Monday Reads: Pandemania and our Covid TimesPosted: July 13, 2020
Good Day Sky Dancers!
Every day we learn something disgusting about how the Covid-19 Pandemic in our country threatens the majority of us while Trump ignores it and lets his billionaire buddies enrich themselves. Trump’s enablers have enriched themselves at terrible human cost. Trump’s kleptocracy is killing us.
Today’s art are pandemic cartoons from 1918. Think we’d have learned by now wouldn’t ya?
This headline is from Jane Mayer at The New Yorker: “How Trump Is Helping Tycoons Exploit the Pandemic. The secretive titan behind one of America’s largest poultry companies, who is also one of the President’s top donors, is ruthlessly leveraging the coronavirus crisis—and his vast fortune—to strip workers of protections.”
The union’s struggles with the Labor Department are part of a much larger reversal of federal protections for workers, consumers, and the environment under Trump. In 2016, the President promised to “dismantle the regulatory state,” as Stephen Bannon, his former White House strategist, often put it. Given the complexities of federal rulemaking, this proved somewhat difficult in the first three years of the Administration. But the pandemic has offered Trump an opportunity: now that he can invoke an economic emergency, he can relax, rescind, or suspend federal regulations by fiat. In May and June, Trump issued a pair of executive orders directing national agencies to ignore federal regulations and environmental laws if they burdened the economy—again, in many instances, the companies were told that they just had to act “in good faith.” As the Times and the Washington Post have reported, these moves have weakened regulations on all kinds of businesses, from trucking companies to oil and gas pipelines. In Corbo’s view, many in the media have missed one of the biggest aspects of the covid-19 story. “Everyone is looking at the shiny object—the pandemic,” he said. “Meanwhile, the government is deregulating everything. It’s unreal.”
In April, for instance, the United States Department of Agriculture granted fifteen waivers to poultry plants, including a Mountaire facility in North Carolina, authorizing them to increase the number of birds per minute—or B.P.M.—that workers must process. The waivers enabled companies to accelerate the pace from a hundred and forty B.P.M. to a hundred and seventy-five. Angela Stuesse, an anthropologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has studied the poultry industry, told me that, in the chicken business, “you make pennies on a pound.” Among the few ways to increase profits are squeezing labor costs and accelerating line speeds, which are set by the U.S.D.A. to accommodate federal inspectors, who are supposed to assess every bird. The regulations have long been a point of contention between poultry-plant owners and unions, because as the line speed increases so do injuries and other stresses on workers’ bodies. “They move the birds so fast, you have to be really close together to get every bird,” Williams, the union spokesperson, told me. “It’s like the ‘I Love Lucy’ episode at the chocolate factory.” Even though the C.D.C. has emphasized that social distancing is necessary to maintain safety, faster production lines require more workers, who must then squeeze closer together. In many areas of a plant, poultry workers already stand two feet apart at most, often facing one another. Nonetheless, the U.S.D.A. has now indicated that it plans to permit faster line speeds throughout the poultry industry. The National Chicken Council, the industry’s trade group, had lobbied for precisely this change. Williams fears that “these policies will result in the deaths of many more workers.”
Debbie Berkowitz, a program director at the National Employment Law Project, a pro-labor group, who previously headed the health-and-safety division of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, told me that, thanks to the pandemic, “the Chamber of Commerce is getting everything they always wanted.” An analysis of public records by her group found that, of the fifteen poultry plants granted waivers to increase line speeds in April, eight had covid-19 outbreaks at the time. “If you’re a worker in a plant bursting with covid-19, it’s a shitshow for you,” Berkowitz said. “The industry is getting away with murdering people.”
Michaels, the former osha head, told me, “We’re very much back in Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle’ ”—the 1906 novel that exposed abuses in the meat industry. The book so shocked Americans that President Theodore Roosevelt ordered an immediate investigation of slaughterhouses. The result was landmark consumer-protection legislation that formed the foundation of today’s Food and Drug Administration. But, for the past four decades, wealthy donors to the Republican Party have pushed hard for the dismantling of Progressive Era reforms and later curbs on corporate power. The 1980 platform of the Libertarian Party, which was underwritten by the billionaire conservative donors Charles and David Koch, laid out a road map, calling for the abolition of almost every federal agency, including the F.D.A. Although Trump claims to be a defender of the working class, he has delighted wealthy donors—and their pressure groups, such as the Club for Growth—by reliably serving their agenda. Michaels told me, “Mountaire and others are taking advantage of the covid-19 crisis to say, ‘We need more chickens.’ The Trump Administration is aiding and abetting this. They’re saying, ‘Produce more food,’ regardless of the cost to workers. If companies cared as much about their workers as they do about their chickens, we’d be a better country.”
I know that’s an outsized quote but this article is important. Please go read it.
