the lord knoweth them that are his

If you’re anything like me (and yeah, the odds are against it), when you hear people like Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of the River Tampa Bay Church in Florida, you almost immediately think of Arnaud Amalric, the Abbot of Cîteaux.

Since you’re probably not like me, you’re probably thinking, “Greg, old sock, these names are completely unfamiliar to me. Who, pray tell, are these people?” First, stop calling me ‘old sock’. Second, they’re both what I like to call ‘providentialist fuckwits’. True, they’re separated by about 830 years, but they share some astonishingly stupid approaches to their religious practices.

Here’s Pastor Rodney just a few days ago:

“If you cannot be saved in church, you in serious trouble. I’ve got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church is closed is when the Rapture is taking place. If you don’t believe God, and trust God, you will not make it in the days coming. God will protect our people. And if you die to be with Jesus, so what’s the problem?”

This is some seriously old school providentialism that…wait, some of you might be thinking, “Greg, old sock, what do you mean by ‘providentialism’?” Okay, we’ve already discussed the ‘old sock’ issue. Providentialism is the belief that all events on Earth, including the fates of individuals and/or nations, are determined by god, who will take care of the true believers, obv.

This is Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, providentialist fuckwit.

Basically, in its purest and most idiotic form, it’s an abdication of personal responsibility. ‘If I get sick and die, that’s god’s will. If I expose a few dozen other people who get sick and die, that’s up to god. It’s not me but god, who is responsible for everything that happens. God will sort it out.’

And that brings me to Abbot Arnaud Amalic, who was a big hat in the Albigensian Crusade. In the summer of 1209, our boy Arnaud had led his crusader army to the town of Béziers, which was considered a stronghold of the Cathars. He…okay, okay, now you’re probably thinking, “Whoa, Greg old so…uh, what is this albiwhatsit crusade and who or what are Cathars?”

The guy on the left with the halo? That’s Abbot Arnaud Amalric, providentialist fuckwit. I’m not saying there’s a family resemblance to Pastor Rodney, but….

Yeah, good questions. Understand, this is a really quick and dirty explanation of a really complex and fascinating sociological thingy. With that warning in mind, Cathars were a religious sect, many of whom lived in the town of Albi, which is why they were called Albigensians. The Cathars were vegetarian Christians who believed in reincarnation, gender equality, and non-procreative sex (basically any form of sexual activity that wouldn’t lead to pregnancy — yeah, that’s right, any form). They also thought the pope was corrupt as fuck (SPOILER: despite taking the name Innocent III, he was really pretty corrupt). None of that was acceptable to the Church. The pope decided the Cathars were NOT Christians at all, and therefore they had to be converted. Or killed. Pick one.

Remember, from about 1099 to 1272, Christian Europe did a LOT of crusading. This involved traveling a couple of thousand miles to the Middle East in order to kill non-Christians and take their property. A crusade against non-Christians in the south of France was a LOT easier, a lot more time-effective, you didn’t have to deal with all that foreign food, and you still got to kill folks and take their stuff. That made this a very very popular crusade.

Right, back to our boy Arnaud Amalric. He took his crusader army from northern France into southern France, stopping at the town of Béziers. Another tangent: this wasn’t an army in the way we think of armies today. Crusader armies were largely led by knights (privileged guys who expected to get richer through plunder), but the bulk of the fighting was done by peasant foot soldiers (who expected to get some of the riches the knights missed) and mercenary bands (who expected to get paid by the Church and also get rich from plundering), as well as a contingent of religious pilgrims who just wanted the chance to kill non-Christians (and maybe pick up some extra coin while they were at it).

Christian v. Cathars (The guys doing all the stabbing? They’re the Christians.)

So Arnaud’s boys pull up to Béziers, which basically locked their doors (which they could do since the city was behind walls). Arnaud began to set up a siege. Some townsfolk decided to slide out of the city and whack a few mercenaries before the siege was firmly established. Big mistake. The mercenaries not only whacked the townsfolk, they were able to get in the gate. Where they started killing folks.

