Monday, November 23, 2020

Thanksgiving Travel

I’m staying close to home this week since school is out all week and I have a lot of writing to do.  That would be my plan even if we weren’t in the middle of a worsening plague.  The CDC is warning against traveling, but apparently that’s falling on deaf ears.

The rule should be: stay home unless you can drive a 1958 Edsel Bermuda to the dinner.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

250,000

Remember when we thought that 100,000 deaths from Covid-19 was beyond comprehension and the idea that we would see a quarter of a million before the end of the year was unfathomable?  We’re there, and yet we as a nation can’t seem to grasp what has happened.

Most everybody in town knows that Gladys Maull has been battered this year: Her father, her sister, an aunt, a great-aunt, all dead from covid-19. Maull keeps a sign on her front door: “Please do not come in my house due to covid-19. Thank you.”

Some people just step on in, maskless.

They mean no harm, but masks never caught on in rural Lowndes County, which has Alabama’s highest rate of coronavirus infections. In a place that gave 73 percent of its vote to Joe Biden, the sheriff and the coroner agree that although cases are spiking and deaths are rising, most people share President Trump’s view that masks are a matter of personal choice and that the end of the pandemic is just around the corner.

“I don’t see people taking it seriously enough,” Maull said. “They still have their yard parties, yard cookouts. They’re back inside the church. This is just too much.”

From the start of the pandemic, public health officials and many political leaders hoped that covid’s frightening lethality — the death toll will hit 250,000 this week — might unite the country in common cause against the virus’s spread.

But the nation’s deep divisions — political and cultural — as well as the virus’s concentrated impact on crowded urban areas in the early months, set the country on a different path.

Now, more than eight months into a pandemic that shows no sign of abating, it has become clear that although close experiences with covid-19 do change some people’s attitudes, many Americans stick to their original notions, no matter what sorrows they’ve seen, no matter where they live.

Maybe it’s because out of a nation with a population of over 328 million, 250,000 doesn’t seem like a big number; chances are they don’t know anyone who has died from it, or if they do, they were old, sick, or out of some sense of cruelty, don’t care.

The one person who has the power and has had it all along to mitigate the pandemic is rage-tweeting about the election he lost by a bigger margin than he won it four years ago; by his own definition, a landslide.

I am reminded every day of the impact of this pandemic.  At work, in the grants that I manage, the kids I see trooping to class in masks and reminded to keep their distance, in the closed theatres and shops and changes to everyday life that we have come to accept.

And I am reminded every time I call my mom, now a widow, and the memories of my father who slept away in May and the words “Covid-19” on the death certificate.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

2,000 A Day

Via Twitter:

Dr. Peter Hotez: ‘We’re going to move towards 2,000 deaths a day … Within a few weeks, COVID-19 will be the single leading cause of death on a daily basis in the United States.’

Meanwhile, the people who have the power to do something about it are tweeting about non-existent election fraud.

Monday, November 16, 2020

By The Numbers

Our friends over at Balloon Juice have a daily post about the status of Covid-19.  It’s a vital public service and we need to see it.  But it also can be numbing.  The Associated Press is reporting that over 11 million cases have been reported, with 1 million reported in the last week.  We are approaching 250,000 deaths.

I remember back to the height of the Vietnam war when the Pentagon would report weekly casualty figures.  It would show up on the nightly news as just another story, and on we went.

We have become inured to this pandemic; the statistics and losses are becoming part of our daily life along with the stock market numbers and the sports scores.  It doesn’t touch us unless it happens to someone we know.

Trump is ignoring it because he’s convinced he still won the election and is spending all his time on that.  Even the incoming Biden administration will have to fight a battle to not just end it but get Americans to pay attention to it.  And by the time they do, it will be too late.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Happy Friday

It’s a Friday the 13th, just in case that gives you pause to go out and risk your superstitions.  These days, who can tell a sign of bad luck from just the new normal, anyway?

In a gesture to sanity, Arizona has been finally called for Joe Biden, bringing his electoral count to 290 and in alignment with what the Associated Press said it was back on November 4.  Trump himself hasn’t been heard from other than his Twitter account since his appearance in the White House briefing room a week ago; an appearance that was abruptly terminated on many news outlets when it was obvious he was sowing bullshit.  Since then he’s had his tantrums and extended periods of pouting, sulking, and spates of vengeance by firing the Defense Secretary and seeding the Pentagon with his toadies, who have 68 days to bring us to the brink of Armageddon.

Meanwhile, the incoming Biden administration is end-running Trump’s refusal to concede by going ahead with staffing and policy outlines, perhaps a precursor to how he’ll govern when he actually takes office and has to deal with Mitch McConnell and the nutsery that survived.  If this was any other time, the fact that Trump and his cronies are largely inert would be seen as a blessing; out of sight out of mind.  But with the number of Covid-19 infections reaching record levels every day, they are doing worse than doing nothing.

On days like these, even Friday the thirteenth, the best you can hope for is that if a black cat crosses your path, she’ll cuddle up and purr.

 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Critical Care

From the Washington Post:

The coronavirus pandemic is rolling across America like a great crimson wave.

In Illinois, the rate of new infections is so high that a group of doctors sent an urgent letter to the governor. “We’re having to almost decide who gets treatment and who doesn’t,” said one of its leaders.
Follow the latest on Election 2020

In Ohio, the rapid spread of the virus has pushed the state health-care system to the brink. Expressing deep concern, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) vowed to enforce his statewide mask mandate and issued new restrictions on social gatherings. “We can’t surrender to this virus. We can’t let it run wild,” he said.

And in Iowa, where a record number of new infections in a day coincided with a record number of deaths, the White House coronavirus task force issued a dire warning about “the unyielding covid spread” throughout the state.

The number of new daily coronavirus cases in the United States jumped from 104,000 a week earlier to more than 145,000 on Wednesday, an all-time high. Nearly every metric is trending in the wrong direction, prompting states to add new restrictions and hospitals to prepare for a potentially dark future.

“We’re at a fairly critical juncture,” said Dave Dillon, a spokesman for the Missouri Hospital Association. The day will soon come when hospital staffing will fall below standards that are normally required, he said.

So what is the current administration doing about it?

Trump declared Wednesday on Twitter, “WE WILL WIN!”

But, in fact, the president has no clear endgame to actually win the election — and, in an indication he may be starting to come to terms with his loss, he is talking privately about running again in 2024.

Trump aides, advisers and allies said there is no grand strategy to reverse the election results, which show President-elect Joe Biden with a majority of electoral college votes, as well as a 5 million-vote lead in the national popular vote.

Asked about Trump’s ultimate plan, one senior administration official chuckled and said, “You’re giving everybody way too much credit right now.”

Republican officials have scrambled nationwide to produce evidence of widespread voter fraud that could bolster the Trump campaign’s legal challenges, but no such evidence has surfaced. And Biden’s lead in several states targeted by the Trump campaign has expanded as late-counted votes are reported. In all-important Pennsylvania, the Democrat now leads by more than 50,000 votes.

Still, the absence of evidence and of a comprehensive and realistic plan to overcome Trump’s significant deficit and secure him a second term have not stopped some of the leading figures in the administration and the Republican Party from amplifying the president’s misinformation about the election outcome.

That’s all they care about. Let the pandemic rage, let more people die, but by golly go to court and get yelled at by the judges for bringing baseless claims and no evidence. The only action plans Trump is thinking about is how to run again in 2024, which is both incredibly callous and an admission that he’s lost the election he’s fighting about in court.

He doesn’t care.  He never has.  He never will.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Tantrum

We knew this was coming.

Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper on Monday, upending the military’s leadership at a time when Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede the election has created a rocky and potentially precarious transition.

Mr. Trump announced the decision on Twitter, writing in an abrupt post that Mr. Esper had been “terminated.”

The president wrote that he was appointing Christopher C. Miller, whom he described as the “highly respected” director of the National Counterterrorism Center, to be the acting defense secretary. Mr. Miller will be the fourth official to lead the Pentagon under Mr. Trump.

Two White House officials said later on Monday that Mr. Trump was not finished, and that Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, and Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, could be next in line to be fired. Removing these senior officials — in effect decapitating the nation’s national security bureaucracy — would be without parallel by an outgoing president who has just lost re-election.

Democrats and national security veterans said it was a volatile move in the uncertain time between administrations, particularly by a president who has made clear that he does not want to give up power and that he would be reasserting his waning authority over the most powerful agencies of the government.

Meanwhile, the GOP on Capitol Hill are doing what they do best: cowering like the cowards that they have been for the last five years, sucking up to Trump even though there’s nothing he can do to them.

Leading Republicans rallied on Monday around President Trump’s refusal to concede the election, declining to challenge the false narrative that it was stolen from him or to recognize President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory even as party divisions burst into public view.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the top Republican in Congress, threw his support behind Mr. Trump in a sharply worded speech on the Senate floor. He declared that Mr. Trump was “100 percent within his rights” to turn to the legal system to challenge the outcome and hammered Democrats for expecting the president to concede.

And now the Republicans in Georgia are rallying themselves into a circular firing squad.

A rift among Georgia Republicans exploded into public view on Monday as the state’s incumbent senators, both locked in fierce runoff fights for their seats, lashed out at the Republican officials who oversaw last week’s election and leveled unfounded claims of a faulty process lacking in transparency.

The all-out intraparty war erupted as the vote count in Georgia on Monday continued to show President Trump narrowly trailing President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia took the extraordinary step of issuing a joint statement calling for the resignation of the Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, and condemning the election as an “embarrassment.”

“We believe when there are failures, they need to be called out — even when it’s in your own party,” the senators said in their statement, which did not offer any specific allegations or elaborate on how they believed Mr. Raffensperger had fallen short, except to accuse him of “mismanagement and lack of transparency.”

Even lawyers set to defend Trump in court are having second thoughts.

Doing business with Mr. Trump — with his history of inflammatory rhetoric, meritless lawsuits and refusal to pay what he owes — has long induced heartburn among lawyers, contractors, suppliers and lenders. But the concerns are taking on new urgency as the president seeks to raise doubts about the election results.

Some senior lawyers at Jones Day, one of the country’s largest law firms, are worried that it is advancing arguments that lack evidence and may be helping Mr. Trump and his allies undermine the integrity of American elections, according to interviews with nine partners and associates, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs.

In real news, more than 133,000 new cases of Covid-19 were reported yesterday with a total of 240,162 lives now lost to the pandemic. I can’t remember the last time the White House held a briefing on their efforts to combat the plague, but it doesn’t really matter since they’re not doing anything about it except reporting that more members of the White House staff and cabinet have tested positive for it.  The only person who is taking the lead on dealing with it is President-elect Biden.

Coronavirus cases surged to a new record on Monday, with the United States now averaging 111,000 cases each day for the past week, a grim milestone amid rising hospitalizations and deaths that cast a shadow on positive news about the effectiveness of a potential vaccine.

As the number of infected Americans passed 10 million and governors struggled to manage the pandemic, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. tried on Monday to use his bully pulpit — the only tool at his disposal until he replaces President Trump in 72 days — to plead for Americans to set aside the bitterness of the 2020 election and wear a mask.

“It doesn’t matter who you voted for, where you stood before Election Day,” Mr. Biden said in Delaware after announcing a Covid-19 advisory board charged with preparing for quick action once he is inaugurated. “It doesn’t matter your party, your point of view. We can save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months. Not Democratic or Republican lives — American lives.”

This would all be rather ridiculous and worthy of some sit-com were it not for the simple fact that lives are at stake every day, and not just from Covid-19. Disruption and disarray in the leadership of our defense forces, subject to the whims and tantrums of a child-like despot, reminiscent of a certain bunker scene in April 1945, can only lead to mischief from our enemies and mistrust from our remaining allies.

We’ve got 71 days.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Prince Of Arrogance

Jared Kushner gave Bob Woodward a piece of his wisdom. Via CNN:

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, boasted in mid-April about how the President had cut out the doctors and scientists advising him on the unfolding coronavirus pandemic, comments that came as more than 40,000 Americans already had died from the virus, which was ravaging New York City.

In a taped interview on April 18, Kushner told legendary journalist Bob Woodward that Trump was “getting the country back from the doctors” in what he called a “negotiated settlement.” Kushner also proclaimed that the US was moving swiftly through the “panic phase” and “pain phase” of the pandemic and that the country was at the “beginning of the comeback phase.”

“That doesn’t mean there’s not still a lot of pain and there won’t be pain for a while, but that basically was, we’ve now put out rules to get back to work,” Kushner said. “Trump’s now back in charge. It’s not the doctors.”

This was April. Now we’re at nearly a quarter-million deaths, and now Trump is telling us that Covid-19 is a thing of the past.

But wait, there’s more.

Kushner was also dismissive of party politics, calling the Republican Party, “a collection of a bunch of tribes” and describing the GOP platform as “a document meant to, like, piss people off, basically.” Kushner went on to tell Woodward that Trump did a “full hostile takeover” of the Republican Party when he became its presidential nominee.

He also told Woodward, “The most dangerous people around the President are over-confident idiots” and that Trump had replaced them with “more thoughtful people who kind of know their place.”

Yeah, about those “over-confident idiots.” Look in the mirror, you arrogant little prick.

I cannot wait for them to be gone, and I can’t wait to see him in an orange jumpsuit, his back to the wall, trying to convince the guy with the most cigarettes in GenPop that he’s not really a bottom.  He’s going to find out all about those “more thoughtful people who kind of know their place.”

Monday, October 26, 2020

Abject Failure

We’re not “rounding the turn.” We’re circling the drain.

From the Washington Post:

The presidential campaign was roiled this weekend by a fresh outbreak of the novel coronavirus at the White House that infected at least five aides or advisers to Vice President Pence, a spread that President Trump’s top staffer acknowledged Sunday he had tried to avoid disclosing to the public.

With the election a little over a week away, the new White House outbreak spotlighted the administration’s failure to contain the pandemic as hospitalizations surge across much of the United States and daily new cases hit all-time highs.

The outbreak around Pence, who chairs the White House’s coronavirus task force, undermines the argument Trump has been making to voters that the country is “rounding the turn,” as the president put it at a rally Sunday in New Hampshire.

Further complicating Trump’s campaign-trail pitch was an extraordinary admission Sunday from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that the administration had effectively given up on trying to slow the virus’s spread.

“We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Meadows said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who regularly wears a mask on the campaign trail and strictly adheres to social distancing guidelines, sought to capitalize on the remark.

“This wasn’t a slip by Meadows; it was a candid acknowledgment of what President Trump’s strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away,” Biden said in a statement. “It hasn’t, and it won’t.”

Some in the vice president’s office suggested that White House doctors should release a statement saying that Short was positive and that Pence was still okay to travel. But that idea was scuttled by Meadows and others, officials said.

No sane or well-informed person expected a miracle or that the virus wouldn’t spread. But the least we could expect was an honest effort to inform the public, do whatever it would take to contain it like the majority of other countries did, and stop trying to find someone else to blame for it. We are on the verge of a quarter of a million deaths in this country alone and we’re being led by a pack of liars and sycophants who think it’s more important to win an election than it is to save lives. And they have the amazing gall to call themselves “pro-life.”

Every last one of them is accountable.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sunday Reading

Say Freedom — Michael Tomasky in the New York Times.

Donald Trump is now back on the road, holding rallies in battleground states. These events, with people behind the president wearing masks but most others not, look awfully irresponsible to most of us — some polls show that as many as 92 percent of Americans typically wear masks when they go out.

Trumpworld sees these things differently. Mike Pence articulated the view in the vice-presidential debate. “We’re about freedom and respecting the freedom of the American people,” Mr. Pence said. The topic at hand was the Sept. 26 super-spreader event in the Rose Garden to introduce Amy Coney Barrett as the president’s nominee for the Supreme Court and how the administration can expect Americans to follow safety guidelines that it has often ignored.

Kamala Harris countered that lying to the American people about the severity of the virus hardly counts as “respect.”

It was a pretty good riposte, but she fixed on the wrong word. She could have delivered a far more devastating response if she’d focused on the right word, one that the Democrats have not employed over the past several months.

The word I mean is “freedom.” One of the key authors of the Western concept of freedom is John Stuart Mill. In “On Liberty,” he wrote that liberty (or freedom) means “doing as we like, subject to such consequences as may follow, without impediment from our fellow creatures, as long as what we do does not harm them even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse or wrong.”

Note the clause “as long as what we do does not harm them.” He tossed that in there almost as a given — indeed, it is a given. This is a standard definition of freedom, more colloquially expressed in the adage “Your freedom to do as you please with your fist ends where my jaw begins.”

Now, conservatives revere Mill. But today, in the age of the pandemic, Mill and other conservative heroes like John Locke would be aghast at the way the American right wing bandies about the word “freedom.”

Freedom emphatically does not include the freedom to get someone else sick. It does not include the freedom to refuse to wear a mask in the grocery store, sneeze on someone in the produce section and give him the virus. That’s not freedom for the person who is sneezed upon. For that person, the first person’s “freedom” means chains — potential illness and even perhaps a death sentence. No society can function on that definition of freedom.

Joe Biden does a pretty good job of talking about this. At a recent town hall in Miami, he said: “I view wearing this mask not so much protecting me, but as a patriotic responsibility. All the tough guys say, ‘Oh, I’m not wearing a mask, I’m not afraid.’ Well, be afraid for your husband, your wife, your son, your daughter, your neighbor, your co-worker. That’s who you’re protecting having this mask on, and it should be viewed as a patriotic duty, to protect those around you.”

That’s good, but it could be much better if he directly rebutted this insane definition of freedom that today’s right wing employs.

There are certain words in our political lexicon that “belong” to this side or the other. “Fairness” is a liberal word. You rarely hear conservatives talking about fairness. “Growth” is mostly a conservative word, sometimes the functional opposite of fairness in popular economic discourse, although liberals use it too, but often with a qualifier (“balanced” or “equitable” growth, for example).

“Freedom” belongs almost wholly to the right. They talk about it incessantly and insist on a link between economic freedom and political freedom, positing that the latter is impossible without the former. This was an animating principle of conservative economists in the 20th century like Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.

It’s manifest silliness. To be sure, when they were writing, it was true of a place like the Soviet Union. But it is not true of Western democracies. If they were correct, the Scandinavian nations, statist on economic questions, would have jails filled with political prisoners. If they were correct, advanced democratic countries that elected left-leaning governments would experience a simultaneous crushing of political freedom. History shows little to no incidence of this.

And yet, the broad left in America has let all this go unchallenged for decades, to the point that today’s right wing — and it is important to call it that and not conservative, which it is not — can defend spreading disease, potentially killing other people, as freedom. It is madness.

One thing Democrats in general aren’t very good at is defending their positions on the level of philosophical principle. This has happened because they’ve been on the philosophical defensive since Ronald Reagan came along. Well, it’s high time they played some philosophical offense, especially on an issue, wearing masks, on which every poll shows broad majorities supporting their view.

Say this: Freedom means the freedom not to get infected by the idiot who refuses to mask up. Even John Stuart Mill would have agreed.

Extreme Restraint — Amy Davidson Sorkin in The New Yorker.

On the second day of Amy Coney Barrett’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for a seat on the Supreme Court, she and Cory Booker had an exchange that indicated that both the Court and the country are nearing a precarious point. Did she believe, Booker asked, that “every Pres­ident should make a commitment, un­equivocally and resolutely, to the peace­ful transfer of power?” Barrett raised her eyebrows, and chose her words carefully. “Well, Senator, that seems to me to be pulling me in a little bit into this question of whether the President has said that he would not peacefully leave office,” she said. “And so, to the extent that this is a political controversy right now, as a judge, I want to stay out of it and I don’t want to express a view.”

A President should absolutely make such a commitment; it’s in the job description. Yet, even when Booker reminded Barrett, who has described herself as an originalist and a textualist, of the importance of the peaceful transition of power to the Founders, the most she would allow was that America had been lucky that “disappointed voters” had always accepted election results. To say that a disappointed President might have an obligation to do so was apparently too far for her to go. What Barrett did offer was a study in the extent to which not giving an answer can be an expression of extremism. Her demurrals were more, even, than those of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, in their hearings, a measure of how thoroughly President Trump has moved the margins of our political culture.

It’s no surprise that the hearings would be characterized by some level of evasiveness: no nominee, particularly these days, wants to say something that will rally the opposition. Barrett, as a member of Notre Dame’s University Faculty for Life, had signed an ad that called Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision affirming a woman’s reproductive rights, “infamous.” But, in the hearings, she asserted that she really couldn’t say what her position on Roe might be—the decision was controversial, and a case that threatened to overturn it might someday come before her. She attributed the principle that nominees should not comment on potential cases to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But that principle doesn’t mean that the confirmation process should be a charade of non-answers; Ginsburg, in her own hearings, in 1993, acknowledged that she was pro-choice.

Barrett’s hearings weren’t just the latest reminder that the tiresome confirmation process is due for an overhaul; there were two novel, and alarming, aspects of the evasions in her testimony. The first was how many established principles she considers to be still open to debate. When Kamala Harris pressed her on the reality of climate change, and its consequences, Barrett protested that the Senator was “eliciting an opinion from me that is on a very contentious matter of public debate,” adding, “and I will not do that.” More startling, Barrett seemed to suggest that core elements of our electoral democracy are up for grabs. Dianne Feinstein asked her if the Constitution gives the President the power “to unilaterally delay a general election.” The answer is no, but Barrett replied that she didn’t want to give “off-the-cuff answers”—that would make her a “legal pundit.”

The scenarios that Barrett declined to address were not wild hypotheticals that the Democrats had dreamed up in an attempt to trick her. Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses. He has also mooted delaying the election, or maybe excluding ballot tallies he doesn’t trust, and said that he wants this Court seat filled quickly, so that his appointee can be on the panel deciding any election disputes. What he’s proposing is a clear attack on American democracy and the rule of law. Barrett, though, spoke as though the fact that the President tweets about something means that it is within the realm of reasonable constitutional inter­pretation. What she conveyed throughout was not so much conscientiousness as a combination of deference to, alignment with, and, perhaps, fear of Trump.

And that was the second warning that emerged from the hearings: none of the Republican senators in the room seemed shocked at what the President deems possible, or interested in hearing what the Court’s role might be in countering any President who abuses his power. Instead, they echoed Trump’s intimations of fraudulent voting, me­dia lies, and left-wing plots. Ted Cruz claimed that many Democrats had made a decision “to abandon democracy.” Thom Tillis said it was understandable that gun sales had increased in recent months, because Democrats, “including people on this committee,” had made Americans fear for their safety. Josh Hawley appeared to think that the real problem was Hunter Biden. It can be hard to tell whether the Republicans are extremists or opportunists, or have just retreated into passivity.

In one of the most notable exchanges in the hearings, the Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy tried, unsuccessfully, to get a straight answer from Barrett on whether a President could refuse to comply with a Supreme Court order, and whether such a refusal would be “a threat to our constitutional system of checks and balances.” A President defying the Supreme Court is the definition of a constitutional crisis, but Barrett would say only that the Court “can’t control” a renegade President. The Constitution, though, offers a clear course of action in such an event: impeachment. It seemed odd that Barrett, who spent much of her time commending committee members for their power as legislators—saying, repeatedly, “That’s your job”—didn’t emphasize that point.

Textualists often adopt a posture of “restraint” that masks their tendency to be true activists, which is what Barrett was when, in a dissent last year, she called Wisconsin laws limiting gun purchases by felons unconstitutional. Similarly, in suggesting that Justices, when faced with a President who rejects election results—or their authority—would just dither or shrug, she was making a radical statement, not a restrained one. Perhaps Barrett believes that such a crisis will never come to pass, and honestly doesn’t know what she would do if one did. In which case it might be prudent for her to begin thinking about how she would respond. The full Senate is on track to vote on her nomination as soon as October 26th. Eight days later, Donald Trump will be watching the election results come in, and he may not like what he sees.

