Heroes in the age of the grifters

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...

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The survival of our communities — from hospitals to school systems to family businesses — is a political choice.

The survival of our communities — from hospitals to school systems to family businesses — is a political choice.

This article is aimed primarily at Polk County’s state and local elected officials. If I can ever get the School Board to meet virtually (working on it, I swear), I’m going to ask that we take a formal voting position on a resolution/letter to our U.S. Congressional delegation that looks something like the one that follows. I’m also going to try to get the Polk County Commission and city commissions to sign on. Your help in encouraging them is important, as is your continued pressure on federal lawmakers. State and local are barely relevant to longer-term outcomes beyond our capacity to advocate. I’ll explain the background of this on the other side. State and local governments and communities, which operate under balanced budget rules and lack their own currencies, face an existential crisis of local public services as we look forward. We cannot preserve our local public infrastructure functions: medical facilities, schools, and law enforcement, for instance, on state and local tax revenues collected during an extended pandemic and its related economic collapse. The survival of these local institutions is not a “state or local” matter; it is a national security matter. Therefore, we are unifying as a coalition of local governments, to demand consistent, clear action and leadership from all parts of the federal government. We demand that our federal government: Immediately authorize remote/virtual Congressional voting; or return immediately to Washington D.C. to do your jobs and suffer the same risks that health care and grocery workers face; Mobilize the economic structure of the country to fight two simultaneous wars: the pandemic and the economic collapse. We debt spent our way out of the Great Depression and into WWII victory by building materials designed for destruction and funding fighting designed to create death. Today, we can debt-fund people to care for each other and their children; stay away from each other; and keep the supply chain of basic needs flowing, as humanely and equitably as possible, until we have definitive victory over the virus. The period of time required to reach a vaccine should be much shorter than World War II; but much longer than May 1. This economic mobilization includes: Spend at least as much ($4.5 trillion) on the suffering people and small businesses of the United States of America as you have on a handful of giant corporations. Streamline the convoluted distribution channels of aid; or...

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The humanity wall: distance learning, voluntary heroism, and the longstanding American plague

The humanity wall: distance learning, voluntary heroism, and the longstanding American plague

You’ll find something called a “data wall” inside basically every public school in Polk County — and most likely all of Florida and most of America, too. The form I’ve seen most commonly is a large pegboard with colored-coded cards or stickies. Each colored card represents an individual child; and the specific color defines a child entirely by his or her test or assessment scores. It is the ongoing “achievement” scoreboard for every school, pointing to the fraudulent school grade it’s likely to generate at the end of the year. Until three weeks ago, it was all that truly mattered to Florida public education governance and rules and punishments. All other platitudes were nonsense. “We don’t have humanity walls” Data walls terrorize child, parent, and staff alike, especially at schools that serve kids who don’t have much personal capital to cushion and support them. Data walls tell no human story beyond this toxic fake data race. Indeed, they often lead otherwise kind and decent human beings to refer to kids solely by their so-called “achievement levels” in conversation. “We lost two level 4s to a choice school today…”; “If I can get that Level 2 to Level 3, I get a proficiency point;” “That’s mid-Level 3, you don’t need to pay him much attention, there’s no school grade data payoff for it. Spend your time with that high Level 1.” I spoke briefly about data walls during my speech at the giant Jan. 28 School Board meeting that followed the Red Weekend. What innocent days those were, when our problems revolved around whether the same dingbats leading Florida’s COVID-19 response would summarily fire 1,200 Polk teachers over a work stoppage that did not exist. Here’s a brief clip of what I said. It’s focused on education, but if you listen, I think you’ll hear powerful echoes of the pathologies that underlie what’s happening in America now. Key quote: “Every time we talk about a “B” [Polk district] grade, we endorse the evaluation of leaders by numbers, not by humanity. We don’t have humanity walls; we have data walls. What’s different in Polk County a little bit is that starting in 2016 and again in 2018, you had a public that demanded our children — and our teachers and staff — begin to be treated like human beings that can be developed and not treated like pieces of data to sell.”  I am the...

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We’re all “The Martian” now: problems, assets, and empathy

We’re all “The Martian” now: problems, assets, and empathy

I love this scene from “The Martian;” and it seems deeply applicable for this moment and coming weeks. We’re all going to have to solve problems, from the household level upward. We’ll solve them more effectively if we support each other and tell each other the truth so we know which assets to apply to which problems. In that spirit, here are a few thoughts in no real order. Watch the Lakeland City Commission COVID presentation Here’s a link to the joint presentation given by leaders from the Polk Health Department, Watson Clinic, and Lakeland Regional Health. I urge all to watch it all; there is great, useful, clarifying information throughout. March 16, 2020 City Commission Meeting | COVID-19 Panel At today's City Commission Meeting, Dr. Daniel O. Haight, Infectious Disease Specialist and Vice President of Community Health at Lakeland Regional Health; Dr. Steven Achinger, Managing Partner with Watson Clinic; and Dr. Joy Jackson, Director of Polk & Hardee Counties for the Florida Department of Health (DOH) provided an overview of the current response, protocols, and challenges associated with the COVID-19 virus. This is their portion.If you would like to watch today's full City Commission Meeting, visit vimeo.com/lakelandgov/cc2020-03-16.Note: Captions for this video are auto-generated. Posted by City of Lakeland, FL – Government on Monday, March 16, 2020 As helpful as this was, I have an objection to the opening statement from Dr. Joy Jackson of the Health Department: “I do want to first say that there are no confirmed COVID cases in Polk County. The most important thing I can say; no confirmed cases in Polk County.” As the rest of the presentation makes clear, that’s a narrowly accurate statement that obscures truth. Our very limited testing capacity has not yet confirmed a case. But that should not guide your behavior. Again, as everyone knows, testing capacity is very limited. Dr. Jackson said people have been tested in Polk County; and the results have come back negative each time. But she could not say how many people have been tested. She couldn’t even provide a ballpark figure when asked by city commissioners. Then Dr. Steven Achinger of Watson Clinic provided extremely helpful, precise, on-the-ground context from Watson Clinic’s weekend. He said the Clinic received 26 test kits on Friday. Over the weekend, the clinic saw 400 people with respiratory issues. Nine of those people were tested for COVID/coronavirus. With...

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Wishful normalcy and paralysis is panic: the ground is shifting beneath our feet. We must think systemically and long-term now.

Wishful normalcy and paralysis is panic: the ground is shifting beneath our feet. We must think systemically and long-term now.

I will be shocked — happily — if schools reopen in two weeks. It is much more likely, in my view, that the entire country will be in lockdown and our hospitals and nursing homes a deadly shambles. That’s NOT a prediction. But I do think it’s more likely than reopening schools on that timeline. And I believe we all need to think right now about how to mitigate and transcend that reality as a community if it comes to pass. Believe me when I tell you that if I’m wrong, I will joyfully, indulgently bathe in all public ridicule I receive for thinking and talking about it this way. We will have a “come ridicule Billy party.” Everyone will be invited. You can throw fruit at me. But as of now, my thinking horizon is June and beyond, not the next two weeks. I base this grim assessment both on what I’m reading — and what I just experienced from a hospital in Clay County. I spent the better part of two days in a hospital room there agitating to close schools while trying to care for my dad and do my other job. Stop saying there are no cases in Polk. Say “we’re blind” instead. Let me say clearly first: it is deeply deeply deeply irresponsible for anyone to declare: “there are no coronavirus/COVID cases in Polk County.” The complete lack of national testing capacity renders that statement ridiculous and dangerous. What that statement means is that no one sick enough to get tested and get the very slow results has come back positive yet, as far as we know. That’s all. And, of course, most people who have the virus are not sick enough to get tested. Institutions should have the moral courage and honesty to tell the public: We have no idea if it’s here because there is no meaningful testing capacity. But based on the geographic distribution and contagion patterns elsewhere, you should assume we have cases and not go out to bars and mass gatherings. We are blind. Behave accordingly.” Indeed, right about now would be a good time for Lakeland Regional Health and the other hospitals to very publicly begin communicating their status — if they’re not doing it already. They should be publicly describing what they need from our community and its social and financial capital (private and public) to sustain a weeks-long battle against...

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