Delta Blues — Variant that overwhelmed India threatens the West

Delta Blues

variant that overwhelmed India threatens the West

July 29th 2021

Three states totaling one fourth of the US population made up 40% of new cases of COVID-19 last week. All were in the South, all were heavily Republican, and all had very low rates of vaccination against COVID. Even more dismaying, over 80% of new cases were the Delta variant.

There is more news about the Delta variant, and most of it is pretty bad. First, there’s the matter of the transmission rate. It has an R0 between 5 and 8, which means that an infected individual can be expected to infect between 5 and 8 susceptible individuals. For comparison, the Alpha variant had an R0 between 4 and 5. A report by the Washington Post tonight suggest the R0 estimate may be revised upward, which is catastrophically bad news.

When the R0 is four, this is how it can spread: If you infect an expected four people, and each in turn infects 4 more, that’s 20 people. Those sixteen new cases go on to infect 64 more. Those 64 infect 256 more. It’s exponential growth, and the numbers grow very rapidly.

But if the R0 is eight, then one person infects 8, they in turn infect 64, they in turn infect 512, and they infect 4,096. Same number of stages of growth, but one number is eight times as high. The gaps widens exponentially. The gap is 16 times as high in the next stage.

By way of comparison, the flu has a R0 between 1.3 and 1.6, depending on the strain. In a typical flu season, millions get the flu, thousands die, although vaccines are causing a drop in those numbers. (Because of social distancing, a happy side effect was that “flu season” last winter was the smallest in at least 100 years). The common cold has an R0 between 2 and 3, and yet nearly everyone gets at least one cold in a given year. Of course, there’s hundreds of strains of virus out there that cause the cold, and it’s just a part of our lives. But those R0 rates should scare any one capable of doing simple arithmetic.

Rubella, which is notoriously contagious, has an R0 of 6 and 7, making it essentially as infectious as the Delta variant. The mumps, which used to routinely wildfire through entire school districts, has an R0 of 10-12. So does chickenpox. The regular measles has an R0 of 12-18.

It gets worse: people who have received both shots, either Moderna or Pfizer, may only have an 8-10% chance of being infected with the Alpha variant and are considered fairly low risk to carry it on. With the Delta variant, the chance of infection is higher, although it is yet to be determined how much higher. The one bit of good news is that 90% of those with vaccines will have mild or non-existent symptoms. However, they “virus load” (i.e. become as contaminated) as non-vaccinated people, and can pass the disease along to nearly all unvaccinated and an unknown but sizable number of vaccinated people.

When I was a kid, measles, mumps and chickenpox were very nearly inevitable, and sometimes killed kids. I’m glad they are part of our past, along with diseases like polio and smallpox.

The elephant in the room is “long COVID”–a galaxy of aftereffects that range from annoying to debilitating. Respiratory issues, vascular problems, “brain fog”, fatigue and susceptibility to other diseases. It is known to show up in people who remained asymptomatic in the initial stages of the disease. We have no clear idea how or even if it manifests in people who have gotten their shots and become infected. It may take years before we really do know. But the threat is there.

So if you have your shots and you’re swanning around maskless, stop doing that right now. What for you might be nothing worse than a mild cold could mean potentially significant health issues for you in the future.

You will also be a deadly threat to anyone you encounter who hasn’t been vaccinated. If you infect 8 people and they infect 64 and they infect 512, the odds are you just killed a half dozen people, and hospitalized about 24 others.

So mask up and observe social distancing. Yes, we’re all sick to death of it, and furious at the fools who won’t take steps to defend themselves and everyone else, but unless we want America to be the first country to stupid itself to death, we need to keep taking these steps and hope our social recklessness doesn’t open the door to even bigger medical problems.

Mask up. Keep your distance, and if you haven’t yet, get your shots. Over 163 million have, and it’s clear they are safe and effective. And yes, Delta variant is effective in its own way, but it sure ain’t safe.

Stay safe, exercise better sense than a squirrel on the freeway, and we’ll get through this.

The Jabs — Necessary rush on vaccines sparks concern

December 19th 2020

The vaccines for COVID-19 are rolling out. Pfizer has been out for 10 days, and the Moderna variation will be out next week. Between them, they stand to save millions of lives and protect tens of millions from debilitating aftereffects from this terrible disease.

A lot of people have concerns, and it’s not just limited to the anti-vax nuts. Normally a new vaccine gets five or so years of testing before it’s approved for use on humans, and vaccines specific to the coronavirus family of diseases—yes, there are many of those—are still an emerging medical technology.

So a lot of sensible people are watching carefully to see what sorts of side effects people are experiencing over the next few months. American testing of new drugs is a sad joke, since neo-liberalistic policies have created a situation where most of the testing is done by the companies that stand to profit from the new medicine. This has led to nightmares such as oxycontin, where the family-owned business testing the drug failed to notice it was as addictive as meth and twice as destructive.

If the Sackler family and Purdue were willing to ruin millions of lives for profit, then the motivations of the testers in a situation of genuine crisis have to be watched carefully. If millions of dollars can justify mass murder, then millions of lives can easily justify ignoring dangerous problems. Whenever politicians are under immense pressure to Do Something, they will, even though often as not it’s entirely the wrong thing.

So it’s reasonable to be suspicious. Sensible, in fact.

Vaccines have saved billions of lives over the past 75 years or so. They eradicated smallpox and all but eradicated polio and many other diseases that killed millions per year.

But like all medical treatments, they aren’t perfect, and don’t work for all people. People react differently, and there are many allergies out there. Should someone who is fatally allergic to eggs take the vaccine? Normally I would say probably not—most vaccines have ovalbumin in them since the killed viruses are grown in eggs. But as I understand it, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do not contain ovalbumin or killed virus. Instead, they are based on “messenger ribonucleic acid.” (mRNA) which is a ribonucleic acid fragment that triggers the body’s autoimmune response to COVID-19. It’s a pretty new technology and early results are very promising.

