Thursday, May 14, 2020

My Highly At-Odds-With-Myself Views On Madam Mayor Muriel's Medically WOKE But Legally Dubious Extension of D.C.'s Ineffectual Blanket Lockdown Through At Least June 8th

Washington Monument as seen on a pleasant spring day from near the Sylvan Theatre, Washington, D.C.,
2:21 p.m., May 11, 2020

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The outdoor pictures in this entry are from three different outdoor walkabouts here in the city this month -- to include on May 9 (Glover Park), May 11 (from apartment to L'Enfant Plaza via the Mall), and May 12 (same as on 11th) -- and in no particular order. Except for the lead one, I am not captioning them, but the file names contain place/time info. And, once again, as with other entries of late on this blog, they are topically unrelated to the entry.


As expected, D.C. Madam Mayor Muriel Bowser has extended the D.C. shutdown related to the immeasurable hysterical-statis of the COVID-19 public health emergency; specifically, she extended it by 3+ weeks from May 18th to June 8th. WaHoPo.com news story here.


What's more, while other states beginning to haltingly reopen -- or, in the case of Wisconsin, thanks to its malevolent and super-judicial-activist bloc of politically hyper-partisan rightwing justices, a wild reopening after the Governor's extension was struck down -- the immediate D.C. area is getting MORE extreme in its shutdown protocols. For example, the filth-covered abomination of what is known as WMATA's Metrorail system will now require face masks but in a mandatorily-voluntary way requiring.


Of course, Metro is still highly encouraging (1) mass fare evasion by shrieking, brawling, pot-smoking teenagers and (2) the use of station platforms as public toilets by the homelessly schizophrenic. As an aside, I wouldn't care if Metro went bankrupt and/or some other entity, even a private one, assumed it. Given that nothing really works in the United States anyway no matter who runs it, at least it wouldn't be a DC-style public good tragedy.

Now if you're wondering, unless asked to do so by a jacked up Metro police officer or a lifetime sinecure secure station manager, I will not comply with the face mask requirement, just like I don't comply with the "requirement" that adult, non-homeless people wear it while outside.


As it is, my Metro use is very limited these days, typically, to a single six-minute weekday journey from L'Enfant Plaza to Farragut West or Foggy Bottom as I head home. (I've been walking into the office basically daily during this shutdown time.) What's more, very few people are presently using the system with mostly empty Metro cars -- the working fleet for which now consists virtually entirely of the truly ugly, garishly cold blue-white fluorescent-lit, sticky floor, metallic-institutionalized-looking 7000-series. Another cockup by Metro.


In general, I find myself deeply at odds with myself regarding the actions of D.C. Madam Mayor Muriel -- which represent an extreme of the extreme and, as a District resident, personally impactful -- and the larger social distancing "lockdown" mitigation efforts that have been in effect across so much of the United States for the last two months.

These shutdowns are beginning to end both by state and local government edict and, more importantly, organically in a far-flung, diffuse nation of 330 million people that is really multiple countries under one national government.


On the one hand, no matter how much I intellectually can understand and, to some extent, accept the reasons, I just find it highly offensive and annoying that Mayor Madam Muriel is unilaterally deciding to "keep the city shut" for some unspecified duration, the criteria for which only she knows and, more importantly, the effectiveness of which is indeterminate.


I find it offensive because, clearly, Mayor McMuffin is happy and eager to continue this deeply problematic strategy that lacks any rational exit strategy -- boasting that she would revisit the June 8th date as she sees fit. And she's doing so without ANY appreciation of the crushing economic and psychological devastations she is visiting upon the city, nor any apparent effort at the forever-blathered-upon testing and contact tracing despite the fact D.C. is a small and manageable jurisdiction with its own affluent means.

U.S. COVID-19 daily new cases 15 Feb - 13 May 2020 as shown on Worldometers.info site (ending 00 GMT / 8pm EDT each day)

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Given the Mayor's all-punishing, all-economically-destructive, no-rational methods, this is a good time to once again point out that the legal status of the District of Columbia is NEITHER U.S. State nor U.S. Territory but instead federal enclave.

U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths 15 Feb - 13 May 2020 as shown on Worldometers.info site (ending 00 GMT / 8pm EDT each day)

There certainly appears to be a weekend reporting component to the figures. I rather doubt that many people simply "avoiding" dying on the weekends.

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The District's local government has been permitted by Congress since 1974 through the legal framework colloquially known as Home Rule. Not only has this local control been historically at the whim of whatever grandstanding Dixiecrat "Bull" in Congress, but it can and has been revoked -- namely, during the financial disaster of the late-stage Marion Barry era. The Clinton era Control Board reduced the position of D.C. Mayor to its actual ghost status before resurrecting it when the crisis had passed.

This is a map from the New York Times earlier this evening and I don't know the timeframe for the percent changes. It is based upon cellphone data analysis.

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This is relevant because, ultimately, it is the Federal Government -- executive, legislative, AND judicial -- that runs the city. In claiming unilateral power to maintain this historically unprecedented shutdown of all economic and social life in the Imperial American Capital City for an indefinite period, and doing so with zero input from any other entity, Madam Mayor Muriel is inviting -- in self-defeating fashion -- federal intervention.

Such an intervention would be almost certainly in the form of a rightwing federal judge (is there any other sort these days??) who is given the opportunity for some judicial activism in the affairs of the District of Columbia. All it would take is some appropriate legal action by someone with "standing" to bring it, i.e., a District resident with a hotline to the vast conservative political ecosystem.


