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In This Edition


Norman Solomon examines, "Power In A Time Of Coronavirus."

Ralph Nader exclaimss, "Coronavirus Makes Clear: The Time For Serious Civic Reforms Is Now!"

Glen Ford examines, "The American Disease."

Jim Hightower explains, "What Does 'Small Government' Buy Us?."

William Rivers Pitt finds, "Trump And His Allies Have Decided To Preserve Capitalism At Any Cost."

John Nichols declares, "Vote Early For Judge Karofsky."

James Donahue warns, "Stray Voltage - A Troubling Issue On The Farm."

David Swanson wonders, "Is Coronavirus A Bioweapon?"

David Suzuki concludes, "Healthy Forests Mean Healthy People."

Charles P. Pierce asks, "Why Does This Administration* Have Its Grubby Fingerprints On A Casino Controversy In Massachusetts?"

Michael Winship returns with, "Pandemic Be Damned, The Business of America Is Business!"

Environmental Protection Agency head, Andrew Wheeler wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich demands, "Public Health First."

Jane Stillwater explores, "Quarantine? BORING! Sitting Around Waiting To Die?"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "New Evidence Indicates Intelligence Not Contagious," but first, Uncle Ernie exclaims, "While American Doctors And Nurses Die From Lack Of Equipment, Lying Donald Ships Our Desperately Needed PPE To Other Countries!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Bill Day, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from, Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, CDC, Samantha Forsberg, Drew Angerer, Michelle Stocker, Barry Chin, Alex Brandon, Alta Vista Productions, Jane Stillwater, Jim Hightower, AFP, Shutterstock, Reuters, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments-

The Quotable Quote-
The Vidkun Quisling Award-
The Cartoon Corner-
To End On A Happy Note-
Have You Seen This-
Parting Shots-

Welcome one and all to "Uncle Ernie's Issues & Alibis."













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While American Doctors And Nurses Die From Lack Of Equipment, Lying Donald Ships Our Desperately Needed PPE To Other Countries!
By Ernest Stewart

"Trump, you incompetent idiot! You sent 18 tons of PPE to China early but ignored warnings & called COVID19 concerns a hoax. You've endangered doctors, nurses, aids [sic], orderlies, & janitors -- all risking their lives to save ours. Pray 4 forgiveness for the harm that you're causing!" ~~~ Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)

What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on? ~~~ Henry David Thoreau

"The EPA uses this global pandemic to create loopholes for destroying the environment. This is a schoolbook example for what we need to start looking out for." ~~~ Greta Thunberg

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me
Help ~~~ The Beatles


If you're a governor who likes to kiss Lying Donald's ass then you'll get all the coronavirus supplies you need and then some. Florida got everything they asked for and much, much, more! However, if you live in a blue state you'll receive as California did, broken equipment, if anything at all. That's bad enough, but it gets even worse!

You may recall that we shipped China 17.8 tons of medical supplies-including masks, gowns, gauze, and respirators-that we desperately need here. As bad as that is, it gets even worse.

We sent similar amounts of supplies to Myanmar, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Laos, as well as in Kazakhstan, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mongolia, Nepal and Pakistan.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said of this, "Our domestic response needs to be the priority." You would think? Before we save the world we should save ourselves! Lying Donald is trying to get reelected and hasn't the time to spend on helping anyone. Sure, in his daily tv rally speeches he pretends to care and think it's real but for one who for months ignored the truth and blamed it on the Democrat hoaxers who were just trying to ruin his economy so he wouldn't get reelected by using "deep state" tactics.

Meanwhile, when someone pointed out to Pence that we were hip to this betrayal he temporarily stopped the delivery of already-approved coronavirus-related PPE aid to at least 13 countries, including Vietnam, Bangladesh, Honduras and the Philippines. Have no fear, that as soon as no one is watching, those shipments will continue!

Had Lying Donald been on the ball we could have flattened the cure to about 25,000 deaths, (similar to the numbers of death in a mild flu season) instead of the 2 1/2 million that could be the final tally for this go around, oh yes, there is more to come! I used to rate Lying Donald as the third worst president behind Jackson #2 and Washington #1 who were both, slave owning, genocidal maniacs, but with our rising death toll it looks like Lying Donald will soon become, Numero Uno! We are soooooo screwed, America!

In Other News

I see where the Atlantic Ocean's "Gulf Stream," a powerful current that drags warm water north before submerging it in the North Atlantic, has been humankind's constant companion. For 8000 years, it has held steady, nourishing Western Europe with tropical warmth. But a new study of the current's strength over the past half-million years suggests global warming may not shut down the current any time soon, as some scientists fear. Instead, it could trigger a replay of ancient events, when multiple bouts of warming caused rapid, centurylong swings in the current's strength, sowing climate chaos that may have alternately chilled and warmed Europe. You may recall Europes mini-ice age that ran from the 1300's till the mid 1800's?

"A strong circulation can also be a highly variable one. [That] might be the most important lesson," says Ulysses Ninnemann, a paleoclimate scientist at the University of Bergen and a co-author on the new paper.

The Gulf Stream runs on salt. First, the Gulf Stream and similar currents bring salty, warm water thousands of miles north to the seas around Greenland and Iceland, where it cools and sinks to the sea floor. There, it slowly migrates south through the abyssal depths. The currents not only play a huge role in Europe's climate, but they also help the oceans sequester much of the heat that humans have trapped in the atmosphere by dumping greenhouse gases into it.

However, buoyant freshwater can stall this engine by diluting the heavy saltwater, limiting how much dives down in the North Atlantic. That's almost certainly what happened toward the end of previous ice ages, when the miles-thick ice sheets covering North America melted into the North Atlantic. But in the warm periods between ice ages, known as interglacials, scientists assume the Atlantic circulation is stable. The key word there is assume!

How resilient is the Atlantic current today? Modern-day studies are limited in what they can say. Two decades of monitoring, for example, have revealed short-term swings in strength, but it is difficult to tease out a long-term pattern-or to know whether human warming is affecting the current. The new study could make such work even more difficult, complicating forecasts of how the circulation might change in the future, Ninnemann says. He adds that models should incorporate the possibility that global warming could cause the strength of the circulation to fall and quickly rebound.

What's needed now, Ninnemann says, is continued observation of today's current, along with a close study of what the ancient world looked like when it grew erratic. But such efforts have run up against funding and logistical difficulties, especially now with the coronavirus pandemic. Just this month, for example, the United Kingdom cut short a cruise that would have recovered moorings from an array observing the current. And although the program had funding to put out new arrays, it does not currently have money to recover them. "We're running as close to the wire as we ever have," Eleanor Frajka-Williams, the array's chief scientist at the United Kingdom's National Oceanography Centre, said in an interview prior to the cruise's departure.

In some ways, it might seem like good news that the circulation can decline and rebound, rather than simply declining, or worse, shutting down completely. But Ninnemann notes that human systems of agriculture, trade, and settlement were not designed to cope with such fluctuations. "We have built everything we have in this relatively stable climate period [of the past 10,000 years. But the geologic record shows us this may be an exception, rather than the rule."

And Finally

As you know the Environmental Protection Agency, is headed by former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, so I'm guessing you were not surprised when Wheeler announced on Thursday a indefinite suspension of environmental rules, because of the COVID-19 virus. This being used as a poor excuse during the worsening pandemic. This gives the fossil fuel industry the right to pollute with impunity.

While Wheeler insisted this is just a temporary measure but provided no timeframe for its end. Wheeler is trusting big polluters to regulate themselves and will not be punished for failing to comply with reporting rules and other requirements. The order-applied retroactively beginning March 13, 2020-requests that companies "act responsibly" to avoid violations.

