealerships are quiet because they seem like scary places to go to. 

Major League Baseball can’t seem to figure out if players can take showers if it resumes.

We live in the land of phases.

I am coming around to the idea that government should trust people to decide their next steps. It would be chaotic, I know. Most old people will not do dumb stuff like going to the beach or a restaurant. Young people will mix it up and some will get sick, but probably not real sick. 

We could have school this fall for those who want to go. We will get closer to the herd immunity that a successful vaccine could complete. 

Death in the economy by asphyxiation could be defeated. China would lose the COVID-19 war. Toilet paper would be everywhere. 

Is this crazy?

Question: Do you trust yourself to make the right decisions regarding COVID-19? Do you trust other people?

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50 Years, Still Great

By Lloyd Graff

My wife Risa and I will celebrate 50 years of marriage this Sunday. It sounds like an awfully big number. I don’t feel old enough for that number, and Risa looks like 45 or 50 on a bad day. 

Less than half of the adults in the country are married today, but for Risa and I it was a natural fit. I started talking about marriage a few weeks after we met in January of 1969. She was 17 years old and a freshman at the University of Michigan. I was a graduate student, recently back from military training. Risa had barely been out on a date and suddenly it was hard for her parents to find her at night. They rushed from Charlotte, North Carolina, to meet me six weeks after we met in Ann Arbor. When they learned that I followed a Jewish prayer ritual every morning, similar to that of her father, Risa said she felt like “they gave me away.”

The truth is, that one of the things that has bound us together over those many years is our mutual but different commitment to Judaism. Growing up, I developed a powerful, visceral connection with the Jews of the Holocaust. Although I did not have an immediate personal relationship with people who died at the hands of the Nazis, I could not get thoughts of it out of my head. Risa’s connection was more a social one, connected to Jewish ritual.

My parents accepted Risa Levine of Charlotte about as well as they could. Their basic viewpoint was that nobody was really good enough for their firstborn. But I had never had an interesting girlfriend before, and if I was as sure of myself as I seemed to be, they might as well go along with the program.

Risa and I have had an enormous emotional attachment from the first day of our relationship. On the first night we met at the Michigan Union, we talked until 3 a.m. One reason for this was that my Chevrolet Biscayne wouldn’t start in the January cold when I tried to drive her back to her dorm at 2 a.m.

I recently had returned from Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina. Before I had left for basic training on New Years Day 1968, I had been obsessed with the Vietnam War and fear of dying in the swamps for Lyndon Johnson’s ego. I applied all over to get into the Illinois National Guard or the Army Reserves. Finally, good luck and some family political clout got me into the Guard. I was the only one of 600 recruits in my Company who wasn’t headed to Nam.

Prior to doing my military stint, I didn’t know I was capable of meeting a woman I could have a sustained relationship with. But six months after Fort Jackson, I felt emotionally liberated and looking for a kind, smart, beautiful woman like Risa. Coincidentally she wore the shortest skirt in the crowd of people at the mixer dance in the Student Union that fateful Saturday night in Ann Arbor.

I had gone to the Union primarily to play ping pong, but the music in the ballroom called me that night. I looked around in the big room and spied Risa Joy Levine of Charlotte, while I held on to the ping pong paddle in my corduroy sport jacket pocket. I kept that jacket for 40 years.

From Risa and Lloyd’s wedding day, May 24th, 1970

Over the last 50 years, Risa and I have talked about luck, God, and the short skirt that brought us together among 1,500 people in that ballroom. The crazy thing is that Risa was the only person I talked to in that giant room. I saw her, walked through the crowd and said hello. After a few minutes, I asked for her to leave the floor and go out for some food. And she did. Later, I asked her to come to my apartment. And she did. 

In the course of conversation, I mentioned that Ted Williams was the last .400 hitter in Major League Baseball. Risa was not a baseball fan, and she still isn’t, but if you ask her today who was the last .400 hitter she will immediately tell you it was Ted Williams.

In our 50 years of marriage, Risa and I have endured the deaths of our parents, life threatening illnesses, the joy of raising three great children, and enjoying four grandchildren. I say prayers of gratitude every day for getting another day with Risa. 

