Sunday, March 29, 2020

Last Call For Deliver Us From Evil

The billion-dollar corporations exploiting the gig economy are running headlong into the COVID-19 era and the realization that if they don't have workers to exploit, the corporations crumble to dust.

As some Instacart workers prepare to strike Monday, the company is making more updates in a bid to appease them. 
Instacart said Sunday that it will soon begin making hand sanitizer available to its "full service shoppers," who shop and deliver groceries for the company. It is also making it easier for customers to set their own default tipping percentage in the app. 
Instacart is one of several companies delivering essentials to households and now expanding rapidly at a time when much of the American economy is at risk of contracting. Last week, the company announced plans to bring on another 300,000 "full service shoppers" in North America over the next three months to service demand. 
But while the company has seen a surge in customer orders in recent weeks and introduced an option for customers to have orders left at their doorsteps, workers have criticized the company for not doing enough for them. 
The strike, which is being called for by Instacart shoppers and a newly formed non-profit called Gig Workers Collective, has a list of demands including providing workers with safety items including hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and sprays, hazard pay, and an expansion of its coronavirus pay to include those with underlying health conditions. The workers specified in a Medium post that they wanted an extra $5 per order and a default tip of at least 10% of the order total.

Reagan busted air traffic controllers 40 years when they tried to strike.  I fully expect Trump to try to do the same here, and it won't just be delivery guys who go on strike soon.  It'll be the people keeping the lights on in the hospitals.

Trump Goes Viral, Con't

The word is that Trump will urge states to send people back to work and reopen schools as early as next week, with Americans being advised to wear masks and proceed as normal.

On Saturday, Weill Cornell’s Dr. Matt McCarthy reported that the Centers for Disease Control will revise their recommendations on protective masks.

In the next ten days, the CDC guidelines will reportedly change to advising Americans to wear masks “in everyday life.” This contrasts with the current guidelines, which only recommend masks for high-risk groups like health care workers.

The country is currently suffering from a shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment as health care workers struggle to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many have been forced to reuse spent masks, or fashion their own out of materials lying around. The revised guidelines would threaten to worsen the mask shortage unless increased production begins right away.

Following the publication of this story, the CDC denied the report.

Trump is calling up retired troops and reservists back to duty to prepare for the inevitable.

President Trump issued an order Friday night that permits the Pentagon to bring back to active duty some veterans and reserve members of the military to augment forces already involved in the response to the coronavirus pandemic, senior U.S. officials said.

The president said Friday night that the decision will “allow us to mobilize medical, disaster and emergency response personnel to help wage our battle against the virus by activating thousands of experienced service members, including retirees.”

The president did not clarify whether anyone will be involuntarily recalled to duty but said some retirees have “offered to support the nation in this extraordinary time of need.”

“It’s really an incredible thing to see,” Trump said, speaking at the White House. “It’s beautiful.”

An Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Emmanuel Ortiz-Cruz, said some 15,000 veterans have expressed interest in rejoining the service to help the military’s response to the pandemic.

But a U.S. military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, would not rule out that involuntary recalls also are possible.

“That’s to be determined based on requirements,” the official said.

I guarantee you that the orders will not be voluntary in a matter of weeks.  In a matter of weeks, it will be utter and complete chaos, with thousands of Americans dying daily.

We're up to hundreds of Americans dying daily now as the total number dead are doubling every 3 days.   If there's anything good that has come from the last week, it's the fact that far fewer Americans now believe Trump this week when it comes to COVID-19.

A clear majority of the American public, including self-identified Republicans, do not believe the disinformation that President Donald Trump keeps pushing around the spread of coronavirus. And even members of the president’s own party are skeptical of his argument that getting the country back to work needs to be as prioritized as public safety measures.

A new survey conducted by Ipsos exclusively for The Daily Beast provides some of the clearest evidence to date that the president’s attempts to paint a rosy picture about the coronavirus’ spread throughout the country are not resonating beyond a small segment of the populace with a small exception for those who say they’re getting their information from Fox News. 
  • A full 73 percent of respondents, including 75 percent of Republicans, said that it was not true that “anyone who wants to get tested [for the virus] can get tested.” Just 17 percent said it was true. 
  • Only 20 percent of the public, and just 25 percent of Republicans, said that they believed a vaccine will be available soon. Forty-two percent said that was false and 38 percent said they did not know. 
  • Fifty-one percent of respondents, including a plurality or Republicans (46 percent), said it was false that the virus would go away on its own in warm weather, while just 13 percent said that was true. 
  • And 61 percent of respondents said that they believed COVID-19 was more deadly than the flu; with 22 percent saying it was about the same and 11 percent saying they believed it was less deadly. 
The question that seemed to generate the most confusion was on whether the Federal Drug Administration had “approved anti-malaria drugs to treat the virus." 
But even then, 45 percent of respondents correctly identified that statement as false, 22 percent said it was true and 33 percent said they did not know. 
Collectively, the results present a portrait of a public that is sober minded about the coronavirus and unpersuaded by talk that life could return to normalcy soon. Over the past few weeks, Trump has suggested that the spread of coronavirus would abate as the temperature warmed. He’s repeatedly insisted that those who want a test can get one, against overwhelming evidence to the contrary. He’s downplayed the lethality of it by comparing it to the flu. He’s talked about a vaccine hitting the markets in weeks, if not months, and pushed hydroxychloroquine as a therapy for coronavirus, despite his own medical experts warning that there is nothing more than anecdotal data suggesting it could work.

