Corona effect bad and good, mostly bad; if we survive it will be in spite of Trump…

April 25, 2020

Even as Covid-19 decimates the world economy and kills off thousands, some still try to cling to the notion that it’s all some kind of political plot, that it is exaggerated. It’s a ruse by those who want expanded government control or defeat President Trump.

People get sick. It happens. People die. It happens. The skeptics of course just hope that they are not among the victims I guess.

I find various camparisons about death totals or rates to be usually something like mixing apples and oranges, depending upon the point trying to be made.

But the reality is something terrible has hit us.

So I guess the most troublesome and deadly aspect of Covid-19 is that it seems to spread far easier than other viruses and of course as of yet we have no vaccine and no real known effective treatment either. And all that seems some ways off. Months at best, a year, two years?

One might get lost in the statistics as far as what is more deadly, the so-called common flu or other past viruses that resulted in epidemics or pandemics or this Covid-19.

The way I look at it is that if Covid-19 was no more dangerous than the common flu then the Republicans, who are in the majority in the federal government, would not even put up with the self-induced economic shut down and the sending of checks to common folks as well as help for business that is expanding the national debt into the stratosphere (although in reality they never worry about help for those who could actually survive on their own, big business).

President Trump, the demagogue, is using it both ways at once. He calls for re-opening the economy out of one side of his mouth but calls out one governor, from his own Republican Party, for doing just that, as a form of political payback for not making an appointment he (Trump) had pushed for. And of course he criticizes Democratic Party governors no matter what they do. Whatever seems to fit the moment. He also touts quack notions, such as, what? injecting Lysol or other such disinfectants into humans? Don’t try that at home, or anywhere as a matter of fact.

Trump introduced the bizarre and dangerous Lysol idea quite seriously but then after being shut down by professionals claimed he was just being “sarcastic”, whatever that meant. Saying off the wall things in a serious tone and then later recanting, is a tactic he often uses to muddy the waters. Meanwhile, the makers of Lysol warned against internal use by humans.

The only good thing out of all of this Covid-19 crisis may be that personal hygiene is improving. More hand washing and covering of the face, particularly when sneezing or coughing (and as it is now, when in public or close contact).

But I do not see how the American economy (and the world economy) can withstand all of this for much longer.

On the other hand, the nice part of all of this, a side effect, is the mass reduction in air pollution, primarily from far less automobiles out on the road. Still trucks out there, although perhaps not as many. Freight over all is taking a hit due to the dramatic fall off in the economy. Unemployment is on par with the Great Depression I think. Some say it goes beyond the official numbers (which is usually the case).

Myself, I have been out on the roadways in the semi I drive but I understand a lot of people have actually gone back to walking around their neighborhoods and enjoying the fresh air, even in Los Angeles, where the automobile world or car life as we have come to know it really took off.

But when things open up again, maybe all or most of that will disappear. We are ingrained in our ways and we have to make money.

So after spending most of the past several weeks in my truck I faced the stark reality of this new world when I went to Safeway, thinking I was going to get something at the deli for lunch and maybe pick up some supplies. I was actually just planning to zip back to my truck at the terminal. But there was this long line outside. Folks are being forced to social distance — they don’t want too many in the store at once. I have a theory on that, I’ll get back to shortly. So I decided to give my truck load to someone else (with permission from my boss of course) and get some things done, such as seeing about getting my cell phone that is not charging well fixed or replaced. While I have never had any major trouble that I can recall with my phone (or phones) I have gone to the AT&T store in the past for assistance on something. They were always real helpful. I did have to take a number so to speak but I found the reps super helpful for the most part. In the past that is. Not now. I could not go into the store. There was a temporary umbrella-covered station out front with masked representatives. All I got from them was a telephone number and the fact that the insurance I had paid so much on over all this time was basically worthless to me. The lady suggested I could go to the separate private fixit store next door. So I did (I have a caveat of sorts to this further down).

So my theory, cynical I know, is that in both instances, Safeway (and all such stores) and AT&T, are basically, or at least to some degree, using Covid-19 to boost sales or profits. In the case of Safeway, I mean if you have to stand in line to get groceries, you are going to tend to buy more than you usually might for that investment in time. In the case of the phone store, I think the cell provider is using the pandemic in part essentially do away with customer service and raise profit by simply selling new phones. They were going that way anyhow I think, and this just helps it along. I understand that younger folks pretty much just buy a new phone rather frequently. I’m thinking of buying a slightly cheaper model just to use it as a backup. In my business it is an essential tool I could not do without. Most people are in that boat nowadays I realize.


