bureaucracybusters

Posts Tagged ‘CORONAVIRUS’

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. 

WHY REPUBLICANS ACTUALLY WANT TO GUT “OBAMACARE”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 1, 2021 at 8:43 pm

On June 17, CNN ran a headlined story on its website: “Here’s Why Fighting the Affordable Care Act Means So Much to Republicans.”  

The story opened: “For the third time in the last nine years — and this time by a convincing 7-2 vote — the Supreme Court knocked out a Republican effort to invalidate” the Act.

The Justices said that the challengers of the law did not have legal “standing” to bring the case.

Opponents of the law were not harmed by the provisions they were challenging, the Justices ruled. The reason: Congressional Republicans had eliminated the penalty for failing to buy health insurance.

Republicans believed that eliminating the penalty would allow them to attack the entire law. They assumed that without the mandate—a pillar of the law when it was passed—the rest of the Act should fall, too.

Thus, the irony: Through their latest effort to destroy the Act by de-funding it, Republicans had unintentionally saved it before the Supreme Court.

U.S. Supreme Court building-m.jpg

The Supreme Court

The law is now providing access to healthcare for a record 31 million Americans, who would not otherwise be able to afford coverage.

In addition, the Act continues to:

  • Eliminate the “pre-existing condition” excuse insurance companies had used to deny coverage to those who most needed it;
  • Provide a range of no-cost preventive services;
  • Allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance up to age 26;
  • Expand the Medicaid program that insures lower-income people access to health insurance markets offering subsidized plans.

“With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD. And it’s here to stay,” President Joe Biden tweeted that same day.

“BFD” referred to his remark, caught on a hot mic when he told then-President Barack Obama in 2010 the law is a “a big fucking deal.”

Why have Republicans pursued its demise so relentlessly? J.P. Morgan once said: “A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing. One that sounds good, and a real one.”

The story outlines the reasons that sound good: 

“For the GOP base, the ACA is about a view of the country that the government is the answer to all of our problems.

“It’s also tied into their lingering distaste for former President Barack Obama, whose name is literally melded with the law.

“And a belief that the media treated Obama’s ‘if you like your plan, you can keep your plan’ lie and the disastrous rollout (and repeated crashes) of the website allowing people to sign up for a plan with kid gloves because, well, bias.”

Let’s take a quick look at each of these points.

  • Millions of Right-wingers hate the Federal Government and openly call for its overthrow. This they vividly demonstrated on January 6 when they tried to illegally retain Donald Trump as President. They hoped to prevent the selection of Joe Biden as the legitimately-elected President of the United States by storming the Capitol Building.
  • Racism forms a major component of the GOP’s appeal to older, white, Right-wing voters. So having the name of the first black President unofficially stamped on the law (“Obamacare”) serves as a constant spur to their hatred.

Obama standing with his arms folded and smiling.

Barack Obama

  • Obama’s promise that “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan”: The promise backfired because the law stated that those who already had medical insurance could keep their plans—so long as those plans met the requirements of the new healthcare law. If their plans didn’t meet those requirements, they would have to obtain coverage that did
  • The “disastrous rollout (and repeated crashes) of the website”: That happened immediately after the law became effective on March 23, 2010. The sheer rush of uninsured people hoping to finally gain access to medical care proved too much for the website. But over time those bugs got ironed out.

Now for the real reason Republicans have furiously tried to destroy the Act—one that the writer did not mention. It is also one that no Republican dares admit.

And like so much else in the Republican agenda, it is rooted in the methods employed by the Third Reich.

On June 22, 1941, German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler sent three million soldiers smashing into the Soviet Union. During the first six months—June to December, 1941—German armies lured huge Soviet forces into gigantic “cauldron battles,” surrounding and exterminating them. 

An estimated 5.7 million prisoners of war fell into German hands. The Germans found themselves surprised and overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of them. But their mandate demanded that they keep marching ever forward.

So they simply imprisoned their captives behind barbed wire and wasted no food or medical care on them. Between starvation, illness and the brutal Russian cold, at least 3.5 million POWs died in custody.

Soviet prisoners of war behind barbed wire at Falstad Camp May 8th 1945. The picture is probably taken after the Norwegian prisoners left the camp. (Photographer: Unknown / The Falstad Centre)

Soviet POW’s

Republicans have learned a valuable lesson from this: If you simply deprive those you detest of food, clothing, shelter—and medical care—you don’t need gas chambers or firing squads. Or rigged vote-counts.

Most Americans—ignorant of history—cannot accept that their politicians can be as evil as those in other nations. For those needing access to affordable healthcare, voting Republican could turn out to be a fatal mistake.

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.

Related image

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.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

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.

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.”

DICTATORS IN CRISIS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 16, 2021 at 12:39 am

Two dictators. Two crises.

Next up: Donald Trump.   

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin received multiple warnings that his supposed ally, Nazi Germany, would soon invade Russia. He ignored all of them. And when the invasion came—on June 22, 1941—the result was the loss of 26 million men, women and children and four years of devastation. 

President Donald Trump similarly received warnings that Coronavirus was a major world threat—and would likely hit the United States. Like Stalin, he ignored those warnings—with similarly disastrous consequences.

The virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December, 2019.  Its first reported victim became ill on December 1.

By December 31, the outbreak was traced to a novel strain of Coronavirus.

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that affect birds and mammals. In humans, Coronaviruses can cause pneumonia and may cause bronchitis.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

According to the March 21, 2020 edition of Rolling Stone magazine: “The United States intelligence community has been warning the president since January and February about the dire consequences that would occur when coronavirus reached America, but the president seemed determined to play down the threat, leaving the country largely unaware and unprepared.”

An anonymous Intelligence official cited by the Washington Post said: “Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were—they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it. The system was blinking red.”

Trump first learned of the virus on January 3, 2020. This did not prevent him from playing golf on January 4, 5, 18 and 19.

On January 19, the first Coronavirus case appeared in the United States.

On January 27, then-acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney tried to get the President to act. But, according to officials who spoke with the Post, Trump was “dismissive” of early briefings “because he did not believe that the virus had spread widely throughout the United States.”

Trump fired Mulvaney one month later.

Then, for Trump, it was back to the golf course—on February 1, 2, 15. 

Image result for Trump Corona Timeline

Refusing to take action against the emerging Coronavirus threat, Trump repeatedly made statements that minimized it. 

January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

January 30: “We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment–five—and those people are all recuperating successfully. But we’re working very closely with China and other countries, and we think it’s going to have a very good ending for us .…that I can assure you.”

February 10: “Now, the virus that we’re talking about having to do—you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat—as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April. We’re in great shape though. We have 12 cases—11 cases, and many of them are in good shape now.” 

February 28: “[Democrats] tried the impeachment hoax…They lost…. And this is their new hoax.”

A major reason for the spectacular early victories of the German army in Russia was that, from 1936 to 1938, Stalin had gutted his own military by a series of systematic purges. Thus, there were few experienced, competent officers—from army corps commanders to four-star generals—to mount a strategic defense. 

Similarly, upon taking office, Trump had gutted the permanent epidemic monitoring and command groups set up inside the White House: The National Security Council (NSC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Pathologically jealous of Barack Obama, Trump tried to destroy every vestige of Obama’s legacy as the first black President of the United States. And these disease-monitoring groups were set up by Obama following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.

In the spring of 2018, Trump pushed Congress to cut $15 billion from national health spending—and cutting the global disease-fighting budgets of the Centers for Disease Control, National Security Council, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

In April, 2018, then-National Security Adviser John Bolton forced Tom Bossert, director of the infectious disease unit at DHS, to resign—along with his entire team.

On February 29, the first American died of Coronavirus. 

Trump continued to be unconcerned about the growing threat.

On March 7, reporters asked him if he was concerned that Coronavirus had arrived in Washington, D.C. He replied:  “No, I’m not concerned at all. No, we’ve done a great job with it.”

And in a March 9 tweet, Trump wrote: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”  

Perhaps most dangerously of all, Trump from the outset blatantly contradicted health officials—even when standing next to them at press conferences.

On March 21, Trump insisted he had a “very good” feeling about using a malaria drug to combat the virus. It fell to Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to set the record straight: “No.”

By January 20, 2021—the end of Trump’s term—the United States had more than 24.2 million confirmed Coronavirus cases—and more than 400,000 deaths.

DICTATORS IN CRISIS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 15, 2021 at 12:25 am

Two dictators. Two crises.

First up: Joseph Stalin.

“I know what Hitler’s up to. He thinks he’s outsmarted me. But in actuality, it is I who have outsmarted him.” 

So spoke Joseph Stalin, absolute dictator of the Soviet Union, to his future successor, Nikita Khrushchev, in 1939.

