The Evening Blues - 3-17-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features New Orleans r&b singer Ernie K-Doe. Enjoy!
Ernie K-Doe - Mother-In-Law
"It’s interesting how the virus which might knock down the most powerful government in the world behaves so much like that government: dominating world affairs and killing the most vulnerable members of the populations it attacks. Nations which are being smashed with US sanctions have already been watching their frail and elderly die of inadequate medical care and malnutrition, and now with the coronavirus they’re experiencing those same exact effects squared. Which is why places like Iran are being hit so uniquely hard. America is like if COVID-19 was a country."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
Here are a some of the nine thoughts:
The US became a superpower after being left intact while competing nations were stuck rebuilding themselves from two devastating world wars, allowing it to surge ahead of the competition. China, as we’ve discussed here many times, has been poised to overtake America as the dominant world power, so it’s possible we’ll see China’s relative success and America’s relative failure on this front dance in a way which gives a significant boost in that direction in the same way the US was given a boost by the world wars. It’s very likely China comes out of this notably further along in its agenda to create a multipolar world than before this all began.
And the US of course realizes this threat, which is why my social media notifications right now are full of propagandized human livestock bleating about China being the Latest Official Bad Guy who I absolutely must believe very bad things about. A dying empire knows it’s going to need to take some drastic, dangerous measures to secure world dominance in the face of a surging contender, and it knows it needs to manufacture consent for those drastic, dangerous measures. Anti-China propaganda has been pouring into mainstream consciousness with more and more aggression lately, first and foremost within right-wing echo chambers but also within mainstream liberal ones – Joe Biden compared the Chinese government to Jack the Ripper just last night.
The result has been rank-and-file westerners beginning to lose their minds about China, which has looked exactly like a right-wing mirror of the Russia hysteria we watched unfold throughout late 2016 and early 2017. I have been encountering far more hysterical anti-China sentiment online than I was even a week or two ago; a poll published at the beginning of this month reports US anti-China sentiment is at a 20-year high, and I’ll wager if they took it again today it would be significantly worse.
People are now constantly shrieking about how authoritarian the Chinese government is, which is stupid, because China has always had an authoritarian government. It hasn’t changed; the only thing that’s changed is the narrative management, with glaring adjustments like the mass media reporting on the Hong Kong protests vastly more than the anti-government demonstrations in US empire-aligned nations like France. All this irrelevant emphasis on where the virus originated isn’t there to protect you from the virus, it’s there to make China look bad. China is no more of a threat to you than it was two years ago; the only thing that’s changed is you’re now being hammered with narratives about how threatening it is. Mass media converging upon a single empire-targeted nation is never a good thing.
Also interesting is watching people react to the way so many of the corporate and government policies which have been causing ordinary human beings to suffer great pains are now simply being canceled all around the world in response to the pandemic. This Slate article documents a number of the changes which have been made just in America, like how for people being thrown in jail for minor offenses, “San Antonio is one of many jurisdictions to announce that, to keep jails from being crowded with sick citizens, they’ll stop doing that. Why were they doing it in the first place?” Or how “Trump has instructed government agencies who administer loans to waive interest accrual for the duration of the crisis. But why on earth is our government charging its own citizens interest anyway?”
We’re seeing immense burdens lifted from people with an easy “Oh, that’s making the pandemic worse? Okay we’ll stop that then.” And we’re seeing people react with fully justified indignation with, “Well why were you doing that to me in the first place??”
And the answer is very simple: because until now, your suffering wasn’t exacerbating a virus which does not discriminate on the basis of class. Politicians and billionaires are just as capable of losing their lives and loved ones to this virus as anyone else, as the CEO of Universal Music Group just learned with his COVID-19 hospitalization. Simply not causing needless human suffering wasn’t enough to get them to stop crushing people; it had to actually show up on their doorstep to make a difference.
Just a few weeks ago, early Bernie Sanders primary victories had media scrambling to turn winning into losing (FAIR.org, 2/24/20) and to find ways to discredit his rise (FAIR.org, 2/28/20, 3/6/20; Slate, 3/6/20). With a sudden turnaround in the race after Super Tuesday that finds Joe Biden in the lead both in polls and delegates, media have been quick to spin the reversal as a rejection of progressive politics.
