You Must Testify in the House, Dr. Fauci

From National Geographic

I just can’t understand how there are people anywhere in the country right now so brainwashed by right-wing media propaganda that they cannot see what is being foisted onto them by the wealthy donor class.  While the ones making all the noise in the Fox media bubble about “opening up the economy” and “give me my freedom” are fully insulated from any fear of catching Covid-19 by virtue of their wealth and status, they are funding “Astroturf” demonstrations in cities all over the country by people armed with assault rifles and other firearms who are almost entirely white and still employed.  The ones who are most at risk by a “return to normal” are the lowest-paid, mostly minority citizens or immigrants with the least to gain by being forced back to a job without adequate protections or sufficient testing to keep them from getting the virus.  I haven’t seen anyone like that at any of those stupid protests.

It’s amazing to me that it is still possible for propaganda to convince such large swaths of people of outright lies that are easily debunked with just a few Google searches.  A virus has no interest in the political leaning of the human host that it infects, and a lack of belief in the virus does not provide immunity.   It is not the wealthy donors/corporate leaders that incite these Tea-Party-esque protests who are out in the streets spreading Covid-19; many of the armed protestors were members of militias, along with extremist groups and conspiracy theorists attracting in-kind attention.  These are a loud, vocal but statistically insignificant section of society encouraged to expose themselves to Covid-19 by groups supporting the presidential reelection.  The vast majority of us agree that it is too soon to relax social distancing guidelines or to go back into enclosed spaces with large groups of people.  Nothing the Republicans and their donors are doing now in any way is meant to benefit the vast majority of us, and anyone who tries to tell you anything different is lying to you. 

Every one of the loudmouth idiots on right-wing media claiming that getting the “economy” going again is worth a loss of some lives continue to keep themselves and their loved ones safely sheltering at home, away from the masses that includes the rest of us.  Our lives are of no importance to them in the big picture, as they see the rest of us as expendable and of little use if we’re not promoting a cause that benefits their corporate line.

Everyone who died after contracting Covid-19 mattered to someone, and their deaths are being mourned by loved ones all over the world.  It is notable that there have been few publicized cases of Covid-19 in the Republican Party higher echelon.  There were a few representatives, and of course Senator Rand Paul (who continued to expose everyone with whom he had contact while he waited for his test results) who tested positive early on, but all of them had an uneventful disease course and recovery.  To the best of my knowledge, none have lost family members or close friends to the virus, what with their white privilege and higher net worth versus the population at large.  Trump, Pence and everyone with whom they come into contact are getting tested regularly, while those of us in the real world can only access tests that may take days to return results if we’re hospitalized and symptomatic, so no one knows who among us are asymptomatic carriers.  Still, Trump keeps pushing to “reopen our country” while regularly but insufficiently raising the expected number of Americans who will not survive his negligence while trying to convince his base he has no responsibility for those unnecessary and totally preventable deaths.

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York said, “They want to fund corporate America.  That’s who puts money in their pockets.  And I say let’s fund working Americans.  That’s the choice.”  The Republicans in power at the federal, state and even local levels are parroting Trump’s reelection politics and also focusing foolishly on the economics of the pandemic, rather than sensibly addressing the pandemic, which is the only way the economics will improve.  I don’t care how many beauty shops, massage studios, tattoo parlors or restaurants are approved to reopen – if customers don’t feel safe enough to come in, there will be no recovery.

This is the bottom line for the Republican Party – keep the money flowing to their donors so it can find its way into their reelection coffers.  They have sold their voters a real bill of goods using dog whistle politics.  Trump’s xenophobic attack on the “Chinese” or “Wuhan” virus – like he used immigration from Central and South America during the 2016 election – and a debunked conspiracy theory that the virus was 1) man-made in a lab in Wuhan and released or 2) released accidentally from a Wuhan lab where they were experimenting with virus in monkeys, are just the start.  Republicans all over the country have jumped onto the bandwagon with Trump, including (no surprise) Jeff Sessions, Tom Cotton, Kris Kobach, Josh Hawley, John Cornyn, Lindsey Graham and Martha McSally.  They and many more are utilizing this rhetoric in their campaign ads, and they have no problem saying so out loud in public.  These things strike a chord in voters with a tendency towards racism and xenophobia, and they have learned to manipulate their constituents by tapping into this underlying inclination.  Birtherism, confederate flags, “illegal aliens” – all are used to inflame racial tensions and divide us.

When right-wing media – particularly Fox – supports this skewed and highly prejudicial messaging, it makes it easier to keep their viewers tuned in to their propaganda.  Who doesn’t want to have their own biases confirmed by the host on your favorite “news” channel?  No one questions whatever garbage comes at them from their screens; confirmation bias keeps the bullshit meter quiet, and using this xenophobic rhetoric helps to distract from Trump’s utter failure to protect us.

Trump is getting tired of Dr. Anthony Fauci and his inconvenient facts and realistic predictions for what’s likely coming in the next year, and he’s starting to do what he always does when someone with a brain disagrees with his own “feelings” – he’s pushing Dr. Fauci off the stage and out of sight of his base.  Trump refuses to let Dr. Fauci testify before the House Appropriations Committee, claiming he has to focus on Covid-19 and doesn’t have time to waste on pointless oversight, but he’s approved Fauci’s appearance next week in the Senate.  Trump has stated out loud that this is because “Trump-haters” are in the House. 

I know that Dr. Fauci has devoted his professional career to the NIAID/NIH, where he began as a clinical associate after completing his residency in 1968.   He worked his way up to director in 1984, and was instrumental in HIV/AIDS research.  I applaud his service to the country over all those years, and thank him sincerely for choosing a career in public health instead of the more lucrative private practice route.  I appreciate his desire to continue on after this has passed, but desperate times really do call for desperate measures.  This desperate time calls for Dr. Fauci to make the ultimate sacrifice for the good of the country, maybe even the world, and resign from NIAID so that he can appear before the House and testify freely about all that he knows regarding the federal government’s response (or lack thereof) to this pandemic.  Trump knows that his inability to do what is best for the country will once again be on full display if Dr. Fauci is able to enlighten us, but his ability to quash Dr. Fauci’s testimony drops to zero once Dr. Fauci leaves the NIAID and becomes just another private citizen. 

Dr. Fauci is seventy-nine years old, and (as my dad used to say), has more years behind him than he does in front.  It is time for him to pack up his desk and head off into the sunset of retirement, freeing him to testify in the House.  I’m sure that Dr. Fauci believes he can do more good by remaining in his position to push the science to manage the pandemic, but I think he’s fallen victim to the same magical thinking that has spread like a virus throughout the entire executive branch.  Remember Jim Mattis, Rex Tillerson, Reince Priebus, John Bolton and John Kelly?

Trump does not listen to anyone with expertise in any field.  The fact that Trump himself is singularly, incredibly and uniformly uninformed, under-informed and misinformed about everything that he needs to do or manage in his role as president is obvious to anyone who takes a few minutes to fact find.  It never ceases to astound me that Fox viewers, who have listened to Trump ramble on for hours and hours, bouncing from one subject to another while making almost no sense, still cannot put together his incoherence and incompetence as the existential threat to our very existence as a democracy and as humans that has been so apparent to the rest of us.  This is why Dr. Fauci has to stand up and speak out now.  Otherwise, the preventable deaths that follow will weigh on him for the rest of his life.

Dr. Fauci must resign his position at NIAID and provide the House with any and all documentation they have requested in their investigation of the response to Covid-19.  He should also include unrequested information if it addresses the matter at hand.  Dr. Fauci’s testimony should be public, and the Republicans on the committee should be prevented from propagandizing – although how you accomplish the latter is beyond me.  We have already lost more than 65,000 citizens due in large part to the denial, down-playing and inaction of Trump and his administration.  To limit further loss of life, Dr. Fauci must speak out and elucidate what the president knew, when he knew it, what was recommended by the experts, and what he chose to do instead.  Dr. Fauci needs to clarify why the US didn’t utilize the WHO tests already proven to be effective instead of tasking the CDC with a job it was not designed to do, and any information he can provide with regard to the millions of PPE that was sold to China shortly before it was discovered that our own stockpiles of these items was beyond insufficient should be enlightening.  