US Congressmen Mark Pocan said, "This is outrageous. Suspending all environmental regulations indefinitely? This has nothing to do with coronavirus. This has everything to do with protecting Big Business."

Yo which Wheeler lied saying, "EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements, This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment." And folks if you buy that I have this bridge I own in Brooklyn, New York that you might be interested in buying. It's a sure money maker!

Cynthia Giles, a former head of the EPA's Office of Enforcement said, "This new policy is essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules for the indefinite future. It tells companies across the country that they will not face enforcement even if they emit unlawful air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws, so long as they claim that those failures are in some way 'caused' by the virus pandemic, And it allows them an out on monitoring too, so we may never know how bad the violating pollution was."

I bet you can guess what I did, can't you? That's right, I gave Andrew Wheeler, this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

Keepin' On

If you think that what we do is important and would like to see us keep on, keeping on, please send us whatever you can, whenever you can, and we'll keep telling you the truth!

*****


12-28-1958 ~ 03-29-2020
Thanks for the music!


02-19-1951 ~ 03-29-2020
Thanks for the music!


07-04-1951 ~ 03-31-2020
Thanks for the film!


01-02-1959 ~ 04-01-2020
Thanks for the music!


11-14-1934 ~ 04-01-2020
Thanks for the music!



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So how do you like Trump so far?
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Until the next time, Peace!

(c) 2020 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, philosopher, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Facebook. and like us when you do. Follow me on Twitter.







Power In A Time Of Coronavirus
By Norman Solomon

Every day now we're waking up into an extreme real-life nightmare, while responses are still routinely lagging far behind what's at stake. Urgency is reality. The horrific momentum of the coronavirus is personal, social and political. In those realms, a baseline formula is "passivity = death." The imperative is to do vastly better.

Consistent individual actions -- such as "social distancing" and extensive handwashing -- are absolutely necessary. People should stay home if at all possible. Other steps include disinfecting potentially contaminated surfaces and following the admonition to not touch your face.

Meanwhile, a huge social burden has fallen onto charities and other nonprofit organizations with resources that are tiny in relation to the scale of this catastrophe. Even in normal times they can't do much more than slightly ameliorate the shredding of government social safety nets, the shrinking of the public sector and the profit-obsessed cruelties of corporate capitalism.

Under the weight of the coronavirus emergency, the crucial political challenges involve fighting the bastions of dominant political malfeasance, lies and plunder at the top of the U.S. government.

<>> "In order to save lives, protect working families, and boost our economy in sustainable and healthy ways," Oxfam concludes, "we need to take actions that are swift, bold, and well beyond what Congress has thus far been willing to approve." After partnering with Data for Progress to do national polling, Oxfam released a report that shows public opinion favors much more drastic legislation in response to the coronavirus rampage.

"Registered voters in the U.S. strongly support immediate, aggressive action in response to both the public-health and economic crises," the March 20 report says. "Among the measures they endorse: paid sick leave for all workers, emergency funding for food supplies for those affected by the crisis, free testing for the virus, and moratoriums on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shutoffs."

An immediate necessity is to galvanize political power from the grassroots to step up the pressure for an all-out government mobilization against this pandemic. That means continually pushing to generate maximum resources toward people who need them most -- now and for a long time to come.

Rather than being a respite from political power struggles, the coronavirus emergency is greatly intensifying them. More aid for those immersed in greed will mean less for those in desperate need. The quest by corporate profiteers to mercilessly exploit dire situations has never flagged. <>P Showing the vital importance of his national voice as a presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders has outlined some of the gluttonous corporate maneuvers now underway.

"Just in the last few days," he pointed out on Sunday, "we've seen numerous examples of lobbyists and their agents fighting for special favors: the airline industry is asking for $50 billion, the private space industry is asking for $5 billion, the hotel industry wants $150 billion, the National Association of Manufacturers wants $1.4 trillion, the International Council of Shopping Centers wants a guarantee of up to $1 trillion, Adidas wants to sneak in a long-sought provision allowing people to use pretax money to pay for gym memberships and fitness equipment -- even when many gyms and retail stores are closed nationwide, and corporate pork producers are using the coronavirus to push Congress to expedite guest worker visas, even at a time when international travel and immigration is largely shut down."

In this time of "unprecedented crisis," Sanders said, "we need an unprecedented legislative response that focuses on the emergency health care needs of the American people and that puts working families and the poor ahead of CEOs and huge corporations."

With this pandemic, fueled by the intentional neglect and greedy stupidity of Trump and Company, we have profuse reasons to heed words from legendary labor organizer Mary Harris "Mother" Jones: "Mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living."

To fight like hell for the living -- to protect people from the ravages of the coronavirus and a harsh economic system -- will require unrelenting work from progressive movements willing and able to organize effectively in every political arena.

(c) 2020 Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."




The coronavirus outbreak must be defeated in a way that moves us forward.



Coronavirus Makes Clear: The Time For Serious Civic Reforms Is Now!
Out of this crisis can come efficient historic changes for justice.
By Ralph Nader

Many of us have heard that the Chinese character for "crisis" is also the character for "opportunity." During the coronavirus crisis, we have a duty to apply political solutions and emerge much superior than before the pandemic struck an unready country. The time for serious civic reforms is now! Here are five fundamental opportunities for structural reforms and transformations:

1. The U.S. needs a permanent framework of explicit Congressional standards and accountability procedures for gigantic corporate welfare grants, loans, and other guarantees especially during emergencies. Without these standards, the U.S. government has repeatedly bailed out capitalism with "socialism for the rich."

The most recent example is the $2.2 trillion salvation package for big corporations, small businesses, local and state governments, workers, and a little for consumers. The bailout package is nearly 1,000 pages of vague language, loopholes, and other gateways for waste, fraud, and corruption.

To put it mildly, Congress is granting the Treasury Department huge discretion to provide more taxpayer welfare to the business community. We know how this is going to turn out in the highly partisan, corporatist, secretive Administration of Donald Trump.

The same lack of standards and openness afflicts the corporate "socialism" of the Federal Reserve even more deeply. The Federal Reserve has occult ways of incurring debt and printing money to save the big boys of Wall Street and those in their dependent commercial circles.

2. Congress must be held to a higher standard and must carry out its constitutional duties. Congress is the duly authorized branch of the government to establish clear public missions and exercise prudent oversight of government initiatives. But as constitutional law specialist, Bruce Fein, has testified repeatedly - "Congress is an inkblot," abdicating its constitutional duties either to the Executive Branch, the courts, or to the ether.

Working a two and a half day week, when not on recess, Congress has less time to conduct rigorous appropriations and oversight hearings to be followed by competently drafted legislation.

So pathetic is Congress that since 1992, it has allowed the Defense Department to violate the requirement for annual auditable budgets-with impunity. Congress has rubberstamped trillions of dollars for the Iraq and Afghan wars under a special escape from customary Senate and House hearings. The military contracts with giant arms contractors are a wildly out-of-control fleece-fest marked by greased palms and golden handshakes.

And most troubling, Congress is complicit in endless wars, neither to be declared since World War II, nor to be evaluated regularly by the most powerful of our three branches of government.

3. We must never allow ourselves to be driven into a state of perilous domestic unpreparedness due to the grotesque misallocation of federal funds behind the warfare state. The Empire's insatiable demands worldwide has created new enemies and starved funding for domestic necessities. Of the federal government's operation budgets (excluding self-funded insurance and social security) nearly 70 percent goes to the military budget, interest on deferred debt for wars, the Veterans Administration, and pieces of other Departments such as Energy and Homeland Security.

