Saturday, April 4, 2020

Last Call For Labour Pains

Screaming anti-Semite and racist Jeremy Corbyn is finally out as UK Labour Party leader, and his reign entirely made it possible for Boris Johnson to take over in a massive Tory uprising that made Brexit a foregone conclusion and could keep conservatives in power for a very long time.  Now Corbyn's replacement, Sir Keir Starmer, is trying to pick up the pieces of the British Left.

After a decade in the political wasteland, members of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party have chosen a moderate, un-flashy lawyer as their new leader. Their hope is that turning the page on the socialist radical Jeremy Corbyn, who was resoundingly rejected by voters last year, will see them re-take power.

Keir Starmer, 57, offers dry competence and seriousness after a turbulent five years under the firebrand Corbyn. At a time when the U.K. is grappling with the global coronavirus crisis and its own exit from the European Union, a steady hand could prove popular.

“Maybe being boringly competent is a magical thing -- because we haven’t got many boringly competent politicians at the moment, particularly in government,” said Steven Fielding, a professor at Nottingham University and historian of the Labour party. “People just flock to him like a safety raft from a sinking ship.”

Starmer faces one urgent decision before he embarks on his long-term mission. First he must decide how far he should support Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s strategy for countering the pandemic and how stridently he should speak out against the government’s mistakes. There has been speculation that he could even join a government of national unity to see the country through the crisis, as happened in World War II.

In the years ahead, Starmer’s defining task will be to revive a battered opposition party, broken by its worst election defeat in 80 years, and then persuade Britain’s 47 million voters that he is the prime minister the country needs to put itself back together. 
Starmer was born in 1962 in south London to a nurse and a toolmaker. He was the first member of his family to go to an academically selective grammar school. After studying at the universities of Leeds and Oxford he began the 30-year campaigning career in human rights law that would set him up for front-line politics. 
He represented peace activists and environmental campaigners, and led a legal challenge against the sinking of an oil rig. 
Gavin Millar, a top lawyer who interviewed the young Starmer for a junior position in the late 80s, remembers him as “very radical” with strong views about the law. In a legal world of high intellects, Starmer’s first-rate brain stood out, but so too did his commitment to the protesters and activists fighting the powerful during Margaret Thatcher’s decade of Tory rule. 
The two shared an office, where Starmer, who loved indie-pop bands such as The Smiths, was known for working long hours. “I got a lot of two-in-the-morning emails from him,” Millar said.

Competency. What a concept.

Wish we had it here.

The Worst-Case Scenario, Con't

The Pentagon had a detailed plan for a novel coronavirus global pandemic scenario back in the last days of the Obama administration, because the US military operates in dozens of countries around the globe.  They predicted unprepared countries would have shortages of equipment and hospital beds, disrupted recessionary economies, restrictions on freedom of movement, and a populace that could require military personnel to maintain order.

They didn't so much as say the US would be one of those countries, but they did put forth the possibility that the US would be overwhelmed logistically and economically.  You know, if the country was say, led by a adderall-addicted malignant narcissist con man of a reality TV game show host.

Despite President Trump’s repeated assertions that the Covid-19 epidemic was “unforeseen” and “came out of nowhere,” the Pentagon was well aware of not just the threat of a novel influenza, but even anticipated the consequent scarcity of ventilators, face masks, and hospital beds, according to a 2017 Pentagon plan obtained by The Nation. 
“The most likely and significant threat is a novel respiratory disease, particularly a novel influenza disease,” the military plan states. Covid-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the novel (meaning new to humans) coronavirus. The document specifically references coronavirus on several occasions, in one instance saying, “Coronavirus infections [are] common around the world.” 
The plan represents an update to an earlier Department of Defense pandemic influenza response plan, noting that it “incorporates insights from several recent outbreaks including…2012 Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus.” 
Titled “USNORTHCOM Branch Plan 3560: Pandemic Influenza and Infectious Disease Response,” the draft plan is marked for official use only and dated January 6, 2017. The plan was provided to The Nation by a Pentagon official who requested anonymity to avoid professional reprisal. 
Denis Kaufman, who served as head of the Infectious Diseases and Countermeasures Division at the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2014 to 2017, stressed that US intelligence had been well-aware of the dangers of coronaviruses for years. (Kaufman retired from his decades-long career in the military in December of 2017.) 
“The Intelligence Community has warned about the threat from highly pathogenic influenza viruses for two decades at least. They have warned about coronaviruses for at least five years,” Kaufman explained in an interview. 
“There have been recent pronouncements that the coronavirus pandemic represents an intelligence failure…. it’s letting people who ignored intelligence warnings off the hook.” 
In addition to anticipating the coronavirus pandemic, the military plan predicted with uncanny accuracy many of the medical supply shortages that it now appears will soon cause untold deaths. 
The plan states: “Competition for, and scarcity of resources will include…non-pharmaceutical MCM [Medical Countermeasures] (e.g., ventilators, devices, personal protective equipment such as face masks and gloves), medical equipment, and logistical support. This will have a significant impact on the availability of the global workforce.”