But nobody knows if the immunity is permanent, or if it will work against the inevitable variations nature will provide, such as COVID-20, 21, 22, etc. (“19” refers to the year it was identified; my use of numbers was just to make the point that new coronaviruses show up all the time.)

While there haven’t been any legitimate reports of serious side effects, stay watchful. There are likely to be at least isolated instances, and we’ll all have to weigh the risks in the shots against the certain risks of the disease.

So watch the news carefully, especially foreign news as American news is mostly corporate masturbatory fantasies designed to sell ads. Sensible caution is in order.

Vaccines do have side effects that affect a lot of people. Most people have experienced one of the following from a shot: Injection site pain, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever. Nearly always, these are transitory, lasting less than a day, and harmless.

A certain number of people—hopefully in rare instances—will have more serious reactions. Widespread itching, rash, high fever, muscle spasms, or worse, go see a doctor immediately. But hopefully, we’re talking one in 10,000 people here. Hopefully less.

If your head falls off and rolls away into the gutter, don’t bother with a doctor. Call a friend who is already in Qanon instead.

But between the corrosive effects of social media and the large colony of howling hostile nuts on the far right, wild propaganda is already emerging.

This morning one breathless sort on Facebook claimed there had been “7 deaths reported during the Pfizer testing!” She kinda undercut herself by continuing, “and four of them were only taking the placebo!” Someone else pointed out that given the sample size, statistics made it even odds that six people would die during the course of the testing just because people are mortal.

Other wild claims making the rounds: the horrific pictures of gangrenous fingers and toes are real, and yes, they are well-known side effects of COVID. Blood clots form, causing necrosis. The chief of security for Donald Trump caught it, and wound up losing a leg and the other foot. I can’t vouch for every individual image you see, but yes, COVID can cause that, and a whole lot more problems. It is NOT “just the flu”. Over 320,000 people in the US have died from it, and about 30% of the 10 million or so “recovered” have long-term, sometime permanent health problems, ranging from the level of nuisances to completely incapacitating.

If anyone tells you they aren’t getting the shot because Bill Gates or George Soros wants to microchip you, turn about and walk away. Life’s too short to deal with delusional nuts.

This is going to sound heartless, but the people who say they won’t get a vaccine because vaccines are evil, or because COVID doesn’t exist, are doing us a favor. We’ll look back on it as “the great cull” and the average IQ of America will go up ten points.

But in the meantime, be cautious, and a little wary. Talk to people who know what the hell they are talking about, pay attention to the news, talk to medical people you know. You will have to play the odds a little bit—possible drawbacks to the shots versus possibly horrific drawbacks to getting sick.

But think first, react second.

Don’t Be Stupid – Don’t Be Donald

Don’t Be Stupid – Don’t Be Donald.

October 5th 2020

I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2020

If anyone doesn’t understand the difference between courage and foolhardiness, this tweet will stand as a terrific example. It leaves me hoping that his health will take a turn for the worse (and normally I would want him to live to lose the election and stand trial for his many crimes) because telling his idiot followers that COVID is nothing to fear will get hundreds of thousands killed, on top of the 170,000 or so who have died as a result of his attitude.

Donald Trump stands to kill more Americans than Hitler did, and for similar reasons. Contempt for Americans, and utter hatred of a free and open society.

The sad thing is that it won’t be just the fools who worship him. In Biblical times it was a golden calf. Now it’s an orange jackass. Oh, they’ll die by the thousands, but mostly the victims will be people around them—their family, their friends, their co-workers, people in stores and restaurants that they casually infect.

A leader will often exhort this countrymen in times of great peril. FDR, upon his inauguration in a time of economic collapse, and again in the wake of Pearl Harbor. Abraham Lincoln when a third of the country chose treason for the sake of slavery. Churchill facing down Hitler. There are times when it is a leader’s right and duty to call on his people to make sacrifices and risk their lives for the greater good.

But a leader doesn’t have any right to tell his nation’s children to go play on the freeway, or smoke cigarettes for national profit. Don’t step out in front of buses.

Trump just wants people to piss away their lives because he’s trying to protect Wall Street and because he believes, for some demented reason, that only a weak leader tackles a national crisis and it’s the role of a strong leader to pretend it isn’t happening.

Trump went back to the White House today, sweaty and gasping for breath, and it’s the nature of this disease that he isn’t out of crisis yet, and that he has a pretty good chance of taking long-term damage above and beyond what he’s already at risk for. Just for mindless showmanship. And he’s putting hundreds of lives at immediate risk just by wandering the White House unmasked.

How crazy is it going to get? Trump campaign aide Erin Perrine went on Fox News today to suggest that President Donald Trump is a better leader than Democratic candidate Joe Biden because he has the “firsthand experience” of being infected with COVID-19.

That’s a bit like saying you should be appointed city commissioner of public transportation because you got drunk and walked in front of a bus and got run down. Trump got stupid(er) and caught a disease he could have readily avoided. You might survive sticking your tongue in a wall socket, but boasting about it to others isn’t going to make them think you’re intelligent, or even sane.

Trump is neither intelligent nor sane. Foolhardiness isn’t a legitimate form of “first hand experience.”

Should you be afraid of COVID-19? Well, as of this evening, we have 7,679,644 cases. 215,032 of those cases resulted in death. 4,895,078 people have recovered. Now for the really alarming news: 2,569,534 have not recovered, and have spent weeks and even months fighting this disease and still are. Many of them will have compromised health going forward for the rest of their lives. Over 14,000 of them are presently in critical condition, their lives in the balance. They will never recover.

