Daily Blog April 2020

April 30

  • The Morbid Ideology Behind the Drive to Reopen America
  • How to Reopen Congress Quickly, Safely and Remotely
  • They Were Warned Not to Take Sick Days — Then Six Workers at Their Warehouse Died of Coronavirus
  • Trump v Fox News: why the president is furious at the conservative network

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104 thoughts on “Daily Blog April 2020

  1. Sorry your husband died, here’s a basket of food

    They Were Warned Not to Take Sick Days — Then Six Workers at Their Warehouse Died of Coronavirus

    Employees work at the Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc. facility in Brentwood, N.Y., on June 4, 2018. Johnny Milano/Bloomberg/Getty Images

    At least six people who worked in a Long Island, New York, warehouse leased by Broadridge Financial Solutions have died of Covid-19, according to their family members and news reports.

    Earlier this month, The Intercept and Type Investigations reported that employees of TMG Mail Solutions, a Broadridge contractor that prints and mails financial documents, had been pressured to work during the Covid-19 pandemic even as some of their co-workers tested positive for the virus. The workers also expressed concerns that delays in the provision of personal protective equipment like masks and gloves made an outbreak inevitable.

    Broadridge Financial Solutions is a global financial services company that made nearly $4.4 billion in revenue last year. The production floor of the warehouse is staffed by Broadridge employees and TMG employees, along with employees of Randstad, a multinational staffing firm that has an office inside the building.

    As Coronavirus Spread, Financial Services Contractor Told Warehouse Workers They Aren’t Allowed to Get Sick

    Four of the deceased workers were Broadridge employees, according to their families, and two were employees of Randstad.

    Randstad declined to answer questions, noting that “personal employee information is considered confidential.” Broadridge declined to provide the number of employees who have contracted Covid-19 or the number who have died from the virus, citing privacy concerns.

    Read more

  2. Trump v Fox News: why the president is furious at the conservative network

    The president attacked Fox News and accused it of being ‘fed Democratic talking points’ – possibly over a string of anti-Trump ads due to run on the network

    *Donald Trump participates in a Fox News town hall at the White House in Washington DC on 24 March. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters *

    Donald Trump’s longtime close relationship with Fox News, like so many other unions in the time of lockdown, is beginning to buckle under pressure, with an increasingly sensitive president furious at the conservative media channel.

    Trump has attacked the conservative channel in recent days, accusing the usually uncritical network of being “fed Democratic talking points”, with some observers suggesting his ire may have been caused in part by a string of anti-Trump ads due to run on Fox News this week.

    The breakdown between president and news channel was laid bare in a string of tweets from Trump on Sunday evening. Trump has occasionally criticized Fox News in recent months, but this attack went further, as Trump declared he wants “an alternative now”.

    “[Fox News] just doesn’t get what’s happening! They are being fed Democrat talking points, and they play them without hesitation or research,” he tweeted.

    “They forgot that Fake News @CNN & MSDNC [a term Trump has used for MSNBC] wouldn’t let @FoxNews participate, even a little bit, in the poor ratings Democrat Debates.”

    Trump president continued his criticism by attacking prominent Fox News personalities including the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, before concluding: “The people who are watching @FoxNews, in record numbers (thank you President Trump), are angry. They want an alternative now. So do I!”

    Trump did not give a specific reason for his upset, but it could be linked to a critical advert a group of anti-Trump Republicans are running on Fox News this week. Republicans for the Rule of Law, a group opposed to the president, paid for an ad spot during Fox & Friends – one of Trump’s favorite shows – which highlights his response to the coronavirus.

    “50,000 people have died,” reads capitalized text at the start of the advert.

    “This is our president.”

    The advert then cuts to Trump musing about the potential ability of “very powerful light” in curing coronavirus. The advert ends with the words “Unfit, unwell, unacceptable” appearing on screen.

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  3. There Is No Hiding Trump

    Recent attempts to sideline a self-imploding president have failed miserably.

    Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

    Over the weekend, Donald Trump’s critics and his advisers were, possibly for the first time, on the same page: The president’s daily coronavirus briefings, which stretch on longer than Grateful Dead sets, were causing more harm than good. All it took for everyone to reach that conclusion was the president suggesting, in front of millions of viewers, that injecting bleach could cure Covid-19.

