Tuesday, May 26, 2020

COVID-19 Daily Deaths Average Nearly Identical To U.S. Soldiers' Deaths Per Combat Day Average

Averaging the total number of combat deaths by the total number of days the U.S. has been at war is almost the same as the average daily number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. since the start of the crisis.

I wanted to avoid posting this until after Memorial Day. I didn't think it would be proper or respectful to write about U.S. combat deaths, and compare them to deaths from coronavirus, on the day that is meant to honor those who died in defense of this country's basic principles.

Now that the holiday has passed, I think it's important to point out some very alarming statistics that I've recently run across.

Across the number of wars that the United States has been involved in — the American Civil War, both World Wars, Vietnam, Korea, the Iraq War, the Phillippine-American War, the Spanish-American War, the War in Afghanistan, the War of 1812 and the American Revolution — millions of American soldiers have died.

If you averaged out those total deaths across the sum number of days that every war lasted, you wind up with around 1,207.06 deaths per combat day. That's a remarkable number that shouldn't be discounted — each death is a sacrifice to this country, and we are right to honor those who gave all.

But I want to take a moment to point out a similar stat on coronavirus. There have been 100,228 deaths from coronavirus so far, as of Tuesday afternoon. The bulk of those deaths have taken place between this present date and February 29 — 87 days so far.

If you take the total number of deaths from coronavirus, and divide that number by those 87 days, you get an average of about 1,152 dying from the disease per day so far in this crisis.

That's a small 4.5 percent difference between coronavirus deaths per day during this crisis so far, and soldiers' deaths per combat day during every American war in our nation's history.

In other words, the total number of Americans who have died, per day while on the battlefield in the various wars in U.S. history, is almost identical to the number of Americans who have died, per day, during the COVID-19 crisis.

This shouldn't diminish the soldiers who died for this country and the sacrifices they made. Rather, I bring this up to put into perspective just how devastating this disease really is...and how it remains a threat that has the potential to surpass those combat day averages in the months ahead.

This past weekend was the first major holiday where much of the U.S. was "reopened" following several states' stay-at-home orders being implemented across the country. Yet we have no reason to believe the virus has gotten less dangerous from the start of March until now.

The commander-in-chief seems to think differently, with no evidence to back up his claim. President Donald Trump even wants us to believe that things are so much safer now that we should reopen schools across the country as this pandemic rages on.

This president does not understand just how devastating this disease has been to this country. Hopefully, understanding it in terms of comparing it to the average number of U.S. soldiers' deaths per combat day will help bring to light just how serious things truly are.

If not...then God help us all.

Featured image credit: MarkThomas/Pixabay; NIAID/Wikimedia

Friday, May 22, 2020

New Study (Involving 96,000 Participants) Finds Trump's "Game-Changer" Drug Is, In Fact, A Lethal Choice

Participants diagnosed with COVID-19 were MORE LIKELY to die if they were treated with hydroxychloroquine than if they were not.

Hydroxychloroquine. Maybe you've heard of it? If you've been paying any attention to the president during the past few weeks during this crisis, you definitely have.

Donald Trump has been peddling the drug, which is typically used to treat malaria and sometimes lupus, as a possible treatment for coronavirus. He's said it's a "game-changer" and has asked, rhetorically, what do Americans have to lose by taking it?

The implication from the president in asking that question in that way is that, even if it doesn't work, it's better to try the drug if you have coronavirus versus getting normal treatment. But that wasn't what medical professionals were saying — it was merely Trump's own advice, not based on any sound studies whatsoever.

In fact, Trump was confronted recently about a small study observing VA patients across the country taking the drug. That study found that people were more likely to die being treated with hydroxychloroquine than if they had been treated in a conventional way.

The president derided that study, as he does with a number of things he doesn't like, as being somehow against him. He called it a "Trump enemy statement."

When you're as paranoid as Trump is, even scientific inquiry is his foe.

Trump didn't just deride that study as an "enemy statement," but also tried to suggest it wasn't based on sound research. However, a new study — involving 96,000 participants from around the world — has some new insights into how well hydroxychloroquine works.

The study's findings?

Don't take it. Just...don't. Here's why… (From The Washington Post):
A study of 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients on six continents found that those who received an antimalarial drug promoted by President Trump as a “game changer” in the fight against the virus had a significantly higher risk of death compared with those who did not.

People treated with hydroxychloroquine, or the closely related drug chloroquine, were also more likely to develop a type of irregular heart rhythm, or arrhythmia, that can lead to sudden cardiac death, it concluded.
This study, which was published in the medical journal The Lancet, basically confirms information Trump has already been confronted with: hydroxychloroquine is not a safe or effective way to treat people diagnosed with COVID-19. It can lead to unnecessary deaths if used.

But Trump being Trump, he won't admit he was wrong. He never does. Case in point: he still has not apologized to former President Barack Obama for spreading the "birther" conspiracy. When he finally admitted it wasn't true, his comments blamed Hillary Clinton, whom he (falsely) said started the rumor.

It's not in Trump's wheelhouse to trust the scientific method, nor to apologize or admit he was wrong. And if Americans have to die because of that, well, don't expect this president to care one iota.

Of course, he'll probably try to lie about those deaths, too.

Featured image credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Immature Trump Puts Blame On Media For Him Deciding Not To Wear A Mask

It's inappropriate for Trump to fault an industry for reporting on his own decisions, which go against his administration's recommendations.

President Donald Trump decided to thwart company policy at Ford, and refused to wear a mask when he toured the facility there on Thursday.

He blamed the media for his decision not to wear a mask.

"I had one on before. I wore one in this back area. But I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it," Trump explained.

Which is an answer that's both bogus and outrageous. It also reveals the president's vanity.

For starters, the media is reporting on Trump's decision NOT to wear a mask. To report on him WEARING a mask would be a positive for the president, not a negative — indicative of him recognizing how much they do to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Choosing to spite the media isn't presidential, to say the least — it's behavior that's beneath what we expect from children, if we're being honest.

Our president is a child, of course, in many respects. That the media chooses to report on it — and his unwise decision to not wear a mask — is not their fault. It's his own.

Trump may say his decision to not wear a mask is the media's fault. But in reality, it's his own choice, one that encourages bad behavior among those who deify him.

Featured image credit: The White House/Flickr

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Tracking COVID In WI: One Week Out From Court Ruling, Some Warning Signs Are Flashing

The 7- and 14-day averages of coronavirus cases in Wisconsin show the curve may be starting to "bend" in the wrong way.

It's been one week since the Wisconsin State Supreme Court rendered its verdict on Gov. Tony Evers's "Safer-at-Home" order, effectively "opening up" the state and ending social distancing rules for businesses and other organizations, save for a few pockets of locations that issued more localized orders.

Undoubtedly, because of the court's actions (and the inability of Republicans to consider any cautionary action proposed by the governor), coronavirus will likely spread across the state more than it has in recent weeks. Safer-at-Home was working — and in the weeks to come, it may become painfully obvious just how good it was doing so.

When the order was given, a number of businesses across the state (notably, bars) opened their doors right away. Images from these happenings detail just how well people are respecting social distancing rules on their own — in that, they're not at all, in many cases.
And in some instances, people are reporting being harassed for even daring to wear a mask in public. Other places are actually banning people from wearing masks if they want to. Social mores in Trump country appear to be in favor of acting foolish at a time a global pandemic is running wild.

It's only been a week, however, and trying to observe changes between May 13 and May 20 could prove difficult. COVID-19's incubation period is sometimes as little as 4 to 5 days, but can last as many as 14 days long. In short, we shouldn't be surprised if the first week out from the Supreme Court ruling doesn't showcase a huge outbreak across the state. It will likely take two or three weeks from that date before we start noticing bad trending numbers.

Yet what we do see as of Wednesday, May 20, isn't great.

Across the state on Wednesday, 8 percent of tests came back positive for coronavirus. That's not the highest it's ever been, but it's the second time in five days that the rate has been above 8 percent.

The last time the rate was above 8 percent twice within five days was nearly two weeks ago, as the state had been winding down in cases of COVID-19.

Looking at a singular day, however, doesn't always give you the whole picture or an accurate portrayal of what's happening — it's better sometimes to take a look at each day's 7- or 14-day average. The news on that front, too, is not so great.

The 7-day average of coronavirus tests coming back positive saw a steady decrease from a high of 10.2 percent starting on May 5. We reached a low across the state of 5.74 percent on Saturday, May 18. But the 7-day average of positive tests is starting to tick up — as of Wednesday, it was up to 6.17 percent.

That's not a significant change, and it could mean nothing. Let's hope that's the case.

The 14-day average of coronavirus tests coming back positive looks a bit better, but also comes with one important warning. Like the 7-day average, the 14-day average has been steadily decreasing since the start of this month.

But today, with the new numbers out, something strange happened. For the first time in two weeks, the 14-day average of coronavirus tests coming back positive across the state didn't decrease.

It didn't increase, either, and that's the silver lining: it stayed put from day-to-day. But even that is a warning sign, that if Wisconsinites don't start taking this thing seriously, the numbers are going to start going back up, just like they did in the 7-day average.

I'm planning to keep an eye on where things change county-by-county here on out, too — and I'm made a color-coded rating system to keep track of how things have changed within each county compared to when the State Supreme Court issued its opinion.

Green counties are areas where not much has changed at all. Light green counties are where there's been a significant percentage change in coronavirus cases, but the reason behind it is due to having a small number of cases to begin with (Lincoln County saw a 200 percent change in cases from last week to this week, for instance, but that's a change of 1 case to 3 cases there).

Yellow counties are areas where there's been a significant change from May 13 — an increase of 5 percent to 9.99 percent in terms of coronavirus cases (they also differ from "light green" counties in that there are more than 10 new cases being identified week-to-week).

Red counties are where there's even more change going on — an increase of 10 percent or more coronavirus cases in the county, with more than 20 additional cases identified versus May 13.

Listed below are a few counties worth watching over the next few weeks, their current coronavirus cumulative totals, and the percent-change from May 13 to May 20.

One other quick note: I've been keeping track of changes happening in Waukesha County, specifically, since they started having protests in Brookfield, keeping an eye on how things changed in that county overall compared to an area where most residents are trying to respect social distancing, like in Dane County.

I noted on May 9 that there was already a gap between the per capita rates of Dane County and Waukesha County, in terms of cumulative coronavirus cases each county had, with Waukesha having 9.45 percent more cases than Dane County.

I want to keep up with those observations, as Dane County continues to respect Safer-at-Home rules on its own, and Waukesha County was among the most ardent against them from the start.

