Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Difficulty of Voting from Abroad in the Time of COVID-19

As the head of a social studies department at a reputable Guangzhou high school,  I care about American history and, as a lawyer and amateur civil rights activist, I know something about poll taxes. Paying to send my ballot through China Post, EMS, DHL, UPS (the green option), FedEx (which may rise to the occasion and mail US ballots for free!), etc. is, in my opinion, possibly a poll ta. Even if I might, personally, be able to send my ballot in a platinum envelope by private jet...which I cannot, there are those who cannot. That is why Americans overseas are able to send ballots through their consulates' diplomatic pouches. Yet, I also understand from the consular officer who just called me that it is a service but not a requirement, dependent on volume (which, incidentally, is very low now), that the consulates accept ballots to be mailed in this fashion. 

Mailing out ballots without a poll tax is discretionary in 2020!?

At approximately 10:40 AM today, I entered the US Consulate in Guangzhou passing two male security guards at different checkpoints with my backpack and proceeded to the door of the security checkpoint where a young woman was helping another American with a green card. After she finished helping him I told her I was there to mail my ballot and she said that I needed an appointment. I insisted on being seen, explaining that staff were supposed to be retrained in January or February  after my last visit where I was told that mailing a ballot does not require an appointment, and, at that point, she asked me if I spoke Chinese, then summoned another guard who spoke English. That guard had me call American Citizen Services and they required my name (just my name) so that they could call the door guards to let me in. They let me in and then told me that since I had a laptop in my bag, I would need to leave and come back. 

At about 11:10 AM, I came back, bearing only keys and a cell phone, which I left at the door in a cubby, and thanked them politely. 

Then, I went to the window on the second floor with my envelope which I believed was too large for postal regulations. I asked if it was an acceptable size and she asked me to wait while she went to check and then she returned saying I was all set and I could just email them, like last time, to get the tracking number. I do not blame this person for doing a poor job in checking the size requirements, but I am worried that others' ballots will be rejected by USPS somewhere along the chain (or even by some consulates) because they do not meet size requirements. This possible objection to ballots needs to be resolved! 

At about 12:10 pm, I called to say that I was confused because I did not think my ballot was the right size and they told me the person who handled it would call me back and let me know if I needed to return to retrieve it. Imagine returning to retrieve a voted ballot when the staffer at American Citizen Services did not even check my passport, although, to her credit, the door staff did check my passport after I was forced to call and give my name. 

I received the promised call at about 1:25 PM Tuesday in China and it was from a male consular staffer who was very helpful, professional, and understanding, not the Chinese staffer who had helped me, who was also helpful. I have messaged them now and asked for the tracking number. They will also RE-confirm that the envelope size is appropriate. I hope this information is helpful for you as we strive to improve the overseas American voting experience ahead of the remaining primaries and November 2020 General Election. Thank you. Apologies for being such a strident, Kafkaesque character, but given the alacrity with which these problems need to be solved I do not know how else to communicate efficiently with those who need to know about these problems.  I hope they are local and not happening across the globe.

Alexander Lee
Guangzhou, China πŸ‡¨πŸ‡³ 

PS I buried the lede: I was almost turned away again from the same consulate. If I was not versed in my rights, I would have left when the first guard asked me to. This really is not acceptable, even in this plagued time, given past correspondence with this consulate to which this message is a reply.




---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Guangzhou ACS <GuangzhouACS@state.gov>
Date: Fri, Feb 7, 2020 at 12:13 PM
Subject: Re: Voting
To: VoteBEIJING <VoteBEIJING@state.gov>, CIS.Guangzhou@uscis.dhs.gov <CIS.Guangzhou@uscis.dhs.gov>, alee@alexanderplee.com <alee@alexanderplee.com>
CC: Aaron Kruse <aaronmkruse@gmail.com>, ada shen <ada.shen@gmail.com>


Mr. Lee,

Thank you for taking the time to email with your feedback. Your ballot was well received this morning and we have reminded our staff that U.S. Citizens do not require an appointment to deliver their ballots, even during this difficult time.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

Best regards, 

Carrie

Guangzhou American Citizen Services Unit

U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou | ηΎŽε›½ι©»εΉΏε·žζ€»ι’†δΊ‹ι¦†

43 Hua Jiu Road, Zhujiang New Town, Guangzhou, China 510623 | εΉΏε·žεΈ‚η ζ±Ÿζ–°εŸŽεŽε°±θ·―43号,510623

Tel:  (020) 3814 5775

Fax:  (020) 3814 5572

 

After hour emergencies:  (010) 8531 4000

Email: guangzhouacs@state.gov

Website:  http://china.usembassy-china.org.cn

 

Follow us on WeChat!



From: Alexander Lee <alexander.p.lee@gmail.com>
Sent: Friday, February 7, 2020 11:07 AM
To: VoteBEIJING <VoteBEIJING@state.gov>; CIS.Guangzhou@uscis.dhs.gov <CIS.Guangzhou@uscis.dhs.gov>; Guangzhou ACS <GuangzhouACS@state.gov>
Cc: Aaron Kruse <aaronmkruse@gmail.com>; ada shen <ada.shen@gmail.com>
Subject: Voting
 
To Whom It May Concern:

In light of the coronavirus, it is understandable that an appointment may eventually be needed for all American Citizen Services in China, Hong Kong, and other places in the world. On Wednesday, in Guangzhou, I was turned away with my completed ballot and asked to make an appointment. Today, I brought my ballot and it will go in the next diplomatic pouch. I received very good service at the counter and want to thank you for helping Americans fulfill their sacred duty to vote during this troubling time, when so much else weighs upon us.

