Thursday, April 30, 2020

Why America Is Reopening Its Doors for Hell

Update: Thanks again to Batocchio at Crooks & Liars for adding this blog to Mike's Blog Round-Up! I hope everyone's safe and doing their bit to reduce the risks of coronavirus, and for the LOVE OF GOD STOP VOTING REPUBLICAN...

There is a push right now across a lot of states - after six weeks of Stay-At-Home practices attempting to reduce the spread of COVID-19 - to reopen certain public places (like beaches) and certain businesses (like restaurants) even though the evidence is there that the United States is not in a safe place itself in terms of managing the health care response to the coronavirus.

Why are we even considering putting more customer service and other at-risk workers in harm's way?

1) States cannot cope with their overwhelmed unemployment benefits programs.

Much like Florida, collapsing under the weight of having more than 20 percent of the workforce dropping onto a benefits program that was underfunded and mismanaged to begin with, other states cannot cope with the overwhelming reality of that many people requiring aid all at once, and most of them needing that aid for more months than the state politicians do not want to contemplate. Iowa is doing it, Texas is doing it, Georgia is doing it... To quote the Reuters article by Andy Sullivan:

State unemployment laws generally do not allow workers to collect jobless benefits if they refuse work available to them, said Thomas Smith, an associate professor at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. That could force workers in Georgia back to their jobs at a time when it is not clear whether the risk of infection has abated, he said.
“You’re asking people to put their life on the line,” he said. “These people aren’t Army Rangers - those people signed up for combat. A barber did not...”
Some critics say the state’s early reopening is an attempt to push people out of a safety-net system that is straining state finances.
“I think that one of the big drivers of this decision by Kemp is to get people off unemployment rolls and having the private sector keeping these people afloat,” said Georgia employment lawyer James Radford...
Some Georgia businesses are opting not to open at all at this point due to employees’ safety concerns.
At Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta, general manager Steve Pitts said he and many of staffers are reluctant to come back to work while the pandemic is still not contained. The restaurant remains closed for now.
“I have a daughter and I want to be around for her,” said Pitts, 53. “It’s still too dangerous...”

2) States are terrified of the loss of their tax revenues, due to the drop of sales taxes that would be coming from many of those closed businesses.

Unlike the federal government - which can operate with large deficits no matter how much the Far Right scream about it - state governments ARE required in one form or another to stay within means (some have balanced budget amendments written into their constitutions). As a result, they rely a lot on local revenue either in the form of income (and corporate income) tax and sales tax... both of which are getting hit hard during Stay-At-Home policies. While incomes can remain relatively stable  (most people still self-employed or working at-home can generate that) it's the sales tax part - from restaurants, clothing stores/gift shops, the drop in gas purchases, even a drop in grocery buying, movies and theater entertainment, theme parks, hotels (a lot of tourist-heavy states like Florida have been upping hospitality taxes for a long time), everything else - that's being lost every day that every store front, park gate, and eatery dining room is closed.

This one is a genuine (read: non-partisan) problem. And without more aid from a federal government - Hi Mitch, you obstructionist bastard! - the states have no choice but to force businesses to re-open to try and regain some driblets of tax revenue.

3) And most annoying of all: Minor faction of wingnuts - pushing for "Freedom" when in fact they're marching and shouting in order to make Democrats look bad - hate the inconveniences they are suffering and cannot imagine the health risks that will get dumped onto most low-wage (and usually minority) workers. And so they're making enough noise about it to give their political leaders the excuse to re-open anyway.

Some of those wingnuts don't even believe this coronavirus is that bad compared to other diseases and causes of death floating out there. So what if COVID-19 is an extra 2-to-5 percent risk to your grandparents? Never mind the evidence by the by that this virus is lethal to ALL ages...

There are, however, solid and reasonable arguments for why we NEED to remain shut down and Stay-At-Home for at least the next few months:

A) We do not have enough test kits in place to effectively identify and quarantine affected people. Without that, the asymptomatic carriers of the virus can keep walking around for weeks before showing actual signs of COVID... and be contagious enough to spread the virus without warning to others. Every other country that's been containing the pandemic successfully have an aggressive testing system in place. WE DO NOT. Okay? trump is lying about the number of tests we have available. trump's entire administration is lying. trump is motherfucking lying.

We are going to spread this bug like a zombie plague: Fast, terrifying, and with a pile of bodies in its wake.

B) We do not have enough protective gear and cleaning supplies available. Between the lack of filtering masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and soap, and other required (PPE) items, a lot of employees at public places are going to get exposed. Our own hospitals are short on these supplies, often because trump's own FEMA people keep raiding our states for that equipment which then disappears into someone else's warehouses.

This is not even going into greater detail about the horrors of the food processing - especially the meat - industry with low-wage workers in close-contact, easily-contagious work areas. We're running both the risks of contaminated foods reaching us, but also losing enough workers both short and long-term to create shortages and a food crisis. The food companies are under pressure to stay operating but they don't have the protective gear and testing of staff to keep doing so. We won't see it now but it's coming in another month or two, when the grocery stores still open run out of steak and pork and fresh fruits.

C) We do not have a coordinated and effective health care system to handle a wide-spread pandemic. There are not enough hospital beds and rooms, there are not enough hospitals period in rural areas (and despite all the talk from Republicans and the Far Right about this, COVID is already in these rural Red states and spreading faster...). The lack of adequate funding - many rural states refused the Medicaid expansion of Obamacare, which meant those rural (and poor) hospitals had to close - over the last thirty years has finally caught up to us.

And yet here we are. Even Democratic-controlled states are looking into "soft openings" of certain industries. We're upping the risks and doing little in other ways to bring those risks back down.

The whole point - and effectiveness - of Stay-At-Home is to reduce the risks and "flatten the curve" of the way pandemics come and go. As long as we can keep the bell curve of infection rates/deaths relatively shallow, we're good. But if that bell-curve of infection is steeper than the tall side of a mountain, we are screwed.

And we are at the front-end of that curve. The infection numbers are still going up. We're behaving like we're at the tail-end of the curve when we're nowhere near it!

We are royally sickeningly fucked.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Bleach on the trumpian Brain

I knew going into all this that donald trump would be the most ignorant, ill-informed President Loser of the Popular Vote since Andrew Johnson, but I never imagined it would be THIS bad. Via Aaron Rupar at Vox:

At the briefing, William Bryan, undersecretary for Science and Technology at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), discussed preliminary government research indicating that “heat and humidity suppress Covid-19” and “commonly available disinfectants work to kill the virus.”
After Bryan’s presentation, Trump took to the podium and made a deeply bizarre inference.
“Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light ... and then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you’re gonna test that,” Trump said, addressing Bryan. “And then I see disinfectant, where it knocks it [coronavirus] out in a minute — one minute — and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that. So, that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me.”

There's a video clip of Dr. Birx sitting to one side, listening to what trump is saying, and you can visibly see the moment her body recoils and her brain shuts down from exposure to trump's stupid.

Bryan - an actual expert on things - was talking about how disinfectants work on surfaces as a means of sanitizing stuff to reduce the spread of COVID-19. At no time did Bryan say a disinfectant can be used as a medicinal placed inside a body where those cleaning chemicals would be harmful to our living cells.

And this isn't even getting into the "shining a UV light inside people's bodies" idea he had.

Billy Madison was never this insipidly dumb.

There is a website literally domain-named as covering trump-related news and this was at Day 1191 for the nation and world coping with this stupidity. There hasn't been anything this dumb archived at that site, I swear to the Old Gods and the New.

Quick show of hands to the seven blog readers: How many of you were told at a very young age to NOT drink from the cleaning supply bottles? How many of us were taught in chemistry class at school that certain things like bleach and ammonia are toxic to the human body? How many of us read the FCKING warning labels on our Clorox and Tide containers?

Lysol today had to release a public statement begging the citizenry to NOT start injecting their bodies with their cleaning chemicals. Disinfectant doesn't kill the virus inside your body, the disinfectant kills your body.

Why is the thought-addled Shitgibbon even talking about this as a cure-all?

Because the reports coming back on trump's previous hope for a cure - hydroxychloronique - are showing that solution is toxic as well.

Read how trump is bragging how quickly a disinfectant will work - "one minute!" - as a "cure," and this is just another red flag of how trump doesn't know what he's talking about. In his mind - wherever those remaining brain cells are - he's picturing a quick and simple solution to a problem he doesn't want to be confronted with anymore. No matter how wrong he's processing the information and cherry-picking the results.

This is yet another attempt by trump to reach for something, ANYTHING to be a miracle cure against the COVID-19 pandemic, but even this stretches credibility and common sense to its breaking point.

This is Kakistocracy gone public, with no solution in sight except for an open call to any remaining sane people in trump's Administration to get the hell out of there before it's too late.

trump: We award you no points, and may GOD have mercy on our souls.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

There Is No trumpian Miracle Cure

As far back as when trump HAD to confront the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has clung to this idea that a particular drug already existing - hydroxychloroquine - was a means of fighting the disease.

In the process, thousands of people bought that "miracle" cure up, depriving it from those people who DID need that drug to treat their malaria, Lupus, and other disorders: causing an unwanted shortage for a drug that had actual scant evidence - barely anecdotal - of it working against the coronavirus.

A couple of weeks ago, some medical facilities -desperate on their own terms - decided to use hydroxychloroquine to combat the illness, especially among some veterans' hospitals (I would hope they received informed consent when they did this).

And now, the results are starting to show (from Marilynn Marchione at AP News):

A malaria drug widely touted by President Donald Trump for treating the new coronavirus showed no benefit in a large analysis of its use in U.S. veterans hospitals. There were more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care, researchers reported.
The nationwide study was not a rigorous experiment. But with 368 patients, it’s the largest look so far of hydroxychloroquine with or without the antibiotic azithromycin for COVID-19, which has killed more than 171,000 people as of Tuesday.
The study was posted on an online site for researchers and has not been reviewed by other scientists. Grants from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Virginia paid for the work.
Researchers analyzed medical records of 368 male veterans hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infection at Veterans Health Administration medical centers who died or were discharged by April 11.
About 28% who were given hydroxychloroquine plus usual care died, versus 11% of those getting routine care alone. About 22% of those getting the drug plus azithromycin died too, but the difference between that group and usual care was not considered large enough to rule out other factors that could have affected survival.
Hydroxychloroquine made no difference in the need for a breathing machine, either.
Researchers did not track side effects, but noted a hint that hydroxychloroquine might have damaged other organs. The drug has long been known to have potentially serious side effects, including altering the heartbeat in a way that could lead to sudden death...

If you want anecdote, other reported cases show people taking Hydroxychloroquine died from heart attacks, which is kinda what the article is saying that previous paragraph.

During the earliest stages of this crisis, you could tell trump was eager for this drug to pan out, that having a quick and easy miracle cure on hand would have resolved the pandemic within weeks and he wouldn't have to make hard choices on overseeing nationwide provisions, funding hospitals, providing emergency financial aid to states overwhelmed by the financial impositions of shutting things down to reduce the spread of the virus...

But he wasted all this time, all OUR time, pursuing a quick fix for something - a lethal coronavirus - that does not obey the whims of political leaders or pundits.

And this is all happening as more Red State governors - Gods help us - are pushing to re-open a lot of public businesses before we are ready for it. We don't have enough testing kits to make sure people are safe. We don't have enough medical supplies for our hospitals who are running out of resources and workers (who are falling ill as they are most exposed to the virus). We don't have a cure at hand to reduce the impact of COVID-19, no vaccine ready in time until (hopefully) September (still five months away).

We are deep in the heart of the pandemic, America. Any sign of "flattening" the curve of infection merely means we have to keep doing what we're doing now - Social Distancing and STAYING AT HOME - to keep the risk low.

But trump and the Republicans can't abide that. It disrupts their economic plans, it weakens their arguments about Capitalism and employment, it threatens to shift more burden on a Federal government they DARE NOT allow to work properly.

So trump will distract his followers with calls to protest, accuse others of failing the nation, and push for re-openings that will only spike the infections.

I said back in January 2nd of this year that 2020 escalated pretty quickly. Hell, it's been escalating every day now.

We need to stay alive and healthy by November to fix what's truly broken. You want a miracle cure, America? Vote trump and his Republican cronies out of power. That's the cure we need.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

A trumpian Plague of Madness

Let's open with a photo taken of a recent protest organized around "re-opening" the states while in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It comes from this article of The Columbus Dispatch, the photo is from Joshua A Bickel:

taken by Joshua A. Bickel

If it looks like a photo from the Zombie Apocalypse, it's because we're kind of living through a Real-Life version of one. NOTE: Zombie movies have long been a stand-in for a lot of cultural fears, one of which is the rapid spread of infection. The CDC and other pandemic experts use the "threat" of film zombies to model out how those things can happen for real. And now we're seeing it ourselves.

What do you see, really, in that photo?

I see a bunch of privileged, angry White folk screaming about "their rights" and a desire to have all the businesses and places shut down by the Coronavirus to re-open to serve "their" needs at the expense of everybody else.

It's been a month - ever since March 16 when trump FINALLY gave in to the medical reports that COVID was here and was killing Americans - and all of the MAGA-hat angry people are marching for... "Freedom"?

Freedom to get the virus from other people? Freedom to ignore the social distancing to reduce the risks? Freedom to pass that virus on to others, sending yourself and others to overwhelmed hospitals that STILL are not getting the supplies they need to SAVE LIVES?

This is less a "bite-your-arm turn-into-a-ghoul" type of horror movie and more "a plague of madness" spread by ideology, by this "Don't Tread On Me" libertarian-esque mindset that one's individual rights supersedes everyone else's right to NOT GET SICK.

These recent marches by the Confederate-flag waving rage-driven trumpian voters in many of these states are being pushed by trump and Fox Not-News as both a distraction and a rally cry to their hard-core audience. Take a count of how many of these marches are being done in states with Democratic governors, in an attempt to make those governors seem tyrannical and evil. This isn't about freedom, this is about making Democrats look bad.

And in the process, they're getting more people exposed, not just the protesters themselves but the police who have to patrol these marches, the reporters covering them for stories, any employees and workers there at the state capitals or anybody they meet along the way.

We are getting to the point of the pandemic where the backlash by the naysayers and non-believers - a lot of them having lived in their own physical bubbles for years - are kicking into high gear, all because they haven't been infected (yet) or care about any of the ones who HAVE been infected.

These protesters are basically a bunch of privileged citizens who are more annoyed by the discomfort the lack of public services they're used to having - fancy restaurants, vacation spots, easy travel across the planet - and are now screaming bloody murder to get that all back.

Never mind the costs of what they want, which have already been paid by thousands of low-wage employees who provided those services for years, many of them now sick and dead by exposure to COVID and many more of them threatened with exposure should they ever be forced back to work. Which isn't screaming bloody murder, it IS bloody murder.

Gods help them, those low-wage Americans, because they're being burdened with the demands of the unhappy and unreasonable Far Right cult of death.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

When The GOP Narrative Means More Than Our Lives, Florida 2020 Edition

Shit just got real in Florida, via Lawrence Mower at Tampa Bay Times:

Floridians will be keeping their distance and wearing face masks for up to a year until a COVID-19 vaccine exists, Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees said Monday before being whisked away by the governor’s spokeswoman.
Rivkees told reporters that Floridians needed to get used to current precautions, such as avoiding crowds of 10 or more and wearing face masks in public.
“Until we get a vaccine, which is a while off, this is going to be our new normal and we need to adapt and protect ourselves,” he said.

And then Gov. DeSantis had the top health care official in the state kicked out of the room.




All because Rivkees was speaking to the reality that we're unable to safely co-mingle until there's a cure? It's the truth: This coronavirus is highly effective at spreading, and reducing the risks is our only means to combat it right now.

Our governor kicked out his key player because said player wasn't on message?

DeSantis is already in a lot of trouble for showing clear ignorance of COVID-19 and his refusals to issue stronger protections for the public - he foolishly kept the beaches opened during Spring Break season even as the theme parks voluntarily shut themselves down - as well as making too-early noises about reopening the schools so that businesses can get back to making money by the start of May.

But DeSantis can't be bothered. Like other Republican leaders - Governors like South Dakota's Kristi Noem, Nebraska's Pete Ricketts, Arkansas' Asa Hutchinson - they don't want to deal with the serious ramifications of what spreading the coronavirus will do to their own states' citizenry.

The lack of empathy stems from the ALMIGHTY REPUBLICAN NARRATIVE that government is "the problem" never a "solution," and that businesses take priority over everyone's health and well-being.

In the process, they're letting their own voting constituents fall prey to a disease that's currently best fought by giving it no targets to hit (US).

Because somehow, some way, these Republican leaders know they'll be let off the hook come election day. That enough of their own base will forgive as long as they're convinced "the libruls" and "the Dread Other" took it worse.

Either that or they'll try cheating some more.

Even though the latest results from the Wisconsin primary and local judicial elections proved that gameplan has a few flaws (i.e., pissed off voters who overwhelming went with the Democratic candidates).

Of course, the Republicans tend to respond to these setbacks with more cheating, more denial, more suffering for others.

Gods help us if the GOP keeps playing this as a game with everyone else as their expendable pawns.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

We're Not Safe Yet: Easter Sunday 2020 Edition

Remember a while back, trump was insisting that the COVID-19 / Coronavirus emergency would be over by Easter weekend and he wanted to see churches packed with people... and ultimately let the matter drop because enough experts were warning him that the United States won't be safe enough for large crowds by today. (Never mind the fact a lot of governors left church gathering exceptions in their Stay-At-Home orders, exposing hundreds to COVID anyway)

However, trump is STILL calling for "a return to normalcy" in order to "get America back to work" by opening stores and restaurants and schools and a lot of other places while the exposure rates show no signs of slowing down. Even as these are things not entirely under his control, via Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine:

Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to “reopen” the economy, but it’s not clear exactly what this means, or what he can do about it. Governors and mayors have issued the orders shutting down public spaces. Trump can’t overrule those, though if he wants to pry them open, he does have some tools: He can urge his supporters to resist, or use federal resources to pressure states and localities that resist his advice.
Public-health experts have argued that social-distancing measures can only be relaxed after several benchmarks are reached. Community spread has to be contained, and the government needs to have the capacity to conduct mass testing and to be able to trace the contacts of anybody who tests positive. This is not just some liberal-weenie precaution. The conservative American Enterprise Institute made this case in March, and CDC director Robert Redfield confirms it in a new NPR interview.
The notion that we’re going to be ready to do this within a few weeks seems utterly fanciful. At a recent press briefing, reporters tried to drill down on how much testing Trump planned to have available to accommodate the reopening. Trump simply denied the premise that testing to scale was even necessary. “Do you need it? No. Is it a nice thing to do? Yes. We’re talking 325 million people. That’s not going to happen, as you can imagine,” he said at one point. Asked about the number of tests his former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said would be needed, Trump scoffed, “I don’t like using the word needed, because I don’t think it’s needed...”

No matter how the scientists and doctors are trying to talk trump through this crisis, he's seemingly trying to push the federal government towards forcing the governors of all 50 states into this path he wants:

Rather than ramping up a massive national testing regime, the federal government has been signaling to states that they’re soon going to be on their own. And as for contact tracing — like a cell-phone app, or an army of public-health officials, to track down every contact of a person who tests positive — well, there’s simply no sign whatsoever that either project is even in the works, let alone ready for an early May rollout. And if the government doesn’t have the capacity to quickly identify and isolate new cases, relaxing social distancing will simply lead to renewed outbreaks.
So, given the government’s utter unreadiness to transition away from social distancing, what does Trump have in mind when he talks about reopening? The answer seems to be retreating into denial...

Lumped into all of this - something Chait covers in one paragraph - is how trump and his Fox Not-News cohorts have been trumpeting miracle cures - in particular a lupus/malaria drug that doesn't have confirmed medical studies proving it works on COVID - as though said cure is a home run for him to claim victory if it works. Even though that drug in the wrong dosage is lethal, it carries serious side effects, and there's again no actual confirmation from multiple trials - necessary for ANY drug treatment - that it will work.

trump, in short, wants this crisis to be over.

Partly because it's something he knows deep down he's not in control of (and trump is an obsessive control freak), partly because his own attention span can't handle anything taking more than a week to resolve (and COVID is something that will be with us for months), and mostly because he knows the longer this crisis takes the likelier he's not going to resolve it and tie it all up in a pretty bow before November's Election Day. Back to Chait:

It is irrational for Trump to believe he can restart the economy without first putting into place a robust public-health apparatus to contain new outbreaks. But it is not irrational for Trump to worry about his reelection. The state of public opinion may be even grimmer than even the top-line numbers would indicate. The public believes Trump was unprepared to deal with the virus by overwhelming margins — 63 percent to 22 percent, according to YouGov, and 71 percent to 29 percent, per CBS. YouGov also asks if Trump could have reduced the damage had he acted sooner, and 40 percent say “a lot,” while 25 percent say “somewhat.”
Two-thirds of the country believes Trump bungled the early stages of the crisis and subjected the country to unnecessary pain. So, on what everybody expects to be the single question that decides the election, Trump has lost the entire premise. Trump is already losing, and the current course seems far more likely to widen the gap than to shrink it. Whatever slim benefit of the doubt the public was willing to cede as he tackles the crisis is quickly expiring, and he stands (justifiably) to be blamed for the hardships that will follow.

We're already looking at April-May unemployment numbers for roughly 30 percent of the available workforce in America. Given how long it takes for businesses shut down to re-open, even if we resolve COVID-19 with widespread testing - which we can't, we still don't have enough tests - there's a slow slog towards rehiring. Businesses that furloughed workers could arguably bring them back, but again that takes time (and other resources). The economic contraction that happened with the pandemic just for the United States took a huge chuck out of the money needed to rebuild anyway.

Schools are likely not reopening until September, meaning a lost spring for students - high school seniors in particular struggling towards college enrollment - across the board. Universities may have to delay enrollments.

And we're not even looking at the emotional impact this pandemic is leaving on millions of Americans: The loss of loved ones and friends at the scale of thousands, the social isolation that's been causing "cabin fever" issues for people, a lot of personal turmoil that won't be resolved any time soon. There's a dour mood across the landscape... and trump and his Republican allies have to know they're going to be the targets of that mood.

But what trump hopes to do to avert that blame - pushing for re-opening everything before our nation is even safe to do so - is going to re-trigger all the problems that led to us self-isolating and closed down in the first place. Places like Singapore and South Korea are reporting their infection numbers going back up after easing up their extensive isolation policies that had earlier kept their rates "flattened". Until there's a vaccine in place - and that could be September at the earliest - we are not going back to normal.

But trump wants that "normal" - where the stock markets went up, where his tariffs were "winning", where business was booming while millions of workers were NOT - in place before November.

Otherwise, he and his buddies are going to have to cheat harder to steal the 2020 election.

And you know how trump HATES to do more work.

Gods help us.

P.S. Happy Easter Sunday to my Christian peeps. I took care of my Unitarian obligations this morning with a scrambled egg sacrifice (I burned the toast, so be it O Lord).

Friday, April 10, 2020

The 2020 Democratic Primaries End But the Fight Against trump Remains

Given the intensity of the last two months focusing on the ongoing nightmare of trump's failed responses to coronavirus, the importance of yesterday's announcement from Bernie Sanders' campaign wasn't the top news it deserved to be. And yet, attention must be paid (via Scott Detrow at NPR)...

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his 2020 presidential campaign Wednesday, bowing to the commanding delegate lead former Vice President Joe Biden established.
"I wish I could give you better news, but I think you know the truth. And that is that we are now some 300 delegates behind Vice President Biden, and the path toward victory is virtually impossible," Sanders told supporters in livestreamed remarks, shortly after he had broken the news to campaign staff.

What this does is leave Biden on the Democratic primary ballot without a serious challenger, pretty much guaranteeing he secures the delegates for the nomination. All that's left now are the Choosing of the Veep and the Recriminations of the Utopian Idealists Who Can Never Accept a Moderate Centrist And Will Openly Threaten to Vote A Second Term Of The Shitgibbon As Our Punishment.

I hope I am kidding about that second part.

A quick postmortem about how Sanders failed to win in 2020 when he had done so much better in 2016 should look at these factors:

It is turning out - especially when you saw Sanders winning Michigan in 2016 but getting nuked in 2020 - that Bernie did better in 2016 because he was the Not-Hillary candidate. A lot of us, myself included, knew Hillary was hated but never understood how hated she was even among Democratic voters. And not because she was more pro-business than the Progressives would like: A lot of that hatred was on a personal level, pure vitriol towards her as a target for rage. As a result, Sanders got more votes and delegates than he would have gotten had a more popular candidate run back then. By 2020, thinking he was more popular than he truly was, Bernie jumped into this primary cycle thinking he was the front-runner, and to some extent he was (besting other genuine Progressive opponents like Warren and Inslee), but he just wasn't as popular as Biden.

Biden winning this primary cycle violated a couple of campaigning norms: He once again did a weak job organizing his campaign, was floundering at fund-raising, and hadn't even done a lot of advertising to promote himself. Bernie beat him at each of those factors. What Biden did have was the endorsements: The benefits of a party elder is that a lot of people owe you at least one favor, and you don't even have to call those favors in because they'll still back you because you're a known - and well-liked - factor as a leader on the stage. Those endorsements - especially Jim Clyburn who personally turned South Carolina into Biden's biggest victory - carries a lot of weight with much of the party base. Bernie - still marketing himself as the Outsider - couldn't even beg an endorsement from any other major players (he did get several, but only from some of the freshmen Progressives like AOC).

And even with Biden's shaky record on civil rights, women's rights, and other questionable votes as U.S. Senator, he had the marquee name by now, something he didn't have in 1988 nor 2008. He ran essentially as "Uncle Joe" from the Onion satires and people went with that.

That "well-liked" aspect for Biden helped him and hurt Bernie. I've mentioned it before - I will live and die by Professor Barber's Character Chart - that Biden is Passive-Positive as opposed to Bernie's Active-Negative. For all the outreach Sanders' campaign tried to do with the larger voting blocs of the Democratic Party - Southern Black voters, College-educated Whites - he still could not win them over on a personal level. His personal abrasive and uncompromising nature was still in full effect this cycle. It's telling that when Warren dropped out last month, rather than give her endorsement to Bernie as the most likely Progressive to defend her many plans, she refused to give any endorsement at all (whereas the major Centrists who dropped out - Buttigieg and Klobuchar - both heartily endorsed Biden within hours).

That Passive-Positive nature for Biden - his congeniality - means that he has a better skill set in building coalitions, which a lot of the Democratic leadership - and enough of the party voting base - see as more necessary in an election cycle where turnout and unity are key. Given how he's not as focused on forging agendas, he's actually in a good position to absorb and promote the agendas of other party figures. It's expected that he's going to take all the good and popular ideas that Warren, Buttigieg, Harris, Klobuchar, and even Sanders offered this primary season and merge them into a Big Tent platform.

It did not help Bernie that yet again he was campaigning on a platform of Revolution: Changing the American system from Capitalism to a Euro-style Democratic Socialism. Primarily his push for a Medicare-For-All system that would overturn the privatized health care system currently in place. Change frightens people, and are only receptive to it under the proper conditions. In 2016, a lot of Liberal and Progressive voters - having been burned out by Obama's pragmatic Centrist agenda limited by Republican obstructionism - did feel the need to break the system to enact greater left-leaning solutions. But a lot has changed in four years of horrifying misrule by trump and his Republican cronies. Right now, the mood among Democratic voters is desire for Stability, not Revolution... no matter how much the Progressive Left can argue the merits (and there are a few) of that Revolution. Biden offers the nostalgia of the more sane, more calm Obama years, not the uncertainty and possible chaos that Sanders offered.

One last thing was how Bernie Sanders and the Progressives overall were hoping for a large Youth voter turnout to secure enough primary wins. For all the talk and even solid evidence that the younger, Millennial-age bloc was solidly Far Left on major issues... not a lot of them turned up at the primaries when it mattered. This is less a criticism of Bernie than it is a criticism of our nation's failure to treat voting rights serious enough. Unlike other nations that employ Universal Voter Registration, the U.S. - supposedly the Home of Democracy - makes our voting voluntary, you have to go out of your way to register. And in that regards, not enough young voters do (a combination of decades of failed civics lessons in school, the reality of young people moving enough times to not keep a current address to register which also adds to GOP voter suppression efforts, and perhaps a sense of futility among the young that they will never be taken seriously as a bloc anyway).

Put that all together and you have Bernie Sanders being disastrous in 2020 where he did better in 2016, even without any changes to his persona or his platform, even if his platform could have appealed to enough Democratic voters if only Bernie made himself more amenable about his Idealism.

Now it's all pretty much Biden vs. trump.

Right now with Biden there's not much of a platform, but then again 2020 isn't going to be about the issues. This election cycle for Democrats is about one thing: Getting rid of donald "Shitgibbon" trump. It's going to be about the mismanagement, the corruption, the inaction in the face of crisis, every last failure of trump's regime. It's about trying to rise above the open voter suppression the Republicans are bound to use as obstacles across half the states, not just hacked ballot machines but voter roll purges and negative social media psych-ops stuff.

For all the cheating the Republicans are bound to do this November, the best solution to stop them is to overwhelm them with turnout. They can only deny so many voters, they can only undercount (or even override) so many ballots. If the Democrats can jump the voter turnout up by 8 points compared to 2016 across every state - the way they were able to in 2018 - the Dems ought to clear enough Electoral College numbers to win.

This is where Biden - with the help of Harris, and Warren, and Buttigieg, and Klobuchar, and Booker, and Beto, and Castro, and Bernie - needs to step up the voter turnout efforts. He may not be good at it but he better hand off that job to someone - someone like Howard Dean who pushed the successful 50 State voter drive in 2006 - who CAN ensure every left-leaning Moderate/Centrist and every solid Liberal and every Far Left Progressive are united in showing up and kicking trump and Mitch and every other Republican bastard out.

Turnout matters, people.


Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Essential Workers, Essential Pay

As the United States careens through this COVID-19 Pandemic, let us note as many "essential workers" - the ones keeping us alive in some form or another - as we can.

Emergency Medical Technicians (the ambulance crews)
Police Officers (first responders to any crisis situation)
Fire Fighters (also trained for medical responses)
Nurses across the board
Doctors in hospitals, walk-in clinics, ERs, Intensive Care units
Anybody working in the hospital hot zones, from janitors to accountants
City and County Electricians
City and County Water and Sewage crews
Grocery store clerks and managers
Auto repair / Roadside assistance crews
Food delivery people
Food caterers making food for school children and their families
Employees at drive-thru and storefront restaurants still making food for carry-out / delivery
Postal workers / Shipping handlers
Local manufacturers adjusting their assembly lines to create masks, ventilators, and sanitizers
National Guard reservists deployed to crisis areas
The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard personnel working under pandemic conditions (especially those caught onboard ships hit by COVID)

Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

You wanna know how many of those people are being asked to work above and beyond the call of duty, especially in conditions that will expose them to potentially sick people? Nearly all of them, in public places or in tight gatherings of co-workers.

You wanna know many of them are going to be able to afford this month's rent, for those whose landlords won't temporarily waive the payments during these uncertain times? You know how many are still swamped with bills, or paying for loved ones forced to stay at home to reduce the risks of spreading the virus (or worse, with loved ones who've lost their jobs and are stuck in a collapsing job market)?

You realize how many of them barely live above the costs of living already? Half of those careers I've listed at the top of this article are made up of Part-Time employees, who have no guaranteed health care benefits, no pension plans, no leave time for personal or sick days.

For all the ESSENTIAL WORK those workers provide, we sure as hell don't pay them like they're essential.

That should change.

Congress, we need better wages for everybody. We need to guarantee health care benefits for Part-Timers. We need to guarantee personal and sick leave days for everybody.

We need to do these things for the ones who are going to make it out alive from this crisis, in honor of those who won't.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Florida Messed-Up By Republicans, Part MMDCXCVIII: Screwing the Unemployed (Again!)

The headline to Politico's article from Gary Fineout and Marc Caputo about the impending employment crisis in Florida pretty much sums it up:

On this blog, I stopped caring about censoring the Shit word after trump stole the election.
So there.

This is something I could have told you ten years ago - hold up, maybe I did - but let's get on with the current troubles shall we:

Already anxious about Trump’s chances in the nation’s biggest swing state, Republicans now are dealing with thousands of unemployed workers unable to navigate the Florida system to apply for help. And the blowback is directed straight at Trump’s top allies in the state, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott.
Privately, Republicans admit that the $77.9 million system that is now failing Florida workers is doing exactly what Scott designed it to do — lower the state’s reported number of jobless claims after the great recession...

Let's just pause here for a minute, okay? The Florida Republicans are admitting that the benefits system they set up - they screwed up - back in 2014 was MEANT to be screwed up, it was meant to force enough of the unemployed to not even bother registering for benefits and job-hunting help. They were fudging the numbers: Keep the unemployed from even getting tallied, keep them hidden, keep them away from any assistance at all...

Grrr. Back to Politico:

“It’s a sh-- sandwich, and it was designed that way by Scott,” said one DeSantis advisor. “It wasn’t about saving money. It was about making it harder for people to get benefits or keep benefits so that the unemployment numbers were low to give the governor something to brag about.
Republican Party of Florida chairman Joe Gruters was more succinct: “$77 million? Someone should go to jail over that.” (Note: If you click on my blog links above from 2014, you'll notice the complaints filed back THEN about the CONNECT system being buggy, more on that later...)
With hundreds of thousands of Floridians out of work, the state’s overwhelmed system is making it nearly impossible for many people to even get in line for benefits...

There are several problems with relying entirely on an online system, to wit:

  • Not everyone owns a computer. Smartphones, mostly yes. Laptops or Desktops or Tablets, not always especially the low-income populations most likely to be job-hunting in the first place. So to begin with, not every unemployed person could/can file. And as you can figure out, the CONNECT website was NOT designed for mobile app use so smartphones weren't helping...
  • The places where computer-less unemployed people go - libraries - are all closed right now because the Coronavirus crisis requires public places be closed to reduce the risks of spreading it. Even before this all happened, we at the libraries would get 4-5 people a week trying to login to the CONNECT system, and nearly every one would run into problems with their accounts getting locked, information improperly stored, problems we couldn't solve at the library. 
  • The places they COULD go for that tech help back when we were all open - the county career offices - were often swamped already and they sent these job-seekers right back to the libraries anyway. A nasty Catch-22.
  • There would be days, weeks even when the servers at the state's end of things were bugged, crashing, or overwhelmed. It's turning out now to be intentional on Rick "NO ETHICS" Scott and his Republican buddies' part, but it was frustrating as hell at OUR end of things for the last six years...

Sigh. Back to the article:

After a record number of claims were reported Thursday, DeSantis said the state would resort to paper applications, build a mobile app to handle the flood of traffic and deploy hundreds, even thousands, of state workers to provide stopgap help.

Why wasn't this all fixed back in 2019 when you got into office, DeSantis? Oh, right, you're Republican, you didn't see the problem and you didn't care when it mattered to others.

The new online system was part of a series of changes designed to limit benefits. The ultimate goal — which it delivered on — was to lower unemployment taxes paid by Florida businesses. A 2011 analysis done by the Florida Legislature estimated that the changes pushed by Scott would save businesses more than $2.3 billion between 2011 and 2020.
Now, as thousands of people try to get help, the system crashes or denies them access. Nearly 400,000 people have managed to file claims in the last two and half weeks. It’s not known how many have tried and failed.
Most of those who do submit applications won’t qualify for aid, and the benefits that are paid out are among the most meager in the country — a maximum of $275 a week...

Remember when Republicans were griping about the benefits of the stimulus package just voted on, where they complained the unemployment benefits would be too tempting to Americans who would turn into lazy bastards living off the unemployment dole? That's one reason why the Florida Republicans kept it so low... and they didn't fucking care that in this day and age - even back in 2012 - that $275 a week was nowhere near enough to pay for rent, food, utilities, gas, and everything else.

Trust me. Between January 2009 to January 2013, I was unemployed for much of that. I was hired by a few part-time jobs but was unable to keep most of them (one was the temp US Census job in 2010 that only last two months, one company only had me for two weeks before they kicked me out telling me my college degrees made me too overqualified). I spent week after week trying to find jobs and keep my unemployment benefits going - after a point I couldn't - and even WITH that $275 a week my parents still had to help every month with the mortgage payments for the condo I lived in (and because the housing market sucked after 2008, we couldn't sell it until we were forced to in 2013 at a loss). If the Florida Republicans thought keeping it low was an incentive to find work, it wasn't: it was punishment for being unhireable in a bad job market.

Like it never occurred to those Republicans that if the unemployment benefits were that tempting, then maybe companies and businesses should raise their wages to bring the workers back. Oh wait, they probably did and dreaded that too.

Anyhoo. I digress. Back to Politico:

“This is horrible for people. I don’t want to minimize that,” one DeSantis adviser told POLITICO. “But if we have to look past the crisis, it’s bad for the president and it’s bad for the governor.”
“Everyone we talk to in that office when we ask them what happened tells us, ‘the system was designed to fail,’” the adviser said. “That’s not a problem when unemployment is 2.8 percent, but it’s a problem now. And no system we have can handle 25,000 people a day.”

Don't forget kids: the real victims in all this are the Republicans who designed this system to fail and didn't care about it until their electoral chances were on the line.

Remember: "That's not a problem when unemployment is 2.8 percent." YES, YES IT IS A PROBLEM, especially for the 2.8 percent - THAT WE KNEW OF - you were screwing over with a bad website.

State auditors have routinely chronicled shortcomings with the CONNECT system, most recently in a report issued in March 2019, two months after DeSantis took office.

Like I asked earlier, WHY didn't DeSantis do anything when he took office? Oh, right. It was poor people he didn't have to care about.

Republicans in the Legislature share the blame, said Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat.
“Rick Scott is the most culpable human being when we look at who’s responsible for the failed system,” Rodriguez said. “But I don’t know of any Republican who resisted these efforts to make Florida the most Scrooge-like state in the nation.”

Something you might not know about Florida: It's been a Far Right Conservative state for a very long time. Back when the Conservatism was with the Democrats - the Civil Rights era of the Sixties and Seventies - the political shifts between Republicans and Democrats didn't matter as much, and through it all some genuine reformers and moderate leadership from both parties would hold sway. But when Reagan showed up and the party shifts began, the Democrats slowly lost a lot of authority - and responsibility - across the Sunshine State. I can't remember the last time either house of the State lege was controlled by the Dems. I do know the last Governor: Lawton Chiles, who died in office back in 1998 (technically it was Buddy McKay who filled the seat for a month until the 1999 inauguration, but Chiles is the one who served most of that two-term tenure) and was replaced by a dead dog Jeb Bush and it's been Republicans ever since.

Ever since 1998, Republicans had been, are doing, continue to threaten to fulfill every Far Right agenda that wouldn't kill them at the polls. Underpay teachers and overfill classrooms? Sure. Let developers bulldoze across every sensitive ecosystem to build shopping malls and gated communities? Mo' money. Ignore the poor elderly who could use Obamacare's Medicaid expansion to provide better conditions in their assisted living facilities? Screw the elderly.

But now they're running into a big problem out of their control. The COVID-19 crisis has essentially shut down the state. Our major industry - tourism - had to close its theme parks and hotels for the current situation with no guarantee they'll re-open by Summer. That is hitting a ton of low-wage service workers, with few other places and industries hiring (and few ought to, it's not SAFE dammit). It's hitting a lot of small business owners - the gift shops and restaurants and most other service-oriented businesses - that can't risk viral exposure and had to send their workers and themselves home.

The number of unemployed is going to jump from 2-point-8 to 28 percent within this month (I am not sure if I am exaggerating the 28 percent, or being to cautious).

There's a lot that has to get fixed, and not just the CONNECT benefits website. The benefits themselves are minuscule and insulting. The Governor and State Lege had gotten away with it being low for so long because quite honestly not enough people were paying attention. Well, they'll be noticing it now. The push to boost the weekly payments to something more tolerable and supportive is going to be on everyone's agenda now.

Except... all of this goes against the hard-core philosophy of the Republican Party itself, not just nationally but in the Sunshine State. To get a majority of "Fuck the Public Trust" party members to switch mindsets would be like getting a majority of Dolphins fans to start cheering for the Patriots.

And they have only themselves to blame (and judging by the Politico article, they know it). Having controlled two of three state branches (and now likely controlling the judiciary too) since 1998, they can't blame the Democrats for any of the problems today. It's all been Republican Governors and all been Republican Legislatures that did NOTHING to provide better social safety nets for the 22 million residents. Any attempt to accuse the opposition - the way trump's been blaming everything on his failures handling this crisis on Obama and Democratic Congressional leaders and Blue State Governors - isn't going to fly in a Florida that's only known Red for 22 years.

And they can't blame the voters for electing such foolish critters as themselves because 1) that's suicidal in an election year and 2) there's been a slim majority of Democratic voters every year but thanks to GOP-led gerrymandering the Republicans hold a skewed percentage (around 60 percent) of the elective seats to control the Lege. (And for the statewide offices like Governor, there's a good argument that Republican-led suppression efforts stymied Dem voter turnout anyway)

And I doubt the Florida Republicans are going to do anything to relieve the stress and nightmares that a solid majority of residents are going to feel over the next two-three months (maybe well into September), because doing so violates their core tenets, and if any of it proves helpful would cripple any campaigning they do against those changes down the road.

I do not trust our state's current leadership to do anything - establishing stronger Stay At Home policies, providing long-term unemployment benefits that can honestly pay everyone's bills, keeping our hospitals working as the pandemic hits our medical staffs the hardest - that would help my family, my neighbors, my coworkers, my peeps.

And I do not trust the Republicans to play fair this election cycle. I was expecting them to cheat with voter suppression before all this, and with the crisis now I guarantee they are thinking of ways to 1) use it as an excuse to stop most voters in Democratic areas to even try, or 2) shut down voting altogether.

Gods help us in the Sunshine State, America.

Gods help each and every one of you in all the other states and territories as well.

All Apologies to Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, Almost Forgot This Day

Let's be honest, if Martin Luther King Jr was alive today he'd... be avoiding the pitfall of Twitter and speaking from his church via Skype to tell his parishioners to STAY AT HOME and STAY HEALTHY unlike certain other Christian sects who want to KEEP SHOWING OFF and GETTING THEIR OWN PEOPLE SICK.

Also, he'd be answering every one of trump's lies about Coronavirus and the failing federal government response which is doing little for the states overwhelmed by the crisis.

Sorry about this year, Reverend. Hopefully by next year we'll do your memory better.