Coronavirus Journal: Day 27 – Trying to reach the back of the cabinets

Since we’ve been going to the grocery store less, we’re actually using up things in our cabinets that might have otherwise occupied space until they went bad.

I’ve also been finding and discarding products that did, in fact, occupy space until they went bad.

Silver lining? Social distancing and the fear of a deadly virus is good for minimalism. My goal is to hit the back of the cabinets and the bottom of the freezer by the time this is all over. No more old stuff sitting in the cabinets, fridge, or freezer.

Case in point is this meatloaf. I had the meat in the freezer for months and now that I have less inclination to go outside and more time to actually cook, it’s done and ready for dinner.

This is the recipe, in case you’re interested: Easy Meat Loaf

The toilet paper drought is finally hitting the Bronx

Since this COVID-19 thing started in New York City, people have been panic buying. One dude buying 20 jars of spaghetti sauce, every shelf in the store is now empty, kind of panic buying. Or at least, that’s how it was down in Manhattan near my mom’s place.

At the two grocery stores near our apartment in the Bronx, everything has been pretty regular in terms of availability. For a few days, the grocery stores were out of ginger. The liquid hand soap was gone from one of two grocery stores for a week. The TP was gone for a few days, but then was restocked. Now, one grocery store has TP and the other doesn’t.

It doesn’t seem like a hoarding issue so much as a supply issue at this point. In the last month, people bought three or more months worth the toilet paper instead of what they would normally buy, so there’s just a shortage coming out of the factories. A self-fulfilling TP shortage.

The food shelves were never totally emptied here. I can tell sales are good though, because I haven’t seen a damn thing on sale at Key Foods for two weeks. I’d like to go to Walmart in NJ, but with the way people are talking, I’m not sure there’d be anything there to buy. Or maybe there’s a line? Or maybe it’s going to be full of people passing the virus around to each other?

I get why people hoard now, though. When they first started, I didn’t understand it. It looked like people were just being stupid, but I’ve been thinking about it and I realized that some people must literally have bought enough so they could go in their house and not come out for weeks or months, because they have the money for it and a job that allows them to work from home. And, given that almost 300 people are dying a day in New York City right now, maybe that was the right move after all. The more you limit your exposure, the more likely you are to not die in the next few months.

Not dying due to exposure to the pandemic has become a class privilege. Just like Cuomo freezing mortgages but not rents. Apparently, renters are supposed to magically pull rent out of their butts even if they haven’t been working, but home owners have to be protected. Even though they’re in the minority.

It doesn’t seem like people in this part of the Bronx are as prone to hoarding as people in other neighborhoods. We’ve discussed whether it’s because of culture, not recognizing the seriousness of the pandemic, or because people in this area just can’t afford to buy multiple weeks or months of groceries all at once in advance. Maybe it’s a bit of all three.

Only the off-brand stuff is left.

Anyway, the shelves are finally starting to look a little bare in the TP section now. Paper towels too. We still bought the same was what we’d normally buy. We have actual towels that we can use instead of paper towels and if we run out of TP, we can wash our butts in the shower.

So, totally not worried about that.

A few thoughts on the impact of coronavirus in the USA

I’ve heard that there are conspiracy theories floating around that the US created the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. I haven’t bothered to read them, though I know it began with China denying the virus started there, as if their denial can change reality. We all know the first cases of the virus were from people working in a wet market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, and last time I checked, Hubei is part of China.

What’s the point of pushing culpability onto the US? I saw a news headline that mentioned a group of lawyers filing a class action lawsuit against China regarding the coronavirus. Again, didn’t read it, but I imagine it alleges that China tried to cover up the outbreak by silencing/killing doctors who spoke out, and is continuing to downplay the actual numbers of infected and dead. So, I guess China is worried about financial liability and wants to muddy the waters? Are they trying to “save face”? Is it just to maintain some sort of propaganda within China?

Should a country be responsible for a viral outbreak that starts within its territory? I’m inclined to say yes, but only if that outbreak started because the country wasn’t enforcing proper sanitation protocols regarding contact with animals. I don’t even know what that would mean or how you would enforce that, though. What happens if a salmon virus outbreak starts in Japan because people eat sushi, for example? Eating the fish raw is the whole point.

And what kind of sanctions could you impose that wouldn’t cause the offending country to implode? On the one hand, people would like to have a country that caused massive deaths punished, and maybe some would be ok with the country falling to pieces. On the other hand, having a country disintegrate would be dangerous in many other ways, especially if it’s a country like China which supplies so much of the world’s raw materials.

A lot of people have pointed out that this situation shows the dangers of having so much of the world’s production tied up in one country. I agree. I think it’s dangerous for the US to rely so heavily on China for raw materials. It’s obvious why we do, though. The labor there is cheaper so the materials are cheaper. It lets companies price products lower so that companies can also keep wages in the US depressed, allowing for greater wealth concentration.

That’s a pretty dangerous mindset, really. Corporations, with the tacit approval of the US government, have allowed wages in the US to stagnate and fall for decades while allowing an ever greater concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands. It’s a danger to the entire country. If people have no spending power, the economy will collapse. And “the people” aren’t just the rich few. It’s everyone. Capitalism relies on a strong middle class to function properly.

I don’t understand how people can be so strongly in favor of undermining the source of their wealth. Do they think that if the US economy tanks they’ll be ok? Aren’t they worried that the value of their wealth will tank as the US dollar tanks? I’m not an expert in stocks and markets and all that, but it just seems bizarre to me that people who have a vested interest in the economy wouldn’t push harder on legislators to even things out a bit. Or I guess much more than a bit now, considering how severe the income inequality in the US is.

Maybe it’s ok that the US is going through this huge crisis. Maybe it’s even ok that on the other end of it we might not be a superpower anymore. At this point, the only thing super about the US is the US military. Everything else is falling apart. We’re not number 1 in anything. It’s embarrassing and it’s something we should address instead of trying to hide it behind false bravado pretending to be patriotism.

Maybe this is the wake-up call that the US needs to reinvest in the American worker and the American Middle Class. Maybe this is the wake-up call that the US needs to hammer home how important it is to have a national healthcare system that provides services to everyone. A national healthcare system that can act as a single entity, devising emergency plans for pandemics and natural disasters, creating warehouses of emergency inventory that is regularly cycled to maintain its freshness and usability.

Coronavirus Journal: Day 25 – #coronavirusUSA mascot?

So, I was sitting at the dinner table, trying to get some remote work done and I saw something moving out of the corner of my eye, out the window. I looked over and saw a black bird, a crow, standing on the antennae of the neighboring building.

Ok. Great. A crow. I felt like it fit really well with the current mood in the city and the country. We are the new Italy. We are the new global epicenter of death and coronavirus related destruction, so a crow seemed really appropriate. Hell, the scientific name for a crow is even “corvus”. Coronavirus.

But then he turned and looked at me and I realized the fucker was holding half a hotdog in his beak.

He hopped around, turning this way and that, as if he was gloating over his prize. He must have realized I was watching him because he stopped and starting eyeballing me. He tipped his head back and forth and then decided to move to safer ground, just in case I felt inclined to go out the window after him to challenge him for his hotdog.

The crow turning and preparing to take flight, like the number of coronavirus related deaths in the US.

The fact that the crow was holding half a hotdog in his beak just made the imagery better for me. Here was a representation of death holding a hotdog and chilling outside, the American coronavirus mascot.

I could almost hear him screaming, “HOLD MY BEER! USA! USA! WhooooooOOOooo!” as he flew up and away, out of our control.

Coronavirus Journal: Day 22 – Corporate Bailouts

I talked to a guy on the phone for work and he said that he was still going to the park and I guess that’s fine. That’s allowed. But it just seems so dangerous to me. Not just for him, but for his kids and anyone else he comes in contact with at home. The parks aren’t officially closed but the number of cases and the number of deaths in New York City is skyrocketing. 222 people died on Saturday in New York City. I miss going out but I’m happy to just watch the world pass by from my window until the pandemic dies down to reasonable levels. I’m not interested in becoming a casualty.

There are a lot of stupid people posting online about how COVID-19 is “just like the flu” or “no worse than the flu”. That’s not just a stupid thing to say, it’s also a dangerous thing to say. Downplaying the severity of the illness and making people think it’s ok to go out in big groups is going to make things worse and drag the whole thing out longer than it needs to. It’ll kill more people.

The death rate for COVID-19 is much higher than the average flu. The average death rate for flu is about .1%. The average death rate for COVID-19 is 4.7% worldwide (as of today, 3/29/2020 at 7PM EST). 4.7% of the US population is 15,510,000. So, obviously, COVID-19 is a lot worse, and it can hit young people too, not just the elderly. Then, all it takes is having some underlying condition that you might not even be aware of for your entire immune system to be overwhelmed. Then you wind up as just another statistic.

The $2.2T dollar stimulus deal the US government passed is a joke. It’s not even a stimulus. It’s another corporate bailout designed to protect the stock portfolios of the wealthy. It’s like all of these politicians forgot that the way the economy stays healthy is by increasing the spending power of the lower and middle classes. Money has to be flowing from the bottom up, but we’ve had a problem in the US for decades where the money that flows up to the top isn’t coming back down. Trickle down economics is a lie. Anyone still pushing it has an agenda and that agenda isn’t to make America and the American economy strong. It’s to line someone’s pockets.

This probably all goes back to the shift in the US economy from being an industrial economy to being a service/financial (creating money out of thin air through financial bullsh*ting) economy. We don’t make anything here anymore. Not in any significant amounts. Finding something Made in the USA is like finding a four leaf clover. And now we’re suffering because of it. The world is suffering because of how much we’ve outsourced to other countries, especially China.

China gave us COVID-19. Then they turned around and sold defective face masks to the Netherlands that were used in their hospitals where COVID-19 is being treated. Then they gave defective testing kits to the Philippines.

Made in China. It already meant “low quality”. Now it means “dangerous” too. But I don’t really blame China. China is playing the Capitalist game that the West pushed on them.

We have created a system that drives people to create companies that are as exploitative as possible, with no loyalty to their workers or the country that they got started in. It’s disgusting. I’m not pushing the idea that we need full-on Communism, Socialism, and Fascism, but I think we need to move back towards a point where we as a nation, and the Financial parasites in particular, have a sense of loyalty and duty to the country and their workers.

Japan Airline's CEO Slashes his Pay Below the Pay of Pilots, other CEO Should Learn from Him !

Workers should share in the success of a company. I saw an interview once with a Japanese CEO of Japan Airlines in Tokyo. He was absolutely shocked by how much company executives make compared to their workers. He felt that he made a good amount of money and that there was pride and prestige in his position. He felt a responsibility for his employees and lowered his pay along with theirs during the aftermath of the 2008 recession.

We need that in the US. Something is broken. Companies are getting a bailout again and the peasants are getting a trifle that won’t even, in many cases, cover the rent and basic utilities. If this goes on for another month, people are going to need another check from the government and they’ll need one that’s substantial enough to actually make a difference. Or the hit to the housing economy is going to be substantial.

But at least we have toilet paper, I guess.

Key Foods in the Bronx. Toilet paper is making it back onto the shelves.