Tuesday, April 14, 2020

COVID-19: Catalyst For Change?

If this was the "best week" since 1938, I'd hate to see what a worse one would be like.

COVID-19: Catalyst For Change?
by Coast Watcher 

Almost seven hundred years ago a severe plague broke out that altered the nature of the world. Known as the Black Death, it originated on the northwest shores of the Caspian Sea. It spread into Europe in the years 1346-53 and killed over a third of the entire population. The spread was slowed by winter weather but could last through it. By the time the plague burned itself out an estimated 50 million people across Europe had died.

The contagion caused a massive decline in trade, but coincidentally it also led to the decline of the feudal system that had governed most of Europe for some five hundred years. The threat of military and police power by the feudal landowners fell away as their armies and loyal servants perished. Land cultivation declined drastically as the population fell, causing a rise in labor costs. Ordinary workers could demand remittance for their work instead of owing their liege lords unpaid servitude. The same applied to the professional classes in the towns, who saw the demand for their work rise. In a comparatively short time the Medieval world gave way to the Renaissance.

Lesson learned from history: Something good can come out of ill for the ordinary people, but it's not going to be easy. The serfs/workers still had to demand better wages and conditions--they weren't simply given to them.

Almost six hundred years later, another pandemic broke out that proved far deadlier even than the Black Death. The so-called Spanish Flu infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide—about one-third of the planet’s population at the time. It seemed to target the young and healthy, being particularly deadly to 20- to 35-year-olds. In three waves from March 1918 to the spring of 1919, it killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims, including some 675,000 Americans.

Rising in 1918 at the end of the First World War, the flu was first observed in Europe, the United States and parts of Asia before swiftly spreading around the world. Spain, being at peace at the time was able to focus on containing the disease and a great deal was written in the uncensored Spanish press. This extensive coverage at a time when the rest of Europe was occupied by war unfairly implied that the disease originated in Spain.

It’s believed now that the first case occurred in Fort Riley, Kansas, where new recruits were trained before being sent to Europe to fight. The disease spread with extraordinary rapidity. It crossed the Atlantic aboard troopships carrying American soldiers to the battlefronts of France.

In several countries preventative measures were put in place. Effective vaccines were a dream for the future, but twentieth century medical knowledge and practices were more advanced than those of the fourteenth century. The best methods of fighting the flu pandemic were quarantine, good hygiene practices, disinfectants, and a limitation of public gatherings. Citizens were ordered to wear masks and keep isolated. Schools, theaters and businesses closed. Bodies piled up in makeshift morgues. If the first wave of the flu appeared highly contagious, the second that lasted into 1919 proved deadlier yet before the virus ended its deadly progress around the world.

Lesson learned: Don't call it quits too early on preventative measures or else the pandemic could come back--even worse the second time around.
So, once again the world is suffering a crisis brought on by disease. Similar to the Spanish Flu, the COVID-19 virus covers the world, although not every country has suffered the horrendous casualties seen in China, Italy and the US. Once again the good old standby methods of quarantine, good hygiene practices, disinfectants, and a limitation of public gatherings are being used to contain the spread of the virus. 

However, a number of governors have refused to order even basic measures such as self-isolation/shelter in place. Some churches stubbornly remain open, citing their constitutional right to do so while claiming religious ‘protection’ from the illness. It’s no coincidence that COVID-19 infections are rising rapidly in the congregations of these selfish institutions. And it will come as no surprise that those countries with socialized medicine are coping far better with the outbreak than the United States with its commercialized healthcare system.

Lesson yet to be learned in the US : Health care should be about taking care of  all the people, and not simply lining the pockets of the health industry CEOs.

Like the Black Death, the socioeconomic effects of this newest disease is likely to lead to massive change. It’s already projected that over 195 million people worldwide face unemployment due to the closure of businesses. Responses to this economic shock wave vary. The US initiated massive bail-outs of private corporations using public money to the tune of over four trillion dollars. Citizens are to be granted a meager $1,200 in a one-off payment which will be counted against taxes. 

The response in other countries, even those with right-wing governments, has been far better. In the UK the government is guaranteeing the wages and salaries of citizens up to 80% of their income. The same method is being used in New Zealand, Denmark, France, Australia and Germany. Rent and mortgage freezes are another tactic, although these are set to run for a limited time only.

Both Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden are eager to get the economy moving again, sacrificing public health and safety in an effort to do so. Really,

they’re turning the public into COVID-19 fodder. Frontline workers now encompass not only first responders, but grocery store staff, delivery people and even gas station operators. Trump’s handling of the outbreak is so inept as to be criminal. That he knew about the onset of the coronavirus threat months in advance and did nothing is a matter of public record. That he closed the Homeland Security office for pandemics and slashed the CDC budget is known. That he’s attempting to profit off the crisis by pushing a suspect drug as a cure is also known. It makes Trump no better than an Old West snake-oil salesman. As for Biden, he has stated that in the unlikely event of his becoming president he’d veto a universal healthcare bill even if it clears both houses of Congress.

The shut-down and lack of income has already caused thousands of Americans

to lose their jobs and homes, something the government seemingly doesn’t care about in its efforts to protect Wall Street. The chances are the general mood of the public will turn ugly indeed when food supplies become scarce, profiteering reaches high levels, and the same-old-same-old offerings of the two so-called major parties will cease to appeal to the public’s need for change. 

The Democrats will likely cancel the convention this year, citing Biden’s near certainty of getting the nomination and the threat of spreading coronavirus as the reasons. I think it also possible that Trump, in another one of his frequent "blood rushing to what passes for his brain" moments will declare himself President for Life, citing it as "being in the public’s best interest."

The new post-COVID-19 reality will be like nothing we’ve seen. The closest the world has come to this reality is Europe post-Black Death. It’s entirely possible that a whole new world will emerge from this crisis, one that is overwhelmingly in favor of the working class. 

A lesson we can't afford to miss: Workers must keep an eye on the establishment. They read history, too, and they won't take too kindly to the serfs exerting their power over the tiny handful of billionaires who currently rule, but we've got to do it. One thing for sure, it’ll be an interesting ride.

Wilde, Robert. "The Black Death: The Worst Event in European History." ThoughtCo, Feb. 11, 2020, https://thoughtco.com/the-black-deat-1221213.


BIO: Coast Watcher says we can't let the lessons learned from this pandemic be wasted. It's time for all workers to stand up to the establishment and demand better pay and safer working conditions. Now isn't the time to kiss up to the oligarchs. We've got them where we want them--strike!


Other related articles:

The President and the Plague

The Ultimate Stress Test: The American World Covid-19 Reveals

"It Feels Like a War Zone": As More of Them Die, Grocery Workers Increasingly Fear Showing Up for Work

US Farmers Are Destroying Large Amounts of Food They Can No Longer Sell

Cuomo Seeks to Slash Medicaid Mid-Pandemic

This Earth Day, we're coming together at a scale this movement has never seen before.
As the world is reeling from the COVID-19 crisis, billionaire oil and gas CEOs are using this pandemic to push through whatever taxpayer-funded handouts they can get while the world isn’t looking.

This year, Earth Day will be anything but normal, but that won’t stop us. From April 22 - 24, we will come together online — via a virtual livestream — to rise up in solidarity for those fighting on the frontlines of the COVID-19 and climate crises.

COVID-19 has shone a light on the cracks in our current political and economic systems where the wealthy are put first and people are put last. While millions of people struggle to afford healthcare costs and bills, oil billionaires have been pushing for an oil bailout. This is despicable. What's worse, despite isolation measures, pipeline construction across the U.S. and Canada is still happening. TC Energy, formerly TransCanada, is currently sending workers to build the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet'suwet'en land without consent, putting Indigenous elders at a higher risk of getting COVID-19 because they don’t have easy access to healthcare. In the U.S., construction of TC Energy’s Keystone XL pipeline is now underway too despite widespread opposition to the project. 

Like the pandemic, the climate crisis is an issue multiplier, exacerbating these existing inequities. That's why we're coming together online at a scale the climate movement has never seen before.

