Sure, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been doing this for 36 years, but that guy you vaguely know from summer camp just doesn’t think Fauci understands the disease like he does. “When this is all over, the country will know that Dr. Anthony Fauci was the anti-hero,” a Twitter user who self-identified as a retired math teacher but neglected to mention he doesn’t understand the meaning of “anti-hero” tweeted. “So wrong on number of deaths. Not one bit concerned about Americans and their loss of jobs.”
This outbreak of ill-placed expertise is not unique to the pandemic. In fact, the phenomenon of people with little knowledge acting as if they should be listened to has been studied and has some robust research behind it.
Rhiana Gunn-Wright is director of climate policy at the Roosevelt Institute. At The New York Times, she writes—Think This Pandemic Is Bad? We Have Another Crisis Coming:
Covid-19 and the economic collapse it has caused have laid bare how connected our problems are. Congress and the Federal Reserve are not going to lay out trillions of dollars, over and over, in perpetuity. Refusing to include measures related to climate and environmental justice in economic stimulus packages related to the coronavirus is not neutral when there is no guarantee of other opportunities to do so later. We need to design the stimulus not only to help the U.S. economy recover but to also become more resilient to the climate crisis, the next multitrillion-dollar crisis headed our way.
Pandemics like the coronavirus may occur more often when climate change is unabated. Warming and changing weather patterns shift the vectors and spread of disease. Heavily polluting industries also contribute to disease transmission. Studies have linked factory farming — one of the largest sources of methane emissions — to faster-mutating, more virulent pathogens. The same corporations that exacerbated the climate crisis are literally helping to create deadlier diseases, more quickly, in a world that keeps changing how they spread.
Similarly, the same populations that are bearing the brunt of the health and economic effects of the coronavirus are the same populations that bear the brunt of fossil fuel pollution — which, in turn, makes them more vulnerable to serious complications.
Eric Margolis at The New Republic writes—The Coming Ecosystem Collapse Is Already Here for Coral:
Climate “tipping points” are thresholds where a tiny change in conditions pushes a system into a completely new state. While scientists say we’re not there yet with coral, we’re frighteningly close. Nearly 50 percent of the world’s coral has died in the last 30 years; climate change is the primary culprit. Surface water temperature just a few degrees warmer than normal for several weeks is enough to drive widespread bleaching. Abnormally hot waters are more common every year.
“Coral reefs provide a variety of different ecosystem services and functions,” said Emma Camp, a biologist and researcher focusing on coral reefs and climate change. “Many fish stock rely on coral reefs. Reefs play a huge role in nutrient recycling and coastal protection.”
The global economic value of coral reefs is estimated to be $36 billion each year. This revenue comes from diving, snorkeling, and wildlife watching as well as “reef-adjacent” tourism that relies on beautiful beaches and views. Reefs also serve as the first line of defense for many coastal areas against storm and wave activity, dissipating large waves and protecting islands from coastal erosion. “As we lose coral reefs, there will be socioeconomic ripple effects that spill far beyond the immediate communities affected,” Camp said.
Dana Milbank at The Washington Post writes—Captain Trump hits the rocks:
Is it possible Trump is more self-aware than we thought?
Like Bligh, he is abusive. Unlike Bligh, he is a poor navigator. The Trump-as-errant-captain theme has been explored, delightfully, by novelist Dave Eggers in his recent allegory, “The Captain and the Glory”:
“He nudged the wheel a bit left, and the entire ship listed leftward, which was both frightening and thrilling. He turned the wheel to the right, and the totality of the ship, and its uncountable passengers and their possessions, all were sent rightward. In the cafeteria, where the passengers were eating lunch, a thousand plates and glasses shattered. An elderly man was thrown from his chair, struck his head on the dessert cart and died later that night. High above, the Captain was elated by the riveting drama caused by the surprises of his steering.”
So it is with our captain, who claims absolute authority but takes no responsibility.
