Monday, May 25, 2020

It's Definitely Not About the Virus

The disinformation war rages on. A conservative friend posted this on Facebook last week, which brought out my debunking instincts immediately.

You know, every time someone reposts a meme like this, some Russian in a troll farm gets his wings.

We can debunk this one line by line.

If the masks work, then why are we social distancing? Masks, other than the N-95 masks, which few non-medical professionals have, are only good for reducing the amount of contaminated droplets expelled by the wearer. It is not Saran Wrap. Stuff gets through, but it’s not as much as if you were unmasked. If you remain in one place, in close proximity with someone who is contaminated, mask or not, you can still pick up the virus. That’s why social distancing is also required.

If social distancing works, then why are we wearing masks? See the above answer. Masks don’t contain 100%, but they’re much better than nothing. If you have a choice between spreading 100% of the virus or less than 100%, the obvious choice is to wear a mask, if you care whatsoever about those around you. (And by looking around, you can tell who doesn’t.) If you’re in one place long enough, like in a store or office, social distancing does not prevent transmission. If you go back to the link I posted 2 weeks ago, it says that transmission goes up over time, meaning the virus can travel if you hang around long enough.

Both of the two questions above use the assumption that masks and social distancing are foolproof as stand-alone actions. They’re not and no one says they are. But when used together, knock down the transmission rate.

If masks and social distancing work, then why are our businesses closed? Because not being in proximity to the virus or those carrying it IS 100% effective in reducing transmission. Some places need to be open, like grocery stores (people gotta eat) and liquor stores (people gotta relax after trying to home-school their kids,) but most others don’t. They’re conveniences and nothing more. It’s unfortunate, but we’re dealing with biology here, which doesn’t care about economic influences.

Also, if you’re been out, have you seen the compliance level in the reopened stores (or anywhere else)? It’s spotty at best. Too many people either don’t care, or believe bullshit memes like this one. This is the end result of decades of sowing mistrust of science; people happily embracing that which can kill them and their families.

Have you seen the stories coming out of places that are opening prematurely? Like in Missouri where two hairstylists spread the virus to 140 people. Or two counties in Georgia where church gatherings blew up into COVID-19 hot spots?  New hot spots are popping up solely because non-essential businesses (and I can’t think of any “business” more non-essential than churches), are opening back up based on economic and political concerns rather than epidemiology.

If we can stand in line at the grocery store then why can’t we stand in line to vote? And there it is, the crux of this whole meme. It all comes down to preventing people from voting by mail.

Before I go too far abroad, let me answer the last question. Groceries are essentials. Yes, so is voting, but you can continue to live without voting. Groceries, not so much. Yes, it’s possible to have groceries delivered, but many can’t afford that if it’s even available in their area. And it’s only really good for packaged goods, like cans or boxes of stuff. Not many would trust others to pick out their meat, fish, or produce. I wouldn’t.

So, standing in line at the grocery store is a necessity. Masks and distancing mitigate the danger but it’s still there. People have to obey the safety guidelines, but many don’t.

With voting, there ARE alternatives, making it unnecessary to rely on in-person voting, like mail or online voting. With care, both can be made secure, but only if those in charge want it that way. Republicans have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo because it’s the only way they win, anywhere but the Red State strongholds.

THAT’S why people publish memes like this, with tank-sized holes in the logic and fact chain. It’s to make people suspicious of voting by mail, because if voting were easier, as Donald Trump himself said, “If we gave Dems what they wanted for elections (mail-in voting) in that last bill, a Republican would never win again.”

And that’s not because of some kind of national network of voter fraud, it’s because voting by mail defeats the attempts by red states to suppress the vote of carefully selected citizens. This is the Republicans laying the groundwork to contest the results of the 2020 election.

What they’re trying to do, by deriding voting by mail, is to attack mail-in voting alone, shorn of any context. Context, like their ongoing campaign against (the illusion of) voter fraud.

A sterling article in the NY Times last week called out the Republicans' massive, years-long campaign of voter suppression. The latest ploy is to send teams of operatives to polling centers to contest whatever they feel are fraudulent votes. (Ask yourself how, exactly, they’re going to determine, by sight, whose votes to challenge?)

From the article: “The efforts are bolstered by a 2018 federal court ruling that for the first time in nearly four decades allows the national Republican Party to mount campaigns against purported voter fraud without court approval. The court ban on Republican Party voter-fraud operations was imposed in 1982, and then modified in 1986 and again in 1990, each time after courts found instances of Republicans intimidating or working to exclude minority voters in the name of preventing fraud. The party was found to have violated it yet again in 2004.” (Emphasis is mine.)

The Republicans have no real choice. There are just not enough people who think that sending all the tax money to the richest people and corporations and cutting government services to the common citizenry is a good idea… Government services like OSHA, the EPA, The FDA, the CFPB, and other departments that apply rules that eat into the profits of big business owners.

So they run on fear, trying to make you scared of illegal aliens, Chinese, foreigners from anywhere but Scandinavia, gays, trans people, atheists… they hold them up to blame for everything that’s wrong in your life. They wrap themselves in the flag and call themselves the “Pro-Life” party, but you can see how seriously they treat citizens’ lives. “Protecting” the unborn doesn’t cost them anything. Protecting the rest of us isn’t good for third-quarter profits, so they want us open for business again.

Because it’s not about the virus, it never was. This meme is definitely not about the virus at all. It’s about Republicans desperately trying to avoid landslide losses in November. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Picking Battles

The Republicans’ campaign strategy puzzles me. I keep seeing meme after Russian-influenced meme belittling Joe Biden for things for which Trump is famously and obviously known.

For example, they lay into him for verbal missteps. Excuse me? Have they ever heard the word salad coming from their leader? The guy is basically incoherent. A 2nd-grader telling a story has a more organized narrative than their guy. And probably a broader vocabulary.

Sure, compared to Obama, Biden is nowhere near as elegant. But the guy is battling a stutter and most of the time sounds just fine. Public speaking is hard. Not everyone can do it well. I’d like to see how well some of these criticizing buffoons could do, speaking to an arena or TV audience without tangling their tongues once in a while. Most would end up like this:


So it seems weird to me that they’d even bring up the subject of mangled language while trying to support President Tourette. It’s something I’d take off the board rather than dare people to compare.

Same with some other memes I’ve seen calling Joe out for lying.

Seriously? Their guy created a whole cottage industry out of fact-checking and they want to talk about anyone else lying? I know Republicans love to accuse others of doing exactly what they’re doing themselves, but this is ridiculous. You’d think they’d want to bury that topic in a hole deeper than the one our economy is in.

Which brings us to the Tara Reade situation, the woman whose ever-changing story finally landed on Joe, in places unknown, at an unknown time, grabbing her by the pussy.

This one, I almost understand. Sure, Trump has over 20 women accusing him of various sexual misconduct, including rape, several of whom are pressing legal charges. Hell, he even bragged about some of it on tape.

I think Republicans consider this controversy a win/win.

If it happened, they’ve got some mud for their opponent, because it seems that Democrats take this kind of thing more seriously than Republicans, meaning we’re more likely to eat their own than the Republicans are. Look what happened to Anthony Weiner and Al Franken. But to Republicans, just being Republican is like a blanket immunity. They’ll put up with whatever their chosen ones do in their personal life as long as the tax cuts and conservative judges keep coming. They hope that if they tarnish Joe enough, Dem voters may lose enthusiasm and stay home on Election Day.

On the other hand, if it proves not to be true, they’ve put a dent in #MeToo and #BelieveWomen. Then grabby, powerful men can start to breathe a little easier when they once again can resort to “Who are you gonna believe, me or the lying slut?

My take on the issue? I don’t think it happened. I was swayed by an article I read in USA Today, written by an ex-prosecutor. He points out a number of issues that would have kept him from pursuing her case in court, like delaying reporting, changing her story for shaky reasons, missing paperwork, and much more.

Before I even saw the article, I was wondering, “Why now? Why not when he was running for VP? Was that not a high enough office to keep a predator from obtaining?”

I’m also suspicious of her not being able to identify a date, time, or place. I mean, how could someone not know where something like that happened to her?

The lack of particulars prevents Joe from establishing an alibi, which I think is exactly the point. They want this to be the drip… drip… drip kind of scandal they kept alive with Hillary. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, just keep it in the news.

I’m puzzled why they’re not using the Biden plagiarism issue that derailed his campaign in 1988. Maybe they’re saving that one for later. Or not… it’s the very definition of old news.

And now, onto another episode of Debunkery. I saw this posted by a conservative friend on FaceBook over the weekend:

Republicans are at fault for every situation you see here.

