the bluto party

You know what? It’s time we (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘anybody who is paying attention to what’s happening right now in the United States’) stopped thinking of the Republican Party as a legitimate political party — because they’ve stopped acting like one. A political party is just a collection of people who share the same general ideology and hold the same general political positions in regard to governance. The operative term there is ‘governance’. Based on their behavior, Republicans no longer believe in governance; they only believe in ruling.

Seriously. The folks who represent Republicans now have abandoned the notion that every political party should be subject to the same rules and laws. Since Trump took office, Republicans have gutted congressional oversight, they’ve perverted the advice and consent process, they’ve twisted the concept of judicial review. Worst of all, they’ve changed the executive branch from being just one of three co-equal branches of government into…well, Bluto. What Bluto wants, Republicans deliver.

In fact, Republicans have become the Bluto Party.

Bluto, if you’re not familiar with him, was Popeye’s nemesis. A loudmouthed, blustering, bully who tries to get what he wants through brute force and/or trickery. In the Popeye cartoons Bluto takes on a variety of guises — sometimes he’s a fellow sailor, but he’s also shown up as an evil professor, a wicked hypnotist, a lecherous lifeguard, a devious sheik, a generic thug.

It’s the same with modern Republicans. They take on various guises, but they all behave like Bluto. You can put Bluto in a suit and a tie, but he’s still Bluto. You can put him in a drawing room or an orchestra pit, but he’s still Bluto. You can spray him with a gentleman’s cologne, he’s still Bluto. You can dress him in judicial robes, still Bluto. There is absolutely nothing you can do to unBluto him. He’s Bluto to the bone.

“You’d better lock up your doors today.
‘Cause Abu Hassan is on his way.
Go in hiding when I come riding
from me and my forty thieves.

Your wife and children, your money too,
I’ll steal them from you before I’m through.
I’m out gunning, so start in running
from me and my forty thieves.

My gang’s the roughest,
But I’m the toughest,
and that’s no lie.
You’ve got to hand it
to this bad bandit,
because I’m a terrible guy.

Comrade Trump, of course, is the bull goose Bluto. All lesser Blutos must bow to him. He’s released the inner Bluto in every Republican in government. For example, Bluto says it’s perfectly okay to ignore subpoena if it’s issued by congressional Democrats. Bluto argues (in front of Bluto-dominated courts) that a congressional subpoena MUST have a legislative purpose. But Bluto Republicans in congress have a long (long, long, long) history of issuing subpoenas for purely investigative purposes — even when those investigations have repeatedly turned up nothing.

I’m basically saying ALL Republicans in government now are Bluto. Republicans in Congress — Bluto. Republicans in the Justice Department — mad Bluto. Republicans who’ve been place in federal courts even when rated unqualified — totally Bluto. You may say that it’s not fair to paint all Republicans with the same brush, and I suppose you’d be right. But I’m of the opinion that if they’re benefiting from Bluto Republican behavior and not calling it out, then they’re Bluto too, and just as guilty as every other Bluto.

The only comfort to be found in this is that Bluto always gets his ass kicked in the end. I mean, it works that way in the cartoons. So I’m sending spinach to Joe Biden and every other Popeye motherfucker running a campaign against Bluto.

really well

I’m old enough to remember this:

Washington state officials confirm first coronavirus death in U.S.

I remember it like it was yesterday. It wasn’t yesterday, though. It was 78 days ago. The first reported Covid-19 death, according to the news reports, was “a man in his 50s who had underlying health conditions.” This article also included this stunning news:

“This marks the first virus-related death in the U.S. amid an outbreak that has exceeded 85,000 confirmed cases around the world.”

Let me repeat that. 85,000 confirmed cases around the world. NOT deaths, just confirmed cases. NOT in Washington state, NOT in the United States, 85,000 cases in THE WORLD. 78 days ago. The United States had 22 confirmed cases.

When I started writing this, there were 90,203 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in the US. Let me repeat that as well. In the last 78 days, we’ve had an additional 90,202 confirmed Covid-19 deaths. Deaths, not cases. Deaths. By the time I finish writing this, we’ll likely have another thirty or forty more.

This morning, Comrade President Trump tweeted this:

More than 90,000 Americans dead in 78 days. That’s more than 1,100 Americans every day. Almost 50 Americans dead every hour. We’re doing REALLY well, medically? What the fuck does that even mean?

Just 78 days ago, Trump said this:

“Additional cases in the U.S. are likely, but healthy individuals should be able to fully recover and we think that will be a statement we can make with great surety now that we’ve gotten familiar with this problem. They should be able to recover should they contract the virus. So, healthy people, if you’re healthy, you will probably go through a process and you’ll be fine. Since the early stages of the foreign outbreak, my administration has taken the most aggressive action in modern history to confront the spread of this disease.

There’s no reason to panic, at all.”

No reason to panic. Healthy people will probably be fine. Probably. Unless they’re one of the 90,000 Americans who died in the last 78 days. I know I keep repeating that, but Jeebus on toast, we’re talking 90,000 dead in 78 fucking days. And it’s not stopping. There were 90,203 when I started writing this; now there are 90,311 (although, in fairness, I did take some time to play with the cat and make myself a late breakfast, but Jesus suffering fuck that’s still a hundred more dead folks in just the last hour or so).

You’ll probably be fine. We’re doing REALLY well, medically.

Yesterday 38 of the 50 states reported more deaths. Despite that, Comrade Trump is encouraging every state to relax pandemic precautions in the name of ‘the economy’ (whatever that means). You know that question folks always ask — your house is on fire, you only have time to grab one thing, what do you grab? Most folks say they’ll grab something of irreplaceable sentimental value. Family photos, something like that.

The United States is on fire. Trump grabbed the economy and he’s leaving the rest of us to burn.

One more time. 78 days. 90,332 dead. We’re doing REALLY well, medically. Nothing makes sense anymore.

 

fifty ways

— I’m confused. I don’t understand. I just don’t get it.
— What’s the matter, pookie?
— I really really don’t understand why people are reacting to a pandemic this way.
— Oh. It’s because they’re assholes.
— They assert their right to protest a legal order from their governor, but they were outraged when a black football player took a knee to protest racial police brutality. Don’t they see how illogical that is?
— No, because they’re assholes.

These people are assholes.

— They insist they’re pro-life, that every potential life is sacred, but at the same time they say it’s permissible for some folks to die in order to strengthen the economy. Not just permissible, but necessary. I don’t understand that reasoning.
— It’s asshole reasoning. The reasoning of assholes.
— They argue that they have the absolute right over the integrity of their bodies, that if they don’t want to wear a mask, they shouldn’t have to. But they also want to deny women the right over the integrity of their bodies, saying they shouldn’t be allowed to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. I mean, they feel imposed upon if they have to wear a mask, but it’s not an imposition for a woman to carry an unwanted fetus for nine months? Explain that to me.
— The explanation is that they’re assholes.

A few more assholes.

— And armed protests? What’s with that? Not just protests against stay-at-home orders, but armed protests. Why do they need to bring guns?
— It’s because they’re assholes.
— They call themselves patriots, but they keep waving Confederate or Nazi flags. I mean, flags of peoples who fought against the United States. How is that patriotic?
— They’re assholes.
— They say President Obama was corrupt, even though nobody in his administration was ever charged with a crime. Eight years and constant ongoing Congressional investigations, not one person charged with a crime. But they insist Trump is the best president ever, despite the fact that at least seven members of his administration or transition team have pleaded guilty or been convicted of felonies. And who knows how many were fired or resigned in disgrace. How does that compute?
— Dude, they’re assholes. I don’t know what else to say.

Assholes with guns.

— They claim to respect law enforcement, but they also say the FBI tried to derail the Trump presidential campaign. They say they believe in the rule of law, but they don’t want the rule of law to apply to themselves. It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t get it.
— Yes, you do. They’re assholes.
— I just can’t wrap my head around all of this. It’s like…it’s like…I don’t even know.
— Sit back, pookie, and allow me to quote the poet Simon.

“The problem is all inside your head”, she said to me
“The answer is easy if you take it logically
I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be fifty ways to say they’re assholes.”

— So you’re saying…it’s because they’re assholes?
— Ah, day dawns in the rock garden.
— What?
— You have seen the light.

 

really most sincerely dead

Well, that’s it then. The rule of law is dead. Officially dead. Medically dead, legally dead, dead in every meaningful way. Stone dead. Dead as Marley’s ghost. Deader than that, in fact, since Jacob Marley at least came back in an attempt to set things right. That’s not going to happen here. The rule of law in the United States is as dead as the Wicked Witch of the East. Not only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.

