The America of 2025

Each day we are reminded how corrupt, incompetent, mentally ill, and cognitively impaired Donald Trump is. His administration is a nightmare from which we awake only to discover that the new day’s reality has become even more frightening than the day before.

With over 1.2 million COVID-19 cases and over 73,000 deaths [as of today], Trump is more concerned with “reopening” the country than saving lives, providing testing and masks, or issuing a national shutdown order. Trump’s leadership has been as lacking as with every other GOP response to a natural disaster.

Trump has hawked snake oil cures, peddled multiple conspiracy theories involving China and the World Health Organization, his scientists have been muzzled, he has sidelined and censored the CDC, and his son-in-law is in charge of phantom ventilator contracts. Just as with deals involving the mafia, when doing business with the White House Don it seems it pays to “know a guy.”

In the midst of all this chaos, ineptitude and deep division over how (or whether) to socially distance, people have no recourse but to fend for themselves, make their own masks, help their neighbors, try to nurture social connections, and somehow keep body and soul together. Trump’s followers, however, are prepping for the apocalypse, stockpiling weapons and ammunition, placing their neighbors in the crosshairs, and putting them in spitting (and coughing) distance — all because it’s their “right” as God-fearing White Americans.

In Michigan, armed militia members opposing the governor’s stay-at-home orders entered the state capitol, forcing legislators to don kevlar vests. In contrast, the full weight of the State has come down on any Black person found ignoring masks or social distancing orders. That is, when Black folks aren’t being harrassed for actually wearing a face mask. In Texas, a white woman refused to obey an order to close her salon and became a hero in a state that objects to asylum seekers crossing the border because “we are a nation of laws.” But laws only for some.

The Coronavirus has also illuminated America’s festering racial, class, and economic inequalities. For Republicans the pandemic has been a bonanza for extracting greater tax and loan advantages for Big Business, enacting bans on travel and abortion while the public is distracted, and for returning the country to the 1950’s. For Democrats, the economic and health crisis on our doorstep hasn’t fully registered. Democrats managed to choose a 78 year-old Centrist with a massive #MeToo problem who just wants to return the world to 2012 and to tweak Obama’s flawed health plan as little as possible. In the meantime, the world has completely changed. Even with Biden’s candidacy in shambles, they’re still sticking with their man and his vision for the past.

Although people of color and America’s working poor have borne the brunt of the pandemic, there is little indication that help is on the way. Although $3 trillion has been disbursed to save American jobs, most of the money is predictably not finding its way into human hands.

Black Americans account for a staggering number of Coronavirus deaths. In Louisiana, the percentage of African American mortality among all COVID-19 deaths is 70%. The same percentage describes the situation in Chicago. Black Americans have long had high rates of asthma (lack of environmental protections), diabetes and heart problems (lack of healthcare and insurance) — and these are all “underlying conditions” which reduce COVID-19 survivability. It’s no exaggeration to say that America is literally killing Black people.

Despite the fact that the the Navajo Nation has the third highest infection rate in the country, it has not received emergency funds for testing. Similarly, the Seattle Indian Health Board, a Native American health center, “asked for tests, and instead they sent us a box of body bags,” according to the center’s CEO. White America seems to be trying to tell Native Americans something.

LatinX workers in the nation’s meat processing plants have been forced to work-while-sick at their jobs despite massive infection levels. Likewise, people in the jails and prisons of this nation with the greatest incarceration rate in the world — overwhelmingly poor and people of color — are at risk of contracting the virus in crowded, unsanitary conditions, deprived of soap, face masks and testing.

Many Americans are now literally starving, people are unable to pay for rent or food, and everyone wants an expansion of antibody testing and vaccine development. But corporate immunity is about the only immunity the Trump administration and its collaborators in the Senate really care about. Democrats just signed off on the greatest corporate giveaway in American history, and only one House representative protested the “crumbs for our families.”

I am confident that America will survive a global pandemic — just as it did 102 years ago. Whether we end up with a quarter of a million or several million deaths is largely up to the lunatics running the asylum. Some of us will be statistics; others will be survivors. Life will go on.

But it’s the survival of anything resembling a democracy that’s got me worried. Unless a substantial number of Americans have had enough, the world of 2025 will be run by the same Capitalists who have profited the most from a series of corporate bailouts beginning in the Seventies. For all the lofty Liberal expressions of “rethinking America” and “reconsidering” who is actually an essential worker, don’t expect to see any change unless we — collectively — decide that an essential worker ought to be paid at least as much as a supply chain consultant. But please, somebody, tell me how that happens in a Capitalist economy.

We don’t have a democracy now, and we won’t have one in 2025 unless everyone is equal under the law. Without a serious effort to erase long-standing economic and racial injustices and completely restructure criminal justice and policing in America, cops will still be harassing and even lynching Black men in America in 2025, and the jails will still be full of poor people who can’t make bail. Without health care as a right, some of us will live decades longer than others. Without reparations or a plan to lift up generationally disadvantaged communities, many Black and Native and LatinX Americans will still live in a Third World America while White America continues to live in its dreamy version of Pleasantville.

A new society is possible. But I fear White America, comfortable in its privilege, really has no incentive to tinker with what’s been working for them so well all these years.

Scam Alert

You’re already stressed-out enough, you miss your friends, you’ve started watching even bad movies now, and you’re out of hand sanitizer.

But now you get an email informing you that some criminal not only has the password to your computer but that he’s going to share all those naughty videos on your hard drive …. unless you send him the equivalent of $2,000 in bitcoin.

Two friends received such emails in the last five days and both asked how they should respond — so here are my suggestions.

The bad news is that you’ve been doing a poor job of creating and protecting your passwords. The good news is that the email is just a scam and almost certainly harmless. By the law of large numbers, one of the thousands of people this criminal is threatening might actually have such videos and would pay up.

The criminal most likely bought a package of thousands of emails and passwords on the Dark Web and it just so happened you are/were a subscriber to one of the services that suffered a data breach at some point.

Fake or not, the email is a wake-up call to do a better job of protecting your personal data. Besides, you need a project and you’ve probably got the time.

  1. Check all your email addresses to see where the hacker might have obtained your logins.
  2. Start using a password manager to store your passwords. There are many opinions on this but it’s certain that something is better than the clearly inadequate scheme you have been using.For mere mortals LastPass is free and offers tools to check for weak and duplicated passwords and other vulnerabilities. LastPass also offers a version of their software for any device (Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android, etc.).

    Besides LasPass, Bitwarden, Avira Password Manager, 1Password, and Dashlane are all reliable and reputable alternatives.

  3. Change the password on your computer.
  4. Consider using a more secure email service than your old Comcast, AOL, or Yahoo account. Google, Microsoft, and Apple all offer reasonably secure alternatives.

And because you may have expected this to be a political post, well, here’s one (but it’s not mine and it’s definitely not for children’s ears):

What’s a life worth?

In late March Donald Trump told the press corps, “Our country wasn’t built to be shut down […] This is not a country that was built for this.” Since then Trump seems to have backpedaled on his notion to open the nation for business on Easter Sunday — presumably to the peals of church bells announcing the resurrection of the nation and his own polling numbers. But in a move calculated to sideline the nation’s infectious disease experts — including some of his own advisors — Trump is back at it again.

You never thought the pit bull was going to let go of your pants leg, did you?

Trump recently announced the formation of an “Opening Our Country Council.” He indicated that neither his son-in-law and daughter nor the Vice President would be involved, and it is still unclear who will actually be on the council, or why it is really necessary. Regardless, Trump claims that he — not state governors — has “total authority” to decide when workers will be forced to return to work — without testing, without masks, and without sufficient ICU beds or ventilators to let them survive the COVID-19 infections they will receive by returning too soon to the germ pool.

Trump may not have a plan for dealing with the Corona virus, but he claims total authority to carry out that plan.

Naturally, the nation’s governors are pushing back. New York governor Andrew Cuomo said that before anyone talks about “opening” the nation for business the first order of business will be testing. Connecticut governor Ned Lamont announced that social distancing would remain in effect until at least May 20th, and New Jersey governor Phil Murphy said that economic recovery depends entirely on public health safety.

As for Trump’s “total authority,” Cuomo told CNN, “The president does not have total authority. We have a constitution, we don’t have a king, we have an elected president.” University of Texas Constitutional Law professor Stephen Vladeck agreed, slamming Trump’s authoritarian move: “Nope. That would be the literal definition of a totalitarian government—which our traditions, our Constitution, and our values all rightly and decisively reject.”

With the nation in the grip of both a deadly pandemic and an incompetent fascist wannabe, the nation’s governors have been left to their own devices.

California governor Gavin Newsom announced that his nation-state of California had no choice but to fend for itself given Trump’s inaction and incompetence. California, together with Oregon and Washington, has formed a regional alliance to plot its own course for economic recovery. The same strategy has been adopted by an alliance of Northeast governors from New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

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. The same sort of spike occurred in Singapore after it prematurely relaxed social distancing. So we know that keeping people sheltered in place must go on much longer, and we know that only testing will tell us how much of the population has been exposed and how much has recovered.

Fifty million Americans receive Social Security payments and many workers are either salaried or still manage to draw an income. These lucky enough to own their homes and have health insurance have a sense they will probably survive the pandemic. For the most part, this segment of America has enjoyed a healthy life of adequate and nutritious food, clean water and a clean environment, and does not have disproportionately high rates of diabetes, hypertension or asthma. This privileged segment of America does not live in crowded apartments in polluted neighborhoods for which they must pay rent, is not forced to commute during a pandemic on crowded subways or buses, and can afford to have someone else deliver food and supplies to their homes.

But for the rest of America, life is incredibly precarious — and has always been. African Americans, Latinos, Indigenous people, the working class, the working poor, and the disabled are at elevated risk and are dying in shameful numbers. There is an old saying something like, “When white folks catch a cold, black folks get pneumonia.” And by sending America’s most vulnerable back to work without adequate protections, we are sending many to their deaths — all for the sake of corporate greed. And because their lives do not hold particularly great value by policy makers.

As we now contemplate the frightening lack of hospital beds and ventilators — and who must die for lack of one — the rules for triage are revealed as decidedly racist. On April 7th Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders released a memo entitled “Crisis Standards of Care Planning Guidance for the COVID-19 Pandemic” which described state guidelines for making decisions about who receives care and who doesn’t during the global pandemic. The memo describes the recommendations of a panel of medical professionals in which those with the lowest scores have the highest priority for treatment. “But among the factors giving patients a higher score, and therefore, a lower priority for medical intervention are health conditions common to black, Latino and Asian people including diabetes, hypertension and obesity.”

Oh, well, they’re just going to die anyway.

Similarly, Alabama’s 2010 triage handbook for ventilator use puts a low premium on the lives of disabled people: “persons with severe mental retardation, advanced dementia or severe traumatic brain injury may be poor candidates for ventilator support.”

We are not so very far removed from the world of 1935, when a magazine called “New People” published by the new German “Racial Politics Office” pointed out to subscribers:

“60,000 Reich Marks is the cost to society of caring for those with congenital diseases. Citizens, this is your money.”