NIck Martin at The New Republic writes—A New York Garbage Map Reveals the Virus of White Supremacy. Even in a pandemic, we are stuck in the same nightmarish feedback loop of racist policy. The results are predictable and deadly:
Earlier this week, The City, a nonprofit news organization covering New York, published a map detailing the drastic decline in trash collection in certain areas in Manhattan—specifically neighborhoods with higher concentrations of wealth, including the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, and East Village. Whereas working class neighborhoods in Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island saw increases in their weekly hauls upwards of ten percent—the likely byproduct of more people sheltering in place—the tony Manhattan zip codes actually dipped in their trash output. A porter in one such neighborhood guessed that half of the residents in the building where he worked had left the city for second homes. “I do see a lot less garbage than what I normally would see when they’re there,” he explained.
It’s a small detail among many unfolding around the country right now, all telling a version of the same story: The demarcations that have decided who can and cannot protect themselves against the global pandemic of Covid-19.
In Queens Community District 7, which saw a surge of 9.9 percent in waste, 53 percent of residents are Asian, with Latinx residents making up another 20 percent. Brooklyn Community District 8, with an increase of 8.6 percent, is 58 percent Black and 12 percent Latinx. The pickup on the Upper East Side in Manhattan Community District 3, which is 75 percent white? Dropped 3.6 percent. The experience of the pandemic in the city—who’s still riding the subway, who’s working the checkout at the grocery, who’s living and who’s dying—is highly raced and classed.
It’s of course bigger than New York.
Morris Pearl and William Lazonick at The Guardian write—With working Americans’ survival at stake, the US is bailing out the richest:
Working people were not prepared for this disaster. There are still tens of millions of American households that haven’t recovered from the Great Recession; nearly 50% of Americans were already living paycheck to paycheck before millions lost their jobs in the last few weeks, and 40% did not have enough savings accrued to cover a $400 emergency. It’s imperative that they be given the lifelines that they desperately need to survive.
Over the past five years alone, airline executives—who were first in line clamoring for a bailout—spent $52bn in corporate cash on buybacks, at the expense of employee wage increases, capital expenditures and investments in innovation. Now that these businesses are being handed government funds, we need to make sure that top executives and wealthy shareholders don’t do this again: channel money into their own bank accounts while leaving employees wondering how they are going to pay their bills.
If not properly managed, this economic disaster has the potential to be the worst in American history. Our country cannot allow a small number of executives and shareholders to profit from taxpayer funds that we have injected into these corporations for reasons of pure emergency. We need to stop this rot at the core of our economic system and realign the priorities of government with those of workers and consumers.
Helaine Olen at The Washington Post writes—America’s love of small businesses is all talk:
Carol Barash, the founder of communications consultancy Story2, is waiting for money from the Paycheck Protection Program. She has been approved for the program — after the third bank she approached helped her process an application. But she hasn’t received the money. Her staff is waiting. “I can’t pay my people this week unless the government pays me.”
The coronavirus crisis reveals just how cheap these sentiments are.
Richard Wolffe at The Guardian writes—Three months after the coronavirus arrived in the US, and more than 23,000 deaths later, the president thinks he has figured out what ails us:
Donald Trump has identified the enemy. Three months after the coronavirus arrived in the United States, and more than 23,000 deaths later, our president has put his finger on what ails us.
It is not, as he may have said many times, invisible. It is not even a very brilliant virus that has outsmarted the world’s antibiotics. It is, in fact, the media.
Yes, you know who you are, you viral agents of destruction. Because of you, our valiant commander-in-chief was forced to spend the bulk of his so-called media briefing on Easter Monday taking the fight against the pandemic to where it really needs to be waged: with reporters.
Andrew Gawthorpe at The Guardian writes—Trump’s decision to cut WHO funding is an act of international vandalism:
In a parody of self-destructive nationalism, Donald Trump yesterday decided that an unprecedented global health emergency was the perfect time to withdraw American funding from the organization whose job it is to fight global health emergencies. His decision to suspend contributions to the World Health Organization is an extraordinary act of moral abdication and international vandalism at a time when the world desperately needs to find means of working together to combat an unprecedented global threat.