Comrade Donald Trump killed it. Attorney General Bill Barr helped. Trump pushed it out the window and left it crippled and bleeding in the gutter; Barr finished it off by dropping a cinder block its head. 

I’m not a fan of the FBI, although I recognize their dedication and, to some extent, their sincerity of purpose. What they did to Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was no different from what law enforcement officers at all levels–federal, state, county, and municipal–do every day. They gathered their facts, they interviewed the suspect, they gave him a chance to tell the truth. He didn’t.

That’s routine interviewing technique. Say you arrest a kid for shoplifting. You have him on the store’s CCTV sliding a pair of expensive sunglasses up his sleeve. You detain the kid and say, “Tell me what happened.” If the kid fesses up, that tells you something. It shows some contrition and you take that into consideration when deciding what to do. If the kid lies, that also tells you something. You know he’s still hoping to get away with it, and you take that into consideration.

Flynn got caught. He was given a chance to tell the truth, and he lied. He pleaded guilty to lying. Then he tried to take it back. Then he re-affirmed his guilty plea. Then he tried to take it back again. That tells you something. He was still hoping to get away with it. And hey, he did.

He betrayed his country, and thanks to complicit political appointees in the Department of Justice, he got away with it. Never spent an hour in jail. Nor will he.

The only hope this nation has of returning to some semblance of the rule of law is if voters turn out in massive numbers–numbers large enough to overcome whatever barriers are put in place to hamper voting. Because if we know one thing for certain, it’s that Trump will cheat. He’ll lie, cheat, steal, connive, do anything he can get away with to win. Because he’s learned there’s nothing to stop him–not the Department of Justice, not Congress, and certainly not his conscience.

Ain’t nothing going to stop him. Unless it’s us.

Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Stay alive. Vote your ass off.

 

i guess we’re just giving up now?

Did I get this wrong? I mean, it was only a month ago. I recognize that a month in TrumpTime is like a year in normal time, but still. Only a month ago Comrade Trump’s own coronavirus task force cobbled together a vague set of guidelines that individual states should meet before the country would be allowed to ‘open up again’ (whatever the hell that means).

Bringing out the dead.

Here are the state/regional gating criteria Trump said should be satisfied BEFORE starting the first phase of the comb-over comeback:

A downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period.
OR
A downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period (flat or increasing volume of tests).

And remember, that’s not even Phase One. That was supposed to be the criteria before entering Phase One. When did we decide to scrap that?

I mean, sure, the guidelines are pretty vague. None of the terms are defined. For example, what constitutes a ‘documented’ case? What is the base proportion of tests that should be conducted (should we test 25% of the population of the region? 10%? One percent?). But at least it says ‘downward trend‘ so you could reasonably assume that meant the number of cases or positive tests would be…you know…going down. Right?

Apparently not. Take a guess how many regions/states that are now relaxing social distancing guidelines (and isn’t that a nice way to put it…relaxing?) have any sort of downward trend in cases or tests. Go ahead, guess.

If you guessed NONE (and I’m pretty sure you did), you’d be right. None. Just the opposite. The number of cases AND the number of positive Covid-19 tests are uniformly increasing. And the Trump administration officials who SET the guidelines are cheering on the folks who are ignoring them.

It’s completely fucking insane.

Storing the dead in refrigerated trucks.

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that after a few weeks of half-heartedly following some very basic social distancing, the Trump administration — and conservatives in general — have thrown up their collective hands and said, “This shit is hard, no way we can do this, let’s just give up.”

I’m old enough to remember President Obama’s 2008 victory speech, in which he kept speaking the refrain of “Yes, we can.” That sort of optimism and willingness to work hard is gone. We’re now living in the era of “I don’t know, maybe we can, maybe we can’t, I guess we’ll see, but it’s not my responsibility.”

So this is where we are in the United States. As I began to write this, the US had suffered 69,942 confirmed deaths from Covid-19. Confirmed. And we all know there are a lot of Covid-19 deaths that haven’t been officially confirmed. Right now there are 69,968 deaths — twenty-six more people died from Covid-19 while I wrote this.

