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Tag: COVID-19

The GOP Has Become a Malevolent Force in American Life

The GOP Has Become a Malevolent Force in American Life

Consider these words written in 2012 by non-partisan political scientists Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein:

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

Eight years on things have got demonstrably worse. Republicans continue efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act both legislatively (in 2017, which failed) or in court as GOP states led by Texas pursue a lawsuit currently pending before the Supreme Court that may see the ACA overturned next spring. The consequences to millions of Americans would be devastating.
This in the face of a virulent pandemic with more millions of Americans losing their jobs and their health care who will likely need the ACA. In the current health crisis, the Republicans’ rush to open up the economy before infection rates have decreased or we have adequate testing and contact tracing capabilities promises to cause thousands of unnecessary deaths – particularly among the elderly.

Meanwhile the GOP’s stubborn and obtuse denial of climate change threatens the future of our children and grandchildren. The depressing litany of destructive policies the GOP has embraced over the years whether its unravelling environmental protections and workplace safety regulations, beating up on the poor in America, suppressing voting rights of minorities to name but a handful, do enormous harm to the American people. The reality is of a political party and conservative movement that rejects the worth and role of government to do good and runs it incompetently to prove its point, while doing everything possible to impede the other party from governing effectively.

In this the GOP is robustly supported by its perpetually angry base, and a right-wing media machine that pushes both to the extremes. Negative partisanship is bipartisan but at least most Democrats get their news from reliable mainstream media as opposed to Republicans who are far more likely to be misinformed thanks to conservative media even on something as critical as the coronavirus. The latest conservative conspiracy theory, for example, is that the COVID-19 death rate is vastly exaggerated, a dangerous illusion that promotes a lethal complacency.

In short, Republican governance at every level is severely hazardous to our health and well being. In the present emergency, a GOP administration first weakened the federal government’s ability to combat a theoretical pandemic then thoroughly botched its response to a real one. And while a pragmatic Democratic House has tried gamely to bring some sanity to the government’s response to the economic and health calamities, it’s an uphill struggle against an ideologically driven, boneheaded GOP majority in the Senate. For example, an obvious need to support states with an infusion of federal funding as their economies tank and their revenues plummet is being blocked by a hatefully partisan GOP leadership that sees it as disproportionately (and erroneously) benefitting Democratic states.

When this catastrophe is finally over, Americans need to have a serious conversation on the future of our democracy in light of the bitter divisions that are unlikely to ameliorate even without the vile and divisive presence of either Trump or Senator “Moscow” Mitch McConnell. I don’t pretend to know the answer but I do know that we can never move forward as a country while this extreme polarization, without parallel in any other democratic nation, persists.

Grocery Store Heroes

Grocery Store Heroes

It’s not hard to be moved close to tears when we hear the myriad stories and see photos of our heroic doctors, nurses, medical technicians, EMTs and all of the hospital support staff who are risking their lives while striving to save ours in the midst of a pandemic that is lethal to so many. How on earth are we ever going to thank them or truly show our appreciation after all this is done? Their efforts and their sacrifices are simply beyond words.

There are others who have also carried on essential work at great personal risk to whom we owe our undying gratitude including public transit drivers, police officers, postal workers and others who have given a new meaning to the term “public service”.

But I would like to say a special word here for our grocery store workers who have served the public faithfully and well and without whom our situation would be dire indeed. They have done so despite often poor pay and the ever present risk of daily public contact that has resulted in an increasing death toll around the country.

For my family special thanks go to the hard working and devoted staff of Ballard Market (part of Town and Country Markets) where we mostly shop but also to PCC, Trader Joe’s, QFC (part of Kroger) and to our local Safeway. But to all the grocery store workers everywhere in the country: Thank you guys for sustaining all of us in this most difficult of times.

Credit the mainstream media – they’re doing a great job in the age of COVID-19

Credit the mainstream media – they’re doing a great job in the age of COVID-19

Over the years those of us who follow politics and policy from a more liberal perspective have certainly had our bones to pick with the mainstream media. We only have to recall the 2016 election and the media’s treatment of Hillary Clinton’s email non-scandal whilst it simultaneously went through painful contortions to normalize the candidacy of the abnormal, not to mention utterly vile, Donald Trump to get our blood boiling. But as we face our greatest trial since World War II in the form of the COVID-19 coronavirus, we should recognize the bang-up job the mainstream media has done during this challenging time. 

In the face of a crescendo of nonsense, bullshit, lies and outright hostility both from the president and from his propaganda machine at Fox News, the American mainstream media have steadfastly delivered facts, truth and useful analyses on a daily basis from the moment it was clear that we faced the mortal threat of a pandemic. Certainly from January onward, the media was sounding the alarm by reporting on what was happening in China and on what was being said in response by public health professionals here.  Crucially, the media refused early on to be deflected by a clueless Trump and continued to press him and his administration on their actions, or lack of them, and to hold them accountable. Particular kudos, I believe, are owed to the brave souls of the White House press corps who face unprecedented vitriol from Trump who is quick to anger and lashes out with a vitriol and meanness we simply haven’t seen before in a president – and hope we never see again. Whether it’s Amiche Alcindor of PBS and others who commit the unpardonable sin of quoting Trump’s own words back to him or Jonathan Karl of ABC asking about a report published by his own government inconveniently highlighting equipment shortages in hospitals, Trump resorts to bullying and belittling the offending journalists who are simply trying to do their jobs.

Alcindor and Karl are professionals, of course, for whom this is all merely water off a duck’s back. But they are human too and it cannot be pleasant for even them to be treated this way before the world, and especially galling by someone they know is completely unfit to hold the office of president. And although divided along partisan lines the media has a good deal more credibility with the American electorate than does Trump.

So a tip of the hat to the journalists of the mainstream media. Keep up the great work guys!!

John Prine has Died from COVID-19

John Prine has Died from COVID-19

Here is the opening of his obituary published on No Depression‘s website:

After nine days in intensive care at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, John Prine passed away at the age of 73 due to complications from COVID-19. Last weekend, he was intubated — a process that involves inserting a tube down a patient’s throat to assist with moving air in and out of the lungs — as family members and the Oh Boy Records team continued to update fans on his condition via social media. Prine was a high-risk patient, due to his squamous cell cancer diagnosis in 1998, lung cancer in 2013, heart surgery last summer, and recent hip injury that canceled his February tour dates.

Beloved, of course, in the roots music community, Prine was also greatly respected around the world for his vivid, often humorous storytelling. Beginning with his 1971 self-titled album — a record that Rolling Stone dubbed one of the 500 greatest of all time, replete with classics like “Paradise” and “Angel from Montgomery” — and through to his 2018 LP Tree of Forgiveness, Prine captured the simplicities and the complexities of the human existence in stark and stunning glory.

Yesterday evening, friends texted me regarding his death, and I asked them what songs they would like to see posted. Here’s Zippy’s selection from John Prine’s first album.

And Jen chose “In Spite of Ourselves” the title track from his 1999 album.

Gorby chose what is probably his most-famous song covered by Bonnie Raitt.

And Kyri chose “When I Get to Heaven” live from Austin City Limits.

Rest in Peace John…

What Ballard Looks Like During the Coronavirus Pandemic

What Ballard Looks Like During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Ballard is the neighborhood where I live in Northwest Seattle, Washington that was a sleepy little Scandinavian neighborhood when I moved in. It’s gone through many changes over the past few decades that have made it a destination for Seattleites and for tourists from all over the country and the world. It’s where people go to drink, because there are many great bars and restaurants, plus the world famous Tractor Tavern music venue.

I took a walk through Ballard last weekend to see how the coronavirus shutdown has changed it.

Ballard was a bustling neighborhood with many thriving locally owned businesses, but now they are all hurting because of the severe economic slowdown brought on by the social distancing required to stop the spread of the highly contagious, deadly coronavirus. I can only hope the pandemic soon wanes and that Ballard, Seattle, Washington, and the rest of America and the world can get back to normal. I want all of these businesses to survive, but I don’t think all of them can without some huge help from the state and federal government, and from all the locals pitching in to buy what they can from them when they can.

The Great Recession was about “Too Big to Fail”. This recession is going to be all about “Too Small to Fail”.

Update: While drafting this post last night, I was listening to The Roadhouse with Greg Vandy, the best weekly radio show on KEXP. During his show Greg informed us listeners about You Don’t Bother Me: A Fundraiser For Ballard Ave Music Venues put together by Seattle band, The Cupholders.

This compilation is a fundraiser for the staff of the Ballard Avenue music venues that have been forced to shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The bartenders, sound technicians & door attendants at Conor Byrne Pub, Hotel Albatross, The Sunset Tavern & The Tractor Tavern are our family and make sure that we as musicians have a place to play as well as build and sustain our community.

To celebrate these noble warriors, all the artists on this compilation have recorded their own version of Casey Ruff’s song “You Don’t Bother Me” a song celebrating friendships, good times and hangovers made on Ballard Avenue

Facebook page here.

Also, there are links in the photo captions to most all of the businesses in the photo gallery, but you’ll need to scroll over the words to see them. Try it!

Covid-19 US Spread Timelapse March 1-31, 2020

Covid-19 US Spread Timelapse March 1-31, 2020

Fully interactive visualization

You can see the underlying population data, which makes it very clear that coronavirus thrives and explodes in dense areas. There’s a more subtle shift in rural areas, but you can see some trouble spots forming. Contagion is contagious.

Click through to Tableau Public for more analysis of the NY Times data.

Updated daily.

  • Select a start date and press play.
  • Filter to see just your state.
  • Pan and zoom
  • Full screen mode
  • Hover for details

Data source: NY Times Github repository
Tableau Public: Download the Tableau workbook

Seattle is a ghost town.

John Prine is Hospitalized and Recovering from COVID-19 Symptoms

John Prine is Hospitalized and Recovering from COVID-19 Symptoms

From The Guardian:

The country musician John Prine has been hospitalised and is in now in a stable condition after experiencing symptoms of coronavirus. A post to his official Twitter account said that Prine, 73, had been taken to the hospital on Thursday and intubated on Saturday.

Via Mike Mills’ twitter feed, watch this video today.

TRUMP’S HANDLING OF THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC HAS BEEN TRULY ABYSMAL, POLLS NOTWITHSTANDING

TRUMP’S HANDLING OF THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC HAS BEEN TRULY ABYSMAL, POLLS NOTWITHSTANDING

Some recent polls show Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is approved by 55-60% of Americans. That is simply insane. Here’s why.

A New York Times article succinctly summarized the administration’s early inaction and mistakes regarding the looming public health disaster:

A series of missteps and lost opportunities dogged the nation’s response.

Among them: a failure to take the pandemic seriously even as it engulfed China, a deeply flawed effort to provide broad testing for the virus that left the country blind to the extent of the crisis, and a dire shortage of masks and protective gear to protect doctors and nurses on the front lines, as well as ventilators to keep the critically ill alive.

‘This could have been stopped by implementing testing and surveillance much earlier — for example, when the first imported cases were identified,’ said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York.

This despite warnings by the intelligence community in early January of the seriousness of the spreading virus in China, not to mention numerous and urgent red flags raised on both the possibility of pandemic and our lack of preparedness to meet it. That lack of preparedness was caused primarily by the administration’s own self-inflicted wounds such as dismantling the National Security Council Directorate for Global Health and Security and Bio-Defense established under President Obama which would have been laser focused and vocal on the emerging crisis in Wuhan, had it still been around, and the idiotic unraveling of our network of public health liaison officials in China established and buttressed in both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations which likely prevented the alarm being raised even earlier.

And then of course there’s the testing debacle which has made us a laughing stock for our incompetence and contributed materially to the fact that we now have more infections than any other country and are heading to a best case scenario of between 100,000 to 200,00 deaths from COVID-19.

But the greatest of Trump’s sins was the fact that thanks to his efforts to downplay the deadly threat posed by the virus we lost valuable time – two precious months of inertia and fumbles in fact – which combined with other missteps has ensured that while South Korea will be the exemplar of how to handle a pandemic, we will be at the other end of the scale, an example of what not to do.  And how many scores of thousands of preventable deaths we will we suffer as a result?

Through it all, Trump has bombarded the American public with a mountain of  lies and bullshit – a cascade that continues unabated, interspersed with blaming everyone and their mother for his disastrous handling of the pandemic whilst congratulating himself on a job well done. And now, somehow, he’s able to swing from saying on February 26th that we only have fifteen cases and that “..soon it will be down to close to zero..” to congratulating himself that there will only be 100,000 or 200,000 dead Americans when this thing is over.

I get that in times of crisis Americans tend to rally round the flag and the president. But history will not be kind to Donald Trump in his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic no matter what he does from this point (in contrast to many of our state governors and local officials who stepped up to fill the void of absent federal leadership). And neither should we.

United States is Number One in Coronavirus Cases

United States is Number One in Coronavirus Cases

USA! USA! U! S! A!!!!!!!!

That’s right. The United States of America, with one-fourth the population of China, has surpassed China’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

President Trump isn’t bothered by that. Here’s what he said yesterday:

I think they [Americans] think we’re doing a really good job in terms of running this whole situation having to do with the virus. I think they feel that myself and the administration are doing a good job. … There was a lot of fear and a lot of good things are happening.”

A lot of good things are happening. The mortality rate is, in my opinion … way, way down. That takes a lot of fear out. It’s one thing to have it. It’s another thing to die. When I first got involved, I was told numbers much higher than the number that seems to be.

Yesterday over 200 Americans died of COVID-19.

Heckuva job, Orangei!

Democrats Successfully Force their Hand During Coronavirus Stimulus Bill Negotiations

Democrats Successfully Force their Hand During Coronavirus Stimulus Bill Negotiations

Just a quick update on the outcome of the coronavirus stimulus bill negotiations.

Mitch McConnell attempted to ram through $2T spending bill that focused more on boosting big business than providing care for thousands of Americans suffering and dying from severe cases of COVID-19 (and thousands more to come) and alleviating the financial stress put on millions of Americans who suddenly became unemployed because of the coronavirus. Charles Schumer and the Democrats rightly objected to the Republican Senate’s bill and fought to focus on people instead of big business. The Democrats got much of what the wanted in the bill.

The New York Times reports:

The resulting measure is an attempt to sustain the workers and businesses that are losing income as vast sections of the American economy are shutting down under quarantine orders and to help the economy rebound quickly once the pandemic abates.

It includes direct support for companies large and small that have lost all or most of their customers in recent weeks, and direct payments to low- and middle-income families. The package also includes measures meant to encourage companies to keep employees on their payrolls even if their businesses have shuttered temporarily — and it increases aid to workers who are laid off anyway or have had their hours and wages cut back.

The measure will be the third legislative action taken by Congress this month to address the pandemic. Mr. Trump previously signed both a $8.3 billion in emergency aid and a sweeping package providing paid leave, free testing and additional aid for families affected by the pandemic into law.

In the final measure, lawmakers agreed to a significant expansion of unemployment benefits that would extend unemployment insurance by 13 weeks and include a four-month enhancement of benefits, officials familiar with the unfinished agreement said. Democrats said that it would allow workers to maintain their full salaries if forced out of work as a result of the pandemic.

In the interim, lawmakers also agreed to provide $1,200 in direct payments that would apply equally to workers with incomes up to $75,000 per year before phasing out and ending altogether for those earning more than $99,000. Families would receive an additional $500 per child.

We haven’t seen a senate compromise of this magnitude in a very long time. Probably not since Mitch McConnell said in October 2010, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”.

Bravo Democrats. It’s your time to lead. Keep doing it and do it well, then maybe President Trump will be a one-term president.