A communal response to a local conspiracy theorist

As I don’t have very much time today, I thought that perhaps I could count you to help in drafting a response to the following comment, which was left on the site earlier this morning by one of our resident conspiracy theorists.

If you want, we can take them sentence by sentence.

As I’ve got a little time, I can take the first one — “I have no doubt that COVID kills nor do I doubt that the Dems are exaggerating the threat to keep us isolated and fearful until after the election.”

Are the Democrats exaggerating the threat? No.

As of yesterday, 157,924 Americans have died as a result of COVID-19. As for where that put’s COVID-19 in the context of other diseases, I’d like to offer the following quote from a July 10 interview with Virginia Tech biostatistician Ron Fricker.

…Today, COVID-19 ranks as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, following heart disease, cancer, accidents, lower chronic respiratory diseases and stroke. Heart disease is the leading cause, with just over 647,000 Americans dying from it each year. Alzheimer’s disease, formerly the sixth largest cause of death, kills just over 121,000 people per year. If the University of Washington IHME model’s current prediction of COVID-19-related deaths comes to pass, COVID-19 will be the third leading cause of death in the United States by the end of the year.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2020 there will be an estimated 1.8 million new cancer cases diagnosed and 606,520 cancer deaths in the United States. Lung cancer is estimated to kill about 135,000 people in the US in 2020, so the number of COVID-19 deaths is currently equivalent and will exceed it soon. Of course, it is important to note that the COVID-19 deaths have occurred in about the past four months while the number of lung cancer deaths is for a year. So, COVID-19 deaths are occurring at roughly three times the rate of lung cancer deaths…

So, not only are we back to losing over 1,000 people a day from COVID-19, but it’s poised to be the third leading cause of death in America by the end of the year. I know the President has said that COVID-19 is not as bad as the seasonal flu, and that, one day, “It’s just going to disappear… like a miracle,” but that’s simply not true. It continues to grow and thrive in the United States under his watch, and people who were absolutely up-in-arms over the fact that we lost two people to Ebola under Obama, are now praising Trump’s response.

One more thing… I find it laughable that anyone would spend his or her time considering Barack Obama’s imagined role in “exaggerating the threat” of COVID-19 for his own political gain, when we have actual, real evidence that Donald Trump did the exact opposite for political gain. As Vanity Fair just recently reported, a former member of Jared Kushner’s COVID-19 task force has said, and I quote, “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy.” In other words, they knew how deadly this was, but, as it was hitting blue states the hardest, they decided to let it unfold, thinking that they could use it to attack Democratic governors. [I cannot wait for the class action suits against the federal government.] One really doesn’t have to look all that hard for conspiracy theories. They’re all right there, out in the open. All you have to do is open your eyes.

Speaking of which, remember in mid-July, when we’d heard that the Trump administration had stepped in to stop the CDC from collecting COVID-19 hospitalization data? Well it looks as though the CEO of the company that got the contract to take over the data collection, TeleTracking Technologies, is run by “a longtime Republican donor with ties to Trump Organization financiers.” So, again, why spend one’s time theorizing about a complicated plot involving Michelle Obama wresting power from a dementia-addled Joe Biden, when we can see what’s unfolding right in front of us, and it’s much, much worse.

I shouldn’t have to say this every day, but there is an infectious disease that is spreading across America, killing people — like my friend Monica Echeverri Casarez. And we have an administration that is not only neglecting to protect us, but actively lying about the situation, politicizing every aspect, and pushing us toward chaos and civil war. The idea of spending even one minute talking about how Obama might be trying to get back into the White House, when we have Donald Trump, who is actually in the White House, telling us that he’s considering the possibility of postponing the election, is in-fucking-sane. This is absolutely madness. We don’t need imagined threats. We have very real ones.

[Oh, and with almost 158,000 Americans dead, Trump is back on the golf course.]

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Behind in the polls, Donald Trump threatens to delay the presidential election. One Republican cuts ties.

This morning, citing the non-existent threat of mail-in voting, Donald Trump suggested that he may try to delay the upcoming election. And apparently this was the final straw for Steven G. Calabresi, a co-founder of the staunchly conservative Federalist Society. Upon reading this tweet of Trump’s, Calabresi drafted an opinion piece for the New York Times, demanding that every Republican in Congress stand up to the President, telling him that, “Doing so would be illegal, unconstitutional and without precedent in American history.” [He also said that any member of the House or Senate who refuses to do so, “should never be elected to Congress again.”]

