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REPUBLICANS: COUNTING ON COVID TO GET RE-ELECTED

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on September 15, 2021 at 12:20 am

A September 10 CNN headline said it all: “As Covid-19 hospitalizations spike, some overwhelmed, some hospitals are rationing care.”

Its opening paragraphs read:

“Once again, Americans who don’t even have coronavirus are suffering the consequences of Covid-19 patients filling up hospitals.

“More than 101,000 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19, according to data Thursday from the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

“Now, some patients wanting urgent care won’t get it because so many beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients.”

In short, tens of thousands of men and women who could have gotten vaccinated against a deadly virus refused to do so. They claimed they didn’t trust the medical establishment generally or the vaccines in particular.

But now they demand that the medical establishment save them from a possible death sentence they brought on themselves. Many of them have said, while taking up space in ICU beds, that they should have gotten the vaccine but, for unexplained reasons, kept putting it off.

That means victims of heart attacks, strokes, car accidents and crimes must now go without desperately-needed medical attention owing to the egotism, ignorance and/or arrogance of anti-vaxxers and/or Stormtrumper followers of former President Donald Trump. 

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Covid-19

In West Virginia, hospitals are “overwhelmingly inundated with cases of people that are not vaccinated,” Governor Jim Justice said.

The state has 813 people hospitalized with Covid-19 and set a new record for Covid-19 patients in ICUs—252 on September 8.

A record 132 Covid-19 patients are on ventilators.

In Idaho, the Department of Health and Welfare activated its Crisis Standards of Care in the northern part of the state due to “a massive increase in patients with Covid-19 who require hospitalization.” 

Governor Brad Little pleaded for eligible Idahoans to get vaccinated.

Only 23 ICU beds are available In Arkansas.

As of September 11, 660,000 Americans have died of COVID-19. 

By contrast, on that day 20 years ago, nearly 3,000 Americans died at the hands of Islamic terrorists at the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

That works out to the equivalent of 220 9/11’s from January 1, 2020 to September 11, 2021.

So while Americans publicly mourned the victims of 9/11, those who have needlessly died from Covid-19 remain forgotten—except by those who knew and loved them. 

But this situation may soon—at last—be changing.

On September 9, President Joe Biden announced six measures to increase coronavirus vaccination rates, which have slowed in recent months, allowing the Delta variant to spread. Among these:

  • All federal employees and contractors must get vaccinated, without exemptions.
  • Companies with more than 100 employees must require their employees to get vaccinated, with some exceptions, or face weekly testing.
  • Hospitals that participate in the federal Medicaid and Medicare programs must also vaccinate their estimated 17 million employees.

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” Biden said in a speech from the White House, making clear that he blamed the unvaccinated for the current surge in the country. “And your refusal has cost all of us.”

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

President Joe Biden

On the Fourth of July, Biden held a party on the South Lawn of the White House, declaring that the country was on the cusp of “independence” from the virus.

But the refusal of about 80 million Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19 has thoroughly sabotaged that goal.

The Delta variant has surged through Florida and Texas, whose governors have taken a hardline stand against mask mandates. The vast majority of the people who have become seriously ill have not been vaccinated.

Schools are closed once again. The economic recovery is faltering.

But for the Right, this means nothing.

Fox News—which supported four years of Donald Trump’s dictatorial rule—attacked Biden as an “authoritarian.” Republican officials vowed to fight his new mandates in court. 

And former Vice President Mike Pence—who similarly supported Trump’s tyranny—said: “I mean, to have the president of the United States say that he has been patient but his patience is wearing thin—that’s not how the American people expect to be spoken to by our elected leaders.” 

There are solid reasons for this.

Governors such as Ron DeSantis (Florida) Greg Abbott (Texas) and Kristi Noem (South Dakota) are trying to inherit the constituency of former President Donald Trump.

Trump attacked public health experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci—especially when they recommended mask mandates to stop the spread of the virus. And he urged his followers to storm state capitols of Democratic governors who were desperately trying to keep hospitals and morgues from overflowing with Covid-19 victims. 

The result: 75 million militant Right-wingers ignored the Covid-19-related deaths of 400,000 Americans and the rising ride of the pandemic and almost re-elected him President.

Republicans believe that by opposing mask and vaccination mandates, they can keep the virus going. This will depress the economy—and give them a potent issue to use against Biden in 2024.

Thus, Republicans want to look tough and champion a demented version of freedom—even as it kills huge numbers of their own constituents. 

“HIS CRIMES DON’T AFFECT ME, SO I DON’T CARE”

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics on September 3, 2021 at 12:10 am

On April 27, 2020, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough explained why most Americans ignored President Donald Trump’s crimes and outrages for so long:

“Back in January Joe Biden wrote an Op-Ed that the President was not prepared for this coming pandemic, and things were going to get worse. And he said ‘Let your doctors talk. Let your scientists talk. Follow their lead.’

“…And it’s been one scam idea after another, that people then promoted on other networks, scam doctors promoting these scam solutions, claiming that everybody who had taken this malaria drug had been cured in certain hospitals. This is just the sort of thing that catches up to Donald Trump,” said the host of “Morning Joe.”

“I’ve said from the very beginning: You can lie about independent counsels, people won’t listen. You can lie about former FBI directors—“

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: “It doesn’t impact their lives.”

JOE SCARBOROUGH: “They’re still going to work, the kids are doing fine, they’ve got enough money to pay their rent, to pay their mortgage, You can even lie about the Ukraine call—they don’t really care.

“But all of these lies, all of these scams that he’s been pushing…have been revealed as lies—not by the people on cable news, but by their doctors. By nurses they know. If you’ve got a doctor who’s been treating your family for 20-25 years, you’re going to believe that person more than a scam artist that’s pushing propaganda for Donald Trump on talk radio.”

On August 23, 2018, Trump, appearing on “Fox and Friends,” said: “I tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.”

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Donald Trump

Thus, he appealed to the greed and fear of his voting base—and no doubt hoped to reach beyond it: “Keep me in power or you’ll all suffer for it.” 

Then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders bragged, on June 4, 2018:

“Since taking office, the President has strengthened American leadership, security, prosperity, and accountability. And as we saw from Friday’s jobs report, our economy is stronger, Americans are optimistic, and business is booming.”

Many Congressional Republicans echoed this: The American people care only about the economy—and how well-off they are

For eight years, Nazi Germany underwent such an epoch. Germans called it “The Happy Time.”

It began on January 30, 1933, when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor—and lasted until June 22, 1941. Germans knew about the Nazis’ cruelty to the Jews, the mass arrests and concentration camps.

They didn’t care.

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 Frenzied Germans greet Adolf Hitler

The Gestapo didn’t have to watch everyone: German “patriots” gladly reported their fellow citizens—especially Jews—to the secret police.

As far as everyday Germans were concerned:

  • The streets were clean and peaceful.
  • Employment was high.
  • The trouble-making unions were gone.
  • Germany was once again “taking its rightful place” among ruling nations, after its catastrophic defeat in World War 1.

The height of “The Happy Time” came in June, 1940. In just six weeks, the Wehrmacht  accomplished what the German army hadn’t in four years during World War 1: The total defeat of its longtime enemy, France.

Suddenly, French clothes, perfumes, delicacies, paintings and other “fortunes of war” came pouring into the Fatherland.  

Most Germans believed the war was over, and only good times lay ahead.

Then, on June 22, 1941, three million Wehrmacht soldiers slashed their way into the Soviet Union. The Third Reich was now locked in a death-struggle with a nation even more powerful than itself. 

German soldiers in the Soviet Union

And then, on December 11, 1941—four days after Germany’s ally, Japan, attacked Pearl Harbor—Hitler declared war on the United States. 

“The Happy Time” for Germans was over. Only prolonged disaster lay ahead. 

Donald Trump has spent his life appealing to the greed or fear of those around him. For example: 

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case, Trump wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. 
  • According to an April 14, 2019 story by ABC News, a nationwide review uncovered at least 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.
  • In nine cases, attackers hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically assaulting victims. In 10 more cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant’s violent or threatening behavior.

But in 2020, Trump came up against an enemy—to his re-election—that he couldn’t bribe or intimidate: COVID-19.

The Germans made a devil’s-bargain with Adolf Hitler—and paid dearly for it. 

Millions of greedy Americans embraced Donald Trump, another would-be tyrant, as America’s economic savior. And paid for it—with the COVID-stricken lives of 375,000 men, women and children.

By supporting Trump—or at least not opposing him—they made a devil’s-bargain. And such bargains always end with the devil winning. 

COMING: A WAR ON STUPIDS? PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 10, 2021 at 12:11 am

Since COVID-19 entered the United States in January, 2020, Republicans have turned it into a “culture war” issue.

President Donald Trump made wearing a mask a referendum on himself. If you were a “manly man”—and supported him-–you didn’t wear one. Even if it cost you your life.

He—and his followers—fiercely opposed “stay-at-home” orders by governors intent on suppressing rising COVID outbreaks in their states.

And when three vaccines appeared in early 2021, Republicans—again led by Trump—refused to say whether they were vaccinated. Some—like Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene—publicly celebrated low vaccination rates among their own constituents.

Others—like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis—threatened to withhold funds from public schools that required students to wear masks. (Only children 12 and older can be vaccinated.)

Ron DeSantis 2020 (cropped).jpg

Ron DeSantis

So it was, ironically, a Republican who fired the first salvo at irresponsible public behavior.

“Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down. We’ve got to get folks to take the shot. It’s the greatest weapon we have to fight COVID,”  Alabama Governor Kay Ivey told reporters in Birmingham on July 22. 

Alabama is one of the least vaccinated states in the country, with roughly 34% of residents fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC had announced in May that fully vaccinated people no longer had to wear masks

But now the even more contagious Delta variant was spreading. Experts warned that vaccinated and unvaccinated people should wear masks indoors  where COVID-19 cases were high but vaccination rates were low.

CDC on Twitter: "CDC is tracking a new variant of the virus that causes #COVID19 called Delta, or B.1.617.2. There is evidence that this variant spreads easily from person to person. Get

Meanwhile, some of the most prominent corporations in America weren’t waiting for them to do so.  

  • In May, Delta Airlines began requiring requiring newly-hired employees to show proof of vaccination.
  • On August 6, United Airlines announced that it would require its 67,000 U.S. employees to get vaccinated by October 25—or risk termination.
  • Hours later, Frontier Airlines announced that its employees must be vaccinated by October 1—or be frequently tested for COVID-19.
  • On August 4, Facebook announced that all of its employees would have to prove that they had been vaccinated to return to the office.
  • That same day, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a similar email to his staffers. 
  • Disney is requiring all its salaried and non-union hourly employees in America to be vaccinated. 
  • Uber announced that its U.S.-based office staff needs to be vaccinated to return to the office. It isn’t requiring the same for drivers.
  • Walgreens is requiring vaccinations for all of its corporate employees in the United States.
  • Netflix will require COVID-19 vaccinations for the casts of all its American productions, including those who come in contact with them.
  • Saks Fifth Avenue is requiring that all employees be vaccinated.
  • Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced in a July 30 memo that all of its American-based corporate employees must be vaccinated by October 4.  
  • Tyson Foods will require that its 120,000 U.S. employees be fully vaccinated. According to the company, about 56,000 already are.
  • Ascension Health will require Covid-19 vaccinations for all of its employees.
  • On August 4, Twitter closed its offices in New York and San Francisco and paused further office reopenings. It was already requiring employees to show proof of vaccination.
  • Lyft is requiring all employees working in its offices to be vaccinated.
  • The Washington Post will require all current employees and new hires to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccinations. 
  • Morgan Stanley is barring all unvaccinated staff and clients from entering its New York headquarters office 

More companies will undoubtedly follow suit.

There are two reasons for this: 

First, across the country, hospitals are struggling to cope with the Delta variant—the most contagious strain of Coronavirus yet.  

Second, it’s clear that simply offering incentives for behaving responsibly isn’t working.

This week, New York City became the first major city to require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants and gyms.

“I do think it may be time for this to happen,” said Katherine Wu, science writer for The Atlantic, on the August 6 edition of Washington Week.

Katherine J. Wu, Ph.D. (@KatherineJWu) | Twitter

Katherine Wu

“I’ve seen more and more experts come out in support of mandates and requirements like these. You know, it’s sort of a combination of carrot and stick. If you want to keep having these privileges going out into society and being able to lead a normal life, it is probably a really good idea to [get] vaccinated to ensure not only your health but the people that you’re interacting with.”   

* * * * *

A policy only of incentives is a policy of bribery. And a policy only of deterrents is a policy of coercion. 

Some people can’t be bought and some can’t be coerced. But history shows that a policy employing both carrots and sticks usually proves highly effective in motivating behavior.

