Along with getting eaten alive by chiggers, some of my earliest memories of southern Oklahoma are sitting on the front porch at Addington while older relatives “watched the clouds.” In those days before elaborate weather radars, legions of storm chasers and the constant television coverage those factors provided, folks in Tornado Alley were pretty much on their own in deciding when, or if, to head to the cellar. One staple in local lore was knowing who sought shelter at the slightest provocation.

          In that Republican golden age of the 1950’s – which they seek to recreate – a basic lack of knowledge – which is all that ignorance is – left people at risk. Today, scientific advances allow us to track storms right down the streets they are threatening.

          “Shelter in place” was a common idea among weatherfolk long before coronavirus.

          We know now not to be out driving around and heading into potential danger. In my years with no garage in Woodward, I was twice able to head east, turn north, head back west, then south in order to re-enter town under clear skies following hail storms into town.

          Knowledge can keep us safe. Ignoring facts is always dangerous. Worse, of course, is deliberately hoarding vital information, denying the public’s access to data that might save lives.

          This brings us, unfortunately, back to Greed’s Own Party, whose leaders would rather hide bad news than protect the citizenry. The hard-headed realism Republicans once proclaimed has been jettisoned. You can’t be realists with an aversion to facts.

          Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has forbidden regional health departments from releasing coronavirus data. He wants to open the economy, facts notwithstanding. Would you deliberately visit an area where the virus is raging? Of course not. In Florida, you won’t know where the safer spots are.

          From Arizona, we have Yahoo News reporting that “the same day that Arizona’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, announced he was lifting some coronavirus restrictions on businesses, and the day before he met with President Trump on a visit to the state, his administration disbanded a panel of university scientists who had warned that taking the step now would be dangerous.”

          Friday the Huffington Post reported that Nebraska Gov. Pete Rickets (R) “angrily defended his decision to not track COVID-19 cases at specific meatpacking plants that have become contagion hot spots in his state.”

          PoliticusUSA reported that, during a private call with lawmakers, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), a typical profit-over-people Republican , remarked, “The more that you have people out there, the greater the possibility is for transmission.” But, that dire warning was not intended for the consumption of the public.

          As annoying to Republicans as hard data are those who study such facts. Last month, The Oklahoman reminded us that the guy Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) appointed Oklahoma Commissioner of Healthy, Gary Cox, “does not have the educational background required under the law for the position.” Maybe that – or basic GOP greed – is why we’re “re-opening” without having really experienced Phase One yet.

          Hey, what’s a lack of expertise? The Daily Kos notes that Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar (whose own qualification for the his position is as a lawyer defending Big Pharma from accountability) appointed Brian Harrison, “a former labradoodle breeder with no experience in public heath “ to oversee the federal coronavirus response.

          But, replacing qualified people with greedheads and purging the government of facts-oriented scientists is a hallmark of the Trump Administration. Among the emails The New York Times obtained from early in the coronavirus crisis was one that lamented, “We have thrown 15 years of institutional learning out the window.”

          The same can be said about climate change, air and water pollution, dangerous chemicals and, of course, education, which should foster better knowledge about those other health concerns. Agent Orange Face hates facts because they refute his constant lying.

          Yep, he was the one refusing to let experts take facts to the American people last week via their representatives – because Democrats are not sicko-sycophants.

          Allegedly, the replacement for all of the lost expertise is the president’s unqualified, grifter son-in-law.

          So, thanks to Trump’s example and that of fawning Republican governors, our coronavirus readiness amounts to standing on the porch with a finger in the wind, looking into a dark and stormy sky and hoping the lightning reveals more than it destroys.

          (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party: or

Hiding information puts people at risk

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