“The number of slaughterhouse workers is on par with the number of U.S. servicemembers who have over the last five years. Military personnel risking their lives to fight terrorism is one thing. How did the president arrive at the absurdity of requiring civilians to risk their lives for the sake of a particular food?”
“I never had a right to do something that could injure the health of my neighbors.”
— Wendy E. Parmet, director of the Center for Health Policy and Law at Northeastern University
Modern Conservatism: “one of man’s oldest, best financed, most applauded, and, on the whole, least successful exercises in moral philosophy. That is, the search for a truly superior moral justification for selfishness.”
— John Kenneth Galbraith 1963
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (5/18/20)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Freedom and individualism – American conservative mythology. It is GOP political fiction that has the US with 4% of the world’s population and one-third of the confirmed COVID-19 cases (over 1.5 million) and close to one-third of the deaths (now over 90,000). Trump does not lead, he lies and blames but it works for him because he plays into a GOP/Trumpster mythology about the rugged white male standing resolute for freedom and justice though the news is constantly filled with stories of the opposite.
It is a tangent, but consider that the US is #1 in reported cases while Russia has steamed ahead to now be #2 with almost 300,000 confirmed cases. Two authoritarians – one has to rely on populism and manipulation of public opinion; the other that has more ‘freedom’ to operate. Trump has to ‘assassinate’ the reputation of whistleblowers to bury the truth. Most recently,was the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority Dr. Rick Bright. Russian President Vladimir Putin operates with doctors mysteriously falling out windows.
Trump is not the entirety of the problem. The GOP is a brand that has been morphing over the past 60 years. Consider the Galbraith quote above. The New Yorker article the quote came from charts history and offers insight into the Trumpster brand and unlikely constituent blend of billionaires and white working class. The article relates history through a lens of Greenwich, Connecticut, long a bedroom community for the rich corporate captains of Wall Street and corporate America. The wealth in this corner of Connecticut so great the state government can predict annual tax revenue by monitoring just a few dozen families.
Two patterns are perfect measures for history. One is about a long-term General Electric employee who joined in 1972 earning $15,000 a year when the CEO of one of the largest companies in the world was earning less than $300,000 a year, a 20x multiple that is now a more than 200x multiple for top earners. The second measure is about that CEO living in a modest brick home, never flaunting their relative wealth. There were picket fences, but no compounds or walls.
The now common feature in those same neighborhoods is the rewrite of rules to allow walls, quickly rising to 6 feet as the common height, but now ‘topped’ by a 9-foot, special variance, wall surrounding what is now the largest compound in the city.
More importantly, so many have undergone investigations for financial crime that one such street is now referred to as ‘Rogue’s Way’.
Trump was a known commodity and disliked this community of privilege, so how did this change? As explained in the the New Yorker article):
“Thomas Peterffy, a billionaire who owned the largest estate in Greenwich, donated to Trump but never pretended to admire him. “When the choice is between two ideologies, then it’s a luxury to dwell on the personalities of the candidates,” he told me. “It’s a luxury that we cannot afford.” Peterffy, who made his fortune as a pioneer in digital trading, said that the choice was between “a high degree of government regulation or a diminished amount of government regulation, because, basically, that’s how the U.S. will get to socialism—increasing government regulation.””
It’s a bubble that does not share our ideas of compassion. This from an interview with one of the local billionaires that also serves on the city council:
“Eventually, we wound our way to the inevitable question: How do you make your peace with Trump? His behavior toward women and immigrants? His separation of children from parents at the border? The “shithole” countries? Mason listened calmly. “I have no control over that,” he said. “What I have control over is what I worry about—the health and safety of my family, financial security of my family.””
Apply this narrow scope of concern to our COVID-19 pandemic experience.
This weekend Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell told us that 40% of Americans earning less than $40,000 per year have lost their jobs. Trump tells us he’s fixing the economy by throwing money at the problem; largely to the billionaires, Wall Street and corporate America, a flawed repeat of the sluggish 2008 financial crisis. But, Trump rosily assures the nation, the sun will shine in the fall and COVID-19 and our new financial crisis will go away. False promises many embrace. Throw in NFL football and Trump’s reelection chances look pretty damn good.
Unsafe at any warped speed
If you look one paragraph beyond the headline lies you see the real problems.
