Friday, April 3, 2020

A journalism professor of mine, quoting someone more clever than him, once said “journalism is the first rough draft of history”. That being the case, since apparently COVID-19 not only dominates the news, it pretty near pushes everything else out, here we go.

Of course, there is other news going on besides “the entire world is sick and can’t go to work,” but it seems everything is in one way or another tied to it. In case anyone forgot, the Democratic primary is still going on with a round of voting in Wisconsin Tuesday. However, for whatever reason, they don’t have their ducks in a row to deal with the new scenario and will have in Milwaukee just five polling places for the entire city. So, hopefully they can get that untangled by Tuesday.

An odd bonus to the pandemic is that less travel means less demand for travelling which means less cars at the pump. So, gas prices are as low as they’ve been in almost 30 years even though no one should be going anywhere. Well, we can’t have that. In collusion with Russia and Saudi Arabia, Trump has announced they’re coming close to an agreement between the three largest oil producers to throttle down production so as to drive prices up because, sure, why not. If anyone can’t take a slight financial hit for a short while, it’s worldwide energy conglomerates.

I’ve put off writing about Tara Reade to let the rest of the media can do its job, but it seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. She’s accusing candidate Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her when she was his aide in 1993. Now, the reason the mainstream media tiptoes around these things is the fear of getting sued, especially when it comes to politically powerful men. That’s changing but obviously not fast enough. In any event, personally, I see the accusations credible enough to warrant investigation, especially if the guy’s going to be president.

Just like with his so-called cognitive decline, Trump’s people and fanbase aren’t going to see the hypocrisy in using that as a club, if that’s the issue and it shouldn’t be. In any event, it’s way past time the Democratic Party addressed its own problems not just with sexual assault charges but how it deals with them. Dudes, you can’t just ignore things anymore.

We’re a solid three weeks into this and the reality is sitting on our face and farting. As of today, there have been 6,057 deaths in the U.S. and today saw the highest single-day count at nearly 1,200. We’re still wrapping our heads around things, trying to figure out what to do next and how to do it. To be frank, we’ve sort of stumbled through it. Some of it’s been plain ignorance on our part, as in Mardi Gras, or youthful stupidity like during Spring Break. However, for all the hoo-hah people talk about “leadership” from elected officials, it’s been spotty to say the least.

While there have been some superstars like Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Jay Inslee of Washington, state heads like Kay Ivey of Alabama and our own Tate Reeves had to dragged kicking and screaming into acting right, finally getting around to it when cold, hard reality slaps them in the face. It’s less to do with party than action taken, as John Bel Edwards is having to deal with New Orleans as the fastest growing area of infection.

And don’t get it twisted, it’s not just the South and our famed thick-headed stubbornness. People in her state are begging Republican Governor Kim Reynolds to announce a state shut down. She is not and, indeed, is being kind of an asshole about things. Dr. Anthony Fauci has expressed dismay that everyone hasn’t shut down their state, which prompted Gov. Reynolds to call him divisive and wonder – out loud, where everyone can hear her – whether he “maybe has all the information”. I don’t know how far up Trump’s rear she is, but if Tate Reeves buckled under and told Mississippi to stay in this weekend, you know it ain’t just for play.

Granted, Reeves has had little choice but to act because, friends and neighbors, Mississippi is in dire straits. Per capita, we have the highest rate of people hospitalized. With 1,073 infected and 332 in hospital, that works out to around 31%. What’s really worrisome is Mississippi has the least amount of doctors per capita in the country as well as the most uninsured in the country.

With the per capita income so low here, the nationwide unemployment situation is bearing down hard on us. Over 700,000 jobs have been lost across the country and something like 6.6 million people filed for unemployment last week, joining the 3.3 million that filed two weeks ago. While the oil companies are getting their taste of that 2.1 trillion dollar stimulus, the rest of us are having to wait our turn. The administration doesn’t really want to say anything about it, but it could be August before the checks go out.

Of course, Trump and family are getting their taste. Having put his half-wit son-in-law in charge of the response, Jared Kushner’s company somehow stands to make out like a bandit thanks to the freeze on federal mortgages. Kushner Companies have over $800 million in federally backed loans allowing them to control low- and medium-income homes across the country. Known slum lords, the Kushners – father and son – could deal with people not paying their rent during this time by sliding the bill to the federal government and taxpayers.

But that’s not just the expected grift of the Trumps, but the blindness of the wealthy in general. One thing “social distancing” and everyone showing what they’re keeping themselves busy on social media, we’re seeing a lot of the upper crust’s complete inability to function without servants. It’d be funny if it weren’t so obnoxious. They’re making the case way better than Bernie Sanders could for a wealth tax if not a shot from the French razor.

While here in Mississippi, people who have to feed their kids and keep their lights on are having trouble navigating the filing for unemployment. Thanks to 31,000 people having filed for unemployment, the Mississippi Department of Employment Security finds itself overwhelmed despite more staff and longer hours. Even if someone is able to nail down unemployment, they’re looking at $235 from the state and $600 from the federal stimulus package.

My own cousin, a journeyman electrician, is experiencing headaches filing for employment, and his uncle’s business is having to shut down because of the statewide shut-down of the largest employers. The problem, as he sees it, if people are getting $800 from the government, why should they go back to work. Of course, no one considers the reality of that stimulus having a rather short shelf life, but maybe doing something about paying better wages would better induce people to work themselves to death.

Just a thought.

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