Saturday night owls: Federal relief legislation’s small-business loan program shows its weaknesses

Night Owls, a themed open thread, appears at Daily Kos seven days a week

Eric Levitz at New York magazine writes—The Small-Business Loan Program Is Already Hitting 4 Big Snags:

The small-business bailout — otherwise known as the “Paycheck Protection Program” (PPP) — was arguably the most ambitious provision of the $2 trillion stimulus bill that Congress passed last week. […]

Under the policy, any business (or nonprofit, veterans organization, or tribal concern) with 500 or fewer employees is eligible for a government-backed loan equivalent to eight weeks of its prior average payroll, plus an additional 25 percent of that sum (unless that grand total adds up to more than $10 million, which is the cap for any individual firm). And these loans are really more like grants, which means free money […]

Unfortunately, the small-business bailout season is off to a shaky start — and for entirely predictable reasons. Here, the four big ones:

1. For many banks, the program looks high risk, low reward. […]

2. The bailout fund is too damn small. […]

3. The most vulnerable mom-and-pops will likely come away empty-handed. The program’s first two flaws — banks’ fears of the program’s potential liability risks and the insufficient amount of money available for lending — combine to produce this third one. Some big lenders, such as Bank of America, are already participating in the program — but they’re only lending to small businesses that already have a “business-lending and a business-deposit relationship” with the bank. Many other lenders are adopting the same policy. And why wouldn’t they? Given that the demand for these loans exceeds their supply, there’s little incentive for banks to take a risk on a firm they don’t know — especially when they could be held culpable for extending credit to a fraudulent borrower. […]

4. A (well-intended) last-minute rule change makes the program a worse deal for a lot of businesses.

HIGH IMPACT STORIES 

QUOTATION

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                 ~~Willa CatherO Pioneers! (1913)

TWEET OF THE DAY

These people are responsible for thousands of deaths. People trust them. And they will never take responsibility. Watch them rewrite history in front of our eyes. I don�t think hatred is productive but it�s what I feel towards these people. Hatred. Ugh https://t.co/ZERXstAbk4

— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) April 4, 2020

BLAST FROM THE PAST

At Daily Kos on this date in 2010—A Microcosm of Stupid:

Jason Mattera was really proud of recent game of gotcha with Senator Al Franken of Minnesota. So proud, in fact, that he posted a video of his encounter to YouTube—on the pretense that he had exposed Senator Franken’s lack of knowledge of what was in the landmark health insurance reform bill recently signed into law.

Mr. Mattera is an up-and-coming young conservative involved with the Young America Foundation and a wide variety of other conservative media enterprises and ventures, and he is absolutely right. The video is an embarrassment—except, it humiliates him and conservatives everywhere, rather than Senator Franken and the Democrats. You see, what Mr. Mattera managed to do is unprecedented: in three minutes and twenty-five seconds of some of the most painful video you could possibly watch, he exposed single-handed everything that is abhorrent about current conservative political strategy.

Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at Stitcher.com), and find a live stream there, by searching for “Netroots Radio.”

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As stay-at-home orders expand, states relax home delivery rules for alcohol

Well, we couldn’t get masks or ventilators produced in time and couldn’t manage nationwide social distancing even as “the curve” of the COVID-19 pandemic arched upwards to new predictions of perhaps a quarter million American deaths, but by God we will make sure Americans have enough booze. That’s the lesson of myriad new state policies relaxing liquor sales and allowing restaurants to do beer and wine delivery, including the declaration of liquor stores as “essential businesses” in at least New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.

The government couldn’t handle the bread part, and that’s on them. But they can at least ensure Americans can put on their own private circuses.

I have mixed feelings here. The notion of millions of unwilling new American shut-ins passing bored hours with new home beer delivery services seems bad. The notion of them attempting to pass the time without those services seems … also bad. Loosening restrictions on a purely luxury item seems petty; keeping restaurants afloat by helping them sell high-margin products during a time when a great many—perhaps the majority—are in danger of going under seems a near-necessity.

Does that work out to a net plus, then? Probably.

Whatever the case, both gun stores and liquor stores are, in various states, now “essential businesses” that do not have to abide by shelter-in-place rules. These seem to be decisions based almost entirely on lobbying power. Also, Brett Kavanaugh probably weighed in at some point.

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Biden is more than just an ‘anti-Trump,’ but he must inspire and unite voters—like Obama did

In order to beat Donald Trump in November as well as heal the wounds he has inflicted on our democracy and our sense of peoplehood as Americans, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden needs to draw on the language and themes used by his former boss and good friend, President Barack Obama.

Given that Biden clearly enjoys talking about his time as Obama’s vice president and proudly touts the accomplishments of the Obama administration—which he is certainly justified in doing—I’d like to see Biden more often work into his public remarks a few renditions of “As Barack said…” Especially now, with the pandemic having further revealed the truth of our interconnectedness as Americans, Biden’s rhetoric needs to evoke our sense of community and nationhood, of being a single people tied together by a shared fate, of being, as Obama so often called us, “one American family.”