Donald Trump, in his psychotic need to pretend everything is OK and he is a great leader, is rolling the dice. He’s far sicker than he’s letting on, probably sicker than he’s admitting to himself. He may end up as the poster boy for the non-lethal damage this disease causes. And of course, he might drop dead at any point over the next few weeks.

Should we be afraid of COVID-19? No.

But we should treat it with respect, and not follow a fool who says for his own self-aggrandizement that there is nothing to be afraid of, masks are for weaklings, and he is the example of that. He’s lying to you right now, and he’ll keep right on lying no matter how bad it gets for him because he can’t stand to look weak or wrong.

But he is weak. He is wrong. He is the drunk who wandered out in front of a bus, and somehow survived, and wants that to be a gleaming example so you might step blindly off the curb, refusing to be cowed by buses.

That isn’t courage. That is stupidity.

Don’t be stupid. Don’t be Donald. Wear a mask. Maintain social distancing. And don’t walk out in front of buses.

Poor, Brave Trump! – The fearless folly of the Donald

October 3rd, 2020

Trump got squeezed into one of his poor-fitting suits and sat in front of a US and Presidential flag that utterly failed to conceal that he was in a hospital room and made a four minute video for the nation. This normally would be a very good thing, since a sick president leaves the entire country unnerved and in need of a calming voice. Such reassurances are usually…staged. Some never existed: the country may have felt reassured at the story that as he was being wheeled into the OR after being shot, Reagan gave the doctors a cheery thumbs-up, but much later we learned that was strictly PR bullshit.

Trump looked better than some of the more dire stories had it but the makeup and his seated position couldn’t quite hide the fact that he wasn’t 100%.

Characteristically, he took the opportunity to praise his heroism and courage:

But 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, don’t even go to the Oval Office, just stay upstairs and enjoy it, don’t see people, don’t talk to people and just be done with it and I can’t do that. I had to be out front and – this is America, this is the United States, this is the greatest country in the world, this is the most powerful country in the world. I can’t be locked up in a room upstairs and totally safe and just say: ‘Hey, whatever happens happens.’ I can’t do that. We have to confront problems. As a leader you have to confront problems. There’s never been a great leader that would have done that.”

Mind you, Mister “Whatever happens happens, I can’t do that” said of the same disease just two weeks ago, “It is what it is.” Stoicism is an easy way to cover up moral and mental bankruptcy. Trump is trying to pretend he was out, ignoring the danger, doing the people’s business and fulfilling his duties as president.

In reality, he’s still the same indolent buffoon he’s always been, going out only to play his indeterminable games of golf and hold his super-spreader rallies, putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk to fill his mindless need for adulation. Even then, at a recent rally in a display of what passes for humor with Trump, he told his audience that he wasn’t taking any risk—he was ‘way up on his dais, well away from the people he privately calls ‘disgusting.’ All those braying morons, going home to infect friends, family, associates, because Trump felt personally safe. He must have been really tickled pink over that.

He expressed gratitude for all non-American leaders who wished him well. Some, like Boris Johnson, were undoubtedly sincere. Kim Yong Un was probably fairly pro forma. His country isn’t allowed to admit that COVID-19 exists. Trump didn’t want to admit Joe Biden and the Democrats exist, either, and so ignored their well wishes.

Then there’s Putin, and Russia. They have a radio show called 60 Minutes that resembles the American television show of that name much the way OAN resembles Walter Cronkite. The Russian version had its own unique take on it, per the Daily Beast:

Discussing Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, Evgeny Popov, the host of Russian state media news talk show 60 Minutes, said, ‘Our candidate got sick.’ His co-host Olga Skabeeva reminded the viewers that Trump is in a high-risk group, due to being elderly and overweight. Referring to former Vice President Joe Biden, Popov added, ‘The other one may get sick too.’”

Davis said commentary also included condolences to the president who was taken to Walter Reed Hospital late Friday, and that Popov and Skabeeva also commented that the Democrats were “celebrating” Trump’s health woes, only to have reporter Denis Davydov in the U.S. point out that “Trump’s Twitter mentions are filled with messages of support,” to which Popov shot back, “Those are just the Russian bots.”

Ha ha ha. Very droll, comrade. ‘Russian bots.’ Must mock foolish Americaner intelligence. After show, we get drunk, go in alley way and urinate on pussy cats, no? After all, there is full Moon!

Trump’s opaque and dishonest reign has made Kremlin watchers out of all of us, where we all feverishly scan minutiae in hopes of determining what few morsels of truth may exist in the White House sewage. Now that he’s ill and even possibly critically ill, the versions regarding what’s going on are a deep and wide river. It’s safe to assume 90% of it is utter nonsense, and 9/10ths of the rest exaggerations of reality.

Three Republican Senators have tested positive over the past few days, raising the interesting prospect that for the next month or so, the Senate may actually have Democrats in control. At least two of the Senators sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will be having what the GOP jokingly refers to as “hearings” on Amy Barrett next week. Maybe. At least one reputable source opines that some or all of the Republican Senators may fake claims of having the disease in order to avoid voting on her, since it’s obvious to one and all that she is a poison pill that will destroy the GOP. At least five Republican Senators who had reasonable leads just two months ago in November’s races have seen their leads dwindle to ties and even losses. They have to be feeling desperate right now. Their leader’s bad habit of making them all swim in a Petri dish in order to pretend the pandemic isn’t a problem may actually take them off the hot seat and even possibly save their careers.

Republicans have suddenly rediscovered compassion and empathy in the past day, but I have my great big “fuck you” potato gun ready for any that try pulling that crap on me. It’s manipulative bullshit, and I’m not going to play that game.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on the news. We live in interesting times.

