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Black Votes Matter

I’m concerned about voter registration in Mississippi. The blacks are having lots of events for voter registration. People in Mississippi have to get involved, too.

Mississippi election commissioner Gail Welch.

How can Black Lives Matter, if they aren’t people?

And speaking of black lives, here’s a July 1 tweet from former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, about President Trump’s July 4th celebration at Mt. Rushmore:

Masks will not be mandatory for the event, which will be attended by President Trump. PEOPLE ARE FED UP!

On July 2, less than 24 hours later, Cain was hospitalized with COVID-19. A photo shows Cain at President Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma with no face mask.

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Red Shirts

Q: Why is the guy in the red shirt not wearing a mask?

A: Because he’s a Republican.

If you are not a Star Trek fan, you might not get this joke. Read this about Redshirts, and how it is their job to get killed.

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Coward or Collaborator?

Which is it?

What’s just as damning is that Trump keeps changing his story. First he claimed he was never briefed. Then he claimed that in the briefing (which he says he never had) there was no consensus as to the validity of the report. Now he’s claiming the report is a hoax and fake news, to make Republicans look bad. Never mind that these are all self-contradictory.

And right now, nobody needs to make things up to make Republicans look bad.

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Why Wear a Mask?

Why do some people refuse to wear masks?

A few people actually cannot wear a mask, for various reasons. I read a post from a person who said they could not wear a mask, and they would get nasty looks and shaming the few times that they dared to venture out.

If you cannot wear a mask, I would suggest trying a face shield. There are face shields that attach to glasses, or to a hat, and other variations. One of those should work since they don’t even touch your face. And there is evidence that face shields might be more effective than masks.

I see other comments from people who basically say “there aren’t very many cases where I live, so I don’t need to wear a mask”. Unfortunately, these people are making a huge mistake. They are thinking linearly, while contagious diseases have exponential growth. The absolute number of cases doesn’t really matter. What matters is the growth R0 (R-naught), how many people (on average) get infected from an infected person. If R0 is greater than one, the number of cases will increase exponentially, if less than one then the disease will eventually die out.

A closely related number is the doubling time, which is how long does it take for the number of infected people to double. At one point in a province of China, the doubling time of COVID-19 was 1.4 days. And New York state had a doubling time of around 2 days for over a week.

Unfortunately, humans are notoriously bad at understanding exponential growth. There is a famous story about the person who invented chess for their king. The king loves the game so much that he asks the inventor what they want as a gift. The inventor replies that the king should put one grain of wheat on the first square of the chessboard, then two grains on the second square, and continue doubling until the last square. The king finds this a modest request so he agrees. However, the king doesn’t understand exponential growth, because the wheat required is 2,000 times the entire world production of wheat. Just starting with a single tiny grain.

Back to COVID-19, even if you have a small number of cases or deaths, if you do not reduce R0 (the number of people you infect) below 1, eventually everyone will get the disease. Wearing a mask (or a face shield) absolutely reduces the number of people you infect. Social distancing does too. Self quarantine does even better. So the choice is yours. Wear a mask now or endure another shutdown later. Or worse.

The result of the US not taking simple precautions is obvious. The US has 4% of the world population, but over a quarter (25%) of all the deaths and over a quarter of the cases in the world. We have more active cases than the next half a dozen countries put together (Brazil, Russia, India, UK, Spain, and Peru). We spend more on health care than any other country, but we can’t seem to stop one disease, even though other countries (including Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Italy, New Zealand, South Korea, Morocco, Thailand, Rwanda, Uruguay, and others) are doing it. We are currently failing.

And things are getting worse. On July 1, new reported cases of COVID-19 was 52,788, the largest single day total ever. Dr. Anthony Fauci already testified to Congress that we are heading toward 100,000 new cases a day if we don’t do something to stop it.

The seven day averages (which are better indicators than the daily numbers) are just as bad. The seven-day average of new confirmed cases is the highest it has ever been, topping 50,000 cases for the first time. And a whopping 45 states have seven-day averages of new infections higher than the previous week. At this rate, we will almost certainly have to close down the country again.

