‘i just didn’t want to’

He has speech writers. We’ve all seen The West Wing, we know there’s a department in the White House for people who carefully craft the president’s speeches — who take the president’s thoughts and ideas, and use them as a framework for a speech. But, as in everything else, Comrade Trump thinks he knows better.

So instead of giving a speech reassuring the American public that he’s doing everything the doctors tell him in order to return to the White House, Trump presents a rambling, unfocused, semi-dishonest, off-the-cuff monologue. In it, he says”

“I had no choice, because I just didn’t want to stay in the White House. I was given that alternative. Stay in the White House, lock yourself in. Don’t ever leave…I can’t do that. I had to be out front.”

This is maybe the most honest thing Trump has ever said to the American public. “I just didn’t want to. I had to be out front.” He just didn’t want to wear a mask or follow the medical protocols that could keep him and his supporters safe. He had to be out in front of an audience of admiring supporters.

That attitude not only led us to a body count of over two hundred and ten thousand American citizens, it not only led us to economic disaster, it not only led us to a housing crisis and an education system in turmoil, it also led us to the craziest goddamn moment to date in administration filled to the brim with crazy goddamn moments. I’m talking about that appalling scene at the White House when Trump returned from Walter Reed in Bethesda.

They planned this. Some deranged group of people in the White House — probably the same group that thought it would be good optics for Trump to stand in front of a church and hold up a Bible for 45 seconds — thought it would be dramatic for Trump to leave Marine One, climb the steps to the Truman Balcony, present himself to the American people, and take off his mask.

And hey, they were right. It was dramatic. It was dramatically stupid. It was dramatically offensive. It was dramatically arrogant and dramatically undermined any notion that Trump had learned a damned thing from his time at Walter Reed. Or that he’d learned a damned thing during his three and a half years as POTUS. In fact, it dramatically undermined the notion that Trump had ‘beaten’ Covid; he was clearly struggling to breathe as he stood on the balcony.

He took off his mask, people. He has Covid — an infectious disease spread primarily through airborne particles emitted through the mouth and nose — and he took off his mask to show the world…what? That he was tough? That he was courageous? That he was manly?

What Comrade Trump showed the world was that he was still the same arrogant, ignorant, feckless yobbo he’s always been. It showed the world he still doesn’t give a rat’s ass for anybody other that himself.

The butcher’s bill at this moment stands at 213,462 dead in the United States. Last night 421 Americans died from Covid. Four hundred people died from Covid last night. We’re seven months into the pandemic. It’s not going to get better until we can get people to stop spreading the virus. And that actively contagious fucker stood on the Truman Balcony and took off his mask.

thomas rymer is okay by me

It would be hard to believe if it weren’t so perfectly on-brand. We’re 212,000 corpses into the Covid pandemic, but Comrade Trump decided to throw a largely mask-free announcement party for his shiny new Supreme Court nominee — who, by the way, got the Covid over the summer, and somehow nobody thought to mention it. And hey bingo, after the party, a whole bunch of self-important Republicans started getting all Covidy.

We’re talking at least a couple of senators, a couple of reporters, a few White House staffers, and a scattering of generic Trump supporters — all testing positive for the Covid. Including Comrade Trump his ownself, and his wife.

Deliberately holding a maskless gathering during a pandemic is just flat out arrogance and negligence. But it gets worse (it always gets worse with Trump, doesn’t it). Apparently Trump got the Covid (we don’t know quite when because nobody in the Trumpverse ever seems to tell the truth), then spent a whole day wandering around maskless, pretending he didn’t have it. He exposed a LOT more of his own staff and supporters to the Covid, including an intimate roundtable of a couple dozen top GOP donors at one of his failing golf clubs.

Again, it would be hard to believe if it weren’t so perfectly on-brand for Trump. This is the guy who disbanded an operational pandemic response team, then after the Covid showed up, created a new pandemic response team, only to ignore and contradict their scientific advice for political and public relations reasons. He’s basically dismissed the team (has anybody heard from Fauci or Birx lately?). This is the guy who refused to wear a mask himself, who mocked others for wearing masks, who deliberately and knowingly invited large crowds of yelling followers to his rallies, who publicly dismissed the severity of the Covid while privately acknowledging how deadly it was. So it’s not entirely surprising that he’d meet with his supporters knowing he was almost certainly contagious.