UPDATE:

I have not even posted this yet but I want to update it: I did contact AT&T by phone and ordered a new cell phone (as a backup and kind of personal line). I found the representative to be most helpful. I was assured that once I got the new device there would be instructions on how to get it into service and that help was only a phone call away (on another phone of course). If that works out it will actually be easier than going to their store and waiting for a rep — they are always busy with another customer — and hoping I get one who knows his or her business (most do I think). You understand by reading this I am not tech savvy (but I have learned a lot this past decade or so).


During this time I have been getting the drift from sources such as the Wall Street Journal (opinion writers) that an attitude among some (how many I do not have an idea) is that we need to go back to work and realize that the strong survive and the weak die, that is the way of life. Sounds or looks harsh at first glance. But then again, are we just to sit down and give up as life as we know it disappears?

While I come from a family that is not a huggy, squeezy, kissie type, I like human contact of some manner. I have visited Spain six times and always love their attitude or culture of close human contact. It’s really part of being human I think (a matter of degree maybe). Yes, I realize, Spain has been hit hard with Covid-19 (and all that closeness may be a major factor).

And then of course closeness is also necessary for the survival of the species, but I was not really referring to that.

And finally, what I cannot understand, is why our federal government, most pointedly the Trump administration itself, since coming reluctantly to the realization that we are in a crisis we have never faced before, has not faced it in the manner as I read and am told was done in World War II. This war against the Covid-19 virus is every bit as critical as was the conventional war against the axis powers in the 1940s. There should have been or should even now be a no-holds-barred direction to our industry to produce the things that are needed to combat this enemy that is Covid-19, including test kits and protective gear, and most of all a vaccine and medicines for treatment. There of course has been some of that, but not in WWII style.

I’ve been seeing ads from companies promising all the good things they will have to offer once this is all over. It reminds me of the old magazines I used to see left over from World War II where there were ads about the cars and other consumer items that would be available when the war is over.

It is most distressing that the U.S. is failing itself and the world for its lack of leadership.

Trump whines that other nations do not appreciate our help and do not pay for it. At one time we had a different attitude. Yeah we paid the bill but we felt we got a lot in return by leading the world toward a way of life and government that was good for all. Plus we got to call the shots for the most part. But we, or at least the present leadership, has gotten selfish. We are paying for it.

This could be the last days of the once but now late great USA.

Or perhaps the electorate will wake up come November, unless Trump uses Covid-19 to somehow forestall the election.

We don’t need a perfect person in the White House. We need a decent person.

p.s.

I realize that the main contender is facing a charge from at least one woman that he is not so decent. I know not whether there is anything to all that. Seems kind of murky. But there is nothing murky about the total indecency of the demagogue in the White House now. And I think many of his die-hard followers are finding out he is not the miracle man he claimed to be. It has always been a charade. Anyone could look like a good leader in a booming economy, one that was already improving from the failures of the first Master of Business degree president, Republican George W. Bush, failures in the economy and war. The economy steadily improved during the Obama years. But when a real crisis, Trump’s first real one, appeared, he was caught flat footed, and all his hot air and science denial has not helped. Thanks to dedicated medical experts and all the medical community we are surviving so far and may or, indeed, will whip this thing, despite the obstacle that is Trump.


Truckers just doing a job, glad to have it, but not necessarily are we heroic…

April 24, 2020

While I agree that in many instances truck drivers over time have not been given a lot of respect for the work that they do, I don’t see them as heroes now, and I am a truck driver.

We’re just doing our job. And as for me, glad I can still do it, so far.

(Individual truck drivers who come to the aid of their fellow man, say a motorist broken down on the highway or someone in an accident or otherwise in need, notwithstanding, a truck driver is no more a hero for doing his or her job than anyone else who braves the Covid-19 atmosphere.)

