Monday, April 27, 2020

Your Money or Your Life

The big news around these parts last week was the coup our governor, Larry Hogan (R-MD), pulled off by obtaining 500,000 COVID-19 tests directly from South Korea.

The beautiful part of it is that they kept the deal on the down-low, so the Trump Administration didn’t know anything about it until the goods were in-hand.

From the Baltimore Sun, “Hogan administration officials said they decided to keep the developing operation quiet after Massachusetts reported 3 million masks it ordered were impounded in March at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.”

Naturally, Trump was pissed about getting shown up. He claimed Hogan didn’t know what he was doing, wasted money on an outside resource, and was unaware of federal lab facilities within the state.

Sounds damning, but remember, it’s Trump. His understanding of anything is hazy at best. The biggest issue is that Hogan knew all about the federal labs, and these were the issues:

·        The labs only come into play after you’ve administered the tests! No tests on hand, no use for the labs.
·        Hogan DID inquire about using the labs’ testing facilities and was told it was for federal use only.

I think Trump was just miffed because he lost a chance to commandeer more supplies to lay on his business cronies.

The key was that Hogan’s wife, Yumi, is a 1st generation immigrant from South Korea, so she acted as interpreter between her husband and the South Korean government. In fact, months earlier, at a reception with America’s governors at the South Korean embassy, Hogan quoted President Moon as saying this about his wife: “He said that Korea was so proud of my wife, and that they considered me a… a ‘son-in-law’ to the Korean people. I considered it an honor for him to say that, but I had no idea just how much it would truly come to mean these two very long months later.”

I’ve briefly sideswiped this before, but I have to say, Governor Hogan is doing a damned good job on pandemic response. He’s a Republican, but more of an old-school Republican. He was a businessman who thought he could do better for the business community in Maryland than the others, so he ran for office.

He’s not a hard-core social conservative, nor a bible-thumper, nor Trump fanboy, and I credit him for that. He doesn’t seem to play the self-destructive games of political “chicken” like so many others do, perhaps because he’s an outlier… a Republican governor of a deep blue state. The last Republican Gov who played that shit got run out after one term.

But while I may disagree with a number of Hogan’s positions, (canceling a new light rail line set up by his predecessor, diverting money and resources from blue Baltimore to the red outer counties), I have to call them like I see them. This guy is doing a stellar job of fighting this pandemic. He closed up the state very quickly (especially for a Republican, but even faster than some Democrats), and has been holding “no-BS” press conferences full of vital information and zero misdirection or puffery.

He’s converting emissions testing sites into COVID testing sites, has commandeered our convention center and a city-run Hilton to turn into extra hospital beds. He gives real stats, like Governor Cuomo (D-NY) and lets the chips fall where they may. He’s been honest about what it will take to reopen state businesses and his guidelines are in step with health officials and experts.

It’s sad anymore that one is surprised when an elected official turns out to be competent.

So, nice job, Gov. No when your term is up, please retire. I’d hate to see the Dems have to run against you in 2024.

The Russian troll farms are working overtime to circulate their bullshit defenses of the Current Occupant.

Not hard at all.

To a Democrat, Obama was a huge success by any measure. I consider him the greatest president of my lifetime. Under his watch we addressed same-sex marriage, got Plan-B contraception to OTC status, set up an agency to keep banks from screwing us or gambling with house money, killed bin Laden, reduced our military footprint in the Middle East, addressed gender-based pay inequity, saved the auto industry and revived the stock market. What the fuck else would we want from the guy?

The economic numbers alone should have made Republicans giddy, but they were too butt-stung to consider giving the man credit. They sure crowed about the (pre-pandemic) numbers when Trump’s administration continued the momentum at a similar pace. The difference was that Obama turned steep downward slide into an upward climb. Trump merely let the momentum carry on unimpeded. (And then blew up the deficit with a massive tax cut for the richest among us.)

Hillary was innocent. I mean, the Republicans launched investigation after investigation looking into her various activities and found exactly jack shit. Not a single chargeable offense, despite desperately trying to find something… anything, to use against her. And after all that, all they have is inference and innuendo.

And for the shit people think she did, it pales to what we know Trump did. But Republicans only care about the law when it applies to someone else.

And as for Biden, we’ll have to find out if he’s a competent president. He was a more than competent Vice President and was an important player in the Obama White House. He probably did more than anyone to move Obama into supporting same-sex marriage. Once he came out publically in favor, the president had to come along.

He’s also a guy who knows how the government (in general) and an Administration (in particular) is supposed to work. Remember when they had to sit Sarah Palin down and teach her about the three branches of government? Hell, they still need to do that with Trump.

So I had all these reasons in mind to debunk this meme when my dad posted something that did it just as well in a fraction of the time.

Mic drop on that topic. And now some short takes:

I’m pretty sure neither Ozzy nor Joe will tell you to inject yourself with disinfectant.

No, we don’t. We consider Greta to be just like us, the people who listen to climate experts because they’ve spent years and careers studying the science and we haven’t.

You wouldn’t argue with a surgeon because Karen on Facebook said you can eliminate an unsightly scar by removing your spleen through your asshole.  You trust the experts. That’s all Greta has been telling us and there is a significant segment of the population who need to hear that.

Who says those big stores CAN open without killing us? But even if we accept that premise, it is plausible to maintain social distancing in a big box store. How are you going to do that in some small-town hardware store or donut shop? And are these small stores going to be able to afford/acquire masks and hand sanitizer?

I think this is just another attempt to minimize the pandemic threat and get the economy going again, despite the risk to our lives. And speaking about the Republican’s alleged concern for human lives:

This is a look at current events through a religious wingnut’s perspective.

First off, I’m going to ignore the thing about “fat acceptance.” Is there even a political “side” that reveres fat acceptance? The writer seems to think it’s the Democrats. But if you look at the red state health data, they tend to be among the country’s highest in obesity.

The issue I have here is the continuing mischaracterization of abortions. “…murders 860,000 infants annually.” Numbers aside, which don’t factor into my point, calling them “infants” is a complete misnomer and the use of emotionally loaded language is meant to sway the reader outside of the truth.

I do not call a grape-sized glob of jelly an “infant.” No rational person does. But those grapes account for over 95% of all abortions. But it doesn’t sound quite as inflammatory as saying the other side is killing infants.

So, in essence, she’s saying that governments (inferred to be blue) are keeping people at home, not to save their lives (which it does) but to control people for some nebulous, nefarious reason. And it has to be nefarious because the same (blue) states don’t condone forcing women to bear children against their will and allow them to terminate a pregnancy consisting of a fingertip-sized ball of genetic material.

This encapsulates what I’ve believed about religious conservatives for years. The GOP platform is to support and enable big business at all costs. They don’t care about things like abortion, not at the top, not where the money is. They USE social issues like abortion to reel in social conservatives who they can rile up with lots of talk about killing infants so that these people vote in the Republicans, who can then go about the very mundane business of enriching themselves.

For all the hue and cry about the “Sanctity of Life,” it’s an afterthought, an illusion, or a mirage. You know how to tell? Look at what’s happening right now. When the Money issue comes into conflict with the Life issue, Republican leadership sides with the money.

Throwing open the doors of businesses in the midst of a pandemic will cost lives. Everyone, even the conservatives, acknowledges that. But do they shrink from putting people, innocent people, in danger? Is their moral compass keeping them up at nights wrestling with the dilemma? Nope. These ghouls talk about how a few lives are expendable in the face of reactivating the economy. Georgia is opening small businesses and beaches. Florida is on its heels. South Dakota never issued a stay at home order and refrains from closing meatpacking facilities that are riddled with the coronavirus. Texas wants old people to volunteer to die for the economy. The red states are itching to get back to business, citizens’ lives be damned.

That’s money vs life, and the 21st Century GOP is picking the money. Every time.

Final note: Remember how I wondered in my last post about how Trump even let electronic deposits go out because he couldn’t get his name on them? Now I know. We got this in the mail today

He just has to get his name out there, at taxpayer cost, of course. This is just one more piece of evidence that shows how Republicans look at money. It’s perfectly fine to use federal money to advertise and promote the president’s “brand” and next campaign, but when someone else is in charge, there’s no money for anything, not feeding the poor, not roads and bridges, not advocacy bureaus, no money for anything that helps the average non-rich citizen.

Monday, April 20, 2020

The Coronavirus Roundup

Did you get your $1200 check yet? Man, wouldn’t it figure that Trump would hold up the whole production line just to get his name on those checks? And he can’t even have them put in the “From” line; he’s been reduced to a memo. Can’t wait until that time when he’s merely an afterthought.

I’m surprised he let the direct deposits go out at all because there’s no way for him to attach his brand to them. That’s all this is, you know. Branding… the art of smearing your name all over everything, which is what he’s supposed to be a master at. It must work though. Just look at our world. My kingdom for a public surface that doesn’t have a brand scrawled across it.

I’m surprised there hasn’t been a company to pay people to put their logos in their rooftops, for the benefit of airplane passengers and Google Satellite hits. And speaking of, I loved it when I heard there was some dude near the Milwaukee airport who wrote in huge letters on his barn roof, “WELCOME TO CLEVELAND!” just to screw with people. I wish I’d thought of that back when my family lived in an old farmhouse with a barn, near an airport. (And I guarantee if I’d have pitched the idea to my Dad, he’s have been down with it. Dad loves to screw with people, which is no doubt where I got it.)

Pass the KY
I knew it, and I swear I wrote it down somewhere, (that I can’t find) that if Mitch McConnell were to find himself in a tight re-election race, the fix would come in. As we have it, he is running neck and neck with a Democratic challenger and what do we have here? Kentucky just passed a Voter ID law, with an override of the governor’s veto. Now Kentuckians need a government-issued ID to vote.

So that leaves seven months to get one right? WRONG! Kentucky DMV offices are closed due to the pandemic. And I bet most stay closed until the second week of November. Any that open before that will be in affluent areas. If you just moved to Lexington, you’re S.O.L. This is Republican malfeasance at its worst and most cynical. As the Vox article I linked above stated, “the primary form of voter fraud addressed by these laws, impersonation fraud at the polls, is only slightly more common than unicorns.”

Any election law should err on the side of guaranteeing people their chance to vote.

It’s funny how the people who protest and bitch about any perceived assault on their “liberty” take a pass on this issue, where one political party passes laws intended to hinder their opposition from executing their constitutionally-given right to vote. I’m pretty sure if it was the other way around, these “Liberty” people would be back in the streets.

Taking Liberties
Isn’t it funny how conservative news outlets and political mouthpieces are always getting people ginned up about assaults on amorphous things like “liberty” and “freedom?” There’s a reason for that… it’s cheap. It costs them nothing to get people wound up about perceived affronts so that they can be used for political purposes and pursuit of power.

You’ve seen those assholes on TV protesting state offices for daring to “infringe upon their liberty” as a result of the Stay-at-Home orders placed to keep them from dying and taking others with them. I only hope they find a way to use all that extra “liberty” they gained to help them breathe after they pick up The ‘Rona.

I say the state should demand a Government ID to stage these protests. If you’re going to block hospitals and keep medical staff from doing their jobs, then let people know who you are! Then when they inevitably show up at the hospital, they can be shown right to their own private sleeping bag… in an alley behind the hospital dumpster, where they belong.

Just goes to show what I’ve been saying for years. Republicans lack empathy. They seem incapable of viewing the world in any way other than “Me first.” You want to be a rugged individualist? Go fight the alley rats for scraps. Making decisions based on what’s best for the community is a foreign concept, especially if it comes at a personal inconvenience.

It’s 4th and Long
I’m kind of surprise the Republicans are fighting this hard to stay in power. It would probably be better for them if they just punted on this election cycle and let Biden and the Dems get tasked with putting the country back together.

Then they can sit on the sidelines like they did during the Obama years, obstruct every effort and then carp about how everything isn’t fixed yet and OMG look at the deficit!

We’re going to hear about that A LOT, once the Democrats are in charge. They didn’t give so much as a whimper when this administration ran the debt up out of sight, and that was BEFORE the coronavirus spending.

So when the Democrats want to rebuild the governmental infrastructure at places like the EPA and CFPB, the GOP will cry “poor” and try to kibosh the whole thing, “for the future of our children,” or some shit. Same with spending money on actual physical infrastructure. They had two unfettered years where they could have come up with any number of bills to address crumbling roads, bridges, tunnels, railways, dams, and whatnot. But they didn’t produce a single bill to address infrastructure. Couldn’t afford it after that big tax cut for the 1%. Also, they don’t care. They know the helipads are in good shape.

Phil the Burn
Did you see Dr. Phil step in it last week? Look at this:

I know others have dissected this, but I did too and have had to sit on it for a week. I’ll not be penalized for only posting on Mondays!

What we have here is a simple apples to oranges fallacy, the kind Fox “News” likes to use so much. The thing here is that none of these other comparisons involve a contagion (for which there is no vaccine). Auto accident mortality is addressed and mitigated in a number of ways, like with seat belts, speed limits, vehicle safety features, etc. Cigarettes are already a taboo and there are many laws regulating where they can be smoked, with an eye toward removing the danger to the non-smoking citizens.

The thing with pool deaths; I heard his numbers are way off, but that’s beside the point. Someone drowning or cracking his head off the diving board isn’t going to hurt anyone else.

This coronavirus is a new threat and we just don’t have the tools to fight it yet, other than the prevention of transmission, or social distancing. So we can either keep everything open, run willy-nilly all about the country, and then lose millions of American lives.

Dr. Phil should know better, but it seems he’s turned into another shill for the corporate overlords, who want their next quarter earnings statement turned around, now.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
On the other hand, it’s not been ALL doom and gloom.

Sweetpea was talking to someone in the neighborhood while out walking our dog. She mentioned how she hadn’t seen a pack of toilet paper in any store since the middle of March. She said we weren’t out yet but it was becoming a growing concern. Our neighbor said she’d be on the lookout.

Cut to later that week, when we got a knock on the door. It was our neighbor, bearing a big 12-pack of TP. Wouldn’t take a dime for it. Not bad for a “rat-infested mess” of a neighborhood.

In other news, we tackled some true “quality of life” issues over the weekend. First, we brought order to our plastic-ware cabinet. I swear, it’s taken me 10 minutes, sometimes, just to find a container and the correct lid. So after taking out every piece, matching up lids to containers and tossing the leftover pieces, our Tupper-jungle looks like this:

Then after feeling the heady rush of accomplishment, we tackled the dreaded Plastic Bag Cabinet. We had our work cut out for us, believe me.

I didn’t know I married a Bag Lady!

I always considered myself to be pretty stubborn, but my babeh is right up there with me. She went through all of these bags, one by one, and sorted them out. Ones with holes were “Recycle” vs. those without holes were “Save for Re-use.” Our re-use is like 2% small trash can liners and 98% doggy doot bags. You don’t want holes in bags you’re going to use for poop clean up, hence all the sorting.

And when you have a 90-lb eating machine for a dog, you can’t have too many doot bags. Although I can see that once all the localities ban plastic bags, people with dogs will be hoarding them like toilet paper.

Happy 4/20 Day!

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Only Way They Win is by Rigging the Game

Be on the lookout for a coordinated effort by the GOP to enhance their voter suppression efforts. It’s already starting, judging by how many memes like this I’ve been seeing on Facebook. They’re getting the message out to their minions early.

I beg to differ but there are plenty of reasons to be against demanding voter ID.
·        There has never been a statistically significant finding of voter fraud that could have been averted by voter ID. And this is with a Republican-run Justice Dept. out there specifically looking for it, mainly from Democrats. They found nothing (other than random Republican malfeasance, but charging Republicans wasn’t in their charter).

And not for nothing, stealing votes by impersonating voters one by one, in person, is the most inefficient and ineffective way to do it. It just doesn’t happen.

·        The existing voter ID laws are specifically constructed to reduce Democratic voter turnout. The Supreme Court case that ruled against North Carolina showed there was significant, compelling evidence that State Republicans were writing their requirements “with surgical precision” so to prevent as many African-Americans (seen as likely Democratic voters) as possible. They had direct physical evidence that demonstrated how they did it. It was not remotely ambiguous.

Other states use the same or similar criteria to write their voter ID laws; they just haven’t had the bad luck to have their written deliberations aired in public. (In the NC case, the daughter of the guy who designed the bill found and released her father’s emails, which showed how they researched minority voting patterns and what kinds of ID they most often carried.)