As of today, that gap has widened significantly. In fact, Waukesha County, on a per capita basis, has 22.8 percent more cumulative coronavirus cases than does Dane County. Additionally, it's per capita death rate from COVID-19 is also 25 percent higher than Dane's.

The evidence seems to point to social distancing, and the plan started by Evers, having worked. I'm hoping that reopening the state won't lead to more cases, won't lead to more deaths from coronavirus, in the state.

But science and statistics seem to imply we're about to see things go in a direction we'd rather not have them go.

UPDATE: In my haste to get this article published, I forgot to include a link to the data itself. You can view that data, available via Google Drive, at this link.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Facial Coverings Save Lives — What Do Red Hats Do? A Rant On The "Anti-Mask" Movement

The president's most devoted followers are insisting masks are an infringement of their rights — proving their ignorance on the subject, and that their allegiance to Trump isn't technically political.

One thing that I have noticed in the "era of Trump" is that political arguments are seldom political anymore. Take, for instance, the recent insistence by some on the right that wearing masks is an infringement of their liberties.

Places like Menards are insisting that customers, with few exceptions for health reasons, wear masks inside their premises.

The argument goes that, businesses wishing to encourage social distancing standards, even in places that are "reopened," are somehow impeding on a person's personal rights.

The right to get sick, I guess, or the right to infect others.

The argument is a flawed and inconsistent one, of course, because political conservatives would ordinarily argue in favor of businesses having the right to enforce whatever rules they want. Liberals, on the other hand, would agree with this principle to some extent, but not if businesses discriminated against customers on the basis of their identities (racist, homophobic, etc. "rationales").

And to be clear, wearing a face covering or not is not a trait, choice, or identity — just as wearing shoes or a shirt may be required, a business can enforce rules on mask-wearing (again, so long as it doesn't cause harm to someone for health reasons).

That's what the debate should center upon, if it's indeed a "political" one. Instead, ardent supporters of the president are going on some strange crusade against these businesses, and my guess is it's entirely because they want to show support for the president.

(One quick disclaimer before we go on: note that I say "ardent supporters of the president." This doesn't apply to all Trump supporters or Republicans. There are certainly conservatives out there who know that coronavirus is still a threat, and understand that, even if we reopen parts of the state or nation, we need to do so carefully.)

Trump in the past has said he personally would never wear a mask for vanity reasons, stating he didn't want to appear awkward or weak in front of foreign dignitaries (not realizing at the time, I guess, that he wouldn't be speaking to any in-person during this crisis).

Now, Trump isn't outright saying that he's against people wearing masks or businesses enforcing rules on mask-wearing. But the very idea of businesses enforcing such rules goes against the messaging that Trump is putting out there — namely, that we're safe enough to reopen the country at this time (newsflash: um, no, we're not).

Wearing a mask implies that we're NOT safe right now. And to suggest that is to show disagreement with Trump — which, to his die-hards, implies that you're an enemy of this country.

There's no politics involved in this convoluted argument whatsoever. It's sheer, unyielding support for the president, even in the face of a global pandemic, even when his advice or actions as president causes actual harm to others. And I have no doubts in my mind that, were it the other way around — were Trump insisting that everyone wore a mask at all times — his supporters would call anyone who didn't un-American.

Before this week, I've resisted for the most part the urge to describe Trump and his supporters as similar to a cult leader and his followers. It doesn't do much good anyway, I mused to myself, to describe him as much, as it makes people uncomfortable to refer to the president, any president, in such a way.

But how else do you describe this behavior? People are literally risking their lives and the lives of their loved ones to make some point, in vain, about their support for this person.

One last point: my social media lately is rife with examples from people I personally know describing situations where they, out of their own choices to do so, wore a mask somewhere out in public in the state, and received harassment from others for doing so.

This pretty much confirms what I'm saying above: it's not about personal freedoms, or rights, or anything like that. The anti-mask crowd (and those verbally attacking others for wearing a facial covering) is a symptom of a greater problem — the cult of Trump taking things too far. To them, the mask is viewed as the equivalent-opposite of their red MAGA hats.

Only, in the real world, facial coverings are going to help save lives. MAGA hats, or rather, the people wearing them, may do the opposite, albeit unwillingly, through their actions during this crisis...all to pay lip service to a president they think cares about them.

Featured image via: Olgierd Rudak/Flickr; Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Tracking COVID's Spread After The State Supreme Court's Ruling

Political Heat will report each Wednesday, starting this week, where coronavirus rates are changing across Wisconsin.

On Wednesday last week, the state Supreme Court determined, by a slim majority, that stay-at-home orders issued by Gov. Tony Evers in order to address the coronavirus crisis were unconstitutional.

The ruling from the majority was rife with problems, not the least of which was the fact that a six-day stay of their opinion — which even Republican plaintiffs had asked to happen — was not agreed upon by the four conservatives ruling in the matter, due to the chief justice of the court being ambiguous in her concurring opinion.

So their ruling effectively "reopened" the state. And with Republicans in the legislature not willing to compromise on the matter, opened our state shall be, with the exception perhaps of Dane County, which issued its own stay-at-home orders (other counties had done so, too, but, worried over the legality of doing so, soon rescinded their orders — Attorney General Josh Kaul later issued an opinion stating that the county orders would be deemed legal).

What will happen next? It's anyone's guess at this point. There are more than a few possibilities, but here's what I predict will sadly go down: more Wisconsinites will get sick, and more will die.

I hope very much that I'm wrong, but this isn't rocket science. Coronavirus is a deadly disease, and one that spreads very easily.

I've already documented how the disease has spread in places like Waukesha County, where weekly protests seemed to occur with hundreds of participants refusing to adhere to social distancing protocols. Expect that to happen across the rest of the state, with disastrous outcomes.

Starting this Wednesday — precisely one week after the state Supreme Court issued its ruling — I will provide a weekly update about coronavirus in the state, including which counties have seen a significant rise in cases and/or deaths. I'll be comparing Dane County's numbers to other counties where social distancing is being ignored, including Grant County and Waukesha County, two places that have been highlighted in the news as showcasing Wisconsinites skirting social distancing (after the ruling was made and before it, respectively).

Keeping track of what's going on is important, if only to demonstrate to readers which counties they might want to steer clear of after this ruling was made. But hopefully, it can also show to lawmakers, both local and statewide, the importance of social distancing, so that they can act accordingly.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Even Conservatives Think Trump's "Big Win" In WI-07 Is A Sign Of Trouble For Him

The last time a Democrat got above 43 percent of the vote in that district, a Democratic candidate for president won the state.

President Donald Trump this week stated that Tom Tiffany's win in Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District's special election was a "big" victory. The numbers, of course, tell a different tale.

Image via The White House/Flickr
The 7th District, like most of the political boundaries in the state, were wildly gerrymandered by Republicans last decade. Indeed, prior to the last census, the district had been held by Democrat Dave Obey for decades. After his departure — and after a redraw of the district that changed its normal-looking shape change into one that dips into the middle of the state for no reason, splitting a number of counties in half — it has been held by Republicans exclusively.

Let's not split hairs here: Tiffany won, and that's a loss for Democrats. The race itself shouldn't be looked at in any other way.

But the president acting as if it's a win for Republicans, or for himself? Not so much.

Consider that the district voted for Republican Sean Duffy, a Republican, in 2016 (the same year Trump won the presidential election in the state) with 61.7 percent share of the vote going for the former congressman. Four years later, during the special election, Tiffany's numbers sank somewhat, to 57.2 percent.

That difference in electoral outcomes may not sound like much, but in a state where Trump's victory was decided by less than 23,000 votes (a margin of 0.7 percent statewide), that point drop (which really represents an 8 percent change from Republican totals election year-to-election year) means a heckuva lot.

Others are taking note of the win that Trump is calling "big" and seeing that it's not-so-much a victory for the president as it is a sign that he's facing difficulties in the state. Jennifer Horn, former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party and a founding member of The Lincoln Project (a group of conservatives who are dedicated to ensuring Trump doesn't win reelection), explained just how worried Trump should be.

"Donald Trump can’t afford to lose even 1 percent of the vote, much less 8 percent. His failures of leadership are catching up with him in the most tragic way possible," Horn said.

The former state party chair went onto elaborate that Wisconsinites would not trust Trump to lead again — especially since he was failing so hard at controlling the coronavirus crisis:
Over 82,000 Americans have lost their lives in this pandemic — including, unfortunately, over 400 Wisconsinites — due in great part to the president’s gross incompetence. The president has put his own political interests ahead of the safety and well-being of the American people and he will pay the price in November.
Horn is not wrong. Trump's approval rating in Wisconsin is slipping, with the latest Marquette Law School poll showing 47 percent approve of his job while 49 precent disapprove. On the issue of how he's handling coronavirus, his numbers are worse: 44 percent approve while 51 percent disapprove.

In March, the Marquette Law School poll showed a slightly higher approval rating in general, and a much higher approval rating on coronavirus, almost flipped from what his May numbers looked like on that subject.

The most recent Marquette Law School poll also demonstrates Trump is losing in a hypothetical election against presumptive Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden, by a margin of three points. Trump's Real Clear Politics average between him and Biden shows about the same spread.

One last thing to point out: as mentioned above, Tiffany's numbers showed he garnered around 57 percent of the overall vote. His Democratic opponent, Tricia Zunker, got around 43 percent of the vote.

The last time a Democrat managed to get over 43 percent of the vote in the gerrymandered version of the 7th Congressional District was in 2012 — the year Barack Obama won Wisconsin yet again in his reelection campaign for president.

The special election congressional race in Wisconsin this week was indeed a win for the Republican running in it — but it wasn't really much of a win at all for the man in the White House.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Confusion Abounds In State Supreme Court's Reckless Decision To End Evers's Stay-At-Home Order

Chief Justice Roggensack's opinion doesn't explicitly state if there's a stay or not, leaving in limbo the question: is Wisconsin open right now??

The Wisconsin Supreme Court just issued its ruling on the constitutionality of Gov. Tony Evers's stay-at-home order that was issued to address the spread of coronavirus.

If the weeklong delay in releasing its opinion was to make sure there would be no confusion in their order, the justices failed miserably.

Image via Royalbroil/Wikimedia
The narrow 4-3 ruling (PDF link) found that provisions of the stay-at-home order were carried out in an unconstitutional fashion. Rules set in place weren't followed by the Department of Health Services, which Evers declared to be the agency in charge of handling the emergency.

In short, the declaration of a health emergency was sound, but the way the agency handled enforcing rules of the stay-at-home order were determined by four conservative justices to be grounds enough to throw everything out.

But here's the messed up part: whether there is a "stay" in place preventing an immediate end to the stay-at-home order, or not, is completely unclear. That's because one of the four justices left ambiguous her decision on issuing a stay.

Chief Justice Patience Roggensack is wishy-washy in her concurring opinion about the matter, writing that she recognizes even the plaintiffs involved in the case called for a six-day stay. But she also notes that they wanted that stay back in April, so maybe the call for a stay has expired?

Here's her opinion, with parts in bold portions that make it uncertain:
Although a very unusual request, on April 21, 2020, the Legislature asked this court to issue a temporary injunction of Emergency Order 28 but then requested a stay of that injunction for at least six days. We perceive this request as being grounded in a concern for an orderly transition from Order 28 to a lawful rule.

However, more than two weeks have passed since we began our consideration of this case. Therefore, we trust that the Legislature and Palm have placed the interests of the people of Wisconsin first and have been working together in good faith to establish a lawful rule that addresses COVID-19 and its devastating effects on Wisconsin. People, businesses and other institutions need to know how to proceed and what is expected of them. Therefore, we place the responsibility for this future law-making with the Legislature and DHS where it belongs.


I too am appreciative of the concerns raised by COVID-19 and the possibility of throwing the state into chaos. Accordingly, although our declaration of rights is effective immediately, I would stay future actions to enforce our decision until May 20, 2020. However, I trust that the parties will place the interests of the people of Wisconsin first and work together in good faith to quickly establish a rule that best addresses COVID-19 and its devastating effects on Wisconsin.
From a legal perspective, saying "I would stay" is not the same as voting to issue a stay of the opinion. Stating, "we place the responsibility for this future law-making with the Legislature and DHS where it belongs," is also confusing. Does that mean the court doesn't have, in Roggensack's opinion, the right to determine if a stay is necessary or not?

What the heck is going on?

Even fellow Justice Rebecca Bradley was puzzled by Roggensack's wording. Again, I've bolded the important parts:
Chief Justice Roggensack needs to clarify in an opinion whether she is or is not voting for a stay of the majority's decision...In a court of seven, it takes four votes to form a controlling majority on an issue. Chief Justice Roggensack provides the fourth vote to form a majority denying a stay. Without her vote there would be only three votes and the declaration of rights would not have immediate effect. However, assuming Chief Justice Roggensack is actually voting for a stay, as her concurrence seemingly indicates, there appear to be four votes for issuing a stay.
It's unclear, even to her fellow justices, what Roggensack's opinion is about.

The Tavern League of Wisconsin, however, seems to think that all bets are off, and is advising bars that want to open this second tonight to do so.
Well, that seems responsible. After all, state Supreme Courts decide if extremely contagious diseases exist or not, right?

Monday, May 11, 2020

Trump Just Told A Blatant Lie, And Suggested 80,000 Coronavirus Deaths Is Something To Be 'Proud' Of

The U.S. has one of the worst per capita ratings in the world in terms of dealing with coronavirus. Trump just said it was one of the best.

President Donald Trump made a very strong claim about his response to coronavirus, suggesting that the number of deaths seen so far in the country as a result of the disease wasn't as bad as it seemed, if you looked at per capita rankings.

Here's what Trump had to say, from The Washington Post:
I think one of the things we’re most proud of is, this just came out — deaths per 100,000 people, death. So deaths per 100,000 people — Germany and the United States are at the lowest rung of that ladder. Meaning low is a positive, not a negative. Germany, the United States are the two best in deaths per 100,000 people, which frankly, to me, that’s perhaps the most important number there is.
Image of Trump via
Gage Skidmore/Flickr
How one can view a high number of deaths like we've seen — over 81,000 as of Monday — as something to be "proud" of is controversial, to say the least. Basing it off of per capita rankings is also a bad idea, as the United States actually ranks in the Top Ten of nations in terms of highest rates on the globe.

In short, Trump is lying here. America's per capita ranking is not something to boast about — we're nowhere near where Germany is at, for instance. In fact, our rate is 165 percent higher than Germany's, and 80 percent higher than Canada's. Heck, we even have a higher per capita rating than Mexico at the moment.

Trump is trying to paint a rosy picture because Americans are starting to get wise to him. They're starting to realize that his actions — or rather, inaction early on — is directly responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in this country so far.

According to a Navigator poll released last week, most Americans have described Trump's response in negative terms:
  • 57 percent describe his response to coronavirus is "erratic;"
  • 61 said Trump was "unprepared" for the pandemic;
  • 57 percent describe his response as "chaotic;"
  • 63 percent say he's been "self-absorbed" in responding to coronavirus;
  • and 52 percent say he's been "irresponsible" in how he's handled responding to the disease.
Trump is lying to the American people because, it turns out, they understand he's completely inept to handling this crisis. So he's hoping that, by repeating a lie often enough, they're going to start believing him when he says this is actually a success story rather than a failure of leadership.

The problem for Trump, however, is that this is a quantifiable outcome for him. People have died due to his incompetence — again, a figure that's (so far) in the tens of thousands.

While he called criticisms of his behavior in late February a "new hoax" against him, he wasted valuable time preparing for COVID-19 reaching America's shores. And now he wants to play the role of the hero in this entire ordeal.

No amount of lying or retelling of a story can change the fact that this president is no hero. If anything, he's been a bumbling fool. Don't let him tell you otherwise.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Robin Vos Makes A One-Sided, Partisan Call For Civility

Vos's opponent in the Assembly elections later this year dropped out of the race, due to harassment from the right.