As the school season begins in September, children will be increasingly exposed to the dangers of contracting COVID. Many of them will undoubtedly die.

And as their casualties mount, there will be increased demands for punitive measures against those who put their arrogance above the public good.

COMING: A WAR ON STUPIDS? PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 9, 2021 at 12:10 am

When a deadly, air-borne plague is sweeping a nation, it’s medically smart to don a face mask until a vaccine is developed.

And, when it is, it’s just as medically smart to take that vaccine.

Yet, since March, 2020, millions of science-denying, government-hating Fascistic Republicans have refused to mask up in public against COVID-19. And now that not one but three vaccines have been developed, millions more have refused to get them.

Most of them are followers of former President Donald Trump. But many others have long believed that the Federal Government had a diabolical plan to enslave them.

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Donald Trump

They distrust the scientists who developed the anti-COVID vaccines. They distrust the established news media, which has chronicled the destructive fury of COVID for more than a year.

Yet they put their faith in Trump, a man who

  • Derided COVID as a hoax;
  • Told 30,573 lies during his four years as President;
  • Attacked reputable medical authorities such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s foremost expert on infectious disease;
  • Promoted drinking bleach as a preventative or cure for COVID;
  • Ordered his millions of fanatical followers to disobey the “shelter-in-place” orders of governors who were trying to stem the rising tide of COVID in their states; and
  • Staged scores of super-spreader political rallies to promote his re-election in 2020, where tens of thousands of unmasked men and women stood shoulder-to-shoulder.

When Joseph Biden took office as President on January 20, 2021, he made eliminating COVID-19 his top priority. He publicized the launching of three new anti-COVID vaccines—by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. He encouraged Americans to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

And he set a deadline by which 70% of Americans would be at least partially vaccinated—by July 4: Independence Day.

At first, there was a mad rush as millions of Americans flocked to vaccination sites.  But, by June, there was a marked increase in the numbers of those refusing to get vaccinated.

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COVID-19

On June 7, the online edition of U.S. News & World Report published a story under the headline: “Declining Vaccination Rates Threaten Biden’s July 4 Goal.”

“Plunging vaccination rates are imperiling President Joe Biden’s goal of getting COVID shots into the arms of at least 70% of American adults by July 4, while public health experts worry that Southern states, where immunization numbers are the lowest, could see a spike in cases over the summer.”

That is exactly what has happened.

The story continued: “The steep decline began in mid-April, coinciding with the temporary suspension of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while health officials investigated rare blood-clotting reactions. That drop has continued, with only 2.4 million adults getting their first shot last week. Officials must get a first dose to 4.2 million adults per week to meet Biden’s July 4 goal, the [Washington] Post reported.” 

By August 2, 168.4 million Americans had been fully vaccinated, or 49.6% of the country’s population.

The population of the United States stands at 328.2 million.

POD Assist | CDC

Cities and states have offered a series of incentives to get vaccinated—as if doing so just to save your own life and the lives of those you love isn’t enough of an incentive.

Among those incentives: 

  • Free beer.
  • Free marijuana joints.
  • Free childcare coverage while getting shots or assistance while recovering from side effects.
  • Extended hours for pharmacies in June.
  • Thousands of pharmacies remaining open overnight on Fridays.
  • Million-dollar jackpots.
  • Full-ride scholarships.
  • A $2 million commitment from DoorDash to provide gift cards to community health centers for those who get vaccinated.
  • CVS Pharmacies launched a sweepstakes with prizes including free cruises and Super Bowl tickets.
  • Major League Baseball hosting on-site vaccine clinics and ticket giveaways at games.
  • Kroger gave $1 million to a vaccinated person each week in June and free groceries to dozens of people for the year.

Countless Americans were appalled at the selfishly irresponsible behavior of their fellow citizens.

One of these was President Biden: “All over the world people are desperate to get a shot that every American can get at their neighborhood drugstore.”

Another was Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University and former Baltimore health commissioner.

“It’s the height of American exceptionalism that we are having to beg people to get a life-saving vaccine, when healthcare workers and vulnerable people around the world are dying because they can’t get access to it,” said Wen. 

Yet the time may be fast approaching when the juicy carrot is replaced by the big stick.