Will you join us in taking bold action for justice this Earth Day? Here’s 3 things you can do right now:

This year’s 72-hour Earth Day Live mobilization will bring lessons learned for the climate movement from the COVID-19 crisis to a huge national stage. You’ll hear from people on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be part of creating a vision for how we can come out of the current crisis with a more just world. Sign up to join the Earth Day Live livestream. 

At a time when many of us are stuck at home and are struggling with the public health and economic fallout of this crisis, creative resistance is more essential than ever. Not just to build our movement, but to connect with ourselves and each other more deeply. Join Greenpeace and community artists for an Online Arts Build this Thursday, April 16, to learn how to use your window or yard as a platform for creative resistance on Earth Day. 

We’ll also be taking action in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people, whose lives and land lie at the crosshairs of the COVID-19 crisis. Help us fight for Indigenous sovereignty and climate justice — RSVP to our April 23 digital blockade to stop Wall Street investment firm, KKR, from exploiting the COVID-19 crisis and sacrificing Indigenous lives and lands for their own profit.

The COVID-19 crisis marks a turning point. We can choose to go back to a broken status quo, or we can choose to protect working people and frontline communities from this crisis and the climate emergency, not just a wealthy few. We can’t sit this one out.

To a more just future,
Avery Raines
Digital Strategist, Greenpeace USA
EPA gives green light to polluters. take action (image of pipe spewing dirty water)
Take Action Now
The Environmental Protection Agency has suspended its job of protecting the environment. 
In late March, the agency issued a memo essentially giving companies a pass on polluting, stating that it will not “seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations” if companies can cite the coronavirus as a reason for violating environmental laws. 
This uses COVID-19 as an excuse to allow polluters to stop following environmental rules set in place to protect human and environmental health. 
This new policy is “temporary,” but there is no end date set. Oil, gas, and other polluting industries have capitalized on the coronavirus crisis and lobbied for more lax rules on air and water pollution. It’s unlikely that the same industries lobbying for regulatory rollbacks will voluntarily comply with the rules that protect our health.  
If anything, pollution rules should be stricter, since a recent study found that fatality rates of coronavirus patients are higher in areas with high levels of air pollution. 
And the pains of pollution are not felt evenly, as frontline communities have long been targeted and burdened by polluting industries. Black and Latinx communities, where people are more likely to have underlying conditions stemming from pollution, are particularly hard hit by the virus. 
People should not be subjected to worsening air and water quality that weakens their health during a pandemic. We need stronger safeguards from pollution – not an abandonment by the entity charged to protect us. 
For people and the planet, 
Beth Porter
Climate Campaigns Director
Green America 


$2000/month to every American #moneyforthepeople #covid19
825,109 have signed Stephanie Bonin’s petition. Let’s get to 1,000,000!

My name is Stephanie, and I am one of millions of Americans who fear for my financial future because of this coronavirus crisis. With businesses and schools closing across the country to control the spread of this virus, many people have already lost their jobs. Others are being forced to stay home.

This is catastrophic for working families like mine. 
I’m calling on Congress to support families with a $2,000 payment for adults and a $1,000 payment for kids immediately, and continuing regular checks for the duration of the crisis. Otherwise, laid-off workers, furloughed workers, the self-employed, and workers dealing with reduced hours will struggle to pay their rent or put food on the table.

My husband and I own a restaurant in Denver and these past two weeks have been a blur. Our restaurant community is wrestling with seeing everything we all have worked so hard for irrevocably changed. Our hearts were breaking as we watched our staff divide the ingredients in our kitchen to bring to their homes: a dismal token for employees who worked tirelessly every day. Our talented and cherished team, some of whom have been with us since we opened our doors 15 years ago, are now without an income. Like our team, my family has lost all of the income from our restaurant, and business owners and the self-employed can’t claim unemployment. This is the story of America right now.

For our team and other Americans who can claim unemployment, even the maximum payments will not be enough for most people to continue paying their bills – and avoid slipping into poverty. The facts are, even successful small businesses can’t go months with their doors closed. 
But supplying Americans with monthly support until they can get back on their feet can save our communities from financial ruin.

We need immediate checks and recurring payments so that we can keep our heads above water.  Congress needs to make sure that we won’t be left financially ruined for doing our part to keep the country healthy.

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