Less than two years later, on June 22, 1941, three million German soldiers poured across the western border of the Soviet Union.

On August 23, 1939, Stalin had signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact with German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler. The reason: Each dictator got what he wanted—for the moment. Hitler was planning to invade Poland in a matter of days—and he wanted to avoid a war with the Soviet Union. And Stalin got what he wanted: The eastern half of Poland.

Joseph Stalin

The agreement stunned the world. Since 1919, Nazis and Communists had fought bitter battles against each other in the streets of Germany during the Weimar Republic.

When this was replaced in 1933 by the Third Reich, German Communists were rounded up and imprisoned, if not murdered, by Hitler’s ruthless secret police, the Schutzstaffel (“Protective Squads”).

For the moment, however, all of that was conveniently forgotten.

But Hitler hadn’t forgotten his life’s ambition to conquer the Soviet Union and utterly destroy “the scourge of Jewish-Marxism.”

Stalin received numerous warnings from the United States and Great Britain about the coming invasion. But he dismissed them as efforts by the West to trick him into violating the pact and turning Nazi Germany into his mortal enemy. 

When informed of the attack, Stalin at first believed it was being made by rogue German forces. He refused to order an immediate counterattack. Upon being convinced that the Wehrmacht intended to wage all-out war, he went into a funk in his dacha and shut himself off from everyone. To his closest associates he wailed: “Lenin left us a great inheritance and we, his heirs, have fucked it all up!”

Meanwhile, the Red Air Force was destroyed on the ground by the awesome Luftwaffe. And the Wehrmacht was advancing at a rate of 25 miles a day.

German soldiers marching through Russia

On July 3, after 10 days of brooding (and probably drinking heavily) in his dacha, Stalin finally took to the airways. He didn’t speak live; Radio Moscow played a recording of his voice across the Soviet Union.

Never a spellbinding orator, Stalin spoke in slow and faltering tones. Nevertheless, his opening words were startling: “Comrades! Citizens! Brothers and sisters! Men of our army and navy! I am addressing you, my friends!”

Stalin had never addressed an audience this way, and he never would again. Born Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili, he had given himself the name of “Stalin”—“Man of Steel.” And he had lived up to it, sending tens of thousands to the Soviet penal system known as the Gulag while ordering the executions of tens of thousands of others.

He said the “peace loving” Soviet Union had been attacked by “fiends and cannibals.” He claimed the non-aggression pact with Germany had given the army much-needed time to rearm and reorganize its forces. He claimed the Germans wanted to restore the rule of the landlords and re-establish Tsarism.

He repeatedly spoke of the treachery of the enemy—and of the need for constant vigilance against traitors: “We must wage a ruthless fight against all disorganizers of the rear, deserters, panic-mongers and rumor-mongers.”

This was accompanied by orders unprecedented in any other army: Those taken prisoner by the Germans were to be considered traitors—and shot or imprisoned. Those suspected of wounding themselves to avoid combat were also subject to summary execution. So were soldiers who had been legitimately wounded in battle but were suspected of inflicting those injuries.

The first two years of the war—1941 to 1943—proved disastrous for the Soviet Union.

During the first six months—June to December, 1941—German armies lured huge Soviet forces into gigantic “cauldron battles,” surrounding and exterminating them. An estimated 5.7 million prisoners of war (POWs) fell into German hands. Of these, at least 3.5 million died in custody.

But then the infamous Russian cold and snows of winter halted  the Wehrmacht before Moscow. In the summer of 1942 German forces once again mounted a ferocious offensive, driving all the way to the Volga—and Stalingrad.

But they became bogged down in bitter house-to-house fighting. With the arrival of winter, Soviet forces surrounded the Wehrmacht’s powerful Sixth Army. The besiegers became the besieged. On February 2, 1943, Field Marshal Friedrich von Paulus surrendered what remained of his army. The battle cost Germany 500,000 men, including 91,000 taken prisoner. 

As the Red Army finally began to go over on the offensive, Stalin relaxed the iron controls that had long stifled creativity on the part of his commandeers. 

The infamous political commissars were removed from control over Russian generals. Gold braid and fancy uniforms were manufactured and rushed to the front as morale boosters.

At last, Stalin realized there was no way to win a life-and-death struggle than to give his soldiers the flexibility they needed.

The war would last another two years—costing the Soviet Union at least 26 million citizens—before it ended with the Red flag flying over Berlin.

%d bloggers like this: