Saturday, March 04, 2023

Come At Me, Bro

So the latest stunt from Ron DeSantis and the Floriduh GOP -- and that's all they are is stunts -- is SB 1316, a particularly odious and unconstitutional piece of claptrap that requires any blogger who mentions a Floriduh government official in their blog, and receives compensation for it, must register with the state within five days, or face fines of $25 per day up to a maximum of $2,500.

I am a blogger. I receive compensation for this blog. Fractions of a cent, to be sure -- in the eight and a half years this has been live it has generated, in total, a whopping $13.43 -- but compensation nonetheless.

I will state right here, publicly and for the record, that Ron DeSantis is a giant douchenozzle who likes to sniff trump's farts, and that he disappoints his wife in every possible manner on a daily basis.

So, with that said, bring it on, asshole. I dare you. I will have a constitutional lawsuit filed so fast the dust I stir up will be visible from Google Earth and there will be so much of it that we will experience global cooling the likes of which we haven't seen since Mounti Pinatubo erupted in 1991.

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Friday, September 30, 2022

A Proposal: Immigration

A few years back I started this blog as a way of venting my spleen to the roughly three people who even looked at this thing. When trump was elected, posting here became nearly a daily occurrence by virtue of the seemingly unending deluge of vitriolic, malevolent, corrupt stupid emanating from the Republican Party. And when Biden won the election, I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that the worst was over.

Unfortunately, I was wrong in many ways. However, rather than descending into vitriol and invective over January 6th, the politicization of the Supreme Court, etc. I'm gonna change tack here and start making suggestions as to how we can get this right.

The United States of America is at its best when it has a common goal. Think about the times when the American government was at peak functionality ... maybe not in all areas, but at least in enough of them to give the impression of competence. World War II and the defeat of fascism. The eradication of polio. The space race and landing Neil Armstrong on the moon (or a sound studio in Van Nuys, depending on your particular conspiratorial preference).

This shared vision started to fray when Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. Touting a message that the Federal government was the source of all that is wrong with America, and espousing economic policies1 that, in retrospect, have only served to further divide us, the Republican Party began dismantling everything that had given America its unique character over the previous 200 years.

I'm not here to bitch and complain about everything that was done wrong over the last 40 plus years. Let's face it, I could write a book on that ... but countless others already have done that, and more eloquently that I could. I am here to start looking forward, and to maybe suggest how we regain that sense of national unity.

Rather than focusing primarily on individuals, I will be focusing on ideas ... things that, in my view (and hopefully enough people will agree to make an actual difference), will make America better. In order to do that, it is important to lay out some basic principles of what, in my opinion, America is all about.

It comes down to this idea that all people are created equal, and are entitled as human beings to certain rights (not a complete list):
  • The freedom to worship, or not worship, as they please, free from governmental interference.
  • The freedom to marry regardless of gender or sexual identity.
  • The freedom to voice their opinions without government interference or censorship.
  • Freedom from unwarranted search and seizure.
  • The understanding that religion has no place in government, even to the point of removing references to any deity in invocations, oaths, currency, etc.
  • All people, regardless of citizenship status, are entitled to medical care, with the only regulations being that the procedure must be safe and medically ethical, and that the patient and doctor have agreed that it is appropriate.
  • Any person who is working a full time job is entitled to earn enough to support themselves and meet their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, and transportation.
  • The freedom in the workplace to organize and practice collective bargaining.
In addition, I maintain that we need to introduce the following concepts:
  • Civic responsibility. Some suggestions:
    • Two years of public service between the ages of 18 and 26. This is not limited to military service but also encompasses the following (again, not a complete list):
      • Teaching in distressed school districts.
      • Fire/EMT.
      • Legal services for low-income people.
      • Medical services in underserved communities.
    • Participating in elections, even if that is the bare minimum (voting).
  • Congressional and Presidential elections are to be publicly funded. Private contributions will only be allowed into an election fund administered by the Federal Election Commission and distributed equally to all declared and balloted candidates.
I will be going into more depth on all these things in future columns (unless, of course, real life intrudes), with an eye toward maybe generating some grassroots support for these ideas. If we can motivate enough of the electorate, we may actually be able to make things better for everyone.

