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It’s Time to Reimagine America

“Here’s the one thing about major disruptions to normalcy: they can create opportunities for dramatic change. (Disaster capitalists know this, too, unfortunately.) President Franklin Roosevelt recognized this in the 1930s and orchestrated his New Deal to revive the economy and put Americans like my dad back to work.

In 2001, the administration of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney capitalized on the shock-and-awe disruption of the 9/11 attacks to inflict on the world their vision of a Pax Americana, effectively a militarized imperium justified (falsely) as enabling greater freedom for all. The inherent contradiction in such a dreamscape was so absurd as to make future calamity inevitable. Recall what an aide to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld scribbled down, only hours after the attack on the Pentagon and the collapse of the Twin Towers, as his boss’s instructions (especially when it came to looking for evidence of Iraqi involvement): “Go massive — sweep it all up, things related and not.” And indeed they would do just that, with an emphasis on the “not,” including, of course, the calamitous invasion of Iraq in 2003.

To progressive-minded people thinking about this moment of crisis, what kind of opportunities might open to us when (or rather if) Donald Trump is gone from the White House? Perhaps this coronaviral moment is the perfect time to consider what it would mean for us to go truly big, but without the usual hubris or those disastrous invasions of foreign countries. To respond to COVID-19, climate change, and the staggering wealth inequities in this country that, when combined, will cause unbelievable levels of needless suffering, what’s needed is a drastic reordering of our national priorities.

Remember, the Fed’s first move was to inject $1.5 trillion into the stock market. (That would have been enough to forgive all current student debt.) The Trump administration has also promised to help airlines, hotels, and above all oil companies and the fracking industry, a perfect storm when it comes to trying to sustain and enrich those upholding a kleptocratic and amoral status quo.

This should be a time for a genuinely new approach, one fit for a world of rising disruption and disaster, one that would define a new, more democratic, less bellicose America. To that end, here are seven suggestions, focusing — since I’m a retired military officer — mainly on the U.S. military, a subject that continues to preoccupy me, especially since, at present, that military and the rest of the national security state swallow up roughly 60% of federal discretionary spending:

1. If ever there was a time to reduce our massive and wasteful military spending, this is it. There was never, for example, any sense in investing up to $1.7 trillion over the next 30 years to “modernize” America’s nuclear arsenal. (Why are new weapons needed to exterminate humanity when the “old” ones still work just fine?) Hundreds of stealth fighters and bombers — it’s estimated that Lockheed Martin’s disappointing F-35 jet fighter alone will cost $1.5 trillion over its life span — do nothing to secure us from pandemics, the devastating effects of climate change, or other all-too-pressing threats. Such weaponry only emboldens a militaristic and chauvinistic foreign policy that will facilitate yet more wars and blowback problems of every sort. And speaking of wars, isn’t it finally time to end U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan? More than $6 trillion has already been wasted on those wars and, in this time of global peril, even more is being wasted on this country’s forever conflicts across the Greater Middle East and Africa. (Roughly $4 billion a month continues to be spent on Afghanistan alone, despite all the talk about “peace” there.)

2. Along with ending profligate weapons programs and quagmire wars, isn’t it time for the U.S. to begin dramatically reducing its military “footprint” on this planet? Roughly 800 U.S. military bases circle the globe in a historically unprecedented fashion at a yearly cost somewhere north of $100 billion. Cutting such numbers in half over the next decade would be a more than achievable goal. Permanently cutting provocative “war games” in South Korea, Europe, and elsewhere would be no less sensible. Are North Korea and Russia truly deterred by such dramatic displays of destructive military might?

3. Come to think of it, why does the U.S. need the immediate military capacity to fight two major foreign wars simultaneously, as the Pentagon continues to insist we do and plan for, in the name of “defending” our country? Here’s a radical proposal: if you add 70,000 Special Operations forces to 186,000 Marine Corps personnel, the U.S. already possesses a potent quick-strike force of roughly 250,000 troops. Now, add in the Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions and the 10th Mountain Division. What you have is more than enough military power to provide for America’s actual national security. All other Army divisions could be reduced to cadres, expandable only if our borders are directly threatened by war. Similarly, restructure the Air Force and Navy to de-emphasize the present “global strike” vision of those services, while getting rid of Donald Trump’s newest service, the Space Force, and the absurdist idea of taking war into low earth orbit. Doesn’t America already have enough war here on this small planet of ours?