We know with mathematical certainty there will be more deaths. A LOT more deaths if we don’t follow those basic social distancing guidelines. But our government, and most of Trump’s followers, are apparently okay with that. Because it’s such a bother to wear a mask and stay two meters apart from each other.

Refrigerated ‘morgue’ trucks.

So I guess the current plan — not the worst case scenario, the actual plan — is that we’re just going to accept that at least a thousand Americans will die every day for the foreseeable future. That’s the current price of doing business in the US.

But think about this. If Trump is willing to allow that to happen during an election year, what is he capable of doing in a second term?

ADDENDUM: By the way, stories about Covid-19 deaths usually stop in a metaphorical sense with the word ‘death’. But that’s not what happens in the real world. When somebody dies in a hospital, there’s still work to do. There’s a point at which the patient ceases to be a patient and becomes a body. All the machines have to be disconnected from the body; all the tubes and IVs have to be removed. Then the body has to be cleaned — completely wiped down, tidied up, toe-tagged, bagged. Then transferred to the morgue (or refrigerated truck). It’s an unpleasant job. I’ve done it many many times. It wears on you. Give some thought to the folks who are doing that multiple times a day.

ADDENDUM 2: As I hit ‘save’ for the last time, the butcher’s bill has climbed to 69,977. Do the math.

it stinks

I’m trying to remember when I hit that point where I stopped trying to keep track of each and every awful thing that happened that day.

I mean, there was actually a time when I could read two or three news sources and feel like I had a solid grasp of all the awful things that happened on any given day. Later I found myself focusing on the primary awful things that happened, because it would take a spreadsheet to keep track of the picayune awful things. But over time, every day became a muddle of major corruption, lying, gross incompetence, vindictiveness, and venality, all of which existed in a melange of Trumpian hate-rage. And it was impossible to keep track even of all the massively awful things that happened in a given day.

This guy is awful in so many ways you need a quantum computer to keep track.

It’s hard to imagine a president who in the course of a single day would 1) shirk his duty during a pandemic that has cost more than 65,000 American lives, 2) lie about the availability of testing necessary to know the extent of that pandemic, 3) encourage states to re-open their economies even though NONE of those states have met the guidelines issued by the president’s own task force, 4) try to extort political favors from states in desperate need of federal financial aid as a result of that pandemic, 4) try to undermine the 2020 presidential election by claiming vote-by-mail is risky, 5) find ways to threaten the unemployment benefits of the nearly 20% of the US workforce that’s unemployed because of the pandemic, 6) use his presidential emergency powers to force workers in the meat industry to continue to work despite the alarming number of Covid-19 cases appearing in meat-packing plants, 7) block the nation’s most trusted information source from testifying in front of the Democratic-led House while allowing his testimony in the Republican-led Senate, 8) encourage armed insurrection against the legitimately elected Democratic governors of states he doesn’t like, 9) float the idea of pardoning his former National Security Advisor whom he’d fired because the man had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI (and the Vice President) about his dealings with Russian intelligence (not to mention his failure to register as a foreign agent of Turkey OR his involvement in a plot to kidnap a Turkish dissident cleric), 10) denigrated and undermined the leadership and line staff of the nation’s primary national law enforcement agency, 11) promoted a number of conspiracy theories, including one about the origins of the pandemic, and 12) tried to pressure US intelligence agencies to substantiate that conspiracy theory.

That’s just what I can recall of the major awful stuff Comrade Trump engaged in one a single day. There’s bound to be awful stuff I’ve missed.

Gov. Kim Reynolds and Comrade Trump ohmyfuckinggod I can’t even look killmenow.

All of this horror is compounded by state governors who are willing (or actually eager) to curry favor with Trump for their own political reasons. Like so many other Republican governors, the governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, refused to issue a state-wide shelter-in-place order. She’s not only supporting Trump’s executive order to require workers at meat-packing plants (a large proportion of whom are immigrants) to report for work regardless of Covid-19 outbreaks, she’s also informed low wage workers who are reluctant to return to work because of pandemic fears that if they refuse to return to work, they will be denied unemployment benefits.

The result of this monstrous cascade of really, truly, awful stuff from Trump and his supporters is a sort of numbness. It’s like living downwind from a paper mill or a hog containment farm — you sort of get inured to the stink. Some days stink more than others, but every day stinks horribly.

And it will continue to stink horribly until we get rid of the hog farm.

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.