What Is the Coronavirus Really Changing?

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Have the courage to speak up and act, America

W.J. Astore

On the surface, our lives are changing.  We’re staying home.  We’re practicing social distancing.  We’re wearing masks when we go out.  Many of us have lost jobs and maybe our health insurance as well.  People are suffering and dying.  I don’t want to diminish any of this.

Yet how much is really changing?  Two of my dad’s sayings come to mind: the more things change, the more they stay the same; and the rich get richer and the poor, poorer.  The latter saying defines our coronaviral moment.

The Trump/Congressional stimulus package favors corporations, banks, financiers, and other forms of big business.  Ordinary people will be lucky to see a one-time $1200 check, maybe not until this summer.  Once again, the trickle-down philosophy rules.

The stimulus bill itself is a grab-bag of special interest legislation.  Did you know there’s a “provision in the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package [that] allows Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to seek congressional approval to waive parts of the federal law protecting students with disabilities”?  Crises are always a good time to attack the most vulnerable while extending the privileges of the most favored.

Meanwhile, truth-tellers are being vilified or punished.  Did you hear that “Dr. Anthony Fauci has been given added security after receiving threats”?  His “sin” has been to tell the truth about the perils of COVID-19, thereby contradicting all the spin and happy-talk of the Trump administration.  That pisses off the most fanatical of Trump’s cult, leading to threats against a medical doctor who’s trying his best to save lives.

Speaking of being punished, consider this report: “The Navy removed the captain of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, saying an outbreak of the virus aboard his ship had ‘overwhelmed his ability to act professionally.’ Days earlier, Capt. Brett Crozier had sent a letter asking for help, using an unclassified email system.”  According to Reuters, the move could have a “chilling effect on others in the Navy looking to speak up about issues they are facing at a time when the Pentagon is withholding some of the more detailed data about coronavirus infections for fear of undermining the perception of American military readiness for a crisis or conflict.”

Here’s what Navy Captain Crozier had to say before he was relieved of command: “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset – our sailors.”

Crozier made two “mistakes” here: he cared too much about his sailors while highlighting the uncaring nature of his chain of command; and he dared to say “We are not at war,” when the accepted wisdom is that America is always at war (how else to justify gargantuan “defense” budgets?).  By embarrassing a callous and mercenary military abetted by the Trump administration, Crozier had to go.  And as he left his ship for the last time, his crew chanted his name in a rousing sendoff.

Today’s final lesson to illustrate how “the more things change, the more they stay the same”: the story of Christian Smalls, a brave Amazon manager who spoke out against unsafe conditions at a fulfillment center.  For his honesty, Smalls was fired by Amazon, which then considered smearing him as not smart or articulate in a leaked memo.  Smalls just happens to be Black, so Amazon resorted to racist words (not articulate, not smart) to imply he had nothing to say of any value.  Interesting that Smalls worked for Amazon for five years but only became dumb and inarticulate when he began to protest unsafe conditions related to the spread of COVID-19.  I watched Smalls in an interview, and he made a great suggestion: stop clicking and buying from Amazon, America.  That’s the only language Jeff Bezos understands.

I’ll close with some words of wisdom from one of my readers.  This is what she had to say:

No reason to complain however, we are the lucky ones.  As with all pandemics, it will be the poorest and weakest in the pecking order who will bear the brunt.  People in countries engulfed by war, refugee camps, metropolitan slums, prisoners in overcrowded prisons stand no chance against this medieval plague.

Excuse my French: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

16 thoughts on “What Is the Coronavirus Really Changing?

  1. I am fond of quoting topical singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn (who happens to be a Canadian, FWIW): “The trouble with normal is, it always gets worse.” What will “a return to normal” look like after the pandemic dies out (we fervently hope!)? An enormous–I certainly won’t try to put a number on it–number of small businesses will be six feet under, never to recover. Since US manufacturing was shipped overseas many years ago, small businesses have provided most of the employment here for a long time. Politicians frequently emphasize this, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics concocts its monthly figures for how many folks are employed by guessing (yes, it’s really “scientific”!) how many small businesses winked out of existence and how many new ones were created. The economy is going to be the proverbial basket case for a long time to come. Meanwhile, the monopolist corporations will just get fatter and their CEOs will buy some new mansions for their getaways. Maybe Bezos will flat-out purchase an island like Nantucket. The working class folks who are the backbone of society, rather than rising in revolt against the status quo, will be very frightened about the future and desperate for any kind of employment. There must be additional “relief packages” from D.C. or there will be no spending power for consumers. All of which will add to the National Debt. Shall I continue? No, I’m getting depressed myself!

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    1. But Trump said the NFL season should start on time! And given it’s the national religion, that’s their answer for everything.

      So why worry about the millions who will take years, if ever, to regain what they are losing during this pandemic?

      I suspect even the vaunted NFL will see itself suffering financial loss as season ticket holders (likely including many small business owners) can’t afford their tickets, and advertisers, seeing fading consumer demand, wanting to renegotiate the outrageous fees the NFL demands.

      Then I’ll know we’re really in trouble – said only partially tongue in cheek.

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  2. Related to Captain Crozier. When I was attending Navy Nuclear Power School many decades ago, there were two aviators in the class ahead of mine. They were both among the most impressive senior officers I came into contact with during my years of service. It was said that an aviator being selected for that pipeline meant they were destined for the rank of admiral; indeed one did become Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet years later.

    So I know Captain Crozier was destined for stars. He sacrificed his future for the sake of his sailors. The military celebrates physical courage; too often I think it ignores moral courage, which can be greater and much more difficult. Fair winds, Captain Crozier.

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    1. First of all, at the time Crozier wrote that letter the Navy was in the process of arranging berthing ashore for 3000 of the Theodore Rooseveldt sailors, the maximum number who could be removed for operational reason having to do with nuclear reactors and other equipment manning needs. So Navy command was not guilty of ignoring the situation as he charged in the letter.

      Second, Crozier sent the letter in a manner designed to make sure that it went public, a manner designed to be publicly critical of the military and the nation he served, and was openly critical of the command structure under whose orders he was responsible. That is seriously detrimental to national security (informing enemies that his ship is combat ineffective) and to the maintenance of good order and discipline in the Navy.

      He deserved more than merely being removed from his command.

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        1. This Trumpian clown is only ACTING Secretary of the Navy, as with so many other Cabinet and sub-Cabinet slots in this administration. Here today, gone tomorrow. He reportedly has apologized for calling Capt. Crozier’s actions “stupid.”

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        2. Sure his crew has a high opinion of him. Actually, having served under more than one ship’s captain, I would count that as a mark against him. Leadership is about discipline, not about being the “good guy.”

          And my comment was not about what Trump or his administration was saying. It referenced one documentable fact and was about a lifetime of experience being raised by a career Air Force officer and serving in the Navy.

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          1. A couple of comments.

            Leadership is about discipline, sure. Order has to be maintained. But leadership is also about decisiveness, clarity of judgment, and courage. And, on occasion, compassion.

            Captain Crozier, it seems to me, put his crew first. Absent a war, maintaining the health of one’s crew is vital. His mistake was pissing off the wrong people in the chain of command; of exposing the lie that the DoD and the Trump administration has everything under control. And for that act of “insubordination,” he had to go.

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  3. greglaxer,

    I agree with you the number of small businesses that will fail is going to huge. I patronage a number of small restaurants. There was an article here locally, about the drastic decline in carry-out, which is all they can do now.

    I suspect the big chain restaurants will get heaping helping of Corporate Welfare. Rumors are some places still open are seeing a lack of traffic in their stores. The workers maybe given every other week off with no pay.

    Corona, will be hanging around a while. So let us see our Leadership is The Trumpet, Pastor Pence and the grifter Kushner. The real experts will be paraded out, to add some look of professionalism.

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    1. I guess it reflects Trump’s very belated recognition of the gravity of this disease outbreak that he has not fired Dr. Anthony Fauci for the offense of publicly contradicting the Big Cheese. But that could change at any time. One of my favorite cartoons from the 1960s depicts a guy tied to a post with a firing squad getting ready to let loose. A generalissimo explains to a knot of reporters: “No one disagreed with his right to free speech. On the other hand, it was a drag having him around.”

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  4. Strongly recommended reading for all:

    https://swprs.org/a-swiss-doctor-on-covid-19/

    Carefully read and follow-up on all the links.

    Science is saying that this is a pan-panic, not a pandemic of historical proportions. At this point, there is still a chance that the economy will not go into depression, but as long as the herd remains panicked and the government is forced to take economy-destroying measures due to the pressure of the panic, we are running out of time to stop the run off the cliff into full depression. The effects of that may be a repeat of the 1930-40 timeframe, but all we can say is that all bets are off at that point… If the panic pressure isn’t soon lifted…my guess only one more month, depression is inevitable.

    That the elites are reaping the lion’s share and milking this crisis for all they can get is all to be expected since, after all, they are in control of the system. They were however very lucky they got the virus to use as a nice “act-of-God”/note-from-the-doctor excuse for getting bailed-out of another debacle of their own making. The recession was already starting before Covid-19 but the question now is whether we will go into a panic-induced depression, a far more dangerous thing than the virus ever was.

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    1. “Mood,” or “animal spirits,” do play a big role in societal trends. As I write, the Dow is up almost 1200 points. Why? Supposedly, “knowledgeable” investors make decisions based on economic conditions expected about six months down the road. I think those buying today will face buyer’s remorse before long. How long can a small business survive with zero customers (and no longer paying wages out only “helps” so much)? I believe I’ve heard a figure of a couple of weeks, on average, and then it’s bye-bye. Only in 20/20 hindsight will we know if the Greater Depression is underway or “only” the Greater Recession. Either way, it ain’t gonna be pretty for us little guys.

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      1. Oh, and I should have brought up the well-established fact that most US households could not muster $400 in cash to meet an emergency. This is based on opinion polls, so may understate reality. How many folks are eager to admit they don’t manage their money well? Those households where every member of driving age drives a hulking SUV may need to reconsider their “lifestyle”! Despite gasoline being cheap at the pump at this moment. There are still monthly car loan payments to make, yes?

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    1. As I commented so recently re: Acting Secretary of the Navy–“Here today, gone tomorrow.” Per CNN online the chump is gone–via “resignation.” Brought a good chuckle to me!

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