pandemic

No one puts a pandemic in a corner

Why have we let the pandemic pit states against each other?

A long time ago, long before the pandemic hit we were governed by the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. Basically, the federal government had very little power and the country was individual states doing their own thing. This was a train-wreck. The whole reason the Constitutional Convention in 1787 convened was to create a better way to manage the country. As it was, Congress feared the new nation was not going to be able to ward off efforts from the British to take back what had been theirs. The result was the Constitution.

Covid-19 has sent us back in time

Today, it feels like we are living in the U.S. circa 1777. By not taking a strong stand on the Covid-19 pandemic, the federal government abdicated its responsibility and left decisions to the states. Red states support President Donald Trump and took longer to issue stay at home orders, promote mask-wearing and social distancing and started opening up earlier. By contrast blue states did the opposite. During the early months, the lack of federal control of collecting and distributing needed medical equipment meant that it all became state vs. state. Governors across the nation complained about having to bid against each other — and sometimes against the federal government — to buy supplies they needed. Some resorted to buying and hiding what they had so the feds wouldn’t step in and take it all.

Now that we are five months in, this state v. state looks a little different. Early in the pandemic, Florida said New Yorkers entering Florida would have to self-quarantine for 14 days. The consequences for violating this are a fine of $500, up to 60 days in jail (the best place to get Covid-19). As the cases in Florida has skyrocketed and the cases in New York have plummeted, New York issued a new decree; no one from the states that have rising cases can come to the Empire State unless they will spend 14 days in quarantine. People who refuse will face a fine.

My state is better than your state

This is purely anecdotal but people I know in New York, where I live, do not seem all that concerned about what Floridians think of our state or how Governor Andrew Cuomo has handled Covid-19 but Floridians I know seem obsessed. Maybe they are bitter about #FloridaMan. We never should be in a place where we delight or rejoice at seeing other Americans die. I have family and friends in the Sunshine State and the last thing I want to see them suffer or die from this (or anything).

This data are backed up here.

Having lived through the worst (I hope) of the pandemic in New York, my first thought is, “Good for Florida, they dodged a bullet.” The problem is that the numbers do not always tell a complete story. In the last few weeks, Covid-19 has mounted a comeback and cases are surging all over the country. But consider the following:

  • The death rate so far has remained lower than in the spring. There are a few reasons for this. The death rate is a lagging indicator. People get sick, go to the hospital (or not) and die sometime later. Just because cases are rising does not mean they start dying at the same time. We don’t know what the real death count will be from this recent surge.
  • We have better treatments now than we had when this started. That is a good thing. As the novel coronavirus has been studied, doctors have been given more tools to fight it.
  • The death rate doesn’t tell the whole story about how bad a disease this is. One of the scariest things about Covid-19 is how long-lasting the impact can be. MRIs of the brains of people who spent time in the ICU show damage consistent with a traumatic brain injury. Many of these people require time in a rehab facility before going home.

It’s NEVER a bad thing when the mortality rate for a disease goes down. But to look at this data in a vacuum and extrapolate from it that Florida has done a better job than New York, for example, is shortsighted at best and harmful at worst.

We have let ourselves fall into this space. Rather than pit New York against Florida, a better way to handle this is to ask, “What can Florida learn from New York?” or “What can the world learn from the Floridian response?” We have taken the scientific/ medical and superimposed politics. How’s the working out? Not well.

I was raised to believe that we are all Americans. Floridians, New Yorkers, even people from New Jersey. Until we get back to that (and to the belief in empirical facts, we are doomed.

Paul Ryan

Dear John Boehner and Paul Ryan: Your country is calling

Will you answer?

I am not going to lie, I was never a big fan of either of you when you were in Congress. In fact, I wrote this about Mr. Ryan’s budget in 2013. The caveat to this is that while I didn’t agree with you, I didn’t ever think either of you was bat shit crazy. Neither of you was the “burn it all down and screw anyone who gets in your way” kind of person that is Newt Gingrich.

Both of you are in an interesting position. No one can really attack your conservative bona fides (though followers of Qanon will). Sane people respect you. If either of you come out against President Donald Trump, you will boost your reputations and give yourself a good platform to return to public life. You both will look like leaders who put the country before party. That’s powerful stuff right there.

Let’s recap some of Trump’s actions in 2019-2020:

Trump doesn’t care about protecting American soldiers

Trump did nothing when he learned Russian President Vladimir Putin has been paying the Taliban to kill American soldiers. Let that sink in for a minute. Rather than confront Putin, he tried to get Russia readmitted to the G-7. Trump has kissed Putin’s ring for the entire time he has been in the White House (and long before that). While Trump’s “excuse” has been that no one told him, reports say that he was briefed in early 2019. It is common knowledge by now that the Donald is not a big reader (he rares looks at the Presidential Daily Briefings he gets) but John Bolton told colleagues that the briefing was in person. One of the most serious jobs a president has is keeping Ameican troops safe. If there was a grade worse than F, he would get it here. That alone should be enough to denounce him but there’s more.

