Sunday, April 19, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Covid-19 continues to dominate the news, as it will for months (or maybe years) to come. You can subdivide the pandemic into two essential topics: public health issues, and economic consequences of fighting the pandemic by shutting down a big part of the economy. Unemployment in the US has surged to about 20%, and despite wild talk about reopening businesses, it looks like those numbers have yet to peak -- not least because infections and deaths continue to rise. The US has more deaths than any other country in the world, and the number of deaths has blown past previous markers like the number killed on 9/11 and the larger number of Americans sacrificed in the post-9/11 Bush Wars (sure, Obama and Trump have extended them, but the initial decision rests clearly with GW and his "Vulcans").

A third dimension has started to appear: the struggle for control of the political narrative around the pandemic. The Democratic Party primary campaign has ended with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren endorsing Joe Biden, who won Wisconsin 62.93% to 31.78% over Sanders, and Wyoming 72.18% to 27.82% -- both states that had favored Sanders over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Still, Biden has been all but invisible during the crisis, so virtually all of the political maneuvering has been by Republicans: Trump denies any responsibility for mishandling the crisis, and vows to re-open the economy real soon now; supporting him are the "protesters" who have turned out for various photo-ops demanding an end to state lockdowns. (The Michigan protest has been clearly identified as funded by the De Vos family, and I expect the others will be linked to other billionaire donors. The placards are blatantly tied to Trump, some so extreme you have to doubt it's been officially sanctioned -- although with Trump it could be.)

Some Democrats would like to blame Trump for the whole crisis -- at least one article below refers to the "Trump plague," and many point out various failures to recognize the pandemic early and act decisively to stop or at least mitigate it. I don't see much point in singling Trump out -- I doubt any president would have grasped what was happening much faster or moved much more decisively, as most of the problems I've seen look to me like they have much more systemic roots. Of course, it is fair to note that Trump and his minions have made the system more fragile and inept than it already was. The desire to wring every ounce of profit out of the economy has left us with fragile supply chains and woefully inadequate public support. (I'm surprised not that the "national stockpile" is inadequate but that such a thing exists at all.) Then there's the fact that we don't have universal health care, and that private insurance is tied to employment. And there's a dozen other things, most tied back to a system designed not to do what people need but to make money off those needs, dumping waste as it goes.

What you're welcome to blame Trump for is having a blathering, careless idiot at the helm of the federal government. If you weren't embarrassed by that before, you certainly should be now. He may not be to blame for the economy collapsing, but he's petty enough to want credit for attaching his name to relief checks. He may not be to blame for thousands of people dying, but he still wants credit and praise for . . . well, beats me, but you better be nice to him. I'm not sure when or why the media decided we need to hear from the president every time a news story breaks, but Trump is one president who never has anything enlightening or comforting to say.

Another thing: Laura suggests you watch Vic DiBitetto, the man with a plan.

Also: I've cut way back on links to New York Intelligencer after running into a paywall. I saw my first warning a few weeks back, and decided at that point to stop clicking on articles by Jonathan Chait and Ed Kilgore, as I usually wound up arguing with them anyway. Missing Eric Levitz and Sarah Jones, but still seems pricey for my taste. I cut way back on The Atlantic a few months ago, and Foreign Policy a year or two back (no link handy; as I recall, even more expensive for even less value). At this point, I don't know what I would do if Vox starts to tighten the screws: they're my first go-to each week, and far and away my most valuable source. I should also note that while I don't spend for web access, my wife subscribes to a bunch of things, and I sometimes piggyback on her accounts. She's the true news junkie in the family. Without her, I doubt I'd bother finding any of this.

Some scattered links this week: