Tuesday Reads: Living In A Failed State

Good Morning

More than 40,000 Americans have died of Covid-19, but the so-called “president” is doing nothing to stop the carnage. He refuses to help states with desperately need medical equipment and tests to identify carriers. He has made it abundantly clear that we are on our own. Money and supplies are being doled out selectively–red states get the most and blue states the least. He is using FEMA and the FBI to try to stop shipments of equipment to hospitals in blue states. It actually looks like Trump is hoping those of us who did not and won’t vote for him just get sick and die.

The U.S. is no longer the country I grew up in. We are looking more like post-Soviet Russia. George Packer describes the situation we find ourselves in: We Are Living in a Failed State. The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken.

When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.

The crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational, and collective. The United States reacted instead like Pakistan or Belarus—like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering. The administration squandered two irretrievable months to prepare. From the president came willful blindness, scapegoating, boasts, and lies. From his mouthpieces, conspiracy theories and miracle cures. A few senators and corporate executives acted quickly—not to prevent the coming disaster, but to profit from it. When a government doctor tried to warn the public of the danger, the White House took the mic and politicized the message.

Every morning in the endless month of March, Americans woke up to find themselves citizens of a failed state. With no national plan—no coherent instructions at all—families, schools, and offices were left to decide on their own whether to shut down and take shelter. When test kits, masks, gowns, and ventilators were found to be in desperately short supply, governors pleaded for them from the White House, which stalled, then called on private enterprise, which couldn’t deliver. States and cities were forced into bidding wars that left them prey to price gouging and corporate profiteering. Civilians took out their sewing machines to try to keep ill-equipped hospital workers healthy and their patients alive. Russia, Taiwan, and the United Nations sent humanitarian aid to the world’s richest power—a beggar nation in utter chaos.

Donald Trump saw the crisis almost entirely in personal and political terms. Fearing for his reelection, he declared the coronavirus pandemic a war, and himself a wartime president. But the leader he brings to mind is Marshal Philippe Pétain, the French general who, in 1940, signed an armistice with Germany after its rout of French defenses, then formed the pro-Nazi Vichy regime. Like Pétain, Trump collaborated with the invader and abandoned his country to a prolonged disaster. And, like France in 1940, America in 2020 has stunned itself with a collapse that’s larger and deeper than one miserable leader. Some future autopsy of the pandemic might be called Strange Defeat, after the historian and Resistance fighter Marc Bloch’s contemporaneous study of the fall of France. Despite countless examples around the U.S. of individual courage and sacrifice, the failure is national. And it should force a question that most Americans have never had to ask: Do we trust our leaders and one another enough to summon a collective response to a mortal threat? Are we still capable of self-government?

Head on over to The Atlantic to read the rest.

What’s next for this country? Can we survive the ravages of this pandemic? Over the weekend, The New York Times published an important piece by Donald G. McNeil Jr.: The Coronavirus in America: The Year Ahead.

In truth, it is not clear to anyone where this crisis is leading us. More than 20 experts in public health, medicine, epidemiology and history shared their thoughts on the future during in-depth interviews. When can we emerge from our homes? How long, realistically, before we have a treatment or vaccine? How will we keep the virus at bay?

Some felt that American ingenuity, once fully engaged, might well produce advances to ease the burdens. The path forward depends on factors that are certainly difficult but doable, they said: a carefully staggered approach to reopening, widespread testing and surveillance, a treatment that works, adequate resources for health care providers — and eventually an effective vaccine.

Still, it was impossible to avoid gloomy forecasts for the next year. The scenario that Mr. Trump has been unrolling at his daily press briefings — that the lockdowns will end soon, that a protective pill is almost at hand, that football stadiums and restaurants will soon be full — is a fantasy, most experts said.

“We face a doleful future,” said Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg, a former president of the National Academy of Medicine.

He and others foresaw an unhappy population trapped indoors for months, with the most vulnerable possibly quarantined for far longer. They worried that a vaccine would initially elude scientists, that weary citizens would abandon restrictions despite the risks, that the virus would be with us from now on.

“My optimistic side says the virus will ease off in the summer and a vaccine will arrive like the cavalry,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a preventive medicine specialist at Vanderbilt University medical school. “But I’m learning to guard against my essentially optimistic nature.”

Most experts believed that once the crisis was over, the nation and its economy would revive quickly. But there would be no escaping a period of intense pain.

Exactly how the pandemic will end depends in part on medical advances still to come. It will also depend on how individual Americans behave in the interim. If we scrupulously protect ourselves and our loved ones, more of us will live. If we underestimate the virus, it will find us.

Read more about what the experts had to say at the NYT link.

Jonathan Chait on Trump’s abandonment of the states: Trump Wants to Starve the States Into Opening Before It’s Safe.

President Trump’s current pandemic strategy — emphasize current; like the cliché about the weather, if you don’t like it, wait a few hours — is a baffling knot of contradictions. He is hurling all responsibility to state governments, leaving it to them to devise effective tests and to decide when to relax social distancing.

At the same time, he is starving them of the resources to handle the job. And even as Trump hides behind a policy of deference to governors, he is goading right-wing protesters to force their hand. Trump is “saying things that seem contradictory,” as the New York Times puts it, “like pledging to work with governors and then urging people to ‘liberate’ their states, and leaving it to his audiences to hear what they want to hear in his words.”

Yet there does appear to be a strategy here. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday afternoon that Trump has “asked White House aides for economic response plans that would allow him to take credit for successes while offering enough flexibility to assign fault for any failures to others.” Trump’s seemingly paradoxical stance is an attempt to hoard credit and shirk risk, straddling the demands of his business allies with the pleas of his public-health advisers. On the surface, he is deferring responsibility and blame to the governors. Just below the surface, he is coercing them to resume economic activity as fast as possible, regardless of what public-health officials say.

Trump’s plan to coerce the states into reopening has at least three discernible elements. The first is, or was, the formation of a task force to reopen the country. The purpose of the council was to give Trump cover. The council would prod governors to reopen businesses, and because it would be seen as coming from the business community, Trump himself would not bear the blame for future outbreaks that might result. As the Washington Post reported last week, “Trump’s advisers are trying to shield the president from political accountability should his move to reopen the economy prove premature and result in lost lives, and so they are trying to mobilize business executives, economists and other prominent figures to buy into the eventual White House plan, so that if it does not work, the blame can be shared broadly, according to two former administration officials familiar with the efforts.” (In part because its purpose was so naked, the task force seems to have collapsed.)

The second element is the mobilization of protests. The appearance of flag-waving and sometimes gun-toting demonstrators in a handful of state capitols this weekend seems to have come as a shock to the news media, but Trump’s allies signaled this was coming. Last Monday, Stephen Moore, a right-wing pseudo-economist and close Trump ally who has spent weeks pushing back on public-health guidelines, was quoted in the press saying, “In the next two weeks, you’ll see protests in the streets of conservatives; you’ll see a big pushback against the lockdown in some states.”

Click the link to read the rest at New York Magazine.

At The Washington Post, Paul Waldman on Trump’s “war against the states”:

President Trump and congressional Republicans are going to war with the states.

It’s bizarre, it’s self-defeating, it will do enormous harm to Americans in every corner of the country, and it can be fully explained only by understanding the president’s pettiest and most narcissistic motives. In other words, it’s the kind of thing we’ve come to expect in the Trump era.

Last week, the $349 billion allotted for small businesses in the CARES Act rescue package ran out, with only a portion of the American businesses that have suffered in this pandemic-driven recession getting the help they need. While everyone seemed ready to provide more money, we found ourselves in a familiar situation, with Democrats saying we need to be swift and aggressive in saving Americans suffering from this economic catastrophe, and Republicans saying that we shouldn’t spend too much or help too many people.

When negotiations began, Republicans wanted to add about $250 billion to the small business fund — and do nothing else. Now it appears that Democrats have pressured them into accepting a package that sends $370 billion to small businesses, gives $75 billion to hospitals, and spends $25 billion to beef up coronavirus testing.

What isn’t included in the package, however, is the desperately needed aid to states and cities Democrats sought. Republicans absolutely refused to even consider it.

Why? The need is urgent. State and local budgets are suddenly facing all kinds of new costs related to the pandemic, while at the same time tax revenues have fallen off a cliff. If they don’t get help, they’ll have to start laying people off and slashing state services, which will only make the recession deeper and longer. By some estimates, states and cities will need $500 billion in federal aid to make up the shortfall.

Read more at the WaPo.

So far Trump’s strategy isn’t convincing most Americans. The Washington Post: Most rate Trump’s coronavirus response negatively and expect crowds will be unsafe until summer, Post-U. Md. poll finds.

Most Americans expect no immediate easing of the health risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic, despite calls by President Trump and others to begin reopening the economy quickly. A majority say it could be June or later before it will be safe for larger gatherings to take place again, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.

Most Americans — 54 percent — give the president negative marks for his handling of the outbreak in this country and offer mixed reviews for the federal government as a whole. By contrast, 72 percent of Americans give positive ratings to the governors of their states for the way they have dealt with the crisis, with workers also rating their employers positively.

Partisan allegiances shape perceptions of when it will be safe to have gatherings of 10 or more people and of the president’s performance during the pandemic. But governors win praise across the political spectrum for their leadership, which has sometimes put them sharply at odds with Trump and his administration.

Personal health concerns are widespread, with 57 percent saying they are “very” or “somewhat” worried about becoming infected and seriously ill from the coronavirus, including at least 40 percent of people in every major demographic and political group. For those most concerned, the fear was enough to override partisanship when it comes to the safety of public gatherings, particularly for Republicans.

Today we face another day in the time of coronavirus. There will be more reports of deaths and infections, more horror stories, and more lies and propaganda from the Trump gang, and another insane briefing airing of grievances by Trump. We have to steel ourselves to protect ourselves from the virus and save our sanity in these crazy times.

Have courage Sky Dancers! What’s on your mind today?


20 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Living In A Failed State”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Trump tweeted this on a day when 43,000 Americans are dead because he ignored a global pandemic.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Ugh, still with his ratings obsession? I haven’t heard one word of concern or empathy for victims from him. I think his ratings must have gone down by now. Networks aren’t carrying them in full, right? I sure as h won’t watch them.

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    More disturbing are those who remain on his staff searching for ways to take the blame away from Trump and force it onto the shoulders of others.

    Listen to Trump at the Five O’ Clock Rallies and everything is going smoothly. Listen to the doctors, nurses, many governors themselves, and you see and hear a vastly different picture of shortages, hijacking of supplies by FEMA, dangerous working conditions, and death on a wide scale. A huge difference in communicating what is really happening.

    Covering for Trump has been a national past time for anyone serving in this administration. From the withholding of his tax forms up until today’s mishandling and indifference to a global plague. Astonishing.

    Those continuing to cover and prop up this disaster of a human being deserve to pay the price for their treachery. Sooner rather than later.

    He could not get away with all of this corruption without help.

  3. dakinikat says:

    I cannot make it pass that first cartoon!!! whoa is that killer truth!!!

  4. dakinikat says:

    The Right To Lifers on SCOTUS are the New American Death Panel … literally

  5. dakinikat says:

  6. Our Narcissist in Chief is doubling down on his perverse and self-serving antics. And the Media is swallowing it up whole for ratings of their own. His so-called briefings have become his televised rallies. When will the media think about saving our democracy in lieu of ratings?

  7. dakinikat says:

  8. Corkywk says:

    You’ve about covered it all in your well-defined rant. And it all rings true. Looking from afar, things here in Canada have been politically handled much differently. Here, the Government has made emergency funds quick and available to almost everyone, including the general public or common citizen. Anyone who has been financially effected by the virus or the call for isolation can apply online for monetary top-offs and I mean anyone!