4. Bring back the draft, just not for military purposes. Make it part of a national service program for improving America. It’s time for a new Civilian Conservation Corps focused on fostering a Green New Deal. It’s time for a new Works Progress Administration to rebuild America’s infrastructure and reinvigorate our culture, as that organization did in the Great Depression years. It’s time to engage young people in service to this country. Tackling COVID-19 or future pandemics would be far easier if there were quickly trained medical aides who could help free doctors and nurses to focus on the more difficult cases. Tackling climate change will likely require more young men and women fighting forest fires on the west coast, as my dad did while in the CCC — and in a climate-changing world there will be no shortage of other necessary projects to save our planet. Isn’t it time America’s youth answered a call to service? Better yet, isn’t it time we offered them the opportunity to truly put America, rather than themselves, first?

5. And speaking of “America First,” that eternal Trumpian catch-phrase, isn’t it time for all Americans to recognize that global pandemics and climate change make a mockery of walls and go-it-alone nationalism, not to speak of politics that divide, distract, and keep so many down? President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said that only Americans can truly hurt America, but there’s a corollary to that: only Americans can truly save America — by uniting, focusing on our common problems, and uplifting one another. To do so, it’s vitally necessary to put an end to fear-mongering (and warmongering). As President Roosevelt famously said in his first inaugural address in the depths of the Great Depression, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Fear inhibits our ability to think clearly, to cooperate fully, to change things radically as a community.

6. To cite Yoda, the Jedi master, we must unlearn what we have learned. For example, America’s real heroes shouldn’t be “warriors” who kill or sports stars who throw footballs and dunk basketballs. We’re witnessing our true heroes in action right now: our doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel, together with our first responders, and those workers who stay in grocery stores, pharmacies, and the like and continue to serve us all despite the danger of contracting the coronavirus from customers. They are all selflessly resisting a threat too many of us either didn’t foresee or refused to treat seriously, most notably, of course, President Donald Trump: a pandemic that transcends borders and boundaries. But can Americans transcend the increasingly harsh and divisive borders and boundaries of our own minds? Can we come to work selflessly to save and improve the lives of others? Can we become, in a sense, lovers of humanity?

7. Finally, we must extend our love to encompass nature, our planet. For if we keep treating our lands, our waters, and our skies like a set of trash cans and garbage bins, our children and their children will inherit far harder times than the present moment, hard as it may be.

What these seven suggestions really amount to is rejecting a militarized mindset of aggression and a corporate mindset of exploitation for one that sees humanity and this planet more holistically. Isn’t it time to regain that vision of the earth we shared collectively during the Apollo moon missions: a fragile blue sanctuary floating in the velvety darkness of space, an irreplaceable home to be cared for and respected since there’s no other place for us to go? Otherwise, I fear that my father’s prediction will come true not just for me, but for generations to come and in ways that even he couldn’t have imagined.”

 

Below from the CDC page.

Interim Guidance for the Use of Masks to Control Seasonal Influenza Virus Transmission

Guidelines and Recommendations

The following interim CDC guidance was developed in response to questions about the role of masks for controlling seasonal influenza virus transmission.

Background

Seasonal influenza viruses  are believed to be transmitted from person-to-person primarily through  virus-laden droplets that are generated when infected persons speak, cough or sneeze; these droplets can be deposited onto the mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract of susceptible persons who are near the droplet source. Transmission also may occur through direct and indirect contact with infectious respiratory secretions, (e.g., by hands that subsequently deliver infectious material to the eyes, nose or mouth).

A combination of infection prevention control strategies is recommended to decrease transmission of influenza viruses in healthcare settings. These include source control (immediately putting a surgical mask on patients being evaluated for respiratory symptoms), promptly placing suspected influenza patients in private rooms, and having healthcare personnel wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for patients with suspected influenza. Additional information about PPE and other prevention strategies for personnel caring for patients with seasonal influenza is available. A mask should be worn by infectious patients any time they leave the isolation room.

The following recommendations focus on the appropriate use of masks as part of a group of influenza control strategies in healthcare settings. Masks are not usually recommended in non-healthcare settings; however, this guidance provides other strategies for limiting the spread of influenza viruses in the community.

Healthcare Settings

Symptomatic or Infected Patients

During periods of increased acute respiratory infections  in the community, coughing patients and anyone suspected of having influenza should wear a mask at all times until they are isolated in a private room. (see Respiratory Hygiene/Cough Etiquette in Healthcare Settings). Masks should be worn by these patients until

  1. it is determined that the cause of symptoms is not an infection that requires isolation precautions or
  2. the patient has been appropriately isolated, either by placement in a private room or in some circumstances by placement in a room with other patients with the same infection (cohorting). The patient does not need to wear a mask while isolated, except when being transported outside the isolation room.