But why wait? Let's dive into ...


This has been a hot button issue for both Republicans and Democrats for decades, and has become sort of a political third rail ... touch it at your peril. It doesn't have to be, though; it's just another issue requiring a solution, so rather than try to score points by playing a game of "who can beat up the immigrants more," I will try to articulate a way forward.

Completely open borders are untenable. This is just a basic fact. They are not workable, if for no other reason than we have to keep track of people (for tax purposes, law enforcement, etc.). Some people have advocated a zero-tolerance policy regarding illegal immigration, others have pushed for amnesty for all, and the vast majority are wading through the murky swamp between the two extremes. So I'm gonna make this simple.

The United States of America is a humane nation. Everyone is welcome, and nobody will be turned away until they have had a legitimate opportunity to make their case. The entire process will operate from the assumption that any application for immigration into the United States will be approved unless just cause for denial can be shown. The burden will be on the United States to show why they should not be allowed entry.

People wishing to immigrate into the United States will progress through the following classifications:
  • Applicant: An applicant is someone who applies for a visa -- immigrant or non-immigrant -- for entry into the United States.
  • Non-immigrant visa holder. In this case, a U.S. consular officer at an American embassy or consulate has reviewed the application, and has determined that the applicant is eligible to enter the United States for a specific purpose. However, the applicant must proceed through the same admission process as an applicant for citizenship.
  • Provisional immigrant: A person whose application has been accepted, but not adjudicated. Provisional immigrants are entitled to most of the rights of American citizens; however, they are not eligible for all services (Social Security, unemployment insurance, etc.) and are limited in their movements within the United States.
  • Provisional citizen: A person whose application has been adjudicated, and who has been granted entry into the United States. Provisional citizens are entitled to all the rights and responsibilities of full citizens, but must adhere to more stringent criteria for a short time. A person may be granted provisional citizenship for a period of no longer than one year, after which they are administered the oath of citizenship unless the have failed, through no fault of their own, to meet all the criteria for citizenship.
  • Citizen: A person who has passed through all stages of applying for entry into the United States, and who has taken the oath of citizenship. Citizenship may only be revoked for Constitutional causes (i.e. treason, insurrection).
Anyone who wants to immigrate into the United States without a plea for asylum must meet the following criteria:
  • The ability to read, write, and understand English. Not necessarily fluently, but enough to be able to get a job, deal with public officials, etc.
  • Applicants must pass a basic (high school level) civics test. They must demonstrate that they have a clear understanding of  how government in the United States works, their rights as migrants, what is required to obtain citizenship, what is expected of people once they attain citizenship, and how to navigate American government. This requirement is waived for minors age 16 or under.
  • Applicants cannot be "bail jumpers." Applicants cannot, under any circumstances, use immigration into the United States as a means of avoiding lawful prosecution for crimes committed elsewhere. Any applicant who is found to have attempted this will have their home country notified and extradition proceedings begun unless they convert their application into a plea for asylum.
  • Applicants cannot be criminals. Any applicant with a criminal record from his or her home country is subject to be pulled aside for further evaluation. In cases like these, applicants with convictions for any offenses in their home country which correspond to either a class A misdemeanor or any class of felony (defined under 18 U.S. Code §3559), will be denied entry and returned to their home country.
    • The applicant will be provided adequate opportunity to appeal the decision and to make a case for amnesty, describe mitigating circumstances, etc. If this route is taken, the applicant will be held in provisional custody (described below) until the case is adjudicated.
    • If the applicant's petition fails on appeal, the applicant may request asylum subject to the same provisions described below.
  • Applicants must maintain a clean criminal record in the United States. Conviction for any offense above a class B misdemeanor (defined under 18 U.S. Code §3559) committed by an applicant, provisional immigrant, or provisional citizen is grounds for deportation.
  • Minors handled separately. Any migrant under the age of 18 who is traveling with a parent or guardian, or under age 16 if traveling alone, will be approved automatically for citizenship on a provisional basis, provided there is no criminal record as discussed above.
Persons seeking asylum must meet the following criteria:
  • They must demonstrate proven hardship or a genuine fear of consequences should they return.
  • Any applicant with a conviction for any offense in their home country which correspond to either a class A misdemeanor or any class of felony (defined under 18 U.S. Code §3559), will be denied entry and diverted to another country that is willing to provide sanctuary. If another country is not found that will provide sanctuary, the applicant will be returned to their home country.
    • The applicant will be provided adequate opportunity to appeal the decision and to make a case for amnesty, describe mitigating circumstances, etc. If this route is taken, the applicant will be held in provisional custody (described below) until the case is adjudicated.
    • If the applicant's petition fails on appeal, the applicant will be denied entry as stated above.
  • Applicants must maintain a clean criminal record in the United States. Conviction for any sort of offense above a class B misdemeanor (defined under 18 U.S. Code §3559) is grounds for deportation.
Once an application has been accepted for review, that person becomes a provisional immigrant. Provisional immigrants have the same responsibilities as citizens, but are not eligible for some services (unemployment insurance, Social Security, etc.). All complete applications must be accepted for review no later than 7 days after the initial application. Provisional immigrants will be liable for the following payroll taxes:
  • Federal income tax withholding.
  • State and local income tax withholding (where applicable).
  • Medicare withholding.
Provisional immigrants will be exempt from FICA withholding.

