Monday, March 30, 2020

Last Call For Hungarian For Power

It shouldn't surprise anyone that the first real COVID-19 fascist dictatorship is not a south-of-the-border banana republic or a Mideast kingdom, but a now-former European democracy as of this week.

Hungary’s parliament handed Prime Minister Viktor Orban the right to rule by decree indefinitely, effectively putting the European Union democracy under his sole command for as long as he sees fit.

While governments around the world assume emergency powers to fight the coronavirus, locking down all aspects of every-day life and shutting borders, few democracies have given their governments such latitude without an end date.

Hungary’s ruling party lawmakers overrode the objections of the opposition in a vote on Monday, handing Orban the right to bypass the assembly on any law. The Constitutional Court, which Orban has stacked with loyalists, will be the main body capable of reviewing government actions.

“I don’t know of another democracy where the government has effectively asked for a free hand to do anything for however long,” said Renata Uitz, director of the comparative constitutional-law program at Central European University in Budapest.

Orban is dictator for life.  He will never give those powers up willingly. He may be the first dictatorship to rise in the COVID-19 era, but I guarantee you he won't be the last fascist to take over this year.  As I discussed before,  the "soft fascism" of his regime is now a hard fact of life.

Your Take Out, Taken Out

The restaurant business isn't going to survive COVID-19, not in the form that it is in now, and if even one of the biggest fast-food juggernauts in the business, Yum Brands, is closing 7,000 locations worldwide already, it's going to be a bloodbath over the next couple of months.

Louisville-based Yum! Brands is closing around 7,000 stores around the world because of the coronavirus, according to financial records.

Among the closures are 1,000 Pizza Hut Express locations the the U.S. and at least 900 KFCs in the U.K., according to a March filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.

Yum!, which has at least 50,000 restaurants in more than 150 countries, owns KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and The Habit Burger Grill.

"The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the operations of our restaurants in numerous markets across the world," according to the filing. "As we have taken steps in response to the pandemic, our primary focus continues to be the safety of everyone who engages with our Brands, including our employees, franchisees and their team members, and customers."

Sales are expected to drop through the quarter ending March 31, the company wrote in the filing, but it expects the quarter ending Jun 30 to be "more significantly" impacted.

"Because this situation is ongoing and because the duration and severity are unclear it is difficult to forecast any impacts on the company’s future results," the filing says.

One thing that's going to be really clear in a few months is that sit-down restaurants, movie theaters, bars and nightclubs, and brick-and-mortar stores are not going to survive, not as mass-market concepts.  We were already facing a retail apocalypse in this country.  Places are going to close their doors this week and never reopen

The survivors are going to be leaner, meaner, and delivery-friendly, because that's the future.  Oh sure, some will exist, but they will be boutiques, people are still going to need to eat.  But there won't be four Starbucks within a mile radius.  There may not be four in a 100-mile radius.

Just an utter obliteration of commercial real estate.  Show a picture of an Outback steakhouse or a TGI Friday's to a kid in ten years and they will look at you like you just handed them a mythical relic of last century, like a flip phone or a compact disc or a moderate Republican.  Automation will become king. And everyone else will be working from home.  No offices full of people. 

Everything is going to be different, and I don't think people fully grasp yet how fundamentally this country is going to be changed by the next month ahead of us. We'll come out of this, but it's going to be ugly.  The pressures that were coming gradually over the next decade are coming in the space of one month thanks to COVID-19.

There are going to be huge breaks in the chain. Nightmare doesn't begin to describe it. The changes are being forced into a small time frame and it's going to be catastrophic for most of us.

I've been saying "Buckle up" for years now.

It's too late to buckle your seat belt when you're in the crash.


Trump Goes Viral, Con't

Over the weekend, the Trump regime was too busy moving the goalposts of "victory" to actually do anything to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Now Trump is literally demanding praise if he manages to hold the death toll to under 100,000.

President Donald Trump announced Sunday that he's extending his administration's guidelines on social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak until April 30.

Trump said last week that he wanted to see much of the country return to normal by Easter, April 12, despite warnings from top health experts that easing the guidelines too soon could cause widespread deaths and economic damage.

Trump said Friday that he would consult with his administration's top medical experts on whether to extend or change the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

But on Sunday, Trump said that the Easter target date was "just an aspiration" and that he expects "great things to be happening" by June 1. Instead, Trump said he believes Easter will mark "the peak number, and it should start coming down, hopefully very substantially at that point."

Trump said his administration felt Easter "was too soon" and "we can't take a chance."

Instead, Trump said he felt June 1 would mark "the bottom of the hill."

Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said the choice to extend the guidelines had not been made lightly.

"We know it's a huge sacrifice for everyone," she said, adding that more detailed guidance will be released Tuesday.

The good news is that people finally got through to this orange buffoon to make it clear that tens, quite possibly hundreds of thousands of Americans are going to die from this virus.

But another month of shutdowns and closures, while necessary, will come at a cost, and Trump doesn't seem to think that he should bear any of it.  It's only going to get worse for areas where the pandemic is just starting to take hold, like in rural Alaska.

Early this week, Kodiak Island, part of an archipelago in southwest Alaska, issued a “hunker down” proclamation, asking residents to stay at home as much as possible. In the Covid-19 pandemic, the remote island, known for its brown bear population, might seem well-positioned — travel on or off the island is limited to the water or air. But Elise Pletnikoff, a family physician and the medical director of the Kodiak Area Native Association, says the same physical remoteness which may help protect rural communities from infection will become a liability if — and, more likely, when — the novel coronavirus arrives.

“Our capacity will be the limiting factor,” she says, “meaning not just equipment, but also staff.” Her organization provides care for 5,000 patients on Kodiak; while there is a hospital on the island, it has limited resources for critical care and usually flies patients needing that kind of medical attention to Anchorage. But Pletnikoff says when Covid-19 cases surge, “we’re worried about how busy everyone will be.”

Many small communities around the United States don’t have a full-time doctor — and in Alaska, many aren’t connected by road. Instead, they rely on community health aides, a physician who visits a few days out of the month, and either commercial or medevac flights to larger urban centers during emergencies. Already because of the outbreak, health workers are forced to disrupt this limited care even further, transitioning to telemedicine when possible. “We’ve stopped traveling to remote villages to reduce exposure,” Pletnikoff says, and staff currently in each village are staying, “until … we don’t know when.”

Even though small towns like these may be thousands of miles from Covid-19 hotspots like New York City and New Orleans, there’s good reason for the 60 million Americans in rural areas to worry.

A new map of confirmed cases and deaths nationwide from the University of Chicago’s Center for Spatial Data Science shows a disturbing trend:

While New York state still has the highest per capita rate — 1,995 cases per million people as of March 26 — there are also significant clusters of Covid-19 in rural areas in the Midwest and South, including Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina. Every US Health and Human Services region also has shown a sharp uptick in non-flu-related influenza-type illness.

On Friday, Alaska reported 85 cases and its first Covid-19-related death. Shana Theobald, another doctor on Kodiak Island, explains the grim calculus for her state: Given that experts from the CDC estimate 40 to 70 percent of the state’s 737,500 people may eventually contract Covid-19, at least 295,000 Alaskans could get sick. Based on initial reports, 20 percent, or 59,000 people, will need hospital care.

Keep those numbers in mind: 40 to 70% will get sick, of those that get sick 20% are going to need to be hospitalized.  We're still headed for tens of millions needing emergency treatment, and millions dead.  Nothing I've seen or read makes me change my mind.  The worst is yet to come.


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