The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Tag: Covid 19

Power Concedes Nothing Without a Credible Threat: Riots Work Edition


… a veto-proof majority of Minneapolis City Council members announced their commitment to disbanding the city’s embattled police department

This doesn’t mean “no police” it means get rid of the current bunch, and create a new police department. This was done by Camden, New Jersey, for example…

By the department’s account, reports of excessive force complaints in Camden have dropped 95 percent since 2014.

There’s some stuff about how they did it that I don’t like, but the point that it can be done matters.

More important is something which wasn’t going to happen, disbanding Minneapolis’s police department, is now probably going to happen. Without riots, it wouldn’t have.

Riots are, actually, one of the most effective ways to create change. Politely worded letters don’t work. Completely non-violent protest only works if it shuts things down. Voting doesn’t work if the political system is entrenched, because entrenched political systems know how to co-opt or marginalize actual radicals.

If you want something from powerful people, you have to show you have power of your own. If you don’t have enough power to at least scare them, to show them the limits of their power, why should they give you anything?

Americans are showing the rich and powerful the limits of their power; of what their violent lackeys can do, and the powerful are making concessions. (And they are just that–concessions. They wouldn’t have done these things without the riots. They didn’t want to do them.)

This is also a result of the weakness the US’s current elites; in-touch, wise elites would have given much more to the poor and middle class during the Covid-19 bailouts, instead of letting tens of millions lose their jobs and worry about their rent.

Elites thought Americans were completely whipped. They had reason to believe that, admittedly, but they overplayed their hand.

Always boil the frog slowly, smart evil elites know that.

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A Long, Hot Summer

Back when Obama was elected, I was still an A-list blogger, and had some access. We advised Obama and the Senators creating the new financial laws that the correct action was to take over the banks and break them up, while bailing out Main Street. Criminal charges should be laid against bankers under RICO statutes for fraud, to ensure nothing like this happened again.

If they did not follow our advice, we warned that it would eventually lead both a strengthening of the populist right and to civil unrest.

Of course, they didn’t take that advice, and given who Obama chose to run his administration that should hardly have been a surprise. Indeed, it was Obama who pushed TARP through after it failed the first time–Pelosi was not going to pass it if Republicans would not vote for it in equal percentages, and they wouldn’t. Obama twisted arms, and the reports I received were that the threats were absolutely savage. TARP was, though most Democrats will not admit it, ultimately Obama’s bill, whether it was originally Bush’s or not.

It is after the 2008 financial crisis that American pathology starts going off the charts: We start seeing declining life expectancy among the working class, the opiate crisis spreads to poor and many middle class whites, and so on. It takes years for jobs to return, and inequality soars; it was worse under Obama than any other previous president. Yes, this is a continuation of trend, but Obama could have stopped it, simply by enforcing laws as written.

The response to the financial crisis set the standard: Bail out the rich, fuck the poor people–they receive some crumbs. This was repeated when Covid-19 hit, with multi-trillion dollar bailouts for the rich, and a single $1,200 check for everyone else, with some technocratic fixes around the edges. Billionaires gained control over more of the economy, small businesses were and are being gutted, and crisis capitalists are waiting to snap up billions in distressed businesses and properties.

The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

Meanwhile the neoliberal playbook, which was always about making the rich richer and everyone else poorer and about gutting the middle class the New Deal order built, kept the poors down by locking them up and with routing police brutality. Incarceration soared under neoliberal rulership, and Joe Biden was one of the architects, though you can see the trend starts under Reagan.

And so here we are, with protests and riots throughout the US. This was a long time coming, and it came because the lords and masters in the US refuse to throw anybody but the rich more than scraps. They funnel gold and caviar to the already wealthy at every opportunity; cat food to everyone else. They beat down anyone who acts uppity, giving cops massive license to be brutal, arming them with military weapons, and having them taught by Israelis whose experience is in beating down Palestinians in the occupied territories: people with no rights, regarded by Israelis as subhuman (no, don’t even pretend otherwise).

The cops see violence and brutality as their right. Any challenge to their authority is met with cruelty and abuse of power. They are fundamentally cowards, because they don’t believe their victims have any right to fight or even talk back. (Their essential cowardice has been proven when they are threatened, and is a weakness which could easily be exploited.)