I continue to wonder how I was and continue to be so blessed to get these days with her 50 years later. 

This Sunday night we are planning to celebrate with friends and family on Zoom. Not how we thought it might happen, but I know if Risa and I are together it will have to be a great night.

Question: Where did you meet your spouse or partner?

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Ep. 82 – Running a Pizza Place During COVID-19 with Marco Schiavoni

By Noah Graff

Today’s guest on the podcast is Marco Schiavoni, owner of Pizza Metro, one of my favorite pizza places in Chicago. Marco has been in the restaurant business for 20 years, and like most business owners he’s seen his share of ups and downs over time.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast.

I spoke to Marco last weekend about how restaurants in Chicago are navigating the COVID-19 crisis. He also taught me the secret to making the perfect espresso.

Main points of the interview

(2:45) Marco gives his story. He talks about leaving his home in Rome to come to Chicago in the ‘90s. He realized there wasn’t a traditional Roman style pizzeria in Chicago so he opened Pizza Metro in 2001. Roman style pizza is served cut into square slices that are easy to eat on the go. He says that Pizza Metro is one of the top 10 pizza places in Chicago. 

(4:10) Marco describes the small size of Pizza Metro. The restaurant is around 700 square feet and has 15 stools. One cool feature of the restaurant is that you can sit at a bar and interact with the cooks while you watch them cook your food. 

(7:00) Marco talks about how his pizza is unique because it’s made in the traditional roman style, but every slice customizable as far as toppings. This differs from pizzerias in Italy, which usually only offer a few choices

(8:40) We discuss how Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood has changed since Pizza Metro opened on West Division Street in 2001. Marco says when he first opened there were hardly any restaurants and many gangs in the area. He said during his second year in business the laundromat across the street was replaced by Starbucks and everything started to change. Today, Division Street is super trendy, with too many restaurants to choose from.

(10:15) Marco explains why Pizza Metro’s espresso is the best in Chicago. Marco says he started making espressos when he was 13 years old. He says you have to grind the coffee to a different thicknesses based on the humidity at the time. He says his beans are some of the best imported coffees from Italy. Marco also says he makes his espresso with much less water than the way it’s usually made in the US. He says you can tell if the espresso was made properly if you put some sugar on top and it takes 6 seconds for it to fall through the surface. 

(16:40) Marco speaks about shutting his restaurant down at the very end of March. He says that one day he noticed the street was empty and that Starbucks was closed. He saw this as a sign that he should close as well. Marco closed Pizza Metro for a month and said it was the first time in 19 years he had a true vacation because it was first time that he didn’t have to worry about what was happening in the business. 

(18:22) Marco explains that the pizza business is good in both strong and weak economies. He says in a weak economy a pizza business can thrive because many Americans don’t know how to cook and a pizza can feed a family for a relatively low price.

(19:30) Marco says that what spurred him to reopen his business was that his employees needed the work. Otherwise he might have stayed on vacation a little while longer. 

(21:30) Marco says that people are going to start new businesses and alter their business models to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis. He says that restaurants who succeed will use social media to get exposure. He says people will put up videos of new, creative dishes they are working on. He alludes to a secret new desert item he is working on. He plans to pass it out to Starbucks customers waiting in line for coffee when it reopens.

(25:20) Marco thinks that many big restaurants will close, which will decrease competition. He says that many restaurants cannot stay in business if only a small number of people can eat there because the restaurant still has to pay the same rent and expenses as they did before COVID-19. He also says that if the country goes into a recession less people will eat out.

Marco Schiavoni, owner of Pizza Metro in Chicago

(27:30) Marco expresses worry about the health of restaurant workers. He says most restaurant kitchen staff do not have a lot of money so they are forced to take public transportation, and this puts them at higher risk for catching coronavirus. He says if one person on staff gets coronavirus he would have to close his restaurant for at least 2 weeks to ensure everyone is not infected. 

(33:40) Marco says he thinks that the US will look at how businesses are reopened in Europe. He talks about the first coffee bars in Italy that are just opening up. He says that people have to wait outside the cafe and only one customer is allowed to enter. The customer has to be 2 meters from the barista, so after the barista makes the coffee she has to back up from the bar for the customer to pick up the cup of coffee and leave the money. He says that even some restaurants in Italy that have been open for 50 years will eventually be forced to close because they can’t afford to pay their fixed expenses.

