Infectious Fascism and Someone Else’s Beer

Our local liquor store had been in business since the early 1980s, when the shopping center was built. The original owner passed it along to his 3 sons when he died, many years ago. There was nothing special or fancy about the shop, which had long, wide shelves stocked full of not-too-high-priced wines and liquor that tended to come in the Handle Size. They did a brisk trade in beer, $1 shooters sold out of an empty fish tank on the counter, and “Oh, jeeze! We’re all out of vodka/wine and I’m almost home!” purchases.

It had a coveted corner location on a major intersection with high visibility, and was next to a busy grocery store. The long floor-to-ceiling windows faced due west, which meant high cooling bills as the high altitude sunshine blasted in year round, roasting  the products on the front shelf and raising the temperature unbearably during the summer. A few years ago the Brothers balked at the raising utility prices from keeping the store cold enough to properly store their inventory, and slowly adjusted the thermostat upwards. The heat coupled with storing the wine upright – as one would store a fine vintage Yoo-Hoo – served to spoil their wares.

As if wine bottles that were warm to the touch weren’t enough, over the years the shop developed a nose-curling funk stank from their dogged insistence upon carpet, which served as a 1-way booze sponge when a bottle or case was inevitably broken, and because one of the brothers smoked indoors while doing the books afterhours.  Mmmm… the cheeky bouquet of nicotine braised in sour carpet wine!

We began shopping elsewhere, save for the times we emerged from the adjacent King Soopers, arms full of groceries (yes, we brought our own bags), and too tired or lazy to drive 6 miles round trip for a bottle of wine to go with dinner. Don’t judge me! The cork that crumbles like The Mummy is punishment enough.

Just before Valentine’s Day we found ourselves lacking the fortitude of an additional errand, the grueling 15 minute drive more than either of us could possibly handle, and so found ourselves choosing from wine bottles with dust on them.  I noticed a marked lack of champagne and other bubbly beverages appropriate for a manufactured holiday. “This is weird,” I told my husband, “Why aren’t there cases of cheap champagne stacked 5 high and 2 deep in here? In fact, there’s almost no champagne at all,” I gestured to the picked over front shelf, which was normally full of the boxed wine and cheap champagne that the Brothers counted on their clientele not being able to suss out were treated to daily solar pasteurization. It was a minor curiosity, one I chalked up to a screw up in ordering and went on with my evening.

A few weeks later, before St. Patrick’s Day, it was obvious something was up. The store was still very busy, but their stock had visibly dwindled – the shelves were no longer full, with empty spaces behind the wine and spirits.

“What’s going on?” I asked the young woman who worked there. “Not much,” she replied absentmindedly. “No – I mean ‘What’s going on here?’” She stopped and looked at me in confusion. She really had no idea what I was talking about. I gestured with my arm, “The shelves aren’t fully stocked…” She had a blank look on her face. “Are you guys remodeling? Selling?” Again, the clerk had a blank look, “No…” I left it at that, but told my husband changes were coming.

I wondered if they were going to finally move the stock out of the beating summer sun in the front window… Maybe they were going to set up a Growler station, or a tasting counter – moving forward  with the upwardly mobile neighborhood and appealing to the higher income residents who were replacing the middle income folks that had been a staple of the area when it was built 35 years ago. I had mentally moved the first row of shelves, replaced the nasty carpet with some easy-to-clean wood flooring that would brighten the space up, and show off the better selection of wine they would carry. I couldn’t wait.

At the end of March the only vodka left was bubblegum or peach flavored, the Bourbon shelves were flat-out empty, and most of the decent wine was gone. The Smoking Brother told me they were having distribution problems, but they would be getting a shipment in the following week. What he was telling me didn’t feel right – but I had been doing business with him for 16 years and gave him the benefit of the doubt by allowing him to assure me I wasn’t seeing what I was looking at.

We were gone most of April and upon returning we immediately noticed the barren shelves. Most telling is there was not a whiff of the upcoming drinking holiday Cinco De Mayo: No cut-outs of busty Latinas shucking gag inducing Lime-a-Rita beer, no garish plastic Papel Picado banners stamped with ‘Corona’, or posters of a Sombrero-sporting mustachioed stereotype peddling rot-gut tequila. You know – The Free Crap distributors beg store owners to take and give a price break for the best placement. But, there was still lots of beer – a good deal of it craft beer from start-up breweries & local brew pubs.