The coronavirus assault finds the mighty, often-forewarned U.S.A. without adequate emergency planning for a pandemic. The U.S. has been unable to ready hospitals, add skilled staff, and conduct critical pandemic medical research. U.S. hospitals even lack basic equipment such as ventilators, facemasks, and - astonishingly, swabs. U.S. readiness requires a social safety net like what citizens in other Western countries have. It means more self-reliant production in the U.S. for pharmaceuticals (now outsourced heavily to China and India) along with the production of all basic necessities. The rules of corporate-managed "free trade," have left us without a national defense from corporate avarice run amok.

The days of abandoning crucial elements of our protective economic sovereignty must be declared over once and for all. Our country must take care of itself right down to producing critical swabs, now rationed by a dominant Italian manufacturer besieged with virus-induced needs in Italy.

4. The media has to be smarter, dig deeper, and not wallow in official source journalism, while ignoring the knowledge and experience of citizen groups. Members of the media spend too much time ditto-heading each other, interviewing their own reporters, and not covering the daily power struggle between the haves and the have nots. Instead, some editors pursue long investigative features in search of prizes. Unfortunately, too many (but not all) journalists are content to rehash the news of the day with establishment talking heads.

: Like politicians running for public office, the mass media mostly ignores the devastating impact on our country of the devouring, corrosive, burgeoning military-industrial complex (remember President Eisenhower's warning) desperately looking for enemies abroad to justify their gigantic contracts.

5. The foundation on which all of the above relies-is the citizenry. Focusing on the 535 members of the Congress, a mere one percent or less of citizens forming Congressional watchdog groups over their two Senators and Representatives in every Congressional District can regain command of Congress. Only through citizen action will Congress perform its constitutional duties and turn the ship of state from corporatism to a functioning democracy.

In my small paperback, Breaking Through Power: It's Easier than We Think, I outline specific, modest actions citizens can take to laser-beam focus back home on their legislators. What is needed is a left/right alliance on many fundamental changes. Such a latent, converging alliance, where people live, work, and raise their families, is politically unstoppable.

Marshaling decisive public opinion can overwhelm the divide-and-rule tactics of manipulative plutocrats. It happened before in our history and it can happen again in major ways-starting small and building quickly in each District.

Wide reaching, predictable crises, such as the coronavirus, invite long-overdue advances in the evolution of democratic societies. These include full Medicare for all, living wages, and law and order for big business. We need to make the most of these life-sustaining opportunities. Right now!

Please visit SinglepayerAction.org, Fight for $15, and Citizen.org.

(c) 2020 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His latest book is The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future. Other recent books include, The Seventeen Traditions: Lessons from an American Childhood, Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism: Build It Together to Win, and "Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us" (a novel).







The American Disease
Only the Overthrow of the Oligarchy Will Cure It
By Glen Ford

Although the coronavirus provided the trigger for the current global shrinkage, the economic crisis was already looming when the pathogen made its physical appearance.

Donald Trump mouths the words "Chinese disease" with a racist sneer, playing a juvenile game of "dozens" while the world economy shrinks. Although the geographic origin of Covid-19 is open to question, the prime vector of chronic global economic sickness is indisputably the United States - the place where all the symptoms of late stage capitalism in chaotic decline are on full display.

In 2008, British authorities initially resisted collaborating with Washington's plans to bail out failing corporate financial institutions. The Brits didn't want "to import the "American disease," said U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Most of the world caught the disease anyway, in the same way that global capitalism was brought to the brink of death from the economic pestilence that originated on Wall Street in the Great Crash of 1929.

The United States is the planet's breeding ground for virulent capitalist disease, having spawned both of the great meltdowns of the 20th and 21st centuries and most of the less lethal crises that flare with regularity in global "markets." As the endemic host of capitalist chaos, the U.S. has also become indelibly identified with the jobs-killing self-medications conjured by Wall Street and its political servants to save "the markets." When Japan went into a long, deep economic stagnation characterized by "the excessive and virtually continuous distortion of income distribution at the expense of employees," Business Insider diagnosed that as the "American disease" - an apt assessment, since the United States by then led the developed world in income and wealth inequality. Researchgate describes largescale corporate downsizing of workforces as "'the American disease,' caught by numerous countries in times of economic recession."

Actually, the "American disease" is not so much "caught" by other nations, as actively spread by a globe-swallowing superpower that insists on the right to penetrate every nook and cranny of the planet with its corporate spores, under the protection of 800-plus military bases and multinational "trade" treaties that obliterate governments' abilities to resist U.S.-based corporate contagion.

The "American disease" is simply late stage, globe-trotting capitalism with American characteristics. Although the coronavirus provided the trigger for the current global shrinkage, the economic crisis was already looming when the pathogen made its physical appearance. As economists told theWashington Post, U.S. corporations were $10 trillion in debt on the eve of the Covid-19 crisis, equal to about half the gross national product. Goldman Sachs estimated that "one-quarter of the country's largest companies had more cash going out than coming in." And, the so-called "repo market" crisis erupted before Covid-19's debut in the U.S, necessitating a $400 billion bailout. A meltdown was coming, with or without the intervention of tiny bits of viral DNA. The recent $2 trillion "stimulus" is really another corporate bailout, justified by the coronavirus.

Crises are endemic to capitalism. In the United States, where corporations have achieved near-total political hegemony, the harshest contradictions of capitalism are no longer mitigated and softened by state intervention, under prodding by "peoples" forces such as unions and social movements. Rather, the US government is a capitalist tool, as is the tag-team of duopoly political parties. Capitalism entered its "late" stage when finance capital became supreme over all the other sectors of capital and made the state its abject servant and golden goose.

The "American disease" - late stage capitalism with U.S. characteristics - is the most virulent strain of a centuries-old system. As the world's most successful white settler state and the first truly bourgeois republic, the U.S. was from its inception dedicated to the rule of money over humankind and the environment; and to the supremacy of whiteness, the forceful expropriation of other people's territory and resources, and the subjugation of non-whites. While European colonialism looted far-flung lands and peoples, the United States became a major economic power through Black chattel slavery within its own borders, genocide of the natives on whose land the Republic stood, and expansion through the seizure and incorporation of its darker neighbor's territory (Mexico). From the beginning, colonialism was U.S. domestic policy, and empire-building its national project - all for the enrichment of a white ruling class.

Beginning in the late 1970s, the Lords of Capital deployed U.S. imperial military and financial power to initiate a worldwide Race to the Bottom in which all of the Earth's workers would compete for employment, including the Empire's own domestic workforce. Productivity would skyrocket as the costs of labor (wages) plummeted. Billionaires became as common as millionaires used to be, even as the superpower's cities and national infrastructure crumbled and living standards stagnated and fell. With the collaboration of the fraudulently pro-labor and pro-Black Democratic Party, the corporate rulers slashed social services and labor protections under an "austerity" regime whose real purpose was to make working people so desperate and insecure they would accept any job, under any conditions and wage - a capitalists' paradise, and the purpose of the Race to the Bottom. The banks were unleashed to float mega-bubbles and package worthless assets - until the inevitable burst.

With both political parties in the oligarchs' pockets, and social movements largely inert, there was nothing to stop the U.S. ruling class from indulging in every speculative excess imaginable, creating new and more exotic financial "instruments" that yoked the nation's and world's destinies to "derivatives" notionally valued at 20 times the worth of all the goods and services produced by humanity. U.S. healthcare - which was never a "system" worthy of the name - was shrunken and privatized, including much of the nation's only "socialist" medical institution, the Veterans' Administration healthcare services.