So what did Donald Trump do? He went on Fox News and said:

I think we’re gonna be very good with the coronavirus. I think that at some point that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.

Notice that he is now couching his words with “I think”, “I hope”, and “sort of”. Well, I think he knows he is lying. I hope he cares that people will die because of his words. But I sort of doubt it.

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The Right to No Pants?

Are you tired of the government telling you what you have to wear?

This is a satire on the “Face Mask Exempt Card” that is circulating on the internet (which is complete bunk).

UPDATE: Now someone created a new (fake) card, that reverses the (also fake) “Face Mask Exempt Card”. Notice that they changed FTBA to be “Freedom To Be Alive” and the phone numbers to the CDC.

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Fickle God?

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A Story about Joe

This is a true story about Joe Biden (who is devout Catholic), told by Rabbi Michael Beals of Delaware:

It was about 16 years ago, and I was a young rabbi, brand-new to Delaware, on my way to lead a shiva minyan — a worship service following a death of a Jewish person. I was from California. Back then, I didn’t know Claymont, Delaware from Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Quick bit of background: When someone passes away in the Jewish faith, we observe seven days of mourning, called shiva. We gather a group of ten Jewish adults together to say the Mourners’ Kaddish. It usually happens in a person’s home — somewhere intimate.

In this case, the deceased individual — her name was Mrs. Greenhouse, of blessed memory — had not been a person of means. She had lived in rent-controlled senior housing in a tall high-rise building off of Namaans Road. Her apartment was too small to fit everyone into, so we conducted our worship service in the building’s communal laundry room, in the basement of the high-rise.

We assembled the 10 elders together, and it was in this most humble of places that I began to lead kaddish.

Toward the end of the service, a door at the back of the laundry room opened; who walks in but Sen. Joe Biden, head lowered, all by himself.

I nearly dropped my prayer book in shock.

Senator Biden stood quietly in the back of the room for the duration of the service. At the close of the kaddish, I walked over to him and asked the same question that must have been on everyone else’s mind: “Sen. Biden — what are you doing here?”

He said to me: “Back in 1972, when I first ran for Senate, Mrs. Greenhouse gave $18 to my first campaign. Because that’s what she could afford. And every six years, when I’d run for reelection, she’d give another $18. She did it her whole life. I’m here to show my respect and gratitude.”

Now, the number 18 is significant in the Jewish faith — its numbers spell out the Hebrew word chai, as in “to life, to life, l’chayim!” But it’s also a humble amount. Joe Biden knew that. And he respected that.

There were no news outlets at our service that day — no Jewish reporters or important dignitaries. Just a few elderly mourners in a basement laundry room. Joe Biden didn’t come to that service for political gain. He came to that service because he has character.

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Treason!

I have long noticed a disturbing pattern in Donald Trump’s behavior — he often accuses others of doing bad things of which he himself is guilty. And he does it even if we don’t yet know that he is doing those bad things. Maybe it is his way of getting ahead of a story, so that he can try to use whataboutism if his misdeeds become publicly known.

So when Trump started accusing Barack Obama of treason for completely specious reasons, I got suspicious.

Then Trump doubled down by accusing Obama of “Obamagate”… without ever even explaining what that was.

But on Friday, the other shoe dropped. Unfortunately, the main articles about this are behind paywalls, but here is a good review of what happened from historian Heather Cox Richardson (starting in the second paragraph).

In summary, Donald Trump and quite a few members of his administration were briefed in March that Russia was paying Afghan militants to kill American soldiers. Potential responses were discussed, but the White House never did anything, and Congress was never informed (which they should have been).

