We have to think that we have to work together as a human species to be organized to care for one another, to realize that the health of the most vulnerable people among us is a determining factor for the health of all of us, and, if we aren’t prepared to do that, we’ll never, ever be prepared to confront these devastating challenges to our humanity.
Canadian Bruce Aylward, leader of independent WHO mission to study the spread of the virus in China:
In the dark night of the soul, the pall cast over us all by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, a pandemic virus strain that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, a respiratory illness, which also triggers fear and despair, there is more than a glimmer of hope.
While the toll is shocking, COVID-19 infects almost 2.5 million and causes over 170,000 to die, (2:00 pm) Tuesday 21 AEST and puts our global economic and social interactions into deep freeze – and while WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns “the worst is yet ahead” countless acts of kindness, courage, decency and humanity, shine through.
A Sydney local fills a wooden mailbox with books and pantry supplies, urging passers-by: “take what you need.” In the UK, over four thousand doctors and nurses come out of retirement; risking their lives to help in understaffed hospitals. Dr Alfa Saadu, 68, dies of coronavirus caught while volunteering at the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital, in Welwyn, Hertfordshire. He is one of four – all minority ethnic doctors -to lose his life so far.
Rethink Food, a New York local non-profit organisation, launches a pop-up soup kitchen outside Salem Methodist church, forced to close its own kitchen because its volunteers are elderly and at too high a risk from infection, serves 600 to 1,000 meals a day, five days a week.
“We could easily do 5,000 meals a day,” Rethink founder Matt Jozwiak says. And lines would be even longer were it not for fear of infection. Endless numbers of other acts of compassion, altruism and self-sacrifice are taking place around the world as people follow their hearts.
“Tireless healthcare workers and researchers seek medical breakthroughs to prevent and cure this new disease. Countless healthcare providers care for the sick, often putting themselves at risk, particularly before the nature of the disease was known. Even the heartache of families who wait helplessly as a beloved family member dies alone quarantined in a nursing home reminds us of the deep bonds that hold us together,” writes Search Institute’s Eugene C. Roehlkepartain.
But Donald Trump’s Operation Re-open America is only about following the cash nexus.
“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE VIRGINIA.” He tweets. Crowds of protestors magically appear for news cameras in the streets of centres in key states. Give me Liberty or Give Me COVID-19 reads a sign held by a young man in a red cap in Austin Texas. He seems to have utilised a torn-up cardboard carton to add credibility to his improvised sign.
It’s certainly no improvised protest. The demonstrations are orchestrated by a group of far-right, pro-gun Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine protests throughout the US, reports The Washington Post’s Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm. The images help skew viewers’ impression away from the reality that most Americans want the shutdown to continue.
Nearly 70 percent of Republicans say they support a national stay-at-home order, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. Ninety-five percent of Democrats back such a measure in the survey.
The work of the work of Ben Dorr, “political director” of a group called “Minnesota Gun Rights,” and his brothers, Christopher and Aaron, the groups attract 200,000 members combined. They continue to expand rapidly in the days after Trump endorses such protests by suggesting citizens should “liberate” their states. Expect to see more images.
“Jesus is my vaccine,” reads a message on a tractor, driven past the crowded statehouse in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Monday. “Shutdown the Shutdown” says a Maryland sign.
Like Scott Morrison’s Pro-Growth Agenda, Trump’s campaign to shut down the shutdown implies a false choice mimicked in Australia and elsewhere; we need to get back to work; back out into social circulation, rather than remain at home for everyone’s safety or we blow up the economy. Trump has his devotees here. Our Prime Minister is a big fan. So, what is going on?
Health crisis or economic crisis? An open letter published Monday is signed by 157 economists who call it a “false distinction”. While the economists, who include RBA board member Ian Harper and former member Warwick McKibbin, back the government’s $200 billion-plus spending measures they oppose prematurely loosening social distancing restrictions.
They also warn of the consequences of a second wave of infections: “We cannot have a functioning economy unless we first comprehensively address the public health crisis.”
