Category Archives: politics

We Had This Beat

More than one million Americans have died of complications of Covid-19. Can you wrap your arms around that number? Does it seem possible? Everyone I know has been touched by Covid one way or another. I lost my mother-in-law. And it didn’t have to be this way.

American is in many ways like Australia. As reported by the New York Times (the link is probably behind the Times’ paywall, but it is excellent and worthy of credit), both countries are English-speaking democracies with similar demographic profiles. In Australia and in the United States, the median age is thirty-eight. Roughly 86 percent of Australians live in urban areas, compared with 83 percent of Americans. Yet Australia’s Covid death rate sits at one-tenth of America’s, putting the nation of twenty-five million people (with around 7,500 deaths) near the top of global rankings in the protection of life.

The difference is in the stupidity factor. As in America is stupid and Australia is not. Americans have shown they lack trust in science and institutions, but especially in one another. When the pandemic began, 76 percent of Australians said they trusted the health care system (compared with around 34 percent of Americans), and 93 percent of Australians reported being able to get support in times of crisis from people living outside their household.

One day after learning about the new virus reported in China, Australia’s chief medical office began acting. Border, isolation, surveillance, and case tracing mechanisms were put in place. A few days later Australia reported its first Covid case. Less than 24 hours later, on Feb. 1, 2020, Australia closed its border with China, its largest trading partner. On Feb. 3, 241 Australians were evacuated from China and placed in government quarantine for 14 days.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first human transmission of the virus in the United States, President Donald J. Trump downplayed the risk. “We think it’s going to have a very good ending for us,” he said.

The Australian response to Covid was not perfect. But the contrast with America is shocking. At a time when the Australians began handing out started N95 masks, which are more protective, to workers exposed to Covid patients supplied came from federal and state stockpiles, with guidelines for how distribution should be prioritized, in America hospital executives were lining up third-party vendors for clandestine meetings in distant parking lots.

Australians lined up to get tested, wore masks without question, turned their phones into virus trackers with check-in apps, set up food services for the old, infirm, or poor in lockdowns, or offered a place to stay to women who had been trapped in their homes with abusive husbands.

The Trump-Republicans from the Oval Office on down the ranks disputed the science, made fun of those who took seriously the need to wear masks, isolate, and avoid close contact, demonstrating contempt for those who did. Their syncopates on Fox and other cable news fell right into line disparaging the depth of the crisis. The federal government refused to get involved with the setting of nationwide standards or the procurement of personal protective gear. About the only thing Trump supported that was of any value was the decision to fund the development of multiple vaccines. Perhaps he was out on the golf course the day that one was put into place. Then once the vaccines were ready, the states had to create their own programs to administer the medication.

Today more than 95 percent of Australian adults are fully vaccinated — with 85 percent of the total population having received two doses. In the United States, that figure is only 66 percent.

And if the number of fatalities due to Covid in the United States had tracked the number in Australia? That would be 100,000 souls lost. A terrible number. But far lower than the one million and rising number of deaths of Americans. Americans who were either stupid themselves or were the innocent victims of others who were stupid and did not care what havoc they caused. I count my mother-in-law among the innocents. She was a victim of a state government which failed to put into place any meaningful controls on its healthcare facilities. A state where the court system failed to protect its seniors and guarantee their basic rights. She died before her time in Florida.

First Amendment Hypocrites

It was the end of the term, 2014, when the headlines blared, “Supreme Court Strikes Down Abortion Clinic ‘Buffer Zone’ Law. At issue was a Massachusetts law requiring a 35-foot zone around clinics that provided abortion services. Both supporters and opponents of abortion rights were not allowed within that buffer zone, where some were harassing women going in and coming out while others tried to shield and protect them.

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Why the Surprise?

The news broke overnight. The online publication Politico published an exclusive, what it believed to be a draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito which, speaking for the majority, overturns the seminal 1973 abortion decision Roe v. Wade. The text says, “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” referring also to a subsequent 1992 decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.”

In pledging to investigate the leak, Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed it is the authentic first draft. It is standard procedure for a vote on a case to be taken after oral argument, and if there is a clear majority, the chief justice assigns the writing of an initial draft opinion if he is voting with the majority, or the assignment is made by the senior associate justice in the majority if the chief is not.

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The Truth is Out There

This is the 21st century. The Russians deny they are responsible for the slaughter of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, claiming corpses were planted on the streets after Russian soldiers had left the scene. Satellite pictures clearly show bodies on the ground and Russian troops still on the scene.

There is a fiction making the rounds that says the average Russian does not know what their country is doing in Ukraine. Don’t buy it for a minute. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union worked hard to keep the truth out of their territory. Western news media were blocked, jammed, and banned. But the truth leaked in, and when the USSR fell in an economic collapse, the truth flowed in with a vengeance.

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Republicans Engage in “Legitimate Political Discourse”

There was a time when our two major political parties took policy matters seriously. I remember my first political convention, the Democratic meeting in Miami in 1972 which nominated George McGovern to face, and be pummeled by, the incumbent Richard Nixon. One of the things that impressed a then young reporter was the work of the platform committee.

The committee met and considered the issues of the day. They heard presentations, took testimony, and in the end voted on a position to take. At first, I wondered how valuable the exercise was. While the platform represented a compromise position so the party could say what it stood for, it could not bind all its members. And with opposition when it came time to govern, there is no way to expect the positions of the platform committee to translate directly into policy.

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Want to Steal the 2024 Election?

It may not be likely that Republicans will steal the 2024 Presidential Election, but it is certainly possible. A new paper by a Yale Law School expert in election law, Professor Matthew Seligman, says all it would take is a single corrupt Republican governor and a Republican controlled House of Representatives. Anyone want to bet that won’t happen?

Let’s make something clear here. I am not generating an ambiguous set of facts. I’m dealing with the universe where a fair and legal election, as determined by state election officials and courts, has occurred, been reviewed, certified and the results have been published. None the less, a Republican majority in the House of Representatives votes to challenge the Electoral College votes from a state and that state’s governor, without any legal authority, then sends to Congress an “alternate” set of EC votes, changing the outcome of the election for President of the United States.

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