    They did this right from the start and on a wide scale, in lieu of the social lock-down as incentive to cooperate in the flattening of the curve. So now, everyone has or should have at least enough money for monthly groceries and rent, thus isolating is not a financial burden. Hence there is no protests here, no urgent call for ending the recommendations from our health- scientists who have complete control over the do’s and don’ts of this pandemic. And politically unabated!

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no-way trying to compare our countries. But am comparing our situations. Your country, it seems to me, is in the hands of a very egotistical, delusional and therefore — dangerous man. No more exemplified as his mishandling of this pandemic. Your President has blood on his hands. Public blood. Yet, again looking from afar, and as you’ve stated, that is just the latest symptom of a once great country now with serious underling conditions.

    It seems to me, the good people of your Nation have become mere political fodder in an over-politicalized system that’s run amok. It’s not just Canada who plainly see this, but most other countries as well. Here’s hoping you people trapped inside will one day also become aware and regain the pride of your Nation as it should be. Because personally, I believe a strong caring humane America would truly benefit the rest of the world — as well as its people. Good luck and Stay safe.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thank for the support. I only wish the U.S. were as civilized as Canada.

    • NW Luna says:

      Thanks. Remember Trump lost the popular vote. Because of the slavery-era Electoral College and the mis-representation of the Senatorial system, the wingnuts get far more representation than is proportional of the people who voted for them, and unfortunately that gives them far more political and legal power.

  9. NW Luna says:

    Barr says Justice Department may act against governors with strict virus limits

    The Justice Department will consider taking legal action against governors who continue to impose stringent rules for dealing with the coronavirus that infringe on constitutional rights once the crisis subsides in their states, Attorney General William Barr said.

    Blunt means to deal with the pandemic, such as stay-at-home orders and directives shutting down businesses, are justified up to a point, Barr said in an interview Tuesday on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.” Eventually, though, states should move to more targeted measures, Barr said. He said he supports the approach laid out by President Donald Trump.

    “We have to give businesses more freedom to operate in a way that’s reasonably safe,” Barr said. “To the extent that governors don’t and impinge on either civil rights or on the national commerce — our common market that we have here — then we’ll have to address that.”

    https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/nation-politics/barr-says-justice-department-may-act-against-governors-with-strict-virus-limits/

    • quixote says:

      Yup. Makes perfect sense. The states need to step up. Where are the states. The Federal government is not a shipping clerk!

      * * *

      Sue the states for stepping up.

      (When your whole purpose was to blame somebody, it actually does make perfect sense. I just thought they’d wait some decent interval of time. Like, say, six or seven weeks??)

  10. NW Luna says:

    Orca Tl’uk, (“Bright Moon” in Salish) and pod in Puget Sound for the last few days!

    Rare white orca spotted in Puget Sound

  11. NW Luna says:

    Just listened to Inslee’s statement on re-opening Washington state “based on a strategic plan informed by science not politics….we will have over 1,000 people focused on contact tracing. ….. Our state has more lab capacity than we have test supplies. I’ve written to VP to ask him to help us acquire more test kits.” (Not that that’ll help much.)

    He also talks about support for food banks, mental health, about disparities in access to healthcare, childcare, about safe and sustainable recovery and safe return to work, employees must have PPE.

    Acknowledges that “this virus will continue to affect our daily lives for months….only science and data and informed reasoning will bring us out of the disaster” He also validates that keeping the stay-at-home regs guidelines isn’t easy and the shutdown has caused suffering. Compliments Washingtonians on following medical guidelines and being exemplars.

    Damn. If we had to have an older white man as presidential nominee he would have been good. Also it’s so welcome to hear a politician rely on science, speak intelligently and to show sympathy. All things we should be able to take for granted but we can’t.

    • quixote says:

      Inslee I would have been *fine* with. Not my first choice, but fine.

      People who fossilized in the 1950s? Not so much. Unlike mb over at Widdershins, my fed upness about having Biden foisted on me hasn’t faded at all.