How did Hawaiʻi handle the pandemic?

The "safest place on Earth"

Today’s Hell World feature is a dispatch from Hawaiʻi on how the island state has fared during the pandemic. [Movie voiceover guy] On this island paradise… not everything is quite as it seems… Obviously.

As I mentioned in the last free public post on what the hell has been going on in Canada during Covid I’ve been switching to a lot more paid-subscriber-only pieces on here lately which is also the case today for the Hawaiʻi piece.

Here’s some of the other stuff you’ve missed in the last week or so then more new stuff from me below.

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Let me see another doctor for a follow-up before you start coming up at me with bills

A couple weeks ago Josh Albert was set to take off on a trip to South America. He was walking out of a FedEx in New York City after getting his passport and vaccination papers in order when the right side of his body stopped working. “My speech was messed up. I made it about a half a block and I had to sit down,” he said. “I really didn’t know what was going on. I thought, oh, this will pass.”

Having no health insurance and so naturally afraid to go to the hospital he tried to walk it off. An hour or two later he was rushing to the nearest emergency room (in an Uber of course) still at this point wary of potential bills. He’d end up getting those anyway. 

I spoke with Albert about his experience having an unexpected health emergency then being pummeled with bills before he even ever got to fully understand what had happened. Subscribers can read that piece here.

I always appreciate the specificity of these fucking things don’t you? The nineteen cents man. What could that possibly be for?

He posted the bill to Twitter soon after where it garnered a lot of the attention that medical bills like these often do when someone has a big enough following to get them any attention. Most people don’t have that option they just accept them in anonymity. The responses followed the typical pattern for this sort of thing. “This is obscene,” one person said. “Savage and cruel that this is allowed to happen,” added another. “I wonder how many Americans die at home because they know this kind of shit awaits them if they seek medical attention?” wrote a third. There were quite a few variations on the simple theme “America 2021” and the like. 

“The number one reason people file for personal bankruptcy is because of medical debt,” tweeted the Fairness Project. “It doesn’t have to be like this.” 

It sure doesn’t. It is like this but it doesn’t have to be. 

“It’s not like this is news to me,” Albert told me over the phone. “I already knew the healthcare system was fucked. But to see it like this?” 

After the tweet was shared widely the hospital jumped into his replies. Get in touch so we can sort this out they told him. The first bill was incorrect they said when they spoke. It’s actually $74,189.16 now. 

I want them to imagine Black cowboys too

This past week I also published a lovely essay written by Zaron Burnett III. It’s about Black cowboys and cultural mythology and what we remember about ourselves. Burnett previously wrote for Hell World on what it felt like as a Black man to wear a mask in the airport in the early days of Covid.

…For good or for ill, it doesn’t take long for something to be forgotten. 

“They used to have stables in every city. But then, when dairies started buying trucks, the stables started closing down. So then, that whole activity disappeared as an option,” my Pop recalls for me.

I’m lucky that my Pop’s memory stretches back to a time when he regularly saw Black men with horses each morning. Not cowboys, per se, milkmen. But it made it much easier for him to imagine Black cowboys. Much easier than it was for me. However, he helped me to imagine what I didn’t get to regularly see with my own eyes. 

At bedtime he told me stories of Black cowboys when I couldn’t sleep. When I joined him on the couch late at night and watched a Western, he corrected what wasn’t shown, telling me what the film would’ve looked like if it were accurate. History mattered a lot to him. He wanted his son to imagine the past and to be free of slavery being his only image of Black ancestors. So he told me stories of Black cowboys. And now I do the same thing, but for people I’ll never meet. I want them to imagine Black cowboys too. 

“All we have to do is to keep learning, and keep being open to the truth, not new information, but the true information. And then, once we get the true information, replace the bad shit, get rid of it,” my Pop explains to me. That’s his answer. 

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Also in case you never read this old Hell World there was some renewed interest in it this week when George W. Fucking Bush was making the rounds on Jimmy Kimmel and elsewhere in his new role as Kindly and Innocent Painting Grandpa.

As Sarah Jones wrote in New York mag the other day: “George W. Bush can’t pain his way out of hell.”

The “safest place on Earth”

by Michelle Broder Van Dyke

In Hawaiʻi we started hearing about COVID-19 before it arrived on our shores. The fear was palpable. This is a place that has already experienced devastating pandemics. Many Native Hawaiians died from introduced diseases after Captain James Cook became the first European to visit the islands in 1778. I live on Oʻahu, where two-thirds of the state’s population resides, but people on the five other major islands were particularly worried, because in total they have less than 70 ICU beds. Honolulu Airport is a major hub for air travel, so people thought that COVID-19 might impact Hawaiʻi before other parts of the US, but that is not how it worked out. Instead, it felt like we had some time to prepare — Washington state reported its first COVID-19 death on Feb. 29, 2020, while Hawaiʻi lost its first resident to the disease on April 1.