Rather than address the pandemic, the kleptocracy is after our lives. This is from today’s NYT: “Inside the White House, a Gun Industry Lobbyist Delivers for His Former Patrons. The Trump administration lifted a ban on sales of silencers to private overseas buyers that was intended to protect U.S. troops from ambushes. The change was championed by a lawyer for the president who had worked for a firearms trade group.”
Michael B. Williams spent nearly two years helping to run a trade group focused on expanding sales of firearm silencers by American manufacturers.
But try as he might, he could not achieve one of the industry’s main goals: overturning a ban on sales to private foreign buyers enacted by the State Department to protect American troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Then Mr. Williams joined the Trump administration.
As a White House lawyer, he pushed to overturn the prohibition, raising the issue with influential administration officials and creating pressure within the State Department, according to current and former government officials.
On Friday, the State Department lifted the ban, and a longtime industry goal was realized. The change paved the way for as much as $250 million a year in possible new overseas sales for companies that Mr. Williams had championed as general counsel of the American Suppressor Association.
His role in pushing to lift the ban, which has not been previously reported, follows a well-established pattern in the Trump administration, with the president handing over policymaking to allies of special interest groups with a stake in those policies. And in this case, Mr. Williams’s victory comes for a key constituency as President Trump seeks re-election.
Time’s reporters–Michael LaForgia and Kenneth P. Vogel–continue to address the presence of former lobbyists inside the Trumpist regime delivering for the former employers. Also, check out exactly what else Williams is doing.
Mr. Trump’s cabinet includes a former coal lobbyist as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, a former lobbyist for the defense contractor Raytheon Technologies as Defense Secretary, a lobbyist for the auto industry at the helm of the Energy Department and a former oil and gas lobbyist as Interior Secretary. Those industries have been sources of funds for Mr. Trump’s campaign and committees supporting it.
Mr. Williams’s work, though lower-profile, has nevertheless been a boon to another crucial political constituency: the gun lobby, which plays a leading role in Republican get-out-the-vote efforts and views eliminating silencer restrictions as an emerging issue. It’s a subject that has been embraced by the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. — an ally of Mr. Williams’s former trade group — as well as by other powerful gun industry groups.
So, not only are they trying to undercut our rule of law but also any chance we have at getting through this Pandemic without wiping out thousands of people and our health care infrastructure. Trump’s ego can handle people dying on his watch but not Dr. Fauci’s approval ratings.
From the link above:
The tension between the White House and Fauci was on full display last Sunday, when CBS host Margaret Brennan told millions of viewers that “Face the Nation” had tried for three months to interview him.
White House communications officials, who must approve television appearances related to the coronavirus, responded by allowing Fauci spots this week on PBS NewsHour, a CNN town hall with Sanjay Gupta and NBC’s “Meet the Press” during the prime Sunday morning slot, according to one person familiar with the situation.
Then Fauci joined a Facebook Live event on Tuesday with Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), disputing Trump’s assertions that a lower death rate showed the country’s progress against the pandemic. Fauci called it “a false narrative” and warned, “Don’t get yourself into false complacency.”
Fauci did not end up making any of the scheduled appearances. The White House canceled them after his Tuesday remarks, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to relate behind-the-scenes conversations.
The episode underscores the deteriorating relationship between a scientist and a president who once bonded over their shared New York City roots and love of sports, but whose rapport has long since disintegrated over their differences on face mask policy, state reopening strategies and the use of antimalarial drugs to treat covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
This really is the kicker from the article that appeared this weekend.
Even though his suggestions have been largely ignored, Fauci has not complained that he does not get in to see the president, according to one of the officials.
Trump is also galled by Fauci’s approval ratings. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll showed that 67 percent of voters trusted Fauci for information on the coronavirus, compared with 26 percent who trusted Trump.
The internal turmoil and troubled national response have taken a toll on Fauci, those close to him say. He is exasperated that states and individuals are not following the recommendations of experts, such as social distancing and wearing face coverings, said David Barr, a longtime HIV/AIDS activist who has known Fauci for 30 years
Trump continues to be disinterested in actually running the country and continues to focus on his power and wealth and that of other wealthy Americans.
I’ve known several friends that had Covid 19 and lost their antibodies after several successful donations convalescent plasma. Studies are beginning to show this might be the norm. I swear I had this disease back in March but when tested in June showed no antibodies . Can we trust this testing?
From the UK Guardian: “Immunity to Covid-19 could be lost in months, UK study suggests. Exclusive: King’s College London team found steep drops in patients’ antibody levels three months after infection. This basically means forget even a small chance of “herd immunity”.
People who have recovered from Covid-19 may lose their immunity to the disease within months, according to research suggesting the virus could reinfect people year after year, like common colds.
