Thoughts on Life, Love, Politics, Hypocrisy and Coming Out in Mid-Life
Saturday, August 07, 2021
The GOP, Felling Heat on Covid-19 Goes Racist
In today's GOP when the consequences of GOP policies and Fox News propaganda goes south so to speak, the default position is to go racist so as to distract the party base from the reality that their suffering is due to the policies and actions of GOP elected officials. The current explosion of Covid-19 among the unvaccinated is a case in point. Rather than blame the surge on Republicans like Ron Desantis in Florida, Greg Abbott in Texas, and Republican officials in other Covid hot spots for their refusal to follow the recommendations of the CDC and medical experts and their anti-vaccine and anti-mask policies, the default position is to blame the surge on brown skinned refugees at America's southern border. Never mind that Florida - a particularly bad Covid hot spot is a good thousand miles from the nearest part of the Texas/Mexico border. Likewise for Missouri and other hotspots nowhere near the southern border. A piece in Salon looks at the GOP effort to shift blame from themselves to Central American refugees. Here are highlights:
The GOP strategy to tank Joe Biden's presidency was supposed to be a simple one: jack up COVID-19 rates by convincing Fox News viewers that only filthy liberals get vaccinated, then blame Biden for the surge while a media plagued by bothsidesism plays along.
But the plan hit one little, unforeseen snag: The mainstream media, which did play along for a bit with headlines blaming Biden, suddenly switched gears in mid-July. The severity of the delta variant surge pushed the media to actually start covering both the anti-vaccine propaganda apparatus at Fox News and the fact that COVID-19 hot spots appeared concentrated in parts of the country where people mainline such propaganda. Now, the whole evil scheme has gone sideways. Polling shows Americans are blaming right-wingers and the unvaccinated instead of Biden — and now Republicans are in a panic.
And what do Republicans always do in a panic? Old-fashioned race-baiting.
Rather than blame the obvious culprits for the pandemic — Fox News-addled anti-vaxxers — Republicans are increasingly accusing immigrants at the Southern border of bringing in COVID-19, and Biden of supposedly letting them. After Biden rightfully called out Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, for his part in letting COVID-19 run rampant, DeSantis pitifully tried to hit back by claiming Biden "imported more virus from around the world by having a wide-open southern border."
Other Republican politicians have been echoing this "blame Mexico" talking point, from Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas accusing the Biden administration of allowing a "super spreader event because their open border" to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds arguing that "the problem is the southern border is open."
Unsurprisingly, Fox News is leaning hard into this "blame immigrants, not the unvaccinated" messaging, often with a side dose of contrasting the supposedly dangerous dark-skinned immigrants with the supposedly pristine lighter-skinned people around the world.
Bret Baier of Fox News was interviewing Centers for Disease Control head Rochelle Walensky last week and complained that his "in-laws live in Austria, they cannot come here to see their six-month-old baby because of the EU travel ban, . . . . Walensky calmly replied, "what we really need to do is spend our time getting our communities vaccinated," but of course, Breitbart and other right-wing outlets portrayed her as somehow too "woke" to deal with the scary disease-ridden foreigners who they clearly believe are identifiable via skin color.
As usual, there's a heavy amount of coordination on the right around the new, race-baiting tactic. The Wall Street Journal and New York Post are both on the blame-immigrants-not-the-unvaccinated train. And Fox News is a steady drumbeat of scare stories about COVID-positive immigrants, all meant to give viewers an excuse for remaining unvaccinated because they can blame "dirty" immigrants instead of the homegrown unvaccinated Americans who are passing the disease rapidly.
It's all, of course, completely ridiculous. . . . . Thousands of unvaccinated immigrants at the border simply do not have the numbers to be a greater threat to public health than literally millions of native-born Americans who refuse to get vaccinated.
Any fool who can read a map sees the main problem with the "blame the border" gambit, which is the parts of the U.S. that actually border Mexico are seeing less of a surge than parts that other parts that border water and/or border other U.S. states.
Yep, the hot spots are running through the Bible Belt more than the Southwest. We also have actual scientific data that shows the delta variant surge that's causing our current woes is flowing more through Branson, Missouri — where vaccine-eschewing GOP America goes to party — than McAllen, TX.
One would think that a belief that people are bringing in COVID-19 is all the more reason to do what offers, by far, the highest level of protection: vaccination. And yet "scary brown-skinned immigrants are bringing disease!" is being used as a justification by white conservatives to avoid taking basic prevention measures.
Of course, none of it is meant to be rational.
Republicans are turning to racism for the same reason they always do, to turn off any remaining capacity for critical thinking among their base, replacing it with inchoate fear and rage over the very existence of people that don't look or talk or act exactly like them. As usual, the GOP elite doesn't care how many people get sick or die. All they care about is giving their voters some stupid thing to rant and rave about, so they can shut off their brains and not think about how foolish it is to keep voting for people who are killing them to score political points.
Will this new "blame immigrants, not the unvaccinated" narrative work? It will, in the same way the "blame China" gambit worked. . . . What it won't do is cause the COVID-19 surge to end any time soon. For that to happen, ordinary Republicans need to suck it up and start getting vaccinated in larger numbers. And the longer that their leaders keep feeding them excuses not to do so — such as blaming immigrants — the longer this pandemic will drag out. And the longer that goes on, the angrier the vaccinated majority will get with unvaccinated red hats for being such selfish, whiny babies in the face of a global pandemic.
Glenn Youngkin Refuses to Condemn Trump's "Big Lie’
After weeks of running an empty-vessel campaign into which voters could pour whatever ideas, hopes, fears and theories they wished, Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin has finally put some ideas on the table.
They aren’t fresh or new ideas. The tax rebates, small-business support and modest school-choice policies, plus a spending spree on constituencies such as law enforcement, would be standard fare for a Republican running for office in, say, the late 1990s or early 2000s.
There are flaws with each proposal — the biggest being that many of them are based on Virginia’s share of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Youngkin has flip-flopped on the spending plan, calling it unnecessary in the spring but more recently saying he wants to spend it.
That change of heart — or bow to reality — means the starry-eyed outsider has taken a big step toward becoming the transactional insider he’s running against.
But even as Youngkin was floating his ideas, he’s still playing footsie with the Trump dead-enders who’ve brought the GOP so low.
The most recent instance: his inability to denounce the conspiracy theory that former president Donald Trump (and other defeated Republicans) will soon be restored to office.
At a recent campaign event, an audience member insisted that “Trump won,” the election results were “all fraud,” that a number of Virginia races were “stolen” and Trump will return in “August or September.” The audience member asked Youngkin whether Trump’s fantastical return would help get “our people back in office.”
Rather than politely but firmly say there is no means, method or reason that will restore Trump to the presidency, Youngkin offered a bizarre word salad instead:
“I don’t know the particulars about how that can happen, because what’s happening in the court system is moving slowly and it’s unclear. And we all know the courts move slowly …”
That’s an unforced error. Youngkin tried to change the subject, saying, again, that Joe Biden was legitimately elected to the presidency. No dice. He had the chance to put a stake through the QAnon cancer coursing through the GOP and didn’t.
But not all is lost. The 5th Congressional District “conspiracy-palooza” happens this weekend. Officially billed as an election integrity event, GOP lieutenant governor nominee Winsome Sears and GOP attorney general nominee Jason Miyares, who were dubbed “featured guests” on the announcement, now have plans to campaign elsewhere. Youngkin, who said he’d stop by, hasn’t made similar plans.
He should make other plans now and get to work advocating for his newfound policies rather than feeding the big lie.
Vote a straight Democrat ticket in November. The rest of the GOP ticket is just as scary - Winsome Sears is even more scary, in fact - as Youngkin.
Friday, August 06, 2021
We Can’t Let the Jan. 6th Traitors Rewrite History
History, the adage goes, is written by the victors. Would that it were true.
In the Civil War, the U.S. Army, at a staggering human cost, eventually crushed the traitors who took up arms against their own country. But Lost Cause mythology rewrote the rebellion as a conflict over states’ rights, portrayed Confederates as gallant heroes fighting impossible odds, romanticized plantation life and sanitized slavery. The fictions, taught to generations of southerners, fueled Jim Crow and white supremacy.
In the retelling of Jan. 6, we see an echo of Lost Cause mythology. On that terrible day, terrorists took up arms against the United States, sacking the seat of the U.S. government in a deadly rampage. White supremacists marauded through the Capitol. It was a coup attempt, aimed at overturning the will of the people with brute force, encouraged by a defeated president and his allies. The Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police, badly outnumbered, ultimately prevailed in putting down the insurrection.
But now the losers are trying to rewrite the history of that day. The terrorists were “patriots.” Theirs was a “normal tourist visit.” They weren’t armed. They were “hugging and kissing” the police. A woman, shot as she breached the last barrier keeping elected representatives from the mob, was a martyr shot in cold blood. The Capitol Police were ill-trained. It was Nancy Pelosi’s fault.
The losers, again, are trying to write the history. They must not be allowed to succeed — for if they do, they will certainly try again to attack democracy.
President Biden joined the battle against the revisionists on Thursday as he presented the Congressional Gold Medal to the police who saved democracy on Jan. 6. “We cannot allow history to be rewritten,” he said. . . . . “A mob of extremists and terrorists launched a violent and deadly assault on the People’s House and the sacred ritual to certify a free and fair election,” he said. “It was insurrection … It was unconstitutional. And maybe most important, it was fundamentally un-American.”
To that list of labels, Ty Seidule adds one more: “It was a lynch mob.”
He told me of the disgust he felt when he saw a photo of an insurrectionist in the Capitol on Jan. 6 carrying the Confederate battle flag — “the Flag of Treason,” he calls it — past a portrait of Charles Sumner, the abolitionist senator nearly caned to death by Preston Brooks, a proslavery congressman from South Carolina. Seidule wanted to suit up in his old uniform and fight the Capitol terrorists. “The people who did that need to be in orange jumpsuits and shackles,” he said.
In his book [of “Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause,”], Seidule [A retired U.S. Army general] writes of the importance of words in defeating the Lost Cause lies. It wasn’t “Union” against “Confederate,” he argues. It was the “U.S. Army fighting … against a rebel force that would not accept the results of a democratic election and chose armed rebellion.” Confederate generals didn’t fight with “honor”; they abrogated “an oath sworn to God to defend the United States” and “killed more U.S. Army soldiers than any other enemy, ever.” It wasn’t “the War Between the States,” as Lost Cause mythology would have it; the Civil War was, properly, “The War of the Rebellion.” They weren’t “plantations” as glorified by Margaret Mitchell, but “enslaved labor farms.” Writes Seidule: “Accurate language can help us destroy the lies of the Lost Cause.”
So, too, can accurate language destroy the lies now being floated to justify Jan. 6.
These were not tourists. These were not patriots. They were terrorists, as D.C. police officer Daniel Hodges, savagely beaten on Jan. 6, labeled them in congressional testimony. They were armed — with rebar, poles, knives, bear spray, tasers and an untold number of firearms — and they were unspeakably violent in their attack on the duly elected government of the United States.
The revisionist history serves a purpose: Sanitizing sedition so the foes of democracy will be able to attack it again, but successfully. This is why those who still revere our democracy must answer the lies with the true stories of Jan. 6 — again and again. “We’re not going to let them win the narrative,” Seidule said. “History is too important.”
Thursday, August 05, 2021
The GOP Lacks a Long Game
Vaccine Mandates Are Surging from the Ground Up
In San Francisco, the owners of nearly 300 bars now demand proof of vaccination before customers may enter. A growing number of Los Angeles restaurateurs require diners to prove they've been vaccinated or produce a recent negative test. Broadway patrons won't be seeing a New York show unless they've got proof of vaccination. Private businesses and hundreds of colleges are telling employees and students they can't show up if they haven't been jabbed.
The irony cannot be lost on governing bodies who still resist the idea of large-scale COVID-19 vaccine mandates: They're happening anyway. The mandates are simply occurring in a patchwork, haphazard sort of way, rather than following governmental top-down guidance.
Nationally, 58.2 percent of those over age 12 are fully vaccinated against COVID, although the surge of the Delta variant appears to have prompted an uptick in the numbers over the past week. For the population at large, the figure is 49.7 percent. (No vaccine is approved for those 12 and under.) Incentives ranging from cash to cannabis have largely failed to persuade the vaccine-hesitant to get a shot. And state and local governments have shied away from large scale requirements to get inoculated, even though the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their ability to enforce mandatory vaccinations more than 100 years ago.
Instead, the movement toward higher vaccination rates is happening from the ground up. In many cases, it starts with food and drink establishments that have everything to lose if runaway COVID rates once again force mass lockdowns on the public or on businesses like theirs.
"We haven't fought this hard, for this long, to let it go awry now," owners of the Los Angeles restaurant Osteria La Buca wrote in an Instagram post announcing that all guests at both of its locations show proof of vaccination beginning Aug. 2. "If you are not vaccinated, please do not argue. This policy will not be broken for anyone."
"It was done in order to keep our staff, our community, our musicians safe and hopefully to prevent another shutdown," said Jay Bordeleau, owner of an indoor-only jazz venue in San Francisco.
Having a higher authority make a policy of such requirements might provide businesses with some cover when dealing with unhappy customers, but that has proved elusive. A notable exception occurred Tuesday, when Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced that New York will require vaccines of both workers and customers at indoor dining, gyms, performances and entertainment venues, making it the first U.S. city to do so.
Private businesses have the right—and the obligation—to keep their workplaces safe, legal experts say. As long as they make an allowance for someone who is medically unable to take a vaccine or has a specific religious objection, most employers can require that their workers become inoculated.
Masking remains a valuable tool to prevent the spread of COVID—"The data we have on masks is incredibly reassuring," Dr. Jeanne Noble, who directs COVID response at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, told Capital & Main. But the most effective deterrent to the spread of the virus is vaccination. That brings the conversation back to businesses and employers, even those at the federal level.
"The Justice Department has made it clear that it is legal to require COVID-19 vaccines," President Joe Biden said in announcing that all federal employees and contractors must be vaccinated or face workplace restrictions and weekly testing.
The three vaccines in the U.S. (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) are currently being administered under emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, as opposed to final approval. But experts say businesses, employers and state governments still generally have the authority to mandate them.
That's what is happening in California, as companies and storefronts come to the same conclusion: Staying open and productive is the only path forward. If it takes a hyperlocal vaccine requirement to make that happen, businesses are increasingly willing to consider it. And some larger corporations don't disagree: Both Google and Facebook said last week that all U.S. employees must be vaccinated before returning to those companies' offices, with Google CEO Sundar Pichai noting, "Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead."
It's also good business. After a year of often staggering financial loss, the arrival of the vaccines has coincided with a crying need for places to open again—and stay open. "Let's be clear here: We're doing this because we need to protect our staff and their families and our customers," Ben Bleiman, founder of the San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance, told the Washington Post. "We know how to control this virus."
Life needs to become very, very inconvenient for those who refuse to be vaccinated for no reason other than stupidity or GOP anti-vaccine lies.
Do Not Fall for Glenn Youngkin's Claims of Business Acumen
By Glenn Youngkin’s account, Virginia and its economy are “in the ditch.” So much so that he gave up his dream job atop Carlyle Group Inc. to get the state back on track.