I hope that at all consulates across China and in Beijing's embassy facility, the paid Chinese security personnel can be reminded that nobody who appears to mail a ballot, even in this trying time, should be turned away...as I understand that is still the policy.

Thank you and sorry to add to your burden during this busy and trying time.

Walk in balance,

Alexander Lee

Phone: (802) 324-8940 (U.S.) +86 181 2793 5410 (China) 
Skype Handle: laundrylister

--
Walk in balance,

Alexander Lee

Sent from my iThang

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Sending a Hershey's Kiss: An Open Letter to Bill McKibben of 450.org

This post wrestles with the question, "What is hubris?" and may even display some of my own. 

Jeff Chiu/AP/Shutterstock; Craig Lassig/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Before you read this, you should watch Michael Moore's Planet of the Humans and read Bill McKibben's response in Rolling Stone, ‘A Bomb in the Center of the Climate Movement’: Michael Moore Damages Our Most Important Goal.

I have personally known Bill McKibben since college, when, in 1996-97, I wrote part of my thesis about him and invited him to join the advisory board of a nascent Project Laundry List, to which he agreed. I participated in the 2007 and 2011 events of 450.org [sic] as a principal organizer in Concord, NH. I have supported him morally and loyally over the years, maintained a friendship, and believe he has great courage (death threats suck, I am sure) as well as leadership ability.

I watched his earlier days as a frequent attendee at his public remarks, replete with his practiced "I am humble" boilerplate, delivered consistently with an almost Biden-like stutter, "I am a writer, not a public speaker." I observed him with some mixture of skepticism and some measure of awe. Though, from a technical forensics point-of-view, I could never really understand why, he is nonetheless a force behind the podium. With his Mr. Rogers-like, sweater-wearing shtick (except Rogers was a Presbyterian minister, not a UCC parishioner) and his command of the zeitgeist, as well as the evolving "facts" of climate science, he draws us in. He does not have the outwardly powerful oratory skills of Dr. Helen Caldicott, his other Project Laundry List advisory board member and a closer friend of mine. But he does have a command of the logos, ethos, and pathos that are necessary to deliver a good talk. He also has a sort of John the Baptist prophetic thing going on, some of it born of his constant reminders that it was he, in 1989, a year after I did my 8th grade science project on the greenhouse effect, who really brought the climate change debate out of the laboratories and into the New Yorker-reading salons of America. He greets people like a Quaker, "How are you, Friend? Nice to see you again, Friend." He is just appealingly warm, like Mr. Rogers. And I don't say this to be dismissive. (What is it that Dorothy Day would say when people called her a saint? "I don't want to be dismissed so easily.")

With Machiavellian or Sun Tzu-esque determination and stratagems, McKibben has built 450.org [sic] into a force to be reckoned with and the battery of successes in recent months with Goldman Sachs, Oxford University, Chase Manhattan are a testament, in part to the fortitude he has shown, in the face of our daunting task: repairing humanities ways enough to avoid major disruption or even our own species decimation. As Bill would say, though, even before his daughter Sophie reminded him of it after that "overflow" Brown talk (mentioned in the Rolling Stone piece), these successes are really attributable to a small army of mostly volunteers, not all under the banner of 450.org [sic] and many of them not white men, like Bill (and me).

I respect Bill, admire and like him as a very human being. Therefore, I read his self-admittedly somewhat self-aggrandizing, albeit probably necessary, Rolling Stone piece, mentioned above as required prerequisite reading for this post, and came away feeling sad that he felt the need to write it. There is an aspect of, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." (Shakespeare, Hamlet) It is a convincing polemic, but sort of pathetic, too.

Michael Moore has always been a noisy, iconoclastic, sloppy grouch. It is his brand, his schtick. He seems to revel uncomfortably at times in his wiggly girth and shows off his Flinty proletariat sneakers as the quintessential Everyman from Middle America. Like Bill McKibben in his Boston Red Sox cap, some of Moore's trappings are campy and rehearsed, or, to give the benefit of the doubt to both successful men, authentic expressions of who they really are. (We are citizens, after all, of a country where the Senate Majority Leader thinks the return of baseball is a top priority. Meanwhile... no, I will not digress.)

Anyway, I was sort of sorry that McKibben took the bait, but maybe "all press is good press" and this is a fight worth having, because McKibben really believes, like my friend Chris from high school ("$&@&((;!!!! $&@$&($;@??)!!!!!!...I’m going to have this film thrown in my face by policy makers."), that this is going to divide the environmental movement or, worse, provide power to the fossil fuel power lobby. I am not convinced on these last two points, partly because I do not fancy that there really is a cohesive environmental movement and mostly because I think people are smart enough to see the problems with Moore's film. A small library of critiques has already been published.

A Story Out Of My School: Is the Kiss Story True?


Now I want to tell a tale out of school. A couple days after hearing Dr. Helen Caldicott speak powerfully about how we are likely to all die from nuclear weapons or nuclear power, I went to visit Bill McKibben in his office on the top of the hill in Middlebury, Vermont, at the college on the hill. He was a somewhat recently appointed Scholar-in-Residence at that point and his sparse bookshelves had a bag of Hershey's Kisses on them. He offered me one and I smirked, "Helen would not want me to eat that."

"Why?" he asked.