Right now there is no reason to believe than any of the new Covid-19 bills will do more than give crumbs out. Food stamps are under threat of further restriction and, in New York, Governor Cuomo (whose popularity has increased despite his complete malign incompetence in handling Covid-19) used the crisis as part of his excuse to cut Medicaid, while keeping non violent offenders locked up in prison so that Covid could kill them.

Long and short, neoliberal elites don’t know how to give. They don’t have the instinct that New Deal elites, for all their flaws, had, that the job of government is prosperity for the masses. They know it is prosperity for the few, they feel in their bones that anyone who is poor doesn’t deserve more than a little bit of pity charity, and their instinct is punitive; the poor and middle class are undeserving and if they get uppity, what they need is a good smack.

Covid is not going to go away this summer. Multiple states have reopened without getting it even remotely under control. Testing has been reduced, but even so numbers show only minor decreases.

So we have a pandemic, a population nearing 30 percent unemployment, people who can’t pay the rent, and 40 years of impoverishment and brutality.

This summer has been a long time coming, and it’s only starting. Even if this wave of protests is crushed, or dies down, the smart money is that it isn’t the last wave.

And that’s a good thing.

Because as long as your lords and masters know they can only give you scraps and feed themselves at gold plated troughs, that’s how it’ll be.

If you are reading this, understand that this dynamic means that there can be no peace while the current ideology rules. The only possible peace is the peace of impoverished serfdom, of people beaten so far into the ground that they simply accept that everything will keep getting worse for them while the rich feast.

There is no good future for the US if neoliberalism, and neoliberal elites, continue to rule.

Take that into account in your planning.

And get ready for that long, hot summer.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.


A Company Handling Crisis Communication Correctly

So, in Canada, the biggest grocery chain is Loblaws. They also own the largest chain of drug stores, Shopper’s Drug Mart (which they should never have been allowed to buy). Loblaws is about as upscale as the mass market goes, above it is Whole Foods (which doesn’t have a lot of Canadian stores), and some specialty supermarkets.

I shop quite a bit at Loblaws because it’s near me. It’s slightly highly priced, though you can get some cheap stuff if you shop carefully and take advantage of their specials. Some years back, they were part of a cartel fixing bread prices. At least in my local stores, the employees tend to be sullen, which is a reflection on the stores and Loblaws, not the employees. The rare exceptions are usually middle aged or older part-time workers who have the strength of personality to remain cheerful despite the store atmosphere.

All that background aside, and understanding that there’s a lot I don’t like about Loblaws, I haven’t seen better corporate communication, or heck, government communication than what I’ve received from Loblaws (since I have their points card). It’s reassuring, clear, and matter-of-fact. I’m going to put it below, because I want people to see what good comms and crisis management looks like.

Hi Everyone,

Things continue to move fast and change quickly.

Earlier today the Canadian Government announced they are restricting our international borders to limit the impact of COVID-19. As each of us try to understand how that will affect our daily lives, our friends, and our families, I wanted to reach out again.

Those who went shopping recently will have seen extraordinary numbers of people in stores, long lines, and aisles empty of product. This was a result of extreme levels of buying as millions of Canadians stocked up their kitchens and medicine cabinets. I’m sure the many photos of bare shelves on social media only increased your level of concern.

First and foremost. Do not worry. We are not running out of food or essential supplies. Our supply chain and store teams are responding to the spikes in volume and quickly getting the most important items back on the shelf. Volumes are already normalizing somewhat, and we are catching up. There are a few items, like hand sanitizer, that may take longer to get back, but otherwise we are in good shape.

Another concern you may have is that your supermarket or drugstore could raise prices on the items you and your family need most. Do not worry. This will not happen at our stores. We will not raise a single price on any item to take advantage of COVID-19.

Some of you may also be worried that your local Shoppers Drug Mart or supermarket could close as part of shutting down certain stores and services. Do not worry. We have been in contact with both Provincial and Federal governments. We all agree that food and drug stores are essential services and we must do what we need to in order to keep them operating and serving every community in the days and weeks ahead.

It won’t be business as usual. But, you will be able to count on us. Our teams from across the country, at stores in every community, have been hard at work around the clock to live up to that commitment.

Please keep in mind our service relies on keeping them, and in turn you, safe and healthy. That is our top priority, and it may mean limiting the number of people in our stores at any given time as well as asking customers to keep a certain distance from each other while shopping to reduce the risk of making one another sick.

We are prepared for this, and to support those most in need, we are opening some of our stores early with dedicated hours for seniors and people living with disabilities to come before the crowds. We are also encouraging those customers who cannot shop our stores to take advantage of our e-prescribing and PC Express options like click-and-collect and home delivery. Last week we lowered delivery prices and eliminated pick up fees and, just like in our stores, we’ve seen a spike in volume.

We are managing the rising number of orders and ramping up our systems as quickly as we can so customers can shop online with confidence. However, it will be difficult for us to meet all the additional demand, possibly limiting availability for people who are sick, in self-isolation, or at elevated risk. So, I would ask that if you are healthy, mobile, and symptom-free, please do your best to make it into the store.

All of us will face uncertainty and new challenges over the coming days. Our stores and our services will be far from perfect. But, we will do everything in our power to make sure you have what you need for yourselves and your families.

As we have more updates we will continue to communicate, online, in-store, and through our PC Optimum app.

For now, let me leave you with four things:

  1. We have the food, drugs, and essential products you need and that supply will continue even as Canada restricts its borders.
  2. We are going to make sure our stores stay up and running to serve your community.
  3. We will not, under any circumstance, change our actions or prices to take advantage of COVID-19.
  4. Please be patient with us when you are shopping, and don’t forget to practice social distancing.

Over the last few days, it has been remarkable to witness Canadians supporting one another in our aisles: Bags carried to cars. Crowds parting so young moms could check out. Cheers for speedy cashiers. Customers helping stock shelves.

One example in particular stood out. A few days ago, someone stuck a handmade sign to the front of a store. It reads “Be kind”. This is great encouragement to cap off perhaps one of the most-tense weeks of our 100 years running stores, and to help all of us prepare for what is next.

Be kind to each other. We will get through it.

Galen Weston

Again, I don’t much like Loblaws management, but this is sterling communications and action and shows calm and good will. One can be cynical, but whatever the motives, this is how it’s done.

(Also, why the hell do people keep buying all the fresh meat? Does everyone have a huge freezer? I don’t get it.)

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

How Bad Is Coronavirus Going to Be and What Should We Do?

Depends where you are, but the basic rule is that without social distancing it will kill a LOT of people and we have left social distancing too late in a lot of countries.

Florida, for example, has 4,704 ICU beds and five million seniors over 60.

Assume even five percent need care, and you have catastrophic numbers. There will be, for all intents and purposes, no care in most cases.

Britain is going to be terrible, and I’m expecting in excess of a million deaths.

Necessary steps are still not being taken. In Canada, I’m just beginning to see (in Ontario and Quebec) call ups of retired nurses and doctors. Facilities capable of making masks, ventilators, and other equipment should have been federalized already, and re-tooled. (We have little of this, by the way, the West has shipped most of the manufacture of medical devices offshore.) Many years ago, I noted that there should be a registry of retired health care workers who were willing to be called up in a crisis, but fortunately, most people will answer the call.

New hospitals, from pre-fabs or by taking over other buildings, should be going up in major urban centers in the US, the UK, and Canada. A registry of people who have had the virus should be put in place, and we should be prepping to train teenagers to care for people, since they are virtually immune.

All rent, mortgage, water, credit card payments, interest charges, car payments, etc, etc. need to be put on  hiatus. Landlords can’t charge renters, banks can’t charge mortgage payments to landlords, etc., all through the chain. Nor should payments be deferred. They aren’t made now, or ever.

A temporary UBI needs to be put in place, probably based on regional cost of living, and checks or deposits should go out every week during social distancing. Just send them to everyone who isn’t a minor. If you’ve stopped payments on everything, then the UBI can be relatively small, if not, it has to be large.

Central banks can then give banks enough money to stay afloat, etc.

None of this is particularly hard to think up, it’s just a question of doing it. The problem is that it reveals that a lot of our economic relationships are basically bullshit (something the Great depression and WWII generations learned, which we’ve forgotten). They are social fictions, perhaps useful, perhaps not, which can be put aside when necessary.