From the coming of the virus to the United States in January, 2020, Republicans have encouraged Americans to defy health warnings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

They have opposed wearing masks and stay-at-home orders. They have staged indoor political rallies of hundreds—or thousands—of unmasked men and women 

So it’s ironic that it was a Republican who fired the first salvo at irresponsible public behavior.

“Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey told reporters in Birmingham on July 22.

Alabama is one of the least vaccinated states in the country, with roughly 34% of residents fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. 

HANDLING CRISES: JFK VS. TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 6, 2021 at 12:10 am

On March 13, 2020, President Donald Trump addressed a subject he clearly resented being asked about: His gutting of an early-warning medical system set up to confront pandemics.

In 2014, following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, President Barack Obama created the White House Pandemic Office, run by the White House’s National Security Council (NSC).

Heading it was Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer. Under President George W. Bush, he had successfully fought malaria overseas. His topflight team of infectious disease and public health experts was creating a national bio-defense strategy.  Their goal: Coordinate agencies to make the United States more resilient to the threat of epidemics and biological warfare.

In May, 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s global health security unit shut down. The reason: Trump’s pathological jealousy of and hatred for Obama.

On March 13, at a White House press conference, Yamiche Alcindor, the PBS Newshour’s White House Correspondent, dared to ask Trump: “My first question is: You said that you don’t take responsibility, but you did disband the White House Pandemic Office and the officials that were working in that office left this administration abruptly. So, what responsibility do you take to that?

Yamiche Alcindor 1.jpg

Yamiche Alcindor

“And the officials that worked in that office said that you—that the White House lost valuable time because that office was disbanded. What do you make of that?”

Then followed this exchange:

TRUMP: Well, I just think it’s a nasty question, because what we’ve done is—and Tony had said numerous times that we saved thousands of lives because of the quick closing. And when you say me, I didn’t do it. We have a group of people.

ALCINDOR: It’s your administration.

TRUMP: I could ask, perhaps—my administration, but I could perhaps ask Tony about that, because I don’t know anything about it. I mean, you say we did that. I don’t know anything about it.

ALCINDOR: You don’t know about the—

TRUMP: We’re spending—

ALCINDOR: — About the reorganization that happened in the National Security Council?

TRUMP: No, I don’t know. It’s the—it’s the administration, perhaps they do that. You know, people let people go. You know, you used to be with a different newspaper than you are now. You know, things like that happen.

Trump’s refusal to accept responsibility for the greatest crisis of his tenure as President flagrantly contrasts with how President John F. Kennedy responded to a similar crisis.

Jeffrey Guterman on Twitter: "Press conference by U.S. president ...

John F. Kennedy press conference

On April 17, 1961, the U.S. Navy landed 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles on Cuba to overthrow the Communist government of Fidel Castro. Landing at the Bay of Pigs, they were supposed to head into the mountains—as Castro himself had done against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1956—and raise the cry of revolution.

When the invaders surged onto the beaches, they found Castro’s army waiting for them. Many of the invaders were killed on the spot. Others were captured.

It was a major public relations setback for the newly-installed Kennedy administration, which had raised hopes for a change in American-Soviet relations.

Kennedy, trying to abort widespread criticism, publicly took the blame for the setback: “There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan….I’m the responsible officer of the Government.”

Ironically, the crisis—and his taking responsibility for it—hugely increased Kennedy’s popularity. The national Gallup Poll reported that 83 percent of Americans approved of the job he was doing as President.

To a White House aide, Kennedy half-joked: “It’s just like Eisenhower—the worse I do, the more popular I get.”

By contrast, Trump’s “handling” of the Coronavirus plague brought him the worst reviews of his Presidency.

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks attacked Trump in terms usually reserved for serial killers. On the March 13 edition of The PBS Newshour, he said:

“This is what happens when you elect a sociopath as president, who doesn’t care, who has treated this whole thing for the past month as if it’s about him. ‘How do people like me?’ Minimizing the risks. ‘Does the stock market reflect well on me?’ And he hasn’t done the things a normal human being would do, which was to, let’s take precautions….

“And he’s incapable of that. And he’s even created an information distortion field around him.” 

And Toluse Olorunnipa, White House reporter for The Washington Post, said: “He likes having powerful people around him to praise what he’s done. He tried to get them all up to the podium to talk about how great of a response he has provided, and I think that’s—trying to get that co-signed from CEOs and powerful people is a key part of his presidency.”