(35:00) Marco believes that people will learn to adjust to the new normal. He wishes the best to all the other restaurant owners and says the ones who survive will be stronger than before.

Question: What’s been your favorite takeout food during the COVID-19 crisis? Are you afraid to order takeout?

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Healthcare Workers and Combat Veterans Need to Share Their Experiences

By Chad Storlie

This week on Swarfblog, we’re sharing a timely guest post by US veteran and B2B marketing expert, Chad Storlie. Chad discusses the similarities he sees between combat veterans and the nation’s healthcare workers, and offers encouragement and advice to strengthen their resolve. Read on: 

Imagine going to work each day armed with the best colleagues, the best technology, the best training, and the best education to battle a resilient, ever present, and capable foe.  You do your best and people still die.  Wake up the next day, do your best, people die.  Then repeat, repeat, and repeat.

Healthcare workers are learning in a COVID-19 world what combat veterans have struggled with for an eternity.  What if you do your best and it is not enough?  What if you do your best and you fail?

The problems, frustrations, and despair that healthcare workers are experiencing fighting COVID-19 and the maelstrom of secondary effects on patients are disheartening and all too familiar for combat veterans.  Trapped in sweated soaked protective equipment, lacking mission critical supplies, cut off from friends and family, fighting a changing foe that is everywhere and nowhere, and working incredible hours without end.  This could be Balad, Brooklyn, Fallujah, or Detroit.  Counterinsurgency and COVID-19 too often follow the same challenges.

Healthcare workers are the new front line

I am a small “c” combat veteran.  A small “c” for combat because I only did a year in Iraq and a little less than two years in post-war Bosnia helping that country pull itself out of a genocidal, killing frenzy.  My peers did 6, 10, and 12 combat deployments between Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations across the globe.  Combat veterans need to pass our emotional learning onto the country’s new front line soldiers, healthcare workers.

Combat veterans need to express to healthcare workers that effort, caring, attitude, and resolve matter most when they seemingly matter not at all.  One of my most difficult days in Iraq highlighted a massive car bomb that blew up at the provisional United Nations compound with an understanding that none, none of our massive web of ongoing intelligence operations detected the plan.  On one of my worst days, I got back to work and tried again to do my best work.

In Special Forces training, the mantra of “Do the Best You Can” rings through every operation, every class, and every Special Forces instructor.  Doing the best fully acknowledges that difficult, seemingly impossible, mission sets are the part and parcel of a Special Forces life.  The key part for Special Forces is that no matter the conditions, you do your best, and you do your best again and again no matter the conditions.

Combat veterans knew that to win we needed to go out and do our best every day, to help and keep faith with our fellow soldiers, and to always, always come back the next day willing to lead, willing to keep improving, and willing to keep believing that we would be successful.

Whether combat or COVID-19, I want the healthcare front line to believe in themselves, believe in their training, and believe in their ability to win.  I know that the true results of their efforts may be years away, but their daily efforts contribute to the coming victory. 

Question: What have you been able to do to help people during the COVID-19 crisis?

Chad Storlie is a retired US Army Special Forces officer, an Iraq combat veteran, and has 15 years university teaching experience as an adjunct Professor of Marketing.  He is a mid-level B2B marketing executive and a widely published author on leadership, business, data, decision making, military and technology topics.

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Ep. 80 – Negotiating Like an FBI Agent with Chris and Brandon Voss

By Noah Graff

Today’s podcast is part 1 of a two part interview with Chris and Brandon Voss, co-authors of the best selling book on business negotiation, Never Split the Difference, and executives at Black Swan Group, a company offering business negotiation training.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast.

Never Split the Difference teaches how to approach business negotiations using the same the techniques that Chris Voss learned from decades working as an FBI hostage negotiator. I can vouch for its effectiveness personally, having listened to the book from start to finish 3 years ago. I probably use its principles in our business every day.

Main Points

(3:45)  Chris and Brandon explain their company, Black Swan Group, which teaches business negotiation. They sum it up as the company that “makes sure you don’t leave money on the table.” They also say that it provides guidance for navigating difficult conversations.

