A little light reading

I know many have turned off the news and turned on the music and the yoga tapes. People are doing whatever they can to stay positive and de-stress. Unfortunately, I’m no good at it. For me, having an idea of where I’m heading is the only way to deal with something of this magnitude. I am also in the habit of bookmarking some of the articles I’ve read and organizing them into collections. Whatever works…

Science-based articles on COVID-19:

In the following collection I particularly recommend a Vimeo conference Dr. David Price of Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City gave on Mar. 22 in a Zoom call with family and friends on empowering and protecting families during the pandemic. While COVID-19 is 10x more dangerous than seasonal flu, over 80% of all people who contract the virus have mercifully typical flu symptoms.


Trump Administration incompetence:

Trump’s inaction and lying created a 3-month delay in responding to the COVID-19 virus — so named because it was first encountered in 2019. As long as we can still reach legislators, we should be calling them to keep the pressure up on preserving shelter-in-place orders, acquiring and deploying face masks, expanding testing, building respirators, and creating field hospitals.


Evangelicals behaving badly:

From holding up emergency legislation because it would also aid same-sex families, to whining that COVID-19 is God’s revenge on gay people and Jews, to thumbing their noses at shelter-in-place ordinances, some American Evangelical leaders and politicians have invited renewed contempt for their actions.


COVID-19 Legislation:

This is a collection of news articles on recently-passed legislation to help the nation survive COVID-19. Unfortunately, the Trump administration is more interested in saving the nation’s largest corporations than the nation’s human beings. If Trump’s science advisors cannot prevail upon the “stable genius” to keep shelter-in-place rules in place beyond Easter, he will have the blood of many hundreds of thousands of people on his hands.


America condemns its mass-incarcerated to death:

It is particularly cruel to keep people who have almost completed jail sentences locked up in places like Riker’s Island, where COVID-19 outbreaks are sweeping through prison populations that can neither escape nor protect themselves. Our jails and prisons are already cruel enough. Now we are effectively condemning many low-level offenders to death sentences.


Fighting the wrong enemy

An authoritative critic of the American national security state is Andrew Bacevich, West Point Class of 1969, retired Army Colonel, and historian specializing in international relations, security studies, American foreign policy, and American diplomatic and military history. Bacevich is a Professor Emeritus of International Relations and History at Boston University.

Bacevich’s essay in TomDispatch yesterday (“America Terrorized”) makes the case that billions, and now trillions, of national treasure have been squandered annually since the 1950’s fighting largely phantom enemies. This may have turned us into a national security juggernaut but our dubious status has cost us our democracy and failed to protect us from all-too-real threats.

Read the whole thing here.

From the 1950s through the 1980s, keeping us safe provided a seemingly adequate justification for maintaining a sprawling military establishment along with a panoply of “intelligence” agencies — the CIA, the DIA, the NRO, the NSA — all engaged in secret activities hidden from public view. From time to time, the scope, prerogatives, and actions of that conglomeration of agencies attracted brief critical attention — the Cuban Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, the Vietnam War of the 1960s and early 1970s, and the Iran-Contra affair during the presidency of Ronald Reagan being prime examples. Yet at no time did such failures come anywhere close to jeopardizing its existence. […]

Presidents now routinely request and Congress routinely appropriates more than a trillion dollars annually to satisfy the national security state’s supposed needs. Even so, Americans today do not feel safe and, to a degree without precedent, they are being denied the exercise of basic everyday freedoms. Judged by this standard, the apparatus created to keep them safe and free has failed. In the face of a pandemic, nature’s version of an act of true terror, that failure, the consequences of which Americans will suffer through for months to come, should be seen as definitive.

Read the whole thing here.

People or profits

The Senate is supposed to reach agreement today on some sort of Coronavirus financial package. There are fundamental disagreements over whether we let families die and slide into even deeper financial ruin while we bail out the travel, hotel, airline, and financial industries; whether we let Trump and Mnuchin access a half trillion dollar slush fund; and what kinds of strings should be attached to corporate bailouts. Both sides have offered their own rescue plans. The Democrat version alone is 1400 pages.

Whether we end up calling it a rescue plan, a stimulus package, a bailout, a lifeline, or a disgrace depends on what we learn later today. Don’t get your hopes up. We live in a county that has always valued the almighty dollar more than human life. Now, this week, today, some are going to face that bitter truth for the first time.

We certainly know what the Republican administration and its Fox News cabinet think. People, at least of the expendable variety, must sacrifice themselve (or have it done to them) through inadequate testing, an absence of virus protection, lack of testing, and privatized healthcare that currently excludes them — just to keep the economy running for the owners.

Three months after the virus was first identified (it’s called COVID-19 because it was discovered in 2019) Americans still have insufficient ventilators, no masks, and almost no testing kits. And there is still no national plan to lock down people at home to minimize fatalities and to keep them financially solvent as the crisis unfolds.

The administration has shown us graphs showing that social distancing may help reduce pressure on hospital admissions. But they haven’t shown us their spreadsheet showing the cost in human lives in one column, and the cost to the economy in another.

Trump failing to keep a safe social distance from Fundamentalists

But Republican priorities are pretty clear. What are a few million deaths if casinos can be kept open? Just ask Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who told FOX News’ Tucker Carlson he’d sacrifice himself and others of his generation if it saved business — which he confuses for a nation of human beings:

“So, I’m going to be smart, I think all of my fellow grandparents out there are going to be smart. We all wanna live, we wanna live with our grandchildren for as long as we can,” he added. “But the point is, our biggest gift we give to our country and our children and our grandchildren is the legacy of our country.”

Naturally, the President agrees. “Our country wasn’t built to be shut down,” Trump said. “This is not a country that was built for this.”

No, the United States is an all-day-all-night casino in one of Trump’s hotels.

An effective lockdown could go on for months. The Wuhan lockdown lasted seven weeks, and during the 1918 Spanish Flu public gatherings in the United States were banned in some places for as long as six months. When Hong Kong temporarily suspended its lockdown after a few weeks, it experienced a spike in new infections and was forced to lock down citizens again. So we know that keeping people sheltered in place must go on much longer than just two weeks.

But Trump knows better than the scientists. Appearing to confuse the disease’s incubation period with its duration, Trump thinks everything will be over in a couple of weeks. “America will again, and soon, be open for business.” Anthony Fauci, who is the only person in the entire Trump administration with the guts to disagree with his boss publicly, thinks lockdown measures should be of much longer duration. Trump has acknowledged Fauci’s disagreement, but the very stable genius has decided he knows better than the world’s epidemiologists.

This is the sort of cynical, callous, and criminal disregard for human life we have come to expect from Trump and his bobble-headed sycophants in the new Republican Party — the same people who told Americans with a straight face that a national healthcare plan would create Death Panels to determine who gets life-saving health care, and who must, regretfully of course, die. But now Republicans have outed themselves as the ultimate Death Panel. Money talks, and if protecting the public costs too much, then money says: the public is expendable.

By the end of the day we’ll know if Congress votes for preservation of millions of human lives — or the preservation of Capitalism for a second time in just twelve years.