• Covid State of Things

    October 9, 2021 // 9 Comments »

    It is important to stop every once in awhile and sum up where things are, to lay down some breadcrumbs to refer back to when someone asks “How did we end up here?”

    In many ways, the story is the same story. The message of 9/11 was give up freedom for safety, trust the government, and treat your neighbors as potential threats. Now 20 years later, you realize you went along with it because you were scared. The message of Covid is to give up more freedom for safety, trust the government, and treat your neighbors as potential threats. Fear is infectious and now we’re here.

    As a young David Petraeus asked early in the Iraq War, tell me how this ends. What is the Covid endgame? Victory was once defined as making testing available to all. Then lock downs to free up ventilators. Then vaccinations available to all. No one knows anymore what the goal is but some sort of return-to-normal with 100 percent vaccination and 0 percent infection is as real as a democratic Afghanistan once seemed.

    What started as “two weeks to flatten the curve” has metastasized into 18 months of lockdowns, masks mandates, and vax passports. Most of what has already happened was dismissed as conspiracy theories less than a year ago. Our society — work, education, shopping, entertainment, socialization — has been fundamentally changed by decree, emergency powers taken by government not given by the people. Each of the 50 states is its own world now, with its own rules.

    We are still somewhat free to move from one to another, though flight may soon be only for the vaccinated. Hawaii has previously closed its borders, then opened them only to people who vaxxed or tested. It became the first state to prohibit Americans from visiting a part of America. The state is looking at publishing the names of those who should be in quarantine so that their neighbors can inform on them. Hawaii also became the first state to arrest American citizens for traveling inside America. Two men are currently locked up for trying to enter the state unvaxxed and untested. Their sentence was 10 days in jail, literal quarantine at gunpoint. The understood right of Americans to travel freely among the states has stood the tests of time, war, and economic crisis, only to stumble on a virus. Such horizontal federalism threatens to stop the Constitution at certain state borders.

    Hawaii is just one state. However, the new Biden travel regulations will soon require American citizens returning from abroad to undergo some sort of vax and testing regime. For the first time, Americans will need to demonstrate something other than citizenship to exercise the right to return to their own country. Biden’s plan tasks the airlines with determining overseas who can get on a plane to America, citizen or not. That move is a critical departure. The right to travel has been long understood to be a part of the 5A liberty of which the citizen cannot be deprived without due process. Existing quarantine laws (some of which date, ironically, to leprosy scares from when Hawaii was a U.S. territory) required the decision to admit a (sick) American to be made at a U.S. port of entry by a U.S. government official, assuring some modicum of due process. By out sourcing enforcement to an airline clerk in Paris, as with outsourcing censorship to Twitter, Biden disposes of Constitutional protections.

    Those who ask to see the science behind decrees (why 50 percent capacity at bars and not 63 percent or 41?) are canceled, shunned, and mocked. How was it determined six feet of social distancing, not four or 12, is best? No one seems to know. And why doesn’t the size of the room and its airflow matter? Can’t talk about that. Oppose some new rule however absurd and be labeled a child killer by your neighbors. The acts of violence connected with masks and duct taping passengers on airplanes are considered ends that justify the means and are growing. One progressive voice advocates treating the unvaccinated last at the hospital (the writer, a gay man, isn’t old enough to remember when people demanded gays not get AIDS treatment because they chose sodomy.) Are masks effective? It doesn’t matter, because it was never just about how effective masks are against the virus. What matters are masks are very effective as a entry-level test of compliance, then later as a symbol, you know, like armbands.

    The sad thing is how quickly thinking ended. Our society leaves no space for people who choose to get vaccinated while at the same time worry about the increasing government control. Many people opposed to masks are not anti-science, they are opposed to politically-charged public policy. There is no chance to look into additional virus care without it ending up as a Maddow piece about slack jawed yokels eating horse suppositories. Something can by itself be a life-saving medicine and an instrument of social control depending on how it is used. When rational thinking is frowned upon and everything becomes fodder for frightened zealots the pitchforks are not far away.
    If you’ve ever been conned, you know the feeling. That tickle in your stomach when you realize the guy who took your money is not coming back from just around the corner with your knock-off Rolex. You wait around a while, but at some point you get it. You’ve been taken. That’s where we are. There is no ambiguity. This is all happened. It took only months without a shot being fired. The Nazis were amateurs.