(5:35)  Chris talks about working as an FBI hostage negotiator specializing in terrorism. He says that his son Brandon learned a lot about negotiation from a very young age by observing him. He says that Brandon used his skills of “disarming agitated adversaries” to deal with disciplinarians and Vice Principals in high school. After Chris retired from the FBI he taught negotiation in business classes at Harvard and Georgetown. A few years ago he and Brandon cowrote Never Split the Difference, which has become the best selling business negotiation book around the world.

(9:00) Chris says that the principles of hostage negotiation work for business negotiations across all cultures. He says that in every business deal something is under siege or threat.

(12:25) Brandon explains one of their most important negotiation strategies, mirroring and labeling. He explains that “labeling” refers to a verbal observation in which a person says, “it feels like,” “it sounds like,” “it seems like,” or “it looks like.” A “mirror” means repeating the last few words of the last sentence that someone has just said. These techniques help sound out your counterpart. They give a person new information about how the counterpart sees a situation, but the counterpart stays relaxed because you don’t have to ask questions. Questions can make people feel they are being interrogated.

(17:15) Noah brings up his own recent challenge using mirrors and labels to get a machinery rigger down in price.

(19:25) Brandon talks about a negotiation technique called an “accusations audit” (see video) that Noah could use to try to get a machinery rigger down in price. The negotiator mentions all of the difficult things his counterpart has had to do to accommodate him. This can neutralize his negative feelings before he has a chance to say them. In the case of Noah’s machinery rigger, he could say to him things like, “I know you have had to do a lot of work already for this job,” “I know you’re the only game in town,” “I know you’ve already tried to get the price down,” and “I bet your sick and tired of having this conversation with everyone you speak to.”

Click here to watch more videos from the interview.

(24:15) Chris explains price anchoring. He says that most academics say a person should start a negotiation by naming an extreme asking price. However, he discourages this strategy because it can scare customers away and cause one to lose potential deals. Also people don’t know what price their counterparts will start at—perhaps his price is better than they thought. Chris says the majority of the best negotiators get the counterpart to name a price first. When both people are trying to make each other name price first a person can use mirrors and labels to get important information about the price the counterpart has in mind.

Question: Do you usually like to name price first in a negotiation?

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Ready to Travel?

By Lloyd Graff

The reopening of 90% of the Starbucks stores in the US over the next 4-6 weeks is a signal moment in the COVID-19 recovery, but what does it mean for the machining world?

I think it is a significant moment, but not a game-changer in itself. Nor are the very hopeful results coming in on the new Gilead drug remdesivir, which is already in use but not approved yet as an antiviral in America.

For many of our clients who make so much product for cars, trucks, and airplanes, as well as the oil and gas industry, the big question is when will people feel confident about getting out of their homes and doing the things they did routinely last year when the economy was humming along.

Unfortunately, this is much less clear because we are dealing with the big issue of fear of sickness and dying, especially if you are over 70 or have issues such as diabetes, heart disease, breathing problems, or lack of immunity. These categories probably affect over 25% of the American population.

If you take out 80 million people in America, plus millions in other countries with a lot of older people, such as those in Europe, it is hard to imagine robust auto, aviation, and travel business for quite a while. A second wave of COVID would cement the fear factor well into the next year.

Travelers cautiously brave O’Hare Airport

It seems to me that America really goes back to work when illness and death from COVID-19 is no longer the lead story in the news. This is why I keep thinking how important it is for the 2020 election and big time sports to become the focus on TV. The news media has correctly gauged the interest in the pandemic but have also fanned the panic.

We are really getting closer to it becoming just an addition to the flu season, but it will probably not happen until we have a credible vaccine. The scientists who know the regulatory hurdles, which will probably be more significant than the successful development ones, say it is very unlikely until next year sometime.

The question that I keep noodling is when will my wife and I feel confident enough to go to the airport, get on a plane, and visit our daughter and family in the Bay Area and vice versa. I know it will take longer than just for Starbucks to open its doors. It will take longer than the NBA and Major League Baseball to restart, which I project to restart by early June.