Instead, after the briefing our commander-in-chief continued to kiss up to the Russians:

  • Trump issued a joint statement with Vladimir Putin commemorating the 75th anniversary of the meeting between American and Soviet troops in Germany that signaled the final defeat of the Nazis.
  • Trump called Putin and talked for 90 minutes. Afterward, he said “Had a long and very good conversation with President Putin of Russia. As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone else is a good thing, not a bad thing.”
  • A few weeks later, the US sent a $5.6 million aid package to Moscow, containing medical equipment to fight the coronavirus (even though Trump told US states to buy their own equipment).
  • On June 1, Trump made another call to Putin and then started lobbying for Russia to be readmitted to the G8.
  • Two weeks later, Trump ordered the withdrawal of 9,500 US troops from Germany, who were there to protect Germany against Russian aggression.

Treason is the only crime defined by the US Constitution, and the definition includes giving Aid and Comfort to our enemies. A country that pays people to kill our soldiers is definitely an enemy, and Trump explicitly gave the Russians actual aid, and is providing them comfort.

So while Trump’s accusations of treason against others are baseless, there is strong evidence that he committed treason himself.

On Sunday, in response Trump started tweeting in his typical blunderbuss fashion, claiming that he was never briefed about this (unlikely), calling the story from the NY Times “fake news” (while not disputing any of the information in it), asserting that “nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration” (which is patently false), and trying to shift the story by asking “Where’s Hunter?” (a reference to Joe Biden’s son, who was on the board of a Ukrainian company — a “fake news” story that has nothing to do with this one and which has been completely debunked).

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Jon Stewart on Biden

I’m really glad to see Jon Stewart put into words something that I’ve always felt about Joe Biden, but didn’t know how to express.

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We Have a Cure!

© Ruben Bolling

A safe, effective, inexpensive solution to end the coronavirus pandemic. What could go wrong?

I guess I’m just lucky. I live in a state where masks are required to be worn in public. Even better, I live in a county where people are conscientious and typically wear their masks. When I go hiking in one of the forested parks nearby, I don’t wear my mask all the time, but there is a little dance that happens. When someone approaches from the opposite direction, we both put on our masks before we pass each other. And if we stop to chat, we stay significantly more than 6 feet apart (even though we are outdoors).

It is just the polite thing to do. And it works. Right now in my county we have had a total of 7 deaths due to COVID-19. That comes out to 0.002% of the population. And the majority of those deaths happened in nursing homes (something that we are trying to work on).

But we still wear our masks and practice safe distancing. We’ve had more than our share of protests, but even the protesters here wear masks and try to keep their distance, and so far those mass gatherings have not been a significant source of disease spread.

Older (or more vulnerable) people are especially careful. And neighbors send out messages offering to help them by picking up groceries, medications, and other essentials. Other neighbors share fresh vegetables from their gardens.

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No Responsibility

The state of Missouri decided to “reopen for business” even though the number of cases is increasing. In fact, they are now setting record highs for new cases of COVID-19. At a press briefing on Tuesday, the Republican governor was asked if he “felt guilty” for relaxing restrictions in the state during a coronavirus spike. He said “no”.

I don’t know that any one person is responsible for that no more than anybody else standing out here in this hallway. Do I feel guilty because we have car accidents, and people die every day? No, I don’t feel guilty about that. Each person that gets in those situations, things happen like that in life, they do.

There are so many things wrong with this:

  • Car accidents are not contagious. COVID-19 is extremely contagious. If there were 10 car accidents one week, and 1000 the next week, and 10000 the week after, would the governor be so flippant and refuse to do something?
  • We have stop signs and traffic lights to force distancing between cars.
  • We DO force people take measures to fight car accidents. We require people to wear seat belts, which are just as awkward and uncomfortable as masks. If people don’t wear a seat belt, we fine them and often force them to go to a class to educate them, including making them watch movies showing gruesome car accidents. By that token, we should require people who are caught not wearing a mask to watch movies of people dying from the coronavirus.
  • If a young person is a passenger in a car but isn’t wearing their seat belt, the driver still gets the ticket.
  • We have plenty of laws and regulations to make automobiles safer, including standards for crash avoidance, crash worthiness, and post-crash survivability.
  • We have laws against driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • We punish people for causing car accidents, convicting them of vehicular homicide (manslaughter). If someone negligently transmits the coronavirus, causing someone (or dozens of people) to die, how is that different?

If he wants to compare the pandemic to car accidents, why is he ignoring all of these comparisons? I guess it is because even though Republicans claim to be the party of personal responsibility, they don’t seem to think that applies to themselves.

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This says it all

I am getting really fed up with people who think it is their personal civil right to not wear a mask during a pandemic. Start issuing them citations with a fine of $200 (or more!). That might get their attention. And it will probably save all of us money if it keeps people out of ICUs.

On the other hand, I love the plan for NYC to paint “BLACK LIVES MATTER” in giant yellow letters on Fifth Avenue right in front of Trump Tower. It will match the same thing that was painted near the White House. Of course, it has to be in ALL CAPS so that Trump knows it is real (well, at least as real as his tweets)! And if there was any doubt about why they are doing it, a spokesperson for the mayor announced:

The president is a disgrace to the values we cherish in New York City. He can’t run or deny the reality we are facing, and any time he wants to set foot in the place he claims is his hometown, he should be reminded Black Lives Matter.

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Insanity

© Nick Anderson

Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa was a complete disaster, but that didn’t stop him from having another rally yesterday in Phoenix AZ. This wasn’t actually a rally, as it was not organized by the Trump campaign, which probably gave it a better chance of success. Plus it was held in a church with a much smaller capacity, so it was able to be filled with 3,000 people. That’s less than half the number of people who showed up in Tulsa, but the optics were better. So Trump was all over twitter, bragging “A GREAT DAY IN ARIZONA!”

However, I suspect that this second rally could be just as damaging to Trump’s campaign as the first one. The hall was packed, with no social distancing (which was at least possible in Oklahoma where 2/3 of the seats were empty). And there were virtually no masks in sight, despite a local ordinance requiring them and a direct plea from the mayor. Arizona is in the middle of a COVID-19 spike, and the attendees of this event were all local students, so it should be easier to watch how many of them will end up stricken by the coronavirus.

Most of all, unlike Oklahoma, Arizona has become a swing state, and it has a large population of senior citizens. As more of them get sick due to Trump’s incompetence and lack of leadership, the bluer Arizona will become.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Trump appears to be incapable of learning this lesson (or any other lesson, for that matter).

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Sizing up the situation

Donald Trump and his campaign bragged over and over (and over) again about how huge his rally in Tulsa was going to be. After all, they had received a million requests for tickets! But only around 6200 people showed up, filling less than one-third of the venue.

Porn star Stormy Daniels (who Trump paid off to keep quiet about their dalliance) had something to say about that:

And nice to hear from Al Franken:

And of course, the Lincoln Project released another ad:

Last but not least, here’s Sarah Cooper on “How to Empty Seat”:

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The Underlying Problem

The police are a reflection of a society. They’re not a rogue alien organization that came down to torment the black community. They’re enforcing segregation. Segregation is legally over, but it never ended. The police are, in some respects, a border patrol, and they patrol the border between the two Americas. We have that so that the rest of us don’t have to deal with it. Then that situation erupts, and we express our shock and indignation. But if we don’t address the anguish of a people, the pain of being a people who built this country through forced labor — people say, ‘I’m tired of everything being about race.’ Well, imagine how [expletive] exhausting it is to live that.

– Jon Stewart, from an extensive interview in the NY Times. Also quoted in Rolling Stone (if you can’t get through the Times paywall). But read the Times article if you can.

This isn’t just true for black people. America largely equates “rich” with “good”. And conversely, poor people are frequently blamed for their misfortune, because in America, anyone can succeed if they try hard enough (so, logically, if you are poor, it must be your fault). Winning is everything, so greed rules.

Some of you may know that Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show was one of the main things that inspired me to start this blog. I couldn’t find a political blog that combined humor in the ways that Stewart did on a TV show, and I wondered if it could be done. Of course, the blog that really put me to shame at doing that was Margaret and Helen.

© Matt Bors
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