I think before this Covid-19 thing, a lot of the bad relations between truck drivers and the general public has had to do with problems out on the roadway. Long before I got into trucking, my second career, I used to get irritated at truckers who seemed to want to run me off the road. I recall once driving on a two-lane state highway in heavy rain. I was going a little slower than the speed limit I imagine. This tanker truck comes barreling down the road in back of me, honking his air horn, forcing me onto the side of the highway.  Also, back in the 1970s, out on the interstate I noticed something that seemed to be different than when I was a kid. Trucks in my mind used to always be in the slow lane our of the way of the rest of the traffic, even on the flatlands. But now (in those 1970s) they seemed to always be in the left lane going faster than the speed limit and crowding my bumper. I was not a trucker then, and it did not make me like truckers (although I did not spend much time thinking about it, or I did not become anti-trucker).

And the litter spewed all over the highways and byways, certainly not all by truckers, but the piss bottles and the empty plastic gallon jugs of heavy-weight motor oil, and nowadays DEF too (diesel exhaust fluid), do tend to identify a lot of it as from them.

(Oh, yeah, I do see litter flying out of car windows and the back of the nowadays ubiquitous huge pickup trucks — used by so many who haul nothing but themselves).

So some bad apples among truckers make us all look bad. Well that is of course because truckers are just a cross section of society and that is the way it goes.

(Actually, since deregulation in the 1980s I guess they are even a wider cross section than previous times. No longer are we all farm boys who practically grew up on a truck or field tractor or both, born in the saddle or driver’s seat so to speak.)

But yes, we truck drivers are taking a risk out here with this Covid-19, as are all who are working at this time — geez! think of the medical workers, the doctors and nurses and other staff, right down to the cleaning detail. Yeah, they are the heroes.

But a trucker friend of mine ordered a meal from Outback over the phone, and when this trucker went to pick it up the worker there said it was free in honor of what the truckers do — uh, I don’t mean to create a rush to Outback. Not sure that was regular policy or just a random act of kindness. I’d bring your money if I were you.

But if folks want to compliment truckers, that is nice and much appreciated.

I can only hope the bad apples don’t continue to give us a bad name.

And most of all I wish good health to us all, that is all the public.

 

 

 


Truckers keep on trucking, but can the nation survive this? Are events pushing us toward a dictatorship?

April 11, 2020

Well it’s several weeks into the Covid-19 pandemic/crisis and I have seen no appreciable change in my job as a long-haul truck driver. One, especially one forced out of work over night like millions of Americans by stay-at-home orders or policies, might ask: am I bragging or complaining?

Neither, although I have to admit to some relief that I am still working. My Social Security just pays my rent.

The surprising thing to me is that I have encountered few obstacles despite the concern of the spreading virus. Yes some shippers and receivers have installed makeshift handwashing stations. I notice ar least some warehouse workers and drivers wearing masks or other partial face coverings, as well as gloves.

I found one surgical-type face mask in a drawer at home left over from a decade or more ago when I was undergoing chemo and my immune system was highly compromised. I also have a bandana around my neck I can use as a face covering to shield myself and others. Most of us don’t know whether we might be the givers or receivers in this since it is possible to not feel or show symptoms but still be infected and spreading the contagion.

I am jealous of these places that have the hand sanitizer, or toilet paper in their restrooms. I certainly cannot find either at home when I shop at our local stores. I have managed to mix my own sanitizer brew, however.

As for the tp, still have a few rolls left at home since I’m gone so much.

At least one place I picked up freight from would not allow me to use their restroom. Seems kind of inhuman. I mean we men carry bottles in our trucks as makeshift urinals (and there are ways women get around this or recepticles they can buy, but sometimes the solid stuff requires something more elaborate, such as a real toilet. Don’t touch those plastic bags in your parking lot folks, especially if you’ve denied use of a restroom to a trucker). 

There is some effort to maintain the social distance of at least six feet. I just checked into a place for loading, and I was at first taken aback because the window was seemingly blocked by some plastic platforms. Then I realized they were simply there to make us maintain the six feet distance between the drivers and the window clerks inside.

I’ve heard or read about all kinds of horror stories for truckers in different parts of the country but I pretty much maintain a regional territory here on the West Coast and have not endured too much so far.

Stories involve truckers being stopped and made to leave their trucks parked because they have gotten into an area that they are not allowed to leave. They get charged for the parking of their trucks. And they lose on their loads too.

I don’t own my own truck. I just drive the company’s rig. But I am sure I am not immune to complications.

The big plus now is that traffic everywhere tends to be super light. I left the San Francisco Bay Area at evening rush hour. Usually it would be stop and go, about 5 to 10 miles per hour for miles. Went through at regular highway speed. Traffic in LA is super light too.