We're still in the first 20-30 minutes of this pandemic movie, where the national leader is telling everyone that things will be fine.

They will not be fine.  The next month will be hell.

It will be significantly worse in the days ahead.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.

Sunday Long Read: Prepper's Paradise

Needless to say, America's doomsday prepper community believes COVID-19 is The Big One, and those who have spend years preparing for the end of American civilization as we know it are gearing up to ride out the storm in places like old nuclear bunkers in South Dakota, as our Sunday Long Read comes to us from The Guardian's Mark O'Connell.

I had made arrangements to meet with one Robert Vicino, a real-estate impresario from San Diego who had acquired a vast tract of South Dakota ranch land. The property had once been an army munitions and maintenance facility, built during the second world war for the storage and testing of bombs, and it contained 575 decommissioned weapons storage facilities, gigantic concrete and steel structures designed to withstand explosions of up to half a megaton. Vicino intended to sell them for $35,000 a pop to those Americans who cared to protect themselves and their families from a variety of possible end-time events.

Vicino was among the most prominent and successful figures in the doomsday preparedness space, a real-estate magnate for the end of days. His company specialised in the construction of massive underground shelters where high-net-worth individuals could weather the end of the world in the style and comfort to which they had become accustomed. The company was named Vivos, which is the Spanish word for living. (As in los vivos – as distinct, crucially, from los muertos.) Vivos claimed to operate several facilities across the US, all in remote and undisclosed locations, far from likely nuclear targets, seismic fault lines and large urban areas where outbreaks of contagion would be at their most catastrophically intense. They were advertising an “elite shelter” in Germany, too, a vast Soviet-era munitions bunker built into the bedrock beneath a mountain in Thuringia.

Vivos’s new South Dakota location went by the name xPoint. Each of the bunkers, evenly spaced across 18 sq miles of prairie land, had an area of 204 sq metres – significantly larger than my own (admittedly not very large) house. The place would, it was claimed, be home to somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 people and would become “the largest survival community on Earth”. It was pitched at a demographic somewhere between the super-wealthy clients for Vivos’s luxury underground shelters and the doomsday preppers who planned to survive the apocalypse through manly grit and YouTube knowhow. It was the future domain, in other words, of the post-apocalyptic petit bourgeoisie.

The place was, I read on the company’s website, “strategically and centrally located in one of the safest areas of North America”, at an altitude of about 1,200 metres and 100 miles from the nearest known military nuclear targets. “Vivos security team can spot anyone approaching the property from three miles away. Massive. Safe. Secure. Isolated. Private. Defensible. Off-Grid. Centrally located.” It was not intuitively clear to me how a place could be both isolated and centrally located, but, to be fair, if pretty much the entire rest of the world had perished, any settlement of living humans would have legitimate grounds to proclaim itself centrally located.

Vivos was offering more than just the provision of ready-made bunkers and turnkey apocalypse solutions. It was offering a vision of a post-state future. When you bought into such a scheme, you tapped into a fever dream from the depths of the libertarian lizard-brain: a group of well-off and ideologically like-minded individuals sharing an autonomous space, heavily fortified against outsiders – the poor, the hungry, the desperate, the unprepared – and awaiting its moment to rebuild civilisation from the ground up. What was being offered, as such, was a state stripped down to its bare rightwing essentials: a militarised security apparatus, engaged through contractual arrangement, for the protection of private wealth.

End-time real estate was an increasingly competitive racket. On the website of one major purveyor of luxury apocalypse solutions, Trident Lakes, I read that in the event of a nuclear, chemical or biological emergency, the properties would be sealed by automatic airlocks and blast doors, and that each would be connected via a network of tunnels to an underground community centre featuring dry food storage, DNA vaults, fully equipped exercise rooms and meeting areas. The promotional blurb also promised such features as a retail district, an equestrian centre and polo field, an 18-hole golf course and a driving range.

This was a new entry into the canon of apocalyptic scenarios: bankers and hedge-fund managers, tanned and relaxed, taking the collapse of civilisation as an opportunity to spend some time on the links, while a heavily armed private police force roamed the perimeter in search of intruders. All of this was a logical extension of the gated community. It was a logical extension of capitalism itself.

The super-elites will be fine in a COVID-19 world.  They'll have the supplies, the resources, and the clout to pull through for the most part, and if the wealthy head of a family is felled by the virus, they'll have heirs to follow through.

One thing's not going to change after COVID-19: the super rich will still be rich.  What might finally change is how we choose to view and deal with them.
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