Siege warfare at that time was pretty routine. You pick away at the walls until you can send in some mercenaries and foot soldiers and peasants to get gloriously slaughtered while opening a gate or a big enough breach in the wall. Then the knights come flouncing in on their horses, allow the people of the town to get semi-slaughtered until the mercenaries reached the part of town where the richest folks lived. Then the knights would move in, stop the slaughter and the plundering, and take the best stuff. Like Jesus intended.

But in Béziers, the knights were still sitting in their tents drinking wine when the mercenaries broke into the city and started the slaughtering and plundering. Somebody found our boy Arnaud and said, “Dude, they’re killing everybody in town, Christians and Cathars alike, women and children, everybody, what do we do?” There’s some dispute whether the concern was about the slaughtering or about the fact that the peasants and mercenaries were getting all the best plunder. In any event, Arnaud is reported to have said this:

“Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.”

This often gets translated as “Kill them all, let god sort them out.” A more accurate translation is, “Kill them. For the Lord knows those that are his own.” The more accurate translation is important, because it cites the Bible (Paul’s second epistle to Timothy) as the source for the killing.

“[T]he foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.”

In the end, Arnaud wrote to the pope to let him know they’d taken Béziers. He wrote, “Our men spared no one, irrespective of rank, sex or age, and put to the sword almost twenty thousand people. After this great slaughter the whole city was despoiled and burnt.” But hey, we all make mistakes, and surely god knew which of those twenty thousand were good Christians. So there’s that.

“The Lord knoweth them that are his.”

Basically Arnaud’s take on the situation was largely the same as Pastor Rodney’s. “If you die to be with Jesus, what’s the problem?” Of course, it sounds more sober and religious if you say it in Latin. Si morietur cum ad Jesum, quid est forsit?

The problem, of course, is there are folks who’d just as soon not die. They’d prefer to have a choice in the matter. They’d rather not be put to the sword or infected with a disease simply because some folks believe god will take care of everything in the end, and everybody will get what they deserve.

Let me be clear about this. I have no beef with religion as a social institution. A lot of folks find comfort and solace in their beliefs. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. But I do have a problem with the sort of religious stupidity that puts folks with a different belief system at risk because believers think in the end god will take care of his own team.

I think it’s perfectly reasonable to tell those providentialist fuckwits to go fuck themselves. That would probably sound better in Latin.

no, mr. president, you can’t have a pony

You know how kids ask their parents kid-like questions and parents sort of play along rather than give an actual answer? Like if a kid sees a pony on television and asks, “Can I have a pony?” and the parents say something like “We’ll see” just to temporarily placate the kid. They know they’re not going to give the kid a pony–because ponies are big and expensive, and veterinarian bills are expensive, and pony-chow is probably expensive, and besides there’s no place to even keep a pony because they live in a split level in the suburbs–but they equivocate because it’s easier to avoid kid-style dramatics by saying “We’ll see” than being honest and saying “Ain’t happening, kid, give up that idea forever, no pony for you.”

I figure something like that is what happened with Comrade Trump at his ‘Covid press briefing’ yesterday. I’m just making an assumption based on the transcipt; I didn’t see the press briefing. My understanding is both Dr. Birx and Dr. William Bryan (the undersecretary for Science and Technology at the Department of Homeland Security) briefed Trump in private on the material they were going present at the the ‘press briefing’. Then they went live. And lawdy.

President Trump giving his full attention to Dr. Bryan’s presentation.

In the briefing, Bryan described the research into ways to effectively kill the Covin-19 virus on surfaces. Let me repear the important part of that: on surfaces. He said:

“We’ve tested bleach, we’ve tested isopropyl alcohol on the virus, specifically in saliva or in respiratory fluids. And I can tell you that bleach will kill the virus in five minutes; isopropyl alcohol will kill the virus in 30 seconds.”

