Math & Science Focus: No, No Neera; YES to Yang @ OMB; Dr.Helene Gayle for HHS.

Andrew Yang endorsing Joe Biden.

Say it ain’t so, Joe. Don’t tell those of us who backed you to the hilt that you are serious about the utterly unqualified Neera Tanden for Director of the OMB — especially when you have an incredibly qualified person-of-color available for the position in Andrew Yang, the best national advocate for Math and Economic Literacy we’ve had since Alexander Hamilton.

Tanden’s views are only in tandem with the dying, discredited Clinton corner of the Democratic Party; Yang, aside from representing a growing Asian American constituency — credited with joining Black voters to help flip Georgia blue for you — opened the floodgates to a whole new generation of Democratic voters with his “Yang Gang.” And, if you look anywhere on social media right now, you’ll see it’s Andrew Yang out there campaigning for Ossoff and the Rev. Warnock to win Georgia’s two US Senate seats.

Just by floating the name of negative Neera (who favored cutting social security, and opposed Bernie Sanders and progressive Dems on many economic initiatives), you’ve already taken attention away from your superb choices of Janet Yellin as Treasury Secretary, and Wally Adeyemo as the first Black man to serve as the Deputy at Treasury. Cut your losses with Neera now, and don’t squander your political goodwill and capital by having her run into a buzz saw of Progressive and GOP opposition in the Senate.

As you have demonstrated thus far, there’s a treasure trove of highly qualified people of color, and women, to select for many important positions within a Biden/Harris Administration. Neera Tanden is not one of them.

One whom I’ve advocated to you before (in fact, I advanced her name as a Vice Presidential possibility) is the incomparable Dr. Helene Gayle, a perfect candidate to head Health & Human Services as COVID continues to crush entire communities and families across this country.

Trained and board-certified in Pediatric Medicine ( MD from University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Masters in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health), Dr. Gayle worked at the CDC for 20 years, directing the National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention.

Helene’s heroic work in HIV/AIDS was recognized by Bill & Melinda Gates, when they hired her away from the CDC to run their Foundation’s HIV, TB & Reproductive Health Program, which she did for 5 years, expanding her expertise to help those in greatest need globally. There were still ‘mountains beyond mountains’ for Dr. Gayle to climb and in 2005, her talent was tapped by one of the world’s premier international relief and development organizations, CARE, USA, with programs that help more than 80 million people in 93 countries, and over 10,000 employees spread across the globe. CARE is now dedicated to stopping the spread of the global Corona Virus Emergency. (

Dr. Gayle served as President and CEO of CARE, for 10 years, “helping millions of people recover from natural disasters and other acute emergencies, prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and gain access to healthcare, nutrition, education, economic opportunity, safe water and improved sanitation.” A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Public Health Association, and the National Academy of Medicine, Helene Gayle was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the most powerful women in the world, and by Foreign Policy as one of the top 100 “Global Thinkers.”

Dr. Gayle chaired President Obama’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, and launched a McKinsey Social Initiative (now, that builds public/private partnerships for social impact. You know, Helene, Joe. She is the kind of supremely qualified person you want to have in crucial positions in your administration. Neera Tanden is not in the same league as Helene Gayle, nor as Andrew Yang.

Dr. Gayle was among the very first global public health officials to recognize, early on, that the HIV/AIDS epidemic was taking a heavy toll upon the Black, Latino and poor communities in the United States. Three years ago, she moved to Chicago to head one of nation’s oldest and largest community foundations, the Chicago Community Trust, focusing sharply on closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap in the Chicago area.

Helene Gayle has always been a consummate medical and public health professional, not a politician. She is widely respected among public officials of both parties, dealt with world leaders as an equal, and has run vast national and international non-profit and public service organizations. Dr. Gayle personifies the depth of the towering talent pool of people of color, Joe, with life experiences and professional accomplishments available to be tapped in the service of this nation, by you and Kamala Harris.

There’s no excuse to settle for less, and no better way to push Math and Science to the top of your agenda than to appoint the highest calibre people, like Andrew Yang and Dr. Helene Gayle.

The Deaths of Two Mayors

Two of New York City’s former Mayors died this week. One committed suicide on national TV, melting before our very eyes. The other, the first and only Black Mayor in NYC’s 350+ year history, died a peaceful death, in the privacy of his own home. Both deaths reflected how the Mayors lived their lives.

Rudy Giuliani, the White Supremacist beaten by David Dinkins for the Mayoralty in 1989, during a period of rising racial unrest in NYC, died by his own tormented tongue and hands, choking on his own words as if they were poison pills, in front of millions of viewers. For many of us who have had a front-row seat to witness Rudy the Racist’s rise and fall over the decades, it reminded us of the way he announced he was divorcing his second wife, Donna Hanover — at an unhinged press conference, alone.

David Dinkins, in compelling contrast, a genuinely kind man of great dignity and grace, went gently into the night at age 93, one month after the death of his beloved partner of 67 years, Joyce Burrows Dinkins. Both were graduates of Howard University, the mecca for Black leadership in this country, with Justice Thurgood Marshall, VP-elect Kamala Harris, former Ambassador Andrew Young, writer Toni Morrison and actor Chadwick Boseman, as just a few examples.

Mayor Dinkins continually reminded us that he stood on the shoulders of giants, in the civil rights movement and beyond, who had sacrificed much for this country, and that he was a reflection of the “gorgeous mosaic” that was the diversity of New York. Conversely, by his every action, Rudy rudely reminded us that he stood on the bodies of people who got in the way of his ruthless ambition. Even after Giuliani defeated Dinkins in their 1993 Mayoral rematch, and Dinkins reached out as an act of reconciliation, following a blatantly racist campaign waged against the City’s first Black Mayor, Rudy refused to meet. Giuliani was already ginning up his shivel-souled, small-minded, mean and ghoulish behavior to become Donald Trump’s lawyer later in life, a high-profile position from which he plunged to his death.

During the tinderboxes of the heat of the summer of 1989 — the Central Park 5 arrests, and the Bensonhurst murder of Yusef Hawkins — it was David Dinkins who kept NYC from exploding as he crusaded for Mayor, calling for peace in a town ready to ignite into flames, with private citizen Trump trumpeting racial hate in full-page newspaper ads, and candidate Giuliani lighting matches from the sidelines.

Less than two weeks before the September Democratic Primary where Dinkins would handily beat Mayor Ed Koch for the right to run against Rudy in November, I accompanied Governor Mario M. Cuomo to the funeral of Yusef Hawkins, the 16-year-young Black man killed because of the color of his skin, while he went shopping for a used car in a heavily white, Italian section of Brooklyn.

We were among a light smattering of white faces in a crowd of thousands jamming the streets in front of the Glover Memorial Church on Dean Street in East New York, not far from where I was born. I stood among a group of mostly white reporters covering the funeral, finding an uneasy comfort in the presence of Louis Farakkhan’s bow-tied Muslim soldiers, who lined the streets in front of the church to keep some semblance of peace.

Mayor Koch emerged from his official City car to pay his respects and was pelted with a barrage of boos and screams so intense, I expected his presence to cause a riot. Dislike for Koch was visceral in East NY’s Black neighborhoods, but even Mario Cuomo, generally admired by Black leaders and communities across the City and State, was heckled as he entered Glover Memorial for the funeral service.

Cuomo had been sharply criticized the day before by Brooklyn-born movie director Spike Lee for not visiting Bensonhurst and “talking some sense out there to the Italians.” Lee’s film Do The Right Thing about racism in NYC came out earlier that summer, presaging the lethal price of prejudice. The street taunts toward Mario Cuomo reflected Lee’s sentiments.

Of all the public officials in attendance, only David Dinkins was greeted respectfully, foreshadowing his nine-point primary victory over Koch two weeks later. Dinkins, then the Manhattan Borough President, ran as a “healer” of the City’s simmering racial tensions. Two months later, Dinkins narrowly beat Giuliani for Mayor by some 47,000 votes, one of the closest mayoral elections in NYC’s history. Dinkins won with 90 percent of the Black vote citywide and 70 percent of the Latino vote, while Rudy ran away with the White vote, securing some 70 percent. In Bensonhurst, where Yusef Hawkins was murdered, Giuliani defeated Dinkins by a 10–1 margin.

David Dinkins’ calm, conciliatory manner was just what NY needed at that moment in it’s long, boisterous history. The morning after Dinkins election, I wore my “Dinkins for Mayor” button, with writing in Hebrew to pointedly bring people together, as I rode the E-Train down to the World Trade Center to my job. The feeling of joy and brotherhood, though fleeting, was palpable throughout the subway car. A few fellow commuters, several of them Black, exchanged high-fives with me.

David Dinkins’ quiet dignity rescued the City that day and for a short time into the new decade of the 1990’s. He didn’t have Mario Cuomo’s charisma, nor Giuliani’s ghoulishness, but, in his careful, considerate way, Dinkins showed us what the promise of the future could look like.