Global problems require global solutions. Covid-19 does not respect borders—even closed ones—and its continued transmission anywhere poses a threat to health everywhere. We are still in phase one of the crisis, in which countries are mostly focused on containing the initial wave of domestic outbreaks. If these efforts are not to be in vain, then intensive international cooperation will be needed to get expertise and resources to where they are needed most—especially as the disease takes root in impoverished countries in the Global South.
The WHO is the only organization in the world with the network and expertise to effectively perform this task.
William Rivers Pitt at TruthOut writes—Trump Says His “Authority Is Total.” In Response, Governors Are Rebelling:
The president of the United States went fully off the rails on live television yesterday like your shouty right-wing uncle at the Thanksgiving table … times a thousand zillion infinities. Even for Donald Trump, who has set the bar for presidential behavior so low that worms use it as a guardrail, this was a rare and terrifying performance.
Trump has been hijacking the daily coronavirus briefings to strut, preen, lie, attack and generally indulge himself in being the gibberish fountain he is at his infamous nonsense rallies. It is cathartic for him, I assume, to bellow falsehoods and receive gusts of cheering adulation in response, so — now that his in-person rallies are on hold — he’s made that behavior the centerpiece of daily briefings regarding a pandemic that has killed nearly 24,000 of his citizens.
On Monday, Trump took it up (or down) several dozen notches by playing a video made at taxpayer expense showing that he is always right and everyone else is always wrong, so there. Specifically, the video was a hatchet job on history, meant to show that Trump’s lethally incompetent response to the pandemic was in fact a brilliant series of chess moves that only terrible Democrats and the “fake news” disagree with.
Ed Kilgore at New York magazine writes—As Coronavirus Rages, Republicans Still Don’t Have a Plan to Give Americans Health-Care Coverage:
GOP fecklessness on health-care was by nearly all accounts a significant factor in Democratic midterm gains in 2018. Given the continued efforts of the Trump administration and Republicans in the states to blow up Obamacare in the courts (though they rather disingenuously asked the Supreme Court to wait until after the 2020 elections to decide their case), and their continued inability to come up with a comprehensive approach to health-care reform of their own, Democrats entered 2020 planning to emphasize this issue again.
And then came the coronavirus pandemic.
Has that changed the Republican posture on health-care policy? Not in any significant way. Yes, the Trump administration has endorsed the idea of using coronavirus stimulus funds to reimburse hospitals for treatment of uninsured coronavirus patients. But there’s still no plan for the millions of people without insurance who are at risk of infection (not to mention other life-threatening ailments), much less for the many millions of addition Americans who will lose employer-sponsored health insurance as they lose their jobs. And the GOP position is still characterized by unrelieved hostility towards existing programs that might help, as NBC News observes:
The clarity in Trump’s health care vision begins and ends with repealing the Affordable Care Act….
Rachel Rebouché at The Nation writes—Anti-Abortion Opportunism. There is no good time to restrict access to abortion:
Over the past few weeks, nine states have tried to implement—with varying degrees of success—measures suspending abortions, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Several more states are poised to include abortion in bans on nonessential procedures. Advocacy groups representing abortion providers filed suit in several states that have used the outbreak as a pretext to further restrict abortion access. So far, the litigation in Texas has taken the most tumultuous path: Last month a federal district court suspended implementation of a new policy banning all abortion care. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit then overturned that decision, allowing the state’s ban to take effect based on a “critical interest in protecting the public health.”
In a stunning rebuke to the appellate court, the district judge reissued a narrowed restraining order, permitting medication abortion and abortion for those who might exceed 22 weeks of gestation, when terminations become illegal in Texas. One day later, a divided panel of the Fifth Circuit again blocked the district court’s order, only to lift that stay this week. But the battle is far from over. Texas could ask the Supreme Court for relief, and the full bench of the Fifth Circuit could hear another petition. At the moment, people can seek medication abortion in Texas, but for how long is uncertain.