I will throw out my guess and ask you to give me yours. When will you feel safe to travel? When will you jump into an Uber car? When will COVID-19 be old news?

I will go with August 15th 2020. The Cubs will be in first place then. The presidential campaign will be starting to get nasty, and the 2021 cars will be ready to roll out.

Your guess?

Question: When will you feel confident enough to travel?

 

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The COVID Conundrum

By Lloyd Graff

Norm and I were born on the same day. We grew up together. We did Cub Scouts in his basement. His mom, Miriam, was the den mother. Norm died from COVID-19 last Friday.

I was stunned when I received the news, even though I had not had any contact with Norm for over seven years, and didn’t know of his Alzheimer’s. He was the first of my high school classmates to die from it. I heard this from the internet listserv our class maintains. It brought the COVID plague off the CNBC news streamer into my heart.

The cold brutal fact is that most of the people who are dying from this terrible plague are like Norm. They are over 70 with other complicating health issues like Alzheimer’s, kidney dysfunction, lung disease, cancer, and diabetes. Their defenses are very weak and COVID-19 devastates them quickly. 

* * * 

In the past week the narrative in the country has rapidly shifted from desperate New York City and shortages of respirators, to what do we do when we loosen up the nation’s economic strait jacket. Many of the vital facts needed in the national and individual decision-making process are gradually emerging from the fog, and the MSNBCization of the news media. 

Most of the people who are dying are people like Norm. He is “the norm.” It kills mostly the weak who can’t fight back. It kills old people on cruise ships, but not sailors on aircraft carriers.

We know this because it hit the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and virtually every one of the 4860 crewmembers was exposed. Only one person, 41-year old Chief Petty Officer Robert Thacker, died.

Old people on cruise ships got infected and several succumbed. One person out of nearly 5,000 was the unlucky one on the carrier. Anecdotal evidence, yes, but also very important for the country to make its decision on going back to work. Opening up the economy is not just President Trump’s call, or Andrew Cuomo’s call, or Gavin Newsom’s or Jim Cramer’s on CNBC.

The decision will ultimately rise up from the people in a democracy because the politicians will be polling incessantly. Real people are gradually going to start coming out of their homes, meeting their friends, going into grocery stores, and returning to their barbers and hair salons. 

Temporarily closed barber shop in Bucktown, Chicago


The shutdown will begin to collapse because people will gradually, very gradually, start to shed their fear and their masks. They will quietly start asking Starbucks about when it will open its stores, and then they will ask to go back to work. Soon after that they will demand that they go back to work.

When the news trickles out that the number of people who have been exposed to Covid-19 but did not get really sick is 50 to 100 times higher than the published statistics, which is what the data coming out of Santa Clara County, home of Stanford, Google, and Apple indicates, the decision for the fearful politicians will almost be made for them. The people will decide.

More folks like my Cub Scout buddy Norm will die. The statistics in Italy are about as blunt and awful as it gets—55% of those who have died were 80 or older. People age 70 or older have accounted for 80% of deaths.

COVID-19 is the Grim Reaper for the old, infirm, and defenseless. For everybody else it is the flu. 

We had to shut down the country to save the hospitals in the big urban areas from being overwhelmed. That moment has passed. 

If we open up the country gradually, more of the old and weak will die, but the vast majority of people will be okay. People like me, born on the same day as my childhood buddy Norm, but hopefully in better shape, will ultimately have to decide for themselves when to get back in the fray.

Question: Do you feel safe enough to go back to work?

 

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False Positive?

By Lloyd Graff

Are we getting a false positive signal from the stock market, or is it a predictor of the economy in 3 to 6 months? This is the question business folk, big, small, and tiny, are asking themselves as the markets regain the ground lost in the early March slaughter.

The big tech stocks, Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Facebook, plus Amazon, Walmart, and Costco, are still sitting near all-time highs, while unemployment swells, small businesses languish, and Macy’s and Kohl’s starve. GM and Ford stock shrink, and Tesla stock hits $700 per share.

Are we on the eve of a depression or is this just a temporary misstep on the great trampoline of growth in America?

The machining business is straddling the chasm between panic and smiles of confidence. If a firm is predominantly an automotive supplier to anybody but Tesla, things look bleak. But for how long? There is plenty of potential demand waiting in the bushes.

People fear public transportation, which may translate to car sales. My sister bought an Audi SUV in February and my wife and daughter were both on the cusp of buying new vehicles. They will be back in the market when it feels safe to test drive some possibilities. My daughter is looking at the Jeep-Chrysler Pacifica, while my wife’s lease expired 3 months ago on her Camry.

We are waiting for the waters to calm. I’m sure there are many others in our shoes. But when will it be safe to do something, when right now a big trip is to visit the local supermarket for groceries to be put in the trunk after ordering ahead? The crazy thing is that we know our fear will dissipate and mostly be forgotten, but will it take 2 months, 6 months, or a year to regain our mojo?

We are just beginning the early spring of revival. I can feel it on good days when the sun is shining and neighbors are venturing out and talking without masks on. My sons are going out on walks together. My granddaughters recently met up with some close friends (10 feet away). I’ve almost gone to Dunkin Donuts to pick up coffee. My cardiologist tells me that his hundreds of patients are doing well and that the few who tested positive have recovered, except for the one frail man who died. I have friends who have recovered. It almost gives me confidence, but not enough to end my 33 day quarantine.

Yet business goes on. Most of my precision machining clients are working and reasonably busy. Medical and guns are strong. Military is okay but hesitant. Auctions are still taking place.

When will the umps say “Play Ball!”?

There will be a warm gust that begins to clear the fog of hesitation. It may be Major League Baseball or the NBA that gives the signal that we are waiting for. Yes, they will probably play without crowds and all of the participants will take their temperatures before play or practice begins. There will be missteps. A player or coach or ump will get sick, but one misstep does not mean it isn’t worth resuming. People always get sick and the world doesn’t fall apart.

Eventually we will have to coexist with COVID-19. We are social beings. We need to connect, travel, touch, and do business. We need to shed fear and take some calculated risks. The politicians and bureaucrats will dither, but the stock market is telling us, hopefully correctly, that good news is coming soon. Maybe when the ump yells “Play Ball!”

Question:  What is the first thing you plan to do when shelter-in-place orders are lifted?

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Political Virus

By Lloyd Graff

I am so tired of never ending graphs of suffering. I am tuning out more each day. But I am highly intrigued by the politics of COVID-19, particularly in a presidential election year.

Monday, Joe Biden, likely the Democratic nominee to run against President Donald Trump, called him to chat. This was a play right out of The West Wing playbook. With the Democratic primaries all but over, Biden has been pushed off the screens of America. Trump’s approval ratings have been going up by the day as he holds 2-hour “news” briefings, answering almost every question from reporters who he usually dismisses with scowls and sarcasm. He defers to VP Mike Pence, Dr. Deborah Birx, and the 4-star general handling logistics. He is generally holding his egotism in check and acting like a leader who is in command, and the role becomes him.

Biden’s aides must be tearing their hair out as they see their guy look like the janitor waiting to clean the room when the CEO finishes the meeting.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, possible presidential nominee?

Equally worrisome for Biden is the blossoming of Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, who does his briefings in the mornings. Cuomo comes off as a capable, self-effacing, CEO handling the complex needs of New York City, often in a growing partnership with President Trump and the military. His stage presence and command of details set him up, at least to me, as the Democrat’s logical Presidential nominee, though he did not enter any primaries.

I am sure the rise of Cuomo, with his rapport with the media which is so New York centric, has to make Joe Biden and his associates very shaky. Perhaps Trump’s growing respect for Cuomo is pushing an interesting triangle into the presidential election. Biden not only has the Bernie Sanders wing of the democratic party to contend with. Now he has the unexpected rising star of Andrew Cuomo.

Am I crazy to imagine that a Democratic convention in which not enough primaries have been held to give Biden the easy nomination, punts on round one of the voting and a groundswell of support from right, left, and center in the party, hungry for a winner, begins a Cuomo for President snowball at the Milwaukee convention?

Joe Biden has no passion in his campaign. He has become the front runner almost by default. If Cuomo appears to guide New York through its COVID-19 crisis and continues to look like the president of a besieged state and region, Joe Biden ought to be plenty scared.

Question: Have you tuned out the daily COVID-19 news?

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