The unique geographical position of Hawaiʻi allows us to isolate, so it seemed like an obvious idea to stop incoming travel, but our governor, David Ige, was dragging his feet. He is notorious for being slow to take action — this is the same governor who was in charge when the terrifying false missile alert was sent to everyone and he couldn’t immediately let people know it wasn’t real because he didn’t know how to access his Twitter account. I let out a sigh of relief when he finally announced the 14-day quarantine for all arrivals would start on March 26. 

There were a lot of ups and downs, but the quarantine basically did its job: stopping COVID-19 from completely crushing the state’s limited health infrastructure. It can’t be forgotten that there has been 482 COVID-19 deaths, outbreaks at prisons and racial disparities in COVID-19 cases, which were exacerbated by a lack of clear leadership, but Hawaiʻi is lucky to have the lowest number of coronavirus cases per capita in the nation. And yet, while the quarantine flattened the curve, it also predictably destroyed the economy.

Over the course of the 20th century, Hawaiʻi’s dependence on tourism increased as agriculture decreased, and it was cemented in 2016 when the last sugar plantation shut down. In 1985, the year I was born, there were already 5 million tourists coming to Hawaiʻi annually, but by 2019 tourism had hit a record-breaking number of 10 million visitors per year, creating $2 billion in tax revenue. While there has been talk my whole life about regulating tourism, the idea of halting tourism was always unimaginable so I don’t think we should underestimate what a big deal it is to have had a mandatory quarantine. 

Without visitors here there was a golden opportunity to make big changes in terms of job diversification, sustainable tourism, and paying a living wage, but almost nothing has been done. Nearly a quarter of Hawaiʻi’s working population lost their jobs at the beginning of the pandemic and nine percent of the population is still unemployed — the highest in the nation.

The governor has repeatedly said one of his priorities is job diversification outside of the tourism industry, but action has been scant. During this year’s legislative session, lawmakers failed to pass bills that would have raised the minimum wage from $10.10 to $12, exempted unemployment compensation from state taxes, or given tax breaks to low-income workers. Instead they passed a bill that will spend $1.6 billion of CARES funding to give tax relief to businesses….

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I tried for a few minutes to remember who was who in the Giuliani Ukraine thing they got going on again now and I'm just not going to do that. I wish everyone luck in whatever it is that is happening.

By the way did it ever come out why Clickhole deleted this classic headline a while back?

Maybe deleting it mysteriously was part of the gag? Or maybe they got too close to the truth? We may never know.

Meanwhile things don’t look particularly great at the moment for this other pervert.

I’d like to see ol’ Matty Gaetz wriggle his way out of this one…

Elsewhere in Hell World:

You have to admit this seems much more efficient than the normal way. I can’t wait to be charged $19,000 by my insurance for five minutes of having my hair pulled awkwardly by a Hitachi wand attached to a Roomba.

I loved the latest issue of The Small Bow but I also hated it. Maybe I said that last time too? This one evoked a very visceral disgust in me because it reminded me a lot of myself years ago even if my behavior was not quite this bad. (That’s what we all say.) Randomly a lot of my grossest cokehead exploits took place in Astoria as well.

I woke up the next day and the apartment still stunk. Also, the eel had no more food left, but I was too hungover to do anything about it. When I sat at my desk, the smell made me dizzy. It turned out I had accidentally rolled my chair over a goldfish. I tried to scrape it out with a nail file but the guts were pretty crammed in there. I grabbed a hammer and knocked the wheel off and threw it away. I used a stack of books to hold up the wheel-less leg and tried to remember not to roll on it anymore but sometimes I’d forget and tip over. I still sat at that broken chair for a long time because that's the type of person I was then. 

The tank went completely to shit after that. It became too hard to clean and the eel became too hard to feed and I became too strung out to care. I came home one day and the whole tank was swirling with dirt, a sad tornado of algae and fish crap. The eel didn’t even hide underneath its volcano anymore. It just laid there, surrounded by tipped-over plastic plants and half-eaten fish corpses, too weak to move as it desperately gulped for clean oxygen. 

Come on man.

Alright let’s talk about some fucking pigs now. Content warning for a lot of this stuff below but then again you know what newsletter it is that you’re reading here so…

A Georgia sheriff’s deputy was arrested this week by the FBI for among other things having a bunch of illegal weapons and expressing violent racist statements in group chats with extremist groups. It appears the FBI was surprised to find Wilkinson County’s Cody Griggers chiming in on the chats of some other fucking Nazi they were investigating and he just sort of fell into their lap.