Satire is Dead – Trumped like a can of beans

August 18th, 2020

Hours before the opening of the Democratic Convention, Trump tried to grab the headlines that he would be making a very, very important pardon the next day.

A lot of people thought he might pardon Julian Assange, if for no other reason than it would annoy American intelligence agencies. Even Trump couldn’t quite dare pardoning Snowden, who is more of a loose cannon. Now, my own opinion was the pardon couldn’t be all that important, since Hitler blew his brains out 75 years ago and even Trump wouldn’t be able to rehabilitate him. Granted, I was joking, but Trump, like most right wing whacks, will do ANYTHING if he thinks it might annoy a liberal. Honoring Hitler has a proven track record of annoying liberals. And since Trump is reduced to thinking anyone not in Qanon or the Nazi Party is a liberal, that’s a satisfyingly large audience to antagonize.

So today, he pardoned…Susan B. Anthony. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the pardon itself. The 19th century suffragent was convicted under an unfair and unjust law, one that was struck down some 48 years later and 14 years after her death. She’s since been widely honored, becoming the first actual woman to be on a US coin.

But in the middle of a vast campaign to persuade voters that permitting mail-in voting would cause vast amounts of voter fraud and thus would justify disenfranchising millions of Americans, he just pardoned someone for committing the crime of … voter fraud. Yes, that’s right. Anthony was convicted and jailed for voting under false pretences, ie, pretending to be a male. A US male, if you will.

Trump had various loony toons from the anti-abortion movement with him as he signed the pardon. The no-choicers had decided, based on precious little evidence, that Anthony was anti-abortion. While she surely opposed the practice of forcing women to have abortions against their will, there’s no record of her opinion on the right of women to elect to have an abortion. Indeed, while abortion was fairly common place despite being sometimes illegal in some states, it wasn’t a big issue since the country wasn’t overrun with pseudo-religious nutjobs who mistook their own personal squeamishness for a natural law of the universe.

Some wondered if Trump was taking a shot of some sort at Michelle Obama. The former first lady had just decimated Trump in a speech at the DNC, declaring Trump “in over his head” and deadpanning, “It is what it is.” Trump was in an open fury the next morning, banging around on Twitter like a nervous cat in a box with exploding ladyfingers. If he was trying to show up Little Miss “It Is What It Is” he missed badly.

Having put that nasty little negress in her place (and I’m pleased to see my spell checker didn’t like that word), Trump went after Jacinda Ardern, another strong women who has humiliated Trump in the past (they are legion, you know). Having just finished eulogizing his brother for having the grace and courage not to be jealous of Donald’s superiority and brilliance, he attacked Ardern and New Zealand for having an outbreak of Covid-19. “The places they were using to hold up now they’re having a big surge … they were holding up names of countries and now they’re saying ‘whoops! Do you see what’s happening in New Zealand? They beat it, they beat it, it was like front-page news because they wanted to show me something.”

The “Big Surge” was nine new cases in one day. Under Trump’s leadership, the United States has more than nine new cases each and every second of every day. The second wave is arriving—there has been a surge of new cases throughout Europe (where the disease actually originated) and Asia. New Zealand had been doing extraordinarily well fighting the plague (the best, as opposed to Trump’s America, which has been the worst) but this is a pernicious disease.

Perhaps if Trump is really lucky, a child will die in New Zealand. Then he can use that to justify the ten thousand or so children in the US who are likely to die from his push to have the schools reopen.

Finally, just in case anyone is feeling a need to ironically mock the American leader, Trump yesterday teamed up with that con artist Mike Lindell, who shills pillows on the television to hawk the latest miracle cure for Covid-19: Oleander. The compound, called oleandrin, is toxic, and has no known efficacy against Covid-19. One expert wrote, “Oleandrin? Yeah that would definitely end up killing people,” tweeted David Juurlink, MD, PhD, of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto. Trump is pressing for the FDA to give it a handwave approval, desperate for a miracle cure before the election and willing to kill millions if need be to secure such.

I hereby urge Trump and everyone who supports him to take oleandrin and let us know how it works out. After all, it won’t kill all of them, and they should be prepared to risk their all for Donald.

And we can bury the unlucky ones in the same graveyard where we just buried satire.

Down the Rabbit Hole — Alas in Blunderland

July 20th 2020

Not much doubt we’ve stumbled into a meth-driven Hunter S. Thompson fugue state these days. I’ve sometimes wondered what old Hunter would have made of Trumpenstate 2020. He would have been either rolling on the floor, convulsed with laughter and scribbling furiously, or he would have blown his brains out. Can’t really imagine him scratching a cheek and languidly asking, “Wow. How ‘BOUT that?”

But then, it’s not a languid era. You can cry, you can laugh, or you can get your rifle. None of them are particularly good signs of mental health, but our psyches aren’t really equipped to deal with the madness that pervades our lives today.

You have clowns in camo snatching up peaceful protesters and hauling them away in unmarked vans. The Supreme Court has just ruled that those rounded up by the gestapo can be held indefinitely, a system that the Soviet Russians used to refer to as “the Gulag Archipelago.” We have a demented president and a mafioso-corrupt attorney-general praising the gestapo’s actions in Portland, Seattle and now Chicago, and promising to attack other peaceful protesters, presumably in hopes of sparking full-spread rebellion, a Reichstag fire of protest than can justify a Nazi coup against America.

And once they’ve rounded up protesters and thrown them into camps, what next? Well, the administration has been consulting with vicious dirtbag and justifier of torture, John Yoo, on how best to torture their prisoners, and while they’re at it, flout executive law through executive order. Trump wants to issue decrees on healthcare, immigration and “various other plans” over the coming month. He finally had to back way from his preposterously cruel plan to deport all foreign students from the nation’s colleges. A pity. That worked so well for Hitler, ending the war years earlier than if he had maintained a brain trust.