Doonesbury — Can you hear the music?

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Numbers Don’t Tell The Real Story

From the Washington Post:

U.S. coronavirus cases are rising again, driven by rapid transmission in Midwestern states and sparking fears that a forewarned wave of infections this fall and winter has begun.

For almost a month, new U.S. cases have been trending upward. Since Saturday, more than 20 states have hit a new high in their seven-day average of case counts, and more than half of those states set records again on Tuesday, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

The rising numbers are especially concerning because they set the stage for an even greater surge this winter when the virus will be helped by drier conditions and people spending more time indoors. The upward trend comes before the increased mingling of people expected to arrive with Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The virus has become especially rampant in Midwestern states after dominating U.S. coastal and urban areas in the spring, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

It is unclear what factors are driving the recent increase — whether it is the long-feared winter effect already taking place or the resumption of business and schools, or simply fatigue and people letting down their guard on social distancing efforts.

I felt the impact of this plague on a personal, gut-wrenching level when I went to visit my mom last weekend.  I was allowed to actually see her, give her a gentle hug, and take her out to dinner with my sister.  It was the first time I was with her since Dad died in May.  As we waited at a stop light, she said quietly, “I miss him.”

We all do, Mom.  Me, my sister, my brothers, my nieces and nephews, the rest of the family, his friends, the people he knew over his long life.  And we are just one family.  There are over 217,000 other families who miss their father, mother, sister or brother.

I can mourn for my loss and try to comfort my mother.  I can try to understand the complexities of dealing with a global pandemic and how it affects a nation of over 330 million people.  But I cannot rid myself of the visceral sadness and grief that comes from knowing the simple fact that this was all preventable.  It could have been stopped.  Something could have been done.  They knew it and they let it happen.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Desperado

From the Washington Post:

Trump returned to the campaign trail Monday, holding his first rally since being hospitalized earlier this month, as part of an intense effort to demonstrate that his bout with covid-19 is behind him and that he is the more vigorous of the two septuagenarian candidates vying for the presidency.

Yet Trump’s rally in Sanford, Fla., came amid concerns that his plans to barnstorm the country could put him and others at risk.

Though Trump has declared himself now “immune” to the virus — which has killed more than 214,000 Americans and infiltrated the White House — he and his team have not clarified for the public the last time he tested negative before his covid-19 diagnosis was announced Oct. 2. This has raised questions about whom Trump may have infected before isolating himself at the White House and then at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

On Monday afternoon, however, Trump’s doctor, Sean P. Conley, said in a memo released by the White House that the president had tested negative for the virus “on consecutive days,” using the Abbott rapid testing machine, and was no longer contagious.

The Abbott antigen test produces quick results but has a greater chance of false negatives than the more reliable polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test. Conley said other diagnostic factors were considered when determining that the president did not pose a threat to others.

“This comprehensive data, in concert with the CDC’s guidelines for removal of transmission-based precautions, have informed our medical team’s assessment that the President is not infectious to others,” he wrote in the memo released to the public.

Some of Trump’s aides and associates initially hoped that his coronavirus diagnosis would help focus him on the pandemic, allowing him to emerge as a sympathetic figure with a newfound sense of seriousness and empathy.

That, so far, has not happened.

“The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself can. The cure cannot be worse,” Trump told the Sanford crowd — many of whom were not wearing masks — referring to public health restrictions in many states. “But if you don’t feel good about, if you want to stay, stay relaxed, stay. But if you want to get out there, get out. One thing with me, the nice part, I went through it. Now they say I’m immune . . . I feel so powerful.”

That sounds like the villain in the movies who is almost vanquished but rises again in a last gasp effort to defeat the hero and lashes out at anything and everything. He may not accept the fact that the polling is starting to solidify against him, that states where he won by a squeaker the last time are turning against him, and not just in the suburbs but in the rural areas where he had his base.

The president and his allies have seen grim polling, which shows him trailing in many battleground states that he won in 2016, including Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, advisers said. The latter two are particularly crucial to Trump’s path to victory.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is nearing 8 million Covid-19 infections, schools are re-closing because of students testing positive, and the pharmaceutical companies are pushing back against rushing a vaccine to market because that’s how science works.

All the while Trump proclaims that he feels “so powerful,” when in truth he’s sounding rather desperate.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

An Ad For Death

Trump, looking like he was fresh from the embalming parlor, went on TV to tell the world how he feels. From the Washington Post:

Trump sought to depict a presidency that has returned to normal, saying on Twitter that he had “recovered” from the virus.

“Hi, perhaps you recognize me. It’s your favorite president, and I’m standing in front of the Oval Office at the White House,” Trump said in a recorded video released on Twitter late Wednesday.

The president was recorded while standing in the Rose Garden without a mask. He focused mostly on erroneously pitching therapeutics as a “cure” rather than emphasizing good public health practices like mask-wearing and social distancing, continuing a pattern that has frustrated scientists for months.

“I want everybody to be given the same treatment as your president, because I feel great,” Trump said, pledging to make sure that all Americans receive the same experimental antibody cocktail that was used to treat him, free. “I think this was a blessing from God that I caught it. This was a blessing in disguise.”

This cavalier if not blasphemous attempt to con the base into thinking he’s been cured, sounding like that snake-oil salesman pushing “Miracle Water” on late-night TV, is going to result in more deaths from Covid-19. Not only that, it’s an assault on the millions of people who are infected and the families who’ve lost someone to it. If it wasn’t clear to the whole world that he’s an unfeeling and pathetic excuse for an alleged human being, this should tell you.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

By The Numbers

From Newsweek:

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has now claimed more American lives than the total number of U.S. soldiers killed during historic conflicts in Vietnam, Korean, Iraq, Afghanistan and World War I.

While the aforementioned conflicts killed 155,072 soldiers, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the U.S. coronavirus epidemic has claimed over 205,600 as of October 5, 2020, according to Johns Hopkins University. In fact, the number of U.S. COVID-19 deaths surpassed 155,000 in late July, according to Johns Hopkins.

The VA states that 4,431 American soldiers died in the Iraq invasion from 2003 to 2010, 2,445 American soldiers died in Afghanistan skirmishes from 2001 onward, 58,220 American soldiers died in the Vietnam conflict from 1964 to 1975, 36,574 American soldiers died in the Korean conflict from 1950 to 1953 and 53,402 Americans died in World War I from 1917 to 1918.

Since the end of March, COVID-19 has killed an average of 7,043 Americans each week.

The count is numbing. We don’t think well in cold statistics. It’s just a number.

I work every day with numbers. It helps not to think of what’s behind them to make the spreadsheets work; I’m just counting and matching and ticking and tying things together. But every now and then I need to stop and look and think of what they do, what they represent, and what they mean to others.

So how do we translate that into something meaningful? Do we think about those left behind? The empty houses, the silent rooms, the reminders left behind like clothes and personal items, traces of the life lived and now seen only in two dimensions like photographs and death certificates? The loss felt by wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, and friends. Multiply those by the numbers and see what the real devastation is. And then remember that there is someone behind each one.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Don’t Be Afraid?

From the Washington Post:

“Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life,” Trump tweeted Monday afternoon, three days after he was transported to Walter Reed for treatment. “We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”

Don’t be afraid? Oh, okay. I’ll tell my dad that encouraging news. Oh, wait; it killed him. He was alone. Mom couldn’t be with him. Neither could anyone else in our family. And that’s multiplied over 200,000 times.

You’re evil.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Sick

So he’s in the middle of being treated for Covid-19, probably infectious, probably on a regime of drugs.  So what does he do?  He goes for a ride in the car-car so he can show his slavering minions that he can still wave.

The White House continued to provide limited and contradictory information about President Trump’s health on Sunday, saying that he had begun a steroid treatment after twice suffering bouts of low oxygen but also contending that he was doing well and could soon be discharged from the hospital where he is being treated for the novel coronavirus.

Adding to the confusion about his status, Trump briefly left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda to wave to supporters from a motorcade, after releasing a video on Twitter thanking people who had gathered outside the facility.

“We’re getting great reports from the doctors,” Trump said in the video before promising a “little surprise” to his supporters. “It’s been a very interesting journey. I learned a lot about covid.”

At a news conference earlier Sunday, Trump’s medical team tried to clear up the muddled picture it had created the previous day when White House doctor Sean Conley falsely suggested that Trump had not been given supplemental oxygen.

Meanwhile, his doctors are deliberately lying to the press so that the patient watching the news conference on TV isn’t upset with him telling the truth.

But Conley continued to avoid directly answering specific questions about Trump’s health Sunday, even as he revealed that the president had been given dexamethasone, a steroid that is typically reserved for severely ill coronavirus patients needing oxygen. Conley openly admitted to withholding truthful information about Trump’s plummeting blood-oxygen levels Friday, indicating he did so to put a positive spin on the president’s improving condition.

“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, that his course of illness, has had,” Conley said Sunday, explaining why he told reporters Saturday that Trump had not been given oxygen Friday. “I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction. And in doing so, you know, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true.”

Not only are they actively lying about his condition, but this sort of stunt endangers the people who are sworn to protect him by driving around with him in a hermetically sealed SUV.

I don’t know if the AMA has any code of ethics about how their members are supposed to speak to the press, but it harks back to the time a hundred years ago when it was reported that President Woodrow Wilson had a “digestive upset” when in fact he’d suffered a major stroke in 1919 and was basically incapacitated for the remainder of his term.

It scares the crap out of a lot of people that the White House and his doctors aren’t more forthcoming about his condition.  It’s not the same as having a stroke or even cancer (vide the cover-up for President Grover Cleveland’s cancer surgery on a boat and telling the world he had a tooth extraction).  This is a contagious disease that has killed over 210,000 Americans, isolated people from their families, cratered the economy world-wide, and now spreading among the people who were with him at the Rose Garden ceremony last week.  They have a duty to be as honest and forthcoming as possible, so as not to surprise the rest of us if his next trip outside Walter Reed is in the back of a black station wagon.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Sunday Reading

Coronavirus and the Threat Within the White House — David Remnick in The New Yorker.

From the start of his Presidency, Donald Trump has threatened the health and the security of the United States. It has now been made clear that Trump’s incompetence, cynicism, and recklessness have threatened his own welfare. Even the best security system and the most solicitous medical officers in the world could not protect him from a danger that he insisted on belittling and ignoring. On Friday, at 12:54 a.m., Trump announced by Twitter that he and the First Lady had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. By the end of the evening, “out of an abundance of caution,” the President had gone to Walter Reed hospital to spend “the next few days.” The Trumps join the more than seven million other Americans who have contracted the virus. More than two hundred thousand have died from Covid-19, the disease it causes. Most of them were older than sixty-five. Trump is seventy-four.

The contrast between Trump’s airy dismissals of the pandemic’s severity and the profound pain and anxiety endured by so many Americans has helped define the era in which we live. Hours before he announced the diagnosis, Trump claimed, in a speech recorded for the annual Al Smith Dinner for Catholic charities, that “the end of the pandemic is in sight, and next year will be one of the greatest years in the history of our country.”

Any ailing individual ought to be able to depend on the best wishes of others—and on affordable, decent health care. Trump can depend on both, even if millions of Americans cannot. We can only hope that he and his wife get through the virus in a couple of weeks with minimal suffering, and, with prime medical attention and a modicum of luck, there’s reason to think that they will. But, as President and as a candidate for reëlection, Trump should not count on the silencing of American citizens—on a deference that he has never shown to the people whom he swore to protect and has not. Because of his ineptitude and his deceit, because he has encouraged a culture of heedlessness about the wearing of masks and a lethal disrespect for scientific fact, he bears a grave responsibility for what has happened in this country. It will never be known precisely how many preventable deaths can be ascribed to his irresponsibility, but modest estimates run into the tens of thousands. Yet Trump’s insistence that Americans pay the virus little mind never ends. Just before the death toll reached two hundred thousand, last month, he declared at a rally in Ohio that the virus “affects virtually nobody. It’s an amazing thing.”

In terms of scale, the West Wing is less like the Kremlin or the Élysée Palace than like the cramped executive offices of a medium-sized insurance company. The hallways are tight. The chairs in the Cabinet Room sit close to one another. The Oval Office itself, where Presidents routinely hold working sessions with many aides, is smaller than you might expect. And yet numerous reports in the press have described how, owing to the President’s attitude, employees, reporters, and visitors to the West Wing are disdained or mocked if they wear a mask.

The Centers for Disease Control and other public-health institutions have long said that wearing masks is essential to minimizing the spread of the coronavirus. Trump has been of another opinion, a delusional one. In April, as he would so many times, he waved the counsel away, saying, “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.” He went on, “I don’t know, somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute desk, the great Resolute desk. I think wearing a face mask as I greet Presidents, Prime Ministers, dictators, kings, queens—I don’t know, somehow I don’t see it for myself.”

That this perilous variety of magical thinking has encouraged all manner of self-destructive behavior across the country—in crowded bars and on beaches, at motorcycle rallies, at Trump rallies––heightens not only the chances of lethal outbreaks in countless cities and towns but also the divisions among our citizens. Trump regularly mocks his opponent, Joe Biden, for taking care to wear a mask at public events. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask,” he said during Tuesday night’s Presidential debate in Cleveland. “He could be speaking two hundred feet away, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.” (On Friday morning, the Democratic standard-bearer tweeted, “Jill and I send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery. We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family.”)

It is difficult to overstate the psychological overload that the drama of the Trump Presidency presents to anyone who has been following the narrative. Take a week in the life: One day we learn that Trump, who is alleged to be the wealthiest President in U.S. history, paid just seven hundred and fifty dollars in federal income tax during his first year in office. Then comes a debate performance in which he tries to baselessly undermine mail-in voting and asks the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, to “stand back and stand by”—presumably, to be mobilized should he lose. He made it plain, as he has in his public speeches, that he is not so much running for reëlection as running against the election itself, hoping to invalidate its results preëmptively with threats and conspiracy theories. Then, at an ugly, mask-free rally in Minnesota on Wednesday, Trump riled the crowd, declaring that a Biden Presidency would “inundate your state with a historic flood of refugees.” Misinformation and violence, too, are contagions, and Trump, who sees only political advantage in fomenting schism and mistrust, has long been a superspreader.

There is no way of knowing how the President’s illness will shape the coming weeks. The polls suggest a motivation for the desperation of his rhetoric and his tactics: the last time there was a polling deficit like the one we’re now seeing at this point in a national election was in 1996, when Bob Dole trailed Bill Clinton all the way to Election Day. The President is obsessed with menaces—posed by shadowy members of a “deep state,” by “the radical left,” by foreigners of all sorts. But the gravest menace to public health and public order has come from within the White House. So long as Trump holds office, no manner of quarantine will suffice to contain it.

Time for the 25th Amendment? — David Frum in The Atlantic.

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot as he entered his limousine after a speech at a Washington hotel. Reagan’s condition soon stabilized. He was released from the hospital April 11 and spoke to a joint session of Congress on April 28.

But in the first few hours, it was not clear whether the president would live or die. Paperwork was prepared to appoint Vice President George H. W. Bush as acting president. You can see it here, courtesy of the Reagan Library. The paperwork was never executed. Instead, the day after the shooting, three top aides visited Reagan in the hospital. They brought with them a piece of legislation that had to be signed that day. Reagan signed it. American citizens and foreign allies were assured: The presidency still functioned. Adversaries who might have been tempted to take advantage of a break in United States governance also got the message: Be warned.

(The legislation, in case you were wondering, blocked a scheduled increase in dairy price supports from going into effect the next day.)

The faction-riven Reagan White House was not always a happy place. But under the deft management of Chief of Staff James Baker (now the subject of a superb new biography by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser), the Reagan White House was a supremely functional place. It got the job done.

The Trump White House is not happy and does not get the job done. It is the most dysfunctional in history. Donald Trump is the most corrupt president in history. Yet that White House and that president head the government of this unfortunate country. Now that Trump has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, it’s important that Americans and the world know whether anybody is in charge—and if so, who?

Granted, Americans were asking that question even before Trump was airlifted to the hospital. The administration has given no straight answer even to such basics as “Are Trump’s tweets official statements of the president?” The U.S. government in court has sometimes argued yes. At other times, it has argued no. Trump notoriously spends his days watching television, and also notoriously trusts even the wackiest television talkers more than the scientists, military, and intelligence services of the United States.

Before Trump’s diagnosis, however, Americans at least knew that he was the head of government and the head of state. If a presidential signature was required, his was that signature. If an order had to be given to the armed forces, that order ultimately traced to his legal authority.

Now there’s reason to wonder: Is he still able to discharge the office from Walter Reed? If he’s not, U.S. law provides remedies. Either way, Americans and the world need to know.

That need raises special problems in the Trump era, because of this White House’s supreme dishonesty. Their words mean little. In the stress of 1981, the Reagan White House walked an extra mile to communicate assurance. I mentioned how faction-riven that White House was. When Reagan signed the dairy bill on the day after the assassination attempt, the three aides by his side were the leaders of the three big factions: not only Baker, but also his rivals, Michael Deaver and Edwin Meese. Nobody was left to linger behind to cast doubt on Reagan’s competence.

COVID-19 can be incapacitating, especially for older people and especially for people who are overweight, as Trump is. When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson entered the hospital for COVID-19 in April of this year, he formally deputized Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to oversee government for him. Such a transfer is a more serious matter in the U.S. system, formalized by law. Any administration might hesitate to acknowledge the incapacity of the president. But if the Trump administration is not going to invoke the Twenty-Fifth Amendment and its temporary transfer of authority from president to vice president, then it needs to do something else. It needs to communicate to Americans and the world that Trump remains able to do his job, if only to the same minimal extent he has done the job until now. And it needs to do that communicating fast—and as close to truthfully as this crooked administration can manage.

Doonesbury — Counting Crow

Friday, October 2, 2020

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Not So Fast, Ron

From the Miami Herald:

Jimmy Flanigan walked into his family’s packed Flanigan’s Restaurant in Coconut Grove Friday night, three hours after Gov. Ron DeSantis approved 100 percent inside seating, and thought it looked too busy.

A crowd gathered to watch the Miami Heat play an 8:30 p.m. playoff game Sept. 25 on more than a dozen televisions. Patrons were standing shoulder-to-shoulder. The bar was steadily serving drinks.

“It was a little scary walking into a Flanigan’s after six months and seeing it full,” said Flanigan, CEO and president of the South Florida-based chain of 24 sports-bar-style restaurants. “It was too busy. So we backed off to 50 percent.”

New state guidelines for restaurants and bars, released after 4 p.m., and a delay of more than a day before Miami-Dade clarified its own rules to stem the spread of coronavirus, caused confusion across the county among patrons and restaurant owners.

“To say it was confusing would be an understatement,” Flanigan said. “It was compounded by the fact that the governor released the hounds without any warning.”

DeSantis moved the state into Phase 3 Sept. 25, ordering that all businesses immediately be allowed to open with at least 50 percent capacity. Restaurants, the order said, would be allowed to open at 100 percent indoor seating capacity. Local government would have to justify to the state any restrictions that kept capacity under 50 percent, DeSantis’ order read.

Not until nearly 11 p.m. the next day did Miami-Dade release its new guidelines to control the spread of coronavirus. Mayor Carlos Gimenez’ order allows at least 50 percent inside dining capacity for restaurants. They may reach up to 100 percent if they can sit tables six feet apart or by using outside spaces.

However, bars are allowed to seat at least 50 percent, even if their inside space does not allow for six feet of social distancing, DeSantis said.

The 30-plus hours between those two orders allowed for scenes not seen in Miami since before the March 16 restaurant shutdowns.

Flanigans, which regularly fills up for sporting events, immediately drew crowds that heard about DeSantis’ rules. Other restaurant owners were calling Jimmy Flanigan for advice, even as he was learning of the rules himself.

Flanigan said he ordered his Miami-Dade restaurants to go back to 50 percent capacity starting Sunday, and he shut down service at the bar.

“If you see a business at full tilt, it’s shocking. You start thinking about the (COVID-19) spread again,” Flanigan said. “That 24-hour period was where all the confusion came in.”

And it will, according to those who know best and who are being ignored by Trump and his whiny little minion, Gov. DeSantis.

Florida’s decision to reopen bars and restaurants at full capacity has the United States top infectious disease expert concerned that it will lead to another COVID-19 outbreak.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shared his concerns on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Monday.

“Well that is very concerning to me, I mean, we have always said that, myself and Dr. Deborah Birx, who is the coordinator of the task force, that that is something we really need to be careful about,” Fauci said, “because when you’re dealing with community spread, and you have the kind of congregate setting where people get together, particularly without masks, you’re really asking for trouble. Now’s the time actually to double down a bit, and I don’t mean close.”

Fauci shared his concerns just days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that all 67 counties would be transitioning into Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan, including Miami-Dade and Broward, the two hardest hit areas in the state.

Meanwhile, Richard Corcoran, the state’s Commissioner of Education, is trying to force Miami-Dade County Public Schools to re-open fully. That is being met with resistance both from the school administration and the rank and file teachers.

The Miami-Dade County School Board will convene an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss reopening schools, this time under pressure from the Florida Department of Education to open schools Monday.

Days after the board voted on a conditional timeline of reopening schools between Oct. 14 and Oct. 21, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent a sternly worded letter to Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and board chair Perla Tabares Hantman on Friday. He accused the board of contradicting the district’s state-approved reopening plan, which says the district would determine by Sept. 30 if “local conditions meet the criteria established” to open schools Oct. 5.

Corcoran instructed the district to open schools for in-person classes by Monday or prove exemptions on a school-by-school basis by Friday.

Tuesday’s 1 p.m. board meeting, to be held in person for the first time since March at the school district’s downtown headquarters, only has one item on the agenda to decide how to proceed. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho offered the board two options.

[…]

A dozen protesters led by the Rank and File Educators of Miami-Dade rallied outside the Miami-Dade School Board administration building on Monday afternoon supporting the board’s decision for a later start and condemning DeSantis’ demands as bullying.

Jeff Raymond, a high school social studies teacher, said he visited his classroom at the end of last week and didn’t see any hand sanitizer and not enough social distancing in classrooms. His school, which he asked to not name, said 80% of students are expected back for in-person learning.

On Monday, Raymond received paperwork to apply for an exemption under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He has pre-existing health conditions and said he was “not comfortable at all” with his classroom setup.

“I’ve been prepared to take a bullet for my students and those are unpreventable,” he said. “This is preventable.”

Several teachers from Miami Beach Senior High were present. One teacher who declined to give his name said he hasn’t received any PPE or been told about protocols.

History teacher Charles Pilamunga said he brought a tape measure to his classroom. He has 37 desks in his spacious classroom, yet there’s only 2 feet between desks. International standards outlined in the teachers union agreement with the district call for 3 feet, 3 inches of social distance.

Pilamunga can’t quit his job. He’s the sole breadwinner in his family and he has two young children.

“It is what it is but I’d rather it not be this way,” he said, carrying a sign that read, “It’s life or death for us, our students and our communities.”

But as long as DeSantis can deliver the votes for Trump, it doesn’t matter if more people get sick.

1,000,000

From the Washington Post:

The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic eclipsed 1 million on Monday night — a figure that carries an incalculable human cost, and is almost certainly an undercount.

Calling the milestone “agonizing,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said Monday that it was crucial that the international community learn from the mistakes made in the first 10 months of the pandemic. “Responsible leadership matters,” he said. “Science matters. Cooperation matters — and misinformation kills.”

I think we all know who that last line was directed at, because nearly a quarter of those deaths happened here.