"Because Hershey's Kisses are made next to Three Mile Island." [the site of a nuclear accident near Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania]

McKibben's next words surprised me. He has always been avidly anti-nuclear, because he recognizes the hubris inherent in that bargain, but he said, "That's ridiculous. Black carbon is going to get us first..." He launched into a long description of what he meant and I ate the Kiss. A couple days later, Professor Michael Dorsey, then at Dartmouth College, had invited me down to Cambridge, MA, to hear Dr. Theo Epstein, an aged, now deceased expert on endocrine disruption. In her speech she said something to the effect of, "It is not climate change or nuclear weapons, but dangerous chemicals in the environment that are going to get us first." This inspired me--as much an expert on laundry as Helen on nukes or Bill on climate or Theo on endocrine disruption, to write ironically, in a book about laundry that I never got published, "Laundry is the only thing that matters."

In looking for a publisher, I shared the manuscript with Bill. Though I will go to my grave knowing what was uttered, because I could not make-up the details of the Hershey's Kiss story if I tried, McKibben told me that we had never had that conversation. I decided not to pursue it, because I thought what Bill was doing was worthy and I did not need a rift with him over some silly throw-away line in an allegory for my book. It wounded me, though, because he questioned my veracity and it scared me a little, because I saw that he knew then how important control of the message about who he is had become. There were so many lessons to glean from the day of the Kiss and the day he rejected the Kiss story.

Nobody Likes (Or Should Like) A Javier

Jon Krakauer's nasty Three Cups of Deceipt turned me off to his writings permanently. Well-researched and correct on many accounts, it was a tremendous amount of effort on Krakauker's part to show (er, expose) that someone who was basically well-meaning, if ethically a bit loose, was not a knight in shining armor. Michael Moore, niggardly and with all of the flare of Ai Wei-wei but less of the gravitas, has advertently or inadvertently stepped into that Victor Hugo role with the release of this film. I hope that McKibben's Lady Macbethian protestations do not force him and Gibbs to dig in their heels. That is, indeed, the risk of McKibben's response. Since Bill has sought to demonize them and make them into irresponsible trolls, bent on breaking a movement (that does not really exist) or providing cover for the dishonest corporations, such as Exxon, and their eleemosynary handmaidens at Heartwood or such, the natural response of Moore and Gibbs might be to say, "We made this movie because we think we are right."

I am no moral relativist, but there is no right here. We are all feeling our way in the dark. I have some John the Baptist qualities, too. I remember having another conversation with McKibben, both of us non-scientists, where I said that I did not understand why "natural gas" was being promoted as a transition fuel, because methane was 87 times more potent as a climate warming gas over a 20 year period than carbon dioxide. At that time, natural gas was seen as better than dirty coal and he did his best to explain. Now we know that it might not be (but let''s not get lost in that red herring argument right now) and, as Bill notes in Rolling Stone for the zillionth time, we know that we have to get off all fossil fuels and wood chips today. Whether we should also get off solar and wind is an interesting question. (Maybe we should stop doing laundry, too, and just wear our Levi's for months without washing. Not a novel suggestion!)

The real truth is that we, as a sentient species with higher-consciousness, are desperate in the face of a likely existential challenge. We are faced with the question, in America (as America goes, so goes the planet?) of whether we want to die quickly with Trump, a dangerous anti-science ignoramus, or slowly with Biden, who has never been a leader on climate change. Those of us who have been thinking about climate change since 1988 or 1989 or longer know that we are, as a species, fucked and that a lot of other species are fucked because of us. I knew it about ten years ago, which is why I did the cowardly but sane thing, and moved to China to teach English and American history, leaving the environmental movement behind. It was clear. Enough people were not going to cold-water wash or line dry their clothes, properly inflate their car tires, adopt LED bulbs, etc. Corporations and governments were not going to do the right thing in time for us to avoid catastrophic warming. We did not know enough about the impact of thawing permafrost and methane clathrates, leaking pipelines or much of anything to be sure that we could keep the Earth's air and water currents flowing in their current patterns. But people like McKibben and my high school friend Chris, who, when we met again in our thirties, was an eager beaver bureaucrat (with the over-confidence inculcated into us at the Academy, he thought he could change the world), have soldiered on for this past decade. Why? Hope. Hope, faith, and love. The greatest of these may, in the end, not be love (heretical as that may be), but hope. Hope, Human and Wild.

So what is so enraging about the Moore and Gibbs' project is that it is hopelessly devoid of solutions, but that does not then make it a worthless endeavor. Michael Moore works on worthwhile topics; credit where credit is due. As I said before, it asks some good questions, which, as I tell my students, is the most important skill. The big question for all of us is: where do we need to go and how fast? The Hopers (like Chris and Bill) think that the world we must create assembles a bearable existence (no Utopia, for sure) with fields of solar panels and pasture-fed livestock. The Cynics like Leonardo DiCaprio's Cowspiracy directors, Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn, and Michael Moore's Planet of the Humans director, Jeff Gibbs, believe that the world, if it is to be joyous and inhabitable, may not look like that Sierra Club and Greenpeace-approved version. These are not two camps. I, for one, do not belong to either one. I hope, nay I faithfully believe that most of us know we are just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic until we figure out together what that world has to look like, still knowing that when we do "know" we may still be wrong. Nobody can be sure. If they tell you that they are, cry, "Hubris" and move to China...or Australia.