Trump is pushing to open the schools. He’s pretending it’s for the children, but really, he wants to make it possible for parents to return to jobs that may or may not exist. To that end he’s stonewalling on extending unemployment benefits, further cruel coercion meant to prop up an economy that more and more is a vicious joke meant only to serve the very rich. He’ll consider an extension of a month or so if Congress agrees to utterly gut Social Security and Medicare. How fucking kind of him.

Betty DeVos wants to return the kiddies to class, even if it means ten thousand or more of them will die. DeVos, who has never sat in a public classroom and has no educational training of any sort, wants churches and corporations to take over training the brats, and get them past the awkward stage where they’re too little to be of any use in the work camps.

Speaking of demented presidents, we have one that just boasted of “acing” a cognition test. The only time people are administered such tests is when medical personnel are concerned that a person is so far gone mentally that he is a hazard to himself and others. It’s scary enough that they would feel a need to administer such a test to a man in charge of the American military and nuclear weapons, but it’s even scarier that he boasts of “acing” it, even though the final five questions were “very hard.” The sections he found challenging included memory (given five simple words, asked to repeat them back, then and five minutes later) attention (Trump was always notoriously bad at this, and it’s hard to imagine him being able to count down from 100 in increments of 7, ie, 93, 86, 79, 72…), language (accurately repeat simple declarative sentences), abstraction (what pairs of words such as apple and banana have in common) and orientation (present date, month and year, and the name of the place they are in as well as the city). Test providers then praise the subject, no matter how they did on the test as positive reinforcement for future sessions using such tests. The test is 30 points, 26 is considered borderline cognitive decline, and 20 a sign of significant cognitive decline, so Donald could have scored 15, and been praised for how he did on the test. That Trump was even given the test is disturbing; that he boasted about how well he did is horrifying.

He wants to cut billions of dollars for COVID-19 testing and tracking even as the number of cases in the US alone approaches 4 million, because having a raging pandemic is hurting his reelection chances. Back in 1945, the Nazis shot German citizens who made the mistake of wondering aloud how well the war is going. This is the same mindset.

He still refuses to mandate masks, encouraging a destructive, dangerous and foolhardy anti-mask cult who have been attacking people for wearing masks, or for requiring them before allowing people into their homes or places of business. The anti-maskers are becoming more and more belligerent, and they’re playing with fire: public rage against them is mounting. I expect to hear about some anti-masker getting shot, either by a security guard or an armed customer. Only a matter of time.

Speaking of shooting, has anyone noticed how fast the clowns in the NRA all vanished when government thugs started rounding up civilians and carting them off to camps. This is exactly the situation the NRA said it existed to avoid. Well, I always thought they were nothing but thugs, bullies and cowards. Guess I was right. Fuck the NRA, and fuck anyone who’s a member.

Meanwhile the Roberts Court, tossing a few bones to progressives, has quietly destroyed laws designed to protect people against predatory loan sharks, removed more of the limitations on Wall Street instrument manipulations like the ones that caused the 2007 crash, and removed transparency from hedge fund trading. Just another service provided for the greater fascistic control of American.

Remember: this election is our last best chance to avoid a Fourth Reich. If we don’t take the country back in November, our future is very violent and dark.

The World Hates America — With Damned Good Reason

July 2nd 2020

When the news broke that the US government had snapped up the entire world stock of available remdesivir, the only drug shown to be effective in treating COVID-19, there was immediate outrage. While it’s not a cure of any sort, it shortened the course of hospitalizations for this disease by some 20%, and improved the survival rate by a similar amount. Make no mistake: this is no panacea. COVID-19 is still an extremely dangerous and deadly disease, and remdesivir or no, the long-term effects remain unknown.

The government snapped up some half a million doses, enough to treat about 50-100,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19. It represents some three months of the world’s supply.

It was a vicious and sociopathic move by the US, and unfortunately, is seen as being typical of how Americans operate. In fairness, most Americans were appalled, and that number will grow once it becomes clear Trump didn’t buy it to save their miserable lives, unless they were billionaires or Nazis.

Gilead, the company complicit in this deeply immoral deal, came under immediate scrutiny by the EU and other developed nations. Gilead signed an agreement with the EU to boost production so demand could be met in the next month or so, when warehoused supplies ran out. The unspoken threat was they had better, or the EU would simply suspend their copyright on the drug and make the recipe available for all other pharmaceuticals. The US would oppose that, of course, being the beacon of light to all corporations all over the world, but frankly, the opinion of the US doesn’t carry much weight these days.

Part of the outrage stems from the fact that the US needs more remdesivir than anyone else, simply from reasons that were self inflicted. Where most of the developed world have brought the plague down to manageable levels, the ones governed by insane fascist bastards—Brazil, Russia, India and America—have totally lost control of their infestations. In America, cases which had run over 30,000 new cases a day in late April, were brought down to under 20,000. But between intense pressure from corporate overlords to reopen and “save the economy,” cruel contempt for the safety of workers, prisoners, native populations and the aged, and a truly crack-brained notion that wearing a mask infringed on personal rights, the US completely blew it on efforts to control the disease. New daily cases are above 50,000 now (over 57,000 today) and are expected to reach 100,000 a day over the next few weeks.

The US was already seen with a mixture of horror and pity. The antics of the Trump regime were bad enough; this self-immolation made the US pariah and object lesson. Now the the pity and horror are admixed with rage. If the Americans are too fucking stupid to control their plague, the thinking goes, what right have they to deny responsible nations this drug which might save lives? The US has reached the same communal level as that of a drunk stealing communal wine from the local church.