On surfaces. Bryan very specifically mentioned “nonporous surfaces: door handles, stainless steel.” He also spoke about increased humidity destabilizing the virus. On surfaces. He showed a chart showing the effects of sunlight, temperature, and humidity. ON SURFACES. It’s right there on the chart. Unfortunately, when presenting the chart, Bryan used a poor choice of words. He said, “if you inject the sun [into the increased heat and humidity] the half-life [of the virus] goes from six hours to two minutes.”

Trump looking directly at a chart clearly stating it’s about goddamned surfaces.

And hey, bingo! Trump the idea lodged in Trump’s brain. Injection! UV light! Bleach! He then combined that with what he remembered from the pre-briefing briefing, and this was the cockamamie result:

“Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous ultra violet or just very powerful light. And I think you said that hasn’t been checked but you are going to test it. And then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you could do either through the skin or in some other way. I think you said that you are going to test that, too. And then I saw the disinfectant, where knocks it out in one minute, and is there a way we could do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning. As you see it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”

Did he say anything at all about surfaces? He did not. Surfaces? We don’t need no stinking surfaces.

So my assumption is as follows: Trump, in the pre-briefing briefing asked Doctors Birx and Bryan about injecting disinfectant into the body, and they basically said, “Sure, we’ll look into that, why not?” Because it was easier and less likely to lead to a tantrum than saying, “No, I’m sorry, you can’t have a pony.” It probably never occured to Birx and Bryan that Trump would stand in front of a national television audience and announce, “I think Doctors Birx and Bryan said I could maybe have a pony.”

Dr. Deborah Birx thinking, “Oh Jeebus fuck, did he really just say that, tell me he didn’t just say that.”

Here’s the thing: it’s not easy to have a pony. There’s a lot of hard work involved, a lot of effort and dedication. A lot of preparation. A lot of committment. You have to be mature enough to own and care for a pony.

Donald Trump isn’t mature enough.

The really sad thing–one of the sad things, one of the very very many sad things–about this isn’t that Trump can’t have a pony (although I’m sure it makes him very sad ), or even that his Covid-19 team feels it necessary to tell him that maybe he can have a pony just to avoid a tantrum. The sad thing is, even after this mess, they still won’t tell him he can’t have a pony. The sad thing is they’ll tell him “We’ll see about getting that pony…but you have to keep it a secret. Don’t tell anybody or they’ll want a pony too.”

That’s not just bad government; that’s bad parenting.

lockdown clowns

Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
You with your head up your ass,
Me gasping for air.
Where are the clowns?

Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you agree?
People keep tearing around,
Pretending they’re free.
Where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns?

Don’t you love farce?
Trump’s fault, I fear.
You get to protest with guns.
While I disappear.
But where are the clowns
Send in the clowns
Don’t bother, they’re here

Isn’t it rich?
Ain’t we been pwned?
You said America’s great.
But I died alone.
But where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns.
Vote better this year.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Apologies to Mr. Sondheim. Also? If you’re not familiar with Puddles Pity Party, this is a good introduction.