They knew.  Trump ignored them.

And now thousands, perhaps millions will die as a direct result.

A Race Against The Virus

On top of everything else going on right now, there's stark evidence that COVID-19 is disproportionately killing African-Americans because we're more likely to be "essential employees" like nurses, delivery drivers, warehouse workers, maintenance and cleaning staff, and far less likely to be in a position to work from home, to have health resources or any kind, or to practice social distancing, and that the virus has a much higher mortality rate among us to boot.

The coronavirus entered Milwaukee from a white, affluent suburb. Then it took root in the city’s black community and erupted. 
As public health officials watched cases rise in March, too many in the community shrugged off warnings. Rumors and conspiracy theories proliferated on social media, pushing the bogus idea that black people are somehow immune to the disease. And much of the initial focus was on international travel, so those who knew no one returning from Asia or Europe were quick to dismiss the risk. 
Then, when the shelter-in-place order came, there was a natural pushback among those who recalled other painful government restrictions — including segregation and mass incarceration — on where black people could walk and gather. 
“We’re like, ‘We have to wake people up,’” said Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik. 
As the disease spread at a higher rate in the black community, it made an even deeper cut. Environmental, economic and political factors have compounded for generations, putting black people at higher risk of chronic conditions that leave lungs weak and immune systems vulnerable: asthma, heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. In Milwaukee, simply being black means your life expectancy is 14 years shorter, on average, than someone white
As of Friday morning, African Americans made up almost half of Milwaukee County’s 945 cases and 81% of its 27 deaths in a county whose population is 26% black. Milwaukee is one of the few places in the United States that is tracking the racial breakdown of people who have been infected by the novel coronavirus, offering a glimpse at the disproportionate destruction it is inflicting on black communities nationwide. 
In Michigan, where the state’s population is 14% black, African Americans made up 35% of cases and 40% of deaths as of Friday morning. Detroit, where a majority of residents are black, has emerged as a hot spot with a high death toll. As has New Orleans. Louisiana has not published case breakdowns by race, but 40% of the state’s deaths have happened in Orleans Parish, where the majority of residents are black.
Illinois and North Carolina are two of the few areas publishing statistics on COVID-19 cases by race, and their data shows a disproportionate number of African Americans were infected.

“It will be unimaginable pretty soon,” said Dr. Celia J. Maxwell, an infectious disease physician and associate dean at Howard University College of Medicine, a school and hospital in Washington dedicated to the education and care of the black community. “And anything that comes around is going to be worse in our patients. Period. Many of our patients have so many problems, but this is kind of like the nail in the coffin.”

The poorest black neighborhoods, with the highest population density, with the least public health resources and most chronic health problems, dependent on mass transit or stuck in rural food deserts where we have to travel miles to get groceries, absolutely results in African-Americans being the most vulnerable to the virus and having the fewest options for dealing with travel restrictions and business and school closures.

There's little doubt in my mind that we'll look back on this and see that black neighborhoods had a mortality rate several times higher than the general US public, it's only a factor of what the multiplier will end up being.

Like every other instance of systemic racism in America, this one will be fatal.
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