Kimberly Atkins, senior Washington news correspondent for WBUR, Boston’s NPR News Station: “We have seen the president not only be all over the place but his instinct was to try to downplay it [Coronavirus] because he saw it as a political threat—to say that people would get better….

“Even today he’s saying, ‘We have everything under control. We have this website that people can go to and find out where they can get tested.’ The website isn’t even done yet.”

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.

FOUR MAPS TO INFAMY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on July 28, 2021 at 12:14 am

Throughout its history the South has been a hotbed of treason, racism and ignorance.

Today, it proudly continues holding fast to these traditions—even as it places the entire country in danger of contagion and dictatorship.

From 1860 to 1865, the South—Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia—produced the greatest case of mass treason in America’s history.

It was called the Confederate States of America—and produced the South’s first map of infamy.

Map of U.S. showing two kinds of Union states, two phases of secession and territories

Union (blue) and Confederate (red) states: 1860 – 1865

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

According to The Destructive War, by Charles Royster, it wasn’t the cause of “states’ rights” that led 13 Southern states to withdraw from the Union in 1860-61. It was their demand for “respect,” which, in reality, translates into “e-g-o.”

“The respect Southerners demanded did not consist simply of the states’ sovereignty or of the equal rights of Northern and Southern citizens, including slaveholders’ right to take their chattels into Northern territory.

“It entailed, too, respect for their assertion of the moral superiority of slaveholding society over free society,” writes Royster.

It was not enough for Southerners to claim equal standing with Northerners; Northerners must acknowledge it. But this was something that the North was less and less willing to do. 

Finally, its citizens dared to elect Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

Lincoln and his new Republican party damned slavery—and slaveholders—as morally evil, obsolete and ultimately doomed. And they were determined to prevent slavery from spreading any further throughout the country. 

Southerners found all of this intolerable.

Lincoln—during his First Inaugural Address—bluntly said that he did not intend to “directly or indirectly…interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln

But that was not enough for Southerners. 

Only 10% of Southerners owned slaves. The other 90% of the population “had no dog in this fight,” as Southerners liked to say.

Yet they so admired and aspired to be like their “gentleman betters” that they threw in their lot with them.

On April 12, 1861—just over a month since Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4—Southern batteries opened fire on Union Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.

This ignited the American Civil War, costing the lives of 750,000.Americans—at a time when the population of the United States stood at 31,443,321.

Four years later, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.

Huge sections of the South had been laid waste by Union troops and more than 258,000 Southerners had been killed.

And slavery, the mainstay of Southern plantation life, had been ended forever.

The South had paid a high price for its investment in treason.

Infamy’s second map dates from 1964 to 2016.

In 1964, Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed the Civil Rights Act through Congress, ending more than a century of blatant discrimination against blacks.

The South—which before the Civil War had been solidly Democratic—suddenly went solidly Republican.

To understand this mammoth shift, it’s vital to realize: In Lincoln’s time, the Republicans were the party of progressives

The party was founded on an anti-slavery platform. Its members were thus reviled as “Black Republicans.” And until the 1960s, the South was solidly Democratic

Democrats were the ones defending the status quo—slavery—and opposing the rights of freed blacks in the South of Reconstruction and long afterward.

When, in the early 1960s, Democrats championed the rights of blacks, Southerners bolted for the Republican party—which held to the same values that slavery/discrimination-supporting Democrats once did.  

After signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, President Lyndon B. Johnson told an aide: “We have just lost the South for a generation.”   

Johnson was wrong: A generation lasts 20 to 30 years. It’s been 56 years since the signing of the Act, and the South is still solidly within the Republican camp.

1968 United States presidential election - Wikipedia

 1968 election (Southern states in red)

TheSouth’s third map of infamy culminates with the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016. 

Repeatedly, when asked why they supported Trump, his followers said: “He says what I’ve been thinking!” 

And what Trump appealed to, above all else, was hatred.  

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him. 

Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them. 

Among his targets:

  • Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton
  • President Barack Obama
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • Singer Neil Young
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • News organizations
  • The State of New Jersey
  • Beauty pageant contestants

Others he clearly delighted in insulting during the campaign included:

  • Women
  • Blacks
  • Hispanics
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • The disabled
  • Prisoners-of-war

Whites comprised the overwhelming majority of the audiences at Trump 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.

TRUMP’S ULTIMATE CORONAVIRUS LEGACY

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on July 19, 2021 at 12:18 am

It was the night of March 5, 1836. For the roughly 200 men inside the surrounded Alamo, death lay only hours away. 

Inside a house in San Antonio, Texas, Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was holding a council of war with his generals.

For 12 days, his army had bombarded the old mission. Still, the Texians—whose numbers included the legendary bear hunter and Congressman David Crockett and knife fighter James Bowie—held out.

Now Santa Anna was in a hurry to take the makeshift fortress. Once its defenders were dead, he could march on to sweep all American settlers from Texas.

One of his generals, Manuel Castrillón, urged Santa Anna to wait just a few more days. By then, far bigger cannon would be available. When the Alamo’s three-feet-thick walls had been knocked down, the defenders would be forced to surrender.

The lives of countless Mexican soldiers would thus be spared.

Santa Anna was eating a late-night chicken dinner. He held up a chicken leg and said: “What are the lives of soldiers but those of so many chickens?”

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna

Santa Anna ordered his generals to prepare an all-out attack on the Alamo, to be launched the next morning—March 6, 1836—at 5 a.m.

Hours later, the attack went forward. Within 90 minutes, every Alamo defender was dead—and so were at least 600 Mexican soldiers. 

“What are the lives of Americans but those of so many chickens?”

That could well have been the slogan of President Donald Trump in his approach to COVID-19. 

The United States had become the country worst-affected by Coronavirus—with more than 3.9 million diagnosed cases and more than 143,000 deaths. 

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

Americans were living through their seventh month with the virus, and still the Trump administration could not—or would not—design a coordinated plan to combat it.

Trump started out 2020 by dismissing COVID-19 as a threat. On January 22 he said: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”

By February 28, he had termed the disease the Democrats’ “new hoax.”

By March, he was making it clear that each state was responsible for securing its needed supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for its doctors and nurses aiding Coronavirus patients.

This resulted in a dog-eat-dog atmosphere of cutthroat competition and scarcity, with Americans not only fighting the virus but each other.

Even worse: Trump didn’t simply refuse to provide states with vitally-needed medical supplies—he ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to illegally seize those supplies that states had ordered.

Related image

Donald Trump

When states’ governors issued stay-at-home orders, Trump was forced to cancel his campaign rallies. Starting Easter weekend, he held almost 50 daily press briefings at the White House.

Their official purpose: To update the country on the administration’s ongoing response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Their real purpose: To serve as a substitute for Trump’s hate-filled political rallies, which have been likened to those staged by Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, at Nuremberg. 

Eager to return to his mass rallies and reignite his support from Right-wingers, he began furiously campaigning to end social distancing and the wearing of masks. Both of these had been mandated by such governors as California’s Gavin Newsom and New York’s Andrew Cuomo.

He also demanded the reopening of businesses across the nation—although there was no vaccine nor even adequate testing and contact-tracing facilities. This led many states—especially in the South and Midwest—to reopen prematurely, with a resulting rise in COVID infections and deaths.

He urged his Right-wing supporters to flood into the capitols of such states as Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia—whose governors were Democrats—and demand an end to mask-wearing and social distancing. This was in direct defiance of the laws legally in force in those states.

And they did as he ordered—massing shoulder-to-shoulder, most of them not wearing masks, and with many of them carrying automatic rifles.

On April 23, at a White House press briefing, he suggested that UV light and disinfectant—such as Clorox—might prove an effective preventative or cure for Coronavirus. This prompted alarm from medical professionals—even as some Americans believed him and swallowed disinfectant to prevent COVID-19.

Unable—or unwilling—to effectively attack the virus, Trump chose to attack the medical professionals desperately trying to save lives. He accused them of hoarding scarce medical supplies and lying about the number of COVID cases they were treating. 

His chief target: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. There were two reasons for this:

  1. Fauci repeatedly warned about the dangers of the virus—and criticized the failure of the Federal Government to effectively combat it; and
  2. His warnings and criticisms repeatedly proved correct, while Trump’s rosy predictions proved wrong.

By September, Trump demanded that Americans put their children at risk by sending them back to school in the fall—so their parents could return to work. Then he could claim he had “saved” the American economy—and be re-elected.

For Donald Trump, the ultimate “strategy” on COVID-19 was: “Pretend it’s over and re-elect me. Then drop dead for all I care.”

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