This could easily happen if she were to extend the new June 8th date again into July or August. And make no mistake about it -- some 35-year old Federal Society-vetted, Mitch McConnell-approved, lifetime-sinecure safe federal judge would LOVE the chance to fire up and smack down Mayor Bowser. (And let's not even talk about how that would play out on Trump's twitter feed.) Yet for her part, the Mayor's only guiding light in her decision-making is her woke, ultra-lib sensibilities which, much like their rightwing counterparts, crave total social controls.


In terms of a strategy for a phased reopening, the Mayor's only criteria appears to be coming from her DOH Director, a.k.a., Dr. Q, Urban Medicine Woman, whereby it is necessary to prove that a 105-year old woman living in Barry Farms or at a Southeast D.C. city-run nursing home did not die from "the coronavirus."


Having written all this, I should note that Madam Mayor McCheese's actions are unlikely to get any pushback from the populace and instead only grumblings from the city's bar and restaurant mafia. Unlike in other parts of the countries, D.C.'s very WOKE and very progressive populace is weirdly content with the current situation.

 In short, you're not going to get the rightwing militia crazies parading around with assault rifles in "Lockdown Rebellions" because the very thought of a leader with a uterus and a "D" after her name telling them what to do drives them bat-shit insane.


My own sense of the situation is that the now-two-months-old extreme shutdown here in D.C. -- as in other parts of the country -- has merely flattened the "Ro" curve to about 1 and is most likely not any more effective than the impressive voluntary mitigation actions of so many people. Thus, extending the punishing shutdown by any period of time isn't going to make things better on the other side of this pandemic.

Consider that even in COVID-19 ground zero of New York City, where at least a quarter of the population (!) was likely infected in barely two months (!), it was sort of a tie between the effectiveness of the shutdown and the pandemic just burning itself out.


In trying to figure out what a pandemic strategy in the Time of Trump looks like, I think this final tweet in a series of nine tweets a few days ago by Stanford psychologist Dr. Keith Humphreys is correct: The United States is effectively adopting Sweden's approach of voluntary social distancing and hoped-for herd immunity, but on a vastly bigger scale and not through any conscious decision but rather because of the country's chronic libertarianism and tribal political divisions. Here is a screenshot of that ninth tweet:


As for D.C. Madam Mayor Muriel, and in keeping with Dr. Humphreys' tweets, I will admit a certain unpleasant truth:

I don't really know her, I don't inherently trust her judgments, and I don't take the government she heads seriously -- by which I refer not just to her "executive" branch agencies but the D.C. Council as well.


The Government of the District of Columbia has historically been deeply dysfunctional to the point of being effectively non-functional, and this has been the case all the way back to the start of the home rule era.

Although a bit anomalous in that it is the Capital of the United States with a weird relationship to Congress, the D.C. city government is a typical American urban city government that cares only for its traditional source of votes (urban African Americans, of which the government bureaucracy has historically been composed) and its traditional bag men (namely, sleazy developers with assorted bribes, sweetheart deals, kickbacks, and slush funds).

Yes, the city has undergone as massive demographic shift and vast increase in its wealth in the past quarter century (as have many late 20th Century basket-case American cities) but that hasn't fully caught up with the District government either operationally or in its bureaucratic composition.


On a personal note, having lived in D.C. proper for all but six months of the last 19 years or about 6,700 days and nights -- including through an extended really difficult time and on a daily basis -- I can honestly say I have never had any meaningful or positive interaction with the D.C. Government except on the basic things such as drivers license, paying taxes, jury duty, and voter registration, plus a regular street patrol police force (the MPD) about the best that can be said is the less you interact with it, the better. (They aren't as gratuitously thuggish as the Park Police, though.)

It goes without saying that I have never received a scintilla of "welfare" help from it even during times of need. Indeed, once some years ago when I called about a rent increase, the girl I spoke to on the phone was as bored and unhelpful as she was barely intelligible.

Rather, and as is common in most American cities, the D.C. government exists as this sort of background presence that takes what it wants -- through high levels but low results levels of taxation -- but is otherwise quite unaware that someone such as myself exists.


I'm going to wrap up this entry but not before I relate one more point that might seem quite contradictory to everything I wrote above. No matter how I feel about COVID-19-related local D.C. response, I DO NOT WANT and WILL NOT BE part and parcel of the crazies at The Fucking Federalist with their out-of-mind libertarianism sensibilities that are approaching a sort of Trumpian Jonestown end state. To see what I mean, I refer you to this piece on Talking Points Memo (link embedded): Raging Against ‘Mere Life,’ The Federalist Has Declared War On Public Health Orders.


As a final point to end this entry, and as a nod to all the springtime outdoor pictures I've been posting in recent entries to include this one, when I look back on this bizarre "COVID-19 Pandemic" Spring of 2020, I will always point with quiet appreciation that I was able to take so many walks on so many days during what has been (at least in April and the first half of May) an absolutely delightful spring.


Following our functionally non-existent winter, it has been a spring with relatively cool temps, generous rainfall to water the budding and blooming world, and excellent air quality -- and an electric tender green natural world that has been in a floral and flowery profusion rivaling anything I've ever seen (or at least previously noticed) while the arboreal leafiness flourishes.


OK, that's all for this entry. My next planned entry will be either Friday or Saturday night.

--Regulus

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