Sunday, March 29, 2020
News this week is pretty much all coronavirus. Most striking number
below is Anthony Fauci's projection that coronavirus will kill more
than 100,000 Americans, and that millions will be infected. The US now
has more confirmed cases than any other nation -- even China, despite
a head start and nearly four times as many people (see
How the US stacks up to other countries in confirmed coronavirus
cases; note the graphs, which plot spread over time; also
note how little testing has actually been carried out in the US).
Or, if you're more concerned about money than people, the number of
new unemployment filings last week broke the previous record, by a
factor of five. We're now seeing projections that unemployment will
shoot to 20%, and that this quarter's GDP will drop by more than 10%.
For comparison, the total drop in the 2008 "Great Recession" over two
quarters was 4.3%. Congress passed a $2 trillion "stimulus" bill late
last week. I'd call it more of a stopgap. I'm especially struck by
how eager Republicans are to break the bank when one of their own is
president, compared to how chintzy and vindictive they are when a
Democrat is in the White House. Much like Republicans managed to
undermine Obama's $700 billion stimulus bill in 2009, Democrats
worked hard to make this bill more fair to workers and the newly
unemployed than Trump initially wanted.
Ran through this rather quickly, without many comments. You can look
up the technical stuff yourself (here's the
American Prospect has a relatively good political-oriented series,
including David Dayen's "COVID-19 Daily" briefs). Occasionally I note
speculation on what happens "after" -- still, I find this impossible
given that I don't have any real idea how far this falls apart, or
when (if ever) a "new normal" stabilizes. I've seen pieces comparing
coronavirus to global warming, but don't find them to be very credible
(yet). Also, not much below on politics. Nothing in the last week (or
month) has convinced me that Biden is the right person to take on Trump,
yet it feels unseemly to try to convince his Democratic supporters of
that at this particular moment. It seems significant that
this poll shows only 24% of Biden supporters to be very enthusiastic,
vs. 53% of Trump supporters. (His 24% not only compares poorly to Trump,
but to Hillary Clinton's lame 32% four years ago.)
Some scattered links this week:
Davey Alba/Sheera Frenkel:
Medical expert who corrects Trump is now a target of the far right:
"Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration's most outspoken advocate of
emergency virus measures, faces a torrent of false claims that he is
mobilizing to undermine the president."
Oil price may fall to $10 a barrel as world runs out of storage
Andrew J Bacevich:
Judgment Day for the national security state: The coronavirus and the
real threats to American safety and freedom.
If sanitation workers don't work, nothing works.
Pandemic economics: 'much worse, very quickly'.
Republicans are using the pandemic to push anti-abortion and anti-trans
agendas. Needless to say, I agree with this New York Times editorial:
Make abortion more available during the pandemic -- not less.
GOP Groundhog Day: Why do we keep electing Republicans? They're no good
Team Trump tried to bully the ICC into dropping war crimes probe but
The man who knew: "An interview with Barry Lynn, whose prediction
about the dangers of centralizing our manufacturing has sadly come true
amid the coronavirus outbreak."
Bonanza for rich real estate investors, tucked into stimulus package.
What Trump is doing in the Middle East while you are distracted by
The pandemic is driving media consumption way up. But ad sales are falling
Coronavirus, anxiety, and the profound failure of rugged individualism:
Interview with Johann Hari, author of Lost Connections: Why You're
Depressed and How to Find Hope, where he: "advances an argument that
is both radical and obvious: Depression and anxiety are more than just
chemical imbalances in the brain; they are also products of our distinct
social environments -- social environments that have left our core
psychological needs unmet."
As Congress pushes a $2 trillion stimulus package, the "how will you
pay for it?" question is tossed in the trash. Probably where it
belongs, but one can't help but note the partisan asymmetry: when a
Republican is in the White House, Republicans in Congress are more
than willing to spend whatever it takes, but elect a Democrat and
they're always whining about deficits and insisting on austerity --
not least to make an Obama look bad. How they escape blame for their
machinations is hard to fathom, but controlling their own propaganda
networks helps. Also the fact that Democrats see their base broadly
as including not just the vanishing middle class but also business
and the poor (who are always hardest hit in a crisis) makes them
willing to help Republicans, where the opposite is rarely true.
Secret US intelligence files provide history's verdict on Argentina's
Dirty War: "Recently declassified documents constitute a gruesome
and sadistic catalog of state terrorism."
Neither Biden nor Trump: Imagine Cuomo: Figured this would be a
pan of the mini-boomlet touting NY Governor Andrew Cuomo as a possible
relief pitcher for a flagging Biden, but I found Levine plying the
"parallels between [Cuomo] and FDR":
Two governors of New York state, both from established political
families -- the one patrician, the other old-school "ethnic" and
therefore, by sympathy and conviction, working class -- both
non-ideological but, by nature, experimental and open to measures
that right wingers would, at best, be wary of or would, more likely,
FDR was hardly a "socialist" in the usual sense of the term. He
had no quarrel with private ownership of means of production. Quite
to the contrary, his aim not at all to move beyond capitalism, but
only to save it from the capitalists.
To that end, he was amenable to the kinds of social democratic
measures that Sanders and, in her own way, Warren favor. The New
Deal was many things, but at least sometimes and in some respects,
it had a counter-systemic thrust that linked it to the socialist
tradition, in much the way that Sanders' "democratic socialism" does.
Cuomo seems cut from a similar cloth.
That's true enough for FDR, but I have my doubts about Cuomo,
who's been tightly aligned with business interests (above all the
huge finance sector) all along, during a period of history when
political support has been unprecedentedly transactional. As I've
noted before, FDR wasn't predisposed to look left, but while he
tried a broad mix of left/right proposals, he found that the most
successful came from the left. Cuomo might find the same, but I
wouldn't rate him as more likely to do so than Biden, who at
least seems to have some empathy for working people, something
Cuomo has never been noted for. Indeed, the other big difference
between FDR and Cuomo was the former's polio, which gave him a
sense of how the high and mighty could be humbled. Also on Cuomo:
The fate of the news in the age of the coronavirus.
How the world's richest country ran out of a 75-cent face mask.
Tom Coburn, the Senate's "Dr. No," has died at 72.
Trump's reckless promotion of hydroxychloroquine to fight coronavirus,
This is what an opposition party it supposed to sound like: "Bernie
Sanders's moral outrage and devastating sarcasm struck back against a
GOP assault on poor and low-income workers."
A sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden has ignited a firestorm
The coronavirus may hit rural America later -- and harder: "Rural
communities 'tend to be older, with more chronic illness,' making people
more at risk of severe Covid-19."
Heather Digby Parton:
Bernie Sanders wins the Democrats Abroad primary. This doesn't mean
much, but it's the only primary this week.
Paul R Pillar:
The nationalist response to the coronavirus.
America's Crisis Daddy Andrew Cuomo exploits coronavirus panic to push
bail reform rollback in New York.
Germany has relatively few deaths from coronavirus. Why? Not
mentioned here, but the one thing I know about German health care
is that they keep patients in hospital much longer than elsewhere --
especially compared to the US, where prices are astronomical and
stays patients are often rushed out with excessive haste. What
that suggests to me is that Germany has more beds and nurses per
capita than elsewhere, which is exactly what you'd want in face
of a pandemic.
How do 3 million newly unemployed people get health care?
Who will win the fight for a post-coronavirus America?
Confronting the long history of massive inequality: Interview with
Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century
and now Capital and Ideology.
After Richard Burr's coronavirus scandal, will the government finally
crack down on congressional insider trading?
Anya van Wagtendonk:
Trump says he won't comply with key transparency measures in the
coronavirus stimulus bill: "The administration says it won't
provide documentation for audits into $500 billion in corporate
Emily Todd VanDerWerff:
The coronavirus has given Trump something he's always wanted: A chance
to totally take over TV.
Bigger brother: Review of Shoshana Zuboff: The Age of Surveillance
Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.
Li Zhou/Ella Nilsen: