Tag Archives: pandemic

michael lewis’ “the premonition.”

Michal Lewis’ new book “The Premonition” couldn’t be more newsworthy.  Through the stories of three individuals who worked in the public health system, Lewis makes plain just how we ended up with a dysfunctional CDC at a time of a global pandemic.

In an interview with Nicolle Wallace of MSNBC (5/12/21) Lewis notes that we should question whether any of our government is best run by political appointees.  The CDC went from an institution run by experts to a home for those who needed to be politically rewarded.

Lewis also notes that there are characteristics of our economic system that made us unable to respond adequately to a crisis, in this case the pandemic, but the problems would be there in any crisis.   

Lewis notes that the for-profit system is so entrenched in the society that we are unable to avail ourselves of solutions even when they present themselves unless they exist within the for-profit world. 

He tells a story of a non-profit testing lab. When the owners of the lab saw that the CDC was not going to be able to adequately test people for COVID, it developed its own test and tried to give it away for free.  But, accepting a free testing service was problematic for some.  In one case, the agency approached could not use the free testing because its computer system could not accept any entry that had a $0 for the price. 

The testing lab went to San Quentin prison and warned them that if no testing was done in such a confined institution, the result was likely to be a disaster.  Those in charge initially accepted the testing but then quickly backed out.  When asked why, those in charge explained that they already had established contracts with big testing labs and they were afraid that accepting another test would infringe on their contracts or at the very least, make the big testing firms angry.

The testing provided by the big labs was more cumbersome and took more time.  The result, prisoners were transferred into the facility with COVID and twenty people died.  Twenty people died needlessly because the big labs needed to make money off their monopoly control over testing at San Quentin. 

As Lewis points out there are risks in the social environment that only the government can manage.  If we hollow out the ability of the state to manage these risks we do so at our own peril.  People like Ted Cruz may be able to fly off to another country and stay in a sealed community, but the rest of us can’t. 

Lewis also notes that the entire structure of incentives for health care is defective.  There are, for example, no incentives for preventive medicine. 

putting “profit before candor.” Freespeech TV

Richard Wolff, Economic Update

The corporate news media is a vast wasteland, a mental fidget-spinner of trite nonsense.  It’s purpose, as far as I can tell, is to keep the lid on, to convince the population that the “institutions are holding,” and to stupify the public into believing that nothing is really wrong. 

There is the endlessly repeated both-sidesism enmeshed in the discussion of every topic.  Tonight, for example, in covering the allegations that DeSantis, Governor of Florida, participated in making it possible for rich campaign donors to skip the line on vaccines, Ari Melber felt it was necessary to show photographs of Cuomo and note for the audience that the show also covered Democrats who were accused of wrongdoing.   

And, there are the jokes, the uplifting People Magazine stories, the fashioning of narrative to make heroes out of every person who just behaves with normal human decency.

Essentially, the corporate news media is a waste of time. 

But, there are other places to go for news.  There are more podcasts than one person can listen to in a lifetime, and there are a few TV channels.  Freespeech TV is one of them. 

Richard Wolff hosts a program called Economic Update.  There are no guests, no video clips, no commercials. The program is adult news, discussion.

These are notes on the episode from 3/3/21

History Lessons on Capitalism’s Failures  

•            Even if you argue that the present economic system works in normal times, it certainly has not worked in a crisis like the pandemic.

•            Freemarket capitalism produced no warehouses of supplies (masks, ventilators) waiting to be distributed .  There were no facilities in population centers stocked with testing equipment.  There was no plan for dealing with the dislocations that a pandemic would cause. There’s no money, no profit in it.

•            Private enterprise isn’t going to provide a plan or products, or logistics for dealing with a pandemic before it happens. Only government can do that.

•            The signs the system isn’t up to the job of dealing with a crisis are everywhere.  Take, for example rising food prices.  The evidence is that globally food prices are increasing.  Private enterprise is not going to function to ensure the distribution of food in a pandemic.  Secondly, under the current system of capitalism, the eviction crisis will only exacerbate the pandemic problem.  In a pandemic people need to stay at home, but with evictions uncontrolled by the government, that’s exactly what we will not get.  Thirdly, only 5% of private schools are having internet learning due to the pandemic.  Private schools can afford to take measures to ensure safety.  They can have smaller classes, move people to other buildings.  65% of public schools, however, are not meeting students.  They are forced into distance learning.  The students on the bottom of the economic scale are taking the hit of the pandemic.

•            As Richard Wolff notes, the problems are so evident that the question is really: “Why are there people not understanding this still?” 

•            Wolff goes on to discuss the settlement of a criminal case against Boeing in which the company that makes most of the planes we travel in, was allowed to pay its way out of criminal prosecution for  $2.5 billion dollars.  Boeing, the settlement said, lied and put “profit before candor.”   But, in a capitalist society, profit is put before everything.  The people who run Boeing make careers from profit, not from candor. 

Economic Update, FSTV, is well worth your time. 

no federal pandamic plan, mcconnell packing the courts and other morning delights

MORNING RUNDOWN

•       At the beginning of the pandemic, because of the total lack of a federal plan to deal with the problem, New York spent $1.1 billion for supplies to deal with the crisis.  According to the New York Times (NYT) Both the state and city governments entered into contracts rushing to try to deal with the pandemic.  Now they are trying to avoid paying vendors who they say didn’t deliver on time, and making void contracts now that the crisis has abated.  The New York Times called the behavior a “frantic buying spree.”  But, this buying “spree” was the result of the lack of a federal plan and the decision to allow states to bid against each other for emergency supplies. (See NYT, 12/17/20)

•       Several health care workers in Alaska have had severe reactions to the new vaccine.  There is no coverage of the idea that rational people may be reluctant to have a vaccine because it was developed under the Trump administration.  There are almost weekly stories about the Trump administration’s successful influence over the CDC.  The corporate media is filled with stories about how black people and reluctance to get the vaccine.  To give you an idea of how in touch these corporate media people are, one commentator noted that black people were reluctant to get the vaccine because of the Tuskeegee “airmen.”    (NYT, 12/17/20)

•       The Judiciary is time bomb waiting to explode. (NYT, 12/17/20)   The NYT reviewed more than 10,000 published decisions and dissents during the first three years of the Trump administration.  Trump appointees were “more likely…to disagree with peers selected by Democrats…” and “more likely to agree with their Republican colleagues.”  The “published opinions from the nations’ appeals courts this year show that Trump appointees stand out from other judges…”  The “conservative imprint” is only deepening.  One of the reasons we managed to escape another Trump term is the federal judiciary.  But, that is the reason Mitch McConnell is packing the federal courts with “right-thinking” judges.  Next time, these judges may side with even the most outrageous lawsuits to maintain the power of the Republican party.  McConnell has encouraged federal judges to retire to make room for these more radical colleagues. (NYT, 12/17/20)

•       The new version of the stimulus bill doesn’t include the get out of jail fee card for corporations wanted by McConnell (NYT 12/17/20)

Flailing States: Reaction to the Pandemic: Pankaj Mishra

pankajmishra

Pankaj Mishra · Flailing States: Anglo-America Loses its Grip · London Review of Books, 16 July 2020

‘The abyss of history​ is deep enough to hold us all,’ Paul Valéry wrote in 1919, as Europe lay in ruins. The words resonate today as the coronavirus blows the roof off the world, most brutally exposing Britain and the United States, these prime movers of modern civilisation, which proudly claimed victory in two world wars, and in the Cold War, and which until recently held themselves up as exemplars of enlightened progress, economic and cultural models to be imitated across the globe.

‘The true test of a good government,’ Alexander Hamilton wrote, ‘is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.’ It is a test the United States and Britain have failed ruinously during the current crisis. Both countries had weeks of warnings about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan; strategies deployed by nations that responded early, such as South Korea and Taiwan, could have been adapted and implemented. But Donald Trump and Boris Johnson chose instead to claim immunity. ‘I think it’s going to work out fine,’ Trump announced on 19 February. On 3 March, the day the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies warned against shaking hands, Johnson boasted after a visit to a hospital treating coronavirus patients: ‘I shook hands with everybody, you will be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands.’

The Corporate Media: Who Knew? Why Didn’t Hillary Clinton Warn us While We Were Partying with Trump?

morning joe in pajamas

From Cat Woman on Democraticunderground.com:

Astonished by a president who has deliberately made every wrong move when faced with a crippling pandemic, and who refuses to change course as the carnage mounts, media players continue to express shock at Trump’s behavior. Insisting it was impossible to tell in 2016 that Trump’s irrational and erratic behavior would create so much death and destruction, the preferred talking point for many is that nobody could’ve have predicted Trump’s presidency would be this horrific.

It’s extraordinary for media professionals who covered the 2016 campaign to now express wonderment at the predictably tragic consequences of Trump’s victory. But the denial remains firm. On Friday, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski went one step further. Not only did she insist Trump’s monstrous, psychopathic behavior was unknowable, she specifically called out Hillary Clinton for failing to warn us in 2016.

“We have learned he has no balance, that he was way worse than anybody thought he would ever be,” Brzezinski said, referring to Trump’s corruption and lawbreaking. “We never though that we’d be seeing this. Nobody did. And it’s not just us. It’s Hillary Clinton, who went to parties with him.”

This is the definition of gaslighting — the purposeful erasing of history. In this case, it’s Brzezinski trying to erase the central role she played in that history. Insisting Clinton didn’t know about Trump’s dangerous ways or warn us four years ago is categorically false. (She called him “dangerously incoherent.” The reason Brzezinski might have missed Clinton’s warnings was because she was relentlessly bashing Clinton during the campaign, while propping up Trump’s run.

The fact remains that the press was central to Trump’s victory, as they often treated him like a celebrity and ceaselessly attacked his opponent — a stunning media double standard. Yet to this day, most major players have refused to acknowledge their role in creating the careening Trump presidency. And some like Brzezinski want to disappear their role, while blaming Clinton in the process.

Note: I would like to add that Brzezinski and Scarborough were partying with Trump after the 2016 election.  They broke with him because he outed their adulterous affair.  They gave him tons of free air time.  In the lead up to the 2016 election, Trump was on Morning Joe every morning via phone.

 

Alternative Media: Trump Watch Podcast

268x0w

As the corporate media becomes more and more useless in covering the Trump/Republican administration and the coronavirus crisis, we must seek alternative sources of news.

Try the “Trump Watch” Podcast.

In the April 16 episode, they do an interview with John Nichols from the Nation Magazine about the attempt by the Republicans to control voting in Wisconsin in order to assure the election of their hand-picked Supreme Court Judge.  They failed, but only because people came out with home-made masks and stood in lines for hours to vote against the Republicans.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the corporate media had covered this win for regular people in Wisconsin?  Wouldn’t it be nice if the corporate media actually talked about the attempt by Republicans, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, to thwart democracy and manipulate the voting process?

They won’t do it and we have to go elsewhere for our news.  The corporate media has ceased to cover any international news at all.  They are obsessed with interviewing everybody in the country about the minutiae of the Coronavirus issue.  They are obsessed with covering every minute of Trump’s propaganda sessions every afternoon and then talking endlessly about what he says.  They are obsessed with providing us inspirational stories about the “heroes” of the crisis and informing us of how we can entertain ourselves while staying at home as if we were children.

The Trump Watch podcast, starts every episode by saying that they cover what Trump DOES not just what he TWEETS.