Is the President of the United States actively promoting insurrection? A second Civil War? Washington Governor, Jay Inslee, accuses Trump of encouraging “illegal and dangerous acts”.
Or is Trump merely campaigning in his typically gonzo fashion? Each state has a Democrat Governor; Michigan could be crucial to Trump’s re-election campaign in November’s General Election. As a rule, it’s all about Trump. And as another rule you can’t trust a word he says.
“It’s not about me,” Trump says during Sunday’s briefing. Yet he just has to be at the microphone for all but 13 of its 90 minutes. “Nothing’s about me.”
If the Donald doth protest too much, his toxic tirades are over the top. “He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19. His unhinged rantings and calls for people to “liberate” states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before,” Democrat, Inslee tweets.
The reality TV star has completely politicised this pandemic, writes Charles M Blow for The New York Times. Blow argues Trump’s “briefings” are his political tool to achieve this. “He is standing on top of … 40,000 dead bodies and using the media to distract attention away from them and instead brag about what a great job he’s done.”
Trump’s call to citizens to rise up against state governors does little to comfort those friends and family mourning over 42 thousand deceased. Nor does it inspire hope in the 792,913 victims of COVID-19 (Tuesday 21, 3:30 pm AEST) yet another scourge of globalisation, the destroyer of space and distance which surged in 2001.
Why? China joined the WTO and modern India forsook its nationalist economic and social ideals to embrace neoliberalism, an ideology which puts the market above the state and which commodifies human relationships. By 2001, global travel and globalisation had ceased to be the privilege of an elite and began to reach deep into the hinterland of these vast populations, as Guy Rundle reminds us. Coronavirus coincides with this new level of globalisation.
The coronavirus is now setting off a cascade of health, economic and social effects that may lead to a collapse of economic globalization, writes Anthea Roberts. This may play out better for Trump than his bungling of America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. He knows his re-election depends on voters’ perceptions of his handling of the crisis. So he has a cure.
The golf-cheat-in-chief, himself, unable to play in lockdown is quick to exploit a snake oil sales opportunity. Trump promotes the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible cure for COVID-19. It’s untested – clinical trials are too small and inconclusive. Experts warn against it.
Some of the twenty-two million Americans, who are now out of work, doubtless, will rush to be guinea-pigs. In Australia, we’ve fast-tracked it so that it can be used in hospitals. After all, anything Trump is spruiking has to be good. Our Chief Medical Officers appear impotent.
Clive Palmer has invested a lazy million dollars of his own money to a “coronavirus action fund” to develop the anti-malaria drug which has toxic side effects when used inappropriately.
It’s OK when treating malaria or lupus or rheumatoid arthritis but perpetrating the myth that it is a cure for COVID-19 is reckless endangerment. It also has led to stockpiling of the drug with the result that those who genuinely need the treatment cannot obtain it.
“Liberate” is more than a bizarre word for men, women and children who are merely obeying the advice of their public health officials and their state government; citizens who are not being repressed or incarcerated but merely complying with advice to self-isolate for their own sake, their community and the nation.
It is pitched to resonate with the alt-right, a dog whistle to all gun nuts, psychopaths and others who mistakenly believe the Second Amendment was written to enable the citizenry to violently resist the government of the United States.
“Liberate” is an abdication of responsibility, by a malignant narcissist who cannot feel for others but who is acutely attuned to the stock market. Trump is gambling that a return to work will somehow restore the nation’s prosperity. He never ceases to fret about his own.
The Trump Organisation needs to service its debt. With some Trump golf courses and hotels closed in the coronavirus lockdown, the family firm, trading since 1923, is seeking to defer payments on some loans and dues such as its lease payments to Palm Beach County to run its golf course on county land. But it’s all cool. Trump calls himself “the king of debt”.
To safely reopen businesses, shops, schools, more COVID-19 tests need to be done. Because tests are scarce, largely due to Trump’s bungling administration, they are rationed to America’s sickest people. In order to liberate; re-open closed businesses and revive social life, those tested must include all those likely to spread the disease – not just the sickest.
Trump’s option is a type of roulette, a gamble on herd immunity, a phenomenon which first requires a vaccine to be invented, a breakthrough which may never come. Even then, experts warn, herd immunity may not even exist for COVID-19. If the four coronaviruses in the common cold are a clue, immunity may be ephemeral, lasting only a few months to a year.
Too little is known about the novel coronavirus and too much is known about other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS to make it safe to assume that exposure will confer lasting immunity. Too little credence is given to the fundamental truth that a healthy population is the key to a prosperous economy. Much time and money are spent in media worldwide prompting us to choose jobs crisis from the false dichotomy jobs or health.
In Canberra, Trump’s satellite of love and public health pioneer, our PM aka “steam me up Scotty”, star of “The Love Rub”, a 1970s Vicks Vaporub commercial, now re-appears as Our Nation’s Saviour, a miracle play from Pandemic Promotions. Scotty’s just busting to follow Trump’s lead. Saviour is a show with two flags, medical experts and regular egging-on from Health Minister, the unctuous Duttonista, Greg Hunt, who patronises us for our obedience; praising our curve-flattening, as if we’re all on some bizarre weight-loss contest.
Saviour makes a beaut distraction from reports of shortages; stories of doctors and nurses who are forced to re-use single-use masks or who are told to wear plastic aprons because there are no gowns. Psychiatrist Karen Williams’ survey of 245 Australian frontline medical workers finds sixty-one per cent of doctors feel pressure from other staff not to wear a mask, and more than half feel guilt or shame for wearing one.
“The chickens have come home to roost” for Tasmania’s healthcare system and a “decade of austerity” explains Tim Jacobsen, Tasmanian state secretary of the Health and Community Services Union, who reports to The Saturday Paper’s Rick Morton of such dire shortages that staff are forced to rob Peter to pay Paul; “strip” supplies from some parts of hospitals in order to plug gaps in more exposed areas.
“No one has said this overtly, but we clearly have national shortages of personal protective equipment,” Jacobson says. “Masks, gloves, the protective jumpsuits: they have all been very, very difficult to source. It is all being rationed. We have seen mixed messages going out to staff over the last three weeks. Reuse your masks, you need to keep your masks, that sort of thing…”
Yet, however much Hunt pats us on the head, for the “sustained and genuine” way we self-isolate, his PM quickly queers his pitch. Morrison shrinks his six-month lockdown into “a four-week minimum”. Saving jobs outweighs saving lives. Besides if Trump’s America is open for business, how can its client-state stay closed?
Helping the Health Minister succeed, former PM, Malcolm “Fizza” Turnbull’s memoir, “A Bigger Picture” doesn’t flatter Hunt; painting him as a potty-mouthed prat whose abusive, vulgar language and overweening ambition helped everyone to hate him, while Morrison is merely untrustworthy. Scotty damaged his government with leaks that put the government on the back foot, Turnbull reports. Yet Morrison was offside with some major players.
“Mathias regarded Scott as emotional, narcissistic and untrustworthy and told me so regularly,” Turnbull writes. Dutton was also hostile to Morrison. “Of course, if Mathias had a poor opinion of Scott, Dutton’s dislike of him was even stronger,” he says. It’s evident in the strained working relationship between the pair in drought and pandemic.
Yet Greg Hunt seems to have made himself universally detested. Turnbull recalls the day his successor, the Machiavellian Morrison, won the Liberal leadership ballot over his challenger Peter Dutton, the Home Affairs Minister.
“If looks could have killed, Hunt would have fallen over dead. He’d been Dutton’s wannabe deputy and had been working towards this day for months. Never liked, he’d never been more despised than he was at that moment.”
“None of us are perfect, I absolutely acknowledge that,” Hunt says archly. Tellingly, no Liberal MP contests Turnbull’s verdict on Scotty. Or Dutto. Or Hunt. Marise Payne, fails to persuade ABC Insiders’ host, David Speers, or any of his viewers, with her lame claim that she “received and deleted” her pirate copy of A Bigger Picture. When she declares she did not receive her emailed copy from the PM’s office, she reveals that other Liberals were emailing, too.
It seems to have been a bit of a hoot. Take the Toff down a peg. But nothing Turnbull says, now, will dent the commanding fictional narrative the Morrison junta has established; how it acted quickly and, in the nation’s, best interests and how citizens have been so compliant that we’ve stopped the toxic pathogen in its tracks. Besides, Hunt rises to the occasion; takes any high road he can salvage by saying he won’t be reading Turnbull’s The Bigger Picture.
A blizzard of electronic copies of Turnbull’s book is pirated by a staff member in the Prime Minister’s Office, publisher, Hardie Grant alleges, Saturday. Recipients obligingly forward them on. For Hardie Grant, it’s malicious conduct and a massive breach of copyright. Not only were unauthorised copies freely distributed, recipients were urged to forward them to others. Some MPs report receiving five or six copies reports Malcolm Farr for The Guardian Australia.
A letter of complaint is sent on Saturday to senior Morrison adviser Nico Louw by Nicholas Pullen of lawyers HWL Ebsworth, on behalf of Turnbull and his publishers. Louw admits to forwarding 56 copies. Pullen writes that he has been instructed Louw was “responsible for unauthorised distribution of my client’s book” in digital form.
While the publisher threatens to refer potential criminal breaches of the law to the AFP, copyright lawyers advise a civil lawsuit may be more productive. Hilarious. The AFP has never, since its inception in 1979, brought a case that would embarrass a sitting government.
A journalist receives half a dozen. It’s a rip-off on “a massive scale”, say Turnbull and his publisher’s lawyers, a state of affairs that would trouble legitimate purchasers seeking Turnbull’s explanation of his National Broadband Network (NBN) debacle, a $51 billion catastrophe which has spectacularly failed to deliver.
Readers pay good money expecting to learn Turnbull explain why for at least twenty years, Snowy 2.0 will store coal-fired electricity. Not renewable. Snowy 2.0 will also create additional demand for coal-fired generation; increase greenhouse gas emissions. Why? ABC 7:30 Report’s Leigh Sales fails to put these posers to Tuesday night.
A letter of complaint is sent on Saturday to senior Morrison adviser Nico Louw by Nicholas Pullen of lawyers HWL Ebsworth, on behalf of Turnbull and his publishers. Pullen writes that he has been instructed Louw was “responsible for unauthorised distribution of my client’s book” in digital form.
But amidst Turnbullian threats by the publisher to refer potential criminal breaches to the Australian federal police, copyright law specialists say the company and the former PM might have a better chance of bringing a civil lawsuit. But look over here!
When all else fails, cue the spin-machine. Or the dead cat on the table. Forget quarantine, or social isolation, Scotty’s fellow evangelical, prosperity gospeller and prayer-mate, walking disaster area, Stuart Robert has knocked off a fabulous app from Singapore we can all put on our blue-tooth-enabled phones. Download. If we want to.
It’ll be an opt-in thing, Scotty says, airily, back-flipping only one day after threatening to make it compulsory. He’s working hard at what he does best, stirring up a diversion.
Apart from the ten per cent of us who don’t own a mobile phone. It’s “a big Team Australia moment” says the Services Minister, wowing us with his oratory and his capacity to reference notorious Liberal Party Luddite, a keenly contested title, tiny Tony Abbott.
“There is no geolocation, there is no surveillance, there is no tracking,” Robert promises. Besides, a lot of that stuff can be got from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) which has been spying on citizens for years. As Sally McManus says, you expect your phone to be tapped.
Various other intelligence agencies pitch in. Federal and state police, can also request access to your telephone and internet records. These can reveal information about your whereabouts and whom you talked to, emailed or messaged. As Turnbull boasts in A Bigger Picture, as he takes credit for creating the Office of National Intelligence (ONI), PM had access to the collective wisdom and insights of our 7000-person-strong intelligence community.