Monday, April 20, 2020

Eulogy: Dr. N has Passed Away

Today I learned that Dr. N died of COVID-19 complications in a nursing home in Canton. He was a Persian immigrant, a cardiologist who drove early morning carpool a couple times per week when I was in kindergarten and first grade (which I did twice with good benefit!). He would firmly correct me and the other kids, though seemingly I was the most frequent offender, “Not Mr. N., Doctor N!” He was married to a boisterous friend of my mother’s, who was famous with us for going barefoot in all environments in all months of the year, a memory which is surely exaggerated by the passage of time. They had three kids together, all of them older than my twin sister and me; I think all of them might have become doctors.

So Dr. N. died and I am melancholy because now I know somebody, but maybe it was a blessing because he spent the last years of his life mostly separated from the ones that he loved and who loved him. Instead of the seemingly marvelous Gandhi that he was in the days before dementia set in, he had become an unmanageable tyrant, which apparently Gandhi was, too, moving from institution to institution, including McLean, where the very much alive James Taylor and the late poet Robert Lowell and other Brahmins have spent time struggling with demons. 


I feel a million miles away. Starting to play the unhealthy game of: What if I get sick? What if my aged parents or other loved ones, whose funerals I have pledged (silently to myself) that I shall not miss, get taken away? Of course, it occurs to me that even if I was in New England, funerals might not take place for months. 

I am trapped here--almost no commercial planes in or out--in a country that has nearly doubled its death toll number for the city at the epicenter. ("The Chinese government has upped its official coronavirus death toll to 4,632 -- an increase of nearly 40 percent.") The Trump Administration is ratcheting up the rhetoric about China, with Pompeo focused on 5G from Huawei and the President off-message, but pounding China as a foe. On March 4, I made a decision to return, which I do not yet regret, but it was certainly based on incomplete information. Nevertheless, China's "fake numbers" does seem to be the result of media bias. By mid-February, China had flattened its curve.

I have watched the unfolding events here with horror and a growing amount of fear. "Harbin has had 26 new confirmed cases and 19 asymptomatic infections since April 9. Before that, the province had reported zero domestic infections for 29 consecutive days." Harbin, the capital of China's northeasternmost province, is 2070 miles away or roughly as far away as Chibougamu, Quebec, is from Miami, Florida, but it is relevant, because, like Guangzhou, it is a border city and the Chinese have tried mightily in the last few weeks to make the case that most new cases have stemmed from foreigners. They have rushed to gather the data that proves their point.

Readers of this blog know that there was a dragnet for Africans here in Guangzhou, which eventually attracted international media attention and the condemnation of legates from a variety of One Belt, One Road countries in the global South. The police force here has vowed to deport 'foreigners' who refuse to be quarantined amid rising xenophobia due to coronavirus. "Officials have also disclosed that 4,553 Africans, out of a black population of about the same figure, had undergone testing in Guangzhou since April 3." [my emphasis] (The Nation- a Nigerian publication)*

On a brighter note, a black British acquaintance of mine, whose wife is from a nation in Africa from which no reported imported cases came, was thrown into quarantine for only three days and then released, rather bafflingly. I surmise there was a response from Beijing to the local government's draconian treatment of blacks--no matter where they are from. However, the blaming of foreigners for the spread of this disease seems to be on the rise, perhaps as a reaction to the problematic response of my own government, where top officials call it the Wuhan or China virus. This may just be my perception from news articles and endless reports from foreign friends and acquaintances. 

Yesterday, another acquaintance reported that not only was he in quarantine because a sick person had visited the restaurant where he is a proprietor, but all four restaurants that are frequented by foreigners on that street have been shut down by the government. One of the people who went to one of those restaurants is from Boston and he was taken away from his Chinese girlfriend and her daughter after contact tracing led to his door. He is angry, because they scammed him into extra blood tests and a CT scan. "Seems it was optional." He is also frustrated because he says, "I was taken out of my house like a criminal." 


*I think that these numbers are underestimates; there are many more Africans here than that, quite a few without proper paperwork reportedly, and there are large numbers of "blacks" (of African and Caribbean origin) who are here from the US, UK, and other nations. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

"Sorry Africa"

for Tony Bird


It has been a long, long time since I have seen Tony Bird, who visited the stage of Phillips Exeter Academy when I was a student there, but his lyricism haunts to me today, as President Donald Trump withdraws the United States from funding the World Health Organization (WHO).

"The widespread evictions and mistreatment of African migrants in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has caused a serious rupture in China-Africa relations. Chinese ambassadors across Africa have been called into various foreign ministries to explain why so many of their nationals in Guangzhou have been visibly mistreated by authorities and rendered homeless by the evictions from their homes and hotels." (The China Africa Project) You may want to have a listen to the following if you want to see a constructive resolution to this problem.



Meanwhile, in the United States, racism against people of Chinese origin and, based on appearance, against all East Asian people, is on full display. Historically, black, brown, and red communities in the United States have had negative saving rates (i.e., large amounts of credit card debt) and virtually no wealth, outside of often second-rate lands held in trust by the tribes and Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs. This is a problem that Dr. Fauci and others have been clear can no longer be ignored or shoved under the rug.

The strategic and humanitarian blunder of this temporary, and possibly long-term, denial of funding to the World Health Organization by the United States government will crush the developing world, destroying its chances of procuring needed supplies...unless China, in its push for soft power in the global South (or because it is a humanitarian regime?), steps in. Trump has invited that solution, which will virtually eliminate the United States reputation as a force for good in the world.

The WHO is certainly not beyond reproach, but how will the world get Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, etc. test kits and personal protective equipment without the full-funding and assistance of the WHO? It will be a patchwork response like we have seen in the United States, because of the failure of the disorganized federal government led by a heartless, merciless egomaniac. The small states, that don't get to band together with CA, OR, and WA, such as Idaho and Burkina Faso, may well go without or see poorly implemented "back-to-work" efforts that lead to more deaths.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Fwd: The boldest piece of legislation ever written in modern history:


From: Bernie Sanders <info@berniesanders.com>
Date: Mon, Apr 6, 2020 at 7:07 AM
Subject: The boldest piece of legislation ever written in modern history:


Our country is now facing its worst crisis in modern history.

Alexander -
Our country is now facing its worst crisis in modern history. We are in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that could lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of Americans and infect millions of others, and we are entering an economic downturn that could be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Last week, 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment. This week that number doubled to 6.6 million claims — ten times higher than any other week on record. It is certain that well over 10 million people have lost their jobs — more than in the Wall Street crash of 2008.
In this unprecedented moment in modern American history, it is imperative that we respond in an unprecedented way. And that means that Congress must pass, in the very near future, the boldest piece of legislation ever written in modern history.
There are many, many issues that must be addressed in our response to this pandemic, and working together, we will make sure they are addressed.
1. Addressing the Employment Crisis and Providing Immediate Financial Relief
There is little doubt in my mind that we are facing an economic crisis that could be even worse than the Great Depression. The St. Louis Federal Reserve has projected that 47 million more people may become unemployed by the end of June, with unemployment reaching 32 percent. In my view, we must make sure that every worker in America continues to receive their paycheck during this crisis and we must provide immediate financial relief to everyone in this country.
An important precedent for that approach was taken in the recent stimulus package in which grants were provided to the airlines for the sole purpose of maintaining the paychecks and benefits of some 2 million workers in that industry through September 30. We must expand that program to cover every worker in America and we must make it retroactive to the beginning of this crisis. This is not a radical idea. Other countries, such as the UK, Norway, Denmark, France, and others have all come up with similar approaches to sustain their economy and prevent workers from losing their jobs.
Our primary goal during this crisis must be to prevent the disintegration of the American economy. It will be much easier and less expensive to prevent the collapse of the economy than trying to put it back together after it collapses.
To do this, we must also begin monthly payments of $2,000 for every man, woman, and child in our country, and guarantee paid family leave throughout this crisis so that people who are sick do not face the choice of infecting others or losing their job.
2. We Must Guarantee Health Care to All
Let's be clear: we were facing a catastrophic health care crisis before the pandemic, and now that crisis has become much, much worse. Already, 87 million people are uninsured or underinsured. Layoffs will mean tens of millions of people more will lose their current insurance — which will result in countless deaths and bankruptcies. Already in the last two weeks, an estimated 3.5 million people have lost their employer-sponsored insurance.
And as the pandemic grows, we are seeing more and more reports of people who have delayed treatment due to concerns about cost. In this pandemic, uninsurance will lead to deaths and more COVID-19 transmissions.
Therefore, during this crisis, Medicare must be empowered to pay all of the deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for the uninsured and the underinsured. No one in America who is sick, regardless of immigration status, should be afraid to seek the medical treatment they need during this national pandemic. Let me be clear: I am not proposing that we pass Medicare for All in this moment. That fight continues into the future. But, for the moment, we must act boldly to make sure everyone can get the health care they need in the coming months.
3. Use the Defense Production Act to Produce the Equipment and Testing We Need
Unbelievably, in the United States right now, doctors and nurses are unnecessarily putting their lives on the line treating people suffering from the coronavirus because they lack personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, and surgical gowns. The CDC has directed health professionals to use homemade gear like bandanas or scarves and some workers at the VA are being told to re-use one surgical mask for a week at a time. HHS estimated that our country needs 3.5 billion masks in response to this crisis.
President Trump has utilized the Defense Production Act thousands of times for the military and for enforcement of his immigration policies, yet he has resisted using its power to save lives during the pandemic. That is unacceptable. We must immediately and forcefully use the Defense Production Act to direct the production of all of the personal protective equipment, ventilators and other medical supplies needed.
We must also utilize this power to produce antibody tests so we can begin figuring out who has already contracted the virus and has developed some immunity to COVID-19.
In addition, OSHA must adopt a strong emergency standard to protect health care workers, patients, and the public during this crisis. We must crack down aggressively on price gougers and hoarders, and use any means necessary to secure supplies.
4. Make Sure No One Goes Hungry
Even before this crisis hit, one in every seven kids in America was going hungry and nearly 5.5 million seniors in our country struggled with hunger. Already in this crisis we see lines at food banks and growing concern that our most vulnerable communities and those recently unemployed may struggle to feed their families.
As communities face record levels of food insecurity, we must increase SNAP benefits, expand the WIC program for pregnant mothers, infants, and children, double funding for the Emergency Food Program (TEFAP) to ensure food banks have food to distribute, and expand Meals on Wheels and School Meals programs. When necessary, we must also develop new approaches to deliver food to vulnerable populations — including door-to-door drop offs.
5. Provide Emergency Aid to States and Cities
Even as state and local employees like police officers, firefighters and paramedics work on the front lines of this pandemic, states and cities that pay their salaries are facing enormous budgetary pressures.
Congress must provide $600 billion in direct fiscal aid to states and cities to ensure they have the personnel and funding necessary to respond to this crisis. In addition, the Federal Reserve must establish programs to provide direct fiscal support and budgetary relief to states and municipalities.
6. Suspend Monthly Payments
Even before this crisis, half of the people in our country were living paycheck to paycheck. In America today, over 18 million families are paying more than 50 percent of their income on housing. Now, with growing unemployment, families are facing financial ruin if we do not act quickly and boldly.
That's why we must suspend monthly expenses like rent, mortgages, medical debt and consumer debt collection for 4 months. We must cancel all student loan payments for the duration of this crisis, and place an immediate moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shut-offs.
Brothers and sisters: In this unprecedented moment in our history it is easy to feel like we are alone, and that everyone must fend for themselves. But that would be a mistake and a terrible tragedy. Now, more than any other moment in our lives, we must remember that we are all in this together — that when one of us gets sick, many more may get sick. And when my neighbor loses their job, I may lose my job as well.
Further, we cannot wait until our economy collapses to act. It will be far easier and less expensive to act now, in a very bold way, than to try to rebuild our country later.
If we work together and unite behind these basic principles of economic and health justice, I am confident that we will not only get through this unprecedented crisis together but that we will lay the groundwork for a better and more just America in the future.
In solidarity,
Bernie Sanders

