Friday, March 13, 2020

Bernie's got this

It is an absolute moral imperative that our response — as a government, as a society, as business communities, and as individuals — meets the enormity of this crisis. Read and watch my full remarks to the nation today:

Bernie nailed it in that speech.

He really did.

Short-term: we must provide emergency unemployment assistance and include workers who depend on tips, gig workers, domestic workers and independent contractors. Long-term: we need Medicare for All so your health insurance is not tied to your job.
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The Washington Post
The first U.S. layoffs from the coronavirus are here. Job losses have begun in ports, bakeries and travel agencies. Economists worry more layoffs are coming in the next few weeks as many businesses see plummeting sales.

Workers are being told not to go to work, but many will face financial ruin if they don't. We must finally pass paid family and medical leave right now.

Now let me note Ashley Curtin (NATION OF CHANGE) observes:

Where exit polls are conducted, Bernie Sanders is the favored Democratic candidate in 13 out of the 16 states. This means that those Americans who are independent voters or “swing voters” are more likely to vote for Sanders as opposed to former Vice President Joe Biden come November.
Independent voters are also referred to as “swing voters” because they tend to “swing national elections.” And according to CNN’s exit polls, Sanders won both Minnesota and North Carolina, which are competitive swing states during the election.
As a way to boost turnout during the general election, experts believe that the Democratic candidate must “energizes Democratic-leaning independents and independents who don’t lean toward any party affiliation” in order to beat Donald Trump, Common Dreams reported. Because in 2016, independent voters voted for Trump not Hillary Clinton.
“The criteria by which we should judge any Democratic presidential candidate’s electability is their popularity among Democratic-leaning independents and ‘true independents’ in swing states,” Nathan Tankus at Jacobin, wrote. “And by that metric, Sanders excels.”

I know some think it's over but as C.I. said, with Louisiana postponing their primary, who knows what might happen and how opinions might be shaped.  Meanwhile Ben Gemen (AXIOS) reports:

The apparent end of the Democratic primary's truly competitive phase will bring closer scrutiny of Joe Biden's climate and energy plans — and new efforts to change them.
The state of play: Bernie Sanders yesterday suggested that his mission in remaining in the race is pushing Biden left, and he name-checked climate change among the policy areas. Sanders vowed to confront Biden on the topic at Sunday's debate in Arizona, saying he will ask:
"Joe, how are you going to respond to the scientists who tell us we have seven or eight years remaining to transform our energy system before irreparable harm takes place to this planet because of the ravages of climate change?"
The pro-Sanders Sunrise Movement, the youth-led group that has played a major role in pushing the Green New Deal into the political bloodstream, also indicated it would work to pressure Biden, per spokesperson Aracely Jimenez:
"It’s never been more important for the next Democratic president — whoever it is — to prioritize an aggressive Green New Deal that overhauls our economy and energy system while stimulating the economy for working people."
The intrigue: It's not clear how much leverage Sanders and the left flanks of the green movement will have.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, March 13, 2020.  The US government bombs Iraq (in that war that never ended -- someone might need to ask Joe Biden about that since he keeps claiming credit for ending it) but first we focus on the coronavirus with regards to the US.

Starting in the US with the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.  Jake Johnson (COMMON DREAMS) reports:

Sen. Bernie Sanders addressed the public Thursday on the "health and economic crisis" facing the United States as the coronavirus spreads across the nation, causing layoffs, threatening entire industries, and exposing gaping holes in America's social safety net.
"Now is the time for solidarity," Sanders said. "Now is the time to come together with love and compassion for all, including the most vulnerable people in our society."
Sanders demanded that President Donald Trump declare the coronavirus a national emergency and urged Congress to immediately work to ensure that everyone in the U.S. can access the healthcare they need "without cost." The Vermont senator also said that any coronavirus vaccine must be free and available to all.

"Now is not the time for price-gouging and profiteering," Sanders said.
The Vermont senator went on to call for an "immediate moratorium on evictions, on foreclosures, and on utility shut-offs so that no one loses their home during this crisis, and that everyone has access to clean water, electricity, heat and air conditioning."

Those are the issues at stake, Bernie is correct.  He's very presidential.