Trump continues to purge the executive branch of all who dare to do their jobs, since most of those jobs entail the honest and public reporting of Trump’s wildly erratic and incoherent leadership, and Dr. Fauci’s time is drawing neigh.  Trump has never admitted wrongdoing or mistakes, whether intentional or unintentional, as his malignant narcissism completely avoids any introspection or contemplating the possibility that something he did was wrong or caused harm.  He lacks empathy, or even the ability to pretend to be empathetic, never failing to make everything, including the deaths of tens of thousands of us whose protection he is expected to foster, all about him.  Since starting these stupid coronavirus rallies (which is obviously what they are in Trump’s head), the Washington Post last week reported Trump had spoken for at least 28 hours over 35 briefings, more than two hours attacking opponents and the media, an hour praising himself and his administration, around nine minutes touting the use of unproven drugs as treatment for Covid-19, and a big 4 ½ minutes expressing sympathy over the dead.  A quarter of the things he said from prepared remarks were either false or outright misleading, culminating in his off-the-cuff suggestions to inject disinfectant or get “really powerful” light inside the body.  He later tried to claim he was being sarcastic.  We have eyes, Donny, so no.

Dr. Fauci, we love you, and under other circumstances, we would support you remaining at NIAID for as long as you want to be there.  This presidency and administration are something never before considered as an actual threat to our society, and your work at NIAID is superseded by your duty to protect Americans from the negligence and incompetence that Trump has spread throughout the administration in a deliberate strategy to destroy government as we know it.  I know that this isn’t how you expected to end your time at NIAID, but rest assured that doing this now is necessary for the good of the many…

not the few….

or the one.

History will remember your choice.  We will owe our lives to you.

Mask Maker, Mask Maker, Make Me A Mask!

I’ve been teased by my daughter Anna for years for saving things that, to her at least, had no real value.  Old sheets and pillowcases from a former waterbed, or the old queen-sized ones I can’t use on my king-sized bed, have been accumulating around my house for years.  Why?  Well, you never know when you’ll need a drop cloth to use when painting, or to protect furniture from dust, or, now, to cut up and use to make homemade face masks.  Why pay to buy something when you can just save another thing you already have until you need to use it later on?  My grandmother lived through the depression, so I learned early on about saving good things while discarding the useless ones.

Try to buy cotton fabric at your local craft store – assuming it’s even open – and you’ll find that there are none in stock you’d be willing to wear on your face.  I’ve placed an order on Amazon for a 70-piece bunch of quilting squares, just to make me feel less like I’m running a one-person assembly line in my kitchen.  I’ve reached a point where I now must await a different Amazon delivery to complete most of the masks I’ve already made with elastic bands.  I’m forced right now to use shoelaces, which I’ve also saved for years!  My house is the place to be in the event of an apocalypse!

I started out intent on making just a few masks for me and my family and friends, so I knew that my mismatched assortment of solid-colored pillowcases would be more than enough material to cover those faces.  My closest friends are all nurses, two of whom work in hospitals while the third works at an outpatient dialysis unit run by a national chain.  My friend who works in the Pennsylvania hospital has so far reported having sufficient PPE; I don’t know if my friend who works in a New Jersey facility is having issues, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that no news is good news.  The dialysis nurse, however, was working in a unit without N95 masks despite having at least five of their regular patients diagnosed with Covid-19;  now that he’s agreed (for significantly higher hazard pay) to go to a Covid-19 positive facility.  Although he’s now being provided with an N95 mask, he’s expected to use the same mask for an entire shift instead of changing the mask between patients, which is the standard of care for PPE. 

It shouldn’t be necessary, in the richest country in the world, for random citizens to have to make cloth face masks for healthcare workers to use in place of appropriate PPE.  The federal government’s purpose for being is to support us (the citizens who pay our taxes to that government) when the fecal matter hits the air moving device, and the Trump administration continues to let every one of us down.  The whole point of having the federal government run point during any crisis is to simplify the work the states and local governments need to do to support us, their citizens.  Having our federal government standing around with its proverbial thumb stuck up its butt is outrageous, and the administration’s lack of purpose and urgency is costing lives on a daily basis around the country!

Trump’s laziness, illiteracy and inability to care at all about anyone other than himself has been once again put on display for all to see.  The PDB (Presidential Daily Briefing) from the intelligence community that previous presidents actually read every morning might as well be used as fire starter for all the good it does us now.  Trump not only refuses to exert himself enough to actually read the PDB every day, he doesn’t even pay attention when he’s given an oral summary of the PDB just three times a week!  How is it that we are forced to keep this man in the presidency when he has made it so clear that he doesn’t have any intention of doing the peoples’ work, or really anything resembling work at all?  Why do the Republicans, who are so fucking on fire to push the citizenry back to work, remain silent as their president abrogates his duty to protect us while he wastes the majority of his time watching right-wing media and having Twitter tantrums?

Trump still refuses to use the DPA (Defense Production Act) to create the billions of tests we need throughout the country in order to safely return to something that resembles normal before a vaccine is widely available.  Instead, he chose to use it to force meat-packing plants that have been huge Covid-19 hotspots to reopen and recall their employees, clearly because the product is what is valuable, not the welfare of the workers.  Republican-led states are threatening their citizens with cutting off their unemployment if they don’t return to work because they fear catching the virus there.  Reasonable people should wonder why they don’t require employers to follow guidelines for social distancing and PPE. 

If there is anyone out there who still believes that Trump and the Republicans care about anything other than their donors and their own reelections, then I hope that those deluded individuals have the foresight to prepare themselves for the “American carnage” that is going to follow as these knuckleheads throw their most vulnerable citizens forward as fodder for the virus.  If the federal government had done the right thing, we would have nation-wide, science-based orders that would avoid what is surely coming in the next couple of weeks, but we have the most incompetent leader in the free-world at this time of crisis, and the Republicans are fine with things going on the way they are.  This must be seen for what it is – the negligent homicide of thousands upon thousands of our fellow citizens, with a disproportionate number of those most affected in communities of color, on the altar of capitalism and profit for the wealthy.

The total absence of empathy towards those most affected by this pandemic is painful to observe, as Trump continues to whine about his perceived grievances, offering just 4 ½ minutes of time since the ‘task force’ news briefings began to express something he thought was sympathy to the survivors of those who have died.  His inability to recognize that he should not be forcing citizens to return to any workplace not prepared to keep them safe from this contagion is not surprising in this particular individual; his entire life has been spent in a narcissistic bubble, as he was raised by parents who never taught him that he’s not the center of the universe.

In order to give myself a feeling of control in an uncontrollable time, I keep making masks.  It’s the only thing I can do to help those I love, besides staying home without human companionship.  I haven’t seen my son or his wife since before this all started, and have no idea when I will.  I occasionally see Anna and/or Joey, but only for a couple of minutes and usually I’m masked.  I miss hugs. 

I worry about my friend Rosie, a psychiatrist who preferred to be isolated even in non-Covid-19 times.  I’d love to see her, but I couldn’t get her to make a plan without a pandemic, so I have no chance now.  I hope she knows I’m here if she needs me.

I offer my sympathy to the thousands and thousands who have lost loved-ones to Covid-19, although I know it offers small comfort.  I have to trust that the majority of us recognize that the threat from this pandemic is real, and that we will do everything possible to maintain physical distancing for the foreseeable future. That is really our best bet for avoiding magnitudes of death many times greater than we have already endured.  I have to believe that because one party in our country is doing the exact opposite, and the deaths that ensue will be on their hands. 

Mask the Republican’s responsibility for these deaths and you, too, become culpable.  Is that really who you are?