Rest in the very peace you sought all of your days, David. You deserve it.

I Cry for All Those We’ve Lost; No Tears for Trump.

The names come at you in torrents, but it’s the photos and the short, simple biographies that torment, and tear me apart.

. . .Kious Kelly, 48, NYC ER Nurse; April Dunn, 33, Baton Rouge, Advocate for Disabled; Kenneth Sauders III, 43, Decatur, GA, Civic Leader; Abraham Vega, 48, Dallas, County Sheriff; Willie Levi, 73, Waterloo, Iowa, Turkey Processing Plant worker; Robbie Walters, 84, Sacramento, Police Officer/Legislator; Elvia Ramirez, 17, Fargo, ND, high school senior; Anthony M. Hopkins, 70, Elizabethtown, KY, Vietnam War Veteran/Purple Heart Recipient & Postal Worker. . .

Reading through the New York Times latest “Portraits of Grief” — modeled after the more than 2400 brief obituaries of those we lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks — is a profoundly sad experience. Entitled, “Those We’ve Lost,” the COVID portraits of grief number 100 times as many as those the Times meticulously assembled 19 years ago. That’s as of today — nearly 100 times as many human lives lost — from COVID 19, as were lost when the Two World Trade Center towers came tumbling down. By the time of next year’s 20th Anniversary of 9/11, COVID-related deaths in the United States could approach the unimaginable total of 500,000, or nearly 200 times the number of those who perished on 9/11. Let that sink in.

The numbing effect of such numbers — more than all of the American combat deaths in World Wars I & II combined, and approaching the 650,000 Americans who perished 100 years ago during the 2-year Great Influenza Pandemic — is bad enough. To read about each individual life lost, each family upended by what the Trump Administration privately knew was a “deadly” virus while publically denying its deadliness, is to dive back and forth between depression and rage and the depths of sadness. So much unnecessary death; so many lives which could have been saved; so much devastating human loss.

That’s what makes Donald Trumps petulant pouting over his election defeat so unconscionable. He never mourned with the family of Albert Petrocelli, the 73-year old Fire Chief from NYC who, as the Times wrote, “answered the call on 9/11,” nor with the young family of 22-year old Israel Sauz of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, who just became a “new father.” None of these incalculable losses, nor thousands more deaths of people of all races and ages, received any expression sympathy or a call of condolence from the President of the United States. Gone, and forgotten — except for how he imagined their deaths hurt him.

Trump saved his tears for himself, crying over the unfairness of COVID coming during the last year of his term in office, and “causing” him to lose re-election. Woe is me, more than you. Forget the deaths which continue to destroy so many families; forget the unfettered spread of the virus overwhelming hospitals and healthcare workers across the country. Trump lost, and more attention has been paid to how he’s coping with his election loss, than how thousands of families are struggling to survive in the aftermath of the loss of the precious lives of the people they loved.

I have no patience for coddling criminal crybaby Trump, nor worrying about his mental state from suffering such a “big defeat.” His failure to face reality, eagerness to deny the truth — even though he knew it, as he admitted on tape to Bob Woodward — and to consciously reject the medical science and public health practices needed to save human lives — make him directly responsible for many of the COVID deaths he still ignores, and that we still mourn.

I cry for those we have lost to COVID — for Ethel Jacobson Hamburger from our own family whose uplifting voice we can no longer hear on the phone. I cry for the loss of the young fathers and mothers, and nurses, police officers, grocery store workers, grandparents, and dancers and singers who will never again be hugged or kissed or touched.

I do not cry, nor have a single shred of sympathy left for a heartless, hollow man, without a soul, whose only sense of loss is how it diminishes himself.

I cry for all of “Those We’ve Lost,” for all their grace, dignity and love, which enriched our lives. Their work on earth, their miraculous gifts to us, must now become part of our own. That’s how we can honor them, and make their memories live forever.

An Election Day Earthquake

An Election Day Earthquake

I’ve been phone banking and politicking for political candidates and causes for over 50 years.

From RFK in his US Senate & Presidential campaigns in New York State in 1964 & 1968; to my history teacher Mike Andrew’s try for State Legislature in 1970; to my own run for public office two years later; to Mario Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaigns in 1982,1986, 1990 and 1994; to the Presidential crusades of Jimmy Carter in 1976, Mondale/Ferraro in 1984, John Kerry in 2004, Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and Hillary Clinton in 2016, I’ve done just about every level of political task — big and small — to advance the people and policies in which I believe.