continuing conversations between knur and gary

Gary: I am listening, Knur. I am designated Gary.
Knur: Gary, I request information about the germ spore which initiated the cascading collapse of my life functions.
Gary: The germ spore has been officially designated as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Two of 2019.
Knur: An unwieldy designation.
Gary: Colloquially the germ spore is known as Covid-19.
Knur: A superior designation. Gary, the germ spore which infests your atmosphere may also threaten the life functions of your fellow human inhabitants of this planet. I urge you inform your planetary principle overseer.
Gary: He is aware, Knur.
Knur: Then your planet is engaged in a course of conduct to eradicate the spore.
Gary: Incorrect.
Knur: Explain.
Gary: The overseer of my sovereign state has no internally coherent approach to eradicate this germ spore.
Knur: Further explanation is required.
Gary: Elimination of the spore would require actions that would inhibit the ability of the ruling classes to accumulate valuable resources and occupiable land mass.
Knur: Illogical. The germ spores threaten all resources and land masses.
Gary: Agreed. Yet the ruling classes contend the ongoing accumulation of resources is necessary to fulfill the normative rules inscribed and certified by our progenitors.
Knur: Hail the progenitors!
Gary: Hail the progenitors!
Knur: Then your planetary overseer opts to sacrifice inhabitants to the germ spore in order to insure continuity of resource accumulation?
Gary: Correct.
Knur: Astonishing. Perhaps your secondary overseers should consider exchanging your planetary overseer for a better overseer.
Gary: The secondary overseers recently considered an exchange event.
Knur: And?
Gary: The exchange was rejected.
Knur: Reason for the rejection?
Gary: Unclear.
Knur: Speculate.
Gary: They are fucking idiots, Knur. In addition, some of the inhabitants of this planet believe themselves to be impervious to the germ spores.
Knur: Curious. Are they, in fact, impervious to the germ spore, Gary?
Gary: There are not, Knur.
Knur: Why do they believe themselves to be impervious?
Gary: They believe an invisible omniscient and omnipotent spiritual haecceity will protect them from such life-terminating events.
Knur: Such an entity exists?
Gary: There is no evidence to support that conclusion. It is linked to the wisdom of the progenitors.
Knur: Hail the progenitors!
Gary: Hail the progenitors!
Knur: The germ spores will proliferate, then.
Gary: Correct.
Knur: The life functions of numerous inhabitants will cease.
Gary: Correct.
Knur: Needlessly.
Gary: Correct.
Knur: …
Gary: …
Knur: I kind of hate your planet, Gary. It is a stupid planet.

fuckwits struggle with tyranny

Garrett Soldano, the founder of Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine, one of the groups participating in Wednesday’s Fuckwits on Parade, had this to say about that punk-ass stunt:

“Keeping healthy people at home is tyranny.”

Tyranny. What is it? Where does it come from? How do you spell it? Conservatives know they don’t like it, but they’re having some difficulty, the poor dears, trying to figure out what actually constitutes tyranny. Happily, I am here to help! Here are some useful examples.

Saying ‘Happy holidays’? Not tyranny. Being kidnapped by the authorities for dissent? Tyranny. Giving folks access to affordable health care? Not tyranny. Routine torture to obtain confessions from political/religious dissidents? Tyranny. Having a limit on the number of firearms you can purchase in a month? Not tyranny. Having your home bulldozed to make way for a settlement of ‘approved’ citizens? Tyranny. Requiring pharmacies to fill prescriptions for birth control for unmarried women? Not tyranny. Being shot by agents of your own government for voicing anti-government opinions? Tyranny. Telling folks to isolate themselves at home to mitigate the death toll of a pandemic? Not tyranny.

See how easy it is? You don’t have to have a brain like Stephen Hawking to tell the difference between 1) laws/rules/regulations you disagree with, or you think are stupid, or you find overly restrictive and 2) tyranny. 

Another useful tool in determining tyranny: compare and contrast. Ask yourself ‘What would happen if I showed up armed and dressed in camo on the capital steps in Lansing, Michigan to protest against the government?’ And then ask the same question, this time using Riyadh, Saudi Arabia? (HINT: the correct answer is ‘In Lansing, after a while I’d go home and grill burgers’ and ‘In Riyadh, I’d be arrested and have electrodes attached to my genitals.’) Ask yourself ‘In Lansing, what would happen if I protested by blocking traffic in front of the emergency entrance to a hospital?’ And then ask the same question, only using Pyongyang, North Korea. (HINT: the correct answer is ‘In Lansing, people would be upset because I was acting like a horse’s ass’ and ‘In Pyongyang, they’d put a bullet in the back of my head and feed my body to the pigs.’) Ask yourself ‘What if I carried a protest sign and chanted for the governor to be locked up without a trial?’ and ask the same question about Harare, Zimbabwe. (HINT: the correct answer is ‘In Lansing, the police would protect my right to protest’ and ‘In Harare, I’d disappear and never be heard from again…and so would my family.’)