Trump at Walter Reed, pretending to work.

Now he’s in the hospital. Flown there by helicopter. Being treated by a cadre of the best doctors. Being given a special experimental drug cocktail that isn’t available to ordinary folks. In a luxurious hospital room — unlike the crowded hallways in which many New Yorkers died during the early days of the pandemic. He’s in the hospital, pretending to work, but we don’t really know his medical status. Three and a half years of lying by Trump and his staff has taught us not to believe anything they say. He could be fine, he could be dying; as I write this, we just don’t know because nobody is talking and we couldn’t trust anybody who did talk.

A couple of days ago I said it was unseemly and callous to express happiness that Comrade Trump got the Covid. I still believe that, despite the fact that Trump his ownself has been unseemly and callous about the deaths and suffering of hundreds of thousands of American citizens. As a Buddhist, I have to believe he is deserving of compassion. But he hasn’t earned any sympathy.

Thomas Rymer with a wee doggie.

In 1678, Thomas Rymer published The Tragedies of the Last Age Consider’d, in which he examined the ways in which literature tried to reconcile the demands of justice with those of pity. He coined the phrase ‘poetic justice.’ That’s usually interpreted as ‘vice must be punished and virtue rewarded’. But it’s more than that. Rymer believed true poetic justice also required logic to triumph. It’s not enough to simply punish the wicked; poetic justice demands an ironic twist of fate in which a character’s own wicked behavior brings about their downfall.

That Comrade Trump is in Walter Reed being treated for the Covid is true poetic justice. He’ll probably recover from the Covid in time to lose the election. That will also be poetic justice. There’s also a decent chance the ‘law and order’ president, after he leaves office, will be charged with a variety of state and federal crimes. More poetic justice.

I won’t celebrate Trump’s illness. But I will celebrate poetic justice. Thomas Rymer is okay by me.

it is what it is

First let me say this, because this is important: expressing happiness that Comrade Trump has tested positive for Covid-19 is unseemly and callous — just as unseemly and callous as those people who expresses happiness that Justice the Notorious RBG died.

That said, I understand and can appreciate the poetic justice of it. He had access to the best medical advice in the world, he had access to the world’s most reliable information about the pandemic, he had the ability to take the world’s best precautions against the coronavirus, he had the power to significantly make the US safer against Covid-19 transmission — and he just flat out decided NOT to take advantage of any of that.

Comrade Trump is sick.

Why? Ignorant narcissism. He ignored the experts, he assumed he knew more than they did, he assumed nothing could hurt him because he was well protected, and he quietly encouraged his staff NOT to wear masks. Several White House staffers and members of the Secret Service guarding Trump have tested positive for Covid over the last couple of months, but Trump took no notice.

After Hope Hicks, with whom he’d been in close contact, tested positive, Trump still went to a fundraiser at his Bedminster Golf Club, where he didn’t wear a mask. All those people have now been exposed. Amy Coney Barrett, his SCOTUS pick, has been exposed. Kayleigh McEnany, the WH press secretary has been exposed, but she didn’t wear a mask during yesterday’s press briefing, so all those reporters have been exposed. Trump’s Chief of Staff has been exposed, as have all the people he’s been in close contact with. Hope Hicks was maskless at the presidential debate on Tuesday; the WH didn’t bother to alert the Biden campaign when she tested positive. They had to learn about it on the news.

None of this had to happen. Most of this could have been prevented IF Trump hadn’t been an ignorant narcissist. IF he’d listened to the experts. IF he’d worn a mask and encouraged — no, if he’d mandated — others to wear a mask whenever they were in groups.

But no. Comrade Trump didn’t do that. He was reckless and stupid and now he’s got the bug. I’m not happy about that. But I’m not sad about it either.

It is what it is.

announcing

Comrade Trump loves to announce things. Announcing stuff is fun. You get to stand in front of a lot of people who want to hear the announcement, you make your announcement, then you can go do something else. Eat some chicken, play golf, make some phone calls. After a while you get to watch television and see how they report your announcement. Great fun.

The best thing about announcing stuff? It gets reported as if whatever it was you announced you were going to do is basically already done. You get credit for the thing just by making the announcement.

Here’s an example. Yesterday Comrade Trump held a…okay, I don’t even know what to call it. He called it a ‘press conference’ because the news media were there, but it was held at one of Trump’s golf clubs and attended by members of his club (who repeated booed the reporters). And he used the forum to campaign against Uncle Joe, so I guess it was sort of a mini-rally for folks who paid US$200,000 to join his golf club and had a free afternoon.

A very white, very rich mini-rally disguised as a press conference.

Whatever it was, Trump used it to announce that he’d signed “four bills” (they weren’t bills) that he said would “save American jobs and provide relief to the American worker” (they don’t). But hey, he announced it, he signed some documents, he showed the documents to the audience so they could applaud, and they applauded. Job done. The news media reported it like it meant something.

It didn’t. But here’s the headline from USA TODAY:

Trump signs executive orders enacting $400 unemployment benefit, payroll tax cut after coronavirus stimulus talks stall.

It sounds really decisive, doesn’t it. It wasn’t. It sounds like Trump actually did something. He didn’t. Three of the four ‘bills’ he signed were actually memoranda; the other was an executive order. The one he claimed would provide a moratorium on evictions only suggested that HUD should consider halting evictions. He also said he’d defer payroll tax payments for some folks, which basically means they’d still have to pay those taxes–but just not right now. It would all come due at tax time. And, of course, a payroll tax only applies to people who are actually on a payroll. If you’re unemployed, it doesn’t help you at all.

And that US$400 in unemployment insurance he promised? He’s sucking enough coin out of FEMA to increase unemployment benefits by $300 (which is nothing to grumble about), but the deal depends on states paying that last $100, which is a serious problem because 1) it means the states have to set up a system to do that, which could take some time and 2) the states are almost broke because 2a) they’ve lost a lot of tax revenue because of Covid-19 and 2b) Trump dumped the responsibility for testing and treatment on the states, which cost them big bucks. So this probably won’t fly.

The only thing he likes more than announcing stuff he won’t do is signing things he can’t read.

The only real thing Comrade Trump did was to issue an executive order extending the suspension of monthly payments for federally-held student loans. It’s only for three months, but it’s something. And it’s a good thing (and you people say I never give Trump credit for the good things he’s done).

So the headlines suggest that Trump has actually done the things he announced, even though all he’s done is announce them. The list of things he’s announced he was going to do but hasn’t is extensive. Google ‘Trump announces’ and you’ll get about 921,000,000 results. I mean, how many times has he announced that Covid-19 is under control? But here we are with 5,000,000 confirmed cases and nearly 165,000 dead.

Comrade Trump is a serial announcer, no mistake. But here are a few things he hasn’t announced:

  • a mask mandate
  • the arrest of the officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor
  • sanctions against Russia for putting a bounty on killing Marines in Afghanistan
  • the release of his income tax records for the last ten years
  • an apology for…well, any of the appalling shit he’s said and done
  • his resignation

Of course, even if DID make those announcements, he probably wouldn’t follow through.

gloom of trump

You’ve heard it a million times, often incorrectly. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. It’s the creed of the United States Post Office.

The Post Office is maybe the most democratic institution in all of These United States. You put any sort of reasonable address on an envelope, slap a fifty-five cent stamp on it, stick it in your mailbox and the Post Office will send somebody right to your house, fetch that envelope right outa your mail box, and carry it to that address, usually within one to three business days.

Delivering mail in the rain during a damn pandemic.

Don’t matter if that address is in Manhattan or Boise or some farm house outside of Broken Bow, Nebraska. Some poor carrier in Sidney, Montana has to drive a mail route nearly two hundred miles long to deliver the mail to 272 mailboxes. There are 176 folks who live along a 30-mile stretch of the Magnolia River in Alabama who get their mail delivered by boat. A native tribe, the Havasupai, who live at the bottom of the Grand Canyon get their mail after an eight-mile trip down the canyon using mules. Mules. You got a legit address, the Post Office will deliver your mail. And yeah, even if it’s raining or snowing or hot or gloomy AF.

Delivering mail by a damn mule train.

The USPS isn’t perfect, but considering the massive scale and scope of their mission they do a damned good job. Again, First Class postage is only fifty-five cents. If somebody asked me to walk the thirty feet to my mailbox in the rain in exchange for fifty-five cents, I’d tell them to piss off.

But Comrade Donald Trump is deliberately wrecking the Postal Service. Deliberately. And he’s doing it for the most corrupt reason: to make it harder for US citizens to vote during a pandemic.

He replaced the Postmaster General — Megan Brennan, a woman whose 34-year career with the USPS began as a letter carrier, who was familiar with every operation inside the USPS from personal experience — with Louis DeJoy, a man with no USPS experience at all. DeJoy is a major donor to the Trump campaign; over the last four years he and his wife have contributed more than US$2 million to the Trump campaign and other Republican causes. Trump is also considering DeJoy’s wife to be Ambassador to Canada. In her financial disclosure statement, she noted she and her husband own “between $30.1 million and $75.3 million in assets in USPS competitors or contractors.”

Delivering mail in a damn boat on a damn river.

That’s what we call ‘a conflict of interest’. Any harm DeJoy does to the USPS not only helps Trump, it helps DeJoy’s businesses. He was obligated to divest himself of those holdings within 30 days of his appointment. Has he? We don’t know. He’s stated “I’ve done what is necessary to ensure that I am and will remain in compliance with those obligations” but I confess I find it impossible to uncritically accept the word of any Trump appointee.

Since his appointment in June, DeJoy has 1) instituted policies that deliberately slow mail delivery, 2) discontinued the practice of carriers delivering mail by the end of the day if it results in overtime, 3) informed the states they can no longer mail ballots to voters at the bulk rate of 20 cents but must pay the First Class rate of 55 cents (nearly tripling the cost of mailing ballots), 4) reassigned or displaced thirty-three senior USPS officials who have decades of experience, disrupting the chain of command, 5) instituted a hiring freeze, and 6) encouraged career USPS officials to take early retirement.

That’s just since the middle of June.

Delivering mail in a damn snowstorm.

This isn’t just Trump eroding faith in a trusted US institution, it’s deliberate sabotage of the Postal Service. It’s clearly intended to disrupt mail service as we approach an election that very likely will hinge on mail-in ballots. And Republicans in Congress will aid and abet Trump in another step toward authoritarian government.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. But Trump will.

lost at sea

The Google tells me there are around 335 cruise ships in the world. I’ve no idea if that’s a reliable figure, but would the Google lie to me? (SPOILER: yeah, it probably would, but what are you gonna do?) The Google also tells me the average number of passengers on a cruise ship is around 3000. The Google isn’t terribly helpful when it comes to average crew size, but it appears to be about a third to a half of the average number of passengers. So let’s split the difference and say the average crew size is 1250. That would make the average number of humans on a cruise ship would be around 4,250.

If that’s the case, then the MSC Divina would be THE average cruise ship. It can carry 3502 passengers and has a crew of 1388.

Glittery and glam, the MSC Divina not only offers an impressive lineup of entertainment options, but also gives cruisers a taste of Italian culture – all for bargain prices designed to compete with other party ships departing Florida’s harbors. With vibrant nightlife and special kids’ fares, MSC Divina has something to appeal to everyone.

Now, imagine if the MSC Divina sank with all hands. The entire ship, all the passengers, the captain, the deck crew, the beauticians, the pursers, the entertainers, the galley staff, the hosts and hostesses, the gift shop operators, the photographers, the fitness instructors, the housekeepers, the bartenders, the dance instructors, the stewards, the massage therapists. All of them, every single one, down with the ship, drowned. Four thousand, two hundred and fifty souls lost at sea.

Now imagine a cruise ship the size of the MSC Divina sinking with all hands every week for thirty-five weeks.

That’s what we’ve got with Covid-19 in the United States.

If 35 cruise ships sank off the US coast over the course of five months, what would we do? What we ARE doing is ignoring the professional ship builders and designers who testify under oath that Covid cruise ships aren’t safe. We have a president who not only dismisses the expertise of the ship builders, but who claims to know more about ship building than anybody else. We have a president who treats cruise ships sinking as a public relations problem. We have a president who claims he’s saved millions of people from drowning by banning Chinese cruise ships from docking in US ports.

We have state and federal government officials who have the duty and the authority to prevent passengers and crew from boarding those MSC Davinas, but for political reasons refuse to issue a DO NOT BOARD mandate. They argue that there are several cruise ships that haven’t sunk. We have state and federal officials who argue children should board the MSC Davina because they are less likely to drown. We have state and federal officials who will encourage folks not to board cruise ships, but won’t stop them. They say they trust people will act responsibly and decide for themselves not to board.

Today we’ll hit 150,000 confirmed Covid-19 deaths. We’re dying here. We’re drowning. And the people whose job is to protect us claim it would be government overreach to pull up the gangplank.

EDITORIAL NOTE: I’m sure the actual MSC Divina is a grand ship, perfectly lovely, excellently staffed, and crewed by consummate professionals, as are all the ships belonging to the Mediterranean Shipping Company. This is me covering my ass.

this is not difficult; wear a mask

You know what the difference is between experts and fuckwits? I’ll tell you. Experts learn from their mistakes. Okay, there are other differences too, but that’s a big one.

Yesterday, in his FoxNEWS interview with Chris Wallace, Comrade Trump (not an expert) responded to a question about masks with this: “Dr. Fauci said don’t wear a mask. Our surgeon general, terrific guy, said don’t wear a mask. Everybody was saying don’t wear a mask. All of a sudden, everybody’s got to wear a mask.” He went on to say he believes masks are good, but clearly Trump’s intent was to discredit Fauci and the necessity of wearing a face mask in public.

Wear a mask in the cereal aisle.

Today the conservative online magazine The Federalist parroted Trump’s argument in an essay written by David Marcus (not an expert) called ‘How Have Our Scientific Experts Gotten So Much Wrong?’. The magazine, by the way, is privately owned, so it doesn’t have to disclose who the owners are or who funds the magazine; make of that what you will. Here’s an example of what Marcus (still not an expert) thinks the experts have been ‘wrong’ about:

Masks don’t make a difference. Remember that? It was about two months ago. The consensus of scientific experts who must be obeyed unless one is a Trump-loving troglodyte assured us that there was no need to don a silly mask. Today, masks are the Holy Grail of stopping the virus. How did that happen? What do we know in July that we didn’t know in May?

At least non-expert Marcus asked the right question: what do we know now that we didn’t know back in May? Sadly, he assumes the answer is ‘nothing’. He fails–or refuses–to understand two things. First, this is a novel coronavirus. It’s brand new; we’ve never seen it or dealt with it before, so nobody, including the experts, knows quite what it does, how it does it, or how to stop it from doing it. The experts hoped SARS‑CoV‑2 would act like similar coronaviruses (it hasn’t) and would respond to similar treatments (it doesn’t).

Wear a mask in the garden center.

To answer Marcus’s question, there’s a LOT we know now that we didn’t know in May. We didn’t know infected people could be asymptomatic for up to a couple of weeks. We didn’t know asymptomatic people could transmit the virus. We didn’t know the virus could be transmitted by talking loudly or singing, and not just by the more common forms such as coughing and sneezing. We didn’t know masks were an effective way to significantly retard transmission. That’s what we know now that we didn’t know in May.

This is how science works. This is what experts do that fuckwits don’t. They incorporate new information and allow it to revise their understanding of the problem in order to better shape their response to it. The fact that the experts were wrong at the beginning doesn’t mean they’re unreliable, or that they can’t be trusted, or that they’re not really experts. It just means they didn’t know as much back then.

Another example of the difference between experts and fuckwits. Marcus (very much not an expert) wrote:

[O]f all the blunders by our elite intellects that must not be questioned, perhaps the most significant is one that President Trump pointed out in March only to be jeered and mocked. On March 4, the president told Sean Hannity that he had a hunch that the World Health Organization’s assertion that 3.4 percent of people who contracted the Chinese Virus would die was wrong. He said he believed the actual number was closer to .5 percent…. Months after the mockery of him, it turns out Trump was right. It also turns out, and I know this is impossible so I can’t explain it, the scientific experts who must be obeyed were, how should I put this…um, (leans into microphone) “wrong.”