Trump’s response to Covid-19 killed Americans

Trump’s incompetence has killed tens of thousands of Americans. As of today, more than 130,000 Americans have been killed by Covid-19. No, Trump did not create the virus but he did fire the pandemic team that was part of the National Security Council. He also threw away the pandemic response plan that the Obama team left for him. If that wasn’t bad enough, he called the whole thing a “hoax” for two months. Today, you can see how that has impacted people as Trump supporters don’t wear masks and non-Trumpers do. This shouldn’t be a political thing. Now, other Republican leaders are telling people to wear masks. Some reports say that if we took this more seriously and actually did something sooner, between 80 to 90 percent of the people who died from Covid-19 would still be alive. Remember, he was warned about this in January 2020. Let that settle in.

Trump thinks racial tension = better chances to be reelected

Trump is stoking the flames of racial discord and division across the United States. Our nation is at a precarious point. Americans of all races have finally had enough of innocent black people being killed by police or vigilantes. As the nation comes to grips with its original sin of slavery, what does the president do? He goes on the offense.

First, he tried to use the U.S. military to break up peaceful protests in Washington, DC. When he was included in a photo op in front of the church on the other side of LaFayette park from the White House, General Mark. A Kelly, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, apologize saying “I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

Now, he has been giving speeches defending Confederate heroes. First, he was at Mount Rushmore and then the White House. No one has ever claimed Trump is a constitutional or history scholar but this is just more proof that the only Ameican he cares about is himself.

That is just a summary of a few of the things he has done in 2019 and 2020. This list is not exhaustive or complete. If not caring about our soldiers in a war zone or people at home who are vulnerable to a deadly disease or thinking promoting a race war and thinking it is ok to use the most powerful military in the world to quell protests is not enough to make you see how dangerous Trump is to us and the world, I don’t think anything will.

Mr. Boeher and Mr. Ryan, we need your input

Mr. Boehner, from what I had read, you are pretty happy away from the spotlight. I am happy for you, truly. That also means you are not in a position to have to worry about reelection. What do you care if Trump tweets something mean? That may be what passes for a merit badge in 2020. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. When the rest of the party catches up to you, which they will, you will look like a real leader.

And Mr. Ryan, you are too young to be out of the game for good. Your previous statements about Trump and how you felt after the Access Hollywood tape give you somewhat of a foundation. We need to find a way back to a place where the Republicans and Democrats can talk to each other again. This tribalism, into which we have devolved, helps no one. You know that. I know you do.

Help us, Mr. Boehner and Ryan. Your country needs you.

Here’s a song about another politician who had to make such a decision.

Why so angry, white people?

Last night, I went to a Black Lives Matter protest in Port Jefferson, New York. More than 300 people marched from the railroad station through the village and ended up in front of Village Hall. We stopped midway and all took a knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds. It was a peaceful protest. People were respectful of each other and everyone had a mask on. No one seemed particularly angry.

When we reached the intersection of Main Street and West Broadway, there was a counter-protest. This was in front of a bank of shops where pro-Trump banners often hang and where a pro-Trump rally was held a few months ago. None of the counter-protesters were wearing masks. They were waiving pro-Trump flags and playing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” Being me, I approached them to let them know they were not playing the patriotic anthem they thought they were.

This went over about as I expected. One woman yelled at me, “The song says BORN IN THE USA, IS THAT NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU?” Well, no but that’s beside the point. The people supporting President Trump and opposing the #BLM protest were angry. Very angry. As I walked away they shouted, “Wake up! This is not about black lives! This is about anarchy! You are going to end up needing the police soon!” Their anger was visceral, raw. They are mad and they aren’t going to take it anymore.

The right turns to gaslighting

They are not alone. After Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed by police in a Wendy’s parking lot, the place was torched by two white women. A self-proclaimed member of the Boogaloo Bois Steven Carillo killed a security guard in Oakland, California during a #BLM protest. Chevy McGee had a stockpile of weapons confiscated by Denver police. He has said he part of the “Boogaloo movement.”

If you are not familiar with the Boogaloo Bois, they are a right-wing extremist group that wants to usher in another civil war. They are angry and they are armed. They are also not alone. The Proud Boys and American Guard are two other right-wing extremist groups who promote armed conflict and violence.

Meanwhile, in the ultimate case of gaslighting, right-wing groups perpetrate violence and looting and then blame it on the left. Both President Trump and Attorney General William Barr have blamed Antifa (anti-fascist) groups for violent acts even when the FBI has found no such link. Anecdotally, I know people who have expressed sympathy if not full-throated support for the Proud Boys. The people I know are beyond angry. They love Trump because he expresses the same anger they feel. They look around and are angry that white, straight men are no longer the only ones with any control over things. Thousands of years of having power over everyone else just wasn’t enough.

Black anger makes sense

I get black anger. I do. Think about it, if you haven’t already. Africans were pulled from their homes and brought to the New World in the worst conditions. By some estimates, two million died making the crossing.

This is a diagram of a slave ship.

Once they arrived, they were property. This original sin of the United States went on for hundreds of years. Then African-Americans were forced to endure Jim Crow laws, segregation and lynchings. Today, in addition to the brutality they experience at the hands of police and others, we incarcerate more black people than anyone else. The sentences given to African-Americans are much harsher. Dylan Roof killed nine people in a church in South Carolina. He was not killed, he was arrested.

This video is a must-watch if you care about racial justice

Tamir Rice. Brionna Taylor. Amadou Diallo. Bothan Jean. Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. Michael Brown. Ahmed Arbery. We know these names because of how they were killed. One of the speakers last night said she was scared of becoming a name on a list. If I thought sleeping in my bed, eating ice cream on my couch, playing in a playground, walking down the street, going to the store and other normal activities could wind up with me dead, I would be angry all of the time.

But people on the side of Black Lives Matter are not plotting against the government and stockpiling weapons. People on the right stockpile weapons. People on the left stockpile books.

Today is Juneteenth. This should be a national holiday. To the people who think, but I’m not racist, all white people have benefited from white privilege. It took me a long time to see how I benefited because my life has not been what people think it is. It is now up to us to move the country past racism and deliver on the promises of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

Donald Trump is a fascist pussy

One of the things that makes our government so special is that we have civilian control of our military. This was a big deal to the Founding Fathers who did not want to create the same kind of government they fought to get out of.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution worked to ensure the military would be under civilian control. They did not want to emulate the European experience. The colonies had just fought a war for freedom from Britain. The king controlled the British military, and the framers had no interest in duplicating that system.
When they wrote the Constitution they separated the responsibilities for the military, placing the responsibilities firmly in civilian hands.

Department of Defense

Over the past few days, President Trump has suggested the military be brought in and if David Ignatius knows what he is talking about the trigger was almost pulled,

President Trump came closer to the brink of ordering active-duty military troops to intervene against protesters in Washington this week than has generally been reported, according to senior Pentagon officials.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/06/05/how-trump-came-brink-deploying-active-duty-troops-washington/

Senator Tom Cotton went as far as to call for this in an op-ed for the NY Times. The president himself seemed all hung ho, ready to clear the streets.

The problem is the U.S. military should never be used to police American citizens. That’s what the police and National Guard are for. This would set a dangerous precedent and would violate the Constitution.

But wait, there’s more. Attorney General William Barr wants Congress to pass legislation allowing indefinite detention of defendants without trial, according to Politico.

The Justice Department has quietly asked Congress for the ability to ask chief judges to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies — part of a push for new powers that comes as the novel coronavirus spreads throughout the United States.

Politico

So on one hand they want to send the military after people exercising their rights and on the other they want to deny other rights to people suspected of a crime. Trump’s lack of respect for the Constitution is not new but his attacks on our fundamental rights is escalating and is dangerous. Meanwhile has wrapped the White House in razor wire and hides from the people he works for.

Goodbye American democracy, you had a good run

fascist
Even Larry King was intrigued by the Donald’s do.
outrage is lacking

Where’s the outrage?

As of right now — 2:38 pm on May 26, 2020, about 99,162 Americans have been killed by Covid-19. This should make people outraged but it isn’t. That is nearly 100,000 people killed in approximately three months. For perspective, that is more than 33 9/11s or 25,000 Benghazi attacks. President Donald Trumps’ inability to face reality or care about anyone has meant tens of thousands of people died who didn’t have to. Think that is hyperbole? Columbia University looked into this and found that 36,000 people would still be alive if we stated social distancing a mere seven days earlier. Yet, the response has been muted. I live in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic and a state Trump no longer cares for. Wherever I look, I see how damaging this pandemic has been.

If you were angry about Benghazi, why are you complacent now?

Between September 11 and 12, 2012, militants in Libya attacked two American compounds and killed four U.S. officials and contractors. At first the attacks were blamed on a protest but then that was changed to premeditated attacks by a militant group in the country. For people on the right, “Benghazi” turned into a dog whistle for people who hate Hillary Clinton. It remains such today. T-shirts, bumper sticker, and more were made with the claim, “Hillary lied, people died.”

