COVID-19

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Reading ahead.

One could easily conceive of a world in which most of the nation believes that America defeated COVID-19. Despite his many lapses, Trump’s approval rating has surged. Imagine that he succeeds in diverting blame for the crisis to China, casting it as the villain and America as the resilient hero. During the second term of his presidency, the U.S. turns further inward and pulls out of NATO and other international alliances, builds actual and figurative walls, and disinvests in other nations. As Gen C grows up, foreign plagues replace communists and terrorists as the new generational threat.

One could also envisage a future in which America learns a different lesson. A communal spirit, ironically born through social distancing, causes people to turn outward, to neighbors both foreign and domestic. The election of November 2020 becomes a repudiation of “America first” politics. The nation pivots, as it did after World War II, from isolationism to international cooperation. Buoyed by steady investments and an influx of the brightest minds, the health-care workforce surges. Gen C kids write school essays about growing up to be epidemiologists. Public health becomes the centerpiece of foreign policy. The U.S. leads a new global partnership focused on solving challenges like pandemics and climate change.

In 2030, SARS-CoV-3 emerges from nowhere, and is brought to heel within a month.

Ed Yong on alternate endings.

2020-03-31T06:49:24+11:0026th March, 2020|Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19|

Public investment.

But the reality is that if we had a bigger public sector today, we would be better prepared to weather the health and economic crises triggered by the coronavirus. Hopefully, by the time we come through this, we will have learnt that lesson once and for all. Because nobody thinks “the market” is best placed to tackle the coronavirus. Nobody thinks governments should step back and let the private sector step in. One of the first casualties of Covid-19 in Australia is the neoliberal rhetoric about government spending being a “cost” to the economy.

As China has shown, if you are interventionist enough, and crush economic activity hard enough, you can stop the spread of Covid-19. As Italy has shown, if you are laissez-faire, you will overwhelm your hospitals. There is no avoiding this choice. Delay and dissembling will deliver the worst health and worst economic outcomes.

But neoliberalism is all about delay and dissembling. For decades, we have been told that if we cut spending on health and welfare today, we can grow the pie and all be better off in the future. Of course, in reality, if we had spent a lot more on the health system, we would be better off today and in the future.

Richard Denniss on government.

2020-03-25T08:50:14+11:0025th March, 2020|Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, economics, politics|

Red menace.

For one thing, if you’re in a red state or a red town, and you see the virus headed your way, where is it headed from? From blue states and blue cities! Moreover: How did it get to those blue states and blue cities? From abroad.

This image—blue America as a conveyer belt for foreign menace—fits nicely into the core narrative of Trumpism. It’s a narrative not just about the perils of global interconnection but also about the American coastal elites who abet it, who support and profit from unbridled international trade and easy immigration. In one version of this story, the coronavirus would never have reached our shores had these cosmopolitans not been flying around the globe, mingling with foreign elites rather than with the ordinary Americans they secretly disdain. COVID-19, a cell less than one ten-thousandth of an inch long, may be the most compact embodiment ever of Trump’s key campaign themes: nationalism, xenophobia, and populist resentment of America’s coastal cosmopolitan elites. It is a living link between Trump-designated foreign enemies and Trump-designated domestic enemies.

Robert Wright on viral memes.

2020-03-30T07:12:00+11:0024th March, 2020|Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, politics|

Dog petting boom.

So some good coronanews for once; apparently there’s a massive boom in pet fostering.

More importantly is the quote noting that dog fur does not make a good transmission surface for COVID-19, which I admit is something I’ve worried about recently while walking my (extremely pettable) dog…

2020-03-23T08:18:55+11:0023rd March, 2020|Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, darth bacchus|

Extraction economics.

Here’s how it works in practice. On Wednesday March 18, the Australian government announced a $715 million rescue package for the nation’s stricken aviation sector. Qantas management, grateful for the assistance, immediately sacked 20,000 workers, cushioning the blow for their investors by casting two thirds of its employees into the street. Amazon—a trillion dollar company run by the world’s richest and least interesting man—is doing an online fundraiser to get other people to support its desperate workforce. The dynamic is familiar everywhere: a tax-avoiding queue of investors and oligarchs miraculously redeveloping a taste for the social safety net they’ve been hacking away at for four decades.

Since the mid-1970s, the ethic of public health, public welfare and mutual aid has been under sustained attack by the same people now desperate for a public bailout. The doctrine of neoliberalism views our whole society as a rich site of extraction: healthcare systems to be broken up and run for profit, public transport degraded in favour of private cars, welfare systems converted into poverty traps to ensure a pool of desperate low-wage labour. It goes well outside the boundaries of greed into the realm of the actively parasitic. Run down the public hospitals, set up private ones and then get taxpayers to subsidise them. Do the same thing with schools. It’s an ideology that allowed private interests to mine the childcare and aged care sectors for profit, blew a massive crater in the national broadband network, and even in the wake of the bushfires was seething with hatred for public broadcasters.

They’ve spent four decades trying to convert what should be universal essential services into a for-profit free-for-all, and now we’re staring at the consequences. It’s not just taking from the trailer and not putting anything back; it’s cleaning it out and then selling us back what they took.

Scott Ludlam on the pandemic bastards.

2020-03-28T08:47:48+11:0023rd March, 2020|Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, economics, politics|

Panic! At the Costco.

Really, we should not be surprised. Panic buying isn’t an aberration – it’s the logical extension of a political system based entirely on selfishness and indifference, on the hoarding of wealth and property. It is what happens when government persuades the public that it is the problem.

[…]

The contraction of government services across decades has left people isolated and mistrusting. They have been told to depend on themselves, and that is what they are doing. A government that won’t promise healthcare or education can’t be expected to guarantee groceries.

On logical extensions.

… mostly I just love that one of the country’s few (only?) remaining longform broadsheet newspaper—one primarily aimed at bleeding-heart pinko latte-sipping Boomers—actually used “Panic! At the Costco” as a headline.

Don’t make me have to explain the reference to my parents, Saturday Paper, please…

2020-03-24T07:46:36+11:0020th March, 2020|Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, politics|

New normal.

Today in Obligatory COVID-19 Posting: What if things never go back to “normal”?

That article touches on it a little, but the number of people I’ve seen who suddenly seem okay with going Full Fashy over transmission prevention measures is just… maybe we can dial that back a little, hey. Like, we have to be really, really careful that we’re not implementing things that will hang around beyond the length of the epidemic. Social distancing and diligent hand-washing are not (for better or for worse) going to stick around as soon as people feel they can get away with not doing them. But setting up (or further enriching) a massive surveillance apparatus for the state and normalising it in the name of “public safety”? Yeah. Nah. Don’t even go there.

2020-03-20T07:52:47+11:0020th March, 2020|Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, privacy|