bureaucracybusters

WHEN VIRUS (COVID) MEETS ARROGANCE (MUNI)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 2, 2021 at 12:57 am

The San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) is the public transit system for the city and county of San Francisco, California.

In 2018, MUNI, with a budget of about $1.2 billion, served 46.7 square miles. It is the seventh largest transit system—in terms of ridership—in the nation.

Its drivers are the highest-paid bus drivers in the nation—making on average $79,617. That’s 51% above the national average bus driver salary of $52,730.

Muni | SFMTA

So what are San Francisco residents getting for all those expenses?

Far less than they deserve.

Since the Coronavirus plague hit San Francisco in early March, 2020, MUNI has:

  • Offered fewer bus routes
  • Made it impossible to guess when and where a bus will stop
  • Drastically reduced the number of buses and
  • Scrapped its underground lines altogether.

What does all this mean?

Of MUNI’s 89 routes, all but 17 were eliminated.

MUNI claimed that the cuts were made to allow for increased social distancing on the most vital routes. How riders were supposed to increase social distancing on fewer buses was not explained.

Muni Service Changes 2.0 Start Saturday | SFMTA

A MUNI bus

The 38 Geary bus line—which travels east and west—is the most heavily-traveled route in the city. In pre-COVID times, these buses were packed, often with passengers standing close together in the aisles after all available seats were taken.

Loudspeakers aboard MUNI buses regularly tell passengers to socially distance from each other—that is, put at least six feet between themselves and their fellows.

But with far fewer buses running, MUNI passengers can’t be sure when—or if—the next one will arrive when they need to catch it.

So residents scramble aboard, en masse, the first bus that shows up.

This makes social distancing impossible on most rides. 

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Cooronavirus

MUNI loudspeakers also tell passengers “You must wear a mask to board MUNI.” And most passengers do wear a mask when they board.

But not all of them do—especially those who board through the rear doors, out of sight of the driver far up in front. 

Even when passengers wear masks, they often do so just under their nose or chin—meaning they can sneeze or cough potentially lethal germs on anyone sitting near them.

Another drawback to riding MUNI: Buses don’t always stop when you pull the “Stop” cord. 

Suppose you’re a senior, or disabled, or have a couple of bags of groceries you need to lug up to your apartment. Suppose you board the 49 Van Ness at Sutter Street.

The 49 boards at Sutter, but it stops only at Jackson Street.

So you pass

  • Bush,
  • Pine,
  • California,
  • Sacramento,
  • Washington and
  • Clay 

before you reach Jackson.

And if your apartment lies somewhere between Sutter and Jackson, you’re going to have to forego MUNI and walk north to it, or get off at Jackson and walk south to it.

As if all this wasn’t confusing enough, MUNI has changed many of its bus stops. The 27 Bryant which used to stop at 9th and Bryant no stops at 9th and Folsom—two blocks north. Naturally, there is no sign posted at the former stop to warn passengers of this change.

Besides making its above-ground routes needlessly complicated and even dangerous, MUNI  eliminated its underground routes. 

These featured fewer stops over longer distances, thus reducing the amount of time you had to be on board.

MUNI’s official reason for this: To protect its drivers from the dangers of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Bay Area Transit System (BART) which serves cities well beyond San Francisco, continued to use its network of underground and above-ground stations.

No one at MUNI has explained why its drivers couldn’t do what BART’s did for the last year.

Meanwhile, city officials—specifically, the Mayor and Board of Supervisors—are relentlessly pushing to make San Francisco “car-unfriendly.”

San Francisco City Hall 2.JPG

San Francisco City Hall

Sanfranman59, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

This has long been their goal. And COVID-19 has made it possible for city leaders to aggressively pursue it under the guise of helping restaurants.

Countless spots that once were reserved for parking have been turned into outdoor dining sites. This seems to makes sense for restaurants, which have taken a beating since indoor dining was banned due to COVID. 

But outdoor dining isn’t as safe as many people think.

Sure, you and the person(s) you’re eating with may not be COVID-infected. But what about the people at the packed table just a couple of feet away from you?

And what about the pedestrians who often must walk between unmasked diners on either side of a sidewalk?

Finally: There is the constant danger of a car crashing into one of these outdoor sites—which usually protrude from the sidewalk.

Offering a mixture of incentives and deterrents has long been a preferred method for winning compliance. In Mexico, this has been famously termed “Pan o palo” (“bread or the stick”).

San Francisco has chosen to offer a sticks-only policy:

  • Allow its bus service to treat its patrons with infuriating contempt; and
  • Make it ever harder for residents and tourists to use private automobiles to reach their destinations.

It’s a recipe guaranteed to cost the city dearly—in both residents and tourists.

THE LIMITS OF DICTATORSHIP

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on July 30, 2021 at 12:26 am

Apparently some lies are off-limits even on the Fox News Network. That is, if they provoke enough angry audience response.

By early March, 2020, COVID-19 had stricken 1,016 Americans and caused 31 deaths. The virus was raging in 33 states. The stock market had had its worst week of trading since the “Wall Street meltdown” of 2008. 

But on March 9, Trish Regan, host of Trish Regan Primetime on the Fox Business Network, attacked not the virus but those who do not share her fervent embrace of President Donald Trump.

“We’ve reached a tipping point,” said Regan. “The hate is boiling. Many in the liberal media are using Coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the President, despite the virus originating halfway around the world.

“This is yet another attempt to impeach the President. And sadly, it seems the left cares little for any of the destruction they leave in their wake, including losses in the stock market. This, unfortunately, is all just part of the political casualties for them.”

Trish Regan

Trish Regan

Thus, losses in the stock market—for Regan—outweighed the lives of debilitated and dying Americans.

To make certain no one in the television audience missed the point, an electronically generated caption read: “Coronavirus Impeachment Scam.”

While Regan accused Trump’s critics of being haters, Trump himself was directing hate through his weapon of choice: Twitter: 

“The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant. Surgeon General, ‘The risk is low to the average American.’”

Actually, with the virus spreading quickly throughout all 50 states, the risk was not low to the average American. The news wasn’t fake, it was the lies and ignorance Trump was spouting.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

On March 14, Fox Business Network announced that Regan’s program would be on “hiatus” until further notice. 

The reason: Using one of the favorite words of the Right, her comments had “triggered” an avalanche of criticism from:

  • Coronavirus victims;
  • Those related to those victims;
  • People who didn’t appreciate being so blatantly lied to.

On March 13, perhaps warned of her coming suspension, Regan took a more conciliatory tone: “Our path forward right now is together, the left and the right united to fight this crisis. We’re all in this together, and we need to stay safe.”

Trying to put the best spin on her humiliating suspension, she tweeted that same evening: “I want to let everyone know that Trish Regan Primetime is now on hiatus. FBN has taken prudent steps to limit staffing levels and is prioritizing its coverage during market hours. I fully support this decision—we all must to do our part to keep our colleagues safe.”

Thus—at least according to Regan—her leaving the air was not an act of punishment but a “prudent step” to “limit staffing levels” at the station.

Is there a lesson to be learned here? Yes.

And it comes, fittingly enough, from Nazi Germany—the regime which has provided so much unacknowledged inspiration for America’s Right-wing demagogues. 

On February 27, 1943, a battalion of SS men, Gestapo agents and regular policemen fanned out across Berlin to arrest the city’s last remaining Jews. Jews still working in armaments factories, as well as Jews married to non-Jews, were the main targets.

Intermarried Jews were jailed, under SS guard, at Rosenstrasse 2-4, the Jewish community’s administration building.

As rumors of the mass arrests stirred through Berlin, the German wives of those arrested flocked to Rosenstrasse. Arriving alone or in pairs, they formed a crowd that rapidly kept expanding.

One woman, accompanied by her brother—a Wehrmacht soldier in full uniform—approached an SS guard. “If my brother-in-law is not released,” the soldier told the guard, “I will not return to the front.”

As night fell, the demonstrators refused to end their protest. They demanded the return of their husbands. Several approached the SS guards and loudly complained. For a whole week, day and night, the protest continued, with the crowd often shouting: “Let our husbands go! We want our husbands back!” 

Memorial commemorating the protest 

Niki Sublime from Boston, USA / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

As many as 600 protesters gathered at one time, and thousands had joined in by the protest’s end. Several times the SS guards shouted: “Clear the streets—or we’ll shoot!” At this, the women scattered—only to quickly return.

Even some hardened Nazis were impressed. A Gestapo guard told one of the Jewish prisoners: “Your relatives are out there protesting for you. This is German loyalty.”

On March 6, 1943, Joseph Goebbels in his capacity as the Gauleiter (Governor) of Berlin, ordered all of the people imprisoned at Rosenstrasse 2-4 released.

According to Leopold Gutterer, Goebbels’s deputy at the Propaganda Ministry, Goebbels said if force was used to crush the demonstrations, it would prompt wider protests all over Berlin, which might soon become political, and could possibly even lead to the overthrow of the Nazi regime.

So the lesson is clear, and it is this: If average citizens, even in the heart of a brutal dictatorship, can show courage against lies and injustice, so can Americans living in what is supposed to be a democracy.

FOUR MAPS TO INFAMY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 29, 2021 at 12:05 am

Whites comprised the overwhelming majority of the audiences at Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign rallies. Not all were racists, but many of those who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.”

And the vast majority of the white votes Trump got were in the South.

The 2008 election of Barack Obama as the first black President had shocked whites. His 2012 re-election had deprived them of the hope that 2008 had been an accident.

Then came 2016—and the possibility that a black President might actually be followed by a woman: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

And for macho, largely uneducated, anti-black Southern males, the idea of a woman dictating to men was simply too much to bear.

Thus, the third map of infamy: Southerners’ election of Donald Trump.

When Trump declared his candidacy:

  • The country was essentially at peace.
  • Thanks to government loans from President Obama, American capitalism had been saved from its own excesses during the George W. Bush administration.
  • Employment was up. CEOs were doing extremely well.
  • Unlike the administration of Ronald Reagan, there had been no corruption scandals during the Obama Presidency.
  • Nor had there been any large-scale terrorist attacks on American soil—like 9/11 under President George W. Bush.

Above all, the news was filled with reputable reports—later confirmed—that Trump’s campaign was backed by Russian oligarchs linked to Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB and now President of Russia.

In short: Southerners—who had long portrayed themselves as America’s most dedicated patriots—flocked to the banner of a man who publicly called on “Russia” to interfere in an American Presidential election. 

Red States voted for Donald Trump – 2016

BobWyatt07, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Now for the South’s fourth map of infamy.

Donald Trump’s four-year Presidency produced a legacy of unprecedented racism, criminality, abuse of power and treason. 

But the crime for which he will be longest-remembered—and which finally brought him down—was his unwillingness to protect Americans from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 catastrophe slammed into the United States in January, 2020. It was the inevitable result of a natural disaster colliding with an evil and incompetent administration.

Trump’s “cures” for COVID-19 included denial, lies, Republican subservience, chaos, extortion, propaganda as news, quackery as medicine, demands to “re-open the country,” Ignoring the danger and—finally—resignation (“Learn to live with the virus”). 

Early on, Trump made the virus a referendum on himself. If you supported him, you didn’t wear a mask when you ventured out in public. This despite the fact that, throughout 2020, there was no vaccine available and hospitals were rapidly overwhelmed by debilitated and dying casualties of the virus.

“I think, once Donald Trump and other Republicans made it a manhood issue, or a freedom issue, or whatever kind of issue they made it, it’s hard to walk back that culture war signal,” said conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks on the PBS Newshour on July 23.

Washington Post Columnist Jonathan Capehart echoed him: “I think, if we had had a president of the United States who took this seriously when this first came on the scene, if we had a Republican party that took this seriously enough to warn everyone, their constituents saying, wash your hands, then put on a mask, then go get the vaccine, we wouldn’t be where we are right now.”

PBS NewsHour | Brooks and Capehart on voting and gun violence legislation | Season 2021 | PBS

Jonathan Capehart

But neither Trump nor the Republican party urged Americans to “wash your hands, put on a mask, then go get the vaccine.” 

By March, 2021, three vaccines—by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson—became available. A total of 90.4 million doses of these vaccines had been given. And 30.7 million Americans had been fully vaccinated against the virus. 

But after a triumphant beginning, the pace of vaccinations slowed, then halted. By late July, 2021, only 49.6% of Americans had been fully vaccinated.

Covid-19 Vaccination Map of USA.png

COVID-19 vaccination map – July 21, 2021

George Karabassis, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Many of those who had gotten one shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines refused to get the necessary second one. These must be given almost a month apart.

(The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one shot.)

What had happened?

“The people I know personally who are not getting the vaccine, for them, it was like, ‘They rushed this thing,'” theorized David Brooks. “‘Who knows what’s going to happen to all these people who get the shots in 10 years or 20 years?’ So, why should I take the risk?’

“And that’s not completely crazy, but it’s not—it’s based on some sense of general distrust for the establishment, including the medical establishment. And that establishment—that distrust is the core of this thing.”

Shields and Brooks on Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis and the debate | PBS NewsHour

David Brooks

And leading the way to this catastrophe of self-destruction were the states of the South and Midwest: Mississippi (47.1%,), Alabama (50.5%), Arkansas (53.2%), and Tennessee (52.9%) with the lowest rates of residents who have gotten at least one shot.

By late July, three states—Florida, Texas and Missouri—with lower vaccination rates accounted for 40 percent of all cases nationwide.

And colliding head-on with the refusals of millions to get vaccinated is the newer—and deadlier—Delta variant of COVID-19.

Just as the South unleashed the Civil War on America, it has now ignited a new wave of COVID-19 on America.

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