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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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...