Thus far in the campaign, Biden’s message centers too much on one of two ideas: “I’d do a better job than Trump” and “I can beat Trump.” The latter is more important during the primary campaign, so presumably we’ll see that fade once he wraps up the nomination officially. As for the former, it undoubtedly needs to be a core aspect—perhaps even the central element—of his general election message, since The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote is uniquely unsuited to serve in the position of great responsibility he currently holds.

Nevertheless, although candidates certainly must contrast themselves—both in terms of policy as well as personal characteristics—against their opponent, especially an incumbent opponent, history shows that Biden needs to present himself as more than just “Not Trump,” and more than just a generic Democrat on policy grounds.

This current race most reminds me of 2004. Democrats ran against an incumbent president whom they hoped to paint as a failure. You might remember seeing the slogan “Anybody But Bush” on bumper stickers all over the roads, at least in blue areas of the country. This year the phrasing may have altered—we’ve got “Anybody But Trump,” or the more sonorous “Vote Blue No Matter Who”—but the parallels are clear.

My concern is that Biden will fall into the same trap as did the 2004 Democratic nominee, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who ran largely as “Not Bush.” Ask yourself what you remember most about Kerry’s campaign message. I’d venture that there’s not much. The thing that comes to my mind is the line with which he began his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention: “I’m John Kerry, and I’m reporting for duty.” In hindsight, it feels like he thought all he needed to do was simply show up and present himself as the alternative to an incumbent whose failings were, in the minds of the Kerry campaign at least, self-evident to a majority of voters.

Another parallel in terms of messaging was the 1988 campaign that pitted Gov. Michael Dukakis, also of Massachusetts, against Vice President George H.W. Bush. Most famously, when accepting the Democratic nomination, Dukakis defined the campaign as follows: “This election isn’t about ideology; it’s about competence.” Defining the race that way didn’t make Dukakis president.

In addition to the parallels, there also exist fundamental differences between 1988, 2004, and 2020 because of who the Republican is. Even though the line about the Democrat’s superior competence applies even more obviously to Herr Twitler than it did to H.W. Bush, or even George W. Bush—whose profound, deeply impactful failures in foreign and domestic policy resulted more from ideologically-based choices than the worst of Trump’s, which derive from his sociopathic, narcissistic nature—a campaign based on touting his competence alone won’t make Biden president, either.

I’m confident, just from what we’ve already seen, that Biden won’t be as foolish as to run away from the policy differences between himself and his opponent and define the race, as Dukakis did, in a nonideological way. I’m not suggesting that Biden’s campaign thus far has completely lacked inspiring, inclusive rhetoric, or that he hasn’t spoken out effectively on the issues of hate, divisiveness, and the white supremacy that the current occupant of the Oval Office actively abets—a force that tears at our national bonds, while inflicting serious harm, particularly upon Americans of color and other groups vulnerable to his wrath. In his most effective speech thus far, which he delivered the night he won South Carolina and arguably became the front-runner, Biden was as inspiring and inclusive as he’s ever been in 2020.

The proposition that we hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men and women are created equal, endowed by the creator with certain inalienable rights. We say it all the time, but we’ve never fully lived up to it. But we’ve never before until this president walked away from it. And it’s the reason why [Rep. Jim Clyburn] and I and all of us are in this, I believe with every fiber of my being, that all men and women are created equal.

You know, I saw it a few days ago in a town hall in Charleston, Jim. I spoke with Reverend Anthony Thompson, whose wife Myra was studying the words of her Bible with eight other parishioners in Mother Emanuel, four and a half years ago. It was a weekly routine reading scripture and finding purpose and faith in God and each other. And in an instant hate, vengeance, white supremacy pierced that faith, and they were lost forever. But you know what I found the most remarkable thing in my career thus far. Remark about Reverend Thompson and the families of the Emanuel Nine. It’s through all that pain, all that grief, they forgave. And here’s the deal. In their forgiveness. They brought more change to South Carolina than any that’s occurred over the previous 100 years.

The Confederate flag came down. We’ll change. That’s why the Sunday after Jill and I and my family, we came back to mother Emanuel on Sunday services after the funeral of the victims because six weeks earlier, we had lost our son Beau, and we needed to be healed too. We need to be healed. I really mean this. We needed whatever they were exuding. And with every season that’s past, they’ve gotten up and found purpose to live life worthy of the ones they lost. Worthy of the blessings to live in this remarkable country. We left here, arrived in overwhelming pain thinking we can do this, we can get through this. So I want to tell you, it’s no small reason why I’m in this race. People like all of you here tonight, all around the country, the days of Donald Trump’s divisiveness will soon be over.

We need more of this from Biden. But even here, at his best, there are things he could have added to make these remarks even more powerful—namely, incorporating some of Obama’s most effective themes of inclusion. The 44th president, more than any elected official in our history, spoke in ways that were both aimed at including marginalized groups while also seeking to bind the members of those groups with straight, white Christians, together as Americans. Obama repeatedly and adeptly emphasized a sense of national community and nationhood.

Biden—like most Democrats—has been careful to comprehensively name various demographic groups during speeches in order to ensure that people of all backgrounds feel seen, but Obama showed how to do more than that. America isn’t just a list of ethnic groups, and being inclusive doesn’t just mean listing every group—as helpful as that can be. There has to be a common entity and consciousness into which all people are included, even as we simultaneously value and respect the various groups with which Americans of every background identify.

Saying that America is diverse is merely an acknowledgement that we are different from one another. The world is diverse. Obama’s version of America aspires to being a nation and a people who are simultaneously diverse and unified around a shared fealty to democratic values and the common good—as reflected in what I’ve described as democratic pluralism. Recall how Obama emphasized membership in the broader American community, going beyond solely naming various groups, as he did in his final State of the Union address in January 2016.

I can promise that a little over a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I will be right there with you as a citizen, inspired by those…voices that help us see ourselves not, first and foremost, as black or white, or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born, not as Democrat or Republican, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word — voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.

Trump, on the other hand, takes the exact opposite path when it comes to inclusive rhetoric. The dichotomy appears most starkly on immigration. In 2014, Obama defined Americans in a speech that’s just one great example for Biden to draw upon.

My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal, that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.

The reference to those coming across the Rio Grande shows Obama humanizing undocumented immigrants who come across the border from Mexico. Compare that to the dehumanizing language Trump has used on multiple occasions to describe those same people, not to mention his appalling response to the events at Charlottesville, when he told us that there were “very fine people on both sides” of a march where one side was a bunch of violent white nationalists and neo-Nazis.

Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has race-baited, as seen in the now-infamous photograph of the notes for his March 19 speech, which had the word “corona” crossed out and “CHINESE” hand-written in its place, so that he could be sure to refer to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus.”

Close up of President @realDonaldTrump notes is seen where he crossed out “Corona” and replaced it with “Chinese” Virus as he speaks with his coronavirus task force today at the White House. #trump #trumpnotes pic.twitter.com/kVw9yrPPeJ

— Jabin Botsford (@jabinbotsford) March 19, 2020

The coronavirus has provided Biden the perfect opportunity to broadly contrast progressive values (as well as his own specific policy proposals) to those of Trump. In doing so, Biden can also easily pivot to reminding voters about his own work with President Obama, as well as his profound differences with Trump on matters such as health care—as he did in his March 27 CNN Town Hall where he called on the Orange Julius Caesar and his Republican allies to drop the lawsuit that seeks to have Obamacare declared unconstitutional.

The former vice president can also use the contrast over values and policies as another avenue to employ Obama-esque rhetoric, and even just quote the man himself. At that CNN Town Hall, Biden offered inspirational words about how “we’re seeing the soul of America now … Everywhere you look, you see people reaching out to help people. Everywhere you look, you see people doing things that represent who we are … I’m so proud—it sounds corny—but I’m so proud to be an American.” That’s a good start, and hopefully in prepared remarks he can expand on this type of theme by incorporating Obama’s unifying ideas more directly.

One thing the coronavirus has made even more clear is that the actions of a few of us can cause serious harm to a great many of us. It has made even more obvious that we are, in Obama’s words, one American family. COVID-19 has brought us to a place where we need hope and unity. Those are two emotions Obama evoked successfully enough to win election twice, while breaking a historic barrier few thought would fall in their own lifetimes.

While a major part of the general election campaign will certainly highlight Trump’s incompetence—both during the crucial early days of the coronavirus and on a horrifically high number of other issues—Biden must present himself as more than just someone who’d be a more competent president than Trump. Biden also needs to bring us together around commonly held values which are also in line with progressive values and policies, and inspire us by evoking our shared sense of Americanness. In order to do so, he’s got to sound more like Barack Obama.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh’s Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

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Domestic violence incidents spike across the country as COVID-19 pandemic spreads

A combination of “shelter in place” orders, the unprecedented social and economic stressors of massive job losses, and an increase in gun sales are contributing to a spike in domestic violence reports all around the country, and victims find themselves literally unable to escape the reach of their abusers.

Local authorities are reporting a sharp increase in domestic violence calls—in both major cities and rural areas—since states began to discourage travel outside the home in accordance with public health directives. New York City, Seattle, and Los Angeles have all seen a surge in such reports, along with several other metropolitan areas. For example, two days after California’s “Safer at Home” order went into effect, Los Angeles police reported 244 domestic abuse calls in a single day, representing a 240% increase over the previous month’s daily average of such calls.

The poison of abuse is spreading across the country, as reported by CNN.

Portland, Oregon had a 27% increase in domestic violence arrests between March 12 and 23, 2020, as compared with the same period in 2019, police said. Boston had a 22% jump in domestic assault and battery reports between March 2019 and March 2020, and Seattle had a 21% increase in reports of domestic violence during the same time period.

In non-urban areas, entire counties are seeing even higher increases. Hidalgo County, Texas has reported a 55% increase in domestic violence calls, while Morgan County, Ala. and Bay County, Fla. saw such calls nearly double, by 90%, in just one week.

The incidents are becoming depressingly similar.

In an eastern Pennsylvania town under a local shelter-in-place order, a man who lost his job due to the pandemic shot his girlfriend in the back and then killed himself on Monday. Just before he went into the basement to get his handgun, he became “extremely upset” about coronavirus, the victim, who survived, told police.

***

In Colorado Springs, a woman accused of fatally shooting her husband in their home last month said he had brandished a knife at her, “blaming the coronavirus and stating he was not going to live through it,” according to court documents reported by the Colorado Springs Gazette.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on domestic violence goes beyond simply cloistering people. As noted by Casey Tolan writing for CNN, the economic hit of job loss is not only a psychological stress, but can also prevent abused partners from escaping their abuser by moving out. The proximity of people living in the same home or apartment may also be preventing abused partners from reaching out for support or assistance, whether through a phone call to help lines or by contacting a close relative for help. As Katie Ray-Jones, the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, explains, “They can’t reach out safely, because their perpetrator is sitting right next to them.”

Rhonda Voss, 63, a domestic violence activist and survivor in North Carolina, said being cooped up at home is a domestic violence victim’s nightmare.
“I know they would be constantly walking on eggshells just trying their best to stay out of the way, to keep the person appeased,” she said. Getting out of the house can be “such a relief” for victims, she said, “and that’s not available that much now.”

Domestic violence and abuse is rooted in power and control, and abusers are taking advantage of social distancing to exert new ways of controlling their victims. As reported by Madison Paulie and Julia Lurie for Mother Jones, the pandemic has, for some abusers, opened up entire new avenues of abuse:

Advocates on the ground report that abusers are using social distancing as a means of exerting control over their partners and victims. Twahna Harris, an advocate for survivors in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has been taking calls from victims who say the coronavirus has already intensified the fear and controlling behavior they live with on a daily basis. One woman who called Harris’ nonprofit, The Butterfly Society, wasn’t able to go to the grocery store to get essential supplies for her family because her husband controlled all their money. Another, a teacher stuck at home because schools are closed, said her partner demanded to review the receipt when she left the house to shop. “He looks over the receipt, what she’s paid, what time did she leave home, how long it took her to make it to Walmart, if the timeline adds up,” Harris says. She recalls the teacher telling her, “I am enslaved to him.”

Domestic violence shelters are facing compound issues during this pandemic. While “social distancing” requirements are forcing some shelters to reduce bed counts, many are facing an increase in demand as the number of incidents nationwide increases.

If you or someone you know is threatened by or the victim of domestic abuse or violence, many resources are available.

From the Mother Jones article:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline takes calls 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-799-7233 for TTY. If you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522. The Department of Health and Human Services has compiled a list of organizations by state.

The CNN article lists the following resources as well:

National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673
Provided by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). Available 24/7. Also available through online chat tool.
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
Available 24/7 for victims of abuse and any other type of crisis.
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453
Available 24/7 in 170 different languages.
Office on Women’s Health Helpline 1-800-994-9662

Finally, a coalition of 20 Senators (nearly all Democrats) last week sent the Trump administration a letter requesting the administration ensure that domestic violence organizations receive appropriate funding and resources given the unique threat the COVID-19 pandemic presents to victims of domestic violence and their families.

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As medical professionals fighting coronavirus turn to RVs for isolation, one nurse risks $1,000 fine

In trying to reduce risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic, many people are practicing social distancing or self-isolating at home. For medical professionals and other hospital and clinic workers (including, for example, janitors), however, isolating away from high-risk areas is simply not realistic. Now, thanks to some community-focused creative thinking that turned into a Facebook group, some health care workers are being offered RVs to isolate in after leaving the hospital. At least one nurse, however, reports having a hard time in her own community, claiming her homeowners’ association is threatening up to $1,000 in fines over her RV. 

First, let’s start with the positive: As reported by CNN, a Facebook group called “RVs for MDs” has thousands of members ready to help peers in need. Health care workers who are worried about coming home and exposing vulnerable family members, like people with compromised immune systems or older folks, are matched with unoccupied RVs, campers, and trailers. After joining the group, people post their location and need, and owners volunteer their resources. 

“We’re going to keep it running until there’s not one person left on the planet that needs an RV or needs shelter,” Emily Phillips, one of the creators of the group, said as reported by CNN. “Whatever the case is, we’ll have this organization for the next crisis because there’s always going to be a need for shelter,” she added.

“You can’t put a price tag on this,” Kelsey Webb, who donated her family’s trailer for an ER doctor’s use during the pandemic, told the outlet. “It just makes my heart happy that we’re able to do this for them and give them peace of mind.”

Similarly, a nonprofit in Colorado is offering RVs and campers to health care workers who need to isolate, for free. 

Unfortunately, keeping a mobile home on-site isn’t working well for everyone, according to a nurse in Florida. Sarah Lynch, a clinical nurse coordinator who is currently working from home, told News 4 Jax she wanted to park her family’s RV in their driveway in case someone needed to isolate in it because of the virus. Lynch said: “We figured the HOA would be more lenient as the community is all pulling together.” As Lynch told the local outlet, however, that wasn’t the case.

As Lynch explained, after the camper had been in her driveway for a few days, she and her husband noticed a note from the homeowners association. The note, according to Lynch, said she would be charged up to $1,000 in fines (at $100 per day) unless they moved it.

“The time will come when I will probably need to isolate myself,” Lynch, who says she is now keeping the RV off-site because of the fine risk, told the outlet, adding that the board didn’t seem “concerned about our health concerns or our jobs as essential personnel.”

If you’re trying to practice social distancing, make sure to check out tips on how to combat loneliness, as well as virtual things to do while at home. Have you noticed efforts to provide extra care or resources to first responders (including everyone from medical workers to grocery store employees) in your community?

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COVID-19: It was never about the numbers, but sometimes numbers are all we have

The story of the pandemic is the story of people. The soaring numbers on charts and tables aren’t numbers of cars rolling off an assembly line, or the distance between the Earth and some point in the night sky. They’re all people. Every digit is misery. Every measure, grief.

As more than one Internet wit has pointed out, the time Americans have spent looking at exponential charts has risen … exponentially. That may finally be about to end. Not because the rate of growth is suddenly slowing. Because it’s not.

On Saturday, the United States crossed a new set of bitter milestones: 300,000 infected, 8,000 dead, and a case fatality rate that has risen to 2.7%. That last number is the most important, because it shows that we’re no longer facing the gusts and squalls in advance of the main storm. It’s here. Over the next two weeks, healthcare systems across the nation are going to be pressed to limits and beyond. This week already brought the unthinkable decision in New York City where heart attack victims are no longer being brought to hospitals in an attempt to revive them. There are a lot of steps on that road. We’re going to visit them all.

We’re only beginning to translate this story from numbers and graphs to names and faces. Right now, the rate of infection in the United States is still only about 1 person in 1,000. It won’t stay there, but for the moment it’s quite possible to be someone who has no friends, or family members, or even co-workers struggling with the disease. Right now, deaths are about 1 in 40,000. They’re someone’s favorite uncle, someone’s dear sister, someone’s friend and partner. We are all going to ache for the day when it was still someone’s.

But we still look at the numbers. Not just because the numbers are less heartbreaking than the torrent of names and faces that is only now starting to flow through social media, but because the numbers, even when they’re terrible, offer a strange sort of hope. Like searching the night sky in search of some hint of a dawn ahead, the numbers are all we have when we hope to see some end to this nightmare.

COVID-19: U.S. and Italy

Not so long ago, Italy was the definition of what it meant for a nation to be crushed by COVID-19. With 125,000 cases and a staggering 15,000 dead, there’s nothing good to be found in Italy’s numbers, but as the chart above indicates, they’ve taken the growth there out of the exponential range and turned it into simply linear. It’s a long, long way from ideal, and the almost 5,000 cases added on Friday greatly exceeds the rate at which Italians are recovering and freeing up precious healthcare resources. But if you want to see what tightly enforced suppression actions—social distancing on steroids—can achieve. This is pretty much it.

COVID-19: Growth rate

In terms of rate of growth, Italy has pushed its values down to the lowest in the Western world. The problem is that an increase of just 4% a day is massive, when that increase is working against a number as large as 125,000 cases. Reducing that number below 4% using just suppression measures may be impossible, or at the very least, highly painful and impractical. To make additional progress, Italy needs to do what every nation that’s been successful in genuinely ending the period of linear growth and “bending the curve” to near zero growth — individual testing an isolation. At this point, Italy has conducted 650,000 tests. That seems like a lot, but it’s only 1 test for 10,000 people. That’s less test per person than were used by South Korea, and South Korea moved to apply widespread testing, isolation, and quarantine much, much more quickly than Italy. For Italy to reduce the numbers to the point where it’s not just slowed the growth of misery, but begun the process of recovery, is going to take tests in the millions and a dedicated, military-scale effort to identify and isolate every positive, as well as follow-up and quarantine potential contacts.