The only thing I wonder is that there are still cars out there? Where is everyone going?

Am I worried about the risk of being out and about? Yes, but not much more than I would be if I was home. I’d still have to risk getting infected going to the store and such and even within my own apartment complex. This Covid-19 apparently spreads a lot more easily than other viruses we have known. And without working I would not have the security of a regular cash flow.

And now I ask, just how long can the federal government sustain the population? And if it is to keep sending out money to the citizens (well I have not heard of anyone being paid yet, but the checks are in the mail so to speak), how long before that money becomes worthless? Our money is already not based on gold or silver or anything tangible. It is based on the full faith and credit of the United States. But what good is that if the country goes broke from shutting itself down?

I realize the shut down to achieve social distancing is felt to have been a drastic but necessary step to stop the spread of maybe the most dangerous contagion mankind has encountered, but still how long can it go on?

And will this turn us all into socialists, dependent upon the government?

Already there is concern that the federal government will assume extra-constitutional powers in the name of public safety. 

Will this become the new normal and lead us down the slippery slope to dictatorship — dictatorships seem to spring up from both the far right and the far left. 

Right now we have a president who although would not be classified as being on the far left does not seem to completely resemble something from the far right, although he does seem to try to get his backing from a nationalistic right. But he does seem to believe in extremism in presidential power. President Donald Trump does not brook dissent, be it from the public or the press or his own cabinet or anywhere in his administration. He prefers yes men and women and considers anything else disloyalty, the punishment of which is personal invective against the perpetrator, shaming, ridicule and banishment. He only wants to hear what he agrees with for the most part.

But a public rightly terrified of a virus of science fiction like (although not fiction) proportions and danger could find itself dependent upon such a dictator.

Trump has claimed that although he listens to the medical professionals only he can make the final decisions, the metrics of which are in his head. Only he knows. He who always puts gut instinct and pandering to ignorance over science any day.

(He is correct in that his position requires him to make decisions on policy, but those positions, especially in cases such as this, should be highly dependent upon the best scientific advice, not just what the great leader wants to hear.)

We all are in deep doo doo here. God Bless America, God help us all.

p.s.

I did not start out to write about politics but life is all about politics really.

 

 


Covid-19 is making a case for national health insurance…

April 11, 2020

Covid-19 sure seems to be making a case for Medicare for all or some such scheme to enact a form of national health insurance, which in my youth was called “socialized medicine”, which was meant to be read as “communist medicine” in the Cold War.

My own position, not so strongly held, more of a thought, was that we should leave our patchwork system of health insurance alone but offer government-sponsored health insurance to all, and I mean all, of those who could not afford or did not qualify for other types of health insurance, that is private policies or group policies offered through work (as anyone would know, not all jobs carry it and a whole lot of people work less than fulltime and cannot get on the group plans).

But the fact now that millions of people have been separated from their work due to the Covid-19 stay-at-home decrees and in many or most cases have or will lose their health insurance points out how impractical health insurance tied to work can be.

Let’s be honest here. One of the main reasons so many people object to national health insurance or Medicare for all is that they do not like the idea that they have to pay for theirs (in cases where they do have to pay a share of the group plan premiums) or that they feel they “deserve” theirs because they work and others who do not should not get insurance on their (the working person’s) dime.

And I can understand that by using my old story (but a true story) about how my wife and I had to pay for the doctor when our second child was born (the first was on Uncle Sam because I was in the army), while the hippie couple next door had theirs paid by welfare while they stayed home and smoked pot (there could be more to the story that I do not know about, and you know how that goes, but it is illustrative I think).

But this Covid-19 situation puts it all into perspective. We have a national health crisis; it is to all of our benefit that we protect the whole population and to do that we need the full resources of our federal (along with state and local) government. It does not help if some cannot get the care that they need. Even if you care not about them (and I know you really do care), these people can spread the disease.

One reason we are having so much of a problem with the spread of Covid-19 is that we lacked the resources and will for universal testing. And we were not prepared for it. We have shortages of everything from gloves and masks to testing kits to ventilators.

Even if we had national health insurance there might always be a lack of political will to keep health funding up. It’s like it was when we let the military atrophy between WW I and WWII. When times are good we don’t see the need for preparedness. And then we get attacked while we are unprepared.