While, to my knowledge, no elected Republicans have yet to agree with Trump on delaying the election, I haven’t seen any sign of the full-throated condemnation that Calabresi’s looking for. One wonders, however, if, with Trump being so far down in the national polls, this might be the last straw for some people. Personally, I doubt that folks who stuck with him through the 150,000 unnecessary deaths and the biggest GDP drop in recorded history are going to turn away now, just because he’s threatening to rob us of our right to vote, but I’m heartened to see that at least Calabresi has seen the light, and that gives me a small glimmer of hope that maybe a few Republican members of Congress might follow suit. [You’ve got to think that a few of them, if only for reasons of self-interest, will eventually walk away, right?]

Here, if you’d like to forward it to your Trump-supporting family members, is an excerpt from Calabresi’s op-ed.

As for Tump dropping in the polls, it would appear as though his campaign has given up on Michigan. According to reporting from McClatchy’s Dave Catanese, between June and July, the Biden campaign more than doubled their ad spending in Michigan, while the Trump campaign cut their’s by more than half. That’s great news. Not only does it mean fewer deceptive ads here in Michigan, but it means that their own internal polling is showing them that we’re no longer in play. We, of course, shouldn’t stop fighting and organizing. This thing is far from over, and I’m sure there are still a lot of twists, turns and dirty tricks ahead.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Michigan, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Today in Stupid America: Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert gets diagnosed with COVID-19, says he probably got it because he was wearing a mask

During our present pandemic, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, a diehard supporter of Donald Trump, has prided himself on not following public health guidance. And, not just that, but he’s known to have berated members of his staff for wearing masks in his office. Well, news broke today that Gohmert has COVID-19. And word has it that the Congressman, after finding out that he had the disease, returned to his D.C. office to inform his staff in person, putting them all at risk. And that itself would probably warrant a conversation here. But Gohmert, as he’s known to do, went one step further, telling a Texas reporter today that he likely contracted the disease not because of his time spent flaunting public health guideline, but because of the fact that he has, on occasion, worn a mask. That’s right, the Congressman is suggesting that mask wearing is likely responsible for his condition. Oh, and to cap it all off, he’s now saying that he’s going to take Trump’s advice and start taking hydroxychloroquine, the antimalarial drug that the FDA says is “unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19,” to treat the disease.

[“I can’t help but wonder if by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place, if I might have put some… of the virus on the mask and breathed it in,” Gohmert said.]

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, apparently intent on killing everyone in Congress, has responded by making mask-wearing mandatory, saying, “Any person not wearing a face cover will be asked to put on a face cover or leave the building.”

Oh, here’s one more thing to keep in mind. Back in February of this year, Donald Trump said the following of COVID-19. “You have 15 people,” he said, “and the 15, within a couple of days, is going to be down to close to zero.” Well, as of today, over 150,000 Americans have lost their lives to the disease. And the Republicans, who assailed Barack Obama for the two lives that we lost during the Ebola crisis, are still quiet.

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As public health officials plead with Americans to wear masks to stop the spread of COVID-19, Donald Trump shares debunked videos of “demon sex” doctor claiming that masks aren’t necessary

Yesterday, Facebook took down a video which was full of debunked claims about COVID-19. Shortly thereafter, Donald Trump began sharing clips from the same video with his 84.2 million followers on Twitter. Among other things, “experts” quoted in the video argue that masks don’t stop the spread of the disease, and that the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine cures COVID-19. Neither of these things is even remotely true. [Here, in the real world, the FDA revoked the emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine on June 15, citing that it was “unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19,” despite Trump’s many comments to the contrary.]

And, it should be noted, that, according to the Daily Beast, Donald Trump shared these video clips about masks not being necessary, just after his administration’s leading infectious disease experts Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci, held a call with governors, advocating for “mask mandates in several states.”

I’ve said it before, but I don’t see how an objective observer could watch what is happening right now in America and come away with any other interpretation than Donald Trump is actively trying to kill us. What other possible explanation could there be to share videos encouraging people not to wear masks in the midst of a deadly pandemic like they one we’re now living through?

Here, with a little more context, is a quote from today’s Washington Post: “Trump’s decision to share the misleading video comes amid mounting criticism, from opponents and allies alike, over his handling of a pandemic that has now killed at least 145,000 people in the U.S. The president spent months obstinately denying the severity of the crisis, refusing to wear a mask in public, blaming rising case numbers on testing, and campaigning against governors’ shutdown orders.”

So, with all of that by way of background, I’d like for you to watch the following clip from Trump’s White House coronavirus briefing this afternoon. [This is why I’ve called you all here today.]

For those of you who are either unwilling or unable to watch, here’s a partial transcript from the above exchange between CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and the President of the United States on one of the doctors whose video he shared. I think it’s one of the best distillations of Donald Trump’s America that I’ve ever come across.

COLLINS: “The woman that you said is a ‘great doctor,’ in the video that you retweeted last night, said that masks don’t work, and there is a cure for COVID-19, both of which health experts say is not true. She’s also made videos saying that doctors make medicines using DNA from aliens, and that they’re trying to create a vaccine to make you immune from becoming religious.”

TRUMP: “I can tell you this. She was on air, along with many other doctors, and they were big fans of hydroxychloroquine. And I thought she was very impressive… I thought her voice was an important voice, but I know nothing about her.”

The doctor in question, whose name is Stella Immanuel, also demanded a jar of Fauci’s urine, along with samples from several CNN hosts, in order to test for the presence of hydroxychloroquine, the suggestion being that they’re secretly availing themselves of this miracle cure, while keeping it from the American people. [I was really hoping that we were finally done with hydroxychloroquine shit, but these things just never seem to die once Donald Trump injects them into the American collective conscience.] What’s more, from what I’m reading now, Immanuel also believes that many common ailments can be attributed to sexual visitations by demons and witches. [She also apparently believes that our government is being controlled by reptilians, but who doesn’t these days?]

Somewhat related, I’m thinking that I should cut things short tonight to work on a song about getting gout from a night spent marinating in demon sperm.

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Mark’s Covid Diary… July 26, 2020

I know there are other things that we should probably be talking about right now, like the “wall of moms” in Portland or the flood of disinformation headed our way about vote-by-mail, but I feel, for the sake of my sanity, the I need to step back, and write about other stuff for a while.

MY SON AND I HAVE BEEN WALKING A LOT… Actually, I walk a lot. He just rides alongside me on his bicycle. We usually go out for an hour at lunch, and again in the evening. I looked at my phone the other day, and it says that we’ve been logging over five miles a day. It’s one of the few good things about this pandemic that Donald Trump has given us. I’ve always spent a lot of time with Arlo; reading from the Three Investigators library in the hammock, playing catch in the yard, watching episodes of Columbo, collecting bugs, etc., but there’s something different about these sweat-drenched forced marches of ours. Maybe it’s the exhaustion, or the fact that, walking side-by-side, we’re not looking at one another when we’re talking, but I’ve found him to be more focused, and willing to explore things more deeply than he might ordinarily. [There’s always a period of time in which he just wants to talk about video games, but that generally passes after the first mile or so.] Today, we talked at length about the 1955 Spencer Tracy film Bad Day at Black Rock, which is about the murder of a Japanese farmer in the rural American west the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. [We’d watched it a few days ago.] We’ve talked quite a bit about racism in the past, but I felt as though, today, he was making connections that he hadn’t before, and it made me happy to have reached that milestone with him.

I know it’s not a healthy way to look at things, but, every time we cross a little parenting milestone like this, I say to myself, “At least I made it this far.” Having two close friends who lost their fathers very early in life, I’m constantly thinking about my experiences with my children, and the fact that, at some point, I won’t be around to share these moments with them. I suppose it could be a good thing, taking a moment to reflect positively on the fact that I was fortunate enough to have shared an experience with my son or daughter that others might not, but that’s not the way it works. Maybe it’s an OCD thing — just part of living with near constant anxiety — but, for me, it’s just a feeling of, “That was close. I bet I’ll never make it to the next milestone.” Still, though, it was good to have a thoughtful conversation with him about racism and what causes it, and I’m thankful to have been given that opportunity.

Here’s something you don’t know. On my list of potential baby names, when Arlo was still waiting to be born, was Thankful. If memory serves, I looked it up and found that there had been a Thankful Maynard in Puritan New England. Hopefully, one day, Arlo appreciates the fact that I didn’t fight to make that his name, saving him from childhood of schoolyard harrassment. [Linette proposed the name Arlo, and I conceded that it was a better astronaut name.]