Incidentally: Cody Griggers.

“This former law enforcement officer knew that he was breaking the law when he chose to possess a cache of unregistered weapons, silencers and a machine gun, keeping many of them in his duty vehicle,” acting U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary said in a statement. Sorry for quoting the feds! “Coupled with his violent racially motivated extreme statements, the defendant has lost the privilege permanently of wearing the blue,” he said and I love how even in the midst of catching a cop doing and saying shit that is not relatively surprising for a cop to say and do he still had to work in some cop mythologizing there. He has lost the privilege permanently of wearing the blue. Sounds like the type of thing you’d say when a noble warrior gets kicked out of the knights of the round table or some shit not when some turd in Georgia simply doesn’t get to pull people over anymore then invent a reason for it in the 30 seconds it takes for him to walk up to their car.

I’m not going to reprint them here but if you want to read all the shit he said in the chats you can do so in the charging documents here. It’s not great! Outside of talking about perpetrating violence against liberals and Black people and Muslims there’s a lot of talk about a hypothetical civil war and how his position in law enforcement will allow him to assess what side his department is taking and destroy them from the inside if necessary.

Elsewhere Griggers talked about “beating the shit out of a [slur]” during an arrest. “Sheriff's dept said it look like he fell,” he wrote. The beating was “sweet stress relief” he wrote. He also said this next thing about Black people which is not necessarily the most horrific thing in there but it is in fact the most succinct explanation of what the actual job of the police is in this country and it’s sort of fascinating to see them admit it:

“I’m going to charge them with whatever felonies I can to take away their ability to vote,” he wrote.

That’s the whole game right there isn’t it?

Here’s another absolutely horrific story out of Eugene, Oregon about a sex worker who called the police after her boyfriend was threatening her she said. Instead of doing anything the cops came in and sexually harassed her for a while then one stalked her for a few days and eventually ended up raping her. As if that’s not all bad enough when she later went with a small group to protest her rapist’s continued employment as a police officer she was herself arrested and charged with “felony riot, interfering with a peace officer, criminal mischief in the second degree, and resisting arrest.”

The cop in question Christopher Drumm has since resigned but has not faced any charges of his own.

From the Vice story:

What St. James said she experienced is far from unique. A Bowling Green State University study found that roughly 1,100 police officers are arrested in the U.S. per year, or about three per day. Of those arrests, forcible fondling and sexual assault comprised the fourth- and fifth-most common charges, respectively, with sexual assault making up 4.8% of officer arrests. Additionally, a Women & Health study found the one in five sexual assaults reported in a U.S. emergency room were filed by sex workers. 

Here’s a lengthy excerpt from an old Hell World that some of you will have read but speaks to the prevalence of the issue at hand of police believing they can get away with assaulting and raping sex workers and other vulnerable people.

In 2015 the Associated Press counted almost one thousand officers between 2009 and 2014 “who lost their badges in a six-year period for rape, sodomy and other sexual assault; sex crimes that included possession of child pornography; or sexual misconduct such as propositioning citizens or having consensual but prohibited on-duty intercourse.”

That number was likely to be a vast understatement they said because it only counted officers who actually lost their jobs and many states including California and New York where there are quite a fair few number of cops didn’t have records about such things because why would they. In some states where they reported no firings for sexual misconduct they found cases through news reports or court records that it had actually happened so those states were lying or negligent or both.

“It’s happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country,” Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department in Florida who studied the issue told the AP. “It’s so underreported and people are scared that if they call and complain about a police officer, they think every other police officer is going to be then out to get them.”

What’s more a significant percentage of these incidents involve particularly vulnerable people like minors or women of color or sex workers or addicts or in other words people who the police perceive as having even less power than the average person and are therefore less likely to make a whole thing about it.

As the Washington Post reported last year a study from the National Institute of Justice looked at over 6,700 officer arrests throughout the country over a seven year period and found half of the arrests were for sexual misconduct involving minors.

This part is even worse than all of that which is that cops often prey on women who are victims of domestic violence who call the police for protection.

“As one officer quoted in an investigative report by the Philadelphia Inquirer said, ‘I would see women that were vulnerable where I could appear as a knight in shining armor.’”

Here’s some other cop-related dog shit in the news lately.

What was that guy up above saying about the privilege of wearing the blue again?


Ok that’s all for today. Before I go I would like if I may to wish everyone a very Randy Economy.