Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Why It’s All Dr. Fauci’s Fault

Photos emerged last week of students, with very few wearing masks, in a crowded hallway in North Paulding High School, in Dallas, Georgia. Dallas, about 45 miles NW of Atlanta, is in Paulding County. Last week, Paulding County recorded 214 new cases of COVID-19 and an infection rate of 1,036 per 100k population. Nearby by Fulton county, home to Atlanta, had 1789 new cases and an infection ratio 1,922/100K. According to a CNN story, a sophomore student named Hannah posted the photos on social media, because, “I was concerned for the safety of everyone in that building and everyone in the county because precautions that the CDC and guidelines that the CDC has been telling us for months now, weren’t being followed,” she said.

On 16 July 2020, Georgia Governor Kemp sued the City of Atlanta for trying to enforce Atlanta’s mandate to wear masks in public.

Back in May, Trump has strongly urged states to reopen. Against CDC advice, Georgia was one of the first places in the US to allow nonessential businesses to reopen, with nail salons, massage therapists, bowling alleys, and gyms allowed to open on April 24. They were followed on April 27 by limited dine-in service for restaurants, movie theaters, and other entertainment venues. By May 4, some shopping malls had also reopened. By the end of June, Georgia’s hospitals were at maximum capacity. According to a Johns Hopkins Report, during the week Georgia set another all-time high for new cases. Governor Kemp said that he was of a mind to stay the course.

Since the pandemic struck, Georgia has suffered at least 4,177 deaths from COVID-19. During the week of 2-8 August, Georgia has seen at least 18,992 new infections and suffered at least 292 deaths from the virus.

On August 5, 2020, Dr. Fauci revealed to reporters that he has received death threats and that his daughters had been harassed.

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Healthcare Workers Union Pushing Medicaid Expansion in States

Oklahoma
If you remember, I wrote about Oklahoma squeaking through its own initiative to expand Medicaid for low-income people. In theory, the state will be in the driver’s seat (mostly) in deciding how much money it will allocate to the program rather than the Federal government. Political interests will have a difficult time killing Medicaid without another ballot initiative to override what The State Question 802 initiative was passed by a margin of less than 1 percentage point amongst voters.

Missouri
This last week, Missouri approved the expansion of Medicaid for many of the state’s poorest adults up to 138% FPL (which is 90% funded by the Federal Government. The expansion under Missouri Amendment 2 makes their conservative state the second to join the ACA through a ballot imitative changing the Missouri constitution during the pandemic.

The Missouri ballot measure expands Medicaid to about 230,000 low-income residents at a time when the state’s safety net health care program is already experiencing an enrollment surge tied to the pandemic’s economic upheaval. If you are unemployed you may qualify for Medicaid if you have income less than 138% FPL. Medicaid looks at current income and not annual income. The Medicaid expansion measure was supported by 53 percent of voters.

Fairness Project and the United Healthcare Workers Union West
Backing these initiatives is a nonprofit organization called the Fairness Project which grew out of the frustration of healthcare strategists with 19 states, governed by Republicans, refusing to pass the Medicaid Expansion . . . which from the start of the ACA covered Medicaid expansion costs at 100% up till the end of 2016 and then gradually decreased to 90%.

A memo written by a California union leader in 2014, warned of steep declines in union membership potentially could leave workers unprotected with fewer benefits.

Dave Regan, president of United Healthcare Workers West, a union of 95,000 hospital workers; “Unionism is in decline, and there is no end to that in sight. We still need to give regular people the opportunity to have positive change in their lives.”

Regan proposed creating a nonprofit to promote the ballot initiative process to secure policies that would benefit workers, like increased access to health coverage and a higher minimum wage.

“Ballots are an opportunity to put a question, in its undiluted form, in front of millions of people as opposed to traditional legislative work, where things get watered down to get out of committee. You end up with what you actually want when you use the ballot.”

The Fairness Project came into existence in 2016 with initiatives to increase the minimum wage in both California and Maine. The following year it returned to Maine to work on healthcare and Medicaid. Five times, the Maine legislature passed bills to expand Medicaid and each time they were vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage. Efforts to override the veto failed by a vote or two each time.

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Elites versus the public on renaming army bases

According to the Washington Post:

Half of Americans oppose renaming military bases currently named after Confederate generals, while 42 percent support the changes. Once again there is a significant partisan split, with 81 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of independents opposed and 66 percent of Democrats in favor. A majority of Americans ages 50 and older are opposed to any renaming, while a plurality of those under 50 support the change.

Despite the fact that the public leans slightly towards keeping current names, military and political elites (with the notable exception of the President) seem to be fairly unified in favor of renaming.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, told The Wall Street Journal last week that he would not block the effort to rename the bases, and in an interview with a Louisville radio station, he said he didn’t “have any problem” with renaming the bases for “people who didn’t rebel against the country.” He has urged the president not to veto the bill.

“The issue of Army bases being named after Confederate generals is a legitimate concern in the times in which we live,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “I’m OK with a process that the Senate came up with. And there’s a lot of good things in this bill.”

So . . . what gives?  Why are Republicans refusing to play the race card here?  I can understand why military leaders object to having bases named after traitors, and they also need to create a force that can function effectively in a diverse world.  But what about Republican politicians?  Is this all being driven by members of Congress in tight races?  Is that plausible, given that most Americans oppose renaming?

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Interpol Supports Murder Charge Against MbS

Interpol Supports Murder Charge Against MbS

 In today’s Washington Post David Ignatius reports that Interpol refused a request from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) to extradite Saad Aljabri to Saudi Arabia from Canada in 2017. MbS had been trying to entice Aljabri to return and had arrested his children, who remain arrested despite complaints from the US government and basically the entire rest of the world. Aljabri was the top aide of MbS’s rival, the former Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Nayef (MbN), who was overthrown by MbS in a coup. Aljabri and MbN were highly regarded by officials in the US of several administrations, as well as other governments, and apparently was personally responsible for blocking a serious possible terrorist attack in the US.

After Interpol refused to extradite Aljabri from Toronto, MbS sent a crew to kill him. This was two months after MbS sent such a crew to Istanbul to kill and dismember Kamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post.  Aljabri warned the Canadian government they were coming and the team was detained at the Toronto airport, where they were found to have exactly the same implements that were used to dismember Khashoggi.

Aljabri is now suing MbS in US courts for trying to kill him.  MbS has claimed that Aljabri stole funds, but Aljabri says this is a false claim.  Ignatius notes that MbS will have to produce his claims, and the big deal here is that up until now the Interpol report was not public.  They refused MbS’s extradition request on this claim, and their report makes it clear that much lies behind their decision, including massive violations of human rights in Saudi Arabia by the murderer, MbS.

Barkley Rosser

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Mail order prescription shipping delays

Because of what Trump is doing to the post office postal
shipments are being delayed.

If you use mail order services to take care of your prescriptions
you should order your refills as soon as you can to keep from
running out of your drugs. I just had to have my doctor write
a new two week prescription at the local drugstore because
shipment delays caused me to run out of one prescription.

My provider is reporting many delays.

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“Preserve Our Post Office, Before It’s Too Late”

The Postal Service is under assault and it is time to do everything we can to protect the integrity of one of our greatest national assets. Retired U.S. Postmaster Mark Jamison writes at Save The Post Office Blog . Mark serves as an advisor, resident guru, and regular contributor to “Save the Post Office.” His previous posts on Angry Bear and Save The Post Office can be found here. Mark can be contacted at markijamison01@gmail.com or you can ask him questions on his post here at AB.

The United States Postal Service is an essential national infrastructure. That simple and indisputable fact has never been more evident than during the current pandemic. A network that has the capability to serve every address in the United States, almost all of them daily, is a lifeline and a necessity.

It’s no secret that the Postal Service, like much of the infrastructure in this country, has been under assault by those who are ideologically predisposed to dismiss the necessity of a functioning, well-managed government. They would like to privatize the postal system, the national parks, the schools, the railroad, even roads and bridges. For them, these public infrastructures are merely targets of opportunity, another way for the few to profit at the expense of the many. By disregarding and undermining the value of public infrastructure at the expense of domestic tranquility and the promotion of the general welfare, they do a great disservice to the country

The postal system has been a target for generations. The privatizers and those who could not discern the fallacy inherent in trying to run government as a business when their ends and purposes were very different have repeatedly sought to turn the postal system into something much less useful than a nationwide infrastructure. Over the last fifteen years, since the passage of PAEA, the capacity and institutional strength of the USPS have been compromised by a succession of Postmasters General who substituted empty rhetoric and misguided plans for the very real value of a broad and robust network dedicated to universal service.

The current president came into office with lots of grudges and fury but no knowledge or understanding of the Postal Service. For the last three and a half years he has overseen the corruption of our institutions, the debasement of our bureaucracies, and the hollowing out of our ability to serve our citizens. The administration has acted with malice and ignorance, failing at its most basic task of governing. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the mismanagement of the Postal Service.

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Privatization

Fear and Loathing

On the 17 July 2020, episode of Counterspin, Fair’s Janine Jackson interviewed True North Research’s Lisa Graves about attacks on the US Postal Service. ‘A Combination of Forces Puts Our Postal Service at Grave Risk‘ Jackson leads off talking about the recent appointment of Louis DeJoy, a big Trump donor, to be the new head of the US Postal Service. Upon being appointed, DeJoy promptly issued a series of memos calling for operational changes that many felt were intended to slow down mail delivery. Other recent Trump actions appear to also be intended to sabotage the US Postal Service. In that Trump has made Vote by Mail a big issue, some fear that he might try to nullify his losing the election by claiming that a slow vote count equals an indication of fraud, etc.