In the first longitudinal study of its kind, scientists analysed the immune response of more than 90 patients and healthcare workers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust and found levels of antibodies that can destroy the virus peaked about three weeks after the onset of symptoms then swiftly declined.
Blood tests revealed that while 60% of people marshalled a “potent” antibody response at the height of their battle with the virus, only 17% retained the same potency three months later. Antibody levels fell as much as 23-fold over the period. In some cases, they became undetectable.
“People are producing a reasonable antibody response to the virus, but it’s waning over a short period of time and depending on how high your peak is, that determines how long the antibodies are staying around,” said Dr Katie Doores, lead author on the study at King’s College London.
The study has implications for the development of a vaccine, and for the pursuit of “herd immunity” in the community over time.
The immune system has multiple ways to fight the coronavirus but if antibodies are the main line of defence, the findings suggested people could become reinfected in seasonal waves and that vaccines may not protect them for long.
And I fully relate to this headline from Bloomberg: “Covid-19 Reinvades U.S. States That Already Beat It Back Once.” Our governor closed down bars this weekend. Now if he would just stop the STR invasion we might get back to normal. Covid Zombies from Texas are in the one on the river side of my house.
The first states to endure the coronavirus this spring hoped the worst would be behind them.
Instead, the virus is coming back.
Many places that suffered most in the first wave of infections, including California, Louisiana, Michigan and Washington state, are seeing case counts climb again after months of declines. It’s not just a matter of more testing. Hospitalizations and, in some places, deaths are rising, too.
The disease is raging — Florida reported 15,300 cases Sunday, the biggest single-day increase of the U.S. pandemic — and experts say the resurgence in the original battlegrounds has common causes. They include a population no longer willing to stay inside, Republicans who refuse face masks as a political statement, street protests over police violence and young people convinced the virus won’t seriously hurt them.
And even though some of the states led by Democratic governors delayed restarting their economies until weeks after more eager peers like Georgia, they still jumped too soon, critics say.
“I don’t think there’s any question about that anymore. Even in California, we opened up too fast,” said John Swartzberg, a doctor who is a clinical professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley.
So far, the rebound hasn’t reached the states hardest hit by the first wave: New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday that it’s on its way.
This is why we need and needed a Federal Response. However, until the nation shakes off Trumpism we are likely to only see more spikes and deaths. I do feel like Doctor Gloom and Doom today, but after watching my state have to back step like this after all the hard work we did and then be invaded by the Covid Zombie States around us really has me in a fit of pique.
I am staying my ass home for at least another 2 – 3 weeks and feel fortunate to be able to do that. Meanwhile, I just got my notification from HHS that my Medicare starts on November 1. Please don’t let the Republicans fuck up any more of our programs meant to protect the least among us. The Elderly–of which I am becoming a member–have been suffering a lot from this plague and needlessly at this point.
We can’t even get some nonpolitical behavior on the need for facemasks. From Gallup: “Americans’ Face Mask Usage Varies Greatly by Demographics”. We have a mandatory mask wearing law here in Louisiana now for all the damn Parishes even the ones that think GAWD protects them as his special white angels.
It has been more than three months since the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reversed course and recommended that Americans wear face masks in public to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Gallup has been measuring U.S. adults’ use of face masks since early April and has found nearly nine in 10 say they have used one in the past week. Yet, new data on how often masks are being used reveals that less than half of Americans are heeding health officials’ guidance and always covering their nose and mouth when in public, especially when social distancing is difficult to maintain.
Forty-four percent of U.S. adults say they “always” wear a mask when outside their homes, and 28% say they do so “very often.” At the same time, three in 10 report doing so less often, including 11% “sometimes,” 4% “rarely” and 14% “never.”
These latest findings are from the probability-based online Gallup Panel survey conducted June 29-July 5, as COVID-19 cases were surging in several states, including Florida, Texas, Arizona and California. With cases nationwide continuing to spike, many public health officials and politicians are imploring Americans to wear masks. Notably, a number of states recently began to mandate the use of masks when in public. Yet, it may fall on deaf ears for some Americans who are resistant to using them.
While majorities of women (54%), Democrats (61%), Northeasterners (54%), and those with annual household incomes under $36,000 (51%) say they always use masks outside their homes, their counterparts do so less often. Still, with just one exception, majorities in each of these subgroups — as well as education and age groups — say they wear a mask in public at least very often.
The one exception is Republicans, among whom a majority say they wear masks infrequently — either sometimes (18%), rarely (9%) or never (27%). Although President Donald Trump has been reluctant to wear one in public, other Republican leaders have come out in support of using them.
So, let’s agree on this. Republicans are trying to kill us. They want to keep us from voting. They want the planet and all the animals to die along with us. Christianity under Republican White Nationalism is basically a twisted Death Cult with no real moral attachment to the biblical Jesus.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?