Provisional immigrant applications will be acted upon (not necessarily completely adjudicated, although that is desirable) within 30 days. At the very least, a determination will be made as to whether or not the immigrant is eligible for further scrutiny.

Provisional immigrants may be detained for up to 30 days, known as provisional custody, while their cases are pending. If they are to be detained, it is not going to be a prison-like situation; provisional immigrants will be housed at facilities comparable to a budget motel -- clean, secure facilities, adequate food and water, not overcrowded, freedom of movement (subject to certain restrictions), etc.

Any provisional immigrant whose application requires more than 30 days to adjudicate will be released into the community of their choosing with the following restrictions:
  • Their movements are restricted to the municipal borders of that community.
  • Travel outside the community for anything not related to immigration matters (court hearings, etc.) or health reasons must be approved in advance by a caseworker.
  • Provisional immigrants will not be allowed to locate within 25 miles of the border of any sensitive governmental facilities (either state or Federal), nor will they be allowed to accept employment at any facility located within this radius. This includes, but is not limited to, military and National Guard bases, Federal and state prisons, or Federal and state administrative offices (not including state police stations).
  • Provisional immigrants with a valid driver's license from their home country will be issued a provisional immigrant driver's license from the state in which they choose to locate while their case is being adjudicated. This document may be used both as proof of identity and as proof of immigration status (similar to how a passport is used to prove both identity and citizenship).
Upon completion of adjudication, the provisional immigrant becomes a provisional citizen. Provisional citizenship will last for a maximum of one year. Provisional citizens have all the rights and responsibilities of naturalized or natural-born citizens, with only the following caveats:
  • Provisional citizens are not eligible for any government clearance above Public Trust.
  • Provisional citizens convicted of any offense above a class B misdemeanor (defined under 18 U.S. Code §3559) will be subject to revocation of their provisional citizenship and deportation.
All applications must be adjudicated completely within five years of the date of the application, unless explicitly extended for cause by a Federal judge. Some examples of valid reasons for extension:
  • The applicant suffered health setbacks that delayed processing significantly.
  • Natural disasters.
  • The applicant is involved in the prosecution of any offense above a class B misdemeanor as defined under 18 U.S. Code §3559. In this case, adjudication is paused until the case in question has been resolved. If the applicant is a witness, or the applicant is a defendant and is acquitted, the adjudication process will merely resume from its pause point. If convicted, the applicant, provisional immigrant, or provisional citizen will be subject to deportation.
  • Active full-time military service.
There are multiple pathways to entry:
  • Family emergency. If an applicant is applying for entry to care for a family member who is a) in the United States legally, and b) is unable to care for themselves without assistance, the applicant will be issued a caretaker visa. This is a special visa that allows for entry to a specific locale for a set period of time. Either of these conditions may be altered and/or expended based on medical necessity.
  • Employment. Applicants may apply for a non-immigrant employment visa. An employment visa requires sponsorship from the employer.
  • Standard Immigration/Asylum. Applicants may be issued an immigrant visa. This is an interim visa that allows the applicant to remain in the United States as an applicant, a provisional immigrant, or a provisional citizen. Immigrant visas must be renewed every four years until the application has been completely adjudicated, at which point it is no longer valid.
  • Military service. An applicant may apply to enlist in the military once they have attained "provisional immigrant" status. Any applicant who enlists will be granted full citizenship upon meeting the following criteria:
    • The applicant must have no formal disciplinary events on their service record. If there are disciplinary events, the applicant will have a full and equitable opportunity to defend their case.
    • Either an honorable discharge after at least one complete tour of duty, or a medical discharge provided it is not the result of intentionally self-inflicted injury.
  • Public service. A provisional immigrant may apply to work in specific public service fields. Upon completion of five years continuous, uninterrupted employment with no adverse actions, the provisional immigrant will be granted provisional citizenship. Public service includes:
    • Teaching in a distressed school district.
    • Police officer in inner city neighborhoods.
    • Firefighter.
    • Emergency medical technician.
    • Nursing in geriatric facilities or urban hospitals.
    • Medical provider (physician, etc.) in inner city neighborhoods/hospitals.
The underlying concept here is that the main focus of immigration policy becomes less about arresting people and more about helping people who need it. Granted, there will always be those who try to make an end run around US immigration policy. Those people are criminals, and must be handled accordingly. But when agents come across a group of 25 migrants trying to cross the desert, 40 miles from any civilization, with a single gallon jug of water and straw hats to block the sun, our default position should be to find out why they are there and see if, just maybe, they were misled intentionally about US policy by traffickers before we throw them on the ground and point guns at them.