So now America is seen with horror, pity, and rage.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. Oh, not America’s reputation—it’s thoroughly trashed and will remain that way for decades to come. But Trump’s effort to screw the world isn’t as lethal as it might sound. EU countries, Canada and other places had already stocked up on enough remdesivir to get them through most of July, and they did it without fucking anyone else over. If Gilead follows through on the promise to boost production, little or no harm will be done. And as noted, America is an object lesson: unless you want to see tens or hundreds of your fellow citizens die, don’t follow their example. Tough out the economic lock down, take care of your people, and reopen wisely. Don’t be that guy.

The Republicans have made it clear they won’t extend unemployment benefits or do anything for the millions of people still out of work. To them, open stores are more important than dead Americans. Work, or die. Or both. Report to your work camps for the greater glory of the fuhrer!

The Trump administration is involved in Stalinesque efforts to hide the damage. Just as Hitler secreted his death camps in eastern Europe outside of German borders, Republicans are working hard to hide the extent and damage of the plague, flooding media and social media with false stories about Democrats inflating death numbers, and “wanting America to fail.” The mindset of the GOP, like those of the Nazi party eighty years earlier, is to blame “enemies from within and without” for their failings.

Even now, millions of Americans run around shouting they have a right to go maskless. Police officers in a coffee shop in Oregon today harassed and berated store clerks for asking them to observe the “Masks required” sign on the front door. By the standards of American cops, these were better behaved them some—they didn’t shoot the clerks, or even arrest them. I wonder if those cops think they have a right to go in a day-care center and shit on the playfloor. It’s pretty much the same thing.

Trump is cutting testing so there will be less cases reported. Is it possible to be more stupid?

The EU has banned Americans from visiting. A poll in Canada showed reactions to American visitors ranging from strong aversion (Quebec, where only 24% favored allowing Americans to visit) to projectile vomiting revulsion (BC, where only 6% wanted to allow Americans in). Granted, BC has had a problem with sick Americans sneaking in, and did long before COVID-19 turned up.

The US may or may not come to terms with this disease. But they’ve already lost all their friends, aside from the President’s manipulative buddy in the Kremlin.

Wear a mask. Stay safe. Don’t be one of THOSE Americans.

“God-Given” — The only right you’ll get there is the right to die

God-Given”

The only right you’ll get there is the right to die

May 11th, 2020

 

We had a mass gathering of morons about 75 miles down I-5 over the weekend, a rodeo in a town called Cottonwood. Over 2,000 attended an event whose only rationale was that it was semi-traditional.

This event’s been going on for 50 years, it’s a tradition for probably most of us, the rest of them that are here have been tired of being cooped up for months,” rodeo-goer Don Johnson told KRCR News.

We have constitutional rights, we have inalienable rights given to us by God,” he added.

Well, first there’s the matter of the fact that 2,000 yahoos got together to yell at cowboys mistreating animals. Yes, Northern California has been lightly hit by the pandemic (my county, which is adjacent to Shasta County where Cottonwood is located, has had five cases, none fatal, with the last one on April 10th). Yes, California has moved to Stage 2 of the lock down, and our county has petitioned to be moved to Stage 3. So it’s reasonable for people to drop their guard a bit. But you can be sure none of the yahoos were staying six feet apart, and wearing a mask to fight something a millionth your size just ain’t manly, yuh know?

There was a show on HBO called Avenue 5, about a luxury cruise liner in space which gets knocked off course, and instead of a projected eight weeks, it’s three and a half years from Earth. Written two years before anyone ever heard the phrase “Covid-19” the passengers chafe against the involuntary and seemingly endless isolation, and in the penultimate episode many passengers become convinced that the whole “marooned in space” thing is a hoax, and a number “die of stupidity” in the Captain’s (Hugh Laurie’s) words, by “exposing the hoax” of being in space by stepping out the airlock. You couldn’t watch that without thinking of the whole “ReOpen” movement.

With the exception of certain high-ranking members of the administration, I don’t wish this disease on anybody, and I sincerely hope that all the attendees at the rodeo are in good health two weeks from now. Given the generally light contagion in this region, there’s a chance that wish will pan out. If if just ONE attendee is feeling fine right now has the disease, the stage for an outbreak is set. But I’m sure you’ve been following the course of the pandemic as closely as I have, and know all this.

One line that Johnson uttered was particularly grating. “… [W]e have inalienable rights given to us by God.”

The first thing that crossed my mind was medieval Europe, when contagions swept through (including, most famously, the Black Plague), and people would gather in churches and cathedrals seeking shelter and salvation from the curse. It was a habit that killed additional tens of thousands of people, perhaps more. And while people did not know how the disease spread from one person to another, they couldn’t help but notice that more people who were at those gatherings died. It’s pretty hard to miss something like that, especially if you’re in a small town and it’s easy to see who is dying, and the rate at which they are dying.

But they couldn’t talk about it. It was sacrilege, you see, and at various times and in various places, suggesting that a gathering in the sight of God for salvation wasn’t working out, was in fact making things worse, could get you burned at the stake, or hung, drawn and quartered, or any number of other medieval amusements designed to protect the gods from doubters.

The other reason it irritated is that none of the rights American enjoy were “God-given.” The phrase does appear in the Declaration of Independence, America’s “Dear John” letter to King George III. It was inserted, over author Thomas Jefferson’s objections, as a rhetorical flourish intended to give the document some gravitas in the eyes of the King by citing the one thing in England deemed more powerful than the King himself. Didn’t work, but hey, nice try, guys! Kings are kinda notorious for having only cosmetic reverence for God, and George III was no exception.

