Monday, March 30, 2020

The Weekly Extinction Event Wrangle

With this week's round-up of the best of the Lone Star left from the past seven days, the Texas Progressive Alliance was thinking all this time we had ten years or so before we died gradually from climate chaos.  (Stephen King's The Stand' used to be one of my favorite books, too.)

Greg Abbott's COVID-19 presser yesterday declared war on Louisiana travelers.

Gotta love the rolled-up sleeves.  He's hard at work, getting his hands dirty, clearing brush dressed casually, not in his usual suit and tie.

Abbott said he was dramatically expanding a previous executive order that requires a 14-day self-quarantine for anyone flying into Texas from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or New Orleans. Now, the state is also mandating a 14-day self-quarantine for anyone driving into Texas from anywhere in Louisiana and for those flying in from Miami, Atlanta, Detroit and Chicago, as well as anywhere in California and Washington.

Enforcement of this directive falls to the DPS, but I have lots of unanswered questions.  Update:

To be fair, I'm of the opinion -- authoritarian concerns remaining -- that this measure might actually be a good idea after reading this story.

Moving on, the governor also pre-empted any plans of releasing people from incarceration in order for them to avoid contracting the virus.

"Releasing dangerous criminals from jails into the streets is not the right solution and doing so is now prohibited by law by this declaration," Abbott said at a Sunday afternoon briefing, hours after officials announced that a 39-year-old man had tested positive for the coronavirus. The order said such a release “would also hinder efforts to cope with the COVID-19 disaster.”

Orwellian, that last sentence is (in my best Yoda voice).

The newly appointed monitor over Harris County’s misdemeanor bail protocol, Duke law professor Brandon Garrett, said the decree violated “many state and federal constitutional provisions.”

Alec Karakatsanis, a civil rights attorney who represents thousands of indigent defendants awaiting trial at the lockup on felony charges, called the governor’s stance illegal and perilous.

“The edict is dangerous, unprecedented, chaotic, and a flagrantly unconstitutional attempt to infringe fundamental constitutional rights,” he said. “If enforced it would have catastrophic public health consequences.”

This diktat is more in line with Herr Abbott's (and General Paxton's) catering to the TXGOP primary voting base.  'Three hots and a cot, bust rocks, no a/c for you'.

Before we go any further down the path of conflating Darwinism and eugenics, perhaps we ought to read Ross Ramsey's latest.

Political people have noticed the dissonance on Gov. Greg Abbott’s support for local control in the face of the new coronavirus and his disdain for it in recent battles over property taxes, rideshare regulations, paid sick leave, and other local policies.

But the range of local reactions to the coronavirus, ranging from stay-home orders of various strengths to business-as-usual responses elsewhere, have the governor hesitating to impose statewide directives.

Over here are Dallas County and the city of Austin, telling residents to stay inside. Some Austin leaders have even told residents not to walk on the popular trail around Lady Bird Lake for exercise, for fear they’ll come within six feet of one another.

And over there are places like Midland and Palestine, where restaurant dining rooms are closed but many stores are bustling with customers.

From Ramsey last week:

Those local differences help explain why (Abbott) has been so reluctant to issue statewide stay-at-home orders. Metropolitan areas are aggressively putting social distancing rules in place, while less populated parts of Texas are more reticent.

Kuff also noted the different attitudes toward stay-at-home orders in some parts of the state, and pointed out that coronavirus doesn't care about anyone's attitude or ideals.

While this may be about geography or political affiliation, I think both Kuffner and Ramsey buried their ledes.  Let's start with Abbott: he's at least smart enough to filter his every twitch through a Lone Star uber-conservative cheesecloth.  Operation Jade Helm was one of our early clues.  And everybody should understand that if you can't get to that thought process, you'll never understand his (and by extension, their) motivations.

Here's today's example.

If you laughed when you saw Fox News hosts calling the coronavirus a charade a couple of weeks ago before turning on a dime, then laughed again when Fox fired Trish Regan because she called the pandemic a plot against Trump, then you possess the required acumen to discern why rural Texans just think they're smarter than us city slickers.  Oh, and why conservatives think liberalism is a mental disorder.  (It kinda is, FWIW, which is why liberals -- you are aware I prefer 'neoliberals' -- keep trying to call themselves 'progressive'.)

