Yes, this is real, and yes, it’s political

The novel coronavirus is a threat. It is real. It is not being exaggerated to harm the current administration.

The novel coronavirus is a real thing.

COVID-19 can kill you and it’s likely to kill a million or more people in the United States.

These are facts, not some made-up fantasy to defeat the current occupant of the Oval Office.

It is not safe to gather in groups or to travel. If you’re in a high risk group, you need to be at home. If you’re not at home, you need to wash your hands with soap and hot water often and avoid touching your face. Hand sanitizer does not work as well as washing with soap and hot water, so quit hoarding it.

It didn’t have to be this serious here, but the current administration took no steps early on to mitigate the spread. The current administration, in fact, denied the seriousness of this pandemic and turned down testing kits that could have tracked the pandemic’s path and slowed the progress of the virus.

But, no. Instead, the current occupant of the Oval Office pretended nothing was wrong and kept claiming that everything was OK, assuming his followers would believe him.

I have seen denials of the seriousness of this as recently as yesterday, and I have answered each claim that it’s no worse than the flu with the fact that it is 10 to 20 times more lethal.

These claims are often followed by appeals to not make this political.

Well, here’s the thing: when politicians cut funding for public health for 40 years, shit happens.

Funding for public health (national, state and local health departments, research efforts and response personnel) has been cut by every Republican administration — especially this one — since Ronald Reagan because for some reason the science deniers tend to affiliate with the Republican party, and Democrats have lacked the spine to stand up and fight.

Politics could have prevented this, but Americans wanted to believe Reagan’s attacks on government. Remember when he said the most frightening words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”? I remember it clearly.

Government — politics — is there to mitigate disasters like this on behalf of the people it serves. Except Republicans have perpetuated the lie that government is bad in every instance. So, our infrastructure crumbled, and public health was part of that infrastructure.

Now we have a government that lies every day about what’s happening, and tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people who shouldn’t die, will.

If testing had begun in earnest two weeks or a month ago, we would know where we stand. But people who are showing up in the emergency room with symptoms of COVID-19 are being sent back home with no test, unless they have traveled to China.

If you think the virus isn’t in your community because there have been no confirmed cases, that’s because there are no test kits, so it’s not possible to confirm cases. That’s one way to make the total look lower than it actually is, which makes it easier for this administration to lie about the spread of the illness.

The illness is in your community. People are carrying the illness into public places and it’s spreading like wildfire because we insist on listening to the most dishonest administration ever to exist in Washington.

Let me repeat: The illness is in your community already.

If you’re going out into public places because you don’t think you’re at high risk, you’re risking infecting people who are at risk.

When you go into a restaurant, you’re asking wait staff that likely have no real access to health care and no paid sick time to take the risk that you’re not carrying the virus.

The reason that waiter has no access to care, no paid sick leave and a $2.35-an-hour wage is all about politics as well. Again and again, Republicans have refused to pass legislation that would fix any of this, and Democrats have yet to get enough spine to stand up and rebel against it.

This disaster could have been mitigated much more effectively than it has. Look at how South Korea has dealt with this. Testing is available everywhere and people are staying out of public places. In the end, their mortality rate will be a lot lower than ours. We’re going to look more like Italy, or even Iran, where the mass graves can be seen from space.

All of this is happening at a time in my city is struggling with its hospital having been taken over by a for-profit corporation. HCA has laid off large numbers of CNAs and other support staff — especially housekeeping, which is the department that cleans your room — and cut back on nursing staff as well. Nurse-to-patient ratios are dangerously high and getting worse as nurses quit in disgust. The nurses who remain are fighting to establish a union so they can demand improvements in patient safety.

And, yes, this is political, too. We have no laws mandating safe nurse-to-patient ratios. We have no regulations regarding how many cleaning supplies must be on hand to guarantee patient safety. There is no law mandating that patient safety has to come before profits because Richard Nixon signed that away in 1973.