Someone sent Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos a package in the mail with a piece of dog excrement inside of it.

There isn't a punchline there. This is a dumb and stupid move for someone to make for many reasons:
  • It is rude;
  • It doesn't produce a net good (this won't convince Vos to change his mind on issues, nor will it convince moderates to side with the progressive point of view);
  • And it can cause actual harm to people (Vos or the mail delivery person who dropped it off at his home).
Vos rightly condemned the action on his Facebook page, and made a call for civility. That I don't have a problem with.

But the content of his call to action, well...seems quite a bit one-sided.

Here's the text of what Vos wrote on his personal Facebook page. I've bolded and made red the part that I want to discuss in greater detail:
I understand people are stressed because of the virus and not sure exactly how to react. Sending someone dog poop in the mail (as was done to me yesterday) is pretty sad.

For those on the right — know I and my fellow GOP legislators are doing everything we can to prepare for the next phase after the lawsuit (which we will hopefully win). Please don't turn your anger at the very people who are your allies in getting our state working again.
For those on the left — no one in the GOP wants to kill anyone and we worry about friends, family and co workers who could succumb to the virus. Yelling at people doesn't win an argument. Neither does name calling.

We can respectfully disagree. We can argue. We can even yell on occasion. But if yelling, swearing, accusing others is your go to response, you need to seriously think about your anger and how to resolve that issue. Can we just get back to debating the issues civilly and stop the name calling?

That's the political system I want to be a part of.
It's a pretty good sentiment, but it seems that Vos is telling one side something completely different than the other.

Take a look at that bolded part again — he's telling people on the right to stop fretting, and that he has a plan. That's not a condemnation of incivility on the part of some of those within his own camp, but rather a recognition that they're upset, and that he hears them. It's an assurance, not a calling out of wrongdoing.

And there's plenty of condemning that can be done. Just consider the fact that an opponent of Vos's in the Assembly elections this year had to drop out of the race because of vehement harassment people on the right were sending to him and his family members.

From The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Bob Prailes announced last week that he was running as a Democrat to take on Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, one of the state's most powerful Republicans.


But early Friday, he unexpectedly pulled the plug on his campaign. And his reason for doing so had nothing to do with politics.

He said he and his family were being verbally attacked.

"I had people that were approaching us when we were together as a family, swearing at us, commenting to my wife," Prailes said in an interview. "I don't want to say too much. I just think that people made very personal and ugly attacks towards me and my family either through walking up to me or yelling at me or through social media.

"It got to the point where my family and I decided we didn't want to be part of something like that," he said.
Prailes explained to the Journal Sentinel that he didn't blame Vos directly for what happened to him and his family. And nor should he — the worst of a person's base of support is not necessarily reflective of how that person feels. Vos probably would never say the same sort of things that was said to Prailes that forced him to drop from the race.

But scouring Vos's Facebook page, and looking at his "dog poop" statement again, it sure doesn't feel like he's discouraging people from his own political point-of-view from toning it down a bit...just those on the left need to, he appears to be saying.

There is certainly something broken with our political discourse today, and both sides need to address that. There are elements of hatred within the left just as there are the same elements of hatred on the right. Both should be spoken out about.

It's just interesting to me that Vos chose to condemn one side, and give assurances to the other in what appears to be a clear attempt to appease them. The "name-calling" he condemns the left of doing doesn't get a mention in his "criticism," if you can call it that, of those who share his own political opinions.

I can personally attest that there is name-calling going on in Vos's camp toward the left. It happened to me yesterday, and without getting too personal about it, it was very dark and twisted.

That sort of commentary serves no purpose, on the right nor on the left. Perhaps it's splitting hairs, but it would sure be swell if the Speaker of the Assembly could take a stronger stand against those elements on his side, rather than making a clearly partisan call for unity and civility, like he did this week.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

"Safer at Home" In WI Seems To Be Working...Except In Places People Are Ignoring It

Waukesha Co. residents keep defying the order...and wouldn't you know it? The gap between Dane County's rate of COVID cases and their cases is widening.

"Safer at home" in Wisconsin seems to be working...for now.

In spite of protests at the capitol (and many others in Waukesha County...more on that in a second), and the forced in-person election that Republicans in the state legislature made happen, the trendline for coronavirus cases in Wisconsin, as of right now, is going down, since the announcement of Gov. Tony Evers's "Badger Bounceback" was made.

We're not out of the woods yet, but we're seemingly going in the right direction.

The past four days have seen testing percentages of coronavirus in the state below 10 percent. The four days prior to that had all seen testing percentages that were above 10 percent, so it's great news that we're away from THAT trend.

Check out the red line in the graph below. That's the direction we're presently headed in:

It's not a statistically significant change from where we were weeks ago, but it's still a more desired path than a line in the opposite direction would be.

Now, the bad news. Wisconsin residents are apparently not adhering to social distancing standards the way they used to. This report from NBC 15 in Madison explains how our "grade" has gone down:
A New York-based data analytics company, Unacast, is keeping a social distance score throughout the pandemic. The tool gives a grade based on several categories using cell phone data and comparing it to a pre-covid-19 time period.

Six weeks ago, Wisconsin received a ‘B ’grade. Today, the state dropped to a 'D.'
Sadly, Dane County is down to a "D" as well in its grade.