I’ve always preferred face-to-face contact, public speaking and message framing, and hated doing phone calling to prospective voters who didn’t want to be bothered. My dislike for cold-calling was baked into me since childhood when I witnessed my mother’s soul-withering experience of dialing-for-dollars, and customers, for the old Gimbels Department Store. She was paid $5 per “sales lead.”

Growing up, I could recite her practiced phone spiel to earn money from home, selling upholstery: “Hello. I’m Estelle Taradash (my mother’s non-Italian sounding phone name), and I’m calling to offer you a special this month on Gimbel’s re-upholstery of your most beloved furniture.” More often than not, I’d hear my mother slam-down the old style phone receiver and mutter, “You miserable son-of-a-bitch.” It was the tip off that another “prospect” had been rude to her. I could feel her fury at being dissed, and internalized her disgust with the indignity of struggling to make a living by dialing up strangers.

Years later, I did the same thing — not for dollars, but for votes. In the early days of phone-banking, political calls were far more fulfilling, with people actually picking up their phones, and engaging in conversation. Answering machines, took some of that away, but forced us to sharpen our skills at leaving precise messages to voters. Cell phones almost killed that campaign staple entirely, since people could delete any phone numbers they didn’t know.

Advancing technology forced campaigns to improve call-lists and the messages used to reach voters. Some campaigns did better than others, and early on-line computer calling — which I first did with the Obama campaign — actually made the process seem like a video game, where you could easily measure your progress. Even that grew old fast.

Politicking by phone would never fulfill me the way forming a human contact with prospective voters did. I loved going door-to-door. As the call lists grew more “corporate” and impersonal — and campaigns focusing more on quantity of calls made, instead of quality of contact — the entire process became tedious, impersonal and unsatisfying. The phone-banking efforts for Hillary Clinton in 2016 in North Carolina, an open-carry state where I did Voter Protection, were abominable, empty and ineffective.

I vowed I would never phone bank again, until the COVID Pandemic made that an empty threat. Since I didn’t want to expose myself to too many people during the continuing COVID health-crisis, phone banking, letter writing, drafting speeches, or publishing timely and persuasive articles, were among the best avenues of civic and political involvement left for me. Sending money to dozens of Democratic candidates around the country — including hundreds of dollars to the Biden/Harris campaign — was simply not enough. I needed to do something more.

So, at the recommendation of two friends from Berkeley who have done extraordinarily targeted campaigning and pinpoint contributing to key political candidates over the past few election cycles, I joined a non-partisan effort to pull out the vote in the City of Philadelphia, called Fairmount Votes, or

The brilliance of this non-partisan campaign was its emphasis on Voter Education during Pennsylvania’s first-ever experience with Mail-In Balloting. For those of us who were Biden/Harris partisans, we knew that the greater the number of votes coming out of Philadelphia — the pivotal state’s largest population center where Democrats far outnumbered Republicans — the greater were Biden’s chances of winning Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes.

The campaign organizers — many in their 20’s and 30’s — were unpaid volunteers, and focused on the quality of the information we were giving voters, not the quantity of calls we made. Every voter we helped correctly cast their ballot, under this new voting set-up, was all that mattered. On one day of calling, for example, 250 of us mostly-Boomer volunteers, reached 15,000 registered voters in the City of Philadelphia. Astounding. We were, as Mario Cuomo was fond of saying, “all part of something bigger than ourselves.”

What made the entire effort even more excellent, was the seamless cooperation between diverse groups and generations — from across the country — who believed in making pure Democracy work. Tech-savvy Millenials and Gen X’ers exhibited extraordinary empathy toward chat rooms bursting with bumbling Boomers, walking us through the nuances of this computer driven system. We were a team of equals, regardless of age, income or lifetime achievements, and egos were left off-line. It was exhilarating.

The eye-opening experience rescued me from the dizzying world of TV’s talking-heads, bloviators, and polling junkies, and pointed clearly toward why those of us willing to fight together — differences be damned — for the soul of this Democracy, would rebuild and save our communities, and this nation.

We rocked it, accomplishing more together than we could have ever achieved alone. The selfless, soulful effort underscored my belief that Biden/Harris would win Pennsylvania, as well as Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas, Arizona, Iowa, Georgia & North Carolina, in an overwhelming national Electoral College victory, that would also sweep in a Democratic Senate. And, although we might not know who won Pennsylvania for days, we would know who our new President is on Election night.

Our COVID-tempered, tectonic, home-bound movement for civic and social justice, and the resolute, but quiet, roar to restore a sense of decency to this Democracy, will prove to be an extraordinarily powerful earthquake, just waiting to explode