"Every broken piece of our society restricted us from responding to this crisis, from welfare reform to post-2008 austerity to the war on crime. You can't divorce any of it," writes David Dayen, of The American Prospect. But of course, the damage was systematically inflicted by the corporate-bought politicians of both parties - including every U.S. president since Jimmy Carter.-- at the behest of the ruling oligarchy. The transfer of jobs and production to the low wage East and South was the consensus policy of the U.S. and European ruling classes. Austerity (The Race to the Bottom) reigned supreme on both sides of the Atlantic and was enforced in the formerly colonized world by Western-dominated international financial institutions.

The profoundly racist nature of U.S. society -- born in slavery and genocide and unrepentant - allowed the capitalist rulers to strip away even the thin veneer of a welfare state that had been thrown together in the Sixties, and then to dismantle and sell off the health care infrastructure. Race has always ruled politics in a nation founded as a White Man's Country, and which now pays its citizens what W.E.B. Dubois called "psychological wages," constantly exhorting the populace to bask in the glow of empire and exceptionalism. But, the Race to the Bottom cannot coexist with a living wage or a truly universal national health care system. The Lords of Capital have prospered fantastically in this Race, and have no other vision for the future. The rulers have drawn lines in the sand and their minions in both corporate parties dare not cross them - come hell, high water or pandemic.

Joe Biden is proof that the rulers will not allow their operatives to give an inch on austerity/Race to the Bottom. Even as the people's lives and livelihoods are threatened by the worst epidemic in a century, Biden stands fast with the oligarchy: no Medicare for All.

What happens when the "American (political-economic) Disease" meets the pandemic? Nothing, if the people don't demand an end to the Race to the Bottom that has left them with less defenses against disease than any other developed nation. Everything, if they resist. Some folks are calling for a general strike on May 1st.

(c) 2019 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com







What Does 'Small Government' Buy Us?
By Jim Hightower

Amazingly, America has become a nation of socialists, asking in dismay: "Where's the government?"

These are not born-again Bernie Sanders activists, but everyday people of all political stripes (including previously apolitical multitudes) who're now clamoring for big government intervention in their lives. Nothing like a spreading coronavirus pandemic to bring home the need that all of us have -both as individuals and as a society -for an adequately-funded, fully-functioning, competent government capable of serving all. Instead, in our moment of critical national need, Trump's government was a rickety medicine show run by a small-minded flimflammer peddling laissez-fairyland snake oil.

"We have it totally under control," Trump pompously declared after the first US case was confirmed in January. For weeks, as the pandemic spread out of control, he did nothing -an increasingly anxious public found that they couldn't even get reliable test kits from Trump's hollowed-out government health agencies. Still, he shrugged off all concern and responsibility: "By April, you know, in theory," he said, "when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away." Not exactly a can-do Rooseveltian response to a national crisis!

By March the inconvenient fact of a rising death toll exposed this imposter of a president as incompetent, uncaring... and silly. That complete absence of White House leadership is why a deadly pathogen is now raging practically everywhere across our land, unknown millions of us are being infected, a "closed indefinitely" sign has literally been hung on the American economy, and even our people's social and civic interactions -the essence of community life -have been halted.

Right-wing politico Grover Norquist once said he wanted a government so small "I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Trump has shown us what such a small-minded government looks like. And what it costs us.

(c) 2020 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition. Jim writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at HightowerLowdown.org.




Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in the
press briefing room of the White House on March 26, 2020, in Washington, D.C.




Trump And His Allies Have Decided To Preserve Capitalism At Any Cost
By William Rivers Pitt

Pastor Tony Spell of Baton Rouge knows what you can do with your social distancing. "The virus, we believe, is politically motivated," said Spell regarding the 1,170 people who attended services at his Life Tabernacle Church on Sunday. They came on 27 buses from five parishes, and will do so again, because "it's not a concern," according to Spell.

Under the circumstances, it is comforting to imagine Spell as an outlier, just another flake flailing against the tide of rational medical advice coming from all corners about controlling the now-exploding spread of COVID-19.

Yet Spell has company, in the guise of no lesser a light than the Republican governor of Mississippi, Tate Reeves. After a few days of social distancing discomfort, Gov. Reeves has blown off every safety recommendation on the books and reopened a wide swath of businesses via executive order - including gun stores and real estate offices - which he has deemed "essential."

As of this writing, Mississippi has nearly 400 active cases of coronavirus, and at least five people in that state have died. That number will grow with the help of Governor Reeves.

When Donald Trump writes a letter to the governors of Mississippi, Louisiana and the other 48 states informing them all that he is softening the COVID-19 safety guidelines, in defiance of all expert medical advice, why shouldn't people like Pastor Spell and Governor Reeves feel free to feed their people to the virus? It's political! The president says it, so it must be true.

There's a lot of that sort of thing going around right now. On Wednesday, four Republican senators - Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse, Tim Scott and Rick Scott - very nearly blew the $2 trillion stimulus/bailout bill to hell because the unemployment benefits contained within were too generous.

Feel free to read that last sentence twice. It won't make any more sense the second time. More than three million people have filed an unemployment claim in the last several days, a number that is likely vastly undercounted due to unemployment offices getting overwhelmed by both volume and illness.

Meanwhile, hospitals in cities like New York are being hammered by the sheer numbers of sick people coming through their doors. Health care professionals all over the country lack even the most basic equipment to combat the virus because Trump ignored the problem back in January - when something concrete could and should have been done - in order to look good on television for another day.

Doctors and nurses are wearing garbage bags as safety gear because they don't have what they need to keep themselves safe, yet they come to work every day, until they sicken, and until they die.

Almost 75 percent of the country supports a national quarantine.

Contrast that with our coward president and his lickspittle allies. Consider that we are only at the beginning of this thing, and that the worst is yet to come by orders of virus-multiplied magnitude, and already they are buckling under the pressure from the money to "get back to normal" as soon as possible.

Something interesting is happening in China, if The Wall Street Journal has the right of it. That nation is beginning to emerge from its own devastating coronavirus experience, but business as usual doesn't appear to be kicking back in:

In some ways, China is where the U.S. and Europe hope to be within weeks or months. Yet many Chinese factories find demand for their products has evaporated. Consumers in China and elsewhere are reluctant to spend over worries about what they have lost and what lies ahead.

For U.S. businesses tied to global trade, exporters and multinational companies, China's limited return to normal foreshadows the potential for a sluggish U.S. recovery. Consumption, which makes up more than two-thirds of the American economy, looks to be hobbled by lost jobs, fallen income and diminished confidence for an unknown period.

Want to know why Trump and his voracious pals want to herd us back into normal life even as the air is potentially lethal with the virus? Consumption. The machine that lines their pockets has ground to a halt because people decided they want to keep breathing instead of buy stuff. That is happening in China. Wait until it happens here.

For Trump and the capitalists, that is the end of the ever-loving world as they know (and own) it. They will wring the coppers from our bones and not think twice about consumers getting consumed. Someday soon, Trump may well announce the all-clear in defiance of the experts. What remains to be seen is whether people will listen.

This is still only the beginning. Stout hearts. Do not listen to the president.

(c) 2020 William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co_written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.




Judge Jill Karofsky, candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, speaks during a
Rotary Club meeting at the Park Hotel in Madison, on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.




Vote Early For Judge Karofsky
By John Nichols

Wisconsin's April 7 primary is still scheduled to go forward, despite the mounting evidence that it will be difficult - perhaps impossible - for a tremendous number of voters to cast ballots. Too many officials were too slow in responding to the reality of the coronavirus outbreak when there was still time to move to a vote-by-mail system that would - with sufficient accommodations for early voting and to protect people with special needs - have guaranteed a high-turnout election.

It is possible that, as the virus spreads, and as the need for Wisconsinites to remain at home becomes more urgent, a decision will be made to postpone April 7 voting. But people who want to vote should not take chances. They should vote early for Judge Jill Karofsky, the only credible contender in the race for state Supreme Court.

Judge Karofsky is challenging scandal-plagued Justice Dan Kelly, an appointee of former Gov. Scott Walker. Despite the fact that Kelly had no judicial experience, Walker appointed him to the high court as part of the former governor's scheme to pack the bench with right-wing judicial activists. No justice on the current court, or in recent memory, has been so profoundly conflicted as Kelly, who represented the Republican Party in the federal trial over a lawsuit challenging the 2010 redistricting of state legislative districts. He is, literally, a leading legal advocate for the anti-democratic gerrymandering of Wisconsin.

Judge Karofsky stands in stark contrast to her rival. She had a distinguished legal career - serving as executive director of the Wisconsin Office of Crime Victim Services, a deputy district attorney for Dane County and an assistant attorney general - before her election as a Dane County Circuit Court. On that busy bench, she has distinguished herself as a thoughtful jurist who respects the rule of law, civil liberties and civil rights. Her reputation extends across the state; for instance, when members of the Milwaukee County Bar Association reviewed the contenders, Karofsky was rated qualified by 219 of the lawyers who voted. Just 120 lawyers rated Kelly qualified.

This isn't a close call. Judge Karofsky is prepared to serve on the Supreme Court and deserves an overwhelming victory. To assure that victory, however, voters should make an extra effort to get their ballots cast and counted in this extraordinary moment.

Federal District Judge William M. Conley has ordered an extension of the deadline for people to register to vote electronically until 11:59 p.m. on March 30, due to the pandemic. (Get more information at: https://myvote.wi.gov/en-US/RegisterToVote.) Voters who are already registered can request an absentee ballot through April 2, but must mail it in immediately so that it is received by for clerks by 8 p.m. on Election Day, April 7.

Madison also allows people to vote early on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., through April 3. This "curbside voting" takes place on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. outside the City-County Building and the Madison Municipal Building. For more information, contact the League of Women Voters at https://www.lwvdanecounty.org/candidates-answers-spring-election-2020.

These are challenging times. Be safe. Be smart. Vote early for Judge Jill Karofsky.

(c) 2020 John Nichols writes about politics for The Capitol Times. His book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.








Stray Voltage - A Troubling Issue On The Farm
By James Donahue

Sick and dying livestock on dairy farms has been, perhaps, an early warning sign that something is going wrong with the aging power lines across the United States. The problem - identified as stray voltage - has prompted lawsuits by dairy farms against local electric companies.

The farmers are claiming that stray voltage from overloaded and outdated power lines passing over and servicing their land is killing their cattle. Xcel Energy, one of the power companies named in litigation in Minnesota, argues that the deaths could be blamed on other factors. A 1996 advisory report to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission found "no credible scientific evidence" that ground current can sicken dairy herds.

Stray voltage has been suspected as the cause of the deaths since the early 1980s, although in the beginning, the issue was whether there was such a thing as stray voltage, and later, once it was proven, the question was how much voltage is harmful.

Since then, however, the incidence of cattle deaths from suspected overladen power lines has grown. And Consolidated Edison recorded 1,214 cases of stray voltage in New York City in 2005. Among the deaths believed caused by stray voltage was a woman who stepped on a metal plate, and a dog that perished while standing on wet concrete.

The dairy farmers claim there are two kinds of stray voltage that are giving them problems. One is extra spillover from the overtaxed power lines that feed into the farm's electrical system. The other is ground current. The theory is that electricity jumps from the overloaded lines and follows a course in the ground to complete a circuit. This happens when the line is in poor repair or there is a lack of capacity. The power finds the ground through the farm grounding rods.

Some estimate that two-thirds of the current is returning that way. And when a dairy farm is in its path, all the the mud, the metal equipment, water troughs and the cattle become part of the circuit. The shocks that hit the cattle don't kill them immediately, but they make them sick, and eventually cause them to collapse.

This is why stray voltage has been so difficult for farmers and even the electric companies to identify and prove. The cattle show all of the symptoms of a disease, but one that is an unknown mystery.

Possibly linked to this issue has been the rash of forest and brush fires that swept California last fall and winter. Aging power lines were among the things blamed.

Thus the problem of 70 to 100-year-old electric distribution lines that need to be replaced and updated is joining a long list of infrastructure issues breaking down all across America. Expect this problem to get much worse before something gets done about it.

(c) 2020 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles.









Is Coronavirus A Bioweapon?
By David Swanson

The Washington Post's article opposing such a conclusion admits the following: The lab in Wuhan "was researching coronaviruses transmitted by bats." And "[a]n annual State Department report released last year said China had engaged "in biological activities with potential dual-use applications." And that at least one expert worried about potential outbreaks from that lab. And that other experts had discussed the possibility of Coronavirus being a bioweapon but found no proof.<‘> Francis Boyle's video arguing the case that Coronavirus is a bioweapon points to three articles from scientific journals. The first describes the virus in terms that Boyle, but not the authors, considers a dead giveaway. How is a non-expert to judge?

The second article, one of whose authors is from the Institute in Wuhan and one of whose funders is China, describes work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which Boyle views as aggressive work to make a virus more deadly, the authors clearly maintain was defensive, but indisputably was "dual-use" as most such research seems unavoidably to be. Boyle thinks Wuhan acquired this research by funding and participating in it through the good services of UNC which got its deadly cells from Fort Detrick.

The third article has the same connections to Wuhan and China that the second one does, but comes from Australia instead of North Carolina.

Boyle thinks that bioweapons researchers in Australia and North Carolina did work that contributed to the current disaster, regardless of what they may have intended or wanted or wished for. I think there's ample evidence that bioweapons researchers around the world are engaged in a deadly and counterproductive game that develops weapons in the name of trying to defeat them.

Does the evidence show that this virus must have come from a lab and not from bats via other animals with no human role other than habitat destruction and a keystone-cops response to the outbreak? I don't know. I think the evidence is overwhelming in that regard when it comes to Lyme Disease. I think so, too, when it comes to Anthrax. I've not seen such powerful evidence with regard to AIDS and would have to see it before jumping to that conclusion.

But what exactly is the distinction between a lab acquiring a disease from bats, studying it, and accidentally letting it loose, versus a lab acquiring a disease from another lab, modifying it to make it worse in the name of preventing it, and accidentally letting it loose? When does it become a bioweapon?

Developing biological weapons in order to develop vaccines to counter them is done in exactly the same way, whether it's for defense or offense. In an offensive attack, the vaccines are needed to protect the attacking troops. And the development of these weapons is very difficult and expensive. The most likely source of biological weapons in a terrorist attack is a government lab that developed the stuff for "defense." A possible source for any disease that looks like a bioweapon is the same.

Of course it might not be. I have not the slightest expertise on the matter. But we know that governments are working on bioweapons, and we know that they don't want it discussed, and we know that corporate and state media alike avoid things that governments don't want discussed. Still, people are finding the decency in some cases to do better in trying to survive coronavirus than what their governments are telling them to do. Perhaps people can also do better than their governments want them to in researching the origins.