We are in this mess because of the dishonesty and utter lack of leadership of the current administration, and because of decades of politically motivated cuts to public health to funnel ever more money into the pockets of the wealthiest and the military.

So, let’s be clear about this. We have to make changes — serious changes — to our system. We need to send the current crop of do-nothings home in November — well, those of us who survive that long, anyway — and elect people who will start to rebuild our public health systems.

The truth is that each one of us stands a small chance of dying from this, but we likely all know people who will die. The death rate is about 3.4 percent, but the infection rate could be as high as 70 percent. These are the real numbers.

So, yes, this is a real danger and yes, politics could have made it better. Instead, politics has made it far, far worse than it needed to be.

Time to move the Overton Window back to the center

If he’s the nominee, we’re in trouble.

Have you ever heard of the Overton Window? That’s the movable political “center.”

Back in the 1970s, the Democratic party stood for universal access to health care, a living wage and more. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society was to be a program that would mostly end poverty in a single generation, but it was overwhelmed by the Vietnam War It was, however, a Democratic ideal, and Robert Kennedy would have continued those policies. The Republican Party platform at the time looked about like the Democratic Party platform does now.

Under Ronald Reagan, the conversation moved way to the right, and it continued to do so, fueled, at least in part by Fox News once it hit the airwaves. Suddenly, “liberal” was a dirty word and government was bad — always bad, no matter what. The Overton Window was parked squarely in front of conservative Republicans, and it has moved steadily to the right ever since.

The conversation kept moving rightward until today, the very things that were in the 1976 Democratic Party platform are considered “far-left,” or “socialist,” even though that’s exactly what the majority of Americans want.

Our two parties now represent 1960s-era Republicans and fascists, and both sit well to the right of center. Wall Street is trying to get the Democrats to put up another 1960s-era Republican against the fascist currently squatting in the Oval Office, and too many of my Democratic friends are rolling over and saying they’ll vote for that.

Sorry, but I’m not so sure I’m willing to do that again, and I know millions of others feel the same way. I’m not saying I won’t vote blue unless Bernie is the nominee, but it had better be someone who will work toward those same traditional Democratic values, because even if I get in line and vote for the moderate, as I did last time, millions of others will not.

A “moderate” (a 1960s-era Republican) will not win in 2020.

The DNC needs to understand that.Republican opinion writers are telling us we have to put up a moderate, but that’s just so David Brooks and his ilk will have somebody they can vote for. Well, I don’t give a damn how David Brooks and other moderate Republicans vote, I want a Democrat — a real Democrat, and I hope the DNC understands that I’m not in the minority.

I want health care and sensible gun laws and real action on climate change. I want private, for-profit prisons banned. I want minimum wage to be a living wage. I want prison camps for migrants and the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And the majority of Americans want those same things.

The ball is in your court, DNC. You can play to win or play to lose, but don’t blame me when Uncle Joe goes down in flames.

So many issues, so little time

Don’t know what to do? Begin by showing up for rallies, demonstrations and protests.

Several conversations lately have centered on how to be an activist without being overwhelmed.

These are difficult times for those of us who believe in justice and equality, and there have been attacks on every front.

You can’t work on everything.

You can, however, choose one or two issues and devote yourself to that.

You can stand in solidarity with others who are working on different issues.

You can show up at rallies and demonstrations.

You can visit, call or write to legislators and insist on being heard. If they won’t see you when you visit, leave a letter. If they won’t take your calls, leave messages and then send e-mails and snail-mails.

So, your first job is to set your priorities.

What’s most important to you?

Remember that all of these issues need work and you should go to where your passion resides.

For me, it’s health care and women’s equality issues.

For some of my friends, it’s racial equality and voting rights, which I’m also passionate about. I will show up for rallies and I will write to legislators.

But I have learned all I can about my issues. I am the go-to person in my circle of resistors because I have read the Affordable Care Act and I know the statistics surrounding it.