     

    Given how what were dismissed as conspiracy theories only months ago are now policy, it is tempting to take a self-righteous victory lap. We were right. But all that has been finally made clear is the what. The most important question is always why. Cui bono, who benefits?

    The Democrats clearly surfed Covid fear to beat Trump. But Biden shows no real interest in following through, assuming the role of tyrant, squeezing Covid for every grand plan he has on his list, as Bush did with playing 9/11 into invading everywhere. Joe’s crimes against liberty add up to something significant, but they have been implemented haphazardly. He never created, for example, a massive overgrinding Covid Security Agency like TSA. Biden and the Dems just wanted to ride a successful vax summer into the upcoming midterms. Other small thinkers like Andrew Cuomo, who wanted to use his new public image as the Trump Covid Slayer into a White House bid were taken care of as needed, much like Bernie was disappeared.

    The flow has all been one direction, more control and less liberty. If the threat is so obvious, why has this needed to be so coercive? So here comes the theory we’ll look back on to judge in full: there are powerful forces at work, by design or by luck when a door opened. Covid has not been about small political moves, it has always been about massive societal change.

    Education, the absolute only route for advancement out of the 99 percent (albeit not guaranteed) ceased to exist for many, who either stopped attending or merely suffered through thrown together online “classes.” The average IQ of American children fell 22 points during the pandemic and suicide rates exploded. As the pandemic took hold, more than a million children did not enroll in school. Many of them were the most vulnerable: five-year-olds in low-income neighborhoods. Think lack of diversity is a problem? Try ignorance.

    Many more were among those tricked into joining Darwin’s club by refusing vaccinations for the dumbest reasons. Large numbers of blacks were convinced the Covid vaccine was a massive medical experiment with them as the guinea pigs (70 percent of black New Yorkers and over half of Latinos aren’t vaxxed; BLM plans an “uprising” against vax mandates) Rural whites were convinced the vaccines contain tracking microchips or were otherwise toxic. Liberals were blunted by Kamala Harris’ claim she would never trust a vaccine developed under Trump. Large swatches of the less useful in society (“deplorables”) are either dead, dying, or effectively mandated off the playing field forever. Someone else now controls who works, who gets educated, who lives.

    Economic disparity and homelessness increased. If you are allowed to work (from home) you assume more of the costs of hiring you, like providing office space. More and more people are dependent on debt, with their noses held just above water (i.e., they can make minimum payments) by government money: stimulus checks, unemployment, the whole A-Z of benefits. What little the wealthy pay in taxes is recycled through the poor back upward. Pathetically in the world’s last superpower, the majority of young people now say YouTuber or influencer are their top job choices (true.) Start a GoFundMe and make one frozen burrito last two meals are their budget strategies (kidding, sort of.) The police don’t create safety as much as they manages the results of the inequality by force.

    Can’t travel. Can’t work. Can’t go to school. Can’t make medical decisions. Can’t interact with neighbors (they’re dangerous.) Can’t walk into places without government permission (you’re dangerous.) Can’t depend on Constitutional protections in an emergency. Meanwhile the very wealthiest own spaceships. Naw, can’t be.

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Economy

    Majority of U.S. Public School Students Live in Poverty

    February 19, 2016 // 14 Comments »

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    For the first time since the Great Depression, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.

    The Southern Education Foundation reports 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches, a common indicator of food at-risk students living below the Federal Poverty Line.


    Bottom Feeders Not Fed

    “We’ve all known this was the trend, that we would get to a majority, but it’s here sooner rather than later,” said Michael A. Rebell of Teachers College at Columbia University, noting that the poverty rate has been increasing even as the economy has improved. “A lot of people at the top are doing much better, but the people at the bottom are not doing better at all. Those are the people who have the most children and send their children to public school.”

    Free, universal public education was a cornerstone of America’s growth, seeking to assimilate waves of immigrants and to provide them with the basic education needed in their day to participate in the economy, i.e., first an elementary education only, enlarged to include high school as demands changed. Things stalled out there.

    The trend toward majority-poor students in that public education system suggests further sorting out, at very early ages, of our once semi-egalitarian society into Haves (the one percent) and Have Nots (the 99 percent; the numbers are not that sharp yet, but definitely aimed that way.)

    Stupid people can’t get good jobs. But stupid people also do what they’re told to do, especially if they depend on you to keep their kids just barely out of starvation.


    We Don’t Need No Education

    In addition, the majority-poor schools are sliding away from their educational function and are becoming simply extension of the social services net.

    “When they first come in my door in the morning, the first thing I do is an inventory of immediate needs: Did you eat? Are you clean? A big part of my job is making them feel safe,” said Sonya Romero-Smith, a veteran teacher at Lew Wallace Elementary School in Albuquerque. Fourteen of her 18 kindergartners are eligible for free lunches. She helps them clean up with bathroom wipes and toothbrushes, and she stocks a drawer with clean socks, underwear, pants and shoes.

    Romero-Smith, 40, who has been a teacher for 19 years, became a foster mother in November to two girls, sisters who attend her school. They had been homeless, their father living on the streets and their mother in jail, she said. When she brought the girls home, she was shocked by the disarray of their young lives.

    “Getting rid of bedbugs, that took us awhile. Night terrors, that took a little while. Hoarding food, flushing a toilet and washing hands, it took us a little while,” she said. “You spend some time with little ones like this and it’s gut wrenching. These kids aren’t thinking, ‘Am I going to take a test today?’ They’re thinking, ‘Am I going to be okay?’”



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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Economy

    How to Waste Money in Afghanistan: Step-by-Step Instructions

    June 19, 2015 // 2 Comments »

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    USAID just got caught wasting $769 million not supporting Afghanistan’s education sector.

    How could this happen?!? As a public service, here are your step-by-step instructions.

    — Start with the premise that schools in a wasteland like Afghanistan in support of a failed American policy are more important uses of American taxpayer money than schools in America (which is socialism, or a handout, or whatever, Ayn Rand.)

    — Send incompetent people (see below) to Afghanistan with a lot of money, say $769 million. Tell them to build schools. If you don’t have enough in-house incompetent people, like USAID, hire contractors, like USAID did.

    — Make sure those people never travel to where the schools are being built. Instead, have them rely on a known corrupt government to tell them where to spend the money. In our instant case, former ministry officials who served under President Hamid Karzai provided false data to USAID regarding the number of active schools in Afghanistan.

    — Make sure, as USAID, while spending all that money, not to ask if there are any schools actually being built. Instead, sit back and look the other way as Afghan officials doctored statistics, embezzled money, and interfered with university entrance exams to make it seem schools existed. These allegations suggest that the U.S. and other donors may have paid for ghost schools that ghost students do not attend and for the salaries of ghost teachers who do not teach.

    — Despite this, as USAID, announce at every opportunity that education programs are among your most successful work in Afghanistan. For example, USAID cited a jump in students enrolled in schools from an estimated 900,000 in 2002 to more than eight million in 2013 as a clear indicator of progress.

    — Make sure all your data supporting these successes is unverifiable, coming only from the Afghan Ministry of Education. Appear surprised when you learn, years and $769 million later, that the data has been falsified. Do not conduct any investigation of your own. Wait and see if some inspector general notices. You know most of the media won’t.

    — Ignore the fact that accurate data is essential for gauging progress and for making future funding decisions. Congress will help with this.

    — Make sure you have bosses in the field and at the State Department in Washington who do not care about accurate metrics or real results.

    — Repeat this process for fourteen years of the Afghan War.




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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Economy