it’s just a volcano, what’s the fuss?

I read the news every morning. A variety of news from a variety of sources. A lot of news. World news, US news, weather news, technology news, science news, art news, historical news (which isn’t an oxymoron), an increasingly smaller bit of sports news (mostly cycling news IF it pertains to electric bikes), occasional religious news, and an eclectic smattering of entertainment news (movie/tv/fiction reviews, some gaming news, nothing that involves scandals or super hero/comic stuff or Kardashians–who I keep thinking are an alien species on an early Star Trek series, but apparently aren’t). I like the news. I like to keep up. Even when the news is frustrating.

This morning I read an Associated Press article about ‘vaccine hesitancy’. A lot of people–mostly in Republican-led states–aren’t just hesitant about getting the Covid vaccine; they’re actively resistant. And resistant for massively stupid reasons. For example, this woman from Mississippi:

“All of the strong Christians that I associate with are against it. Fear is what drives people to get the vaccine — plain and simple. The stronger someone’s trust is in the Lord, the least likely they are to want the vaccine or feel that it’s necessary.”

I dunno, but I think if I was a god, I wouldn’t want to be worshipped by intellectually lazy people. I mean, what’s the value of a worshiper who essentially says, “You know, I’m not gonna make any decisions that require me to think; I’ll just let god decide.” Folks who could gather information, make an informed decision and act on it, but choose not to? Fuck that; I’d want those fuckwits to worship some other god.

Put a band-aid on that cut.

You get a cut on your leg? “Fear is what drives people to get band-aids—plain and simple. The stronger someone’s trust is in the Lord, the least likely they are to want a band-aid or feel that it’s necessary.” You live downstream from a pig farm? “Fear is what drives people to purify their water—plain and simple. The stronger someone’s trust is in the Lord, the least likely they are to want clean water or feel that it’s necessary.” Volcano erupting? “Fear is what drives people to avoid lava and pyroclastic flow—plain and simple. The stronger someone’s trust is in the Lord, the least likely they are to leave town when an eruption is imminent or feel that it’s necessary.”

If I was a god, I wouldn’t force worshipers to put band-aids on cuts or get vaccinated against deadly diseases or leave Dodge if a volcano was getting frisky. But I like to think I’d let them know they idiots and maybe they’d be better off finding another god somewhere down the street.

Okay, I’m not a god. I don’t have a clue how gods think. I suppose there might be gods who are willing to be worshipped by any dunce that walks down the street. I suppose there are gods who don’t care about grammar, who hear their followers say ‘the least they are likely to’ and just give a celestial shrug. Maybe there are gods who actually want worshipers who can’t be bothered to slap a bandage on a cut or purify their water. Maybe they think that’s funny–the divine equivalent to prank television. Look at those rubes; the pigs shit in the water upstream and they’re just gonna drink it…hilarious! There’s no reason gods can’t be assholes too, I guess.

I TOLD you to put a band-aid on it, but did you listen?

Here’s the problem: all those folks refusing to use band-aid, refusing purify their water, refusing to evacuate when the volcano gets active–they’re only hurting themselves. But refusing to get vaccinated, that hurts other people. That’s selfish. I’m of the opinion that any god who wants selfish worshipers is an asshole god and doesn’t deserve any respect. I feel sorry for people who’d worship an asshole god. I feel sorry for them, but I want them (and their god) to stay away from me.

And would it hurt them to wear a mask?

covid on the floor

February 12, 2021 — HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s statewide mask mandate that had been in place since July was lifted Friday by Gov. Greg Gianforte. Gianforte, a Republican, promised the day after assuming office in January that he would lift the state’s mask mandate once there were liability protections in place for businesses and health care providers. The state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Gregory Holzman, resigned from his post Thursday, the day after Gianforte announced he would lift the mask mandate.

April 6, 2021 — BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has tested positive for COVID-19. The Republican governor’s office released a statement Monday evening saying that after experiencing mild symptoms a day earlier, Gianforte was tested “out of an abundance of caution.” All of the governor’s in-person events have been canceled, and he plans to work from his home in Bozeman. His staff will be be tested for the virus Tuesday.

Moron

Dr. Gregory Holzman: There are multiple reports across the nation of people stepping on Legos and hurting their bare feet.
Gov. Gianforte: Fake news. I’ve never stepped on a Lego. I’ve never seen a Lego.
Dr. H: Legos are real. People are dropping them on both coasts. It’s only a matter of time before Legos get dropped here in Montana. We should consider a boot mandate until we can isolate the people who are dropping Legos.
Gov. G: A boot mandate? That would be an infringement on the freedom of Montanans. Besides, only a few people in Montana have stepped on Legos.
Dr. H: Until we can identify who is dropping Legos, a boot mandate will prevent widespread foot injuries. We need to stay ahead of the problem.
Gov. G: I’m not going to issue a boot mandate when only a hundred or so Montanans have stepped on a Lego.
Dr. H: But the number of instances of people stepping on Legos is increasing. Happily, recent research indicates boots may not be necessary; shoes will be equally effective.
Gov. G: First you say boots, now you say shoes. Maybe you’re wrong about shoes too. Besides, most people who step on Legos recover.
Dr. H: Thousands of Legos…probably tens of thousands…are on the floor in Montana now. People are stepping on them at an unprecedented rate. A shoe mandate is vital.
Gov. G: Okay, I’ll suggest people should start wearing shoes, but I’m not going to make it mandatory.
Dr. H: The hospitals are being overwhelmed with foot injuries from people stepping on Legos.
Gov. G: Okay, I’ll issue a shoe mandate. Happy now?
Dr. H: Foot injuries are leveling off. There are fewer reports of Legos being dropped on the floor.
Gov. G: I’ll remove the shoe mandate.
Dr. H: No, it’s too early. Some of your own staff may have stepped on a Lego. We need to keep the shoe mandate in place a little bit…
Gov. G: I’ve removed the shoe mandate.
Dr. H: I quit.
Gov. G: Ouch. What the hell did I just step on?
Dr. H (muttering): Moron.

And that’s today’s lesson.

‘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.