Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / A sign in front of Maurice's at Hamilton Place Mall reminds shoppers to wear face masks.

The center isn't holding

What is wrong with us? How did we let a madman and a deluded political party turn big swaths of our country away from facts and science and common sense? When did personal research and knowledge gleaned from reading real information (as opposed to Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and other purveyors of baloney) become passé?

A man in a Hamilton County store last week berated the cashier who politely raised her hand and asked him to put on a mask. Instead, he went right on into the store and began yelling at her and another customer — one with a mask — and said, "Ya'll are just a bunch of Democrats "

Things went downhill from there, but here's the point. The other customer and the cashier may or may not be Democrats, but they surely are citizens who just want to stay well and keep others around them well. What's so awful about that?

The number of people dying of COVID-19 each day now, nationally, is three times what it was three months ago. And the number of new cases is six times higher. Hospitals in many cities are strapped. Witness Reno, Nevada, where two floors of a parking garage have been turned into a COVID-19 unit.

A parking garage as a COVID-19 unit! One would think we were a Third World country.

The economic toll is deepening, too, with too little relief in sight. Fiscal assistance, economic experts have agreed, is crucial, yet Congress remains stalemated.

Americans filing initial claims for unemployment last week continued pouring in at levels that dwarfed the pace of past recessions.

Troubling trends include falling labor force participation, demographic disparities in unemployment and rising food scarcity.

But some economists report rays of light: The economy has shifted from services to goods. New business applications are way up.

Way up, no doubt, because people are desperately looking for ways to make ends meet as their political leader do not.


Don't be distracted

While COVID rages and the economy slumps, what is the Republican Party worried about?

Ask Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio, a former — and almost certainly future — GOP candidate for president.

This guy — along with the rest of his party — have their knickers in a knot over a vulgar remark published in Glamour magazine from an interview with Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon.

First, it's important to remember that Rubio and the GOP has carried water for a president who boasted of grabbing women by their genitals, and that's a very cleaned-up version of what Donald Trump actually said.

Yet last week, Rubio tweeted, "Biden talks about unity and healing but you want to know what they really think? Read how the person he wants as the next WH chief of staff called Republicans in Congress a bunch of f***ers."

Actually she didn't. In fact she said they were not.

Answering a question about compromise, Glamour quoted her as saying: "[F]rankly, that's what we need [compromise]. The president-elect was able to connect with people over this sense of unity. In the primary, people would mock him, like, "You think you can work with Republicans?" I'm not saying they're not a bunch of f***ers. Mitch McConnell is terrible. But this sense that you couldn't wish for that, you couldn't wish for this bipartisan ideal? He [Biden] rejected that. From start to finish, he set out with this idea that unity was possible, that together we are stronger, that we, as a country, need healing, and our politics needs that too."

Sure, Dillon probably shouldn't have used the F word. She should have been more specific and said she wasn't saying they were all disingenuous, hypocritical bad-faith trolls or something like that.

Here's the thing, though. Rubio clearly learned from his president about the art of distraction.

Jason Johnson hit the nail on the head about this in an MSNBC interview Thursday: "It's about distraction [from the fact that] these guys want to give $600 to people, to survive, and you got 900,000 people asking for unemployment in a week. If there's anyone who has a right to use profanity right now, it's all the American people out there ... who are suffering through a loss someone who's not going to be the table this Christmas."

Perhaps Dillon might better have said that Republicans will have trouble compromising because to do so would mean the Marco Rubios of the party would have to acknowledge the skyrocketing COVID rates in Florida, the people being evicted and kicked out of their homes, the Russian attacks on the agencies that make our government and infrastructure work, and the fact that our sitting president continues trying to cheat.


Beware of anti-vaccine misinformation

With lots of news of late about the new COVID-19 vaccines, the anti-vaxxer movement has found a new home after being shut out of social media venues for spreading misinformation: the alt right movement and, unfortunately, local media television stations across the country where protest signs offer "news."

The trouble is, it isn't news. It's misinformation. Period.

We're reminded of similar misinformation about climate change. There was a time when — in the name of "balance" — journalists reporting that 97% of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change were told they also had to find one who didn't agree, and include them in their report.

That's not balance. It's manipulation. And giving anti-vaxxers — and anti-maskers — a platform amid the COVID-19 epidemic is also manipulation. Dangerous manipulation.