Science is clear, hydroxychloroquine does not help in the treatment of the virus and is proving to be dangerous, even killing people . So make room in the National Medical Supply warehouse, slide the hydroxychloroquine aside and slide in the “millions of doses” of the extra special Trump/Azar ‘Warp Speed’ vaccine.
“We’re going to scale up commercial manufacturing and produce hundreds of millions of doses at risk. They may not pan out, they may not prove to be safe and effective but we’ll have it so we can begin administration right away.”
A Commoner Call reader announced he is no longer celebrating birthdays as he’s not interested in getting any older. A protester had a better example given the common ‘defense’ of people die in car accidents but we don’t ban cars, she held a sign boldly proclaiming: “My Car My Choice; let me drink and drive”.
Individual Freedoms – she has a point and here’s the comparison.
The inanity of Trump’s comment is juxtaposed with a very serious question of how we are to combat COVID-19: Sailors on sidelined carrier get virus for second time
A similar story was reported from testing in Wuhan, China; some number of those recovering from COVID-19 are testing positive again. This presents a serious question about the ability to have immunity or even the possibility of an effective vaccine.
Bright shining light
Whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright testified before Congress on May 14. Just as Dr. Fauci did with his Congressional testimony a few days earlier, Bright highlighted the Trump lies that put us all at risk. In a nutshell, Bright offered:
- “‘Lives were lost’ because of ‘inaction,’ unheeded warnings”.
- Bright questioned a real deadline for a vaccine, one that is actually effective.
- There is no ‘leadership’ or ‘master plan’.
The lack of COVID-19 leadership was a theme of a Saturday commencement address offered by former president Barack Obama:
“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing. A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.” (Also): “honesty, hard work, responsibility, fairness, generosity, respect for others…”
“[I]t doesn’t matter how much money you make if everyone around you is hungry and sick…. [O]ur society and democracy only works when we think not just about ourselves, but about each other…“If the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you.”
Compare this to anything Trump has said. In fact on the same day Obama made his comments, Trump mused:
“[Doctors and nurses] are running into death just like soldiers run into bullets … it’s a beautiful thing to see.”
Watch the 38-second video parody of leadership, it’s scary.
Tragically — inexcusably — as Dr. Bright highlighted, there is no master plan, and, as Obama highlighted, there is no moral leadership. We fight a life-threatenign COVID-19 pandemic with political rhetoric. Consider yet another partisan vote by the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday evening striking down Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI) stay-at-home order. To be clear, another partisan vote from a court tilted to a GOP legislature that exists because of rigging voting districts that underpin elections that reward a minority of votes with a majority to legislate. The court did not even have the decency to stay the decision to allow for further legal challenge. Instead we were treated with headlines like this from Kenosha, one of the hotter COVID-19 outbreak areas in the state:
A local voice of reason and caution
Vernon County Memorial Hospital physician Dr. David Chakoian highlights the “epidemic of misinformation: wishful thinking, wild claims, conspiracy theories.” The clarity here is important – the virus is still spreading, something that can get lost in the stories of how the virus is spreading more slowly and the rush to ‘reopen’. If you live in a community near a meatpacking plant, or have a family member in a nursing home or a relative or friend in prison you may have a very different view of whether the risk is behind us.
Dr. Chakoian reminds us that the death rate is expected to remain or even increase over the next several weeks. Any ‘reopening’ — including for Wisconsin — could add to this increased rate of deaths over a longer period following an uptick in the number of cases.
Accused virus vulture steps down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee
Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) steps down while under investigation by the FBI over stock trades based on virus confidential briefings. This comes on the heels of the final committee report confirming Russian involvement in the 2016 election to benefit Trump. Stepping down is exactly what Burr should do, but note the silence from the Trump White House and Department of Justice – the non-defense of Burr, you can imagine the quiet smiles and high-fives over the taking down of a Republican not seen sufficiently Trumpster loyal enough.
Meanwhile, Trump fires yet another inspector general as Trump resists oversight. And never waste a crisis, in the background Trump Education Sec. Betsy “DeVos Funnels Coronavirus Relief Funds to Favored Private and Religious Schools”.
Finally, it’s not only the lack of moral leadership – it’s the immoral leadership by Trump. Trump’s LIBERATE Michigan led to this: “Detroit man arrested after allegedly threatening to kill Whitmer, Nessel”.
Americans are needlessly dying from this pandemic while Trump is inciting violence against political opponents. Maybe the gap between Trump and Putin is not so great.
Be well. Stay safe.