It just might turn out that the United States and China are both right to blame each other, and that the internationalism of academics - such a force for good in other contexts - creates plenty of blame to go around.

(c) 2020 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.




Numerous studies illustrate how much forest walks can do for heart and respiratory health, immune system function and lowering stress levels.



Healthy Forests Mean Healthy People
By David Suzuki

If you look at a forest top from above or below, you might see a pattern of nicely spaced pathways twisting between the trees. This phenomenon is known as "crown shyness."

Attempts have been made to explain it, with most experts concluding it's due to many factors. Initially, it was thought to be wind making the upper branches rub against each other, damaging them to the point where they stop growing. But one study found no difference between windy and sheltered forests.

One hypothesis is that light levels allow the growing tree tips to detect when another is too close, causing them to stop growing in that direction. Others think it could be natural adaptation to help trees maximize access to resources like light and minimize competition.

Despite their crown "social distancing," many trees communicate with each other through underground fungal networks, or "mycorrhizae." As Peter Wohlleben explored in The Hidden Life of Trees and Wayne Grady and I in Tree: A Life Story, these "wood-wide webs" allow fungi to derive sugars from the trees, while providing trees with water, nutrients and better conditions for root expansion. They also facilitate transmission of warnings between trees about threats from insects, drought and more.

Both books illuminate how much we have to learn about trees and forests. Once you start exploring their complexity - the ways in which they interconnect to be stronger as a whole than their constituent parts - you'll never see them in the same way.

We can't live without trees and forests. They provide oxygen, food, wood and other resources, and sequester carbon. Forests - and all natural spaces - are also beneficial for our physical and mental health. Numerous studies illustrate how much forest walks can do for heart and respiratory health, immune system function and lowering stress levels.

Studies based on Japan's long tradition of shinrin-yoku or "forest bathing" found people who spend time in nature inhale "beneficial bacteria, plant-derived essential oils and negatively-charged ions" that interact with gut bacteria to strengthen the body's immune system and improve both mental and physical health.

One Japanese study of 585 participants found walking through forested areas decreased depression, anxiety, anger, fatigue and confusion, and increased vigour and other positive feelings compared with walking through city areas.

A UC Berkeley's Greater Good Magazine article describes scientific findings that "walking in trees lowered people's blood pressure, cortisol levels, pulse rates, and sympathetic nervous system activity (related to stress), while increasing their parasympathetic nervous system activity (related to relaxation)" - all good for heart health. Studies have also found proximity to forested areas improves respiratory health.

Some research even found just looking at images of forests can improve your state of mind!

Reducing stress and anxiety and boosting immune systems and respiratory health are all important in these troubling times - keeping in mind the current rules and recommendations about social distancing and hygiene.

Forests are also a critical defence against disease outbreaks. A Nation article notes 60 per cent of microbial pathogens that have emerged or re-emerged into new areas since 1940 (including HIV, Ebola, Zika and a number of coronaviruses) originated from animals - two-thirds from wildlife and the rest from pets and livestock.

Wild animals become more susceptible to pathogens if their habitat is damaged or destroyed, and this also puts infected animals in closer contact with people. The illicit wildlife trade is another area that needs to be brought under control to keep pathogens from spreading from one species to another.

Industrial agriculture, where many animals are kept together in close quarters can also increase disease spread, as we saw in 2014 when millions of poultry had to be slaughtered to contain a virulent form of avian influenza. Another argument for shifting to a plant-based diet!

Now and always, we need to protect, conserve, plant and restore forests, wetlands and other natural areas - to help in the fight against climate disruption and disease spread, and to ensure more people have access to areas that keep us mentally and physically well.

Regardless of whether or not you can get out into nature, it's important now that we take care of each other and ourselves. Let's take a lesson from the trees and recognize that we are stronger together.

(c) 2020 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.








Why Does This Administration* Have Its Grubby Fingerprints On A Casino Controversy In Massachusetts?
Donald Trump's long history of meddling in Native American affairs gets a new chapter.
By Charles P. Pierce

Long ago, El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago unburdened himself in Congress on the subject of Native American tribes and their casinos, which, unlike his, are successful enterprises, not bankrupt and currently home for pigeons on the Jersey Shore. And then he went out and put his words into action. From the L.A. Times:

They came from the New York Institute for Law and Society, a new self-described grass-roots anti-gambling group targeting the St. Regis Mohawks. Its campaign in 2000, supposedly supported by 12,000 "pro-family" donors, warned of the evils an Indian casino would bring: "increased crime, broken families, bankruptcies and, in the case of the Mohawks, violence."
But there were no 12,000 donors. Virtually all the money for the campaign, more than $1 million, came from Donald Trump.
The institute was the brainchild of Trump's longtime lobbyist and consultant, Roger Stone, and Trump himself was hands-on - not just paying the bills, but signing off on ad copy or radio scripts depicting the tribe as violent criminals and drug dealers. When Stone hired private investigators to dig up dirt on the Mohawks, Trump secretly paid the bills.
Which makes this story from up here in the Commonwealth (God save it!) all the more curious, and also more obvious. From Boston.com:
Cedric Cromwell, the chairman of the Cape Cod-based tribe, says he was informed Friday at 4 p.m. by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt had ordered their 321-acre reservation be taken out of federal trust, following two court decisions declaring that the federal government didn't have the authority to give the lands special status...

And while the order doesn't mean that the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe loses that recognition, it would mean that their reservation - split between Mashpee and Taunton - would no longer be considered sovereign land. As the Associated Press reported in 2018, that would mean the tribe would have to shut down its police force and other social services, subject residents to government taxes, and further delay its efforts to build a casino complex in Taunton.

The administration* says it had to act because an appeals court ruled against the tribe last month in a case involving the relationship between the Wampanoag land and the federal land trust. However, that litigation is still underway. And it's not like this president* hasn't put his grubby fingerprints on this obscure controversy before.
Last year, the tribe had tried to get Congress to reaffirm its reservation status, after a legal challenge by opponents of their proposed casino threw it into uncertainty. A bill introduced by Rep. Bill Keating proposed to clarify that the Mashpee Wampanoag was eligible to have its land taken into trust and prevent future legal challenges. However, after the bill was approved by a House committee and fast-tracked for a floor vote, Trump himself weighed in with a tweet urging Republicans to oppose the somewhat obscure legislation. The Republican president also tied the bill to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential primary candidate at the time who had vocally supported the tribe's efforts to maintain its reservation.
Also, the owners of a pair of Rhode Island casinos have been fighting the possibility of a casino on Wampanoag land, which is not far from the Rhode Island border. And the long shadow of Camp Runamuck has fallen over that element of the controversy, too. From the Washington Post:
...the tribe's site is about 18 miles from Rhode Island, and that state's politicians aren't keen to have a new competitor go up against their two casinos, both of which are run by Twin River Worldwide Holdings, a public company with strong Trump ties. Twin River's president, George Papanier, was a finance executive at the Trump Plaza casino hotel in Atlantic City earlier in his career, and Twin River's chief marketing officer, Phil Juliano, also lists experience at a Trump casino on his resume...

In the Mashpee case, Twin River, the operator of the two Rhode Island casinos, has hired Matthew Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a vocal Trump supporter, to lobby for it on the land issue. Schlapp's wife, Mercedes, is director of strategic communications at the White House. Matthew Schlapp said last week that his wife played "no role in my advocacy" and that he lobbied against the casino because it was a "terrible idea."

Matt Schlapp's concern for the traffic patterns of southeastern Massachusetts is very touching, but I am a cynical bastard, and I think it may well be fundamentally bogus. If the Wampanoag bid for the casino fails, there obviously are other interests that will step in and grab the license. (There's only one casino license left in Massachusetts.) If some of them aren't wired into the administration*, I will personally throw Plymouth Rock into the Atlantic.

(c) 2020 Charles P. Pierce has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.







The Quotable Quote-



"Mother Nature has the upper hand, and she is using the trappings of modern life-air travel, burgeoning population and low-income country megacities, encroachment on natural habitats, and an interconnected global just-in-time delivery system-to extend her reach."
~~~ Mark Olshaker,





The Masque of the Red Death is a 1964 horror film directed by Roger Corman and starring
Vincent Price-based on a story by Edgar Allen Poe. The story follows a prince who terrorizes
a plague-ridden peasantry while merrymaking in a lonely castle with his jaded courtiers.




Pandemic Be Damned, The Business of America Is Business!
Trump tap dances at the Masque of the Red Death.
By Michael Winship

Greetings from the epicenter. We are ensconced in my small downtown Manhattan apartment, social distancing as best we can and so far safe and healthy but warned that the worst is yet to come, an "apex" of contagion they believe is on its way over the next couple of weeks.

For now, and unlike far too many, we have plenty of food and water and heat and power, very different from Hurricane Sandy eight years ago when we lost electricity for nearly a week and had to temporarily leave the neighborhood. In fact, despite self-quarantine, Con Edison utility workers dutifully are drilling and hammering outside the building as I write this, digging up the street and doubtless doing something vital, but murdering concentration.

This is an eerie experience. We're in the thick of it, yet cars and trucks still move down Seventh Avenue and pedestrians walk the sidewalks, albeit significantly fewer in number. The local park a couple of blocks away, where just a few days ago the benches were dangerously full, has been locked up. But a smaller park, a five-minute walk away, remains open.

Up to this point, area businesses deemed essential are operating; the grocery and drug store restock on a regular basis although short or empty of frequently hoarded toilet paper, sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, etc. The other day, I saw a young man load his shopping cart with several loaves of bread and dozens of eggs. I hoped he wasn't hoarding; maybe he worked at a restaurant or was holding an illicit French toast party.

This is not to make light of a grim situation, merely to note a couple of the absurdities. Apparently, the gourmet chocolate shop nearby is essential, our independent bookstore is not. St. Vincent's Hospital, which once had some 750 beds and helped lead the fight against HIV/AIDS, went out of business in 2010.

Those valuable rooms that would serve us so well right now have been turned into megabucks luxury apartments, many of them unoccupied, empty investments by the rich. Not too long ago, the $40 million penthouse was purchased by Starbucks chairman emeritus Howard Schultz, which is probably why one of those big Starbucks Reserve roasteries recently opened on the ground floor, even though there are plenty of regular Starbucks and other coffee joints within a stone's throw. A billionaire's caffeinated vanity.

I haven't been on the subway in two and a half weeks or walked north of West 14th Street. My apartment building seems quiet-I can't tell how many have left to get out of harm's way but some packages have been sitting in the lobby for more than a week, which may be an indication. For now, we stay.

All things considered we're fortunate and privileged, reasonably well positioned to weather the viral storm. In fact, despite what has been seen at other hospitals, the head of the smaller, emergency medical facility that replaced part of St. Vincent's told our community board last week that contingency plans had been made for a possible overflow of COVID-19 patients and other than a shortage of masks claimed, "We're very well prepared for this. We're really well positioned to take care of this."

Some on the right take such announcements as evidence that this all is no big deal, overhyped by the media and Democrats. This is, of course, insanity, the delusion of the credulous who will fall for any conspiracy theory, and who, over the last few years, have. At this point there are more 32,000 cases in New York City and 678 have died. Friends of friends are sick, some are dead.

You've seen the images of fear and mayhem from Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, where thirteen died in less than 24 hours. Not far from here, nearly three thousand beds are ready in a temporary hospital created by the Army Corps of Engineers at the Javits Convention Center. Other field hospitals are opening in Central Park and the outer boroughs, and the hospital ship USNS Comfort is docking at a midtown pier. Donald Trump bid it farewell on Saturday as the ship set sail from its base in Norfolk, Va.

Waving bye-bye stretches Trump's abilities to the max. Each hour, he has proven himself a disaster at disaster, finally facing a crisis which ultimately, he can't spin as he usually does, although he is doing his damnedest, especially when it comes to currying favor with the wealthy and focusing on the protection of his re-election above all else.

Florida's electoral votes mean more to him than human life, as evidenced over the weekend when he tried to foist a quarantine on New York and nearby states in part to keep residents from driving to the Sunshine State domain of Mar-a-Lago and his pal Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, described by the Miami Herald as "a timid leader in the face of the growing scourge."

DeSantis has done little to protect his own Florida citizens-leaving beaches and bars open to partiers until just a few days ago. Now, apparently, he wants to shift the blame northward and Trump has tried to help, always remembering the narrow 1.2 percent margin by which he carried that state in 2016.

Further, as other states plead for material from the Strategic National Stockpile of critical medical supplies, The Washington Post reports that the government of Trump's Florida "submitted a request on March 11 for 430,000 surgical masks, 180,000 N95 respirators, 82,000 face shields and 238,000 gloves, among other supplies - and received a shipment with everything three days later, according to figures from the state's Division of Emergency Management. It received an identical shipment on March 23, according to the division, and is awaiting a third."

Meanwhile, Massachusetts has received 17 percent of the gear it requested, Maine only five percent.

As blatant as this seeming favoritism may be, perhaps worse is Trump's kowtowing to those in the business community, including many within his White House, who urge that sooner rather than later, America must return to the business of business and to hell with the potential loss of human life.

Fortunately, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and others pushed back. "We are not willing to sacrifice 1-2% of New Yorkers to this virus," Cuomo wrote constituents on March 24. "That's not who we are. My mother is not expendable. Your mother is not expendable. We will not put a dollar figure on human life. We can have a public health strategy that is consistent with an economic one. No one should be talking about social Darwinism for the sake of the stock market. The first order of business is to save lives."

To think otherwise is monstrous, the awfulness made all the worse by Trump's total lack of character or common sense. On Sunday alone, in the face of continuing tragedy, he bragged about his TV ratings, tried to excuse shortages by implying that hospital personnel might be stealing precious supplies and said that if total American deaths could be kept "between 100 and 200,000, we all together have done a very good job," ignoring the ineptitude and lack of preparedness that have allowed this pandemic to strike so fiercely at our nation.

(This is stuff straight out of Doctor Strangelove, reminiscent of George C. Scott's character, General Buck Turgidson, who urges preemptive nuclear war and tells his president, "I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Depending on the breaks.")

Trump's previously stated urge to immediately get the stock market back on track and to be packing church pews on Easter Sunday has been thwarted by uncompromising reality. To end this devastation will take weeks and months.

We can do it, but this man who would be our mad king is less a legitimate ruler and more like Prince Prospero, the foolish, arrogant protagonist of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" who, in the face of a plague "devastating the countryside," invites "a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court," to join him for a rich man's ball. Indifferent to the pain and sickness all around them, they socially isolate from the hoi polloi and indulge themselves in gluttony and greed until Death itself steals within and vanquishes them all.

Trump continues to be confusing and confused, inconstant, boastful, our lying fantasist-in-chief. Stymied by this virus, frustrated by his inability to throw the campaign rallies that are his oxygen, he has taken over the daily briefings of his coronavirus task force and turned them into rambling deceitful monologues of self-aggrandizement and attacks on the press. As said by many before, he should step aside and let those who have the expertise be in charge. Take your cherished, vainglorious victory lap when people truly are well again.

He won't do it, of course, so we must be insistent and continue to call upon cooler more experienced leadership to take over.

Here in New York, taking a cue from others around the world, we have begun cheering and applauding from our windows every night at seven to honor those heroically defending us on the frontlines, including tens of thousands of volunteers, whether at hospitals or daycare centers, supermarkets or pharmacies.

"The country wants to get back to work," Trump claims. Yes, we do, but first we must band together, support and love one another, bear the burden and wrestle this pestilence - both the human and viral kind -- to the ground.

(c) 2020 Michael Winship is the Schumann Senior Writing Fellow for Common Dreams. Previously, he was the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos and former president of the Writers Guild of America East. Follow him on twitter:@MichaelWinship







The Dead Letter Office-





Andy gives the corporate salute

Heil Trump,

Dear Administrator der Umweltschutzbehorde Wheeler,

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser Busch, Vidkun Quisling, and last year's winner Volksjudge Samuel (the con) Alito.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your suspending all environmental regulations indefinitely, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Trump at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 05-23-2020. We salute you herr Wheeler, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump






Public Health First
By Robert Reich

Dick Kovacevich, former CEO of Wells Fargo bank, thinks most Americans should return to work in April, urging that we "gradually bring those people back and see what happens."

Lloyd Blankfein, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, whose net worth is $1.1bn, recommends "those with a lower risk of the diseases return to work" within a "very few weeks".

Tom Galisano, founder of Paychex, whose net worth is $2.8bn, believes "the damages of keeping the economy closed could be worse than losing a few more people...You're picking the better of two evils."

Donald Trump is concerned that a prolonged lockdown might harm his chances of reelection. "We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem," he said last week. On Sunday he backed off his Easter back-to-work deadline, saying social distancing guidelines would remain in place until the end of April.

But senior public health officials including Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, think this may be too soon.

America already leads the world in coronavirus cases. Dr Fauci believes we haven't yet felt the worst of the pandemic.

It may seem logical to weigh the threat to public health against the accumulating losses to the economy, and then at some point decide economic losses outweigh health risks. As Stephen Moore, who is advising the White House, warns: "You can't have a policy that says we're going to save every human life at any cost, no matter how many trillions of dollars you're talking about."

But whose "trillions of dollars" of costs are we talking about?

Workers typically bear the biggest burdens during economic downturns, especially if they lose their jobs and don't have enough money to pay the bills. Eighty percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

Late last week, lawmakers made an important step to prevent such hardships. The $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill provides jobless Americans an extra $600 in unemployment benefits per week for four months, and includes contract and gig workers.

The bill was almost scuttled when Republican lawmakers objected that this would boost incomes of some job losers higher than their pay when they worked.

Apparently, these lawmakers hadn't noticed that the pay of the typical working American has stagnated for decades, adjusted for inflation. So a temporary boost in pay in order to get people to stay home and thereby help slow the spread of Covid-19 is hardly unseemly.

Here's what is unseemly. The "economy" that the bankers and billionaires are eager to restart had been growing rapidly before the pandemic. But most of its gains had gone into corporate profits, as shown by the meteoric rise of the stock market until a few weeks ago.

The bankers and billionaires now urging Americans get back to work own a huge share of that stock market. The richest 1 percent of the population owns roughly half of the value of all shares of stock. (The richest 10 percent own more than 80%.)

So when they recommend Americans get back to work for the sake of the "economy," they're really urging that other people risk their lives for the sake of restoring the bankers' and billionaires' stock portfolios.

While it's true that we can't save every human life at any cost, and at some point may have to end the lockdown of America and accept some additional coronavirus casualties, we need to keep in mind which Americans we are talking about.

The trade-off average Americans might make between getting back to work and exposing themselves to the virus is likely to be quite different from the trade-off bankers and billionaires make, especially if average Americans have enough income support to get through the crisis.

Even four months of extra unemployment benefits may not be enough. The richest nation in the world surely has enough resources to keep its people safe at home for as long as it takes.

(c) 2020 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His web site is www.robertreich.org.








Quarantine? BORING! Sitting Around Waiting To Die?
By Jane Stillwater

What is it like to be quarantined in a time of plague? Who knew that a death watch could be this boring. Passing time waiting for the Grim Reaper by playing endless rounds of computer solitaire and watching re-runs of The Rookie and Grey's Anatomy? Is anybody going stir-crazy but me?

But now I'm even starting to get a taste of what it must be like living in Gaza -- where Death is an everyday neighbor. Screw this freaking death watch. I need to have fun! While keeping social distancing at the same time of course.

So I took my income tax return money, combined it with an Expedia gift coupon and booked myself a night in San Francisco's legendary Palace Hotel. Take that, coronavirus! "Girls just wanna have fun!" While social distancing of course.

Unfortunately there are no legendary hotels or gift coupons or even income tax returns in the Gaza concentration camp (little known fact: Zionists keep all the Palestinians' tax money). Plus social distancing is not even an option in Gaza, it being the most crowded place on the planet. But I digress.

Why the Palace Hotel? My mother took me there once when I was a little girl. We had High Tea in the legendary Garden Court. Plus I'm currently reading a historical murder mystery, Mortal Music, set there back in 1881.

PS: Doesn't it piss you off too that we are being told almost nothing about COVID -- except to be very afraid. And that possibly one in five working-class Americans will be bankrupt by the end of 2020. That we will only get a measly $1,200 each and small businesses will get loans with 3% interest -- while banksters, Big Pharma and the other usual suspects will be getting $120,000,000,000-plus for free (are we being punked or what?)

We should also be told to keep our immune systems happy with fresh fruit and veggies, fresh air and lots of vitamin C. And that new studies show that COVID-19 is far more prevalent in the general population than we think (50% of the population in Britain apparently has it right now), that many people are asymptomatic and that only one in 1,000 of us even needs to be hospitalized because of it. Not as deadly as we think.

But.

COVID-19 is certainly is giving me something to write about -- without even having to leave home! Except of course for writing about my upcoming super-fun sleep-over at the legendary Palace Hotel this Saturday.... And possibly writing about eating Peking duck for dinner in San Francisco's legendary Chinatown. While keeping social distancing of course. (I have become the freaking Queen of social distancing, BTW.)

(c) 2020 Jane Stillwater. Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world. And while you're at it, please buy my books!






The Cartoon Corner-

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Bill Day ~~~








To End On A Happy Note-





Have You Seen This-






Parting Shots-



Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump looks on.


New Evidence Indicates Intelligence Not Contagious
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)-New evidence uncovered over the past several weeks indicates that intelligence is not contagious, a study by the Centers for Disease Control reports.

In a controlled experiment documented by the study, a seventy-nine-year-old man with intelligence was placed in close proximity to a seventy-three-year-old man without it for a period of several weeks to see if even a trace of his knowledge and expertise could be transmitted.

After weeks of near-constant exposure, however, the seventy-three-year-old man appeared "a hundred per cent asymptomatic" of intelligence, the researchers found.

"In terms of facts, data, and wisdom, there was zero community spread," the report stated.

The researchers, however, left open the possibility that intelligence might be transmissible to other people, just not to the seventy-three-year-old who was the subject of the experiment.

"There is evidence to suggest that this subject has developed a super-immunity to intelligence, making it impossible for even rudimentary information to permeate his extraordinarily thick cranium," the study indicated.

(c) 2020 Andy Borowitz




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Issues & Alibis Vol 20 # 14 (c) 04/03/2020


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