That's not who we are. We are the "shining city on the hill," as Ronald Reagan2 said, and our immigration policy must reflect this.

I gotta lie down.

1I was 15 the first time I heard about trickle-down economics, and even at that tender, innocent, politically ignorant age I could see this was a bullshit argument intended to make the rich richer.

2Look, I know I portrayed Reagan as pretty much a monster in the past, but let's face it ... the man knew how to turn a phrase.

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Friday, November 06, 2020

Next Steps

With the election of Joe Biden looking more and more certain every hour, the topic of discussion amongst my online community has turned toward the future of the Democratic Party. These conversations fall into two broad camps:

  • One group maintains that, in order to win elections, we have to be a more centrist or center-left party … no radical proposals, nothing earth-shaking, just an incremental approach toward progress.
  • The other group holds that, because of the fact that down-ballot races tended to swing progressive, it is time for the Democratic Party to adopt a more activist and liberal platform.

Both of these groups are right, and both are wrong ... and both of them overlook a very key point: that the Democrats have been abysmally bad at communicating what we are for.

Back in the day the Democratic Party was the party of the working class, the party of unions, and fair wages, and keeping the 1% in check, and a level playing field. And while we still stand for those things, we have been horribly bad at telling people we are in favor of these things. Instead of saying what we are for, we have allowed the Republican Party to put us on defense, forcing us to deny increasingly absurd accusations and thus taking time away from outlining our platform. If we are going to increase out majority, if we hope to regain the majority in the Senate, we have to completely revamp our messaging.

This is where we can actually learn from the GOP playbook. Say what you will about the Republican Party, say they are hopelessly corrupt, say they are in the pocket of billionaires and corporate America, say they are reactionary racists and misogynists, say they are enables of our worst impulses ... I forgot my point.

Oh, right.

Like 'em or loathe 'em, the Republicans have always been very good as message discipline. They have a platform, they have marching orders, and they go out and follow those orders to the letter. Granted, many of these orders are abominable -- using "religious liberty " as a shield to enact all manner of regressive policies, employing racist dog whistles, etc. -- but they are effective and efficient. We need to start employing this same message discipline, but on the side of good and light as opposed to evil and darkness (okay, a bit hyperbolic, but you get my point).

The best way to do this is to cop a move from Ronald Reagan's playbook. During the 1980 presidential debate against Jimmy Carter, Reagan ignored attacks by simply shaking his head and saying, in a rueful, kind voice, "There you go again." This completely delegitimized anything Carter said, and gave Reagan the rom to make his own points ... and, in the process, make attacks that forced Carter to rebut, thus taking time away from his message (seeing a pattern yet?) We need to simply dismiss any Republican attacks in this manner. Basically, ignoring them and moving on to what we want to say.

This is all well and good in the long term, but we have a more pressing need right now: retaking the Senate seats in Georgia.

Raphael Wornock and Jon Ossoff are facing runoff elections on January 5th against Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue respectively. These are winnable seats, but not if we double down on the strategy that failed us this time around. We no longer have the boogeyman in the White House as a convenient foil, so this means we have to give voters something substantive.

This means that Ossoff and Wornock have to articulate clear visions for what electing them to the Senate means for Georgians and for the country apart from "hey, at least we aren't those assholes." This can be anything from highlighting how the Democratic Party will protect health care for all, or competent handling of COVID, or making education more affordable, or cutting taxes on the working and middle classes, that sort of thing. The Republicans should not enter into our messaging until after we have made our points, and then only in the context of how they are trying to screw the average Joe out of everything they can get.

We also, and this is much tougher row to hoe, have to get the point across that just because people of color are getting more than they have in the past, this doesn't mean that white people are getting less. We need to highlight how increased equity -- in gender, in race, in sexual identity, in ethnicity -- benefits everybody, not just these marginalized people.

Finally, we need surrogates. Lots of 'em. And they need to be tailored not just to the message, but to the people to whom they will be delivering it. For example, to have Julian Castro speak to the LatinX community on behalf of Raphael Wornock, or Stacey Abrams to speak on behalf of Jon Ossoff to the African-American community. This approach will work not just in Georgia, but also nationwide.

See, it's not that Republicans appeal to more people -- they don't. An absurdly large number of studies have confirmed this. This is why the GOP has been pushing gerrymandering, voter suppression, etc. as strongly as they have ... they know they cannot win elections based solely on their agenda, as people have said time and again that they do not favor these things.

If we can do these things, we can pretty much guarantee a Democratic majority for the foreseeable future.

I gotta lie down.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2020

The Time Has Come

Well, it's election day. I've been laying quite low for a while for mental health reasons, but here we are. We are on track to have the highest voter turnout (as a percentage of the eligible population) since 1908.

What makes this especially impressive is the fact that, in 1908, the eligible population only consisted of white males. I mean, yeah, African-Americans ostensibly had the right to vote thanks to the 15th Amendment, but racism and Jim Crow put so many barriers in place to prevent it that I think there were roughly 73 black people who were actually allowed to vote.

Also, in 1908 the population of the United States was around 88 million, and there were only 46 states (Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Arizona had not yet been admitted to the Union and were still territories). The total number of votes cast was 14,889,239, or roughly 17% of the population of the United States at the time.

Today, Election Day 2020, around 3:30 PM Eastern, we have already seen over 100 million votes cast (out of 331 million people), or around 30% ... and there's still six or seven hours to go until polls close out West.

Whether you like 45 or dislike him (and I dislike him intensely, with a level of disdain and loathing I have never before felt in my life ... and I am not happy about this emotional poison at all), he has managed to get people to pay attention to the electoral process and its shortcomings, as well as many if the institutional flaws in our nation's government. There are some who maintain we should express some gratitude for this, and while I can understand the logic behind this sentiment I cannot in good conscience agree with it.

This is a man who, while the echoes of his oath of office were still reverberating off the sides of the Washington Monument, announced a ban of people of Muslim descent entering this country based solely on their religion. He then went on to lie to the American people over 30,000 times, kidnapped children away from their families with no plans for reunification, and exploded the deficit by giving tax breaks to his Wall Street cronies. All of which was bad enough, but then came COVID.

