Heroes in the age of the grifters

Dr. Kevin List is among the best that Polk County and the state of Florida has to offer the world: 2011 theater graduate from Harrison School of the Arts/Lakeland High; Lakeland Kiwanis scholarship winner; graduate of Florida State University and FSU Medical School; dear friend of my daughter and honorary Townsend in every way. He’s family.

He’s also a doctor in New York City on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic right now.

That’s Kevin on the bottom right. Dr. List is normally an OBGYN. He has delivered a COVID baby already; and now he’s been moved to full-time emergency medicine because that’s where the need is. He told us on a phone call the other night that he’s scared; “but it’s what has to be done.”

Like every other medical worker, Dr. List and his colleagues face a systemic national shortage of protective equipment — PPE, as we’ve all come to know it. Yet, on they fight. Take a deeper look at that picture, from a couple weeks ago. Look at all the “Millenials” the country is so fond of mocking.

They’re heroes, in every sense of the word. Now let’s look at a case study in the funhouse mirror griftopia America has built to “supply” and “protect” them.

“…need to have payment secured”

Friday afternoon, I received this cold sales email on my official School Board emails from someone calling himself “Victor Hernandez,” sales manager for Gallagher Promotional Products in Longwood. I assume other board member did too. He claims to have protective masks to sell. Check out the email for yourself. Click to enlarge.

Key excerpt:

Currently there is no maximum qty order limits in place and the min qty is listed below. Availability and shipping times are subject to change due to the over whelming demand for these products.  As of today there is no delay in production, or the 10 business day delivery schedule, but that can change at any moment given the current environment. Please check with me to ensure the qty you would like to order will be available.

Due to the demand and availability these orders would need to have payment secured at the time the order is placed. If we are currently not set up as a vendor with your county, please let us know and we will gladly work with you to get that completed.

If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me at anytime.  Thank you and stay safe.

KN95 Standard MSK03- Min qty of 100 at $3.82 each. Higher qty price breaks are available.

KN95 extra protection MSK02- Min qty of 100 at $4.50 each. Higher qty price breaks are available.

Disposable MSK01- Min qty of 500 at $1.22 each. Higher qty price breaks are available.

You may remember that the Polk District donated a lot of PPE supplies from our medical academies to our local hospitals and health care workers. Donated. So it might be nice to have some additional supplies on hand for our people, particularly food workers, etc. But I’m also very suspicious of the endless solicitations board member receive for various education-related projects or grifts. I generally ignore them.

But this email caused me to dive in — just a little — to the grifter paradise that “free market global capitalism” has made of the PPE supply chain.

N95 masks normally cost about $1/per mask

Here’s an overall story on that “free market global capitalism” from Texas:

In normal times, an N95 face mask would cost a big corporation a buck or less — particularly if it ordered a million of them.

But these aren’t normal times, and the pitch from industrial supplier Hatfield and Co. to sell as many as 2 million masks to a major U.S. oil company last week wasn’t your typical offer. The Texas-based supplier wanted $6.3 million for a minimum order of 1 million masks, with an option of buying 2 million for nearly $13 million, sales documents and interviews indicate.

Now, if you read the Hernandez email, you’ll see that he’s clear that these are not actually N95 masks. They are generally KN95 masks, which are the Chinese-manufactured version of N95s.

KN95s have been very controversial. In fact, it was just yesterday (Friday) that the FDA reversed course to allow their importation for health care use.

So is this price-gouging in an emergency situation? Or is it just the glories of the free market at work? Why is there not a centralized state or federal distribution system that Mr. Hernandez and Gallagher Promotional Products can sell into at a fixed price that allows them a reasonable, fair return for the supply connection if it is, in fact, a legitimate supply connection? What guarantees, considering the demand for upfront payment, would anyone have of actual delivery of functioning masks? Why are mask suppliers cold-emailing institutions they know have money on hand? Is this patriotism and civic duty in a time of amounts to a time of war?

My first response to Mr. Hernandez was pretty angry, actually. I thought of Dr. Kevin List; and I wrote this: Not only will I not spend tax money on your mask piracy, I’m going to to report you to my sheriff for price gouging.

I still think it might behoove Sheriff Judd, who has been pretty quiet during this crisis, to take a look into offers to provide masks. Perhaps he could help our community vet legitimate suppliers.

But now, I’m mostly just unsure; and I’m disgusted that this uncertainty is how the “richest, greatest country in the history of the world” has chosen to protect the best people it has to offer. I’m disgusted when I think of Kevin List and Kelli Stargel and juxtapose them.

Kelli Stargel and Colleen Burton own Florida’s unemployment “sh– sandwich”

And I’m disgusted by watching people losing their jobs in droves get the full Florida grifter treatment, which your local legislators — a failure that Kelli Stargel, Colleen Burton, and all the rest own completely.

Indeed, I’m always disgusted by the terrible people in our Legislature. But this unemployment system fiasco is truly next-level awful, in its openness. The story excerpt below is just extraordinary in its naked moral rot. Note the part in bold.

Keep in mind, Polk County voted for this endless grifting, over and over again. Note the part in bold and remember how many times I’ve told you that school grades are fraud. Same exact thing here.

TALLAHASSEE — The staggering unemployment exploding on President Donald Trump’s watch would worry any incumbent running for reelection, but troubles in Florida are injecting an added dose of fear into a jittery GOP.

Already anxious about Trump’s chances in the nation’s biggest swing state, Republicans now are dealing with thousands of unemployed workers unable to navigate the Florida system to apply for help. And the blowback is directed straight at Trump’s top allies in the state, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott.

Privately, Republicans admit that the $77.9 million system that is now failing Florida workers is doing exactly what Scott designed it to do — lower the state’s reported number of jobless claims after the great recession.

“It’s a sh– sandwich, and it was designed that way by Scott,” said one DeSantis advisor. “It wasn’t about saving money. It was about making it harder for people to get benefits or keep benefits so that the unemployment numbers were low to give the governor something to brag about.”

Republican Party of Florida chairman Joe Gruters was more succinct: “$77 million? Someone should go to jail over that.”

Look in the mirror, bro. That goes for Kelli Stargel, Colleen Burton and the rest, too. They’re all openly complicit in a system built to grift and harm the vulnerable — in the best of times. Where are these state elected officials now, by the way? Hiding, of course. They’re always looking out for themselves; not you.

Tell me again about civility; and “thanking” our “leaders:: blah, blah, blah.

When you give grifters power, you get grifting, empowered. And this is exactly the same fake data BS that Kelli has inflicted on your children and teachers and society for years and years.

And why anyone, at all, cares about any politician’s “chances,” right now, including mine, is beyond me. If you want to care about somebody’s chances, care about Dr. Kevin List’s, pride of the Polk County School District. Somebody needs to; and somehow I’m guessing it’s not going to be Gallagher Promotional Products.