The Republican nominee for governor is now ubiquitous on TV and the internet, driving home the opening pitch of his candidacy: “I’ve spent the last 30 years building business and creating jobs, leading a team of nearly 2,000 people who trusted me to get things done.”
Yet people close to the private-equity firm have been chafing over the picture Youngkin paints of his investing acumen and the circumstances of his departure. In his final decade there, he shepherded several bets and strategies that chalked up losses, and some of them are still being unwound.
After Carlyle’s founders gave him a shot at co-running the firm in 2018, he flamed out. In an industry where leadership teams work together for decades, his co-CEO quickly established dominance, diminishing Youngkin’s clout.
Youngkin, 54, exited Carlyle in September and quickly became a name in conservative politics, railing against abortion and critical race theory, and vowing to stand up for the Second Amendment and election security. His take on Virginia’s economy is dire, faulting Democrats for raising taxes and overzealously restricting commerce to fight Covid-19.
But at Carlyle the circumstances of his exit aren’t really a secret: He retired after a power struggle that left him in charge of more modest businesses. Current and former employees, asking not to be identified discussing internal business, describe a checkered record at odds with his campaign’s portrayal.
Former colleagues have been bracing for his run to not only spotlight Carlyle’s past controversies -- akin to what Mitt Romney’s presidential run did to Bain Capital -- but for it to also dredge up missteps by Youngkin and managers he oversaw.
Democrats have sought to use Youngkin’s tenure at Carlyle against him, assailing businesses practices such as its willingness to invest in China, to make the case that his campaign rhetoric doesn’t reflect his past. He has tried to minimize the scale of those dealings. Recently, McAuliffe focused on tying Youngkin to former President Donald Trump, who lost the state by 10 points in 2020.
Trump endorsed Youngkin last month in a news release: “Glenn has been an incredible success and will truly make Virginia great again.”
Carlyle’s founders, meanwhile, were having trouble finding a new leadership team to take over as they stepped back. A number of potential candidates -- such as prominent JPMorgan Chase & Co. executive Michael Cavanagh -- came and went.
Youngkin figured into the discussions: He’d grown up inside the firm, helped it expand to Europe and was uniquely steeped in Carlyle’s operations and culture. Yet the founders recognized they needed someone with strong investing chops who could ensure big returns.
They ultimately paired him with Kewsong Lee, a sharp-elbowed and decisive dealmaker who quickly became more dominant. He took control of the firm’s most prominent businesses, including private equity and credit investments. Youngkin was left with smaller lines, such as European real estate. A number of groups under him struggled, and some longtime employees who ran them left to pursue other opportunities.
During his time at the top, he helped convert Carlyle’s legal structure to a corporation -- a move designed to allow more investors, such as mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, in the stock.
But the infrastructure push haunted him. The fund that Carlyle raised in 2018 struggled to move large deals forward, such as the redevelopment of Terminal One at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. According to Carlyle, the fund had invested just $466 million as of last December, when a new head was brought in.
One customer, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, said it was told the fund had a negative return of 51% at the end of 2020.
That year, Youngkin confided in colleagues that he felt he had little choice but to leave as co-CEO Lee continued to strengthen his grip. When announcing his departure, he told employees that he wasn’t sure what he would do next.
By the time he stepped down Sept. 30, Carlyle’s stock had posted an 8% gain during his time at the top. Apollo had advanced 34% in the period, and Blackstone and KKR & Co. were up 63%.
Wednesday, August 04, 2021
Youngkin Breathes New Life Into Trump's Big Lie
Glenn Youngkin’s blank-slate strategy to win Virginia’s gubernatorial election ran aground again in Fredericksburg as he couldn’t bring himself to refute the Big Lie – even entertaining the possibility that Donald Trump could still reverse last year’s election.