And note: The Supreme Court only scrapped the NC law due to a 4-4 tie, which by default, upheld the lower court’s decision. That will not happen again with the current SCOTUS. With the Wisconsin decision, the Roberts Court announced that they are now on board with voter suppression by any means necessary.

·        Republican-run states who demand voter ID are simultaneously closing MVA stations in areas that serve likely Democratic voters. They demand the ID and then make it much harder and more expensive to obtain one. That’s not an accident, that’s a design feature.

They’re also closing voting stations in the same areas, thus intentionally creating lines of prohibitive nature. They WANT it to take up hours to vote, hoping that many will skip out. (And then, in the truly devious part, they purge voter rolls of people who haven’t voted recently.)

What this shows is a pattern of pursuing voter disenfranchisement. It’s laughable to claim that it’s only to deter voter fraud and that all the known “side effects” that prevent US citizens from voting are just a big coincidence. I’d have more respect for them if they just came out and admitted it. LIKE TRUMP DID TWO WEEKS AGO!

Just kidding, I still don’t have any respect for him. But he did say this out loud: “They had levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” He’s talking about mail-in ballots, with which all their hard-earned voter suppression would be circumvented. That’s not a matter of fraud, it’s a matter of not having a platform that the majority of Americans will support.

Trump said the quiet part out loud: if everyone votes, we never win again. And for once, he’s right. That’s the reason for the voter ID laws and closing voting and MVA locations, fighting early voting and on-site registration, clearing voter rolls of hundreds of thousands of names with minimal verification or confirmation, and appointing judges who will bless it all in court.

It’s all about winning the next election. Preventing “voter fraud,” something that has never swung an election in modern history, is nothing but an elaborate and wholly ineffective fig leaf.

The real threats to voting integrity come from hacking and electronic voting machines that lack a paper trail. Voter IDs do not address any of this.

You don’t see Republicans out there trying to sell people on what they actually plan to do. It’s easier to keep people from voting than to convince them that cutting Social Security and privatizing the post office is a good idea. Or that 1% of the people should get 98% of the tax breaks. Or eliminating the effectiveness of the EPA, FEMA, the CDC, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That’s stuff they have or are still trying to do.

This is how the political arena is supposed to work. There are two (or more) sides and one giant population. Both sides should try to convince the masses why their ideas are better. Those who are the most convincing, as evidenced by the votes of the people, get to govern. Period. But we’ve strayed far from that ideal.

The right (not privilege) to vote is essential to being an American. Republicans, who fight so hard to make the Second Amendment absolute in ways it was never meant to be, abdicate their righteousness when they fail to defend the principle of one person, one vote.

Unless it’s one of their persons, of course. In that case, the more the better.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

This is such a churning cauldron of dysfunction, isn’t it, this Coronavirus situation? People are going every which way, which is ironic, given the lockdown we’re under… well, at least some of us. And because it’s America in the 21st century, this medical crisis is a political situation because everything turns political, especially once there is money to be scammed, I mean, earned.

I keep seeing a lot of memes like this coming from Republicans: 

Whenever you see Republicans plead for unity come out, it’s a sure thing they just screwed the pooch.

Nothing to see here, no need to ask about why South Korea handled this so much better than we did. Don’t worry about where all the masks went, I’m sure Amazon will have them back in stock soon. Let’s just concentrate on moving forward! Hey, let’s all go to church!

Our state of political tribalism is literally going to kill us.

If you want to see a microcosm of the Republican Party, just consider that their priorities are keeping the churches and gun shops open. As far as I’m concerned, keeping both of these open is just going to kill more people.

With the churches, the problem is obviously the crowds (and science denial). A packed church is an incubator of virus transmission. I’m guessing the pastors stop insisting everyone come to church just as soon as they get i-Tithing service online on their webpage. And not a moment before.

I don’t get the guns thing though. I mean, I understand some might be thinking ahead for when their town really goes in the shitter and they want some defense against looters or burglars. But I’m also thinking about how many guns are already out there. Those with the guns certainly don’t need more. I’m pretty sure one can defend his house with a shotgun as well as a .22. They’ll be trying to repel some poor wretch looking for toilet paper, not a horde of zombies.

My problem is with those who don’t already have guns. If they rush out and buy one now, how are they going to get trained to use it properly? The last thing I want is a bunch of freshly minted, untrained Rambos running around looking for trouble and jumping at shadows. If I was a food or package delivery person, I’d be scared shitless that some nimrod who didn’t know his daughter ordered take-out heard a bump in the night and opened fire.