    These briefings were both public health and political disasters, damaging the president’s already thin credibility and harming his reelection chances. The White House scrambled to come up with new briefings, now with reduced Trump. On Sunday, officials told Axios’s Jonathan Swan that the briefings would transition away from discussions of public health and instead highlight economic “success stories.” New White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany teased that the briefings might not always feature the president, though they would always “showcase” his “great entrepreneurship.”

    Trump appeared to have finally learned a lesson that had eluded him for more than seven decades: More is not always better.

    But as usual, Trump wasn’t actually with the program. On Monday, he appeared in the Rose Garden, as opposed to the White House Press Room. Otherwise, it was the same old Trump, this time denying he had suggested administering bleach with an “injection inside.”

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  4. Trump Mocks Man’s Mask at White House as Pence Refuses to Wear One at Mayo Clinic

    Vice President Mike Pence met a patient who survived Covid-19 and was going to give blood at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota on Tuesday. Photo: Jim Mone/AP

    Despite CDC guidance that Americans should wear face masks in public to avoid spreading Covid-19, President Donald Trump mocked a man for wearing one at the White House on Tuesday and Vice President Mike Pence refused to wear one while meeting doctors and patients at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

    Trump’s comment came during an event designed to portray the federal government’s aid program for small businesses, known as the Paycheck Protection Program, as wildly successful. While the small business owners who attended the event in the White House East Room were asked to sit six feet apart, none of them wore masks, and neither did the president, his daughter, the treasure secretary or the small business administrator.

    Although many small businesses have been unable to gets loans — which are forgiven if used to pay workers for at least eight weeks — because millions of dollars have gone to large, politically connected firms, ten beneficiaries of the program were invited to the stage by the president, and thanked him profusely.

    At one point, as Trump asked the vice president of a family contracting company from Pennsylvania to speak, he invited a man who accompanied her to join her on stage, and joked about the fact that the man had been wearing a mask earlier. “Put that mask on, the way you had it,” Trump said to the man. As the president shook his head and smiled, some in the room laughed.

    After the event ended, the business owners and officials left their seats and mingled at close quarters, including the president’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who approached one of the business owners, an optometrist from West Virginia, to get free advice about his glasses.

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  5. Trevor Noah: ‘There’s no way Trump even understands what bleach is’

    Late-night hosts mull Trump’s suggestion to consume disinfectant to treat coronavirus and revisit the definition of ‘sarcasm’

    *Trevor Noah on companies issuing warnings not to drink bleach: ‘Yep, this is where we are now: authorities have to respond to the president’s ideas the same way they do to viral TikTok challenges.’ Photograph: Youtube *

    Trevor Noah

    “From the beginning of this crisis, Donald Trump has been saying a lot of not-smart things,” said Trevor Noah on Monday’s episode of The Daily Show, such as that coronavirus would magically disappear with spring weather, or that there was “nothing to lose” by trying hydroxychloroquine. “But a few days ago, as you’ve probably heard by now, President Trump created shock waves of stupidity with his latest and probably greatest unlicensed medical opinion yet.”

    Stephen Colbert

    On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert also addressed Trump’s endorsement of consuming bleach, since “it’s not enough that his supporters are all white on the outside”.

    Seth Myers

    “I’ve gotta be honest, when we went on hiatus a week ago, I did not expect that when I came back I’d be talking about the president suggesting using disinfectants and powerful lights to cure coronavirus,” said Seth Meyers on Late Night. “But then again, that’s on me. I should have expected it. We should all know by now: Trump will be more outlandish with each passing week because that’s his nature.”

    Still, Meyers was baffled – “You have two renowned scientists working with you. Why are you pitching ideas like a sixth-century druid?”

    Jimmy Kimmel

    And in Los Angeles, Jimmy Kimmel at least found one potential silver lining in Trump’s false dismissal of his dangerous bleach endorsement as sarcasm: “Can we claim we were being sarcastic when we elected him president?”

    Video and more

  6. Story of the day

    The more Patagonia rejects consumerism, the more the brand sells

    The outdoor clothing brand is a noisy critic of the consumer society, but annual sales have reached a billion dollars – and counting. Given the industry’s ecological impact, can there really be a difference between ‘good growth’ and bad growth?

    Employees and friends of Patagonia celebrate Thanksgiving in the mountains of California, 1974. Photo: Gary Regester

    On the walls: photographs of snow-covered mountain peaks and vast, verdant forests. On the table: a pile of books on environmental activism. In the corner: a small group fiddling with a surfboard, and busy preparing a protest action against Norwegian oil company Equinor’s plans to drill for oil off the coast of Australia.

    Am I at Greenpeace? No.

    This is the scene at Patagonia’s European headquarters in Amsterdam.

    Patagonia is an American clothing brand with sales of about $1 billion per year.

    It’s one of the world’s biggest and best-known names in outdoor wear, with more than 50 stores around the world. But if you think that Patagonia is just another manufacturer of fleece jackets, sleeping bags and backpacks: think again.

    For one thing, it’s been known to urge customers not to buy too many of its products.
    For another, there’s a camper van of Patagonia staff driving across the US to mend customers’ beloved but worn-out products.

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  7. Trump’s History With the Word Sarcasm Is Littered with Excuses and Ignorance

    When Trump uses the sarcasm excuse, it’s because he knows he’s gone too far but can’t bring himself to admit it

    Last week President Trump went back to an often-used excuse he deploys when facing backlash for saying dumb things: sarcasm. But Trump historically has run into problems while attempting to bail himself out of trouble with the word, thanks to his inconsistency in using it correctly and how obvious and transparent it is that he’s lying.

    On Sunday, Trump lashed out at the media on Twitter, incorrectly writing that journalists who reported on the Russia investigation should be stripped of their “Noble Prizes.” Twitter did what Twitter does and feasted on both the spelling mistake and Trump citing the incorrect name of the award given to journalists. The president misspelled Nobel Prize and confused the award with a Pulitzer Prize.

    But Trump being Trump, he couldn’t just admit a mistake and move on. Instead, he deleted the mistaken tweets and reached into his trusty sarcasm excuse bucket and blamed the world for not understanding his quick wit.

    “Does anybody get the meaning of what a so-called Noble (not Nobel) Prize is, especially as it pertains to Reporters and Journalists? Noble is defined as, ‘having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals.’ Does sarcasm ever work?” Trump tweeted.

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  8. Erasing the Dead

    Underreporting in communities of color has left us with a distorted view of the pandemic’s true reach—and the lessons we’ll need for next time.

    Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    Tucked down near the end of a recent New York Times piece praising New Mexico’s response to the coronavirus was the fact that, “While Native Americans account for about 11 percent of New Mexico’s population, new data on Thursday showed that they make up 44 percent of the state’s confirmed coronavirus cases.” Virginia Public Media reported that Black residents made up all eight of Richmond’s coronavirus deaths, along with 62 percent of the city’s confirmed cases. The Los Angeles Times found that Latinx people between the ages of 18 and 49 were actually suffering higher infection and death rates than their older community members.

    These are the statistics that bear out the material, life and death consequences of systemic racism. They are also, tragically, not surprising. But what has also become crystal clear in recent weeks is that the data we have, staggering as it is, represents just a slice of the fuller picture.

    On Friday, Cherokee journalist Rebecca Nagle published a piece in The Guardian that examined the undercounting of Native Americans by state governments and found that within the 80 percent of state health departments that have released racial and ethnic demographic data, half either excluded Native people entirely or listed them under “other.” (This classification has a history: In the Jim Crow South, Native people were also segregated, with water fountains, bathrooms, movie theater sections, and hospital wings split by “white,” “colored,” and “other.”) Even in New York City, where 111,749 New Yorkers identified as American Indian or Alaska Native in the 2010 Census, which is 1.3 percent of the population, the city has not included them in its racial or ethnic statistics when tracking the virus. Looking outside of Indian Country and back to the Los Angeles Times report, it noted that “preliminary racial data released by health officials in California and L.A. County earlier this month suggested Latinos were not facing any higher rate of infection or death from the virus.” Clearly, that wasn’t the case.

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  9. The Federalist Fight Against Fascism

    Progressive states and attorneys are charting their own course, using the courts to rein in an out-of-control president.

    A man holds an effigy of White House policy adviser Stephen Miller on the night of Trump’s State of the Union address in 2019. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

    The Signal: While the Federal CARES Act was tilted toward handouts for big corporations and tax breaks for the wealthy, California is going ahead with New Deal–type policies to employ the unemployed. Witness Governor Gavin Newsom’s ambitious plan, announced late last week, to hire unemployed restaurant workers to cook for the elderly, many of whom will now qualify for three hot meals a day, paid for by the state. The money will be partly provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, partly by the State of California, and partly by city and county agencies.

    And, while the White House continues to lock down immigration and blame immigrants for the pandemic and the economic collapse that has now followed, progressive states are charting their own course, seeking to use the courts to rein in an out-of-control president.

    Last week, Trump’s in-house white supremacist, Stephen Miller, told supporters during a conference call that Trump’s “temporary” immigration ban was in fact part of a long-term project to lock out virtually all immigrants. And the government continues to stonewall on releasing from ICE detention thousands of children who have sponsors waiting for them, even though Judge Dolly Gee, who presides over the Flores settlement litigation, ordered them to do so nearly a month ago.

    Meanwhile, as I reported in a recent column, New York Attorney General Tish James, along with AGs from other East Coast states, petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse its position allowing the odious “public charge” rules to go into effect while the legal arguments play out. Last Friday the court refused to do that, but it did agree that the petitioners could seek relief in district courts, giving those lower courts the opportunity to suspend the rules—an opportunity they are likely to seize in the coming weeks.

    Also on the litigation front, this past Saturday the Portland-based Innovation Law Lab, which is coordinating some of the country’s most interesting immigrant-rights legal work, asked Oregon district court Judge Michael Simon to issue a temporary restraining order blocking implementation of the part of Trump’s recently unveiled “immigration ban” that affects minors who are about to turn 18.

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  10. Big Plastic Asks for $1 Billion Coronavirus Bailout

    The companies now seeking additional taxpayer dollars to fund recycling already have hundreds of billions at their disposal to pay for the processing of the products they create.

    A truck empties its load of recycling at ecomaine in Portland, Maine, on April 10, 2020. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald/Getty Images

    The plastic industry is asking Congress for $1 billion to bail out plastic recycling during the coronavirus crisis. “Recycling is an essential service and consumers are demanding products with more recycled content,” an alliance of industry groups that included Dow, the American Chemistry Council, Berry Global Group Inc., and the Plastics Industry Association wrote in an April 16 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House members. “In order to meet the demands of this crisis, we need investment now.”

    The companies and industry trade groups seeking the money are calling themselves the Recover Coalition, a reference to the Recover Act, a bill introduced in the House in November that calls for allocating $500 million to recycling infrastructure over five years. In their letter, which was first reported in Plastics News, members of the coalition “implore” the House members to include the Recover bill “in any infrastructure package Congress considers either in response to the COVID-19 pandemic or separately” and to double the original funding request, noting that “We feel the time and need is right to seek a program of $1 billion.”

    But others feel that the middle of a deadly pandemic, when millions of people don’t have enough money to pay rent and eat, is not the right time for the plastics industry to seek a government bailout. “Having multinational companies with their tin cups out asking for taxpayer dollars at this moment in time is wrong,” said Judith Enck, founder of the environmental group Beyond Plastics. “We need the federal spending to go to things like more testing, contact tracing, investments in clean energy — and not to attempts to prop up the feeble plastics recycling infrastructure.”

    It’s worth noting that the companies now seeking additional taxpayer dollars to fund recycling already have hundreds of billions at their disposal to pay for the processing of the products they create. The 223 companies that belong to and fund the American Chemistry Council and the Recycling Partnership — both of which signed the letter — include 60 publicly held companies with a combined revenue of $2.7 trillion and net profit of $210 billion.

    Read more

  11. Trump returns to White House briefing, subdued but no less shameful

    President retreated over the weekend after his bizarre musing that disinfectant could be injected into coronavirus patients

    His autocratic tendencies are well-known. His sudden absence from public view prompted fierce speculation and rumour. One headline suggested that he was “brain-dead”.

    The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s whereabouts remain unknown. But after a lost weekend, Donald Trump bounced back into the spotlight on Monday determined to prove that he is not only healthy but working very, very hard.

    “The people that know me and know the history of our Country say that I am the hardest working President in history,” Trump had tweeted on Sunday, apparently stung by a New York Times report that said he spent all morning watching TV and clocks into the Oval Office around noon. “I don’t know about that, but I am a hard worker and have probably gotten more done in the first 3 1/2 years than any President in history. The Fake News hates it!”

    Trump’s aides fell into line with a Pyongyang-like lockstep. Mark Meadows, the new White House chief of staff, told the New York Post he got a call from Trump at 3.19am. “I can tell you that the biggest concern I have as a new chief of staff is making sure he gets some time to get a quick bite to eat,” he said.

    It was the Gordon Gekko argument from the 1987 film Wall Street: “Lunch is for wimps.”

    Kayleigh McEnany, the new White House press secretary, duly quoted Meadows on Fox News and added: “Make no mistake about it, it’s why I watch this president get up early in the morning and work until late into the evening to ensure to that end America’s workers get paid and American lives are protected.”

    Yet like Kim, Trump was nowhere to be seen over a weekend that included his wife Melania’s 50th birthday and a barrage of angry tweets. Some wondered if he had retreated to a hermit-like existence following bleach-gate, his bizarre riff last Thursday musing aloud that disinfectant could be injected into coronavirus patients.

    The sorry episode generated open-mouthed disbelief and derision around the world. Coronavirus task force members were said to be stunned. For White House aides and Republican allies, it was reportedly the straw that broke the camel’s back: these daily briefings had become a political liability that could cost Trump the presidential election.

    So there was no briefing on Saturday, nor on Sunday. The official White House guidance said there would be on Monday. At 9.41am, Trump, whose very self-conception is based on what he sees reflected back through the media, tweeted: “There has never been, in the history of our Country, a more vicious or hostile Lamestream Media than there is right now, even in the midst of a National Emergency, the Invisible Enemy!”

    At 10.52am, the briefing was abruptly cancelled without explanation. But at 1.32pm, it was officially back on again, scheduled for the rose garden at 5pm. As a poet once wrote, “Who is in charge of the clattering train?”

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  12. Note: Audio version of this article at the link

    Turn On, Tune In, Cash In

    Sizing up the commercial and therapeutic prospects for the psychedelic revival

    Illustration by Cristina Daura

    In 2009, when she was 56 years old, Judith Goedeke, a retired acupuncturist living in the middle of Maryland who was suffering from severe depression, took psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, for the first time.

    Goedeke was a volunteer subject for a government-approved research study on the effects of psychedelic compounds. Judith followed the advice of the project’s leaders, and brought a keepsake to her sessions, which could last more than eight hours each. The idea was to use a familiar object with sentimental associations (a photograph, heirloom, etc.) to serve as a kind of psychic security blanket. The idea was to direct Goedeke’s focus as she explored the shifting geography of her own consciousness. She brought a statue of Guanyin, a Buddhist bodhisattva, a souvenir that her husband had taken home from a trip to Taiwan. “That’s the goddess of mercy,” Goedeke recalled some 11 years later. “It means a great deal to me.”

    Her Guanyin statuette was carved, with great delicacy, from a burl—a bulbous, knotty outgrowth of a tree that typically emerges out of some area of trauma, like an injury or an infection. From the outside, burl wood appears deformed, all grayish scabs of nasty bark. Inside, it reveals colorful lumps and concentric swirls, cresting and falling, burrowed inside one another in seemingly infinite regress. As you ponder a burl’s interior design, you get the distinct impression that nature went nutty with a spirograph. A burl evinces both illness and the response to that illness, the journey from harm to healing. It’s a suitable material, both as homage to a Buddhist goddess of compassion who heeds the anguished cries of the living—and as an allegory for the therapeutic power of psychedelics.

    Goedeke’s trip would, not unlike the burl itself, traverse beneath the hard carapace of her isolated suffering and evoke something much bigger, even transformative. The psilocybin sessions would find her fearlessly confronting much of the deeper anguish roiling just beneath the surface of her conscious mind: the sources of her depression, the fallout from a destabilizing kidney cancer diagnosis, the trauma of her childhood abuse. As this trip wore on, she’d find herself bartering with a voice deep inside her, leaving her own body, and seeing herself as a golden thread woven together in a tapestry with a trillion others. Finally, deep in a hallucinatory revel, she saw herself scooping up the sins and miseries of all of human history and laying them, as she relates it, through fitful sobs, “at the feet of the divine.”

    Read more

  13. The Burden of Dangerous Work Must Be Shared by All

    As the right-wing elite push for a premature end to the lockdown, they too must start carrying their share of the load.

    The Nation

    On Wednesday night, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman gave an astonishing interview on CNN where she advocated an immediate end to the lockdown and the reopening of her city as a gambling mecca.

    “I’d love everything open because I think we’ve had viruses for years that have been here,” Goodman told Anderson Cooper. “We’ve never closed down the United States. We’ve never closed down Nevada. We’ve never closed down Las Vegas because that’s our job.” Goodman said she was motivated by her talks with casino owners, whom she described as “very sensitive people.”

    Cooper pressed the point by asking “If casinos re-open, are you going to be inside those casinos every single night putting your life on the line?” Goodman tried to dodge the question and then responded, “First of all, I have a family.”

    Read more

  14. Covid-19 pandemic shines a light on a new kind of class divide and its inequalities
    Robert Reich

    A disproportionate number of Americans fall into the three groups who aren’t getting what they need to survive this crisis

    *A man wearing a mask walks his dog past a homeless man along Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. Photograph: Richard Vogel/Associated Press *

    The Covid-19 pandemic is putting the deepening class divide in America into stark relief. Four new classes are emerging.

    The Remotes:

    These are professional, managerial, and technical workers – an estimated 35% of the workforce – who are putting in long hours at their laptops, Zooming into conferences, scanning electronic documents, and collecting about the same pay as before the crisis.

    Many are bored or anxious, but they’re well off compared to the three other classes.

    The Essentials

    They’re about 30% of workers, including nurses, homecare and childcare workers, farm workers, food processors, truck drivers, warehouse and transit workers, drugstore employees, sanitation workers, police officers, firefighters, and the military.

    Too many Essentials lack adequate protective gear, paid sick leave, health insurance, and childcare, which is especially important now that schools are shuttered. They also deserve hazard pay.

    Their vulnerability is generating a wave of worker activism at businesses such as Instacart, Amazon, Walmart, and Whole Foods. Mass-transit workers are organizing work stoppages.
    Coronavirus: the week explained – sign up for our email newsletter
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    Trump’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has the legal authority to require private employers provide essential workers with protective gear. Don’t hold your breath.

    The Unpaid

    They’re an even larger group than the unemployed – whose ranks could soon reach 25%, the same as in the Great Depression. Some of the unpaid are furloughed or have used up their paid leave. So far in this crisis, 43% of adults report they or someone in their household has lost jobs or pay, according to the Pew Research Center.

    An estimated 9.2 million have lost their employer-provided health insurance.

    Many of these jobs had been in personal services that can’t be done remotely, such as retail, restaurant, and hospitality work. But as consumers rein in spending, layoffs are spreading to news organizations, tech companies, and consumer-goods manufacturers.

    Read more

  15. Today’s long read 11-15minutes

    The real story of US democracy isn’t the drama. It’s the complete unresponsiveness to it

    Democracy in the United States has often been declared at risk – if not actually dead, then at least on life support. But American democracy isn’t dead, it’s in a deep and worrying coma.

    Illustrations by Afonso Gonsalves for The Correspondent

    This sluggish pulse (above) is not what you think it is. Not the heartbeat of someone who is sleeping. Not the depressed cardiac pattern of a patient in intensive care. And it isn’t a broken ECG either.

    It’s Donald Trump’s approval rating.

    The stability of Trump’s rating since he became president of the United States is remarkable in itself. But it reveals something even more extraordinary when one zooms out for a wider picture. It’s the symbol of a completely overlooked story about American democracy.

    Democracy in the US has often been declared

    at risk – if not actually dead, then at least on life support. That description is usually a function of turmoil.

    But looking at this graph, it isn’t the instability which catches the eye. It’s the opposite: the unresponsiveness – to anything really – that is striking. American democracy isn’t dead, it’s in a coma.

    A deep, worrying slumber.

    Read more

  16. Republican State Senator Dons Confederate Flag Mask, Then Things Get Weirder

    “It wasn’t a Confederate flag… I told my wife it probably will raise some eyebrows,” Michigan State Senator Dale Zorn said

    Republican Michigan State Senator Dale Zorn. WLNS-TV/Screencap

    A Michigan state senator wore a Confederate flag during a state senate vote on Friday, then denied the obvious by stating that the flag was not what it clearly was. Then, he ultimately half-heartedly apologized after also throwing his wife under the bus for the incident.

    On Friday, State Senator Dale Zorn was confronted by WLNS-TV about wearing the Confederate flag mask and excused his behavior away with a litany of lies and half-baked excuses.

    “It wasn’t a Confederate flag, it was a mask that my wife made for me, and she wanted me to wear it today. So I did, and I told my wife it probably will raise some eyebrows, but it was not a Confederate flag,” Zorn said.

    So, a flag that, according to Zorn, “wasn’t a Confederate flag” would “raise some eyebrows.” Got it.

    The senator continued by saying the Confederate flag is relevant for teaching children history, saying, “Our kids should know what that flag stands for.” But when asked what the flag stands for, Zorn ran into a little trouble.

    Read more

  17. With Millions Unable to Pay for Housing Next Month, Organizers Plan the Largest Rent Strike in Nearly a Century

    The rent strike is aimed at pressuring politicians to respond in the only way appropriate to the exacerbated housing crisis: by canceling rent.

    A pedestrian walks past graffiti that reads “Rent Strike” on April 1, 2020, in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP

    Want a grim picture of the state of American dissent during the coronavirus pandemic? Take an overview of media coverage from the last week. The press focused disproportionate attention on a few hundred white reactionaries, in a small number of states, rallying against social distancing measures — buoyed, of course, by tweets from President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, some of the most radical and righteous acts of mass resistance this country has seen in decades — from a wave of labor strikes to an explosion of mutual aid networks — are earning but a fraction of the media focus accorded to fringe, right-wing protesters.

    Based on mainstream news coverage alone, for instance, you’d likely never know that organizers and tenants in New York are preparing the largest coordinated rent strike in nearly a century, to begin on May 1.

    “The rent strike is a cry for dignity: We are all deserving of a home, no matter the color of our skin, financial status, or culture.”

    At least 400 hundred families who live in buildings each containing over 1,500 rent units are coordinating building-wide rent strikes, according to Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator for Housing Justice For All, a New York-based coalition of tenants and housing activists. Additionally, over 5,000 people have committed, through an online pledge, to refuse to pay rent in May.

    Read more

  18. Trump says briefings ‘not worth the effort’ amid fallout from disinfectant comments

    The president remained behind closed doors after advisers reportedly warned him that the briefings were hurting his campaign

    *Donald Trump will no longer be appearing every day at White House coronavirus briefings. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP *

    After more than a month of near-daily White House coronavirus press briefings, Donald Trump stayed behind closed doors on Saturday after advisers reportedly warned the president that his appearances were hurting his campaign.

    Trump himself referenced his absence when he wrote on Twitter that the briefings are “not worth the time & effort”. The president wrote the tweet on Saturday evening, when he would usually be taking the podium to address journalists.

    “What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately,” he wrote. “They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!”

    In recent weeks Trump has used the briefings to dole out unproven and debunked medical advice, suggesting that things like sunlight and an anti-malaria drug are cures to Covid-19, often causing his own medical experts to try to correct the record.

    Read more

  19. The Media Is Blowing the Coverage of the Coronavirus Protests

    Maybe there really is nothing to see here.


    Politico co-founder John F. Harris last week delivered a dire warning about the right-wing anti-lockdown protests that were then just beginning to spread across the country. “The wake of the coronavirus will be a powerful boost to the animating spirit of libertarianism: leave me alone,” he wrote. “Ideology hasn’t been suspended. It has been forcibly suppressed—in ways that inevitably will come roaring back, sometimes in highly toxic ways.”

    In Michigan, a few thousand people protested outside the state’s capitol building. In other states—including Kentucky, Utah, and New York—the protests were significantly smaller. The coverage, however, was outsize, with mainstream media outlets heralding the arrival of a new Tea Party. Writing in The Guardian, Cas Mudde wrote that the protests have provided President Trump “with visible popular support for his Covid-19 strategy.” Fox News egged the protesters on. The New York Times, Politico, and The Washington Post identified shadowy conservative groups as the puppet-masters behind the rallies, pulling the strings of protesters for their own ends.

    In the anti-lockdown protests, you had everything: the (not so) hidden hand of Fox News and right-wing influencers, the president’s political future, and the arrival of a seemingly frightening backlash to the quarantine regime. The visuals—masks, guns, nutty signs—made the protests irresistible.

    But there is good reason to believe that these protests have been significantly overhyped—and that credulous media reporting has boosted the profile of right-wing organizations that have done very little of note. Far from a new Tea Party, this movement is tiny, disconnected, and not reflective of public opinion in any meaningful way.

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