Curtain Raiser

Percy & Us Will Persevere, Colltalers

There’s no shortage of ‘I told you so’ being thrown at those facing jail for their murderous Capitol Hill rampage last month, and at Texas officials. After all, only the rioters didn’t expect their leader’s cowardice at that key moment. Or only a fossil-fuel-based state economy would deny climate change.
500,000 Americans dead of Covid-19 also means that the U.S.’s less than 4% of the world population has a fifth of all deaths reported. As President Biden reenrolls the country into the Paris Agreement, the WHO, and Iran’s nuclear treaty, still unfulfilled campaign promises are back to pressure him.
We start our roundabout this week celebrating NASA and its nothing-short-of-epic landing of the rover Perseverance on Mars. In usual fashion, the arguably most popular U.S. government agency reliably achieved yet another technological feat. It sent the artifact through seven months and millions of miles to skydive amid toxic fumes and land safely on the Red Planet. All so mankind knows it enough to exercise bragging rights. Well done, Percy.
The Nov. 3 elections will be forever marked as the day a U.S. president was stopped from proclaiming himself a king. The Democratic Party gained control over the Senate, we’re closer than ever to decriminalize pot, and a number of other good things were made into law too. But in ‘liberal’ California, the so-called gig economy scored a major and deeply demoralizing boost: the passing of Prop 22 allows some employers not to comply with labor laws.
Uber and Lyft, the U.S.’s two biggest car-services companies, can keep calling employees ‘independent contractors,’ that is, no benefits, no paid time off, and no health insurance, and it’s all for minimum wages. Oh, and you may be fired too, no questions asked. No wonder other companies plan to follow suit.
It’s a kind of backward step that will undermine what many hope for: a boom of the U.S. economy once vaccines take hold and restrictions are lifted. But if it all goes according to plan, jobs will come both from the public and private sector; thus even if the government creates a market for, say, skilled workers, a third-party company may be the one doing the hiring. And if they’re not ‘required’ to pay benefits, who thinks they’ll offer them anyway?
It is, to be sure, a faulty business model, one that forces thousands to have two or three ‘gigs‘ to pay for basic necessities, while making a few at the top, billionaires. Wealthy entrepreneurs and avid upper management types are hardly around when the fallout of the policies that enriched them rains on the lives of their one-time employees. That’s when the government is asked to pick up the debris of millions of families destroyed by systemic poverty.
There are better ways, of course, and the question in everyone’s minds now is: is an economic recovery of a post-Covid-19 world even possible if most nations won’t abide by labor laws? In other words, will Capitalism justify its quest for ‘permanent growth‘ by hiring and tossing workers like straws? To fix this issue may take the entire administration but it’ll help us keep track of how different things may really become. Otherwise, ‘we was robbed…’
Changed things could really be, using a Yoda speech-pattern. Just look at the aforementioned issue of legalizing Marijuana, weed, Canja, whatever; suddenly there’s clarity about how the ‘Drug War‘ was racially-biased and led to our current overcrowding imprisonment of Black and brown people. Also how crucial it is for those most repressed by law enforcement to now have not just their records wiped clean but also a stake in the new business.
Many also expect that kind of clarity from the president about Medicare for All, fracking, student debt, teacher promotion, defunding the police, and weapon sales, among other issues. So it happens that he’s displayed the kind of misconception that fueled wrong policies in the past. Nothing in the scale of the ignorance and mendacity permeating the previous administration, but still hardly any acknowledgment of issues that progressives fight for.
Some thought that drug decriminalization wouldn’t have a shot in the U.S. and yet, here we are starting to implement it. The same with free healthcare for the above-65 crowd which many want to be extended as a cost-effective way to protect everyone and eliminate the scourge of mounting medical debt.
As the concept of sending government checks directly to people is now considered an appropriate way for addressing the pandemic-caused almost total lack of jobs, it brings up ‘Universal Income.’ An idea first discussed in the 1960s, by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders, it’s not exactly on top of anybody’s head at the moment but it’s something that should be debated at the cabinet-level and in town meetings across the land.
As we learned more from the deadly attack on Capitol Hill by armed militia members of white supremacy groups, it’s becoming clear that there’s been planning, funding, training, strategizing, and above all, help from the White House for them to achieve the level of hate and disruption that they did. And again, even though their ring leader won’t spend a day in jail, they must, according to all legal procedures they made a public point of breaking.
It may take a few years but it’ll cause the necessary alarm among hate organizations even if many law enforcement organs will drag their feet about it. But while the FBI does its job, Congress should do its own too and proceed to expel from its ranks all those who conspired to destroy our democracy.
More than 50 people already died from the cold snap affecting Texas, a chill made worst by the collapse of the state’s stand-alone, deregulated power grid. Millions who were left without power and running water at the peak of the winter will nevertheless receive expensive consumer utility bills to pay. Regardless that the state’s fossil-fuel-driven economy has been impervious to the environmental damage it causes, Texans deserve our support.
To make sense of how the ‘two sides‘ are not the same or are made of people who actually think radically different from each other for a reason, it’s easy to compare Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, caught fleeing the state with his family, to New York Representative Alessandra Ocasio-Cortez who has raised millions of dollars for relief efforts. One is routinely execrated by the established media for being too radical. The other is just a Ted.
The disgraceful legacy and a particularly nasty strain of a virus, now mutating into other lethal variants too, can be invoked as some of the reasons why we’re still struggling to get vaccines to people most in need. Granted, the coronavirus has been defeating formidable foes and healthcare systems way more humane and effective than ours. But there must be a time when we may reaccess why labs and medical companies profit from world tragedies.
That, or allowing taxpayer-funded academic research facilities to charge private labs when they hit the jackpot for marketing a vaccine for a pandemic. No medical cure should be sold like soap; no healthcare should hassle the elders for past due bills.
If we’re to build a more equitable society, there’s no room for profiting from the human body’s basic necessities: food, shelter, education, health. None of that should be for sale. Wear two masks. Cheers WC

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