Maybe not. As I write this, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the US is 3,925,886. The number of confirmed Covid-19 deaths is 143,515. In other words, about 3.65% of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the US have died. That’s a tad more than the experts of the WHO estimate, but a LOT more accurate that the ‘hunch’ of Comrade Trump (not anywhere close to being an expert).

Wear a mask in the produce department.

Near the end of his editorial, Marcus (OMG not an expert) says this:

Let’s remember that the massive spikes in deaths predicted when Gov. Brian Kemp opened Georgia, or when Trump held a rally in Tulsa a month ago did not materialize. 

Yes, let’s do some remembering. Let’s remember that Georgia re-opened on April 30th. They had 693 new cases that day. Yesterday they had 2,453 new cases, a bit down from their seven-day average of 3,201. And let’s remember that on June 20, when Trump held his rally in Tulsa, they had 331 new cases. Yesterday they had 916, up from their seven-day average of 715 new cases.

And while we’re remembering that, let’s also remember that new Covid-19 cases lag a couple of weeks behind actual infections, and that Covid-19 deaths lag anywhere from two to four months behind diagnosis. Bodies are going to start piling up.

Don’t be one of those fuckwits without a masks.

Marcus (nothing like an expert) concludes by suggesting we should weigh the advice of all those experts who’ve been wrong against our own common sense. And hey, he’s right. We really should do that. But when we’re doing that weighing, our common sense should tell us to include the weight of the 143,515 dead Americans.

If your common sense tells you NOT to wear a mask, then you’re probably a fuckwit. Don’t be a fuckwit. Wear a mask.

safe to assume

This is just my opinion, but it seems to me that the Trump administration has demonstrated an uncanny ability to do the worst possible thing at the worst possible moment for the worst possible reasons. For example, changing the process for reporting Covid-19 cases during the biggest spike in Covid-19 cases.

Even if we give the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt (stop laughing, it’s just a hypothetical example) and accept that they just want to ‘streamline’ the reporting process, it’s still a phenomenally idiotic point in time to do it. I mean, the CDC has been collecting and reporting hospitalization data for decades. Everybody is familiar with the system, everybody knows what to do, everybody knows the data is unfiltered by the government and pretty reliable. Everybody knows they can use that data as a foundation for planning.

Why are all these refrigerated trucks parked outside of hospitals? It’s a mystery.

Sure, that system is being challenged by a shocking number of Covid-19 cases. We’re talking about national daily infection rates of more than 50,000 new cases a day. A day, for fuck’s sake. Tens of thousands of cases every day from thousands of health care centers scattered all over the US. The fact that the CDC’s system is handling and publicly reporting all that data shows how stable and robust it is.

But the Trump administration has decided to route that data through a private corporation. A private corporation run by a Trump supporter. A Trump supporter and long-time GOP donor who got the US$10.2 million contract through a no-bid process. A contract that requires health care centers to learn an unfamiliar protocol that includes several additional types of data, some of which isn’t usually collected by some state health agencies. The phrase ‘recipe for disaster’ comes to mind.

The worst possible decision at the worst possible time for the worst possible reasons. Well, I’m assuming the worst possible reasons. It’s safe to assume the Trump administration is acting out of the worst possible reasons, because that so often turns out to be the case. It’s theoretically possible somebody in the administration truly and sincerely believes the shift in data collection is being done to make the process more transparent and more simple. But there are people in the Trump administration who truly and sincerely believe prayer is an effective tool in the fight against gun violence. And teen pregnancy. And climate change. And, I don’t know, forest fires. Halitosis. The outcome of football games.

This isn’t to suggest Comrade Trump is actually driving refrigerated body trucks. He doesn’t have a commercial driver’s licence.

So yeah, it’s probably safe to assume this plan to shift Covid-19 data collection from a familiar robust system used by the CDC to a new protocol created by a private company owned by a Trump supporter is designed to control what information the public gets. To turn the data into a political tool. To cook the books and make the pandemic seem somewhat less catastrophic than it is. To benefit Trump.

It’s safe to assume everything Trump does is to benefit Trump. Everything.