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   The upcoming election in the US, at least from a Canadian perspective, a bit lost in the deluge of media coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic.  The American Left business party has a chance to regain the White House, but Webb asks the question in his essay on Unherd, “What if the new American Left is — as the philosopher Richard Rorty put it, exhausted?”

 

“And, he argued, national pride in America is just what the American left had lost — and if that was true in 1998 it is true with knobs on in 2020: to quote the great philosopher, “a spectatorial, disgusted, mocking Left” understands the nation in a way that “leads them to step back from their country and, as they say, ‘theorize’ it. It leads them to … give cultural politics preference over real politics, and to mock the very idea that democratic institutions might once again be made to serve social justice.”
Suggested reading

Rorty, who died in 2007, was not an complete enemy of the new Left’s keenness on race and gender — he thought they had a point — but he knew that it would end in tears. He knew that identity politics would ditch the uncomfortable, sweaty-smelling folks in the unions, the welders and electricians and carpenters and that those (mainly white) men would in turn ditch the Democrats. And so it came to pass, and now we might be post-Rorty with no road back.

Does the American Left have what it takes to knit together the nation when its modern iteration so clearly dislikes so much about it? After the statues ,what else must fall? What other horrors must be uncovered? The jury is out, to put it mildly, on whether American atonement might be over soon or just beginning. If the question is between social solidarity or continued struggle, plenty of modern Democrats have had it with the former and are willing to embrace the latter.

They may or may not be right, or justified, but if America finds no comfort and no direction we will all suffer the consequences. There’s a lot riding on the Biden presidency, if it comes. For them, and, as ever, for us.”

The other problem I see is that Biden may want to return to the status quo which if one recalls – the permanent war economy, gilded age level of economic inequality, and predatory capitalism – isn’t exactly a noble cause.

  Very happy to be in Canada for this particular emergency.  The US administration was all over the map has the pandemic started and is paying the price now for having a doofus as head of state.

 

Long-Simmering Realities

In many ways, the current crisis has, of course, just exposed conditions that should have been attended to long ago. Much that suddenly seems broken was already on the brink when the coronavirus appeared. If anything, the pandemic has simply accelerated already existing trends. As a December 2019 Century Foundation report on “racism, inequality, and health care for African Americans” concluded, “The American health care system is beset with inequalities that have a disproportionate impact on people of color and other marginalized groups.” In fact, in 2019, the London-based Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index had already ranked the American healthcare system 59th in the world for its standard of services.

As bad as Donald Trump and his administration have been, the growing American coronavirus disaster can’t simply be blamed on them. Covid-19 has brought home to the rest of us how over here over there really was. And now, the pathetic White House leadership in this crisis has raised another possibility: autocracy.

The Trump administration’s failure to handle the crisis competently stems in part from the president’s perception that whatever he says, in autocratic fashion, goes — or, as he has often put it, “I can do whatever I want.” From his early assertion that the virus was destined to go from 15 cases to one or disappear in the warmth of April to his fantasy numbers when it came to virus testing or obtaining crucial medical equipment to his recent advocacy of ingesting disinfectants as an antidote for Covid-19, the leader of the United States has come to resemble a run-of-the-mill autocrat spreading disinformation in his own interests. It’s one thing to point to the power-grabbing of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the underhanded machinations of the dictator of North Korea, or the ruthlessness of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. It’s quite another to have a power-hungry leader as our own head of state. Once again, we are not immune. There is here.

With Covid-19, the very idea of American exceptionalism may have seen its last days. The virus has put the realities of wealth inequality, health insecurity, and poor work conditions under a high-powered microscope. Fading from sight are the days when this country’s engagement with the world could be touted as a triumph of leadership when it came to health, economic sustenance, democratic governance, and stability. Now, we are inside the community of nations in a grim new way — as fellow patients, grievers, and supplicants in search of food and shelter, in search, along with so much of humanity, of a more secure existence.

The world, in other words, has turned upside down.