I'll leave the rest of this theorizing to you.  Let's extend last week's mockery of Dan Patrick's self-selection as a human sacrifice to Wall Street, courtesy Alice Embree at the Rag Blog.

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, coughing. 
Photo graphic by James Retherford / The Rag Blog

Some Texas retirees and grandparents have a response to the Lt. Governor and hope it will go viral, so to speak. The Texas Alliance of Retired Americans (TARA) is launching a Virtual Cough-In Campaign for the week leading up to the Lt. Governor’s 70th birthday on April 4.

Retirees are not going to intentionally or accidentally spread contagion. They are urging everyone to phone or e-mail the Lt. Governor about his stupid, dangerous false dichotomy between health and the economy.

Below are TARA’s suggested scripts, timed for a message machine. The scripts are for grandparents and grandchildren, retirees and workers at essential jobs, and for those parents staying home with children trying to keep a virulent microbe from overwhelming our hospitals.

Pick up your phone. Dial one of these two numbers:

The Texas Lt. Governor Message Line: (512) 463-5342
The Texas Lt. Governor Office Line: (512) 463-0001

Cough or clear your throat and choose the script that suits you:

Version 1:
As a senior I am horrified that you would offer up my life for the sake of the stock market and the 1%. We are valuable, productive, and vital to our families and communities, and not the only ones at risk from Covid 19 as nearly 50% of those affected are in their 20s and 30s. If you choose not to represent, serve, and safeguard the health and well-being of all your constituents, you should resign.
Version 2:
As a [son, daughter, grandchild, fill in the blank as best suits you], I am horrified that you would offer up the lives of senior members of our families and communities for the sake of the stock market and the 1%. Ignoring scientific evidence and advice is reckless. Advising the general population to do so goes against your duties to represent, serve, and safeguard the health and well-being of all your constituents. It’s time for you to resign.

If you don’t want to let Dan Patrick get away with murder, make a call. Do it from a safe distance so that you don’t become another ICU patient needing a ventilator. Do it so that you don’t spread a virus you may not know you have. Do it for your grandchildren.

New scripts are being written for each day and will be posted on the TARA Facebook page.

Nonsequiteuse, in similar fashion, minced no words with Patrick.  And Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer had an early look at the worst Texas reactions to the coronavirus.


David Collins, candidate for US Senate from Texas:

Capitalism is canceled, henceforth and forthwith. It. Doesn't. Work. For. Us.


I've recently heard the US economy described as a "house of cards," and it seems like an apt description. But I have a quibble with it, because there's the economy on one hand, and there's the "economy" on the other. The latter is what the media means by the word: Stock market indices and the facts and figures that emanate from Executive Branch agencies. The former is what is actually happening at street level. Millions of underpaid, overworked American citizens and immigrants are holding the real economy together, and they're doing a damn good job of it.

Our nation, our society, and our government cannot solve this by throwing money at corporations who do not/cannot guarantee that they will continue compensating their employees at their regular rates. I am convinced that only direct payments from the government to individuals and families will keep them and the macro economy afloat. (EDIT: And, oh yeah, Medicare for All too. I left that part out earlier.)

A smattering of election and voting related-developments:

Mustafa Tameez warned about the need for election protection.

And more about the concerns and impacts of COVID-19.

Patricia Sharpe at Texas Monthly talked to restaurant and bar workers about how they're coping.

Loren Steffy also elaborated on why we didn't really need a crystal ball to know that Texas unemployment claims were going to spike last week.

Meanwhile, in an ironic reversal of fortune, Mexico says it's time to close the g.d. border to those filthy, disease-carrying Americanos.

“It is important that in Mexico, and particularly at this border, we implement restrictive measures because United States residents and citizens are crossing every day to Matamoros to shop, go visit the doctor and their family and that means a greater risk for the families of Matamoros,” said Matamoros Mayor Mario Alberto López Hernández, in a recent news release.

Better Texas Blog says, once again, that everyone needs paid sick leave.

And down-shifting to other state news ...

And we mourn the passing of Texas playwright Terrence McNally.

The lighter items will wrap this edition of the Wrangle.

Brea LaVelle, and her teacher colleagues, really miss their students.

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