Paid for by Bernie 2020
(not the billionaires)
PO BOX 391, Burlington, VT 05402
Before you go about the rest of your day, help power our fight against the billionaire class by making a contribution today.
Submit this form to update your contact information.

Sub-Saharan Africa Needs Your Help

Doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe are not going to hospital. They are on strike because they do not have the masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as the testing kits, that can adequately protect them. The nearly 15 million people of Zimbabwe are at risk, where . So is the rest of sub-Sahran Africa. Always the poorest and hardest hit place, I am asking you to contribute to the American Friends Service Committee to help, at a minimum, get the striking health workers of Zimbabwe back to work. (They are working with Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Council of Churches, and the National Council of Churches, USA.)

Donate Today!

Over the last couple weeks, more than half of which was spent in solo quarantine, I have lost countless hours of sleep working with a network of Chinese-American expats and other well-intentioned expatriates to ship masks to the United States. One acquaintance has seen a large shipment arrive in LAX a few hours ago, but is uncertain what will happen next. While I have learned a lot, I feel an awful lot like a potential Mr. Blank:

Blank Industries is a real company, but it’s an ice-melt manufacturer in Hudson, Mass. In an interview, Andrew Blank, the founder, said he had upended his business to sell masks after hearing from a former Chinese supplier he had once hired to make a new kind of toothbrush. (Mr. Blank had invented it.) After the coronavirus hit, the supplier turned his dental-products plant into a mask factory. Mr. Blank told his 12 employees to stop selling rock salt and start selling masks.

Why was he charging $4.92 for each N95? “To be honest, I don’t even know what an N95 normally sells for,” he said.

I told him. “50 cents?” he repeated. His supplier was charging him $4.75. (His margin would cover shipping costs; he planned to take no profit.)
The eruption in demand for dwindling amounts of masks has resulted in a kind of global supply-chain bedlam.

The pace of news updates about masks alone has been dizzying. We learned on April 3, the FDA will allow the use of KN95 masks approved by China, an alternative to scarce N95 masks that have FDA approval. At the same time that we are suddenly opening the door to China-approved products, the President has gotten into a spat with our biggest trading partner and closest neighbor, Canada, saying that he will use the War Production Act to prohibit export of 3M masks to Latin America and Canada.

Both the Premier of Newfoundland & Labrador and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (whose spouse has been diagnosed) will do what they can to keep Canadians safe.

Meanwhile, the lack of a coordinated national response that should have been set in place a couple months ago led to Governor Mario Cuomo (D-NY) blaming, on March 31, ventilator shortages on competition with FEMA and other large states. The fact that the President of the United States has allowed his inept and corrupt son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to run the White House effort is appalling. Even a Republican governor, albeit one who has been critical of Trump, has seen two shipments of supplies seized by the federal government and, reportedly, at least one order redirected to Spain by the Chinese government, even after money had been wired.

After his plane brought 1.2 million medical masks from China back to the United States, Thursday, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he was glad to be part of the effort to fight the coronavirus.

The rich and famous have made things worse. Boston Red Sox owner and alleged prostitution solicitor Bob Kraft has donated only to Boston (and in a Benedict Arnold moment that will not live in infamy: to New York, home of the NY Yankees).

Mark Zuckerberg has donated primarily to the Bay Area, but he stands to gain more from prolonged social distancing than almost anybody else...if his tool can truly be used to connect and not divide.

Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders has continued his Presidential campaign with a clarion call to improve the social contract, but his campaign manager and Jeff Weaver seem to be pressing him to withdraw. Even the conservative Financial Times has demonstrated that the frailty of the social contract has been laid bare. Sanders raised over $2 million for coronavirus relief efforts. Meanwhile, Biden, focused only on his election, says the 2020 convention in Milwaukee may be 'virtual' and he will wear a mask in public amid COVID-19 outbreak. Sadly, Senator Elizabeth Warren seems to be gearing up for an endorsement of a man who spent the last several weeks in his basement, we can only hope for different reasons than Chris Cuomo.



"Somehow sitting in the Oval Office, behind that beautiful Resolute Desk," Trump said, indicating he thought it would be uncomfortable wearing a mask as he met with "presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens – I don’t know, somehow I don’t see it for myself."

Friday, April 3, 2020

Help Send Zimbabwe's health workers back to work

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you are staying safe in this COVID-19 pandemic. As you may have heard, doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe are on strike. They do not have protective gear, and they fear for themselves and their families. No one can blame them. They need personal protective equipment to go back to work. My colleagues on the ground are saying the situation is dire.