   Another American Presidential candidate that predates on women.  Never fear though, it matters not to most in the US whether predatory males are in power or not.
“But it was something she had forgotten — or at least, put out of her mind for years, LaCasse said. After the mid-1990s, she said she and Reade were not in touch, and it was only a few years ago that they reconnected around the time that Reade’s mother died. And according to LaCasse, it was last year when Reade brought up Biden that LaCasse told her that she remembered their conversation about the alleged sexual assault.
More recently, after Reade appeared on a podcast and went public with her allegation of sexual assault, LaCasse said she let her ex-neighbor and friend know that she would be willing to publicly say that Reade had confided in her years ago.
CNN verified through public records searches, photos and an examination of Reade’s past government identification that LaCasse and Reade were once neighbors.”
   I’m not sure why this is even a story.  Electing rapists is a thing in the US (please please tell me how patriarchy isn’t a thing) and this ‘stain’ on Biden’s history won’t affect his public persona a whit.
   Biden is bulletproof on this issue.  He just needs to stand behind the aegis that the current president has erected.  The Grab them By the Pussy in Chief has got Biden’s back.
   The state of the body politic in the US is revolting – I should not have to be commenting on the normalization of the abuse of women by politically powerful men in 2020, yet here we are.
  It fucking sucks.

We need to flatten the wealth curve for our society to continue to move forward and prosper.  The out of balance economic shakedown that has been the status quo for so long needs to change.  Paul Street writing for Counterpunch lays out the grim details:

 

“+ 23. Capitalist Inequality Puts Anti-Science Fascist Lunatics in Power. The savage economic inequalities that are written into the inner logic of capitalism put a pandemic-spreading anti-science lunatic, the demented fascistic oligarch named Donald Trump, atop the world’s most powerful nation. In his useful book How Fascism Works, Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley notes that one of contemporary right-wing nationalist authoritarianism’s key taproots is harsh socioeconomic disparity:

“Ever since Plato and Aristotle wrote on the topic, political theorists have known that democracy cannot flourish on soil poisoned by inequality…the resentments bred by such divisions are tempting targets for demagogues…Dramatic inequality poses a mortal danger to the shared reality required for a healthy liberal democracy…[such] inequality breeds delusions that mask reality, undermining the possibility of joint deliberation to sole society’s divisions (pp.76-77, emphasis added)…Under conditions of stark economic inequality, when the benefits of liberal education, and the exposure to diverse cultures and norms are available only to the wealthy few, liberal tolerance can be smoothly represented as elite privilege.  Stark economic inequality creates conditions richly conducive to fascist demagoguery. It is a fantasy to think that liberal democratic norms can flourish under such conditions” (p. 185, emphasis added).

The political culture of pseudo-democratic duplicity and disingenuousness generated by modern capitalist inequality and plutocracy creates space for fascist-style politicians who “appear to be sincere” and “signal authenticity” by “standing for division and conflict without apology.  Such a candidate,” Stanley writes, “might openly side with Christians or Muslims and atheists, or native-born [white] Americans over immigrants, or whites over blacks…They might openly and brazenly lie…[and] signal authenticity by openly and explicitly rejecting what are presumed to be sacrosanct political values….Such politicians,” Stanley argues, come off to many jaded voters as “a breath of fresh air in a political culture that seems dominated by real and imagined hypocrisy.”  Fascist politicos’ “open rejection of democratic values” is “taken as political bravery, as a signal of authenticity.”

That is no small part of how malevolent far-right politicos – many of them dedicated enemies of science in service to the common good (e.g. the malevolent right-wing narcissist and instinctual fascist Trump and Brazil’s monumentally despicable and ecocidal racist Jair Bolsonaro) – have risen to power at home and abroad. The opening is provided by fake-progressive capitalist neo-“liberals” (in the U.S) and neoliberal social democrats and fake “socialists” (in Europe and elsewhere), whose claims to speak on behalf of the popular majority and democracy are repeatedly discredited by their underlying commitment to dominant capitalist social hierarchies. The demented fascist uber-assholes Trump and Bolsonaro, both of whom have acted to increase COVID-19 deaths in their own nations and thus in the world, are outcomes of capitalism in this and other ways.”

I wish people would vote on a rational rather than dogmatic basis. This kind of wonderland level of stupid could have been avoided.

This excerpt from an interview with Marc Steiner from Real News

 

Noam Chomsky: Well, I’m old enough to remember, as a child, listening to Hitler’s speeches over the radio at the Nuremberg rallies. I couldn’t understand the words when I was six years old, but I could easily understand the mood. And it was frightening, the adoration of the screaming crowds, the ranting, and also seeing what was beginning to happen in the ’30s as fascism began to spread, and it seemed inexorably over much of the world with these hideous leaders in charge. And these memories do come to mind when I listened to one of Trump’s rallies, for example. There’s some similarity, the worship of the crowds, his very effective use of techniques of manipulation. So for example, the constant flood of lies and self contradictions and so on, which is very well designed to undermine the very notion of truth. It disappears, so you just listen to the great leader.