Several customers walked in and stopped dead, looking around at the long, mostly-empty shelves. They would do a 180 or full 360 to take it in; most left empty handed. It was clear the store was closing, but no sign indicated a last day or what was going on. I asked the only employee (someone I’d never seen before) what was going on and was answered with ‘Dunno’.

I suddenly realized: They must have sold the liquor license to King Soopers, the grocery store in the same complex. A recent change in the law allowed grocery stores to sell liquor, but only if they buy an existing license. I was happy for them in the distant way you can be when you hear good news from a stranger you’ve known for 15 years: It doesn’t change your life, but it gives you a pleasant feeling.

A few weeks later they were still open – somehow defying retail gravity. Richard walked the empty aisles with a curious expression on his face as he passed islands of bottles neatly arranged – 6 Rieslings here, 4 Moscatos half an aisle later, a lone bottle of gin in the next aisle. What stock was left would have neatly fit in 12 or 15 feet of shelf space, but instead was spread around the empty shop with the fastidious denial of a screamingly bad comb-over.

“When’s the last day?” I asked Morose Brother who spent a decade and a half demanding I show my ID every time I used a credit card. “Before the end of the month,” he answered with his usual dourness. Looking into my eyes he said “We sold the business,” and then spit into his dip cup.  “I… did you sell the license or the business?” “We sold the business and we’ll be closing sometime before the end of the month,” he repeated with a finality that forbade further discussion.

“How could they be selling the business?” I asked Richard when we were in the car, “When there’s no business to sell? I mean… there’s no inventory – and they lease the space. The only thing of value in that store is the license on the wall.” I chalked it up to him being contractually prohibited from discussing the details of the sale.

The very next day the City seized the store for failure to pay Sales & Use Taxes.

A quick call to City Hall revealed that they hadn’t paid a dime of the taxes they’d been collecting since January, and they’d been sending in partial payments for months before that.

It suddenly became clear that the inventory sell down was really them stiffing their suppliers – everyone from Coors to small craft brew companies struggling to make ends meet – and pocketing the money.

They stole not only from their liquor distributors and the city, but from their customers as well, by not submitting tax revenue that keeps schools open, roads paved and a live voice when you dial 911.

In retrospect it was quite obvious what was happening, but I didn’t want to accept the grand theft in front of me, so I provided pretty stories about Growler Stations and wood floors that morphed into them cashing out big by selling the license for a keen profit. None of it made sense to the scene in front of my eyes, but I held on to the fable rather than accept the felony.

I had been performing Olympic-quality mental gymnastics trying to explain away the obvious because the obvious made me uncomfortable.

It was a personal microcosm of what’s happening around the country: How we’re all staring in disbelief at the emerging Fascism around us, willing it to be something else.

We’ve watched fanaticism morph into a Fascist Cult of Personality, yet refuse to name it as such because then we have a REAL problem on our hands.

We’ve heard friends, family and colleagues embrace a man whose beastly policies call for banning Muslims, gutting the EPA, drilling for oil in National Parks and Monuments, building a useless Wall, disenfranchising women, and simultaneously cancelling the insurance policies of 23 million Americans while making it unaffordable for tens of millions more.

These aren’t policy differences on things like how to best fund infrastructure improvements or whether schools should focus more on science and less on the arts. This is the fundamental rejection of the invisible frame of our Social Contract by an alarming number of Americans.

They *like* the idea that ICE officers ate lunch in a café before arresting the kitchen staff.

They’re THRILLED journalists are finally getting the beat down that’s coming to them.

They’re relieved they can stop acting tolerant and want LGBTQ folks to climb back in the closet and for anyone darker than a flat white to know their place.

These people who benefit so much from the Public Commons of Society honestly don’t care if you lose your job, house or insurance – they don’t give a tinker’s damn for anyone who loses their disability, Medicare, Social Security or any other safety net program.

“I DON’T OWE YOU ANYTHING” they shriek like a misunderstood teen, unironically running the Social Contract through Mom & Dad’s shredder after they’ve slammed the office door.

The toughest thing about watching acquaintances and those we love support such heartlessness is when we finally realize they understand fully what they’re doing. It’s much easier to deal with people when we convince ourselves they are ignorantly supporting evil policies, and that if it was properly explained they would be enlightened. Otherwise, we have to accept that an uncomfortably large chunk of America is okay with a semi-literate bully dragging us backwards 6 months for every day he is in office.