I understand how women die when women’s health clinics are mis-labled deliberately by opponents of abortion, a procedure that takes up only 3 percent of clinic resources. These clinics are shut down because people don’t understand that they offer cancer screenings, health checks, contraception, information and more and that women die when they lose that access to health care.

Some of my friends have extensive knowledge of workers’ rights issues, education, environment … and I depend on them.

Make a list of policies you support and ask legislators where they stand on those policies. Know your legislators’ voting records. You have one state representative and state senator, one Congressional representative and two US senators. You should also know where your governor stands on these issues.

I have one friend who’s on a mission to make her representatives tired of hearing from her. She calls them about everything and reminds them she is a constituent and she’s not going away.

Once you have your list of policies you support, prioritize them. Pick your one or two issues if you haven’t already.

When you write, call or visit concerning these issues, use your own words. When we use form letters or sign online petitions, no one pays attention. If your issue means that much to you, take a few minutes to write what’s in your heart. If you need help expressing your feelings, ask a friend.

You do not have to be arrested to be effective. If you attend a rally or demonstration, take photos so that there is a record of the event and of the numbers attending.

I remember being at a rally in Washington, DC, with 5,000 people before the Affordable Care Act was passed, and Rick Sanchez in CNN reported, “Dozens of people showed up at a rally today …” But the video footage told the real story. It was dozens of people all right — hundreds of dozens of people.

When media misrepresent what’s happening, post your truth on social media, then write to the media outlet that lied. Call them out with letters to the editor and phone calls. Include your photos.

What’s going on today is the result of decades of increasing voter apathy. We can’t afford to sit back anymore, and millions of us are beginning to realize that.

We must care about what’s happening in our country, and we must work to make others care.

So, go ahead and take that first step. Decide what issue or issues you will call your own and get to work.

Seek out others who are doing the work and organize, even if it’s a half dozen people at a letter-writing party, you’re doing something that wasn’t being done before.

You can make a difference, you just have to decide to do it.

#Resist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The morning after

Looks like this is the match-up for November.

Looks like this is the match-up for November.

 

It appears we have a Democratic candidate, and it is historic.

Millions of racists are about to show their sexism, and millions of poor losers are ready to let the nation crash and burn because they didn’t get their way.

Welcome to the world of politics, Millennials.

Hillary Clinton was not my first choice; Bernie Sanders was, and I was as passionate in my support for him as anyone.

Most people who know me understand that my most important issue is access to health care, and Hillary Clinton has said she doesn’t see us ever getting to single-payer. Bernie promised me he would fight for it.

I met Bernie twice and told him how my son died from lack of access to health care. Both times he hugged me and said, “I’m working on this, I promise you.” He will keep working on it in the Senate now and I have to be OK with that.

Movements take time and revolutions rarely achieve their goals at the voting booth.

So, rather than flip the bird at the country, I will vote for Hillary and hope that we who supported Bernie will pull her to the left.

I say this because I don’t believe violence is the answer, and the fuck-you attitude of some of Bernie’s supporters will only lead to violence.

Here is why I don;t think writing Bernie’s name in or voting for Jill Stein is the solution:

Four years ago, when the Democrats here in North Carolina ran Walter Dalton, an incredibly weak candidate, people shrugged and said, “So, let the Republicans take it all, and then we’ll win it back because people will be so pissed off.”

I told one friend I thought that was a dangerous tactic, and I was right. The damage the extremists have done in this state is epic, and some if it will never be fixed.

Coal ash pollution is forever, as are fracking chemicals (which have yet to be unleashed, but the General Assembly has approved their use and the governor signed it).

The 8,000 or so people who have died from lack of access to health care because these people refuse to expand Medicaid can’t be resurrected. They are gone. Ask their families how your attitude worked for them.

The children who are in our schools are missing a decent education as teachers stage a mass exodus from the state, and those kids can’t get that opportunity back.

There are damages that can be fixed, but they will take time. Rebuilding our state’s reputation will take a generation or more.

So, go ahead, flip off the candidate that could prevent these things on a national scale. Sure, let Trump take it and see how quickly we’ll be at war with China or North Korea, or both. Watch things escalate in the Middle East. See how long it takes somebody to use a nuclear weapon. Maybe we could start a pool to see who comes closest to the date and time. Bonus dollars for a reason for the mess. (“China insulted my wife.”)

Vote for Trump and watch your Social Security and Medicare disappear. Watch your Supreme Court become a rubber stamp for the wishes of the extremists and billionaires. Watch your water become too polluted to drink while what little drinkable water is left is privatized and sold for profit. And watch as minimum wage is abolished and your children are forced to subsist on $2.50 an hour.

Hillary Clinton is the most examined candidate of all time. She has endured a quarter century under the microscope, and no one has found anything concrete. She did not break the law with her e-mails, even though her detractors want to believe she did. She did not cause the embassy in Benghazi to be attacked — the Republicans in Congress who denied her request for funding for security there are far more responsible for that fatal attack than she was. She didn’t kill Vince Foster.

Hillary may not be as slick as her husband, but she is highly intelligent, and she is highly qualified.

I will vote for her, and I will hold her feet to the fire because movements take time. It took the right-wing extremists decades to take power, building a strong base as they climbed; it will take us time to get it back.

You can be more constructive by encouraging the formation of a viable third party in time for the next election, but there is no excuse for allowing a Trump presidency. None whatsoever.

So, instead of whining, get to work. You’ll never get anything if you don’t work for it, and sitting in a corner flipping the bird and sulking will get you nowhere.

 

 

 

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This isn’t about politics

boston_marathon_explosion_2_480x360 boston-marathon-explosionLook at the number of people with their backs to the camera here — running to help others who were injured in the twin blasts at yesterday’s Boston Marathon. The image isn’t terribly clear because it was taken from a video shot by CBS News. But you can see the blast and the people running toward it.

No one here was thinking about politics. As President Obama said last night, there were no Republicans or Democrats here.

In the lower image, look at the number of people not in uniform. One of those volunteers was a man who lost a son in Iraq and then lost another son to suicide. He turned his grief into heroism yesterday.

My first thought was of the people in the first big city I went to as a child. I grew up about 30 miles outside of Boston and went there countless times for Red Sox games and church youth rallies. I love Boston, with its amazing history and its maze of streets that once were Native American trails through the forest. Just walking the streets makes me think of my ancestors, the founders of this nation.

Last night, I wondered what they would have thought of the reaction to the bombing.

Less than a half hour after the blasts, someone on Facebook posted that he believed it was Muslims and that he was sure the filthy liberal Democrats would try to pin the blame on the Tea Party. I un-friended him immediately. It is one of the few times I have done that.

I appreciate different points of view, when shared in a civil manner, and I have a number of friends who share my views on very few things. We remain friends because we hope we can learn from each other. If things get nasty, I un-friend. As I said, it has happened very few times.

But yesterday’s bombing wasn’t about Democrats and Republicans — or maybe it was, but I refuse to make it that way until the perpetrator and motives are discovered and revealed.

I don’t know who built the bombs and I don’t know what kind of statement the person was trying to make with this wretched act of violence, but I am not going to try and assign blame until I know more. Yes, I have thoughts on the matter, but I will not talk about them because if I’m wrong, the comments would only be hurtful.

In this day of saying what’s on our minds with no filters imposed, of tweeting and posting without thinking before we put crap out into the ether, perhaps it’s best to learn to shut up once in awhile, to keep some thoughts private.

Right now, my thoughts and prayers are with the people whose lives have been shattered by this tragedy and with my beloved Boston.

It would be nice if all of us tried to do the same thing.

 

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