The rights that god-struck types like to describe as being Ordained from Above were actually torn from the long history of feudal oppression in Europe by the people themselves. It’s for a reason that the opening words of the Constitution, “We the People…” set the tone for the entire document. Not only did gods and churches have no role in the government of the people being proposed, but the Constitution specified that neither church nor state should interfere in the working of the other, and that no religious qualification should be permitted for any office or position of public trust in America. Nor was that a mere flourish: by its language, “…but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” it’s the one thing in the entire document that cannot be amended.

So when people talk about ‘God-given rights’ not only are they talking about a different set of rights assigned to God by a half-hearted and ineffectual flourish, but the rights they are talking about (incorrectly, in the case of the rodeo) are very explicitly created by People for People. No gods need apply.

I’ve said at several occasions that I social distance, not because the government said so, but as a matter of common sense. Not only am I protecting myself, but I’m lowering the odds of my wandering around with no symptoms but crawling with disease, and thus am protecting you and yours.

I don’t have the government violating my rights because god likes rodeos, and I see no need to take advice from a god that, following the logic of magical thinking, caused the plague in the first place.

 

 

Goldman and Gervais — or, how to deal with Morons.

Goldman and Gervais

or, how to deal with Morons.

April 25th, 2020

William Rivers Pitt on his Facebook page drew my attention to an extraordinary closing line in a column printed today in the New York Times. Ms. Michelle Goldberg wrote, “Chernobyl is now widely seen as a signal event on the road to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Coronavirus may someday be seen as a similar inflection point in the story of American decline. A country that could be brought to its knees this quickly was sick well before the virus arrived.”

As jarring as that paragraph is, Goldberg may have understated the comparison a bit. While noting that the government of the USSR did take responsibility for handling the crisis in the Ukraine, there was a greater element feeding the incompetence.

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, chairman, party leader and political center of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was largely kept in the dark about the severity of the accident at the Pripyat reactor for the first five days or so, as terrified underlings did what terrified underlings in all authoritarian regimes do when the shit hits the fan, and told their bosses what they thought the bosses wanted to hear, rather than what they needed to hear.

Gorbachev was neither a fool nor a narcissist, and once he was made aware of the gravity of the situation, acted swiftly and decisively to try to prevent the damage from further spreading.

We’ll never know within three orders of magnitude how many deaths resulted from the meltdown. Officially, 31 died. Unofficially, the toll may have been in the tens of thousands. There’s little doubt that between unheeded warnings (a nearby nuclear plant of the same design very nearly suffered the exact same catastrophe months earlier) and bureaucratic foot-dragging, the disaster could have been largely averted.

At the time (1986) the accident revealed that the USSR was a deeply dysfunctional state, putting self-preservation ahead of the body public. At the time, I opined that the USSR would be gone by the end of the century. It was considered a radical opinion at that time. The USSR collapsed just four years later, ten years ahead of my own estimate.

The USSR had a couple of advantages over Trump America. It was easier to conceal their mistakes. Gorbachev was not a fool, nor a sociopath. And the area directly affected by the meltdown was far smaller than the parts of America affected by the pandemic.

Gorbachev would have been gone within a week if he had ever appeared on state television to inform the Soviet public that he had heard that scientists were looking at treating radiation poisoning with aspirin, washed down with a litre of motor oil. Even in 1986, Soviet children got a better education than their American counterparts, and would have instantly deduced that the Premier was a) a fool and b) a liar and c) both. Even Izvestia and Pravda would have had trouble defending such a show, or even trying to excuse it.

In the US, subservience to the leader is a bit more pronounced in some quarters. It’s not surprising that GOP organs such as Fox and OANN didn’t try to challenge the remarks, and Brietbart, named for a dead right wing lunatic, tried to deny that Trump had said the insane things he said Thursday about treating the virus with disinfectant, bleach, and UV light. But the NY Times – yes, the same paper Goldberg writes for – wrote in a tweet, “At a White House briefing, President Trump theorized — dangerously, in the view of some experts — about the powers of sunlight, ultraviolet light and household disinfectants to kill the coronavirus.”

SOME experts? I defy the NYT to find a single expert that thinks injecting yourself with Lysol, drinking bleach, and/or sticking a UV light up your ass would be anything other than dangerous. This is the “balanced journalism” that the fascist right have used for years to convince Americans that economic absurdities are exactly equal to economic realities. Nearly half of Americans believe trickle-down economics is a good idea even to this day. It made a ridiculous moron like Trump possible, pretending his voice was the equal of any expert in any field.

Douglas Adams once wrote of a character who was so intellectually disgusted by the low-grade intelligence of the Western World that his character sealed himself off from it. Wonko the Sane resigned from humanity when he bought a box of toothpicks and found instructions for their use printed on the box.

Ricky Gervais, another English comic, came to a similar, if more immediate conclusion in March 2016, when he said, “Think about it: We live a world where there are warnings on bottles of bleach — we have to tell people not to drink bleach. In that world, Trump can be president,”

A quick glance at the John Hopkins university tracking page for the Covid-19 pandemic show that the US, with 3.2% of the world’s population, has 32.9% of the world’s known cases, and 26.7% of the world’s deaths. This is a country where, until very recently, 40% of the population believes that it was the best educated in the world, and had the best medical system.

The fact of the matter is far too many Americans wouldn’t know how to pour piss out of their boots if you printed instructions on the heel. Ignorance is actually considered a virtue, accompanied by loud sneers at experts and intellectual elites.

I wonder if the New York Times thinks some experts agree that ignorance is dangerous? I’m sure that they can find someone at the Times to write that opinion, although I can pretty much assure everyone that it won’t be Goldberg writing that.

Trump’s utter stupidity and the furtive efforts of his lackeys to hide the extent of the disaster is only a part of the problem. Encouraging stupidity, ignorance and disdain for science is another part of the unfolding disaster that may indeed presage the rapid demise of the US as a functioning country.