The Washington Post‘s Eugene Scott (3/12/20) argued that
the losses of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) this week with demographic groups and in states he won in 2016 are prompting questions about whether there ever was as much support for his revolutionary politics as some previously believed…
Michigan’s white working-class voters — many of them men — backing Sanders in 2016 gave the impression that these voters might be more liberal politically on labor issues than they actually were. But in backing Biden on Tuesday, these voters communicated that if given a chance, they are more likely to support the centrist politics of the former vice president than the revolutionary worldview of a democratic socialist in Trump’s America.
New York Times editorial board member Michelle Cottle’s column (3/11/20) was headlined “Democrats Aren’t in the Mood for Your Revolution”:
Another round of Democratic voters registered their presidential preferences on Tuesday, sending a message strikingly similar to the one from Super Tuesday: They are tired of being scared, they are tired of being angry and they are not in the mood for a revolution.
While the argument that a vote for Biden is a rejection of Sanders’ worldview is plausible on its face, it’s simply not supported by the facts. As every pundit knows, votes are a very blunt instrument for communication of policy preferences; a more accurate instrument would be a poll that actually asks them for those preferences. And in fact, we have lots of those—including exit polls from the primaries that asked about the signature difference between Sanders and Biden: “a government plan for all or private health insurance.”
In Michigan, where voters backed Biden over Sanders 53% to 36%, exit polls showed those same voters picked the government plan over private health insurance by a remarkable 57% to 39%. In Texas, which also handed more delegates to Biden, voters supported a government plan by even more (64% to 33%), while even in conservative South Carolina, where Biden received more than twice as many votes as Sanders, private insurance still lost out (49% to 46%). (Note that the polling question used the “government vs. private” formula promoted by the insurance industry—FAIR.org, 7/1/19—rather than the more neutral “public vs. private” or “government vs. corporate.”)
Some pundits acknowledged the polls, but still wouldn’t change their conclusions. The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank (3/3/20) looked at exit polls, but instead of telling readers the numbers, offered his own interpretation of them:
Super Tuesday revealed a party still divided by ideology and demographics. Democrats were split on Medicare for All. As usual, Sanders did well among the very liberal, Biden among moderates. The young voted by a lopsided margin for Sanders, while older voters turned out for Biden.
Those divisions won’t disappear anytime soon, which is all the more reason for Democrats to focus on the one thing they all agree on: beating Trump. The voters just made clear they believe Biden is the one to do that.
Obviously, calling Democrats “split” on Medicare for All is hardly a fair characterization of the exit polls, but a fair characterization would make it harder to argue, as Milbank did, that the solution is to simply ignore the preferences of a majority of Democrats and support Biden without criticism. ...
There were some acknowledgments of the popularity of progressive policy positions. In the LA Times, for instance, a front-page article (3/15/20) was headlined, “Has Sanders Won the Ideological Battle?; Regardless of the Outcome, He Shaped the Policy Contours of This Democratic Race.” Yet even while reporting that “polling backs up Sanders’ claim that voters, particularly Democrats, look favorably on his call for broad policy change,” the conclusion is roughly the same: “Electability, not progressive purity, appears to be the prime motivator for Democratic voters.”
Of course, that raises the question that is almost never answered in such outlets: Why do Democratic voters think Biden is the more electable candidate, even if they like Sanders’ policy positions better? Why, if in head-to-head polling—our best available data on who is “electable”—Sanders has consistently done as well if not better than Biden over the months, have Democrats been convinced to vote against their own preferences?
The pundits appear willfully ignorant of their own role in shaping electability narratives. In the debates, electability was a favorite topic of the journalists doling out questions, and the message (evidence be damned) was clear: Sanders is unelectable. As we reported after studying every debate question prior to Super Tuesday (FAIR.org, 2/29/20), Sanders’ electability was questioned more than four times as often as Biden’s (21 to 5). While Biden’s lackluster campaign performance had prompted much commentary about whether he could win the primaries, the chorus of pundits and “experts” in political coverage counseled that this year, as always, the center is the one and only place for Democrats to find electability (e.g., FAIR.org, 10/25/19).
With Biden’s victory in South Carolina, media doubts about his strength were quickly banished. He walked away with an “earned-media tsunami” of three days of almost entirely exuberant media coverage, worth in the neighborhood of $70 million (Vanity Fair, 3/5/20). By comparison, Sanders, whose massive grassroots fundraising outpaced all of his competitors, spent $50 million in the last three months of 2019 (Politico, 2/20/20).
On one side of the marketplace, it was carnage. As the Hindu mob descended, Muslim-owned stalls selling car parts were slowly reduced to debris and ashes. But just 100 metres away stood two police stations. As the mob attacks came once, then twice and then a third time in this north-east Delhi neighbourhood, desperate stallholders repeatedly ran to Gokalpuri and Dayalpur police stations crying out for help. But each time they found the gates locked from the inside. For three days, no help came. ...
Since the riots broke out in Delhi at the end of February, the worst religious conflict to engulf the capital in decades, questions have persisted about the role that the Delhi police played in enabling the violence, which was predominately Hindu mobs attacking Muslims. Of the 51 people who died, at least three-quarters were Muslim, and many Muslims are still missing.
“During the recent riots in Delhi the role of the police has been very reprehensible,” said SR Darapuri, a retired senior police officer from Uttar Pradesh. “They not only openly sided with the Hindu mobs attacking Muslims but also used brutal force against them. They purposely failed to respond to the SOS calls from the Muslims trapped in many violence-hit areas. Evidently, the role of the police has been communal, unethical and unprofessional.”
Delhi’s police are under the direct control of the ruling Bharatiya Janata party government, specifically the home minister and party president, Amit Shah, who is one of the most fervent advocates of the BJP’s Hindu nationalist agenda, which aims to establish India as a Hindu, rather than secular, nation. As a result, the political agenda of the BJP government of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, which is widely seen as vehemently anti-Muslim, appears to have become firmly entrenched in the mindset of the Delhi police, which is already an overwhelmingly Hindu force.
In the weeks that have followed the riots, the alleged bias of the police has extended to accusations of a cover-up to protect the Hindu rioters and a widespread refusal to file or investigate complaints made by Muslim victims.
Spain’s King Felipe VI has renounced his personal inheritance from his father and stripped the former king Juan Carlos of his annual stipend after it was alleged that Felipe VI was poised to receive millions of euros from a secret offshore fund with ties to Saudi Arabia. The statement issued by Spain’s royal household on Sunday evening came after a report named King Felipe as a beneficiary of an offshore fund set up by his father in 2008. At the time, Juan Carlos was still in power.
The former head of state abdicated in 2014, after a series of scandals sent his popularity plummeting. Juan Carlos, 82, had continued to receive an annual stipend from the state, however, amounting to around €194,000 (£175,000) in 2018.
The alleged offshore account, named as the Lucum Foundation, held around €65m in funds that were described as a “donation” from “the king of Saudi Arabia”, according to the Sunday Telegraph. The account was set up at an office in Panama city and tied to an account with Geneva’s Mirabaud private bank, the report added.
An investigation by Swiss prosecutors into another offshore fund allegedly tied to Juan Carlos, named Fondation Zagatka, sparked calls this month for Spain’s parliament to investigate the business dealings of the former king. The push was rejected by Spain’s Socialists and the two main parties on the right, who argued that any such probe would be unconstitutional.
According to newspaper La Tribune de Genève, prosecutors believe the fund could be linked to kickback payments after the former monarch helped to broker business deals with Saudi Arabia while in power.
How Jair Bolsonaro’s Son, Eduardo, Confirmed His Father’s Positive Coronavirus Test to Fox News, Then Lied About It
On Friday morning, at roughly 9:30 a.m. EST, a columnist with the large Rio de Janeiro newspaper O Dia published an article reporting that sources inside Brazil’s presidential palace had confirmed that the first coronavirus test administered to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro had been returned and indicated the president tested positive for the virus.
In Fox News studios in both New York and Washington, producers, reporters and on-air talent paid rapt attention to this story, in large part because Bolsonaro and his entourage — including a close aide who had already manifested symptoms and tested positive — had met days earlier at Mar-a-Lago with President Donald Trump, key Trump aides (including Vice President Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump), and Fox News’ prime-time anchor Tucker Carlson.
But Fox was unwilling to report something as significant as a positive coronavirus test for the Brazilian president without further confirmation. As a result, according to employees inside Fox News with first-hand knowledge of the episode but who are unauthorized to speak publicly about the matter, they decided they needed first-hand confirmation from either Bolsonaro or one of his three politician-sons. ... Fox spoke directly to Eduardo [Bolsonaro], who, Fox sources insist, stated unequivocally that his father had received the results of his first coronavirus test and it was positive; the president’s son said that they were awaiting the results of a second test. Eduardo and Fox agreed that he would be interviewed about the coronavirus test on-air via Skype at 11:30 a.m. EST. Shortly before the interview, Eduardo again confirmed that his father’s first test was positive for the presence of coronavirus. ...
The Brazilian media had exercised the same caution as Fox, unwilling to report something so momentous based solely on an anonymously-sourced report in O Dia. But once Fox News had reported the news based on Eduardo’s confirmation, they naturally began noting Fox’s report. News of the president’s positive coronavirus test spread quickly online. As soon as that happened, Eduardo went on the offensive with a standard Bolsonaro family tactic: accusing the Brazilian media of maliciously fabricating “Fake News” against his father, a particularly inflammatory accusation where it involved reports of his father’s positive coronavirus test. But when Brazilian media outlets united to make clear that the report was not theirs but Fox News’ — a network beloved by the Bolsonaros and their movement — and that the named source for the story was Eduardo himself, Eduardo had two choices: he could either admit that Fox was telling the truth and that he had confirmed the positive test to them, or he could start accusing Fox News of lying. He chose the latter.
In a series of increasingly unhinged tweets that extended into Saturday morning, Eduardo insisted that he had never told any reporter — including one at Fox — that his father had tested positive for the coronavirus. ... In response to Eduardo’s false accusations that Fox had fabricated their conversations with him, Fox News issued an avalanche of clear and emphatic denunciations. ... But the question of Bolsonaro’s health remains shrouded in mystery. And that mystery is now fueled by his son inadvertently starting a war with a news outlet they trained their followers to worship: Fox News. Eduardo Bolsonaro essentially forced Fox News to prove that the Bolsonaros are liars by accusing the network of fabricating conversations they had with him in which he clearly confirmed his father’s positive test.
With Nation Focused on Coronavirus, Rights Groups Warn Senate Against Handing Trump 'Terrifying' Spy Powers
Ahead of a vote that could take place in the Senate as soon as Monday evening, civil liberties groups and federal lawmakers critical of mass surveillance spoke out against House-approved legislation that would reauthorize "abusive" and "dangerous" U.S. government spying powers that expired Sunday.
The Democrat-held House was widely criticized last week for passing the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act (H.R. 6172), a bipartisan compromise negotiated by leaders in the lower chamber that includes the reauthorization of Section 215 powers that Congress established under the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001, which federal agencies have used to justify the collection of Americans' phone records.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a longtime critic of government spying powers, took to Twitter Monday to speak out against the new bill and note that there is opposition on both sides of the aisle:
I have consistently voted against the unconstitutional surveillance of Americans under the Patriot Act.
Today's bill does not do nearly enough to rein in out-of-control spying powers.
I stand with my Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle who demand stronger reforms. https://t.co/OGEfoYTgJc
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 16, 2020
As public concern over the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continued to mount, civil liberties advocates expressed alarm that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could push through the reauthorization bill with limited scrutiny.
Sandra Fulton, government relations director for Free Press Action, wrote for Common Dreams Monday that "opposition to this legislation is gaining momentum, which is why McConnell is pushing so aggressively for a vote today while so much of the nation is focused on the coronavirus crisis."
I’ve spent two decades studying the transformations that take place under the cover of disaster. I’ve learned that one thing we can count on is this: During moments of cataclysmic change, the previously unthinkable suddenly becomes reality. In recent decades, that change has mainly been for the worst — but this has not always been the case. And it need not continue to be in the future.
This video is about the ways the still-unfolding Covid-19 crisis is already remaking our sense of the possible.
Wow, guns and ammo are selling like toilet paper.
Sales of guns and ammunition are soaring across the US as fears of possible social unrest amid the coronavirus crisis are prompting some Americans to turn to firearms as a form of self-protection.
On the west coast, long lines of customers were queueing up outside gun stores to stock up on deadly materials. At the Martin B Retting gun shop in Culver City, California, the queues stretched round the block throughout the weekend.
One customer told the LA Times: “Politicians and anti-gun people have been telling us for the longest time that we don’t need guns. But right now, a lot of people are truly scared, and they can make that decision themselves.”
Larry Hyatt, owner of one of the country’s largest gun shops, Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, North Carolina, told the Guardian that the scenes of mass buying at his store were virtually unprecedented. “This is only the second time in my 61 years of business that we’ve seen anything like this,” he said, adding that the first occasion was the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut in 2012. ...
A major online dealer of ammunition, Ammo.com, has put out figures for sales from 23 February to 4 March that give an indication of the scale of the surge. In that 11-day period sales increased 68% compared to the 11 days up to 23 February. Sales were especially pronounced in North Carolina and Georgia, which experienced a leap of 179% and 169% respectively. Other states with large increases included Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida, Illinois and New York.
Subdued into realism, Donald Trump has warned that social upheaval caused by the coronavirus outbreak could last beyond August.
The US president, who previously claimed the virus would soon disappear “like a miracle”, struck a less bombastic tone on Monday and sought to manage expectations when asked how long “the new normal” will be in place.
“We’ll see what happens but they think August, could be July,” Trump told reporters at the White House, “Could be longer than that.” He added: “I’ve spoken actually with my son. He said: ‘How bad is this?’ It’s bad. It’s bad.”
On another day of nationwide upheaval and tumbling stocks, with US confirmed cases of coronavirus surpassing 4,000, Trump unveiled aggressive new guidelines for the next 15 days in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.
He urged Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and said citizens should avoid discretionary travel and not go to bars, restaurants, food courts or gyms. Older people are asked to stay at home.
The news that Donald Trump has sought to buy up the exclusive rights to a promising Covid-19 vaccine from a German biotech firm has been greeted with anger. During a global crisis, when all of humanity is at risk, our sense of fairness – and our own self-interest – makes this shameless attempt to buy the right to life (with little regard for those it excludes) seem immoral.
But this is about more than just Trump. Coronavirus should give us pause to reflect upon whether the pharmaceutical industry, and the monopolies that drive its profits, should continue to control which medicines will be developed, and who will get to access them.
Profit is what drives decision-making in the pharmaceuticals industry. It’s why we don’t have drugs to treat diseases such as tuberculosis, which kill millions of the world’s poor every year – and it’s also why we aren’t closer to finding a vaccine for Covid-19. This isn’t the first coronavirus to threaten the world, after all. Researchers had a promising candidate to treat viruses like Sars and coronavirus in 2016, but with little money to be made, they instead focused their efforts on more lucrative lines of business. ...
As companies are starting to see the potential for profit in Covid-19, investment has grown; like almost every drug brought to market, the public sector will play a critical role in funding almost every candidate vaccine and treatment. But there is a huge risk that without government intervention, any vaccine for coronavirus will be priced so steeply that only rich countries will be able to afford it. ...
If coronavirus teaches us anything, it should be to reject the selfish Trumpian response to this crisis, and embrace a pharmaceutical model that is driven by public interest, and which rewards the creation of universally accessible treatments. In the face of a pandemic, rampant profiteering and national exceptionalism are transparently unacceptable.
What is the world coming to when the New York Fed can’t mix up $1 trillion of almost-free money in its punch bowl and get the mega Wall Street banks to drink freely?
The New York Fed handed out $129.60 billion this morning at an average interest rate of 0.112. That was for a one-day loan to one or more of Wall Street’s trading firms. The specific names of which firms are doing the borrowing are a closely-guarded secret at the Fed – just as they were during the financial crisis in 2008 until media lawsuits and a legislative amendment forced the banks’ names out into the open. All that the public is allowed to know today is that any of the Fed’s 24 primary dealers (Wall Street trading houses) are allowed to borrow from the facility.
The New York Fed also offered $500 billion in a 28-day loan this morning and, stunningly, it only had offers for $18.45 billion of the $500 billion, which was loaned at an average interest rate of 0.151 percent.
Despite that poor showing at its money spigot party this morning, the New York Fed made a surprise announcement and said it was throwing another money giveaway of $500 billion at 1:30 p.m. today. Again, only takers for $19.40 billion of the $500 billion showed up. The loans were made at the incredibly low average interest rate of 0.102 percent.
There was this same lack of demand last Thursday and Friday when the Fed tried to give away, almost for free, $1.5 trillion over the two-day span.
US airlines are seeking a $50bn bailout as the industry staggers in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Airlines for America, which represents major carriers including American Airlines, Delta and United, is calling for immediate relief in the form of direct aid and loan guarantees.
“This is a today problem, not a tomorrow problem. It requires urgent action,” said Airlines for America president Nicholas Calio.
