Sunday, April 5, 2020
I wanted to write an intro this week objecting to people who are
still ragging on "Sanders-ites," as in:
one of the most discouraging things about the Sanders-ites who continue
to rail against Biden is their appalling lack of understanding of how
government works. Their schematic recitations of corporate behemoths
who apparently control the every move of Biden, Schumer, and Pelosi
reflect a profound lack of any grasp of the realities of American
political life, which is that action and reaction occur in a lot of
different and even hidden places.
I don't have any problems with arguing that it's more realistic
to aim for incremental reforms than for ideal solutions, but this
isn't about tactics or goals. The point here is to disparage people
for wanting something more than the centrists/moderates are willing
to argue for. I can't help but take these attacks personally. Even
if there are people on the left too pig-headed to compromise their
principles, I don't see any value in attacking them personally, let
along generalizing and slandering them as a group. But every day I
see attacks on "Sanders-ites" like this, and I'm getting sick and
tired of them, and their high-handed authors.
Should write more, but will leave it with I'm more sad than angry
or anything else that Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic Party
nominee. I'm not especially bothered by his positions or his record --
needless to say, not for lack of points I'd argue with -- but I do
worry that he'll prove an inarticulate and hapless campaigner (as we
already have much evidence of). Still, the sad part has little to do
with Biden personally. It shows that most Democrats are reacting to
fear -- not just of Trump and the Republicans, but of their expected
reaction to the changes Sanders is campaigning for. That may go hand
in hand with being uninformed and/or unimaginative, but I can't fault
anyone for excessive caution -- especially in the middle of a crisis
so unprecedented no one can honestly see their way beyond.
Some scattered links this week:
Yasmeen Abutaleb/Josh Dawsey/Ellen Nakashima/Greg Miller:
The U.S. was beset by denial and dysfunction as the coronavirus raged.
Why an Idaho ski destination has one of the highest Covid-19 infection
rates in the nation: This first came to my attention when a generally
right-wing relative in Twin Falls complained on Facebook about all the
Blaine County license plates at Costco. Even in Idaho, denialism fades
fast as the virus nears. Interesting side-point here is the perception
that it's the globe-trotting elites who are propagating the spread of
Covid-19, thereby endangering everyone else.
Darling, let's do coronavirus in the Hamptons this year: "The rich
continue their tradition of escapist virtue signaling."
Dean Baker: Every post in his
Press blog is worthwhile, especially:
Getting to Medicare for All, eventually.
Peter C Baker:
'We can't go back to normal': how will coronavirus change the world?
Oil prices are cratering. That's not a good thing.: "A barrel now
sells for around $20 -- the lowest in two decades." Whether it's a good
thing is arguable. Sure, it's bad for the economy, or at least for oil
producers, but they're some of the most reprehensible oligarchs around:
if anyone has to go broke, let it be them. You might think that cheaper
gas will encourage people to buy and burn more, but it's only cheap for
the moment because demand has fallen way below supply: use more and
you'll pay more. Personally, I think this would be the perfect time
to raise the gas tax. Related:
Rosemary Batt/Eileen Appelbaum:
Hospital bailouts begin -- for those owned by private equity firms.
Trump is mishandling coronavirus the way Reagan botched the AIDS epidemic:
Interview with Gregg Gonsalves.
Who could have predicted Trump would be such a bad crisis manager?
Everyone, actually. No, I haven't started caring what Max Boot
thinks, but once in a while he hits on a title which crystalizes
a key insight. In that regard, this one is much better than
The worst president. Ever. Boot has Trump displacing John Buchanan,
who used to be widely regarded as the worst president ever. I've never
been clear why history judges Buchanan so harshly. I mean, what the
fuck could he have done differently? He didn't have the moral standing
or the political base to confront the slave states, and he didn't have
the leadership skills to defend the Union. On the other hand, nothing
he could have done to satisfy the anxieties of the slaveholders would
have been accepted by the "free" states, with their increasing command
of the economy, supported by a majority of the population. Sure, he
dithered, postponing an increasingly inevitable war, which broke out
in the lame duck months of his term.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler sold at least $18 million more in stocks before the
coronavirus crash than previously reported.
The coronavirus is transforming politics and economics.
The meaning of Donald Trump's coronavirus quackery.
COVID-19 outbreak in Iran exposes twisted aims of Iran hawks.
Joe Biden is wrong about single-payer and coronavirus.
Trump orders anti-drug Navy ships to Venezuelan coast: The return
of "gunboat diplomacy," following indictment of Venezuelan president
Maduro for something involving narcotics:
This will be one of the biggest US military operations of the sort
since 1989, when the US invaded Panama and ousted Gen. Manuel Noriega
on drug charges. Attorney General William Barr wrote the legal
justification for Noriega invasion, and also wrote the recent
justification for a bounty against Maduro.
