First U.S. teenager to die of Coronavirus was denied treatment because he didn’t have health insurance.

Via Boing Boing: “Matt Novak reports that the first teenager to die in the U.S. from Covid-19 coronavirus infection was uninsured and denied treatment at the urgent care clinic he tried to check into. They told him to go to another hospital; he went into cardiac arrest on the way.”

It’s not incompetence. It is deliberate.

The Republican response to the coronavirus is not mere bungling.  It’s not an accident.

Disbanding a pandemic response team and leaving the nation vulnerable just to spite a prior president is a choice. Refusing to use the full powers of the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of desperately needed medical supplies is a choice. Pivoting to racism against Asian Americans and anti-immigrant rhetoric in response to criticism is a choice. Prioritizing the short-term health of the stock market over human lives by scheming to prematurely end social distancing is a choice.

Remember, when the Trump administration is over, that Republicans supported this President. They are all collaborators.

Republicans can’t govern, COVID-19 edition

COVID-19 in Kentucky vs TennesseeThis chart shows the spread of COVID-19 in Kentucky (blue), under Democratic Governor Andy Beshear, and Tennessee (yellow), under Republican Governor Bill Lee.  Note the steep exponential increase in Tennessee.  Elections matter.

On March 6—the same day that the Kentucky legislature introduced a bill to limit Beshear’s power to issue executive orders—the governor used that power to declare a state of emergency, freeing up funds and resources to begin the state’s fight against COVID-19.  This was a week before Trump declared a national emergency. In fact, it was a day before Andre Cuomo declared a state of emergency for New York.

Beshear issued recommendations on social distancing the next day and began a daily update to reassure the state on actions being taken as well as provide details on the status of the outbreak. Two days after that, he restricted visitations to extended care facilities and prisons. And just five days after the original declaration of emergency, with eight known cases in the state, Beshear instructed every school to close. In the next week, the state ended in-restaurant dining, extended unemployment, and offered free testing to every person in the state—all at Beshear’s direction.

Meanwhile Tennessee had it’s first case on the same day as Kentucky, and Bill Lee did … nothing. As Beshear was closing schools in Kentucky, Lee told the people of his state that there was no reason to close schools or workplaces. Finally, on March 12, Lee declared a state of emergency. And he instructed the schools to close on Friday, March 20.

The result of these two policies is that the neighboring states are on very different paths. While Kentucky has seen an increase in cases, that increase has been slow. Not only does Kentucky have only 48 identified cases, it has conducted 768 tests. Tennessee now shows 228 cases resulting from many fewer tests, and it’s on an arc that is growing at a much higher rate. When cases are moving up exponentially, every moment counts, and acting early has huge implications down the road.

Against bipartisanship

Joe Biden is on the record supporting a return to bipartisan government.  I have a problem with that.

Donald Trump isn’t an aberration of the Republican Party.  He is its logical end point.  Since the days of Richard Nixon, the GOP has served the interests of the rich by harnessing the power of racist voters.  Trump has taken this strategy to the extreme, and still enjoys 92% approval among Republicans.  The idea that there is a substantial block of moderate Republicans who are willing to cooperate with Democrats is laughable.

Far from it:  the GOP become the party of Trump, which is to say, bluntly, the Republican Party is now fascist.  That’s not a word to be used lightly, but it fits our current situation.  If you doubt it, consider the praise heaped upon the Trump administration by a self-described fascist, not to mention actual Hitler-loving Nazis, for a start.

Can we trust a party that is OK with Russian interference with U.S. elections to play fair in future elections?  Can we make peace with a party that openly incited violence against reporters, with deadly results?  Can we break bread with people who put children in cages to terrorize their parents?  Can there be bipartisan cooperation with the people who established concentration camps to detain migrants on our southern border?

Or course not.  There are things that simply cannot, and should not, be forgiven.

Far from bipartisanship, what we need after the 2020 election is a committment to the complete and permanent repudiation of the party of Trump and their collaborators.  We need to remind voters that in the last five years, we learned everything we ever need to know about the Republican Party’s trustworthiness and honor.  We need to call them “the disgraced Republican Party” from now on.

Trump’s pandemic response is secret from health experts

Exponential increase in coronavirus casesCOVID-19 is now officially a pandemic.  The image above illustrates the exponential increase in the number of confirmed cases in the U.S.  The numbers are already out of date as I type these words.

In possibly the worst response in a long series of bad responses to the pandemic, the White House has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified.”

“The officials said that dozens of classified discussions about such topics as the scope of infections, quarantines and travel restrictions” have been held in a secure room—excluding government experts who did not have the requisite security clearances, says Reuters. The administration has literally been keeping coronavirus response discussions secret from some of the government’s own experts.

Joni Ernst blocks Violence Against Women Act

Joni Ernst is at it again, siding with the NRA over abuse survivors.  Survivors are calling her out for it.

Ernst blocked the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and then turned around and tried to take credit as a sponsor of VAWA by introducing a new version of the bill that stripped out a provision banning convicted domestic abusers from having guns.

Sign the open letter to Ernst at Why Joni?

An open letter to the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party about the Iowa caucus

While the 2020 Iowa caucuses are still fresh in our minds, I want to talk to you about how we could do a better job of not just choosing a Presidential nominee, but also allowing Iowa voters to participate in it.

This is not a complaint about the software problems that occurred on caucus night.  I’m sure others have made their voices heard on that.  Nor is this a rant about Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status, though I absolutely do have a rant about that ready to go whenever you’re ready to hear it.  I want to focus on the things that the Iowa Democratic Party can do something about, within the confines of existing law (or at least incremental improvements to existing law).

  1. The existing system provides a proportional representation result.  That is, if a candidate has 51% support among Iowa Democrats, we expect him or her to end up with 51% of Iowa’s delegates to the national convention, not all of them.  Proportional representation is a good thing that should be preserved, and extended.
  2. We should choose the nominee by one person one vote, rather than distorting the process by awarding delegates at the precinct level.
    • It makes no sense to set a predetermined delegate count for a precinct based on past performance, rather than on how many people showed up tonight.
    • It makes no sense to determine winners and losers by precinct, where small random sampling error distorts the result, rather than statewide.
    • There is a voting system that allows for Proportional Representation:  the Hare system, also knows as Single Transferable Vote.  Voters fill out a paper ballot on which they mark their preference for each candidate, 1 for their first choice, 2 for their second, and so on.  I can describe the details elsewhere; suffice to say that no one’s vote is wasted because a voters can always help out his or her second or third choice candidates.  There is also no incentive to vote for someone other than your genuine first choice, no need for strategic voting, e.g., “I have to vote for my second choice because my first choice can’t win.”  Your second choice vote is counted only if your first choice has lost.
    • Ballots should be counted state-wide, not by precinct or county or district.  If we must have a result rapidly (which would be important to media, but not to voters), we can talk about technical means of transmitting ballots to the IDP on election night.  We could learn a lot from the experience of Cambridge, MA, which has used STV for local elections for generations, and finishes the count on election night.
    • Note that the presence of paper ballots makes a manual recount possible, even desirable.  We should popularize Single Transferable Vote by counting our ballots in public in front of observers.
  3. We have to eliminate the barriers to participation by people who work evenings, or who cannot access child care.  We should have a long period of early voting, encourage early voting, and make it possible to vote by mail.
  4. The 2020 caucuses consumed thousands of hours of volunteer labor that could have been directed toward defeating the Republicans.  Worse, volunteers aren’t necessarily accountable for errors and omissions on caucus night.  All the essential functions of the caucus should be done by paid IDP staff.  If that means we can’t have as many precincts, good.
  5. Nothing is more of a drain on voter participation than knowing that there are superdelegates who can ignore the result of the popular vote.  There must be no more superdelegates going forward.

I want to see you lead the Iowa Democratic Party in this direction.  And I call on my fellow Democrats to insist on it, as a condition of their support in the next leadership election.