Accepting that this is actually happening is a real hurdle. None of wants to stare into *that* abyss and it’s ever so much easier not to court discord and just let sleeping dogs lie.

Please don’t be like me, though, when I watched the local liquor store go under and cheat its vendors, and I chose not to see it because I couldn’t accept the Brothers could do that. Don’t imagine people are constrained by your sense of decency, however well or little you know them.

Once we see the hard truth of Trumpers actions, we have to either accept this Fascist Cult of Personality or fight it. There is no middle ground. When you stop selling yourself on proverbial Growler Stations and wood floors to brighten the place up, you can’t unsee the unsavory and uncomfortable truth that 45’s followers heartily approve of a stratified society that plays out like Lord of the Flies – only, in this story line there are no adults to step in to save the day when things are at their bleakest. There is no higher authority to appeal to, because our current POTUS thinks laws are impractical to follow (his words, not mine).

Make no mistake that we are in dangerous territory with 45’s spreading Fascism, and we ignore it at our own peril.

During the election 45 promised the state sponsored murder of children, he promised to crack down on Freedom of the Press, and he promised to violate the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 14th amendments, as well as end abortion, civil rights, voting rights, marriage equality and the EPA.

When you look at it this way 45 had a spectacularly successful first 100 days, now didn’t he?

Trumpers voted for him *precisely* because he promised to abuse other people and break things. They are the groupies that enable a bully to prevail, and who become emboldened by their support of him.

Trumpers like the chaos, the angst and the destruction they were promised when they voted.

It’s hard to see friends and family infected by Fascism. Worse – when they demand our tolerance while spreading this virulent disease of hate.

But, it is no longer possible to separate the Message from Man or the Masses – they own who they support and his policies, and anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you someone else’s beer.

Infant Mortality & Immoral Cash Cows

Infant Mortality Rate Black Denver

Colorado is a healthy state, with the fewest obese people and the fifth lowest infant mortality rate in the nation; but the odds of making it to your first birthday are better if you are born in rural Cuba. Even more shocking: A black child born to a middle class family in Denver faces an 18% greater risk of infant death than a child born in Libya – ground zero for ISIS.

Child ISIS

 

The US has the largest GDP in the world, but the shameful truth is that 57 countries and the entire European Union have a lower infant mortality rate than us.  What they all have in common is Universal Health Care – the desire to provide all citizens with basic health insurance, and protect them financially from the burdens of illness or accidents.

 

Amendment 69

 

This November Coloradans will get to vote on Amendment 69. I’m hoping we choose to show the United States how Universal Health Care works. Colorado has successfully implemented the country’s most progressive ideas and, in some cases, even made them profitable. Our quality of life is unparalleled due to forward thinking and planning, and the willingness to pay a bit more to ensure it stays that way.

 

Light Rail

 

Denver’s Rapid Transit system of commuter trains, light rail, bike highways and paths, buses, HOV and HOT lanes has been named the finest in North America. Our State Parks, Natural and Wildlife areas are the envy of the world, providing access to millions of acres of spectacular wilderness. Decades ago Colorado’s cities and counties set aside funds to buy hundreds of thousands of acres of open space, as well as money to develop and maintain City Parks and Recreation Districts. By 2025 our ‘Colorado the Beautiful’ project will ensure that every resident will live no more than a 10 minute walk from a park, a trail or open space. Proposition 64 has been a model for how to intelligently implement legalization, and has brought the state $135 million in direct taxes and fees in 2015 alone, and helped increase tourism to 72 million visitors who spent more than $20 billion dollars.

It is natural that Colorado embrace Universal Healthcare so that we can further secure our superior quality of life. We wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel – rather, we can implement the kind of health care delivery system that works all over the world, and costs less than our current system.

Unfortunately, Amendment 69 getting on the ballot means Colorado is getting pummeled with astroturf movements: the fake political groups which are made to look like grass roots activism. They look local, but are entirely invented and well-funded by the Big 5 health insurance companies (United Healthcare, Anthem, CIGNA, Humana, & Aetna). The Big 5 *need* single payer not to work here, because that would be the end of them.