Speaking of my son, today was the first day I heard him utter the word “fuck.” We’d come home from our walk, and I heard him telling his mom about the stuff we’d seen, and, in the process, he said “fuck the police,” referring to the sign you can see above, which we noticed today, at the old, abandoned Ypsilanti Farm Bureau building. We’d talked about it for a long time, what the impetus was behind it, and why someone would risk their life to climb up there. Thankfully, there are a lot of good opportunities these days for discussions like this. Yesterday, it was a sign we’d seen in a neighborhood that said, “Black Infant Mortality Rates Matter,” which led to long conversation about health outcomes in the black community.

Our conversations aren’t all so weighty, though. Yesterday, while making our way around Highland Cemetery, we were talking about zombies, and where we’d head in case this current pandemic of ours took a turn, and the dead started walking the earth. We started debating the merits of Starkweather Chapel, but ultimately decided that we’d try to make out way to Greenfield Village, which is already well-walled-off, and set up for non-industrial farming. And, from there, we started talking about everything in the Henry Ford Museum that could be used to kill zombies, and how bizarre it would be to kill a zombie in the chair that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in or the limo in which John F. Kennedy was murdered. [My best idea, I think, was to pierce a zombie’s brain with Thomas Edison’s last breath, which is contained in a glass tube at the museum.]

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it here before, but there are two jobs that I’ve been offered over the years that I still wonder if I should have taken. When I moved back to Michigan from Los Angeles, I was offered a job at the Henry Ford Museum. And, years before that, when I was living in DC, I was offered a job at the Smithsonian Institution. While I was intrigued by both opportunities, I ultimately declined both due to the fact that I didn’t think I could afford to live on what they were able to pay. As a U-M grad in American Studies, though, and someone whose first “real” job was in historic archeology, I can’t tell you how much it pains me to think about what might have been. [I like to imagine myself, digging though the Smithsonian’s archive, looking for the jar with John Dillinger’s penis.]

THE FIRST HAIRCUT OF THE APOCALYPSE… Linette finally wore me down. I’d been putting off a haircut since all of this started. It had gotten pretty unwieldy, but I kept telling myself that, one of these days, I’d cut it myself. I know a woman who decided, that since she was in quarantine, she’d take the opportunity to do something she’d always wanted to do, and shave her head. And that got me thinking that I should try to replicate my favorite haircut from my youth, when I’d just cut off huge chunks of my hair with a razor, leaving me looking as though I had mange. I’m sure my loved ones found it upsetting, but I loved it. And I thought that maybe I should take this opportunity that Donald Trump has give us to try to recapture the magic. I went so far as to search for a “business wig” on Amazon, thinking that maybe I could pull it off, if I had a hairpiece that I could put on when having Zoom calls for work, but I never acted on it. So, upon collapsing into a chair this afternoon after a few hours of working in the yard, I told Linette that she could do whatever she wanted to my hair. I just sat there, with my eyes closed, nearly dozing, listening to the Tigers game, and enjoying the sun. It was really nice… Here’s a photo. [I don’t really pay attention to baseball. And I don’t like watching it on TV. I just list listening to it on the radio. Maybe it’s an inherited thing from generations past.]

As I still have a few minutes left before I lose my battle with sleep, there’s one more thing that I wanted to mention. Above, I referenced the “wall of moms” in Portland. Over the past few days, they’ve been joined by “walls” of dads, vets, teachers, healthcare workers and lawyers, most of whom have been wearing their own distinctive color. [Moms are in yellow, dads are in orange, etc.] Well, I was just wondering how many other groups were out there plotting, coming up with a color scheme that hasn’t been taken yet, and trying to recruit people for “walls” of their own to stand between protesters and the Department of Justice officers deployed by the Trump reelection campaign. Specifically, I was wondering whether or not any groups I count myself as a member of might be looking to field teams; small town bloggers, retired zine publishers, race traitors, people with OCD, middle aged Eagle Scouts, Vonnegut fans, pre-war jazz enthusiasts, people who love to compost, former archeologists, etc. I guess I could head out with the dads, but I feel like, if I hold out for just a little longer, something better will come along… something that wouldn’t require me to buy a leaf blower.

Posted in Mark's Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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