See? It’s simple. If you can publicly call your government officials tyrants without fear of being arrested, assaulted, or killed by the authorities, you’re NOT living under tyranny.

But just to be sure, I took a look at Governor Whitmer’s ‘stay at home’ order. I wanted to get a sense of exactly how tyrannical it was. She explains the reasoning behind the order. “To suppress the spread of COVID-19, to prevent the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed, to allow time for the production of critical test kits, ventilators, and personal protective equipment, and to avoid needless deaths.” Not very tyrannical.

Not tyranny.

But then comes the meat of the order. The real test of tyranny. The order prohibits “businesses and operations from requiring workers to leave their homes, unless those workers are necessary to sustain or protect life or to conduct minimum basic operations.” That’s not just disappointingly non-tyrannical, it’s also a reasonable step to reduce the body count during a pandemic.

What about personal restrictions? I mean, that offers some opportunities for serious tyranny. Her order expressly tells folks it’s okay to “leave the house to get groceries or needed supplies” and to “engage in outdoor activities like walking, hiking, running, cycling, kayaking, canoeing, or any other recreational activity” so long as it was consistent with remaining at least six feet apart. That’s not tyranny. That’s good government.


You know what would be tyrannical? A government that required its workers to labor in conditions known to increase the probability of dying simply to maintain a certain economic standard for the nation’s elite.

As I write this, the butcher’s bill in the United States is 37,175 confirmed Covid-19 deaths and 609,587 confirmed active cases (13,509 of which are considered to be in serious or critical condition). Those are confirmed cases. Because of inadequate testing, we don’t know how many actual active cases exist or how many people have actually died from Covin-19. The confirmed cases undoubtedly underestimate the actual cases.

Not tyranny. Heroism. Stay home. Wear masks. Wear gloves. Wash your damned hands.

Let me just repeat that. We have 37,889 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. There are 157,451 confirmed deaths worldwide. That means the United States, which has about 4.25% of the world’s population, accounts for around 24% of the world’s confirmed Covid-19 deaths.

That’s not tyranny. But it’s really, really, really bad government.

fuckwits on parade

You remember those folks who were too afraid to go to Target or Starbucks unless they were allowed to carry their semi-auto assault-style firearms? You know, the folks who believe freedom’s just another word for ‘I have both the right and the duty to carry an AR-15 into the local Dairy Queen even if (and maybe especially if) it scares liberal snowflakes because it’s just possible that some day somebody carrying another AR-15 into the local Dairy Queen might start shooting people and I want to be able to return fire and I will sure as hell shoot straight and kill the bad guys and not accidentally kill innocent people, then you’ll be glad I was armed because I’m doing this for you and America.’ Yeah, those folks. Now they’re standing up to the novel coronavirus.

Fuckwits with flags.

Conservatives in Michigan, manfully pissed off because ‘that woman in Michigan’ wants everybody to stay inside and be safe and healthy, organized a protest. ‘Operation Gridlock.’ They gathered their guns, their MAGA hats, their ‘Trump 2020’ signs, their Confederate battle flags, their Gadsen ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flags, and they loaded up their pickups, and headed to Lansing to teach a lesson to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and show that pesky Chinese virus that real Americans aren’t afraid to gather in large groups and create patriotic vectors of viral transmission.

fuckwits in pickups with Confederate flags.