As of this writing, there are nearly 230,000 people dead as a result of the pandemic. We are ninth in the world in fatalities compared to total population (behind San Marino, Peru, Belgium, Andorra, Spain, Brazil, Chile, and Bolivia) with 237,636 (compared with such advanced societies such as Burundi, which has had one COVID fatality out of 12,007,734 people, or Vietnam (35 out of 97,635,833) or even the Democratic Republic of Congo (308 out of 90,459,807).

Hell, Papua New Guinea has had only 7 out of 9,003,821, and these are people who are descended from cannibals.

When some place like Somalia, with its internal strife and warring factions and kidnappings and murder and so on can get away with 104 out of 16,040,033 (0.00065%) while the United States, supposedly the most advanced country in the world, can't get below 0.07% (two orders of magnitude), then there is something seriously wrong. And this seriously wrong can be laid squarely at the feet of donald trump.

This is why I think he will lose, and lose big. Granted, he will do everything he can to avoid this, stooping to some pretty slimy tactics (Republicans in Harris County, TX trying to get 127,000 ballots form a heavily Democratic district thrown out on spurious grounds, for example, or insisting that the vote counts have to be completed by election night -- which has never happened in our country's history, not even once) to do so.

And despite all indicators pointing toward a rout of the GOP at all levels, you can bet that he will not go gently into that good night. There will be violence. There will be intimidation. There will be endless lawsuits and Constitutional trickery and shenanigans. And through it all he will be exhorting his followers to get into the streets and make life miserable for anyone who does not hew to this line.

So the trick here is to stay positive and keep hoping. With any luck we will get enough results tonight to point to a complete repudiation of all that the GOP has become in the past ten years. And, if we are really lucky, Mitch McConnell will also be sent packing, along with Lindsay Graham, Thom Tillis, Martha McSally, Joni Ernst, and all the other enablers he has cultivated on Capitol Hill.

And I will be smug and self-satisfied, and with any luck I will be able to get in some trumper's face and say "neener, neener, neener. You LOST. Just accept it" in the same condescending tone they have used on us for the past four years.

I gotta lie down.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2020


I've had enough.

Today the United States Supreme Court voted 5-4 along party lines to disenfranchise voters in Wisconsin by overturning the governor's decision to extend the deadline for mail-in ballots. There are many problems with this (not the least of which is that this is a blatant power grab by the Republican Party that has been sanctioned by what is looking more and more like a kangaroo court), but it's at the point where it's not worth trying to fix.

It is time to administer last rites and start over.

The Republican Party is now the Blatantly Authoritarian And Dictatorial Party. The Democratic Party is the Quibbling Over Calling Them Firefighters Not Firemen While The House Burns Down Party. Neither of them represent anybody who does not have the resources to make at least a six figure campaign donation. Both of them are more concerned with feathering their own nests and protecting their seats than with representing us. And, once you start digging, it turns out that there really ain't a whole lot of daylight between them.

We made it nearly a quarter of a millennium under our current Constitution. It's been a pretty good run, but the time has come for a wholesale update ... basically, jack up the Capitol dome and put a new country under it. For this to work in the long haul, we will need a new Constitution. I have included my suggestions below as to the concepts that must be included in this document.

  • That all people are created equal, and are entitled as human beings to certain rights:
    • The freedom to worship, or not worship, as they please, free from governmental interference.
    • The freedom to marry regardless of gender or sexual identity.
    • Freedom of speech.
    • Freedom from unwarranted search and seizure.
  • That religion has no place in government, even to the point of removing references to any deity in invocations, oaths, etc.
  • That all people, regardless of citizenship status, are entitled to medical care, with the only regulation being that the patient and doctor have agreed that it is medically appropriate.
  • That all people are entitled to earning a living wage when working full time hours.
  • That employees have the freedom to organize and practice collective bargaining.
  • That Congressional and Presidential elections are publicly funded, with no private contributions allowed.
  • That all citizens must perform two years of public service between the ages of 18 and 26. This is not limited to military service but also encompasses the following (not a complete list):
    • Teaching in distressed school districts.
    • Fire/EMT.
    • Legal services for low-income people.

This is not venting, or a vanity project. This is real. The time has come to boot up USA 2.0. We need our modern day Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Adams, George Washington, Patrick Henry. We need that incendiary spirit.

This is intended as a springboard for discussion, so let's start quibbling!

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Some Factual Information regarding COVID-19

This is getting real, people.

Right now there are news outlets critiquing trump's performance last night in his address from the Oval Office. People on the right are claiming the coronavirus is a conspiracy on the part of the Chinese to cripple America's economy. People on the left are bitching about the fact that trump's travel ban has a carveout for countries where, in a staggering coincidence that fools nobody, his resorts are located. People on both sides are pretty much resigned to the fact that Jared Kushner being in the lead on this in any capacity whatsoever spells the impending extinction of the human species.

None of which is relevant.

There is a lot of information -- and misinformation -- about the COVID-19 virus flying about. Some of the misinformation is malicious in intent, but the vast majority is either the result of honest mistakes, or of trying to rush things to press. To that end, I have included the following links to the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization so y'all can get legitimate information:

Centers for Disease Control:

World Health Organization:

As of this writing, there have been 1,215 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in the United States in 43 jurisdictions (42 states and the District of Columbia). There have been 36 deaths. The vast majority of these cases have manifested in the past few weeks -- prior to Feb 17, there had been one or two cases identified per day, with some days seeing none.

In January, we saw an average of 0.7 cases identified per day. In February, that climbed to 7.9. For March -- even though we only have complete data for the first three days of the month, that average is 16.2. A week-by-week breakdown from January 12 to present is pretty grim, as shown below:

1/12 - 1/18 0.4
1/19 - 1/25 1.0
1/26 - 2/1 0.7
2/2 - 2/8 0.3
2/9 - 2/15 1.4
2/16 - 2/22 6.7
2/23 - 2/29 24.0
3/1 - 3/7* 24.0
*Illnesses that began after March 3rd may not yet be reported

The point of all this is, this is not a Republican/Democrat thing. This is not a struggle between Christianity and Islam. This is not racial in origin. This is not something that can, or should, be used to wallop trump (that can come later). This is a human thing.

If we are going to get past this thing, we have to unite as a species. Closing borders and isolating the United States is not the answer ... after all, the virus is already working its way through our population; does a travel ban make the virus any less here?

As I write this, scientists the world over are working feverishly to find a way to mitigate this. Until that time, it is simply a matter of following some commonsense measures:

  • Wash your hands. I know I'm not the only one beating this drum, but it bears repeating as often as humanly possible: wash your hands. Get under the fingernails, under the cuticles, anywhere a virus might be hiding out (within reason; there's no need to take a belt sander to your knuckles ... yet). If you do not have soap, make sure you are using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not your hands.
  • A new term that has popped up in the past couple of days is "social distancing." This is  just a nicer way of saying, in the immortal words of Sting, "Don't stand so close to me."
  • It sucks, but we have to limit gatherings. The NBA has canceled the remainder of its season. The NCAA will be playing in empty arenas.
  • Do not spread misinformation. Many people on social media are posting links to stories about COVID-19 being a Chinese conspiracy, or that Democrats are fighting against a solution to the problem for electoral reasons, and on and on and on. Knock it off. Check your sources. If you are going to post something, please make sure it is legitimate and not some crackpot bullshit conspiracy theory or partisan bleating (on either side). And for the record, Fox News is not really considered a legitimate source, considering how they attempt to spin everything in favor of trump (by the same token, MSNBC is suspect because they tend to spin things against trump, although to a lesser degree).

We will get through this. There are nearly 8 billion of us; it's going to take more than this to do us in.

I gotta lie down.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Pay Attention, Dammit

I have seen a number of people today throwing tantrums, claiming the nomination was stolen from Warren/Buttigieg/Harris/Booker/et al and that they'll be damned if they're going to vote for a corporate shill like Biden. Given the hyper-polarized nature of the current time, as well as the sheer blinding corruptio and incompetence of the current occupant of the Oval Office, I thought it would be helpful to list some of the things for which you will be voting in November.

Minimum wage
You will be voting for a minimum wage that is actually a living wage, instead of forcing people to take on two or three jobs to not fully meet their needs and rely on public assistance anyway. The common conservative argument is that there is no reason that businesses should shoulder this burden. My argument is, why not? For decades, the American taxpayer has been paying a portion of these peoples' wages without seeing an ounce of benefit from it, while employers get away with increased profits. That we pay for.

The Supreme Court
You will be voting for Supreme Court justices. It is pretty much a foregone conclusion that the next president will have to replace at least two SCOTUS justices. Ruth Bade Ginsburg will be 87 on Election Day, Stephen Breyer 82, and Clarence Thomas 72. Even if it is just Ginsburg and Breyer, this can flip the court from 5-4 conservative to 5-4 liberal. As we have seen over the past few years, the GOP is in a race to lock down the courts, preferring captive, compliant judges over true jurisprudence. Left unchecked, Republicans will start using the courts to enforce ideology instead of the law.

Climate Change
You will be voting for an intelligent climate policy. It is no secret that trump doesn't believe climate change is real, calling it a "Chinese hoax." He has rolled back environmental regulations at a frightening pace, endangering the health of millions in the pursuit of short-term profits for fossil fuel companies. In addition, he has opened up protected natural preserves for drilling. If he gets another term, we will see these efforts ramped up so that, by 2024, we will be living in a smog-shrouded hellscape.

Electoral Integrity
You will be voting for fair, honest, and open elections. In 2016, Russia put its thumbs on the electoral scales. This is not in dispute; all 17 intelligence agencies have verified this with 100% confidence. In addition, they are doing at again, with the goal of getting trump elected. Why? It's not because trump is sympathetic to Putin's policies; I doubt that trump has dedicated more than a few seconds to Putin's policies. The reason Russia wants trump in office is because he is a fucking moron and easily manipulated, as evidenced by how easily he was convinced to abandon the Kurds and give Russia the foothold in the Middle East it wanted.

In addition, this is a Census year, which means that who ever wins at the state level this year (governors, state legislators) will be tasked with redistricting Congressional districts for the 2022 campaign. In 2010, GOP focus was on state races for precisely this reason. As a result, in 2012 in PA, Democratic Congressional candidates got a slight majority of the votes (statewide total), yet only had 5 out of 18 House seats. This was due to blatant partisan gerrymandering, to the point that Pat Meehan (R, PA-7) never really had to run ... the district was drawn so egregiously that he basically sat in the House for ten years and collected $174,000 in salary as well as about $50 bajilion in "campaign donations" for not doing a damned thing.

International Relations
You will be voting for sane, competent diplomacy, as opposed to the unchecked tire fire that is trump's foreign policy. Whether you like Biden or not, it cannot be disputed that the man has serious foreign policy chops. years on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, as well as eight years as Obama's right-hand man, have made him arguably the most qualified candidate in terms of international relations we have had since Eisenhower.

Health Care
You will be voting to make health care more affordable and accessible for all. Republicans have tried at least 70 times to repeal Obamacare -- including several during the 115th Congress (2017-2018) -- and have failed every time. That's not to say that they will fail again, and they will definitely keep trying. A vote for trump will guarantee that pre-existing conditions will not be covered, premiums will balloon out of control, and the number of uninsured and under-insured people will skyrocket.

Higher Education
You will be voting to make college more affordable. Sure, his plan is not as generous a those of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and others, but it does include provisions for tuition-free community college. This provision alone can save students, on average, nearly $25,000 in student loan debt.

You will be voting for a more equitable tax code. The trump tax plan that went into effect in 2018 was designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to give massive breaks to trump and people who look like him at the expense of everybody else. We have seen this demonstrated very clearly when people like Jeff Bezos can get away with a zero tax bill, while everybody else sees deductions for things like local property taxes, mortgage interest, etc. vanishing.

I get it. There are a lot of people for whom Biden is not the first (or second, or third, or fourth) choice. However, the toddlers who are throwing tantrums because they wanted Booker or or Mayor Pete or Harris are losing sight of the fact that a no progress happens all at once ... it is always incremental. And right now the first step we must take is to eliminate the orange stain on the White House. Without this step, nothing else happens.

I gotta lie down.

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