But here's a theory I have about our county's grade: It's possible that our lower grade is inflated, somewhat, by all of the out-of-towners who flocked to Madison last month in order to protest at the capitol. Unacast's models are based on cellphone data, and documenting that much travel in the area may have made it seem like we were doing more bad than good when it came to social distancing.

It's also possible that we're not doing as well as we should. We should keep an eye on Unacast's future reports to know for sure...

But interestingly, Waukesha County is doing worse in its grade from Unacast, down to an "F," according to Unacast's grading system.

I point out the difference between the two counties because, last Saturday, I tweeted out a prediction that the gap in the rates of coronavirus cases between Dane County and Waukesha County would expand, with Waukesha's rate being higher. My reasoning was that Waukesha residents (particularly in Brookfield) keep holding protests in which they gathered to protest the stay-at-home orders that are currently in place because they want their damn haircuts back.

Here's my tweet from that time:
As noted above, Waukesha County had a rate of coronavirus cases last Saturday that was 9.45 percent higher than Dane County's rate. As of Thursday, where do things stand?

Waukesha County now has a rate that's 14.4 percent greater than Dane County's rate, according to the Journal Sentinel's coronavirus tracker.

In short, social distancing seems to be working across much of the state, except in communities where people flout it. Pretending like it doesn't matter how we react to coronavirus...like what Waukesha residents have done...seems, at first glance, to result in the spread of the disease.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Fox News' False Reporting Is Not Just Misinformative — Studies Suggest It Could Literally Kill You

Polling shows conservatives are more likely to believe there's an overreporting of COVID-19 deaths — a falsehood that's frequently peddled on the conservative "news" network.

Two-thirds of Americans have doubts about the official death toll count for coronavirus in the United States, but for different reasons, with more believing there is an undercount than an overcount of mortalities being reported.

According to an Axios/Ipsos poll conducted earlier this month, 44 percent of Americans believe that more have died from COVID-19 than has been reported, while 23 percent believe the official counts are overreporting the number of deaths that have happened. Thirty-two percent say the official death count is probably accurate.

The White House/Flickr
Political ideology seems to play a role, however, in how people perceive things to be. When the same question is posed to Republicans only, the number believing there to be an overcount of deaths jumps up to 40 percent, with just 24 percent saying there is an undercounting of coronavirus deaths happening.

A number of health experts believe that there is indeed an undercount of deaths related to the disease, and that the true number of coronavirus deaths, as well as cases in general, is probably much higher than what is being reported.

But you wouldn't know that if you only consumed right-wing media, like Fox News. Its hosts regularly promulgate the errant theory that deaths are overcounted. In turn, their viewers take hold of these ideas, and the result is translated in the polling data cited above.

Conservative media is misinforming Americans about this crisis — and in some ways, it's causing direct harm to its viewers. One study suggests that regular viewers of Sean Hannity's program are more inclined to engage in risky behaviors when it comes to coronavirus, and thus, are more likely to die than non-viewers as a result.

In other words, Fox News is demonstrably bad for your health.

Turn them off.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Trump Is Losing It, And His Latest Rant Against Democrats Wanting 'Death' Is Proof

Trump, without proof, said Democrats hope he fails on preventing "death" from coronavirus.

A president, such as Donald Trump, who has difficulty reining in his emotions, is not a good president to have.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr
It's evident after nearly three-and-a-half years of Trump in office, that his anger has gotten the best of him. But during a crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic, even this statement from him is a new low.

Trump was asked by reporters why he would allow Dr. Anthony Fauci, a well-respected member of his coronavirus task force, to speak before a committee within the Republican-controlled Senate, but wouldn't allow him to speak before a committee in the Democratic-controlled House.

The president's answer speaks volumes:
Because the House is a setup. The House is a bunch of Trump haters. They, frankly, want our situation to be unsuccessful, which means death, which means death, and our situation is going to be very successful.
Trump offered no proof for his accusations toward Democrats, as reporting from Reuters noted.

Trump may truly believe what he said about Democrats in the House, but it doesn't matter: that chamber of Congress is a duly-elected group of lawmakers, with the same rights to speak with the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that the Senate has. Acknowledging the Senate can question him but not the House is inconsistent with the way the legislative branch interacts with the executive, and puts on full display the childish nature of this president.

There's demonstrable proof, however, that Trump himself doesn't care about the health of the American people. From The Washington Post:
In phone calls with outside advisers, Trump has even floated trying to reopen much of the country before the end of this month, when the current federal recommendations to avoid social gatherings and work from home expire, the people said. Trump regularly looks at unemployment and stock market numbers, complaining that they are hurting his presidency and reelection prospects, the people said.
In other words, concerned mainly about his own reelection chances, the president may, at the expense of the lives of tens of thousands (perhaps more) of Americans, reopen the economy so that he can look good on the subject.

Call Democrats "Trump haters" if you want to, like the president does. At least they don't govern with such disregard for the American people.

Scott Walker, Trying To Remain Relevant, Goes Back To His Old Habits: Bending The Truth And Omitting History

Walker says he "cleaned up" Wisconsin after a stimulus...which glosses over history in a big way.

Ousted former Gov. Scott Walker is trying to become relevant again by tweeting nonsense that tries to put him and his time in office in a better light than it really was.

So let's make him irrelevant by correcting the record.

Walker (no relation to myself, it bears repeating) tweeted on Tuesday against the concept of a stimulus bill, in general, to help states that are overwhelmed by the coronavirus crisis. Yes, for real, he did:

"'Stimulus' funding from federal government to bail out state and local governments more than a decade ago just created a bigger hole when it was gone and those of us elected in 2010 had to clean up mess," Walker wrote.

Actually, the stimulus in 2009 from the Obama administration did a lot of good, particularly for the middle class. And Walker, suggesting he had to "clean up [a] mess," is a stark retelling of history that needs to be corrected.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Walker campaigned for governor in 2010 on the promise that his administration would create 250,000 new jobs for the state within four years' time — a promise he never reached within eight years of governing, mind you.

Nevertheless, in much of his campaigning, he derided the previous administration of Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle for having lost 133,000 jobs in the state before he ran. Walker repeated the claim again in 2014 during his re-election campaign against Mary Burke.

Never mentioned in Walker's ads, however, was why Wisconsin lost those jobs. It was the Great Recession. EVERY state in the country — and nearly every country in the world — suffered during that time. But in Walker's commercials, the blame was set on Doyle alone, or anyone associated with him, as was the case with Burke.

Something else was missing from those ads as well, however, and remain omitted from Walker's talking points to this day, as evidenced by his tweet above. While Walker claims that he "cleaned" that mess up, the recovery of jobs lost in Wisconsin actually began before he won the governorship. The first year of recovery took place under Doyle's watch, not Walker's.

In Wisconsin, state budgets are created and begun at the end of the second quarter of the year, around June or July, after which they last for two years. In the last year that Doyle's budget was in place, the state saw a 1.7 percent increase in private sector jobs created, a point Walker readily left out of his campaign ads and fails to acknowledge in his recent tweet.

What's more, in every budget year after that crafted by Walker, his job creation rate never reached the same level that Doyle's did in 2010-11.

So remember: when Walker says he cleaned up a mess, what he really means to say is that he was given a pretty clean room to begin with, got handed the broom and dustpan after Doyle left office, and took credit for sweeping afterward.

In other words, he did next to nothing to create jobs after most of the hard work was already done, and claimed he was an amazing governor for what he had "done."

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Why Trump Deserves Some of the Blame for Coronavirus Deaths in the U.S.

The president can't be blamed for coronavirus itself — but how he's reacted to the disease has resulted in numerous deaths already. 

As far as leadership goes, it's apparent that President Donald Trump is sorely lacking in the quality.

We knew this long ago, of course, but the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the many ways in which he has failed to his duties as president. In fact, he has done much to hurt the country during this crisis.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr
But does Trump really deserve blame for the number of deaths that will come about the result of coronavirus? In some ways, we should temper any arguments that suggest as much. The president does not, for instance, bear responsibility for the pandemic's presence in the country.

However, while we should hold back outright blame toward Trump for this virus's death toll, how he has responded to and acted to it has had a detrimental effect on our lives — so much so that it's not an unfair assessment to state that Trump is directly responsible for some of the disease's more dire outcomes, including a high number of deaths in the U.S.

According to various sources, the White House was alerted to the presence of the disease in China as far back as November. Trump himself was alerted a dozen times about the severity of the disease in January and February, no less than a dozen times.

Armed with this information, the president did two things, one of which was good and the other that was incredibly negligent:
  • Trump closed travel from China. While he may deserve commendations for that, he did allow tens of thousands to return from China to the U.S., without a uniform screening process in place.
  • Trump then spent the remainder of time from that closure to the middle of March doing very little at all to prepare for the impending pandemic. In fact, he spent most of that time whining about others who were saying do more.
Indeed, Trump called criticisms of his lackadaisical approach to the disease a "new hoax" against him.

Meanwhile, it wasn't just politicians or the media telling the president he needed to do more. His own health experts were saying, after more than a dozen coronavirus cases were identified, that things were going to get worse. Trump took the opposite view, sometimes within the same press conferences as those warnings were given in, and said that the number of cases would be "close to zero" within a matter of days.

He continued to not take the virus seriously, up until March 13. On March 16, he finally pushed for social distancing measures to be implemented across the entire country:
My administration is recommending that all Americans, including the young and healthy, work to engage in schooling from home when possible. Avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people. Avoid discretionary travel. And avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and public food courts.
A day after that statement, Trump claimed, "I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic."

It was great that Trump finally came to his senses on taking coronavirus seriously (though he's now prematurely pushing for ending social distancing). However, the disease doesn't have a "better late than never" response. Ultimately, the consequences of waiting too long to do something about COVID-19 have been staggering.

According to a pair of epidemiologist researchers, had Trump acted just one week sooner — had he stopped calling coronavirus and reactions to his inaction a "new hoax" against him — close to 37,000 American deaths could have been avoided during this crisis.

In that way, yes, Trump is responsible for many thousands of deaths in this country. He'll be responsible for more, too, if he continues to push for "reopening" America too soon.

Social distancing works, as does extensive testing of the populace. We know this because there's examples to look to, like New Zealand and South Korea, for guidance on how we should behave.

Trump doesn't appear willing to emulate those ideas, acting instead on what he believes will be best for his own political futures. That sort of thinking needs to be abandoned completely right now.

The president needs to stop thinking about his reelection, and put the nation's interests ahead of his own. It's unfortunate, however, that in all likelihood, he's probably going to do just the opposite — and more Americans will suffer because of it.