 Top of Page

Healthcare Personnel

A surgical mask or fit-tested respirator should be worn by healthcare personnel who are within 6 feet of a suspected or laboratory-confirmed influenza patient. A respirator can be selected when antiviral medication supplies are expected to be limited and influenza vaccine is not available, e.g., during a pandemic. Standard and droplet precautions should be maintained until the patient has been determined to be noninfectious or for 7 days after illness onset or until 24 hours after the resolution of fever and respiratory symptoms, whichever is longer, while a patient is in a healthcare facility. In some cases, facilities may choose to apply droplet precautions for longer periods based on clinical judgment, such as in the case of young children or severely immunocompromised patients, who may shed influenza virus for longer periods of time. Further guidance is available at: Prevention Strategies for Seasonal Influenza in Healthcare Settings.

Non-Healthcare Settings

Symptomatic Persons

Adults can shed influenza virus 1 day before symptoms appear and up to approximately 5 to 7 days after onset of illness; thus, the selective use of masks (e.g., in proximity to a known symptomatic person) may not effectively limit transmission in the community. Young children, immunocompromised persons of any age, and critically ill patients with influenza can shed influenza viruses in the respiratory tract for prolonged periods. Moreover, because no single intervention can provide complete protection against influenza virus transmission, emphasis should be placed on multiple strategies including pharmaceutical (e.g., vaccines and antiviral medications) and non-pharmaceutical interventions. The latter group include: 1) community measures (e.g., social distancing and school closures); 2) environmental measures (e.g., routine surface cleaning); and 3) personal protective measures such as encouraging symptomatic persons to:

  • cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing,
  • use tissues to contain respiratory secretions and, after use, to dispose of them in the nearest waste receptacle, and
  • perform hand hygiene (e.g., handwashing with non-antimicrobial soap and water, and alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available) after having contact with respiratory secretions and contaminated objects/materials.

Persons who are diagnosed with influenza by a physician or who have a febrile respiratory illness during a period of increased influenza activity in the community should remain at home until the fever is resolved for 24 hours (without fever-reducing medications) and the cough is resolving to avoid exposing other members of the public. If such symptomatic persons cannot stay home during the acute phase of their illness, consideration should be given to having them wear a mask in public places when they may have close contact with other persons. In addition, masks are recommended for use by symptomatic, post-partum women while caring for and nursing their infant (see Guidance for Prevention and Control of Influenza in the Peri- and Postpartum Settings).

Unvaccinated Asymptomatic Persons, Including Those at High Risk for Influenza Complications

No recommendation can be made at this time for mask use in the community by asymptomatic persons, including those at high risk for complications, to prevent exposure to influenza viruses. If unvaccinated high-risk persons decide to wear masks during periods of increased respiratory illness activity in the community, it is likely they will need to wear them any time they are in a public place and when they are around other household members.

Annual influenza vaccination is the primary method for preventing influenza in persons at high risk for complications from  influenza virus infection. However, influenza vaccine effectiveness is variable, and some vaccinated persons can get sick with influenza. Administration of antiviral medications for early treatment of influenza is a useful adjunct in the control of influenza in these persons. Antiviral treatment is recommended as soon as possible for hospitalized influenza patients, people who are very sick with influenza but who do not need to be hospitalized, and people who are at high risk of serious complications based on their age or health if they develop influenza.

See the series here.  Oh, and transactivism in 4 panels.

 

 

I think it is important now to revisit this topic as the world is now in the grips of a Pandemic. Please watch, and arm yourself to the best of your ability against the potential social isolation and loneliness that could be experienced in the days and months to come.

I forewarn you, if you are about to start the DS9 series, you will have to persevere through the first season, as the cast and writing crew had not found their sea legs yet. But after season one (arguably) the show really started to cement in the story arcs that culminate with this darkly pivotal moment in the Star Trek Universe.

The Federation ostensibly in the Star Trek universe are the good guys – they are us – and that motif is quite evident in the other series that populate the canon. DS9, once it gets going, shifts the moral compass and makes everything more complicated and ethically entangled. It is much more engrossing dramatic experience as this clip illustrates. It is this muddy ethical field that makes DS9, if you can only watch one Star Trek series, the one to watch.

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