He’s doing very much the same, I presume, consciously, with regard to the coronavirus. If you look over his statements since January, they range all over the map, “It’s just the flu, don’t worry about it. It’s a terrible pandemic, and I was the first person ever to notice it,” and anything else. That’s a great technique. It assures that he’ll be vindicated. Whatever happens, you’ll find some statements he made that was accurate. When you shoot arrows at random, something’s going to hit the target. And when you have adoring crowds who grasp any word of the leader, when you have an echo chamber called Fox News, where they loyally repeat every bit of nonsense that he’s saying, then it’s a terrific technique of domination and control.

But before, there were people, including good scholars of fascism like Robert Paxton, who argue that we may be in danger of coming to something like fascism. Well there’s something to that. I think we should be reserved about it. Fascism was an ideology. It wasn’t just screaming and ranting at a door in crowds. It was an ideology of state takeover and domination and control of everything, of course, labor unions and so on, but also state control of business. [inaudible 00:04:49], it was called. That’s almost the opposite of what we have now. We have business-control of the state, under Trump, deepening. His primary constituency is wealth and corporate power, and he lavishes gifts for them. It was very striking at the Davos meetings in January, you know the meetings of the masters of the universe? They, very much, dislike him. The corporate executives, they didn’t like his style or anything else about him. He gave the leading speech. They liked it because he talked about his tax cut, a huge gift to the wealthy and the corporate sector, stabbing everyone else in the back. Yeah, they thought that was great.

So he understands how to serve is primary masters, how to keep the adoring crowds under control, but there’s no ideology. The ideology is simply, “Me. I’m a megalomaniac psychopath, and I just want what’s good for me.” That’s not fascism. It’s something pretty awful, but not fascism. With the coronavirus, it’s very important to… It’s a terrible crisis. We’ll recover from it at, maybe, horrible cost, but we will recover. And there are two things that are important to keep in mind. One is, there’s going to be more of these crises. Now this particular one has been predicted for 10 or 15 years, ever since the SARS epidemic, since there were corona viruses. So it was predicted, it was understood that something would come. Steps weren’t taken. It’s very interesting to look at how that works. If there’s time, I could talk about it. But it was understood that something was underway.

If we don’t look at the roots of this crisis and deal with them, there’ll be others and they’ll be worse ones because they’ll be compounded with something else that’s happening. This crisis, we will recover from. We’re not going to recover from the melting of the polar ice caps, and the other very significant impacts of the global warming crisis, which Trump is trying hard to exacerbate right into the middle of this crisis. While people are worried about getting by, he’s continuing on his relentless drive to destroy organized human life on earth. So on February 10th, well the pandemic was spreading over the US Trump, then Trump came out. Trump and his courtiers, it’s not just him. They came out with their budget proposals for next year. A lot of it was predictable, continued increasing cutbacks of every health related aspect of the government. He’s been doing that for years, so let’s continue to wipe out the health system and response system. Okay. That’s expected. Huge expenses for the bloated military and his ‘great wall’. Yeah. We expect that.

Anything that has anything of any use to human beings, we cut. But what was interesting is that he included subsidies for the fossil fuel industry to try to make the major crisis worse to furthermore his new EPA, which is corporate run. As you know, just a couple of days ago, announced the cutbacks in regulations for auto emissions that’ll have the welcomed effect of killing a lot more people from pollution, which is a major killer, but more important, expanding the race to the abyss with coming environmental crises. Now these are things we have to pay attention to. We have to think about the words of this [inaudible 00:09:12]. Now what can be done to prevent the next one? Which, very likely, will probably be worse.

Now we have to ask ourselves what we’re going to do about the truly existential crisis which is going to destroy human civilization? Not just my view, incidentally, a very interesting memo from JPMorgan Chase, the biggest American bank. The memo was quite interesting. It said that, their phrase, the survival of humanity is at risk if we continue on our present course, including the virtually genocidal commitments of the bank, his bank, their bank, to fund fossil fuels. It’s understood that the Davos men, they understand, the masters of the world understand it very well. We should understand it. We should not mince words. When I say genocidal, it’s correct. There is time. There’s not much, but there is time to deal with the crisis, even without a radical change of institutions. There are ways to do it, but not much time. Every day, every year we waste, it gets worse.

Every year we allow Trump and his accolades to expand the crisis, to accelerate it, it gets harder to deal with. If he gets reelected, I won’t say it’s a death knell for the species, but it’s a very severe blow. All of this should be right in the front of our minds as we’re thinking about this crisis. And we should recognize that it is in the front of the minds of the criminal class, the ones who are taking advantage of this crisis to ram through their programs of destruction and devastation, which, in their little sociopathic minds, are evidently dedicated to. These are not exaggerations, incidentally.

If we look at the Republican Party, we even know why they’re doing it. You go back about 10 years, John McCain running for president. Now he had the climate-change element in his platform. The Republican Congress was beginning to think about small ways to deal with the growing climate crisis, which of course they knew was coming. What happened? The Coke energy machine which had been working for years to try to keep the Republican Party on course, of supporting fossil fuels, went into motion, launched a juggernaut of bribing senators and intimidating them with threats to run alternative candidates, huge lobbying efforts, AstroTurf campaigns. They all [inaudible 00:12:30] in a moment. Ever since then, they’ve been deniers. That’s the world we’re living with. Now that has an effect. Now people listen to Fox News, which echoes what’s coming from the wealthy and powerful and their spokespersons in Washington.

The end result is, if you take a look at Republicans, its main source of information, so called, is Fox News, and about 25% of them think that it’s a serious problem, and it’s about the same number who think that humans are probably involved. This is a major crisis for the world, on that we’re right at the heart of it. Now there are things we have to do. You can learn a lot just by looking at the details of how this crisis arose. Back in 2003, it was understood by scientists that another epic pandemic, and probably a coronavirus pandemic, is not unlikely. There were things that could have been done and some things began to be done. So Obama did contract with a small company in California to produce high quality, low cost ventilators. That’s the bottleneck in the system right now, the reason why nurses have to decide who they’re going to kill. He did make the contract.

The company was quickly bought up by a large corporation, Covidien, which makes high cost ventilators. They sidetracked the project, probably because they didn’t want competition with their high cost ventilators. And pretty soon, they told the government they wanted to get out of the contract because it wasn’t profitable enough to produce what is desperately needed. It’s profitable, but you can make more money with fossil fuels. Same thing’s going with the fossil fuel companies and sustainable energy, they make profit from the sustainable energy corporations, but you make much more profit from destroying the world, so they killed this project. That’s called capitalism, and it’s particularly savage variant called neoliberalism, what we’ve been suffering from since Reagan. It has very harmful consequences.

So we come up to the present, let’s say last October, there was a high level simulation of a coronavirus pandemic showing how awful it would be. That was October. In December, China notified the World Health Organization that they were finding pneumonia-like symptoms with unknown etiology. On January 7th, they informed the World Health Organization that they, Chinese scientists, had identified the source as a coronavirus, had identified the virus, sequenced it, provided the information to the entire world. The US Intelligence knew. In January and February, they were the pounding on the doors of the White House, trying to get someone to pay attention. As one intelligence official put it, they couldn’t get Trump’s ear. For him, it was just a minor flu, “Don’t worry about it.” Finally, it comes, the recognition that it’s a big problem, so of course, he’s the first person who ever knew it was a pandemic, we go into that routine. And that’s where we are now.

It’s the epicenter of the crisis. The only major country in the world, the only one, that is so dysfunctional that it cannot even provide data to the World Health Organization on the number of possible cases. Every other major country can. Now that’s what we’re living with. Now we’re going to make a decision pretty soon as to whether to continue with it, or get rid of it and try to move back to some level of sanity. I should say, this is not the only case for worry. You mentioned the doomsday clock. It’s been moving towards midnight ever since Trump was nominated. This year, broke all records, the analysts abandoned minutes, turned to seconds, a hundred seconds to midnight.

One reason is what we’ve just been talking about, but there’s another one which nobody seems to want to talk about. Trump is tearing to shreds the last parts of the arms control agreement, which go back to Reagan and Eisenhower that have helped maintain the virtual miracle that there hasn’t been a nuclear war yet. Not only doing that, but doing it very blatantly, virtually appealing to other countries, Russia in particular, to find ways to destroy us. So last August, Trump, as you know, abandoned the Reagan Gorbachev INF Treaty, which had significantly reduced the threat of war. He abandoned it, but went beyond, immediately after abandoning it, the US launched a missile, violating the treaty. That’s virtually pleading with adversaries, “Okay. Try to develop means to destroy us as fast as you can.” Great for military industry. They were exalting huge new contracts to develop the new ways to destroy everything. And as they pointed out, down the road, there’ll be even bigger contracts to try to find some hopeless way to defend against the destructive systems that were now developing.

So for them, it’s wonderful. And for the rest of us, saying, “Yeah, we’re toast. They want to kill us all.” Now that’s the meaning of the decisions that are being taken about arms control. And the Russians have been calling for continuing the next major treaty, the New START Treaty. They say, “Let’s just continue it.” The US won’t respond. They don’t say anything. The time is getting short. Very little time for negotiations. That one will probably go. Also facing the ax is the Open Skies Treaty, which was suggested by Eisenhower. That’s under the ax. So anything you can think of that can harm people and destroy civilization, that’s a high priority. Is that an exaggeration? Unfortunately not. Is this the most dangerous administration and party in human history? I’m afraid so. It’s not an exaggeration when you think of the consequences. Those are the issues that we should be thinking about just as the gang of criminals is.

The interview is long and well worth a full read.

 

Micheal Klare examines the effect of the changing environment on potential pandemic breeding grounds.  His essay is about not strictly about the current pandemic, but rather humanity’s affect on the limited resources and carrying capacity of our world.

“Climate Change and Pandemics

Back in 2014, the IPCC did not identify human pandemics among potential climate-induced tipping points, but it did provide plenty of evidence that climate change would increase the risk of such catastrophes. This is true for several reasons. First, warmer temperatures and more moisture are conducive to the accelerated reproduction of mosquitoes, including those carrying malaria, the zika virus, and other highly infectious diseases. Such conditions were once largely confined to the tropics, but as a result of global warming, formerly temperate areas are now experiencing more tropical conditions, resulting in the territorial expansion of mosquito breeding grounds. Accordingly, malaria and zika are on the rise in areas that never previously experienced such diseases. Similarly, dengue fever, a mosquito-borne viral disease that infects millions of people every year, is spreading especially quickly due to rising world temperatures.

Combined with mechanized agriculture and deforestation, climate change is also undermining subsistence farming and indigenous lifestyles in many parts of the world, driving millions of impoverished people to already crowded urban centers, where health facilities are often overburdened and the risk of contagion ever greater. “Virtually all the projected growth in populations will occur in urban agglomerations,” the IPCC noted then. Adequate sanitation is lacking in many of these cities, particularly in the densely populated shantytowns that often surround them. “About 150 million people currently live in cities affected by chronic water shortages, and by 2050, unless there are rapid improvements in urban environments, the number will rise to almost a billion.”

Such newly settled urban dwellers often retain strong ties to family members still in the countryside who, in turn, may come in contact with wild animals carrying deadly viruses. This appears to have been the origin of the West African Ebola epidemic of 2014-2016, which affected tens of thousands of people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Scientists believe that the Ebola virus (like the coronavirus) originated in bats and was then transmitted to gorillas and other wild animals that coexist with people living on the fringes of tropical forests. Somehow, a human or humans contracted the disease from exposure to such creatures and then transmitted it to visitors from the city who, upon their return, infected many others.

The coronavirus appears to have had somewhat similar origins. In recent years, hundreds of millions of once impoverished rural families moved to burgeoning industrial cities in central and coastal China, including places like Wuhan. Although modern in so many respects, with its subways, skyscrapers, and superhighways, Wuhan also retained vestiges of the countryside, including markets selling wild animals still considered by some inhabitants to be normal parts of their diet. Many of those animals were trucked in from semi-rural areas hosting large numbers of bats, the apparent source of both the coronavirus and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, outbreak of 2013, which also arose in China. Scientific research suggests that breeding grounds for bats, like mosquitoes, are expanding significantly as a result of rising world temperatures.

The global coronavirus pandemic is the product of a staggering multitude of factors, including the air links connecting every corner of the planet so intimately and the failure of government officials to move swiftly enough to sever those links. But underlying all of that is the virus itself. Are we, in fact, facilitating the emergence and spread of deadly pathogens like the Ebola virus, SARS, and the coronavirus through deforestation, haphazard urbanization, and the ongoing warming of the planet? It may be too early to answer such a question unequivocally, but the evidence is growing that this is the case. If so, we had better take heed.”

This is one of the “i told you so’s” that I hope does not come fruition.

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