Thursday, April 23, 2020

Something Wrong With This Country

I'm not sure I'm going to write about Covid-19 anymore, or even about anything more for awhile. It's all turned too political, which it seems everything in America now must. I was repulsed when trump wrote "LITERATE MINNESOTA" and the like, last Thursday was it? Just when a day or two he was laying out his plan to protect the public. And yesterday he was complaining about the governor of Georgia opening up too soon.

Trump is clearly a very immature person, totally overwhelmed by this situation, who is now getting people killed. He takes no responsibility for anything, tries to bluff his way through everything, and at this point I have zero respect for him. Zero.

If you can't see his gargantuan problems, there is something wrong with you. There is something very wrong with this country. It's pretty clear now that it's too late to reverse the decline, that there's nothing any of us can do to repair the damage. Frankly I want absolutely nothing to do with anything from most of the red state governments. They do not have the country's best interests at heart. And honestly I don't even want to debate about it. I would like, honestly, for my state, or at least the part west of the Cascade mountain range, to peel away from the US, in what I think (and hope) will include western Washington and western northern California, down to a bit south of San Francisco. This would be a country, some have labeled it "Cascadia," with the intellectual capabilities of competing with any country on Earth. The rest of the country, and especially the red states, cab go their own way and devolve into the anti-government, anti-people territories they have been aspiring to since the early 1800s.

This probably sounds ridiculous, and by no means do I want to join up with the gun-loving, government-hating, khaki-wearing clans of anti-government quacks. I'd like something much more intelligent, much more deliberate, much more designed. Anti-government attitudes solve nothing good, and rarely have -- most of the good things we have, and that other wealthy countries have, like in Europe, come from a strong, central government that paves the way for democracy, for human decency, and for business. No assault rifles allowed, which are used only as a means of intimidation -- another sign of our failing government, of our failing society.

I might feel differently in the morning, but I don't think so. I'm tired of being held back by atavistic components in the US. We're now a country of 1/3rd of a billion people -- far too large for any kind of meaningful government a citizen can relate to or deal with. There's absolutely no reason why we should all be expected to agree on a form of government or of politics. We never will, and I don't see why we should pretend to wait for that.


Entropic man said...

Please keep posting.

I live in the UK and follow events in the US. You are one of my few clear windows into the US pandemic, much more reliable than that daily comedy, the "Donald Trump Show".

Ned said...

I can really sympathize with this comment, David A. I think a lot of people are feeling that way right now.

It *is* a very alarming situation. It would be one thing if the country's government had somehow been hijacked by a small minority that was holding power against the will of the people. But what we have here is worse - 25% of the country's population can't even see that the nation is being driven off a cliff, and another 20% are actively cheering it on.

I don't know what the solution is. I can't see any way that we can get back on the road to national sanity.

MANTSH said...

Sounds good. Western Washington is in.

David in Cal said...

Trump certainly appears immature and overwhelmed, but is he really? This post by a Mensa member deduces that Trump is highly effective:

When I took the test for Mensa I scored at 152, and best I can tell [Trump has] got a higher IQ than I do.

Saying his IQ is anything but extraordinary would be like watching a football player repeatedly score the winning touchdowns despite the efforts of half his own team and most of the referees on the field, and then say that player’s not much of an athlete...

Here’s the thing, When an IQ differs from yours by more than 20 points, much of what the other person is doing, either direction, is unfathomable to you. It’s as if you are speaking different languages....

I see so much that candidate Trump did and that President Trump is doing that seems to be to be over the head of a lot of people viewing him. They also confuse the reports by his enemies with what he’s really done and said.

What he did and is doing while single handedly battling every media outlet (believe me, Fox News was not his friend during the campaign) the active campaigning of a sitting president (unprecedented in the history of our democracy), the non-stop criticism of the Hollywood stars and professional comedians.

Who in power was on Donald Trump’s side this election season? The Koch brothers didn’t fund him. People in his own party worked against him as late as the last month of the campaign.

David in Cal said...

So, is Trump immature and overwhelmed or is he a highly effective genius? The best thing is to look at his actual achievements regarding the virus:

1. Ventilators were in short supply. Today, we have such a big surplus that we're sending them to several other countries

2. We had no testing capability a couple of months ago. The daily number of tests was quickly ramped up to around 150,000. Today, the number has jumped to over 300,000. That's nearly 10 million a month.

3. Dozens of different new tests are being rapidly developed and approved.

4. Medical equipment and personal protective equipment are essential. With the help and coordination of Washington, massive amounts have been made available. Although people have sometimes worried about having enough, there have been hardly any circumstances where needed equipment was not actually available.

5. Same for hospital beds. With the help of Washington, there has virtually never been a lack.

6. It's not a major achievement, but he deserves credit for choosing to work with and rely on Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx -- two very capable specialists in infectious diseases.

It's easy to take these achievements for granted, especially since the media doesn't focus on them. But, they're actually very impressive. Things were achieved in a month that normally would take years

Of course, Trump's judgement was not perfect. He originally grossly under-stated the severity of the disease back in February and early March. Perhaps he should have acted more promptly, although that's an easier judgment to make after the fact. Much of the media and many Democrats and many foreign leaders similarly underestimated the ferocity of the disease back then. OTOH Trump deserves a lot of credit for banning people from China as early as he did.

IMHO if you judge Trump based on what has been accomplished, he has done quite well.

Ned said...

Case in point.

Layzej said...

Meanwhile, disinfectant manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser had put out a statement advising people not to *inject disinfectant* after the US president suggested it might help treat coronavirus

David in Cal said...

Layzej - When Trump asked whether external disinfectants could be the basis for medicines used internally, many of us thought that was a pretty ignorant question. However, David's Rule #1 seems to exonerate Trump: You can never ask too many questions.

Thomas said...

David, you can ask questions like that in private, Trump has plenty of experts to ask. You don't do it in public where some people are likely to see it as advice and hurt themselves and you will look like a fool. Unless looking like a fool is somehow part of Trumps master plan that is so complex that none of us ordinary people can understand it.

In this case I think another rule is relevant: Occam's razor. Given the choice between Trump being just as stupid as his statements indicate and that he is secretly a genius and only pretend to be stupid, I think the former is more credible.

Layzej said...

He now says he was just havin' a larf "just to see what would happen". Cuz you gotta get your kicks. Right?

Entropic man said...

Dementia symptoms

Changes in behaviour and personality
Confusion or paranoia.
Loss of motivation.
Mood changes.
Becoming easily upset.
Becoming aggressive.


David in Cal said...

Layzej - I agree with you. Trump's claim that he was being sarcastic is an obvious untruth.

Entropic man - In may days in middle management, I was taught to evaluate performance rather than appearance. In one exercise, we were divided into groups of 8 or so sitting around a table. Each table was given a possible diagnosis of a hypothetical employee. Then the same symptoms were shown to all the groups.

Each group found that these symptoms indicated the suggested diagnosis for this employee: For one group, he was a drug addict. For another, he was alcoholic. Another said he was having trouble at home, another said mentally ill, etc. The bottom line, we didn't know what we were talking about. The one thing we could evaluate was the effectiveness of the employee's work performance.

As I listed above, the 'war' on conrona virus is making lots of progress. That's the one thing I can evaluate about our President.


Ned said...

It's making progress *in spite of* the President, not *because* of him.

The progress that's been made is nearly entirely due to individual families, employers, mayors, governors, and media, who went all-in on social distancing four weeks ago and halted the exponential spread of the virus.

The president has been spending the vast majority of his time watching TV. That is not a joke.

Insofar as the Administration has tried to provide "leadership" it's been a net negative. Sending contradictory messages, pitting states against each other and against FEMA for purchases of PPE and ventilators, hijacking shipments of PPE and other materials that had been ordered by states or hospitals, inciting Trump's followers to violence in states with Democratic governors, etc. ad nauseam. The quality of leadership from this Administration in the worst crisis in my lifetime has been abysmal.

Ned said...

Off topic, but worth noting that right now the Administration is working to destroy the United States Postal Service unless it joins in Trump's personal vendetta against Mr Jeff Bezos.

Save the Postal Service

Trump’s personal hostility has merged with long-standing conservative antipathy to endanger a vital civic institution.

David in Cal said...

Ned - The Progress I was talking about was not the rate of spread of the virus. I agree that Trump deserves little personal credit. He did one good thing, the early ban on people from China. Other then that, I agree that improvement is due to others.

Where Trump deserves a lot of credit is in the very rapid creation, production and distribution of stuff: tests, ventilators, PPE, hospital beds, etc. Trump rightly boasts about these things at each presser, but the media pay little attention, so many people are not aware.

Regarding the Post Office, it has a failed structure. I worked there in the summer of 1961 or so. It was a low cost operation then, with excellent service. Subsequently, its structure was converted into a quasi-government corporation. Today, it's a high-cost operation with mediocre service.

It's supposed to be self-supporting, but it's not, due to the way it has been managed. Trump is following the original intent, by not bailing it out with money from the general fund. It's supposed to stand on its own feet. It's not supposed to need money from the general fund.

Ned said...

You should actually read the article I linked to -- it's by a historian of the US Postal Service, and the first few paragraphs would have corrected some of your mistaken impressions:

"Although the USPS provides a service mandated by the Constitution and federal law, it has received no federal funds since 1982, relying on postal product sales to keep revenue ahead of expenditures."

This worked fine until 2006, when Congress forced the USPS to do something no other business or government agency is required to do -- pre-fund all employee health benefits 10 years ahead. That requirement plus the 2007-2008 downturn temporarily caused the USPS to accumulate some relatively minor debt. Excluding those debt payments from 2007-2008, the USPS has successfully covered its own expenses for most of the past decade. The problem is that now, like every other non-taxpayer-funded business, the USPS is facing a massive financial hit from the Coronavirus pandemic.

The USPS is not "mismanaged" and it is not a "high-cost operation with mediocre service". It's a national treasure that has functioned remarkably well for four decades with no taxpayer support. Now -- at a time when thousands of much less socially meaningful businesses are being given bailouts and subsidies -- the GOP sees the Coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to kill off the postal service. If that happens, it will be a national shame.

Again, read the article I linked to. You might learn something.

Ned said...

It's also worth noting that despite David in Cal's bad-mouthing of it, the US Postal Service consistently polls as the most popular government agency. As of last year, 74% of Americans rated it as "Excellent/Good" and only 8% as "Poor".

Postal Service Still Americans' Favorite Federal Agency

I won't speculate further about why the GOP is so determined to destroy the single most popular federal agency.

David in Cal said...

Ned - I used up my free articles at Atlantic and I don't choose to subscribe, so I couldn't read the article.

Good management means high performance at low cost. USPS competes with FedEx and UPS. But USPS has a legal advantage: it has a monopoly on regular mail. USPS only faces competition for package delivery.

FedEx and UPS are legally required to fund their pension plans, not for 10 years, but forever. These companies don't get bailouts from anyone. IF USPS were as well-managed as FedEx and UPS, then USPS wouldn't need bailouts.


Ned said...

Yes, many private sector companies pre-fund their pension plans but the Postal Service is unique in being required to pre-fund its health care costs.

Again, the USPS has not taken any taxpayer funds in the past 38 years. The USPS needs support now for the same reason that private businesses are getting support -- the Coronavirus pandemic is hitting it hard this year.

Ned said...

Some closing points about this:

(1) I'm not necessarily opposed to the USPS pre-funding their health care costs. There are legitimate arguments both for and against that. It would be nice, though, if people would recognize that this is a case where Congress is actually forcing the USPS to follow much more conservative financial practices than anyone else - business or government - does.

(2) Likewise, if one argues that it's a good thing for the USPS to be required to pre-fund its health care costs, the same rationale would apply to other large corporations. Perhaps (if we're going to rely on businesses to provide most Americans with their health insurance) all large businesses should play by this rule.

(3) The USPS does have a legal monopoly on the delivery of *letters* but that comes with *huge* constraints: Congress sets the pricing, and Congress requires them to charge the same rates nationwide. This essentially is a subsidy for residents of rural areas. If the USPS were to disappear tomorrow, whatever private-sector business succeeded it would be forced to charge much more for delivery in high-cost rural locations than in low-cost urban areas.

(4) The USPS has provided high-quality service at extremely low cost, nationwide, with no taxpayer subsidies, while also providing employment for 600,000 Americans. For many of them, these jobs represent a critical opportunity to step up out of poverty.

(5) Because of all of the above, the postal service has consistently been the most highly rated government agency in polls; as noted above, the latest figures show 74% of Americans rate it as Excellent/Good, and only 8% as Poor.

David Appell said...

Thanks for all the comments and encouragement.

DiC, your Mensa guy's IQ isn't impressive and I think he thinks he is smarter than he really is. It's been said before that Trump is a dumb person's idea of what a smart person is, and a nonbusiness person's idea of what a business person is.

I think Trump is a egotistical, impulsive, narcissistic, immature, childish, cruel bastard, and by far the worst president the US has ever had. His inaction and incompetence is getting people killed, no less than if he were sending soldiers into war. He has no empathy whatsoever and cares only what his TV ratings are. He'll do anything to get reelected, and is. He doesn't read, watches hours of television each day, and can't control his temper. He is afraid of people who are smarter than him. He and his sycophants have already damaged the US and we will live with the consequences of their wickedness for decades.

David Appell said...

PS: DiC, I wasn't calling you dumb. You're anything but, obviously. Sorry if that was confusing.