Their big cry is the cost: By focusing on what will surely be at least 8 figures for Colorado alone, they are ignoring that we’re ALREADY paying more than any other industrialized country in the world for health care – and not everyone is covered. In fact, we’re the only developed nation in the world without universal health insurance. Moreover, the Big 5’s stock values have quadrupled in last 5 years, making them $14+ BILLION in profits in the last year – and an average projected 5-year growth rate of 12% annually. The resistance is them seeing their obscene profits and stock values dry up. These are the same companies that used to cancel the policies of the sick and those who would *dare* to use their benefits. Remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth about how Obamacare forcing them to cover pre-existing conditions would destroy profits? Tell me how that worked out as they generate $45 *per second* in profit.

I find it unscrupulous and ethically repugnant that these businesses have a model based on squeezing as much as they can from sick and dying people. It’s immoral – and I think our way of providing health care should be viewed as profiteering and should be made illegal.

In an effort to hold on to their cash cows, the Big 5 insurance companies will misdirect attention from their obscene profits by invoking the politics of envy, and trotting out the Red Herring of the ‘Zero Sum Game’ fallacy. That’s the despicable practice of telling one group they will get less if another group gets something more. It is a contemptible lie that economic systems are incapable of growth, but too often it is an effective one.

 

With Universal Health Care some will pay more, of course. Some will pay less. But, all will be covered. Doesn’t a just and civilized society take care of the least among us? Who wants to live in a country where we let the poor die from easily treatable diseases – or those not so easily treated? Who yearns to live in a country where the wealthiest among us is at greater risk of dying in our first year than children born in countries synonymous with genocide?

Our GDP is $1.5 trillion bigger than the entire European Union’s combined. That gap represents more than the current GDP of Australia, yet the EU manages to fund universal health care and paid parental leave for more than half-a-billion people (compared to our 318 million) – and their infant mortality rate is 47% lower than ours. Hell, even Australia has universal health care and paid family leave – and their infant mortality rate is 34% lower than ours!

Healthcare is a right for all, and not one that is based on a tax bracket – just like the right to clean water and air, and the right to free speech. The United States is the only developed country in the world that doesn’t recognize that right, and Colorado is working to change that with Amendment 69.

Amendment 69 3

In an effort to sew fear the Big 5 lobby is flogging the idea of ‘Rationed Care’. Care is already rationed: It is entirely rationed AWAY from the uninsured. It is rationed from people who face paperwork designed to discourage them, multi-hour telephone wait times, and web sites with outdated information and broken links. Care is rationed with the automatic rejection of a doctor’s order for a procedure or expensive medication; when a perfectly valid medical directive is over-ridden by a policy written by an accountant and the appeal is handled by an uncompassionate desk jockey who never went to med school. Care is rationed at most doctors’ offices where hour-plus wait times to get into the exam room are common. It already takes months to see a specialist, and days to get an appointment with a GP for a serious issue. If you need help urgently you are encouraged to go to the ER, which generates a multi-thousand dollar bill the moment you walk in the door. Make no mistake – we *do* ration our health care, and not very well.

Will it have problems? Of course it will. Any new business, cabinet or venture has rough patches. But, Good is not the enemy of Perfect. We should not forgo making things better because we cannot attain absolute perfection. I see this as an attempt to move forward, and a way to take the Big 5 insurance companies and their unethical profits out of our Right to Life.

As for those who call this Unconstitutional? Please go back and read your Preamble: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIFE, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”.

It’s right there in black and white: In order to protect our Inalienable Right to Life the Government (notice the capital G) may create institutions through the will of the people to secure our Right to Health.

Amendment 69 means my inalienable Right to Life supersedes any insurance company’s Right to Profit, and Coloradans can finally take medical profiteering away from the Big Insurance.

The question is will Coloradans embrace universal health care as a right if it benefits the poor?

Too many people would rather cut off their nose to spite their face, in that even though it would be cheaper and it would lower our infant mortality rate they would reject universal coverage because it would mean the poor might get something ‘they didn’t pay for’.

If we pool our resources we can cover everyone for less than the majority of us are paying now. Sadly, there are many Americans who don’t want equality and just want to punish the poor – or, at the very least have the poor ‘know their place’.

Ultimately, the question Americans need to answer is: Are we OK with the fact that a child born in Beirut has a better chance of seeing its first birthday than a child born in Washington, D.C.?

 

Immune From Logic

Syringe

What the hell is wrong with anti-vaxxers?

Here we are in a time of unbelievable technological breakthroughs, a time where science can provide a cheap and easy way to prevent deadly diseases and some people are so shit stupid they won’t use them.

The argument over whether vaccines cause autism is so over – so completely dead – that I’m not going to reargue it. It has been settled, much like they’ve settled things like whether the earth is round or whether the sun rotates around the earth. This is something that has been decided and I’ll be damned if I’m going to speak to ‘the controversy’ or even give it any more credence than it has been given.

Jenny McCarthy can go screw herself for pretending she has the education to make pronouncements about the efficacy or danger in a necessary part of civilized society. Seriously – screw you McCarthy for the damage you’ve done.

Vaccines are nothing short of a medical miracle. 64 years ago polio was a raging health menace, capable of paralyzing a child or adult. Some who caught the disease spent their lives in an iron lung. As recently as the 60s measles, mumps and rubella killed thousands, and in the case of the measles caused deafness and sterility. To have effectively wiped out these diseases was really nothing short of a miracle. Now that miracle has been short circuited by willfully ignorant destructive people who are so full of their own bullshit that they think they are personally smarter than hundreds of years of collective research and tens of thousands of people who have dedicated their lives to wiping out these diseases.

A thought for anti-vaxxers: Would you change your tune if there was a vaccine for Ebola and the disease was meaningfully here? I mean people dying in large numbers. I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’d be in line with the rest of us to get your shot.

I have a proposal: With the exception of those who medically cannot have immunizations, I think unvaccinated children should not be allowed to attend public schools. Simple as that. No immunizations? No school. Period. The health and well-being of the many outweigh the purposeful stupidity of the few.

The big problem with idiots not vaccinating their children is that they put OTHER people at risk. Children with compromised immune systems cannot be immunized. No vaccine works 100% for everyone, so the people the vaccine doesn’t work on must rely on everyone else being immune to protect them. Let’s not forget that infants under 1 year old cannot have the MMR vaccine. All these people are put at risk because Mom and Dad Moron think their little snowflake shouldn’t have to have a shot and they don’t understand herd immunity. They disregard the public health emergencies and the havoc that preventable diseases wreaked before vaccines. These people are beneath my contempt.

One of the biggest problems with anti-vaxxers is that no matter what information you give them they refuse to change their mind. A study by the journal Pediatrics shows that the more facts anti-vaxxer parents are presented with that show just how wrong they are, the harder they dig in. Oh, yes, they see the information, but have convinced themselves that they’re smarter than doctors and epidemiologists. Most are convinced of a conspiracy with big pharma. They’re idiots who believe that they’re the smartest person in the room.

Now we have a new problem with vaccines: They’ve become a political issue.

For the love of god. A political issue.

2016 presidential wannabees Rand Paul and Chris Christie weighed in on the issue, with New Jersey’s governor saying it should be the parent’s choice to immunize and Paul saying he’d heard of 100s of cases of perfectly normal kids having profound mental disorders after having gotten a vaccine. Of course, he didn’t offer any proof of this, but that didn’t stop him from asserting it was true.

Almost immediately other GOP contenders got in on the act and began speaking in favor of vaccines. Pretty soon Hilary Clinton got in on the act. How ridiculous is this?

No more ridiculous that what Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI) told MSNBC. “We should not have an oppressive state telling us what to do,” he declared. As if keeping your child from having polio or tuberculosis is something an oppressive government would do.

Duffy went on to make a further, bigger fool of himself by saying, “I want that to be my choice as a parent, I know my kids best, I know what morals and values are right for my children.”

What fucking morals are involved in getting a vaccine that prevents deadly diseases?

Look, vaccines aren’t an opinion or a political stance: they’re a necessary function of sanitation and health in the 21st century.

For those worried about possible negative effects of a vaccine? “You have a better chance of being struck by lightning than having a reaction,” according to Dr. Robert Wergin, the president of the American Association of Family Physicians.

This is just more of the anti-science bent that’s growing in this country that’s as deadly and choking as an algae bloom. Frustratingly the news media is failing to ask critical questions of people that deny science and in doing so give credence to their spurious claims. I fear it’s only going to get worse.

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeable question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.” – Carl Sagan.