Yet as Singapore’s increasing rate of infection shows, either contact tracing is too slow, or SARS-CoV-2 is too fast to enable intervention to slow community transmission.
At least the app will help keep more tabs on us. What could possibly go wrong? Above all, Morrison loves the war-talk his mentor, America’s most revered Vietnam bone-spur deferment veteran, uses to inspire states to rebel.
It’s no less than an … “historic battle against the invisible enemy” that amounts to the “greatest national mobilisation since world war two”, says Trump’s autocue.
It’s rhetorical nonsense, probably penned by slumlord millionaire, and “tier-one predator”, son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump’s fixer on Middle East peace, or Opioid crisis which may have killed 450,000 Americans since 1999, or winning hearts and minds by dithering with COVID-19.
Six weeks are lost as a result of Trump’s dithering and downplaying of the crisis when the virus first struck. His administration’s initial response is “one of the greatest failures of basic governance and leadership in modern times” says Jeremy Konyndyk, a central figure in the US battle against Ebola. The Morrison government dithered, too, before the secretary of the Treasury, aided by Labor and the Unions pressed for a stimulus package.
Trump’s number one fan Downunder, Aloha Morrison is keen to match his mentor’s rhetoric while basic governance and leadership have eluded him from the start. He’ll never recover from his Hawaiian holiday nor his plan to go to a Rugby League game.
Now he’s channelling Trump in his bullshit that we must put the economic crisis ahead of the pandemic; rush back to the workplace just in time to catch or infect workmates with the ‘rona.
The next few weeks will severely tax the PM. Lacking his party’s trust, unable to delegate, let alone work with others, Morrison’s done well recently out of letting the real leaders, particularly Labor Premiers tell him what to do, especially over schooling.
Now he’ll have to do some work himself; something he can’t abide. Being awarded Turnbull’s Plumber’s mate award for his leaks, is unlikely to deter Scotty from his “front-running” – media leaks that weaken the government during high-stakes cabinet debates. After all, his office leaked advance freebies of Malco’s new e-book.
Being “emotional, narcissistic and untrustworthy” won’t bother Morrison, either. Since when did he give a fig? Besides, he’s already got his revenge. The bootleg preview of A Bigger Picture came from a senior staffer – before being forwarded so eagerly to a cast of thousands – copyright given such a thorough thrashing that the memoir, its author and his entire political career became some sort of electronic piñata.
But pushing Trump’s rush-back-to-work barrow is going to be hard yakka. Especially when there isn’t any work for millions of workers to return to, in an economy bled dry after six years’ Coalition mismanagement – before the virus helps tip it into recession.
Above all, his “pro-growth agenda” which is austerity budgeting under an Orwellian name is nothing but a desperate attempt to walk two sides of the fence. Granted it’s Morrrison’s speciality but no good can ever come of it. The Keynesian stimulus giver cannot reveal himself “on the other side” as a monetarist with a closed fist.
“On the other side of this virus and leading on the way out we are going to have to have economic policy measures that are going to have to be very pro-growth, that is going to enable businesses to employ people, that is going to enable businesses to invest and businesses to move forward”. Scott Morrison
It’s going to take a lot more than stale rhetoric. Or platitudes about growth. Lies about the “other side” don’t cut it either. Australians expect the truth, harsh as it may be, not some pie in the sky. There can be no snap back. The world has changed forever.
Morrison’s hollow words reveal that he has no idea what to do to get Australia open for business again. He knows only how to close things down. The nation deserves better; real leadership – for starters – of the sort we’ve seen from some state premiers.
Humanity is a big part of the leadership required. We see it everyday from extraordinary “ordinary” people just doing their best; doing their jobs. Taking care of one another. That’s where true hope lies. Not in sucking up even more to the business class.
Keep the National Cabinet going until 2022, Scotty; you just keep low in the back seat.