The Trump administration has already signaled a willingness to come to the aid of some of the industries that have so far been hardest hit by the virus, including the airlines. If the package was granted it would be the largest industry bailout since the government interventions after the 2008 financial crisis and the airlines’ first broad bailout since September 11, 2001’s terrorist attacks.
Public Health Experts: Single-Payer Systems Coping With Coronavirus More Effectively Than For-Profit Model
As the coronavirus pandemic places extraordinary strain on national healthcare systems around the world, public health experts are making the case that countries with universal single-payer systems have thus far responded more efficiently and effectively to the outbreak than nations like the United States, whose fragmented for-profit apparatus has struggled to cope with the growing crisis.
"It is too soon to see definite outcomes among competing healthcare systems. But even in this early phase, public health experts say the single-payer, state-run systems are proving themselves relatively robust," the Washington Post reported Sunday. "Unlike the United States, where a top health official told Congress the rollout of testing was 'failing' and where Congress is only now moving through a bill that includes free testing, the single-payer countries have been especially nimble at making free, or low-cost, virus screening widely available for patients with coughs and fevers."
While the Trump administration only recently took steps to massively expand COVID-19 testing—sparking concerns that the outbreak in the U.S. is far more severe than official numbers suggest—countries with forms of single-payer healthcare like South Korea and Denmark have for weeks been offering "drive-through" testing and other innovative mechanisms, allowing them to quickly test hundreds of thousands of their citizens and respond accordingly.
"Unhampered government intervention into the healthcare sector is an advantage when the virus is spreading fast across the country," said Choi Jae-wook, a professor of preventive medicine at Korea University in Seoul.
South Korea has done more than just "flatten the curve" of new Covid-19 infections. It bought the curve down through:
- Aggressive testing (20,000 tests daily, "drive through" testing)/isolation
- School holiday extended
- Government advice to stay inside
- large events cancelled pic.twitter.com/MGzuX9Oc6w
— Tom Hancock (@hancocktom) March 13, 2020
Jorgen Kurtzhals, the head of the University of Copenhagen medical school, told the Post that the strength of Denmark's single-payer system is that it has "a lot of really highly educated and well-trained staff, and given some quite un-detailed instructions, they can actually develop plans for an extremely rapid response."
"We don't have to worry too much about whether this response or that response demands specific payments here and there," said Kurtzhals said. "We are aware that there will be huge expenditure within the system. But we're not too concerned about it because we have a direct line of communication from the national government to the regional government to the hospital directors."
None of which is to say that countries with forms of single-payer healthcare or nationalized systems are flawlessly handling the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected at least 173,000 people and killed more than 6,000 worldwide.
Britain's National Health Service (NHS), following years of austerity imposed by Conservative governments, is facing staff and supply shortages as hospitals are being overwhelmed with patients. Canada, like the U.K., is struggling with a shortage of ventilators.
But Helen Buckingham, director of strategy and operations at the London-based Nuffield Trust think tank, told the Post that the NHS is in a relatively good position to cope with COVID-19 because it has "a very clear emergency planning structure."
Additionally, Buckingham noted, "there is no need for people to worry about the tests or vaccine or cost of care if people become ill." ...
During the Democratic presidential primary debate Sunday night in Washington, D.C., former Vice President Joe Biden cited Italy's struggles to contain COVID-19 as evidence that the Medicare for All system advocated by rival candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would not be effective in a pandemic. Italy has been the hardest-hit country outside China with nearly 25,000 cases of the novel coronavirus.
"With all due respect for Medicare for All, you have a single-payer system in Italy," said Biden. "It doesn't work there."
Critics were quick to take issue with Biden's talking point. "[Single-payer] isn't the reason Italy is having problems," tweeted HuffPost healthcare reporter Jonathan Cohn. "Italy's problem is health system capacity. Independent of health system design."
This is the dumbest point. No, single payer does not solve the problem of pandemics. But it definitely solves the problem of thousands and thousands of people going bankrupt because there's a pandemic. It solves the problem of people not seeking out care for fear of bankruptcy. https://t.co/L2Cx2VJGZj
— Jill Filipovic (@JillFilipovic) March 16, 2020
Dr. David Himmelstein, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program and distinguished professor of public health at the City University of New York at Hunter College, said in a statement Sunday night that the "fragmented system" in the United States "leaves public health separate and disconnected from medical care, and provides no mechanism to appropriately balance funding priorities."
"As a result, public health accounts for less than 3 percent of overall health expenditures, a percentage that has been falling for decades, and is about half the proportion in Canada or the U.K.," said Himmselstein. "One result is that state and local health departments that are the front lines in dealing with epidemics have lost 50,000 position since 2008 due to budget cuts."
Pelosi's Coronavirus Compromise Has Left Even Tom Cotton Saying This Bill 'Doesn't Go Far Enough and Fast Enough'
Progressives and political journalists were not the only observers pointing out glaring weaknesses in the coronavirus relief bill pushed by House Democrats—as the U.S. Senate took up the legislation, at least two Senate Republicans said publicly that bolder initiatives offering direct assistance to Americans during the pandemic should be included in a relief package.
"Every American adult should immediately receive $1,000 to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy," Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Monday.
Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton also said House Democrats were insufficiently ambitious in their plan to assist Americans, officially called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
The bill includes free coronavirus testing for all Americans, strengthened nutritional assistance and unemployment programs, and paid sick leave—but leaves millions of Americans out of the latter provision, allowing large companies employing more than 500 people to forgo paid sick leave for workers.
"The House relief bill doesn't go far enough and fast enough," Cotton tweeted. "We're going to do everything we can to get cash into the hands of affected workers and families as quickly as possible so we can all get through this pandemic together." ...
Journalist Adam Johnson of The Appeal viewed Romney's and Cotton's calls for more far-reaching assistance with skepticism and denounced Pelosi for giving Republicans the opportunity to cast themselves as being firmly on the side of working Americans.
"They're obviously cynical phonies but this is what happens when the most powerful Democrat in the country is a conservative deficit scold who constantly nickel and dimes emergency relief bills during a mass crisis," Johnson tweeted.
— ryan cooper (@ryanlcooper) March 16, 2020
Worth a full read, there's far more than can be fairly abstracted, including a demonstration of CAP and Neera Tanden's utter idiocy in the face of a pandemic.
On Monday afternoon, Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine recommended the state should not go forward with in-person voting on Tuesday in accordance with CDC guidelines.
.@GovMikeDeWine announces in-person voting cannot go ahead in Ohio Tuesday as planned.
"We cannot conduct this election tomorrow, the in-person voting for 13 hours tomorrow and conform to [CDC] guidelines," he says.
— Rebecca Kaplan (@RebeccaRKaplan) March 16, 2020
But DeWine’s recommendation was struck down by a judge hours later. Unless it is appealed, Ohio voting will be ordered ahead as planned, likely setting the stage for confusion tomorrow. According to local reports, the judge cited his own lack of authority on the matter: “There are too many factors to balance in this uncharted territory to say that we ought to take it away from the legislature and elected statewide officials, and throw it to a common pleas court judge in Columbus,” said the judge. He also noted that absentee ballots have been available for a month, and we’ve known about the novel coronavirus since January. (CDC restrictions on gatherings of more than 50 were put in place on Sunday.)
The move follows days of pressure for the four states scheduled to vote on Tuesday — Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio — to postpone their primaries. In an open letter, more than 1,600 people, including 100 medical professionals, called for the next round of presidential primaries to be postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic. All of the four states scheduled to vote on Tuesday have declared a state of emergency in response to the outbreak. The decision to hold both the Democratic and Republican primary elections — which have closed down schools, restaurants, and bars to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus — could exponentially grow the amount of cases and death toll. In Arizona, the state Republican Party decided months ago not to hold a presidential primary.
The letter, which is addressed to the Democratic National Committee and the secretaries of state for the four states, calls for those states to push their primaries to May. ... A DNC spokesperson said that the party does not control whether the primaries go forward on Tuesday, and that the decision lies with the states themselves.
As states scrambled to conduct primary elections this week while discouraging citizens from gathering in large groups in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Senate Democrats and election experts pressed Congress to act immediately on legislation to ensure that voters in all 50 states will be able to cast ballots by mail or vote early in the general election if the public health emergency lasts into November.
That is particularly urgent because, as Marc Elias, a lawyer who represents the Democratic Party on voting rights issues, explains, while states can set their own primary days, “the federal general election is set by federal statute as the the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. This date cannot be changed by a state nor by the President.”
Democratic senators Ron Wyden, of Oregon, and Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, introduced legislation on Monday that would require all states to offer an option for voters to mail in or drop off hand-marked paper ballots if 25 percent of the states have declared a state of emergency related to an infectious disease, like Covid-19, or a natural disaster. ...
If enacted, the new law would force 16 states that still have restrictions on who can request an absentee ballot to remove them. ...
Wyden and Klobuchar’s bill includes $500 million in federal funding to cover the cost of providing prepaid envelopes to voters and to for states to purchase high-speed scanners to quickly count tens of millions of absentee ballots.
Biden Adviser Compares Sanders at Debate to the 'Kind of Protester Who Often Shows Up at Campaign Events'
Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, faced a bevy of criticism after saying Sunday night that Sen. Bernie Sanders behaved like the "kind of protester who often shows up at campaign events" during the 11th Democratic presidential debate.
Similar versions of Dunn's remark from a post-debate call with journalists were reported by Janet Hook at the Los Angeles Times, Ken Thomas at the Wall Street Journal, and Natasha Korecki of Politico. Dunn said Biden dealt with the Vermont senator "graciously."
Biden sr. adv. Anita Dunn on post-debate call, "I think it’s fair to say that Vice President Biden showed up to a debate tonight and for two hours graciously dealt with the kind of protester who often shows up at campaign events on live television.”
— Ken Thomas (@KThomasDC) March 16, 2020
Sanders surrogates, political commentators, and some journalists charged that Dunn's comment exposed how Biden's supporters regard activists challenging the vice president's record as well as voters and politicians in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
As Jeet Heer, national affairs correspondent at The Nation, put it: "The Biden people have nothing but contempt for the progressive wing of the party." ...
Dunn's comment also came in the wake of activists with various groups interrupting a Biden rally in Detroit last week to call out the former vice president for supporting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and pressure him to fully embrace the Green New Deal. Biden said of the protesters, "The Bernie bros are here!"
In response to Dunn's comment Sunday, author and activist Naomi Klein, a Sanders surrogate, said: "Let this sink in. Understand that all of us in the Sanders campaign are seen as nothing but trespassers on their party property and they absolutely cannot wait to call the cops."
When Democratic establishment figures spend a couple weeks condescendingly pretending to like and respect Sanders and his voters, remember what they really think of you: https://t.co/dHpYCG0AAN
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 16, 2020
Ryan Grim, The Intercept's D.C. bureau chief, also suggested the comment could have consequences for the vice president at the ballot box. "What could motivate a Biden adviser to say something like this?" said Grim. "Shouldn't this level of contempt be kept to dinner parties and green rooms?"
The coronavirus pandemic gave China something it hasn’t seen in years: bright, blue, smog-free skies.
That’s about to change.
The country is already planning to relax environmental rules to allow Chinese factories idled during the epidemic to get back up to speed. The Chinese government is signaling that addressing pollution won’t be a top priority. The government insists that environment standards remain in place — they just won’t be enforced as aggressively.
“The environmental supervision should be adjusted in accordance with practical needs and social economic situation,” said Cao Liping, director of Ecological and Environmental Enforcement bureau at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, at a press briefing last week.
Experts have been warning that the virus could lead to an increase in pollution after the pandemic passes as countries try to make up for losses from production slowdowns during the pandemic.
President Trump said Friday that the U.S. would purchase "large quantities" of crude oil in order to help the industry, which has been hit by sinking prices this week.
"Based on the price of oil, I’ve also instructed the Secretary of Energy to purchase, at a very good price, large quantities of crude oil for storage in the U.S. Strategic Reserve," he said during a Friday appearance in the Rose Garden to discuss the coronavirus. "We're going to fill it right up to the top."
An Energy Department official told The Hill in an email that the strategic reserve has the capacity to store up to 77 million additional barrels of crude oil.
As of Friday afternoon, American oil prices appeared to be slightly over $33 per barrel. If the U.S. were to purchase the full 77 million barrels to fill the strategic reserve at $33 per barrel, it would cost more than $2.5 billion.
Trump said that the move would assist the U.S. oil industry and help the country achieve energy independence.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Ernie K-Doe - Make You Love Me
Ernie K Doe - Dancin' Man
Ernie K-Doe - Waiting At The Station
Ernie K-Doe - The Fight
Ernie K Doe - Little Marie
Ernie K Doe - Te Ta Te Ta Ta
Ernie K Doe - Popeye Joe
Ernie K-Doe - A Certain Girl
Ernie K. Doe - Later For Tomorrow
Ernie K. Doe - Crazy 'Bout Your Rock
Ernie K-doe - Love Me Like I Wanta