In the middle of a pandemic, our for-profit healthcare system is
David Enrich/Ben Protess/Eric Lipton:
Trump's company seeks to ease financial crunch as coronavirus takes
Jared Kushner is going to get us all killed.
[Boris] Johnson seems unable to unify us. Who will speak for the
country? But he does quote Johnson as saying, "One thing I
think [the] coronavirus crisis has already proved is that there
really is such a thing as society." That is directly opposite
of Conservative icon Margaret Thatcher's famous maxim, "there is
no such thing as society."
John F Harris:
Trump is an authoritarian weakman. I could cite dozens of alarmist
pieces against which this is arguing (e.g., Lucian K Truscott IV:
Trump is preparing the ground for a totalitarian dictatorship).
Trump certainly has the desires of a dictator, and he plays the
demagogue to the hilt, but he's something he lacks -- heart? stomach?
brains? maybe he's just too lazy? -- keeps him from seizing power
(although his underlings are eager to do so, even their reach seems
to have self-imposed limits).
This downturn could be worse than the early 1930s "We could experience
in months what took three or four years to unfold after the 1929 stock
market crash. Things are going to be very bad unless we see some serious
Inside the ouster of Capt. Brett Crozier: the Navy aircraft carrier
captain who "pleaded for help against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping
his crew" and was fired for his trouble.
Pandemics and the shape of human history.
Bill Gates's philanthropic giving is a racket.
The history of loneliness.
EPA is jamming through rollbacks that could increase coronavirus
Trump condemns New York for planning ahead on coronavirus.
The pandemic and international competition: How the US can save itself
with a 'Green New Deal'.
What will the world be like after coronavirus? Four possible futures.
The two axis/four square grid reminds me of Peter Frase's Four Futures:
Life After Capitalism, where "barbarism" here becomes "exterminism."
[PS: Frase summarized his thesis in 2011, here:
Coronavirus could lead to the highest unemployment levels since the
Medicare for All's teachable moment.
The linkage of health insurance to employment -- an accident of American
economic history -- never made much sense, and when unemployment is
pervasive and a pandemic has been loosed on the land, it makes no sense
This is the teachable moment for universal health coverage not linked
to employment status. Democrats should seize this moment and teach. For
those who have to be dragged screaming to this, they can advocate it as
a temporary measure, during which time its popular support would likely
Texas's election law could disenfranchise millions during a pandemic.
Can you hide a pandemic? There's no need to believe Beijing on China's
coronavirus success. Note: "Neither the Chinese government nor U.S.
intelligence agencies are particularly trustworthy services." On the
If any of the thousands of researchers who have been scouring Chinese
coronavirus statistics in search of patterns that could help defeat
the pandemic elsewhere have detected signs of "fake" numbers, Bloomberg
doesn't seem to know about it.
The reality is that it's very hard to hide an epidemic. Stopping
a virus requires identifying and isolating cases of infection, and if
you pretend to have done so when you really haven't, the uncaught cases
will grow exponentially. Maintaining a hidden set of real statistics
and another set for show would require the secret collusion of China's
2 million doctors and 3 million nurses -- the kind of improbable
cooperation that gives conspiracy theories a bad name.
China is slowly and carefully returning to a semblance of normalcy
(Science, 3/29/20). If China is merely pretending to have the
coronavirus under control, the pathogen will rapidly surge as people
resume interacting with their communities. Once international travel
is restored, it will be quite obvious which countries do and don't
have effective management of Covid-19.
How the Trump administration has stood in the way of PPE distribution.
New York is in dire need of ventilators. China just donated 1,000.
Isn't one measure of world power the ability to offer aid to other
nations in time of crisis? This dramatically shows that China can
do things the US cannot. Indeed, the not-so-United States have been
left on their own to beg foreign nations for supplies, while at the
same time locking down exports and imposing sanctions on others
(like Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela). You might argue that this
is less a question of "greatness" than of cultural norms: after all,
the US is built on rugged competition, which often means screwing
your neighbors. Countries like China and Cuba (see
Cuban docs fighting coronavirus around the world, defying US),
with their Communist backgrounds, are used to the idea of
sacrificing oneself for the common good, which gives them a temporary
edge when most people are in dire need. On the other hand, when/if
this blows over, people around the world are likely to look back and
remember who helped and who didn't. The US benefited from a reservoir
of good will built up in the 1940s, maintained long after the US
stopped doing anything to deserve it. Also note:
Patriots plane arrives in Boston carrying critical N95 masks for
medical workers: the masks were imported from China. Also:
Russia sends plane with medical supplies to U.S. for coronavirus
The pandemic's shameless profiteers. Related:
Joe Biden is wasting a crisis.
Paul R Pillar:
The war metaphor and the coronavirus.
Wall Street wins -- again: "Bailouts in the time of coronavirus":
As I wrote in It Takes a Pillage: An Epic Tale of Power, Deceit, and
Untold Trillions, instead of the Fed buying those trillions of dollars
of toxic assets from banks that could no longer sell them anywhere else,
it would have been cheaper to directly cover subprime mortgage payments
for a set period of time. In that way, people might have kept their homes
and the economic fallout would have been largely contained. Thanks to
Washington's predisposition to offer corporate welfare, that didn't
happen -- and it's not happening now either.
Gutting fuel economy standards during a pandemic is peak Trump.
Nathan J Robinson:
Everything has changed overnight: "The Democratic primary is no longer
over. This is a historic crisis requiring nothing less than FDR-style
ambition and leadership. We've got just the guy."
Where is Joe? "Biden has failed completely to show leadership
during a crisis. There is no excuse for it."
Wisconsin's pandemic primary will put voters' lives in danger.
I keep seeing efforts from all over the political spectrum (well, in
the Democratic Party, anyhow) to shame Wisconsin into postponing its
primary election. I, for one, would like to see the election proceed,
if only because the gravity of the crisis makes it even clearer that
political choices have real consequences. Biden has cruised to victory
everywhere since the sudden convergence on Super Tuesday, but has shown
virtually no leadership skills during the crisis, while the importance
of Sanders' program has become even more striking. Wisconsin should be
a good state for Sanders (as it was in 2016), so this could be a pivot
point in the election. Unfortunately, the campaigns have degraded to
such an extent that we'll never know what free debate and unencumbered
participation (real democracy) might reveal. (In fact, 538's polling
Wisconsin show Biden with a solid lead, 51.6% to 36.0%, and
increasing leads in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Georgia.) One point I
do agree with is that we need to figure out how to universally vote
safely by November. Few things are more essential in times like these
Too early or too late?: "On political timing and the pandemic."
Trump says 200,000 Americans could die from coronavirus, because he's
done "a very good job."
The Democratic Party must harness the legitimate rage of Americans.
Otherwise, the right will use it with horrifying results.
David K Shipler:
Welcome to the Fourth World: "How Trump has initiated America's undoing --
and how coronavirus is helping him speed it up."
Israeli election: There was a moment of hope, now it's gone.
Coronavirus shows the need for DC and Puerto Rico statehood.
How the right went far-right: "The media once quarantined neofascists.
Not anymore." Review of Andrew Marantz: Antisocial: Online Extremists,
Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation.
Americans hit by economic shocks as confusion, stumbles undermine
Trump's stimulus effort.
Trump is fighting a war against governors, not the coronavirus.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg/Nicholas Fandos:
From afar, Congress moves to oversee Trump coronavirus response:
"Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she would move to form a special
committee to scrutinize the Trump administration's response, including
how more than $2 trillion in federal relief money is being spent."
Bailing out the bailout: "It will take years to sort through the
details, but Trump's $2 trillion COVID-19 response looks like a
double-down on the last disaster."
Reality has endorsed Bernie Sanders.
When Bernie Sanders's critics mocked his platform as just a bunch of
"free stuff," they were drawing on the past forty years of bipartisan
consensus about social-welfare benefits and entitlements. They have
argued, instead, that competition organized through the market insures
more choices and better quality. In fact, the surreality of market
logic was on clear display when, on March 13th, Donald Trump held a
press conference to discuss the COVID-19 crisis with executives from
Walgreens, Target, Walmart, and CVS, and a host of laboratory, research,
and medical-device corporations. There were no social-service providers
or educators there to discuss the immediate, overwhelming needs of the
The crisis is laying bare the brutality of an economy organized
around production for the sake of profit and not human need. The logic
that the free market knows best can be seen in the prioritization of
affordability in health care as millions careen toward economic ruin.
It is seen in the ways that states have been thrown into frantic
competition with one another for personal protective equipment and
ventilators -- the equipment goes to whichever state can pay the most.
It can be seen in the still criminally slow and inefficient and
inconsistent testing for the virus. It is found in the multi-billion-dollar
bailout of the airline industry, alongside nickel-and-dime means tests
to determine which people might be eligible to receive ridiculously
inadequate public assistance.
Anya van Wagtendonk:
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hospitalized for coronavirus.
Uncle Sam needs to start giving us all free hand sanitizer.
Businesses seem to be able to find supplies, but as far as I can
tell it's impossible for the rest of us to track down sellers --
especially given that shopping around is being discouraged. Same
for face masks, which now have become obligatory outer wear, but
all the focus so far has been on getting them to hospitals (which,
sure, need them even more than we do).
As the numbers of dead and unemployed grow, Trump looks and sounds
Why the Trump administration won't be able to make the stimulus work:
"As the New Deal shows us, it takes expertise, professionalism and skill
to execute massive government programs -- qualities the White House
Li Zhou/Ella Nilsen:
"This one is scarier": Obama-era officials say current economic crisis
is fundamentally different from 2008.