A flurry of investigations followed. None unearthed any evidence of wrongdoing. The Republican-led Congress put together six investigations. They went so far as to convene the United States House Select Committee on Benghazi, which was chaired by then-Congressman Trey Goudy (R-SC) and would go on to clear the,-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. After two years of investigating these events, he told FOX News that nothing could have saved these four people. When asked if the U.S. military could have been deployed to arrive in time to make a difference, he said, “Whether or not they could have gotten there in time, I don’t think there is any issue with respect to that — they couldn’t.”

Where are the “Trump lied, people died” signs?

Since it struck China in December 2019, President Trump has made a number of misleading statements (aka lies in any other reality). CBS News has a great timeline of what Trump has made up, when he lied, and what the actual situation was. Their list goes through April but the lies have continued through today.

To recap, Trump denied the virus was a problem or threat to the country for months. When it was too real to deny, he switched to “I always said this was a pandemic.” When people started looking into how his administration responded to the crisis, he switched to talking up the job he has done and fell back on his normal pattern of blaming and bashing everyone who disagrees with him or anyone he thinks is vulnerable. I can’t think of anyone who thinks Columbia University is not a venerable institution but after they reported on Trump’s ineptitude, he called them “discredited.” (Don’t take my word, you can Google this and find it yourself.)

Despite all of this, there are no calls for hearings or investigations. The Republican Party is so fully up Trump’s ass, they no longer can see the harm this dangerous man is doing to the nation.

This revolution will be televised and Tweeted.

Maybe the most disheartening part of the Trump response has been the way he, his party and his news network (FOX News if you have not been paying attention) have turned this into the ultimate culture war. When Trump was busy denying the impending crisis, so were the anchors on his favorite network. More than one survey came out showing that people who relied on FOX News were less concerned (if they cared at all) about Covid-19 than people who relied on other sources for their news. The NY Times wrote this about the pro-Trump media response. In it, they note:

Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing commentators turned a pandemic into a battle of us vs. them — the kind of battle President Trump has waged for much of his life.

The NY Times

I have talked to people at FOX News who dispute the reports about its viewers by saying no one outside of the network have access to data about them. That may be true but anecdotal evidence I have collected supports the general thesis that people who support Trump and pay attention to right-wing “news” are less likely to care as much about the pandemic.

More than just convince FOX News viewers and their ilk not to worry, the Trump message to get back to work and not wear a mask has also found support in the anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theory communities around the country. And the worst part? Conspiracy theorists are winning the communications game. New polling suggests that 40 percent of Republicans and 20 percent of Democrats think Bill Gates is going to use any vaccine against Covid-19 to implant microchips into people to track their movements. (Side note: those smartphones we all love already do that. Where’s the outrage about that?) Groups that support opening the nation back up talk about “government oppression” (wearing masks violates some right they think they have) and an “upcoming rebellion.” Again, this is anecdotal but people I know say a revolution is going to start if states do not open up and stop asking people to wear masks.

For these people, who think the government is always up to no good (yet many support Trump, head of the government, go figure), vaccines are inherently shady and bad for you, and that Bill Gates works for Satan (I KNEW CLIPPY WAS EVIL), any efforts to slow the spread or flatten the curve of the pandemic really want to control the American people. Note: Many of these Trump supporters and rebels also do not see any racism in U.S. police departments (again, go figure). They feel all of the outrage but not at Trump. It’s the corrupt/evil/larger-than-life system!

But where’s the anger about the death toll?

Way back in 1996, Bob Dole (presidential candidate and U.S. Senator from Kansas) had a meltdown of sorts. At a rally in Texas, he listed off all of the problems he attributed to Bill Clinton’s unscrupulous behavior and questionable moral character (his opinion, not mine) and asked, “Where is the outrage?” I pose that same question today.

People I know and respect who were outraged about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya say their anger is not at the number of people who died but the coverup that followed. To that argument, I call bullshit. The GOP has become of the party of gaslighting. In claiming to look into a coverup for political purposes, they launched investigation after investigation to hurt Hillary Clinton. Gowdy called his hearings “a failure” but Kevin McCarthy admitted they hurt Hillary and that was the reason they were hell-bent on investigating. He told FOX News:

“Everybody though Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”

FOX News

PS, Congress spent more money investigating Benghazi than they did looking into 9/11. Apparently, national security only matters when you can prove nefariousness on the part of Democrats.

Trump is incompetent and needs to go.

No one can say for sure if the nation should open up. Will more people get and die from Covid-19? Will there be a second wave in the fall? Other waves after? Will the outrage come then? (The 1918 flu had between four and five waves, the second was worse than the first.) One thing we do know is Donald Trump’s incompetence killed Americans. If 100,000 people dead in under three months is not enough to convince you he needs to go, what will?

PS. People have asked me “were you worried about pandemics before this?” Yes, yes I was. In fact I wrote this in 2013. And, while at least three people died in February from the coronavirus, people didn’t really start dying until March so that is why I say it is nearly 100,000 over three months and not four is because that is more accurate.