If these things are not done, a huge swathe of small businesses will disappear during this crisis, and never return. They can’t go even two weeks without income. If we have to shelter longer, which we may well have to in some places, then the carnage will be even worse.

But a lot of people can’t afford to not be making money for even two weeks, they live paycheck to paycheck.

Understand that if these policies aren’t put in place, that people who have money afterwards will swoop down and buy all the distressed property, just like they did after 2008 — because rich people are being bailed out through central banks, even if no one else is. They’ll have money, small businesses and landlords will be broke, and they’ll be able to buy cheap. They’re chomping at the bit to do so.

I’ll put up a post on how to deal with the psychology of being mostly confined to one’s home, and unable to be with other people soonish.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.



Taking the Coronvirus Seriously

Covid Fatality from Bloomberg

Three weeks ago, Italy had almost no cases of Coronavirus. Today the country is on lockdown. There are so many cases that doctors cannot put ventilators in everyone who needs them, and are having to choose who gets them, leaving many to die who might otherwise live.

Covid-19 has an exponential spread if it is not handled correctly. Donald Trump and the US have chosen to not manage it properly. In fact, in most cases the US has chosen to not even test. We do not know how widespread the Coronavirus is.

Trump is acting like the average American CEO, he is managing the numbers, not the underlying reality.

That may get you killed. Maybe you’re young and healthy, then it may kill your parents, grandparents, or other older people you care about.

You should assume, at this point, that there will be an epidemic in the United States and you should prepare for one. Buy the necessary supplies for staying in place for at least two weeks if you have not already. Include any medications if you can. Get some non-prescription anti-virals if you can (raw garlic and bee propolis are decent), because while conventional medicine is superior, you must assume that there will not be enough ventilators, for example, to go around. Heck, there may not even be even be enough beds.

British readers should take note as well.

A lot of organizations are cancelling meetings, there are planes flying entirely empty, school is being cancelled, and so on. All of these things are good.

Note that the fatality rate soars if the spread of the disease is not slowed, because if there are too many cases all at once, and hospitals are overwhelmed. The chart going around to illustrate this follows.


The US isn’t going to have a better curve. So assume that you aren’t going to get good hospital care, and that you might not get hospital care at all.

All of this is, of course, a bad case scenario. But that scenario is happening, right now, in Italy. If you make preparations and you don’t need them, that’s not a problem. If you do need them, you’ll be glad you did.

This virus specializes in older, unhealthy people. But young people are carriers, even if they don’t die. So if you don’t have to, you should probably be avoiding older people for the duration.

Social distancing is not a bad idea. If you can work for home, you probably should. Employers which can have their workers work from home should do that now. Schools should be sending students home, conventions should be cancelled, etc.

In Italy, the government has cancelled mortgage payments. I would suggest that other governments consider the same and do something similar for renters, while also cancelling utility payments, with the government directly compensating utilities. Other similar measures can be imagined.

The American government’s inclination will be to give money to rich people through the Federal Reserve, but it is poor people who need to be convinced they can afford to stay home, and not go to work and keep spreading the disease.

Remember that the virus has a five day average incubation period. You could have it now and feel fine. Further you can have the virus and never get symptoms, but spread it. This is especially likely if you are young and healthy.

So, take this all seriously. It might save your life, or it might save the life of someone you care about.

As for the politics, it all depends. If it’s not too bad, Trump can keep the lid on it. People will die, the media doesn’t really report it, he survives. If it truly breaks out, and people are sharing videos of their grandmothers dying without health care because hospitals are overwhelemed, he’s going to get the blame–quite deservedly so. Of course, most politicians, including Trump, Biden, and Sanders, are old, and are at high risk to get the disease and die. Trump, in particular, is obviously not healthy.

The Coronavirus is not a hoax, it is deadlier than the flu, and the response has been bungled.

Edit: One of the symptoms is coughing blood. An herbalist I respect has suggested Dragon’s Blood (Sangre De Grado) might help with that. I pass this on very tentatively, I’m not a doctor and don’t play one, but I have ordered some for myself. It’s not expensive. None of this is a substitute for hospital care, of course, but hospitals may be overwhelmed.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

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