You aren’t going to eliminate the influence of idiocy by treating it as being one of several possible ways of dealing with the world and its problems.

Nacht der langen Messer — Trump has his Operation Hummingbird moment

Nacht der langen Messer

Trump has his Operation Hummingbird moment

The past couple of weeks, as America burned, Trump has been flogging a drug known as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) as a treatment for COVID-19. He has been obsessive about this in the face of thousands of scientists who have stated that there is no evidence that hydroxychloroquine has any affect at all on the SARS-type virus, but that it has a wide range of side effects, including, per wikipedia, “…altered eye pigmentation, acne, anemia, bleaching of hair, blisters in mouth and eyes, blood disorders, convulsions, vision difficulties, diminished reflexes, emotional changes, excessive coloring of the skin, hearing loss, hives, itching, liver problems or liver failure, loss of hair, muscle paralysis, weakness or atrophy, nightmares, psoriasis, reading difficulties, tinnitus, skin inflammation and scaling, skin rash, vertigo, weight loss, and occasionally urinary incontinence. Hydroxychloroquine can worsen existing cases of both psoriasis and porphyria.” Even by the rushed monotonic disclaimer at the end of all the drug ads on TV, that sounds pretty nasty.

Overdoses are even worse: “Overdose symptoms include convulsions, drowsiness, headache, heart problems or heart failure, difficulty breathing and vision problems.” There’s only a half dozen reported cases of overdoses in the US, since the drug, because of the side effects, is used mostly as a last-ditch treatment for RA, lupus and other auto-immune diseases. It’s main use is as an anti-malarial drug, something not widely needed in the West outside of London, where a mild version of the drug, quinine water, became a popular base for mixed drinks. London had a lot of lead in its air back then.

So for Trump to push this pill is fantastically irresponsible in the first place. Not just because of the threat it poses just by itself, but because people who have symptoms of COVID-19 may ignore standard treatments and seek out black-market versions of the drug. Those might range from sugar pills at $10,000 a pop to chemically active and highly lethal fakes. And for people who already have prescriptions to the drug, supplies of the real thing have already vanished because American medicine follows the profits, not the patients.

Even before yesterday, there was little doubt in my mind that Trump and / or members of his loathsome family had a stake in this, and stood to make big profits off a rush to acquire hydroxychloroquine one way or another. He had no interest in offering the American people hope (he already has a tower of self-serving lies that he broadcasts every day) and he certainly doesn’t have a clue as to whether the stuff would work or not. He’s seeking personal advantage, not national salvation.

Then yesterday he upped the ante in a way that buggered disbelief. Hydroxychloroquine, he proclaimed, could not only CURE COVID-19, but it could PREVENT it.

Prevent it. No need for those silly, ugly masks (and Donald would be caught dead in one, he has haughtily proclaimed). No need for social distancing. Open your business. Go to work. With these babies, you don’t have to worry about that pandemic hoax! Cures cancer and old age, too! Get yours today and eat a handful. In just a half hour, COVID-19 won’t be able to touch you!

Even by his inhumanly vicious, selfish, and stupid standards, this seemed utterly insane. There are millions out there who believe every word he utters, and are willing to fight and die on his behalf. They issue death threats against those who gainsay Donald in any way, and every so often one tries to commit mass murder on his behalf. Just last week a Trumpkin engineering a train in NYC tried to derail his train so it might plough into the Naval Hospital Ship that had just docked a short distance from the tracks. He felt using a freight train to sink a Naval ship with 5,000 on board was a good and appropriate way of showing his love for Donald, and Donald’s America.

These people are the ones who are going to believe Donald, and his vicious lie that hodroxychloroquine can prevent COVID-19. By the millions, they’ll stop taking precautions, and by the thousands they will sicken, and cause others around them to become sick, as well, In the end, this could up the eventual death toll by tens and even hundreds of thousands. Mostly amongst the people who are his strongest supporters.

Trump is stupid and profoundly self-centered, but he does possess a low animal cunning. He knows that he is at a moment where he can permanently consolidate his power in the midst of crisis and confusion. He knows that it’s a make or break situation, and he can’t afford to have his more certifiable followers commit atrocities that might rouse the American people to arms.

2020 is, for him, what 1934 was for Adolf Hitler.

He’s a student of Hitler. For years, he kept a copy of “My New Order” by Hitler on his bedside table. It was, apparently, his notion of bedtime reading, and according to various bedmates of his, he was obsessive about reading it. For a man who normally doesn’t read at all, it was extraordinary, and should have been deeply disturbing. THIS, of all books, excited his literary passion?

Hitler had a problem in 1934. The brass ring was almost within his grip. But his followers, dogmatic, cultic, perfervid, and filled with inchoate rage, had become a potential liability. They had to be brought to heel.

So Hitler plotted Operation Hummingbird, Der Nacht der langen Messer, or, as we know it, The Night of the Long Knives.”

He only murdered a small percentage of his most loyal followers, claiming they were plotting against him. (And it’s the nature of cult politics that a few actually were.) The rest lived, he said, because they were loyal and true and would be richly rewarded, and most were incorporated into favored positions in the SS and other branches of the Hitler government tentacle.

It’s likely that Trump knows his advice will kill a large number of his followers. He probably has his excuses lined up: liberal scientists lied to him about the drug. Mexican cartels made fake and dangerous counterfeits. Obama told people it was good for them.

Amongst his followers, he can avoid culpability. That will be child’s play.

Besides, he’ll assure them that when the dust has settled, they will be found to be the loyal and true ones, and would receive rich rewards and become as On High in his vision of Heaven on Earth.

And they’ll believe him.