Georgia’s governor Kemp really showed who he was last week, didn’t he? He announced at a press conference that he didn’t know until the previous day, that asymptomatic people could spread the coronavirus. Seriously.

This is slam dunk evidence of one of two things. Either this guy and his entire cabinet are illiterate, ignorant, imbeciles, and haven’t watched major TV coverage of the black plague of the 20s or Kemp just went up there and told a lie of Trumpian proportions. A lie on par with claiming you dumped a couple hundred black thousand people off the voter rolls because you were worried about voter fraud.

I tend to think it’s the latter. Down deep in their reptile brains, that there is that sense of what is needed for survival. It’s human nature to seek information about what’s harmful to you. And it’s not like this information was a closely guarded secret. He knew. They all knew. But they just don’t care.

Governor Kemp wouldn’t care if the whole city of Atlanta dried up and blew away. That would just add to his margin of re-election. And now he’s opening the beaches? Might as well just start calling him Governor Vaughn.

This guy won’t announce a lockdown until a coronavirus swims up and bites him on the ass. Someone better check the Governor’s finances and see how much beachfront property he owns.

Once hell’s broke loose in Georgia and the Devil deals the cards, I’m sure he’ll reconsider. But like with Trump, he’ll never do the right thing until he’s forced into it. And by then, there will be hundreds or thousands of preventable deaths on his hands. But that’s the way it works when you have leaders with no moral compass.

 And now, the rest of the country is at risk because of this grifter and the rest of the Republicans who won’t lock down their states. As if germs hop off when carriers cross the border.

I also see sentiments like this emanating from my conservative friends on Facebook:

I’m not even sure what the real point is. I just know there’s some misleading going on. Because it seems like they think a sickness with a 2% mortality rate is no big deal. (I heard it was 1%, but I won’t quibble.) You have to keep in mind that 2% of our population is no trivial number. There are around 331 million people in this country. Two percent of that is 6.62 million people. Those are holocaust numbers. Just think how much money and heartache we spent over losing under 3000. And one percent would be 3.31 million deaths. So there’s nothing “only” about a 98% survival rate.

That said, there’s definitely something bigger happening, but I don’t think it’s what the purveyors of this meme are talking about. While they may complain about some arts funding or paving the way for mail-in voting (for which the only valid objection is for voter suppression), the religious right is leaping at the chance to put the squeeze on abortions by deeming them unnecessary medical procedures.

Obviously, this procedure is “unnecessary” unless you’re the one with an unplanned pregnancy. But that’s their mindset… in a global pandemic of clusterfuckian proportions, it’s better to have a woman carry a baby, visit hospitals under duress for her prenatal care, and bring a baby into a contaminated environment. The woman has no say in this because Republican politicians know what’s best. And this while they work on ending Obamacare and WIC, SNAP, and any other services that would be helpful for a new and financially struggling mother.

The other “bigger thing happening” is that the government just made $500 billion available for whoever they want to give it to, with no strings and no transparency. Just trust them, right? This is the opening of the trough, my friend. Just no holds barred giveaways to the richest among us.

Look at how hard the Republicans fought against the transparency clause. The last thing they wanted is for anyone to know where the money’s going. They learned their lessons with the 2017 tax cut. Too many people knew who was buying back stock and who was paying executive bonuses. Not this time. Now they have deniability, courtesy of the Mitch McConnell and the Trump Administration.

On the home front, I’m entering my 4th week of quarantine/working from home. The only people I see, outside of Sweetpea, is the girl at the Burger King takeout window.  But it’s all right. I’m happy not to be spending 90 minutes every day commuting. I get an extra hour’s sleep every night.

I do keep running into this same predicament over and over. I use the bathroom, take the opportunity to wash my hands, obviously going a full 20 seconds. Then I dry off, go to leave the bathroom and…


It’s decision time. When was the last time we cleaned the doorknob? Do I want to waste a precious commodity by using a few sheets of TP as a buffer? Use a towel? Modern times is hard!

Now, I make it a point to open the door before I wash up. I’ll have to go write that into my emergency pandemic plan.