I am writing to ask if you can reach out to your networks requesting them to support Zimbabweans in their hour of need. Hospitals without health workers are a nightmare for a country. This is happening during the coronavirus pandemic. I know that people around the world are dealing with their emergency, but I wanted to check in with you to see if there is anything we can do to change this. Below is the link where you can donate. AFSC will host the fundraising and will do the procurement in Asia. Then, collaborate with WHO and other humanitarian agencies to airlift to Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, and AFSC Zimbabwe will ensure transparency and distribution of the PPEs. Please read the concept at the links below.

https://www.afsc.org/story/zimbabwe-nurses-and-doctors-need-protective-gear-now

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/afsc_org/status/1245807779627126792

Facebook:

https://business.facebook.com/AmericanFriendsServiceCommittee/posts/10157180940982444

Please share widely with your networks and let's send Zimbabwe 's health workers back to work so that they are prepared to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Thank you so much for your support,


Pauline Muchina
American Friends Service Committee
pmuchina@afsc.org

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Story That Will Break Your Heart

A 40 year-old, athletic young woman writes on Facebook,

was told that if I get Coronavirus and they don't have enough ventilators or beds or care, healthy and young ones are treated first.

I have stage 4 cancer so they are just going to make me comfortable and won't even treat me if that was the case.

Is this true?

I get it that it could be the case, but I just wanted to be prepared and making me really sad...
This breaks my heart. Another person responds, "Only 2-5% of people require a ventilator. The problem is at a state level, if 20% get sick, in New York, that is 4 million sick. Two percent is 80,000. Flattening the curve means not all need ventilators at the same time. This pandemic is bad, but it could be worse. We are just utterly unprepared and have poor leadership." 

Another person opines, "As of now, we have enough [ventilators] and are producing a lot. ZOLL alone is building 10,000 more per month. Other factories are converting. Dyson is building ventilators now. She will be fine. Even if she gets COVID, she may not need one."

I don't know what to think but there are extant supplies a plane ride away with willing sellers (and lots of willing donors to pay top-dollar).  If we fail to deliver and the poor relations between our nations are what made that impossible (except in 50,000 mask per day droplets through DHL), then it is a failure of leadership much bigger than the big failures already on plain display

War-profiteers?


Appearances matter in politics and I am sorry that the President's son-in-law appears to possibly be war-profiteering and is almost the only one who can bring in mass quantities of equipment to JFK. 

CREW, an ethics watchdog, says Jared Kushner’s ‘Shadow’ COVID-19 Task Force Appears to Violate at Least Two Laws.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Canary in a Coal Mine? Hardly.

A letter of gratitude arrived from a friend today, who works as an EMT in Norther New England. She wrote, "Most of the patients [I visit] can stay home but people are freaking out. I would be too if not for your educational efforts. Honestly I can't thank you enough. Our govt did shit but there you were educating for all who would listen. Our govt totally sucks." While I will take the compliment, I think it is important to distinguish between different levels of government and different levels of response. (By most accounts, America's Governor, as I have started to call Andrew Cuomo, is doing a great job.)



While the US was better prepared than almost every other country, according to both WHO and Johns Hopkins, we were not prepared in some very important ways. Ed Yong says it better than I could in The Atlantic:

Perhaps the nation will learn that preparedness isn’t just about masks, vaccines, and tests, but also about fair labor policies and a stable and equal health-care system. Perhaps it will appreciate that health-care workers and public-health specialists compose America’s social immune system, and that this system has been suppressed.

When some of you read the pieces in the Concord Monitor, the Boston Globe, or the Charleston Post and Courier, your response was disgust that I would be so public about what I was doing and about my private life. One friend's spouse said to me that my efforts were little more than an effort to garner attention for myself and hold myself out as an expert. She went further to say that I was being over-sensitive for defending myself against her charges of corrupt purposes. The host of my AirBNB, who was one of the wonderful humans I have ever met, was so angry that I had taken a picture with his woodstove, unbeknownst to him, for The Globe that he wrote me, "This might be an interesting publicity stunt for you, but it's how I pay my bills." (At that point, I was for the duration of my two-week stay, the only one in his county in quarantine or isolation because of the novel coronavirus. I understand his concerns.) Another spouse of a dear friend wrote some of the most hurtful words that I have ever read, "I hope you are well. I also contacted the Boston Globe and Concord, NH paper to let them know how you played them! Publicity on top of your cowardice actions. Sure you made the Lee legacy proud." (I can forgive and excuse this comment, because he is not well, but, people, please be not cruel to those in quarantine or isolation. This is not an easy time for anybody.)

Little did you all know, that in less than a month, you would be unable to read or listen to any news that was not related to COVID-19. Little did you know that alcoholism and domestic violence, not to mention anxiety, would skyrocket, as your friends and neighbors are trapped at home in a society that relies on trappings for its sanity. Since I had been locked down since January 23, I knew what was coming and it broke my heart. My heart still breaks everyday as I watch what is happening. 

It is hard to admit that the country to which I returned, China, whose government so many of my friends and family despise, has done a much better job than our own. It is an existential crisis for me, who agrees with so many of you that the doctor in Wuhan who blew the whistle is a martyr. However, the Rep. Seth Moulton approach was wrong and I am glad that he saw the errors of his ways. (Softball interview with Moulton about his experience with the disease begins at 2 minutes in video below. The part where he talks about the resolution starts at 12 minutes and 50 seconds. Sympathy to him and his wife as they recover from what they have to guess is "the disease"; he takes VA health benefits instead of Congressional benefits...and VA won't test a virile middle-aged man. There are not enough tests, as Science Friday explains, and the results sometimes take a long time.)