The Republicans are using the Coronavirus to install a Christo-fascist one-party authoritarian state.  While the press is asking Trump is it is a good idea for Americans to congregate on the mall in Washington, D.C., the Republicans are stealing us blind.  After this is over, they will tell us we can’t afford Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Head Start…because of the pandemic, not because they robbed us blind and gave the money to their buddies.

I would love to hear of other podcasts you find useful and any comments you might have.

Trump Watch Podcast

 

“…companies with political connections…”

THE BIGGEST CLASS THEFT IN THE HISTORY OF THE COUNTRY

The New York Times is reporting today that a doctor, Dr. Rick Bright , who was Director of the Department of Health and Human Services Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, was removed from his position because he insisted on rigorous vetting of treatments for the Coronavirus, specifically those touted by the Trump administration.

Bright led a federal agency involved in developing a vaccine for the Coronavirus.  He was abruptly dismissed.  He commented in a statement to the NYT:

“I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit.”

Bright maintains that doing his job responsibly caused clashes with “HHS political leadership.”  He was, according to his statements, criticized for his “proactive efforts to invest early into vaccines and supplies critical to saving American lives.”  He also, “…resisted efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections.”

Bright was talking about efforts to make chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, which, he said “clearly lack scientific merit.”

One of the risks, Bright pointed out of these drugs in clinical trials, was “increased mortality.”  That means the drugs are likely to kill you.

The political people have “politicized the work of BARDA” he says and  pressured him to “fund companies with political connections and efforts that lack scientific merit.”

This is where we are folks.  This Coronavirus effort on the part of the Republican Party and the Trump administration is just one huge feeding frenzy, a free-for-all of profiteering.  This is one point of corruption among countless others across the system where the con artists and grifters Trump and the Republicans have put in place are having the time of their financial lives.

The real question is whether we are going to let them get away with it.  trump pointing finger

Head-on conflict with the self-interest of concentrated private capital

joe biden

The corporate media is a complete waste of time.  They failed us in 2016 and they are spectacularly failing us now.  We must turn to other news sources.  These are excerpts from The Nation Magazine.

Grey, Rohan, Nation Manazine, April 20/27 2020).

Biden indicated that as president, he would veto Medicare for All legislation because of concern over the price tag.  “Biden has been a deficit hawk his entire career.  As a Senator, he broke with his party to support a Repubican-sponsored balanced budget amendment, and as vice president he spearheaded efforts to achieve a bipartisan deficit reduction deal that included cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”

“In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, the Obama administration allowed millions to lose their homes in order to “foam the runways” for the banking system, while the Republicans cynically weaponized deficit and debt hysteria in order to deny the Democrats the political credit of a more successful recovery.”

“…much of the suffering attributable to this pandemic will not come from people directly contracting the virus, but from our collective failure to provide adequate care and support to the elderly, the physically vulnerable, the poor, and people in less fortunate countries during their hour of need. The virus itself may be a novel twist, but the broader story is regrettably all too familiar.”

Biden, in the debates, “…acknowledged that upon entering office in 2009, he and President Obama were informed by the Department of Defense that climate change was the single greatest threat to American national security—a point Sanders has been making for years. However, when the moderators pointed out that his climate plan was $14 trillion less than Bernie’s, he retreated into defensive bluster and nostalgic promises to restore the 2016 Paris Agreement. Gone was the sense of existential urgency and ambition that had animated his earlier remarks about the coronavirus.

“…whatever it takes means embracing the inevitability of a head-on conflict with the self-interest of concentrated private capital. A few months ago, it would have sounded extreme to propose placing Amazon, Walmart, Netflix, Uber, and American Airlines under public ownership. But today the socially contingent nature of these corporate behemoths—from their financial engine, to their workforce, to the goods and services they provide—has been laid bare. If luxury perfume companies like Christian Dior and Givenchy can be repurposed to make hand sanitizer to save lives, surely we can consider the same for the companies responsible for essential basic staples such as food, ventilators, and toilet paper. We want clean hands. But we also want bread, roses, and the means to wipe our asses.”