What part of COVID will kill you did they miss?

A conservative Florida radio host who was dead-set against taking a coronavirus vaccine is now dead. Marc Bernier died Saturday of COVID-19 after a three-week battle, his bereft radio station announced. He was 65. (Daily News)

As of today, Monday, August 30, 2021, more than 630,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19, and there are some 38 million reported cases, yet barely half of the United States has been vaccinated. (NY Times) The 14-day rate change for deaths alone is at +96%, with a daily average of 1200 deaths. An estimated 4.1 million people around the world have died from this disease and the current epicenter is the United States.

Yet, individuals like Bernier and his ilk, male and female, continue to deny there is anything to see here. Or that it’s a scam or some federal indoctrination program that can be avoided or cured with Vitamin C and aspirin. Or veterinary dewormers.

If you do not want to get vaccinated for whatever crazy ideal you feel is worth dying for, that is your prerogative. But please, for the love of humanity, stop spouting incorrect, misleading, or flat-out distorted opinions. Too many have died, too many are sick, and too many are struggling to get through their day taking care of those who otherwise might have lined up for the vaccine.

Oh, and the reactions:

Longtime radio show guest and Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood was gutted after learning that the host had died…

We kindly ask that privacy is given to Marc’s family during this time of grief.

Live from Backwards Land

If you do not live in the United States, you might be wondering what is in the water, or the air, because as the world struggles to come out of this pandemic and demands for vaccine far out strip supply, there are lawmakers, like the ones in Ohio, that are looking to ban any requirement for any vaccination.

Let me say that again – ALL vaccinations. I only wish I was kidding.

Ohio lawmakers want to abolish vaccine requirements—all vaccine requirements (Ars Technica)

Now, I can understand, an appreciate that there are just a lot of stupid people in the world, and frankly, if you think your children, or yourself, should be exempt from getting something that could prolong your life, that is your privilege (by the way, we are going to apply that same logic to a bunch of other issues, so be careful what you wish for), but what I gripes me is the this clause:

If any of the above entities even tries to institute a vaccine requirement, it would be required under HB 248 to notify people that they are able to decline. The entities are not allowed to disclose who has declined. And they “shall not discriminate against, deny service or access to, segregate, require a facial covering or other vaccination status label for, or otherwise penalize an individual financially or socially for declining a vaccination.”

Shall not discriminate against, deny service or access to, segregate, require a facial covering or other vaccination status label for, or otherwise penalize an individual financially or socially for declining a vaccination.

Wait, what? You decide you know more than the medical community and you decide that you will not get a vaccine against a disease that could potentially kill you, and I have to support your medical care?

No. Sorry.

That is not how it works. You absolutely need to take responsibility, including paying more for your health insurance (because why should I have to support your stupidity. You should have to wear a mask so as not to spread the germs that the rest of us would not be exposed to if you actually were inoculated against something that we have a vaccine for, and you should absolutely be segregated, preferably outside, in the middle of winter, because you have elected to be stupid.

Hopefully wiser heads will prevail, but if not, then someone needs to ensure the out clause is redlined. Or we will all pay for someone else’s desire to be free.

Fire in the Neighbourhood

We had a bit of excitement in the neighbourhood yesterday. A small fire, which means the house is still standing but the family was displaced for a bit.

fire trucks

Hopefully things will be put back in order soon.

According to the city:

The City of Manassas Fire and Rescue Department responds to a structure fire, Manassas Virginia, January 16, 2021 15:49. The City of Manassas Fire and Rescue Department responded to a working structure fire in the 10100 block of Allwood Court (box 2135).

Battalion 581 arrived on the scene of a two story single family house with fire showing from the chimney with extension to the garage roof. Engine 501 advanced a hose line for extinguishment. Tower 501 and Rescue Engine 521 performed searches and roof ventilation. Battalion 581 had Allwood Command. FM584 responded to the scene. The origin was determined to be accidental and started above the chimney flue. Damage is estimated at $20,000. Five people were displaced. Manassas City units that responded included Rescue Engine 521, Engine 501, Tower 501, Battalion 581, Medic 521, Ambulance 521 and FM 584. Additional units from Prince William County Department of Fire Rescue and Manassas Park Fire Rescue also responded.

We have lost the bubble…again

New guidance from President Donald Trump’s administration that declares teachers to be “critical infrastructure workers” could give the green light to exempting teachers from quarantine requirements after being exposed to COVID-19 and instead send them back into the classroom. Teachers could stay in classroom if exposed to COVID-19

I understand the idea of essential workers. More I understand the desire, or need for some parents to get the kids out of the house, but am I the only one who wonders about the priorities of this nation when they say, essentially, we don’t care if you are sick, the kids are going to recover and if you spread COVID around, well, that’s OK too.

And we wonder why no other county on the planet will let US citizens come and visit without a mandatory quarantine period. And Canada still has the northern border closed.

Historic…what?

Lawmakers unveil details of ‘historic’ federal paid parental leave benefits | Federal News Network

The annual defense policy bill, if passed by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by the president, would grant federal employees up to 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth, adoption or foster of a new child.

If you live in the United States, and you are an employee of the United States Federal Government, and you are planning to have a family, this is a wonderful benefit, assuming the bill is actually passed, which with this current government, is doubtful. However, to call it historic, or even wonderful, falls well short of the mark.

Other backslapping terms cited in the article include watershed, life-changing, and monumental. If the bill passes, this will go into effect in October of 2020, more than a year from now. Please make a note of that in your family planning.

Why am I so contemptuous of this policy? For starters, this only applies to employees of the Federal Government. Without a calculator, I cannot accurately estimate the impact. Still, the number of people that this will benefit is a fraction of a percent of the overall workforce in the United States when you consider those of childbearing or family starting years and those who are actual Federal Employees. This does not cover contractors or anyone else that toils for a paycheque in the United States.

I am also derisive of this policy because it still falls considerably short of the policies for other First World/Developed nations around the world. According to the United Nations, of 193 countries, only a handful do not have any national paid parental leave law. Guess who they are? New Guinea, a few South Pacific island nations and the United States. The Federal law would align the benefit for Federal Employees with the basic minimums that are already prevalent in the world, which means we are not on par with countries like Sudan (oh, wait, never mind, everyone in Sudan gets 13 weeks).

Most of the developed nations start at 26 weeks and go up from there, with a guarantee that your job will still be there should you decide to return. Let me say that again. If you go on maternity leave, most policies guarantee that the employee will have a job when they return from their leave. It is not clear that such a guarantee is in this bill. I will need to check that, but I would hope it is. Of course, this bill was supposed to be a larger bill that also provided for the care of sick family members, a growing problem in the United States as the cost of health care skyrockets, and the population is aging at a rapid rate. That is still a significant hurdle that many people, not just Federal Employees, need to overcome on a daily basis.

I congratulate the Federal Government. An organization that has been the whipping boy of both the President and Congress, where hiring the best and the brightest has never been easy, now has a benefit worth writing home about. If the bill gets passed. And signed. And not watered down in committee, and any of a dozen other things that could happen before October of next year. Now, what about the rest of the population?

When Privacy and Reality Interconnect

His privacy being paramount, Kelly grudgingly chooses to head into Columbia every so often, rather than cede his data to Google or turn over his purchase history to another online retailer. “I’m just not sure why Google needs to know what breakfast cereal I eat,” the 51-year-old said. Washington Post

There are a couple of things to notice here.

First: Google is not the only company out there snarfing up your data. Zuckerbergland apps, Verizon (you know, AOL, Yahoo, Tumblr), Microsoft (Linkedin, Bing, all those Microsoft apps like Word, etc) are only some of them.

Second: Most websites have some form of tracking software on them, and they can be related to any of the three or more listed above.

Third: Despite what the EU would have you believe, GDPR is not your salvation, as many websites, in the small print, outside the EU say this site not intended for consumption by people in the EU which means that the GDPR has zero impact.

And realistically, if you do not want to be tracked, there is only one way to avoid it. Stay off the Internet. And that includes no smart devices (there is tracking software on them too), no credit cards (who do you think came up with the idea of tracking purchases), and no cheques. In fact, depending where you live, you are being watched by CCTV cameras, where the video is uploaded and searched for malcontents, using AI and facial recognition software. If you travel, you are tracked whether by planes, trains, or automobile (toll plazas, rest stops…). Let’s face it, unless you are a hermit, you have no privacy.

And ironically, we all know that Mr Kelly, who is 51 years-old, likes to eat Bob’s Red Mill muesli cereal. So his privacy is now shot too, because he talked to a reporter, and the story ended up…on the Internet.

The Realities of Contract Work

About three months after the longest government shutdown in history came to an end, leaders of companies and unions representing federal contract workers are speaking out, asking for legislative changes to ensure that their employees are guaranteed back pay if another shutdown occurs. WTOP

The latest Federal Government shutdown lasted thirty-five days and affected eight hundred thousand contractors, everyone from the men and women that empty the trash, to the men and women that write the software that fly the unmanned aircraft used by the military.

I ask that we work together to find a way to enact legislation that will treat the contractor workforce just as their federal workforce counterparts are treated —Leidos CEO Roger Krone.

Mr. Krone’s supposed concern for his employees notwithstanding, this is about the money Leidos and other federal contractors lost during the shutdown. Let me explain how it works. A contractor is a body with a value attached to it. That value is a combination of their salary, their benefits, and a number of other factors at play within the company that is loaning their services to the Federal Government. What is called the loaded rate. That loaded rate would astound you (or perhaps not – that $10,000 toilet seat. That was as much the cost of labour as the cost of materials). If I am employed at an annual salary of $130,000, I would be making about $60/hour. Now, we add to that the overhead costs, etc from the company and I am being sold to them at a rate of $120/hr.

This is about the money, and not the money lost by the contractors.

The argument or at least the parallel is that the Federal Employees got their money, the contractors should too. I am of two minds about this. I can see the argument that the Federal workforce was involuntarily furloughed. In labour law, it is slightly different from being laid-off, but the effects are the same. If Ford had furloughed a line, those employees would not be paid for their time off. Similarly, the contractors would not be paid.

Companies are often left with two choices during a shutdown, he said: pay their employees and go out of business, or withhold pay and see their workforce leave them.

He is correct. Contractors actually live on a very small margin with Federal contracts. And they do have a significant risk that their employees will walk out on them if they are not paid. And that is the risk of contracting in general. You take a job with a contractor knowing that at some point your contract will expire. Some companies recognize this, make allowances for it, and protect their employees, to a certain extent, while others are less concerned. In fairness to Leidos, they tend to protect their employees, but they have lost their margin over the thirty-five days, through no fault of their own because the government (the paymaster) was not doing their job.

How this compensation should be addressed is not a simple issue. Being paid to not work is not going to be successful. And 800,000 federal contractors did not work for thirty-five days. Unlike Federal Employees, contractors had the option of looking for work or taking unemployment, or annual training or leave. I am not sure contractors should expect back pay. But as a former Federal contractor, I can feel their pain. There is no easy solution.