Italy is starting now from a point where that seems like a massive undertaking, but at least it’s in the realm of possible. In the United States, the limited social distancing measures have hit a limit at a value that doesn’t seem all that much bigger on the graph above, but in the real world has an enormous implication. In the last week, the United States rate of growth has seemed locked in at 14%. With 300,000 cases on the books, that’s better than 40,000 new cases a day. America isn’t ridding an exponent that’s as rocket-like as it was two weeks ago, but cases are still skyrocketing as new epicenters develop in every corner of the country. 

To get to the point where we can be like South Korea, we have to first be like Italy. We have to crank up the knob on suppression to straighten the growth, even as we expand testing. Eventually we can turn this from something that isn’t about locking away the nation, into something about carefully putting a shell over the fire until it finally burns out. But we’re not there yet. If there’s any glow on the horizon … it’s probably not the sun.

For now, stay home. Stay safe. And I am so, so sorry about your someone.

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We’re in a long-term fight to keep coronavirus from being the biggest weapon in the war on workers

The United States economy is crashing in historic fashion and that’s not even necessarily the worst thing going on—but one of the long-term dangers of coronavirus is that its damage to the economy, and the attendant fear and desperation, will be used to weaken the position of workers still further.

The fate of workers has to be a major part of the policy discussion, and a focus of organizing, or we are so, so screwed even when and if COVID-19 stops being such an immediate threat to our health and lives.

● Kim Kelly writes about the wretched treatment of grocery store workers—even as they’re deemed “essential”:

“None of us ever expected to be emergency workers; the idea of an ‘essential worker’ is a totally new concept that no grocery store bag boy considers when they drop off an application,” a current Whole Foods worker who prefers to stay anonymous told me. “There’s all of this rhetoric around how we’re just as important as the doctors, and yes, that’s true, but we’re getting paid way less, and medical workers have a little bit more of an idea of the risks that they are setting themselves up for. . . . We’re not used to this shit.”

● Instacart is also treating its workers terribly, which is why some of them went on strike this week.

● The Red Sox decided to include subcontracted workers in their coronavirus relief pool.

● Is a general strike possible? Hamilton Nolan asks. And what would it take?

● Executives at the daycare chain Bright Horizons took pay cuts, but parents are still pushing to ensure the company takes care of its furloughed workers.

● Organizing in a pandemic: Labor Notes resources.

● Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is trying to destroy airline workers’ job protections, writes Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-Communications Workers of America.

● How state attorneys general are protecting workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

● 

BREAKING: Union leaders have sent a letter to @Amazon calling on CEO @JeffBezos to CLOSE warehouses until the company implements real solutions – with independent monitors – to protect both its workers and the public. Read the full letter here: https://t.co/e2jM0YfPwx pic.twitter.com/pqXT3wBpdF

— RWDSU (@RWDSU) April 1, 2020

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From Idaho to New Zealand, the coronavirus is all we’re talking about: This week’s Picks

Hello dearest ones! I hope you’re well. As COVID-19 finds its way to each corner of our nation and the world, there’s no denying that these are scary times. The novel coronavirus is dominating our thoughts, and Daily Kos is no exception. For the 26 of you that read this series regularly, you may have noticed we took the last two weeks off! That’s because our realities were changing so swiftly, it was all but impossible to find the sort of shelf-stable content that Picks of the Week relies upon. 

Alas, this week is quite different. 

We’ve got glimpses into how this virus is impacting communities and aspects of ourselves and our lives that don’t get much attention. We’ve got dispatches from the other side of the planet. We’ve got a great escape into some of the best people in this world and an interview with a bonafide hero who refuses to stop working for the greater good. I hope you’ll consume this dozen stories and feel something that resembles better once you’re done.

Before I get to them, though, I want to check in: How are you holding up in the face of this global public health crisis, friends? Personally, I am lucky enough to already work remotely and not be laid off, which is keeping me busy and distracted for 40-something hours a week … and my dog is keeping me company, but I sure do miss people. Los Angeles has often been described as a lonely city, and it took a pandemic for me to finally agree with that. I’ve never wished more that I could be back in my little hometown, where 90% of my favorite people reside and are looking after one another. 

Nevertheless, I’m persisting. As are each of you. Our world is going to look and operate quite differently after this virus has its way with us, and we shall adjust together. In the meantime, there are so many ways we can help each other. If you’re able, I do hope you’ve found a way to support your greater community, no matter what that may look like.

After all, my loves, we are all in this together, and this virus knows Donald Trump isn’t going to save us.

But enough virus pep talk, y’all! Let’s get to those picks!