 

Here in Guangzhou, in my second fortnight long quarantine, this is what I am doing. I am reaching out to groups that are working to deliver quality supplies of test kits, PPE, and other equipment to the United States. It is hard to figure out who is a "carpetbagger" and who is really involved in this effort because they want to save lives. Luckily, my partner is an extremely well-connected businesswoman and we have been able to identify reputable factories that make test kits and personal protective equipment (PPE). We will be working over the next weeks to send out as much as we can, but, sadly, Trump's tariffs, his "Wuhan virus" rhetoric, and stories of bad test kits from China in Europe and elsewhere in Asia are making it hard to send these supplies to the United States, where we both most want to send them. Chinese testing kit exports have soared as COVID-19 spreads, but the cancellation of most China Airlines flights and the failure of American airlines to resume cargo flights to China are additional challenges.

The NMPA will clamp down on the bad products and I would guess eventually people will go to jail.  Yesterday, NMPA gave emergency approvals to COVID-19 test kits. Sadly, the bigger problem, which we have known for over a month, is that there are not enough US FDA workers here to do their job. Claims that the FDA is taking further steps to help mitigate supply interruptions of food and medical products should be taken with a grain of salt. This is an agency that answers to a protectionist President who would, in the words of one of my friends, "rather die than be conciliatory with China." This press release does offer hopeful words:
The [FDA] is taking steps to facilitate importation of PPE into the U.S. and we are ready and available to engage with importers to minimize disruptions during the importing process. This means that when products come in from overseas, their authorization via our EUA authority allows them to quickly enter the country. These products aren’t hindered from entry and we’ve already determined, among other criteria, that the known and potential benefits of these products being used in health care settings outweigh the known and potential risks.

Will keep you posted as things develop.

I have had my second free COVID-19 test and when the results come back, I may be free to go outside. Rumor has it that we may return to physical school in April, but as Dr. Anthony Fauci says, "You don't make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline."  There will be a knock at the door and they will remove the camera monitor from the outer door when I am done with quarantine. I am excited to see δΈ«δΈ« and the kids, as well as take a hike. I am feeling very healthy, having lost about 10 kg from my plant-based diet. Have even watched a few movies during this second quarantine--notably, "Dirty Money"!

Back to the trenches...and first breakfast. Eat well, sleep well, wash your hands, and take care of each other. May God bless America!

Alexander Lee
Guangzhou, China

Thursday, March 26, 2020

"Made in China": Provision of PPE and Test Kits Stat!

Trump and his lot seem to think that taking supplies from China would threaten American safety so they are relying on 3M to come through in a matter of weeks, which he mentioned in his press conference today.  Weeks, when we could have what we need in days! A decent President would repair relations with China and ask that this nation, which makes about 50% of the PPE in the world, get them on planes to New York, New Orleans, and New England tomorrow. I believe that we could have masks that would save the lives of health professionals and others on hand in a matter of days, if we could get them out of China....but we cannot. I have an Indian friend who has crates of FDA-approved N95 masks ready to go, but he cannot find an airplane to get them out.

A friend of mine who usually knows what's going on told me, "There were some disparaging reports out of China about faulty supplies so it might be difficult to expedite anything or get traction [for your effort to send test kits and personal protective equipment (PPE)]." Meanwhile, the US is trying to get test kits from Korea. I cannot speak to a few bad apples or masks that seem to have poisoned the pot, but the people that I am working with have a high level of professional integrity and quality control. They make test kits to be used in China so it would be a baseless accusation to say that they had a side operation of making sub-standard kits for sale in other countries where China might want the disease to spread. China does not want the disease to spread. Our economy and theirs are in a symbiotic relationship. The crippling economic blow of the last couple months of lock-down which looks like it is about to be repeated in the US and Europe is good for nobody, especially the low-paid essential workers who deliver our mail and check us out at the grocery store.

There are reasons to be worried about greedy capitalists in both countries, but the vast majority of folks want to save lives and do good in a time of incredible need. 

Hatemongers, such as Senator Tom Cotton, who does not even realize that Advil is iubprofen, continue to spew their bile. There are also propaganda efforts, for sure, in China, which Axios has detailed in their newsletter; however, the vast majority of regular folks in both countries do not want nurses and doctors, grandmas and grandpas to die, because we do not have enough masks on hand. Of course, lots of young people are dying, too, and masks won't save them all.

What we, in our group, are struggling with as we try to decide where to send supplies is whether FEMA will do a good job at speedy and just distribution. They have such a poor record in Puerto Rico and elsewhere. In fact, FEMA's clumsy form does not bode well. (In the last 24 hours, they changed the URL so we had to look it up again and the old URL-- does not redirect.) On the other hand, the prospect of sending PPE and test-kits to the points on this map below is daunting. We should be able to trust FEMA to send supplies where they are needed most.

https://getusppe.org/about/


There are exciting efforts afoot in places like Australia, where a young man named Milton Zhou founded a not for profit called RapidWard.com. They are trying to get rapid test kits and other in demand critical medical supplies to the people in need around the world, but there are so many challenges. Will Americans donate to an Australian nonprofit? I am pushing to find an American organization that is licensed to operate in China--such as the American Friends Service Committee or the American Red Cross--which could help us get these test kits and masks to the US as fast as possible. There are so many challenges, but I know that it will be faster than waiting for 3M--makers of your sticky notes and PFAS.