Graves’ research into attempts to sabotage the US Postal Service disclosed that for more than 50 years none other than Charles Koch has been funding efforts, at first to abolish, later to privatize, the US Postal Service. In addition to Koch, DeJoy, and Trump; Ronald Reagan, Reagan Administration official James C. Miller, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and George W. Bush have all taken a hand at this sabotaging and/or privatizing of the US Postal Service. Former Reagan Administration official, former American Enterprise scholar, James Miller, was later appointed to the Postal Board of Governors by George W. Bush with significant help from Senators Collins and McConnell. In 2005, Senators Collins and McConnell both helped push through the prepaid benefits requirement meant to sabotage the Postal Service. To date, some powerful actors have expended a lot of money, time, and effort attempting to abolish, privatize, or sabotage the US Postal Service.

What it means to want to abolish or sabotage something seems clear enough. The wanting doth bespeak an animus. Did these people hate the US Postal Service so much? Or, did they fear that it might succeed?

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Just Some Conversation

Republicans finally get “death panels,” Hullabaloo, Tom Sullivan, July, 26, 2020

Dr. Jose Vasquez, the health officer for Starr County, Texas located on the US-Mexico border “The situation is desperate.” At the only hospital in the county, over 50% of patients are testing positive for the COVID-19 virus — 40 new coronavirus cases were reported Thursday. Starr County Memorial Hospital in Rio Grande City made plans to set up a committee to decide which patients to send home to die. The hospital will ration its resources to patients with the best chances of surviving  (CNN).

Texas
Fri, July 24, 2020
126 died this day
5 002 total deaths
391 609 tot. confirm cases
7 947 new confirmed
2.1% daily growth

The hospital quickly filled the eight beds in its Covid-19 unit, so it expanded to 17 and then 29 beds, Vasquez said. About 33 medical workers, including medical practitioners and lab technicians, were deployed by the state to assist the hospital.

“Unfortunately, Starr County Memorial Hospital has limited resources and our doctors are going to have to decide who receives treatment, and who is sent home to die by their loved ones,” Starr County Judge Eloy Vera wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday. “This is what we did not want our community to experience.”

Republicans screamed about ACA death panels  deciding whether citizens could have treatment under its regime.

Does Gun Ownership and Concealed Carry Deter the Frequency of Mass Shootings and Firearms Homicide?,” Justice Quarterly, Emma E. Fridel, July 23, 2020

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Managing A Zoom Conference

Managing A Zoom Conference

As of the end of this week, I completed chairing the 30th annual international conference of the Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and Life Sciences, with 54 participants from around the world.  It basically went well, and it was kind of cool to make introductory remarks at 8 AM during EDT, with somebody on at 6 AM their time in Montana and someone else on at 10 PM their time in Sydney, Australia.  It can be done, and even with parallel sessions happening.

Of course there were the usual snafus of people getting bad internet connections and disappearing or becoming mute while presenting, which does not happen in live sessions.  There were also some people who failed to present due to not being able to properly load or manage their slides or videos, although I have seen problems with this sort of thing even in live conferences.

Something I throw out there for anybody managing one of these involves how we managed the parallel sessions.  So we had both a co-host/moderator, who managed entry to a session, as well as a session chair who managed timing by speakers, with on this following the old incentive-compatible strategy of usually having that be the final speaker in the session, giving them incentive to keep the earlier presenter in line on timing.  Indeed, in our wrapup session someone noted, accurately near as I could tell, that there may have been better adherence by speakers to time limits in this format than is often the case in live sessions.

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School openings need….

Via Diana Ravitch’s blog on a Time magazine article What the U.S. Can Learn from 3 Countries About Reopening:

TIME Magazine just published a story about school reopening in Denmark, South Korea, and Israel, with lessons for the U.S.

Lesson #1 from Denmark: Get the virus under control before reopening schools. Unlike Denmark, the United States is bungling that, and the virus is spreading in the south and west. Perhaps states that have taken the necessary steps and flattened the curve can begin to reopen, with caution.

Lesson #2 from South Korea: Prepare to delay reopening if cases spike. Older students returned to school fumirst.

Lesson #3 from Israel: Infections increase when schools don’t take every safety precaution. Expect to close down again if you don’t follow the protocols of masks, social distancing and other precautions.

The necessary health and safety protocols require extra funding. No extra funding is available. Trump threatened to cut federal funds from schools that don’t open fully even without the small classes, masks, PPE, extra nurses, etc. He wants the schools open without regard to the health or safety of teachers and students.

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