Unemployed: They’re at fault mostly because they’re just wrong. Unemployment has been extremely difficult to obtain over the last couple of months and in red states, it’s been damned near impossible (which was by design). And the forced openings are designed to make people choose between their health and going to work. Because once the business is open, if you choose not to come to work, you’re ineligible for unemployment.

And even if people can manage to get unemployment, they sure as fuck don’t get wheelbarrows full of money. That’s just a Republican fantasy, peddled by those who DO have wheelbarrows full of money, to ensure that they keep it that way.

Essential Employees: Maybe if Republicans would permit a living minimum wage, retail workers wouldn’t be in such dire straits. Or if they would pass the new pandemic relief bill, which contains Hero Pay. (Money for those doing dangerous but essential jobs.) But Mitch has already put the kibosh on that because he’s against any money going to the general public that hasn’t been skimmed by a giant corporation first. And they’re definitely against any more direct payments to every citizen, like that $1200. In his world, if you can’t stretch that money for the rest of the year, you must not be able to manage your money. Spendthrift!

Small Businesses: Republicans are 100% to blame for this for insisting that the Small Business Relief Fund be administered by the big banks and wrote the rules so that just about any business can get their hands on the dough. And this sum was aside from the fund they created especially for big businesses, to be doled out in secret, for use any way they want.

If you’re going to vote/support/condone sending billions of government dollars to the richest in the country, you don’t get to cry about economic inequality.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Viral Thoughts

Last week the CDC issued a 17-page report on how to “reopen” the country, which the Trump Administration immediately shit-canned, saying it “hadn’t been vetted yet.”

What they really mean is that they hadn’t stripped out the parts they didn’t like or that made them look bad. The Republican leadership only wants one thing: for the peons to get back to work so CEOs don’t have to sacrifice another quarter to COVID-19.

In a rational world, the CDC would be the ones doing the vetting, not the politicians. The CDC has the health of the nation in mind. The politicians just want the money to start flowing upwards again.


I think the knee-jerk resistance to wearing masks from the Red States is that the primary benefit is for other people and not the wearer. They're kind of like turn signals, that way. Using a turn signal doesn’t do the driver any good, it’s all for the people around him. Hence, the turn signal is an often neglected piece of equipment.

People who think COVID-19 is a hoax or just another ordinary bug don’t care about spreading it to anyone else. And the mask is an irritating and a hassle, so why bother? Empathy is a foreign concept and you know what they think about anything labeled as “foreign.”


It’s entertaining to watch The Rona creeping steadily into Trump’s inner circle. I saw over the weekend that Pence’s spokesperson and an Ivanka aide both tested positive for COVID-19. This prompted Trump to blabber something even dumber than usual:

Katie, she tested very good for a long period of time, then all of a sudden today she tested positive.”  The positive test showed “why the whole concept of tests isn’t necessarily great… The tests are perfect, but something can happen between a test where it’s good and then something happens and all of the sudden…

Maybe someone should explain to the stable genius that the tests aren’t a preventative. If she didn’t take the test, she’d still have the virus. But because she DID get tested so frequently, like the rest of the Administration, they can reduce the number of people she exposes to the virus, so MORE of his enablers don’t get sick.

If he really thinks testing is such a bad idea, I’m all for having his administration stop internal testing. Just let their rugged individualism duke it out with the coronavirus.

I’m particularly surprised the Katie (Mrs. Steven) Miller caught the virus. I figured that being married to him, she must already be dead inside.


Red State governors are learning quickly from their bronzed idol, Trump, and his comrade in arms, Putin. Now they’re all about information control. Florida is reclassifying COVID deaths as other things.

Missouri has only tested 1000 people. No testing, no reporting of high numbers. That doesn’t address the problem, but it makes it look better.

Georgia’s reported figures add up to a 25% hospitalization rate, which means either they have a record-shattering super-bug on their hands or they’re under-reporting COVID cases.

Arizona is using HIPAA to avoid disclosing COVID-19 numbers from nursing homes and jails. (And if there is coronavirus in Arizona, doesn’t that eliminate hot temperatures and direct sunlight as a preventative?)

And when news outlets report on this disinformation? Well they’re just drumming up fake news, aren’t they? We’ve been getting primed for that response for years now. Only now their dishonesty is killing us. (Which they don’t care about, not as long as the cash registers start ringing again.)