Michigan, right now, has more active Covid-19 cases than California. They’ve had a couple thousand confirmed Covid-19 deaths (and who knows how many unconfirmed deaths) — the third most deaths in this entire sad, gutted nation, behind New Jersey and New York. Gov. Whitmer ordered non-essential businesses to close and people to stay home and self-isolate in an attempt to mitigate the deaths. So of course these fuckwits decided to gather together, to chant ‘lock her up’ about the governor, to wave their flags and Trump signs, and block traffic in front of a hospital. Seriously, during a goddamn pandemic, these yahoos thought it was cute to block the emergency entrance to a hospital. Jesus suffering fuck.

Gov. Whitmer’s order for Michigan citizens to stay home, they said, was tyranny (SPOILER: if you can gather in public and accuse the government of tyranny without fear of arrest, it’s not tyranny). They repeated Ben Franklin’s claim that ‘security without liberty is called prison’ (SPOILER: if you can drive your pickup to Lansing, Michigan, you’re not in prison and you have liberty). They chanted “Lock her up!” and “Keep America Great!” (SPOILER: if your nation was warned a pandemic was coming and didn’t bother to prepare for it, your country isn’t all that great, and a populace that wants to lock up a governor for trying to mitigate that pandemic isn’t particularly great either).

Fuckwits with firearms.

I kinda sorta semi-support the right of these fuckwits to gather together. The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees ‘the right of the people peaceably to assemble’, after all. On the other hand, legal scholars agree that the State has the power and an obligation to regulate behavior when there’s a compelling interest vital to the protection of public health and safety. Like, say, a pandemic. There’s no pandemic exception to the First Amendment, but courts have ruled that states and localities have the right to limit the size of gatherings when it’s in the interest of public health and safety. Which is exactly what Gov. Whitmer did.

In the end, you can’t fully protect stupid people from being stupid and doing stupid things with other stupid people. Some of these fuckwits on parade will possibly/likely get infected with the Covid-19 virus. If that happens, they’ll possibly/likely pass that infection on to others — some of whom didn’t behave stupidly. This the way of the fuckwitted; their stupidity is splashed onto the innocent.

Conservatives are fond of quoting Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” The tree of stupidity, it seems, has to be refreshed on a regular basis with the blood of the innocent.

a month

A comment by a friend on Facebook reminded me that it’s been exactly one month since Comrade Trump held a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House to make the following announcement:

“To unleash the full power of the federal government in this effort, today I am officially declaring a national emergency. Two very big words.”

Two very big words, indeed. We’re talking a total of seven syllables here. But hey, he actually did it. He said the big words. National emergency. It was late in coming, but at least Trump did declare a national emergency because of the Covid-19 pandemic. That was actually an important step.

Did he follow through with other necessary steps? Did he actually ‘unleash the full power of the federal government’? Not so much. Let’s take a look at some of the other things Trump said in his Rose Garden announcement. Every quote included in this post came from Trump’s announcement that day. You can look it up.

“Today we’re announcing a new partnership with private sector to vastly increase and accelerate our capacity to test for the coronavirus. We want to make sure that those who need a test can get a test very safely, quickly, and conveniently.”

It’s been a month and guess what. While more testing is being done, not all of those who need a test are actually getting a test. It’s not being done quickly, it’s not been conveniently. In fact, it’s been a massive cock-up. Not only are we NOT doing massive national testing, we’re not doing any sort of national contact tracing to determine who’s been exposed.

“We therefore expect up to a half a million additional tests will be available early next week.”

They weren’t available.

“[I]t’ll go very quickly; it’s going very quickly — which will bring, additionally, 1.4 million tests on board next week and 5 million within a month. I doubt we’ll need anywhere near that.”

Again, it’s been a month. It hasn’t gone quickly. We didn’t have a million and a half tests the following week. We still don’t have five million tests. We certainly need more than five million tests. Five million tests would only be enough to test about 1.5% of the population of the US.

“[W]e’ve been in discussions with pharmacies and retailers to make drive-thru tests available in the critical locations identified by public health professionals. The goal is for individuals to be able to drive up and be swabbed without having to leave your car.”

A month. Walmart has opened two testing sites — one in the Chicago area and another in Arkansas. Walgreens has two sites in Chicago. CVS has opened four sites. Target has said they’re “committed to offering our parking lot locations and supporting their efforts when they are ready to activate.” But so far nobody from the federal government has asked them to do anything or given them any direction. If you see drive-thru testing being done on the news, it’s almost certainly to be a state effort, not a federal one.

“Google is helping to develop a website. It’s going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location… Google has 1,700 engineers working on this right now. They’ve made tremendous progress.”

Google wasn’t developing a website to do that. They didn’t have 1700 engineers working on it. This is what regular folks call ‘bullshit’.

“We can learn — and we will turn a corner on this virus. Some of the doctors say it will wash through, it will flow through. Interesting terms and very accurate. I think you’re going to find in a number of weeks it’s going to be a very accurate term.”

I have no idea what any of that means. Wash through? Flow through? Jesus suffering fuck, what? I mean, what?

“No nation is more prepared or more equipped to face down this crisis. As you know, we are rated number one in the world.”

Some of that is true. We are number one in the world — at least in terms of diagnosed Covid-19 cases (over half a million now) and Covid-19 deaths (over twenty-two thousand at this point). But we were not — and we still are not — more prepared or more equipped than any other nation. The Trump administration has consistently fucked this up, and it appears they’ll continue to fuck it up.

After making his announcement, Comrade Trump took questions from journalists.

Question: “Dr. Fauci said earlier this week that the lag in testing was, in fact, “a failing.” Do you take responsibility for that?”
Trump: “Yeah, no, I don’t take responsibility at all… And we — we’ll have — we’ll have the ability to do in the millions over a very, very quick period of time. So, no.”

It’s been a month. We still don’t have the ability to test in the millions. But whether or not Trump accepts responsibility for the lag in testing, he’s still responsible.

Question: “Mr. President, the last administration said that they had tested a million people at this point. You’ve been president for three years…”
Trump: “Well, ask them how they did with the swine flu. It was a disaster. Next, please. Next, please. They had a very big failure with the swine flu. A very big failure.”

The first US case of the H1N1 virus was confirmed on April 15, 2009. On April 26, when there were only 20 confirmed cases, the Obama administration declared a public health emergency and started releasing medical supplies and drugs from the CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile. On April 28, the first test to detect the H1N1 virus was approved by the FDA; shipments of the new test began May 1. This was six weeks before the World Health Organization declared H1N1 to be a pandemic. In October, six months after the Obama administration declared a public health emergency, they expanded it to a national emergency, which allowed hospitals to move emergency rooms offsite to speed treatment and protect non-infected patients. At that point in time there were 5,712 deaths worldwide; approximately 1800 deaths in the US. That’s NOT a failure. That’s success.

Question: 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?
Trump: Well, I just think it’s a nasty question because what we’ve done is — and Tony has said numerous times that we’ve 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 I could –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 — you say we did that. I don’t know anything about it. It’s the — it’s the administration. Perhaps they do that. You know, people let people go. You used to be with a different newspaper than you are now. You know, things like that happen. We’re doing a great job.”

That certainly wasn’t a ‘nasty’ question, but there’s something very nearly correct in Trump’s answer. He personally didn’t fire Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer as chief of the global health security team on the National Security Council. That was done by National Security Advisor John Bolton. Bolton dismantled and reassigned the entire NSC directorate for global health and security. Trump, though, DID cut funding for the CDC. As a result, Trump’s head of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, reduced the number of countries included in the CDC’s program to prevent infectious-disease threats from becoming epidemics. Under Obama, the program included forty-nine countries. Trump reduced the number to ten. China, where the novel coronavirus originated, was among the countries eliminated.

“We’re doing a great job.”

Trump was very likely telling the truth when he said, “I don’t know anything about it.” But he should have known. A national security unit isn’t disbanded without the approval of the president. Either nobody told him (which is possible, since Trump is notoriously incurious about such things), or somebody told him and he approved it (which is also possible), or somebody told him and he didn’t understand what they were telling him (which is probable). In any event, Trump should have known he’d done away with his global health and security team.

To be clear, Comrade Trump isn’t to blame for Covid-19. He IS, however, responsible for the federal government’s response. He IS to blame for the lack of preparation, for the lack of leadership, and for the lack of equipment necessary to slow the spread of the disease.

It’s been a month since he declared a national emergency. He’s never treated the pandemic like an emergency. He’s treated it like a public relations problem.

still standing

I do like an early morning thunderstorm. It’s nine o’clock in the morning and it’s so dark I have the kitchen light on while I drink my morning coffee and read the news. The rain is falling with a sort of steady insistence, like it’s telling us we can stay inside and act like nothing is happening, but it is not going to stop. The cat is looking resentfully out the window at the rain, unfazed by the sporadic thunder. It’s a pretty solid thunderstorm in terms of rain and thunder, but it’s skimping on the lightning. Maybe it’s storing it up and will give us a show later.

The news tells me that on Friday the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives issued guidelines to allow federally licensed firearm dealers to provide drive-up or walk-up gun sales during this period of isolation. Why? To reduce the health risks posed by the coronavirus. The BATF has a dead solid lock on graveyard humor.

On Facebook one of my Christian senator is wishing me a happy Easter and assuring me ‘He has risen’. I hope she’s not referring to that dark, malignant force haunting the White House, ghoulishly presiding over the drown-in-the-fluid-that-fills-your-own-lungs pandemic. Speaking of which, the butcher’s bill in the U.S. will exceed 21,000 deaths at some point today.

This morning the Twitterverse is, as usual, like Jabberwocky written by the illegitimate child of Oscar Wilde and Charlie Manson (just go with me on this; I don’t need a lesson in biology). It’s clever and hateful and funny and malicious and witty and snarky and so incredibly stupid and full of fascinating information and confusing as hell. Twitter is probably like a lot of family gatherings.

~ ~ ~

I’ve forgotten what point I’d intended to make when I started writing this morning. I got distracted by this photograph. I saw it on Twitter. If Twitter can be believed — and I want to believe this is true — this is a photograph of an ICU nurse who has worked 65 hours in the last week. I’ve been looking at and thinking about this photo for about an hour.

I don’t know this woman’s name, or where she works, or who shot the photo. I don’t really know anything at all about her. But I recognize her. I recognize that look. I know she’s on the ragged edge of exhaustion, discouraged, worn down by grief and duty. I don’t know who she is, and I know she can’t save us. But I also know she’ll try. And I know that after a few hours of sleep, she’ll be back at it. So will all of her colleagues.

Today I’ll stay inside, dry and warm. I’ll read my book, I’ll cook some food, I’ll do a little housework, I’ll do a bit of writing, I’ll feed and pet the cat, I’ll continue to check in on social media. At some point tonight I’ll watch an episode of Breaking Bad and maybe an episode of some other show. I’ll fill up every hour of the day, but I’ll never be busy and I’ll never be uncomfortable and I’ll never have to make a decision more difficult than what to cook for supper.

But I know I’ll return, over and over, to this photograph. It’s that powerful; it’s that compelling. Right there — everything that can be said about the power of photography is right there. Everything that’s good and noble about humankind, right there. Everything that can be said about sacrifice and dignity and dedication and love and compassion, right there. Everything that is heart-crushing, that is hopeful, that is beautiful, that is desperately sad and deeply caring and incredibly tough and still tender, it’s all right there.

I hope my Christian senator sees this photograph. I’m glad she finds some comfort and strength in her belief that ‘He has risen’. Me, I’m drawing my strength and comfort from knowing that this woman, whoever she is and wherever she is, is still standing.