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Inequality and injustice in the midst of a pandemic

By whiffleberry

Why is it that the primary concern is always for Wall Street and a “return to normalcy” during and after a crisis on this scale? This deep dive explores the long-term impact of the pandemic, while also incorporating the lasting impact of the 2008 recession. 

Homeless vets confront a new enemy—COVID-19

By Tom Conway

This is just one story of privatized public service that has been shut down in the face of the novel coronavirus—but it’s an important one.

While there is a soul in prison, I am not free

By stilltilting

A heartfelt call for an end to mass incarceration, inspired by a sorrowful visit to a now-shuttered, notorious West Virginia prison.

Lockdown: A New Zealand supermarket

By senorjoel

An aptly-told story of a surreal shopping excursion that, just a month or two ago, would have been very, very different.

Freedom Rider is ‘still out there trying to make a difference’ and riding out COVID-19

By FreeSpeechZone

A lovely interview with a lesser-known Civil Rights icon, Rip Patton. 

The Inoculation Project: Learning in and out of school!

By belinda ridgewood

This may be the most urgent installment of the Inoculation Project yet, as low-income students are in crisis due to school closures. 

The mindset of my local gun nut during the coronavirus crisis

By dot farmer

A cheeky journey into the mind of a Kentucky firearm enthusiast in the midst of a pandemic.

Corona crisis: On the front lines with the homeless in Berkeley

By jpmassar

When it comes to helping people without homes, it’s hard to fathom how much there is to do on a normal day; in the midst of a pandemic, it’s impossible to ignore how badly our standard support mechanisms have been failing. These on-the-ground dispatches from one woman determined to help no matter what are required reading.

Phenomenal women

By abluerippleinohio

Escape into this bounty of videos and learn about 10 phenomenal women you may have never heard of before.

Making it up as we go: Behavioral health and protective gear in the time of coronavirus

By TheFatLadySings

A heartbreaking (and, at times, heartwarming) glimpse at the struggle to care for the most vulnerable in New Mexico.

Life in a small town epicenter of Covid-19

By BoiseBlue

 A devastating dispatch from the hardest-hit county in Idaho. 

How COVID-19 affects pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding

By ZawnVillines

The short answer? We don’t really know. But the long answers are worth your time if anyone you know is expecting during this trying time. 

That’s it for this week, folks. I really hope these pieces drew you in and taught you something. I know it’s exhausting to constantly be reading about and hearing about and fearing the novel coronavirus, especially as we’re in isolation to avoid it. Never has the Daily Kos Community been so important, at least not in the years I’ve worked here. Please, keep writing stories if it makes you feel better. Keep reading and commenting and if that’s what works better for you. Our connections to each other are everything. Check on your neighbors in your physical spaces as well as your pals here. Wear masks. Wash your hands. Stay the fuck home. Maybe I don’t need to say all that, but it sure couldn’t hurt. 

We’re so glad you’re here, dearest ones. Be safe, be healthy, and I’ll see you next time.

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TakeAction Minnesota fights for a responsive democracy as they ‘rewrite the rules’ amid COVID-19

With the coronavirus epidemic upending politics as we know it, organizations around the country are shifting the way they engage with communities, elected officials, and the political system as whole. One such group is TakeAction Minnesota, a statewide “multi-racial people’s organization building power for a government and economy that works for [everyone].” Like many other states, Minnesota is currently in a state of flux due to the COVID-19 pandemic as elected officials grapple with how to respond, so far having closed public beaches and pools and shifted public school online for the remainder of the school year.  TakeAction Minnesota is also responding to the crisis.

Led by Executive Director Elianne Farhat, TakeAction Minnesota’s core work is divided into four buckets: movement politics, organizing, public affairs, and fiscal sponsorship, “provid[ing] capacity for powerful organizations to launch and grow.” The organization has described the current moment as an opportunity “to fundamentally re-write the rules, recognizing that when we center those of us most impacted by inequities, it makes us all stronger.”

On March 20, in collaboration with partner organizations, TakeAction Minnesota launched a “People Centered Response to COVID-19,” which laid out an inclusive framework for responding to the pandemic that focused on the needs of those affected. The People Centered Response has eight policy demands: emergency assistance for all, safety in our workplaces, health care access for all, food system security, housing stability, affording our lives, supporting small businesses, and justice reform. TakeAction also joined a national collective to demand a just stimulus package from Congress, including expansion of unemployment and social security benefits, and paid sick leave for all. 

Talking with Prism, Farhat explained that the response to the current crisis was grounded in the organization’s longstanding values of interconnectedness, care, and solidarity, and focused on the communities TakeAction Minnesota represents.

“The way we and our partners have responded to this moment is grounded in our values, and anchored in the stories and the experiences of our people,” Farhat told Prism. “What that means for us is that as we figure out how to take action in this moment, [we’ve been] talking to our people, hearing how they’re being impacted, and making sure that the experiences our folks are having in their workplaces, in the health care system, in their family farms, in our schools, in our community, are being elevated to policymakers [and] crafted into policy demands, and are being moved forward with the people power that we’ve been building.”

Since its founding in 2006, TakeAction Minnesota has taken an intentional approach to building power and facilitating multiracial, multigender, and multigenerational conversations to guide how their work will proceed. Bahieh Hartshorn serves as the organization’s movement politics manager, tasked with “co-creating and building the movement governing infrastructure that shifts decision making power into the hands of Minnesotans, especially marginalized Minnesotans—at every level of government.” Speaking with Prism, Hartshorn reflected on TakeAction Minnesota’s capacity building across movements.

“We know the current political system is not working for us,” said Hartshorn. “What we’re really building is independent political power that will lead to governing power grounded in our values.”

Building independent political power and movement governance requires “building deep relationships with already [elected] progressive people and doing a lot of agenda setting, instead of [an] adversarial relationship with electeds,” she said. A part of that strategy, she explained, calls for getting people from the movement elected to public office.

Stressing the need for transformational conversations grounded in shared values and experiences in organizing both urban and rural areas in Minnesota, Hartshorn cited the member organization The Land Stewardship Project as an example. The project was “founded in 1982 to foster an ethic of stewardship for farmland, to promote sustainable agriculture, and to develop healthy communities,” according to the website. A March 17 blog entry from the Project argued that given the “uncertain times brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, buying a share in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm makes more sense than ever.” Hartshorn explained that The Land Stewardship Project “has gotten really clear about what it means to organize a base of farmers around this vision of dismantling corporate power.”

These are the deep conversations happening across the state, and the entire midwest, as communities grapple not only with the coronavirus pandemic but with things like the farm crisis and the challenges being posed by capitalism. TakeAction Minnesota and Hartshorn engage in conversations with communities and partner organizations to develop a shared vision of the things they want to change rather than simply accepting the way things have been.

In addition, TakeAction Minnesota has made space for the public to share their stories and experiences, highlighting the importance of shared narratives and storytelling from those closest to a given issue.

“Folks want to be seen, and really welcome invitations to share their story and their family’s story. And the thing about this moment of crisis is that for many of our people, the people our partners work with, our lives have been a lot of crises,” said Farhat. “We know what it means and looks like to relate to people with love, generosity, and care, as we move through tough times. And in this moment, folks are particularly hungry for connection and are particularly hungry to act together powerfully and in solidarity and to have a path forward.”

Sharing our stories and shifting narratives is important in a time where many of those elected to represent the public make decisions that are in conflict with the public’s collective well-being. In the midst of crisis and disarray, there is a lot of opportunity for new voices and perspectives to take the helm.

“It’s the moment to not be afraid to move our agenda forward or being told that we shouldn’t be operating in a powerful and political way,” says Farhat. “But in fact, everything is politics, and in order to build the world that our people deserve, our role as moving organizations, as people’s organizations, is to build and is to bring more people into our political home and to be ready on the other side of this to move a powerful agenda forward.”

Anoa Changa is Prism’s electoral justice staff reporter. Follow her on Twitter @thewaywithanoa.
Prism is a nonprofit affiliate of Daily Kos. Our mission is to make visible the people, places, and issues currently underrepresented in our democracy. By amplifying the voices and leadership of people closest to the problems, Prism tells the stories no one else is telling. Follow us on Twitter @ourprisms and on Facebook.

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Senate Republicans brag about unemployment ‘lifeline’ they voted against

Senate Republicans made a giant stink about the $600-per-week boost to unemployment insurance included in the novel coronavirus stimulus. It was just too much money for low-income people, they said. Nurses might decide not to work, said Sen. Lindsey Graham, because they could get so much money being unemployed. Nurses! 

So obviously now some of the very same Senate Republicans who voted for stingier benefits are bragging to constituents about those same benefits. That they tried to cap.

“This package that we passed will provide $600 a week on top of the Montana benefit if you’re unemployed,” Montana Sen. Steve Daines said. “That’s very significant. It more than doubles what the state of Montana pays. That’s taking care of those Montanans who’ve lost their jobs.”

Absolutely true! Daines also voted for an amendment that would have prevented people from getting the full $600 if it took them above their regular wages. The $600, by the way, came about because Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said it would be too much work for state agencies to match each person’s original pay, as Democrats had originally wanted.

”It also expands unemployment insurance eligibility, and provides an extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits. When it comes to covering bills and navigating this uncertainly, that money is a lifeline,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn wrote.

Also absolutely true! Cornyn also voted for the amendment cutting off the $600 to be sure the poors didn’t do too well.

Arizona Sen. Martha McSally and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott put out press releases touting the unemployment insurance expansion. Because all these Republican senators are terrible, terrible people. 

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