If we are lucky in the United States, warmer weather will send the coronavirus away for a few months -- it will not defeat it but, if we're lucky, it will send it away for a few months.  It would mirror 1918's influenza in that regard.

If we're not lucky?  Temporary measures will be more than temporary.

That means a loss of jobs.

Broadway is closed down, late night shows are suspending production (in part due to issues involving booking guests -- it's a lot harder in the current climate), Disney Land and Disney Wold and Universal's amusement park are shut down, tours at movie studios are shut down, concerts are suspending, the NBA has 'paused' the season . . .

These are jobs lost.

Not just for athletes and performers but also for the people who feed you at these places and events, the people who clean up these places, the people who . . .

Nursing homes are examining options and one that many are going with or leaning towards is not transporting their residents off the facility for basic doctor's appointments, only for critical ones.

All of this is impacting the economy.

For how long?

That's the issue right now.

For many Americans, it is a pay check to pay check existence and that is in good times.

Should the warmer months not put the virus on hold, these closing could go on and on.  And, no, the economy will not be able to handle that.  People will not be able to handle that.

You will see evictions, you will see utilities shut off.

Unless the right thing is done, what Bernie's calling for.

A lot of people are trying to make political hay out of this moment -- a lot of 'resistance' garbage.

US President Donald Trump has made some ridiculous statements and I have not slammed him for it because I assume he's trying to manage public perception.  I'm not that kind of person.  I believe you throw all the information out there and keep the public aware.

But we are being managed -- by Republicans and Democrats -- so it doesn't surprise me that Donald would be doing the same.  The role of the president is often little more than national cheerleader on an international stage.

Mistakes that he and his administration make should be called out.  They should be called out because we've got to do better.  That's not do better after the election, that's right now in this moment of crisis.

Bernie's proposing a real plan and that's what we need.  We should be pressuring our Congressional representatives as well as Donald Trump to implement what Bernie is calling for.

Peter Gowan (JACOBIN) explains:

As the reality of the coronavirus takes hold globally, our capacity — or lack thereof — to deal with the crisis is suddenly a burning question. Housing security is a looming concern, and without a Homes Guarantee, many people are at risk.
Widespread availability of public and social housing, universal rent control, the abolition of homelessness, and a tenants’ bill of rights are necessary measures to protect people from predatory behavior by landlords and unjust evictions. But we do not live in that world yet, and emergency measures in the field of housing will be required to stabilize and protect people during the unfolding public health crisis of our time.
In a crisis where we suddenly need to work less, and so risk reduced paychecks or even layoffs, many renters are fearing eviction and even homelessness if they cannot make a payment. This needs to change.
Socialists and progressives can and should be demanding an immediate emergency program to stabilize people in their homes until the crisis has passed. Against the profits of landlords and developers, we must demand the basic measures to support public health, allowing people to take time off work without fear of eviction.
The measures proposed below should be considered in addition to, not as a replacement for, workers’ protection from layoffs, as well as guaranteed free and universal testing, treatment, and, ultimately, vaccines. We must also demand extensive paid sick leave. But without controls on the housing market, it is likely that pressures and fears will persist.
s a baseline, we need laws to guarantee people the right to remain in their homes for the duration of this period and its immediate aftermath. As a first step, we should impose a freeze on all rents, backdated to 2019, and a moratorium on all evictions, foreclosures, as well as a suspension of mortgage interest accrual on owner-occupied and rental housing. This will ensure people are stabilized in their homes for the duration of the crisis, regardless of whether they are working or not.
A nationwide rent freeze means no increase in the price of rent over what the monthly price was in December 2019. Any rent increases since then, or announced during the process of passing the law, should be rolled back to December prices. (If the tenancy began after 2019, the rent should be frozen at the lowest monthly value charged since the tenancy began). This should apply to single-family rentals and group house tenants as well. It must be universally applicable to all people renting housing, and should be applied on the basis of the unit or room rather than the tenant, so if somebody leaves a home voluntarily, the landlord cannot charge more than the previous tenant paid to lease it.

It must apply for the duration of the coronavirus crisis — potentially ceasing after a three-to-six-month period elapses, the clock starting once the total number of cases falls below one-third of its peak — and automatically resetting if the number of cases rises above that number again.
In order to prevent price gouging after this period, annual rent increases should be indefinitely restricted to the level of the local consumer price index or 3 percent, whichever is lower — as proposed by the Homes Guarantee campaign. This should remain the baseline for an extended period, ideally permanently.
Throughout the duration of the crisis (including the cool-off period), all evictions must be suspended. People should still be required to follow reasonable lease terms and pay the frozen rents if they are capable of doing so, but highly punitive sanctions, including evictions, should be off the table entirely
These are the required measures in order to ensure confidence that staying home from work will not result in potential homelessness. If a less effective “stick” results in some people not paying rent they owe, that is a far less severe issue than people going to work with the coronavirus. In the aftermath of the crisis, in order to ensure no retaliatory evictions occur, tenants should be guaranteed that a tight just-cause eviction law will be imposed federally on a permanent basis, limiting the legitimate reasons for eviction to a small set of circumstances, proven in a court of law.

The government should offer to acquire properties whose landlords no longer wish to own them permanently at a significant discount, and convert them to income-based rents, capped at a percentage of tenant incomes, in order to ensure people who lose their jobs are still able to pay their rent without potentially clogging up the adjudication offices. They should also potentially establish a fund to compensate landlords whose tenants are not paying their frozen rents due to hardship. While landlords in general are not an especially sympathetic group, this would help to soften the blow for the more sympathetic actors who could otherwise sink the proposal. The backdated rent freeze ensures that this fund cannot be exploited by landlords increasing the rent to extract value from the government, which would otherwise be a serious concern. Applications for this fund should require proof that the property already meets all local housing codes and is safe to inhabit — any legally required repairs should be taken out of compensation.

Sarah Lazare (IN THESE TIMES) addresses these issues and more in her latest piece:

My best friend works as a standardized patient, which means she is a practice patient for medical schools to train and test students. One day she’ll play an older woman with a pulmonary embolism, her face stricken with worry, the next someone with depression, limp and listless. Each workday medical students fumble at her bedside, and at her body, some nervous and gentle, others over-confident and brusque, as she guides them through learning their craft. It’s not bad for wage work, with each gig paying somewhere between $16 and $25 an hour, although this doesn’t always cover the time spent learning the part, let alone biking miles through Chicago’s potholed streets so she can make it from one 3-hour gig to the next.
Even though it’s not bad, she’s living—like most people in this country—on a razor’s edge. One of her gigs this week was cancelled because of the COVID 19 outbreak, which is now officially a global pandemic. Her employer paid her for the job, because she got less than 24-hours notice, but she will receive no pay for the other upcoming events this and next week that have been cancelled. One of her other gigs (all her jobs are non-union) has a two-week cancellation policy, a source of comfort to her. But what if that workplace gets shut down for more than two weeks? What if all of her jobs are shut down for six? If her income dries up, there’s no designated person to swoop in and help her, no bailout or government agency that has her number and will make sure she’s okay. She’s about two months out from not being able to pay rent or buy food.
My friend’s situation is unremarkable. She’s slightly better off than many Americans, 40% of whom don’t have enough money in the bank to weather a $400 emergency. She’s got $1,960 in her checking account, and $2,010 in her savings—although the latter will all go to her taxes, which are high because she's classified as an independent contractor at some of her jobs. Perhaps most critically, she has access to extended networks of white wealth that people of color don’t have, and she can call on them in a pinch.
But like 27 million Americans, she doesn’t have health insurance. Of the last two bike accidents she got in, one was serious, but she couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, so she instead relied on friends who are nurses. One diagnosed her with a concussion over the phone. According to a Gallup poll from 2019, 25% of people in the United States say they or a family member “put off treatment for a serious medical condition in the past year because of the cost.” My friend, like all these people, can’t afford to miss work due to sickness, let alone treat what’s wrong with them when there’s not a global pandemic. What will she do if she gets COVID 19?
The GOP just blocked an emergency paid sick leave bill from advancing in the Senate. Oil and gas companies are pressing the White House to grant them a bailout from a downturn linked to COVID 19, and at the same time urging the Trump administration to avoid supporting any paid sick leave policy. Just like we lack a federal paid sick leave law, we have no guaranteed paid bereavement leave in this country. And in case we’d forgotten our precarity, Joe Biden just reminded us by suggesting that if he were president he’d veto Medicare for All—a universal, single-payer healthcare program—because it’s too expensive.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, higher-earning wage workers are “more than three times as likely to have access to paid sick leave as the lowest paid workers.” But only 30% of the lowest paid workers—who are more likely to have contact with the public in restaurants, daycares and retail outlets—get paid sick leave. Workers are not taking this sitting down. In New York, Chipotle employees are walking off the job and publicly protesting the company for allegedly penalizing workers who call in sick. "They want us to shut up," worker Jeremy Pereyra, who says he was written up by Chipotle for calling in sick, told Gothamist. "They want us to stop. But we're not going to stop until things get better."

The first round of job losses is already here. The Washington Post reports that some drivers at the Port of Los Angeles were sent home without pay, others laid off. Travel agencies in Atlanta and Los Angeles let people go, as did a hotel in Seattle, a stage-lighting company in Orlando, and Carson’s Cookie Fix bakery in Omaha, hit by declining customers. “If my job’s laying off people, I can only imagine other employers are as well,” said Baiden King, who lost her job at the bakery, telling the Post she plans to move back in with her parents. “I’m not sure anyone will be hiring.”

If we implement what needs to be done (addressed above) and we get lucky and the warmer months send the coronavirus reeling, what do we do?  We learn from 1918.  We don't act complacent and think it's all over.  We realize it could (and most likely would) return again in the next winter.  We pour serious money and time into a vaccination and treatment process.

Too many mistakes have already been made.  It's time to focus on doing what needs to be done.

[Dona adding to C.I.'s snapshot: A number of e-mails to the public account are asking about the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.  This has been addressed by Ava and C.I. in various community newsletters. For non-community members, you can refer to Ava and C.I.'s "TV: The future is out there" which addresses the way some PBS member stations are taking a needed -- and old -- documentary on that pandemic and only allowing people who donate money to stream it online. ]

Turning to Iraq, BBC NEWS reports:

The US has launched retaliatory air strikes against a pro-Iranian militia group in Iraq after a rocket attack killed two of its soldiers.
The strikes targeted five weapons storage facilities across the country, the US defence department said.
The Iraqi military says three soldiers, two policemen and a civilian were killed in the US counter-strikes.
It said the US had carried out "a blatant attack" on Iraqi military sites in Babil province and an airport under construction in Karbala province. It also said the headquarters of the Popular Mobilisation (PM) forces - an umbrella militia which is officially part of the Iraqi security forces - was hit.

Jason Ditz (ANTIWAR.COM) adds, "Other reports suggest the US hit as many as 5 militia sites inside Iraq, and while there is no confirmation it is expected there will be more casualties to come. The US has confirmed those attacks, despite only saying they think the militia’s guilt is “likely” and that investigations will continue."  ALJAZEERA notes:

Iran on Friday warned US President Donald Trump against taking "dangerous actions" after the overnight air raids.
"The United States cannot blame others ... for the consequences of its illegal presence in Iraq and the nation's reaction to the assassination and killing of Iraqi commanders and fighters," foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.

"Instead of dangerous actions and baseless accusations, Mr Trump should reconsider the presence and behaviour of his troops in the area," he added.

Arthur Scott-Geddes and Jack Dutton (THE NATIONAL) report another government's response:

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab on Friday praised the US-led response to an attack on coalition forces in Iraq, calling it "swift, decisive and proportionate".
On Thursday, the United States carried out several air strikes against an Iran-backed militia in Iraq that it blamed for a rocket attack that killed two US troops and a British soldier, 26, the previous day.
The Pentagon confirmed the US had struck five Iran-backed militia weapons stores in Iraq.
The strikes were "defensive, proportional and in direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed militia groups", it said.
The Pentagon said US President Donald Trump had authorised the military to response to Wednesday's attack, blaming Iran-backed militia.
On Friday, Mr Raab warned that attacks on coalition forces will lead to a strong response.

"UK forces are in Iraq with Coalition partners to help the country counter terrorist activity and anyone seeking to harm them can expect a strong response," he said in a statement.

The following sites updated: