Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Somethingto Know - 3 June

A friend, Professor Andrew Gordon from the University of Washington, sent this to me today,  Anything from Andy is always something to be read; so here it is.  This is sent on Tuesday night, the 2nd.  This is the intro that he posted to me, and the article itself:

Not a fun read. Ominous even if Biden wins.

Staggering how much damage a terrible president can cause.

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN's Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Chris Good


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June 2, 2020

As the US Burns, Has the Rest of the World Moved On?

To many, America's claim on global leadership has already seemed to absorb heavy blows in the Trump era. But as protests and disorder rage over the death of George Floyd, after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, Walter Russell Mead—who has been sympathetic to President Trump's foreign policy in the past—suggests in a Wall Street Journal column that we may be looking at the final straws: Covid-19, the current unrest, and their collision with Trump's diplomatic fecklessness.

"The problem isn't only that Russia, China and Germany don't see much point in trying to reach agreements with the current president. They likely believe that the triple threat of the pandemic, economic crash and civil unrest in the U.S. will promote an American withdrawal from global issues no matter who wins in November," Mead writes. "Recent events reinforce … beliefs in many foreign capitals that U.S. society has entered a period of dysfunctional chaos and that the American political system is no longer capable of providing consistent leadership in international affairs." Given the state of US politics, Mead warns of a near future in which opposing-party presidents undo each other's entire programs in successive terms, removing any consistency from America's agenda on the world stage.

One can imagine America's rivals in Russia and China as pleased: The US governance model has appeared shaky in the face of a pandemic, and the death of George Floyd has reminded everyone of deep inequities embedded in the country's vaunted democracy. (RT—formerly known as Russia Today, the state news outlet known for its propagandizing—seems to be noting the unrest with glee.) And at The Washington Post, Ishaan Tharoor notes statements of concern from the European Commission and African Union Commission, the latter decrying the "continuing discriminatory practices against Black citizens of the United States of America."

So far, there's been one bright side, as pointed out by Tharoor: Some have focused less on America's chaos and more on its activism, as solidarity with US protesters has shown through in places like Toronto, London, and Berlin.

Is America Headed for Something Better, or Something Worse?

That's the question Melvin Rogers asks, in a Boston Review essay, about the death of George Floyd and the protests and chaos that have followed. Rogers makes other points, including one echoed by New York Times opinion-page chief James Bennet: that President Trump didn't seem as concerned for law and order when white, anti-lockdown protesters—some of them armed—stormed their state capitol. But Rogers's main critique is that social peace is teetering in the US, and we don't know what will come next.

"In recent weeks, we've faced so many awful revelations: police brutality, the COVID-19 pandemic, the armed claims of individual sovereignty, and a president who plays to the darkest features of human nature and U.S. culture. All reveal the inability of our social and political culture to provide for the common good, and seem to suggest that collapse is close at hand. Indeed, the resources of our political and social culture—what we call democracy—can be exhausted, or at least appear to be exhausted," Rogers writes. "What opens—what is beginning right now in this country—is a profoundly unsettled space. Something might emerge, something better than what we have, something more satisfying, and more caring. … But authoritarianism could also fill the void—the president is already singing that song. … The danger is that we just don't know if the United States is convulsing because it wishes to be something new and better, or is raging to remain something old and twisted. We all should be worried and afraid, but not of the protesters. We should be concerned and fearful that the country may not have the courage to imagine differently, that it may not be able to separate the meaning of freedom from the taking of black lives. How ironic: the taking of black life built the country and that very same logic may bring the country to its knees."

George Floyd's Death and Covid-19: Injustice Upon Injustice

As has been widely noted, Covid-19 has hit African Americans particularly hardIn a New York Review of Books essay, Hugh Eakin writes of how that's playing out in Minneapolis—suggesting that if protests end up spreading Covid-19 among participants, and if riots harm an economy that already sees African Americans at a disadvantage, more injustice will be heaped onto George Floyd's death.

"[T]he greater tragedy of the Floyd killing, and its aftermath, may be yet to come," Eakin writes. "As the epicenter of the state's Covid-19 pandemic, Minneapolis was already contending with far-reaching health and economic issues when the unrest began. The virus itself has seemed to demonstrate the hidden racial injustice that many have long observed in the state: though they account for only 6 percent of the state's population, black Minnesotans have accounted for nearly 30 percent of known cases of the virus, according to data published in The Star Tribune this week" (though, as the paper noted, the state lacked racial data on thousands of cases). Citing stark economic imbalances along racial lines, Eakin writes that Minneapolis has so far taken the pandemic (and its economic fallout) "in stride"—but cases and deaths have been rising.

"Already, state health experts have warned that the large-scale protests this week could themselves lead to a rapid spike in infections. Equally hard to ignore has been the toll of the violence on local businesses, already struggling to survive during quarantine. In the neighborhood around the protest site, one particularly bitter outcome was the burning to the ground of a nearly finished, affordable housing complex that was supposed to be ready for occupancy later this year," Eakin writes. "It featured 189 units, of which several dozen had been designated for tenants of very low income. Now, it is razed."

Iceland's Maskless Success Against Covid-19

Mask-wearing isn't a priority in Iceland, Elizabeth Kolbert writes for The New Yorker, profiling the country's success against the virus: "We think they don't add much and they can give a false sense of security," Alma Möller, director of health in the country of just more than 352,000, tells Kolbert. "Also, masks work for some time, and then they get wet, and they don't work anymore."

But what has paid off—Reykjavík's contact-tracing team "had almost no one left to track" when Kolbert visited to report the story—has been organization and planning ahead, early on, for the worst. The country responded with a contact-tracing and isolation program, and Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir cites early action, telling Kolbert: "We were following the news from China very closely … So we started our preparations long before the first case tested positive here in Iceland. And it was very clear from the beginning that this was something that should be led by experts—by scientific and medical experts. … I think one of the strengths of the process is that we just said, 'Well, we don't know what is going to happen next.'"


CoronaTrump is a nasty virus, and if we distance ourselves like
Patriots, like a miracle it will all be gone in the Fall.

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