We’re on our own out here. I don’t think we’ll ever see an effective Coronavirus Relief Bill passed. The previous ones were nothing but cash grabs for the rich and Band-Aids for the rest of us. The $1200 gimmick covered one month. What happens after that? (We go back to work, say Republicans, virus be damned. And don’t even think about suing for lack of virus protection, they’re already making sure that can’t happen.)

The Small Business bailout money was sucked up by much larger corporations than it was meant for, probably because they let the banks dole it out. Banks always give the first cuts to their best clients… the rich ones.

They seem to pick and choose which hospitals are going to get any help… usually ones in Red States or who have administrators who went to school with someone in the Administration.

The only rational solution I’ve heard about is doing what the other civilized countries are doing: sending regular disbursements of cash to all citizens. I don’t know if it’s bi-weekly or monthly but their people are getting regular checks, which they can then spend on food, goods, and bills. Everyone gets paid.

I heard Democrats were pushing a $2000 per month benefit. This would be a huge help to most Americans, however, the Republicans will never let that happen. Giving out money (to the masses) goes against everything they believe in. They’re much more comfortable with giving money to the richest, under the illusion it will filter down to the rest of us. (And if it doesn’t, well, they don’t really care. They made an effort right?)

They will holler about the precedent and about incenting people not to work and everything else they can throw at the wall, because way down deep, they don’t give a fig if the lower and middle-class sink or swim, as long as the stock market is up. Every dollar sent to the non-rich is a dollar they could have had first.

What they don’t understand is that regardless of whether they throw open the doors to business, they can’t make people start shopping like the old days again. Not until they feel safe. There are no clever speeches or turns of phrase that’s going to get my ass into a crowded store or restaurant or stadium again, until we have a vaccine and a treatment for this mess.


This is one of the most informative articles I’ve read in ages. I picked it up from a friend on Facebook. It’s about how the coronavirus gets transmitted, in detailed terms, highlighting what behaviors and actions are relatively safe, and which are not. (Key point, it’s all about the amount of time spent with someone who’s contaminated and your proximity.) Everyone in America needs to read this post. Seriously.

And then there’s this Twitter thread blog post that demonstrates why you don’t want to go anywhere near this disease. When it’s serious, the effects are devastating. Original tweets are from a woman whose father is an ICU doc.


And speaking of Facebook, let’s end with a little debunkery.

The problem with this analogy, with a gratuitous helping of trying to throw liberal words in our own faces) is that when others go “back to living our lives as we see fit,” they’re putting anyone they encounter at risk. You know, it’s the turn signal problem again. “I get to do what I want and if you get hurt, inconvenienced, or killed? Not my problem.” “My Body” in these circumstances is potentially harming hundreds or thousands of others (because the infected then beget further infections.

In the latter case, “My Body” is limited to the woman seeking an abortion a bean-sized lump of cells. No collateral damage.

This is simply inaccurate. God is certainly “allowed in schools,” kids can pray whenever they want or dare. “He” just can’t be forced on students by the state, school administration, or anyone else. But that never stopped the religious from playing the victim and whining about how they’re not allowed to shoehorn their religion into other peoples’ lives. Many of whom prefer to maintain an educated point of view, rather than one based on ancient superstitions, happy thoughts, magic, and an invisible man who loves you but damns you to eternal torment if you do not please Him.

It was with great sadness I read of the passing of Little Richard, who along with Chuck Berry, practically invented rock n’ roll. Everyone knows the songs, but the one I always think of is not one of the obvious.

Back in the 70s, when ownership of BTO’s Greatest Hits was practically mandatory, there was a track on that album called, “Take It Like a Man.” It’s a basic rock song but with some jamming piano throughout. As a young boy, I always pored over album cover minutiae, and with this one, I saw that they credited Little Richard with piano on that track. In fact, towards the end, they go out with an extended piano solo, with the singer exclaiming, “Play it, Richard!”

As a boy, I figured, if he’s good enough for BTO, he must be all right.

Rest in peace, Richard. You earned it. Everyone you hear bangin’ the keys in recording studios, arenas, smoky bars, dives, and family rooms owes you a debt of gratitude for leading the way.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Preparation P

One thing about this coronavirus pandemic… it shows you who is on the ball and who is not. Some businesses had plans for operation during a pandemic. Others seem to be making things up as they go along.

I don’t know what’s been going on with our local school systems but I’ve been watching what they’re putting my wife through since the middle of March, but it hasn’t been pretty. Sweetpea is an elementary school teacher and like so many others, has had to adapt to a virtual reality for work purposes.

The first week they closed schools, it was a total clown show. No one knew what to do and it took until the next week or two for some kind of plan to evolve. And naturally, very little of the tech worked as advertised, leaving many of the teachers, who were not tech-savvy, floundering. Even when instructions were followed to the letter, shit just didn’t work. And no one else, not even the people rolling out the programs, could provide competent guidance.

I could go on and on about the technical challenges and how hard Sweetpea worked to make things function. Suffice to say, there was yelling, crying and wine involved.

I’m telling you, they finally worked out the kinks enough to begin actual teaching this week. The previous month or two has been devoted to virtual meetings (to keep morale up amongst the children) and discussing work packets that have either been picked up from school drop-off points or downloaded online.

I was stunned that a major school system didn’t have pandemic Continuity of Business plan. Hell, that should have been done at the state level. I know other businesses had pandemic plans. And I know this because I worked on one.

From 2006 to 2011, (and off and on for another 4 years) I worked in my company’s COB (Continuity of Business) department. (COB is basically emergency planning, like “How do we keep our business running when there’s a major hurricane in our market, or the city loses power, or a water main break shuts down the home office? What has to be done now, what can we hold until later? How much later will it be before things we’ve put off get serious?”)

We had COB plans for our branches and for our centralized locations. We wrote the plans and tested them thoroughly, both in theory and in practice.

For example, if our office building were to become incapacitated for any reason, we had another site from which we could operate. There was a plan to decide who goes and computers, printers and other supplies there for the emergency team to use, to keep the business running. Every year we’d go out and physically test all the equipment, to make sure it would be operational in a crunch. (Eventually, that option gave way to the virtual desktops that are so prevalent today.)

We also did “tabletop” tests, wherein an emergency scenario would be presented and the department heads and key players would gather to discuss what they’d do to react to address the crisis. Step by step, the group would talk through the situation as it evolved in phases and describe what they’d do to keep the business going.

It fell to me to create and develop the tabletop tests and scenarios and I came up with ten of them, and each department could have a different one year after year. Granted, the last couple were written with a great deal of whimsy. I guarantee that the approvers in my department only read the first couple before blessing the whole stack. Otherwise, The Great Circus Train Incident would never have come to pass.

When the H1N1 virus first came out in 2009, we began to develop a pandemic plan, should something like that reappear with greater intensity. We bought and stored medical masks and sterile wipes, to keep for when necessary and had plans for distribution, should the time come.

In 2010, our whole corporate operation (my company was one department of one of the “Big Banks”) conducted a pandemic tabletop test which played out in phases, asking what we would do if we lost 25%, 35%, 50% or more of our employees due to illness. It was uncomfortable but it made us think about how to persevere in the face of catastrophic circumstances.

So when I look at the other businesses operating now, including the school systems, I don’t have any sympathy for not being prepared. H1N1 gave us a good wake-up call. It was up to us not to press the “snooze” button. And it looks to me like the schools were caught sleeping in class.

The warnings have been out there… SARS, H1N1, Ebola, all of them could have gotten worse. Finally, the coronavirus did, and it was as if we’d never considered such a thing before.

The schools, in particular, should have known that they’d be “ground zero” for virus containment. How could they not have a plan to continue students’ education? Something like this happening was inevitable.

I’ll give you that schools around here have a lot on their plates just to provide the bare minimum. There are giant problems they have to face on a daily basis. BUT, that’s no excuse for the Superintendents across the state to show up with their pants down when it was time to shelter in place. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a dereliction of duty.

Coronavirus didn’t just come out of nowhere… it’s been on the horizon for years. All we had to do was pay attention. Smart organizations did and now they’ve shifted seamlessly into this new reality, because it was anticipated and addressed. Those who didn’t have had a rough couple of months.

Although there’s a benefit: now parents have a clearer idea of what teachers have to go through day in and day out.

Side note: It just dawned on me… how long do you think it will be before Trump takes credit for the drop off in school shootings this year? You know it’s gonna happen…

And speaking of the Clown-in-Chief, remember how at the end of last week’s post I talked about getting the Trump letter about our direct deposits and how the taxpayers shouldn’t have had to pay for something that’s basically a Trump re-election campaign ad? It turns out the letter it might not have been such a useless gesture after all.  I found the perfect use for it:

 Better watch out for paper cuts though...