Also, I think government-sponsored health insurace should be more of a “coverage” than a traditional insurance in the business sense. What I mean is that in the business model the idea is to get the premiums and then figure out how little if any has to actually be paid out in claims. It’s a high stakes gambling game.

Even so, the game of insurance offered by the private sector does serve a purpose. Private capital is made available for paying health care costs and thus consumers are protected by the insurance companies who live by the profit motive, betting that they will take in far more in premiums than they pay out. If done honestly, and under government regulations, nothing wrong with that.

But it seems that in order to ensure public health, so-called “single-payer” government-funded (yes taxpayer-funded) health coverage is denanded.

My own feeling is that still the consumer should be responsible for some of the premium and some amount of the cost of treatment in order to keep total costs in line. People tend to make better, more prudent decisions when they have some of their own skin in the game, well better for the taxpers anyway.

There would or should still be room for the private insurance sector. People who could afford additional coverage might want to buy into private supplemental plans.

And maybe the real and easiest answer is to simply improve our present system within the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”, as it is known. It makes use of the resources of the private sector via health insurance exchanges.

I find it curious and outright hypocritical that those who rail against big government also call for that big government to bail themselves out.

Yes, big government can be a menace to democracy, but it has its place in dealing with the protection and service to the public at large. Vigilance against excess in power and public participation in our democracy can be a check on an overreaching government.


Trump seems to have emerged from Covid-19 denial…

April 1, 2020

The good news is that if we keep up with this social distancing stay home thing we might survive, or like a store clerk observed to me, “some of us will”.

She looked at me strangely when she said it. Wasn’t sure where the emphasis on “some of us” was directed.

The lady, by the way, was not commenting on social distancing. She was just apparently commenting on the danger of infection.

Her take (and this was maybe a week ago) was that the “media” was blowing the Covid-19 thing out of proportion. She went on to claim that the “mainstream media” was refusing or neglecting to report the fact that the pandemic was leveling off in China, where it began. Well as a consumer of the so-called “mainstream media” I can attest that claim is inaccurate.

Hopefully we can trust that it is and that such bodes well for the rest of the world, including the USA, of course.

Today it seems that President Trump is finally taking the Covid-19 pandemic seriously, with a minimum of self-serving digs at others and with a fewer pats on his own back, while still reminding us he acted early in ordering entry to the U.S. from China by people other than U.S. citizens be curtailed, or tightly controlled.

I think he is on to the fact now that listening to the medical experts and not undercutting them is good politics, besides being the right thing to do.

Of course he is most unpredictable and might at any moment go back to his usual pattern of name calling and threats.

But if we as a nation pull out of this before the election, it seems as if he will win another term. The news is that he is actually polling well now with some Democrats, while his Republican support stays strong but has leveled off.

And if we are still in the shutdown mode in November but Trump is following doctors’ orders, so to speak, the electorate as a whole might be reluctant to change leaders in the middle of the greatest crisis in a lifetime.

This really is Trump’s real first crisis as president. He began by a seeming denial, but with the spread of the virus and the multitude of deaths even he could not deny it.

Like that clerk who indicated that the danger was overblown — even she handed me my change at arm’s length, careful not to let her hand touch my outstretched hand.

You can’t deny such a thing when there are thousands of deaths all over the world and a projected 100,O00 to more than 200,000 for the U.S. this year (it is hoped, via indications from current data that the ongoing social distancing can bring the real ultimate death count down).

As to who should have done what when, I’ve come to believe that is a complex question or at least the true answer is complex.

More important is: what are we doing now?

By now the answer might be what Nancy Reagan told her husband the president to say to a gaggle of news people over the roar of whirring helicopter blades on the White House lawn: “We’re doing everything we can”.

I’m still not a Trump fan. His demeanor and many of his policies (possibly Covid-19 not completely withstanding) do not set well with me.

But at least he’s not hiding in the rose garden, as one president did in a crisis.

The total death toll worldwide from Covid-19 stands at more than 44,000 as of April 1, 2020.

Most will know to whom I refer concerning the rose garden. And I feel almost guilty for using that president as a punching bag. But hiding from a problem is just as bad as trying to deny it.

Personal note: washing my hands frequently with soap and water, when I can, otherwise using my home-blended hand sanitizer that contains plenty of alcohol.

My job as an over-the-road truck driver has not changed appreciably, yet. I am always almost self-isolated.

But a prolonged shutdown certainly will bring the total freight volume down.

And I am wary of infection as everyone else.