Youngkin – who refused to acknowledge Biden “was legitimately elected’ until after he’d sewn up the GOP nomination, then pretended he’d said it all along – went back to the base-feeding status quo ante. As reported by HuffPo…
“I don’t know the particulars about how that can happen, because what’s happening in the court system is moving slowly and it’s unclear. And we all know the courts move slowly,” Youngkin said, in response to a question about whether Trump’s reinstatement could help Virginia Republicans claim seats they lost in elections the voter claimed had also been stolen.
In other words, Youngkin is hoping that Republicans don’t remember him acknowledging Biden’s win – and that everyone else in Virginia isn’t paying attention to him disavowing said acknowledgement. It says something about the state of the GOP in Virginia that the closest thing they can think to offer to swing voters is a candidate who tries to come off as only half delusional.
But the delusion is too dangerous for Virginians to empower anyone even with just a partial commitment to the crazy.
Should he manage to win this fall, Governor Part-Time QAnon would take control of every election board in the Commonwealth, while he promises unnamed “reforms” – presumably starting with an Arizona-style fiasco.
It hasn’t been a great summer for the Republican nominee. This won’t make it better.
In the meantime, Virginia voters have once again been shown that democracy itself is on the ballot. Terry McAuliffe, for all his many faults, is at least willing to preserve it.
Youngkin? It’s unclear.
We Need a No-Fly List for the Unvaccinated
Many of us hoped we would be nearing full normalcy in our lives at this point in 2021, yet sadly, many venues and businesses are moving back toward mask requirements and other lock down like measures (I am now regularly wearing a mask again when conducting real estate closings since I have no assurance that unvaccinated individuals are not exposing me to the possibility of a so-called break through infection). Why? Because stupid and or self-centered individuals (many Trump cultist Republicans) have failed and refused to get vaccinated. It is clearly time to start making life increasing unpleasant for those who refuse to get vaccinated and endanger others and threaten to push the nation back into a lock down. A piece in The Atlantic lays out the case for banning the unvaccinated from flying on domestic flights. Being unvaccinated needs to increasingly make one a social pariah and have serious consequences in terms of depriving the stupid and selfish from access to day to day activities. Here are article highlights:
When you go to the airport, you see two kinds of security rules. Some apply equally to everyone; no one can carry weapons through the TSA checkpoint. But other protocols divide passengers into categories according to how much of a threat the government thinks they pose. If you submit to heightened scrutiny in advance, TSA PreCheck lets you go through security without taking off your shoes; a no-fly list keeps certain people off the plane entirely. Not everyone poses an equal threat. Rifling through the bags of every business traveler and patting down every preschooler and octogenarian would waste the TSA’s time and needlessly burden many passengers.
The same principle applies to limiting the spread of the coronavirus. The number of COVID-19 cases keeps growing, even though remarkably safe, effective vaccines are widely available, at least to adults. . . . . at this stage of the pandemic, tougher universal restrictions are not the solution to continuing viral spread. While flying, vaccinated people should no longer carry the burden for unvaccinated people.
[A] no-fly list for unvaccinated adults is an obvious step that the federal government should take. It will help limit the risk of transmission at destinations where unvaccinated people travel—and, by setting norms that restrict certain privileges to vaccinated people, will also help raise the stagnant vaccination rates that are keeping both the economy and society from fully recovering.
Flying is not a right, and the case for restricting it to vaccinated people is straightforward: The federal government is the sole entity that can regulate the terms and conditions of airline safety. And although air-filtration systems and mask requirements make transmission of the coronavirus unlikely during any given passenger flight, infected people can spread it when they leave the airport and take off their mask. The whole point of international-travel bans is to curb infections in the destination country; to protect itself, the United States still has many such restrictions in place. Beyond limiting the virus’s flow from hot spots to the rest of the country, allowing only vaccinated people on domestic flights will change minds, too.
Polls suggest that vaccine holdouts have a variety of motivations: . . . . 41 percent said that a prohibition on airline travel would get them closer to their shots. Tellingly, 11 percent of those adamantly opposed to vaccination would also be motivated by a travel ban . . . . More than another recitation of statistics about vaccines’ benefits or yet another appeal to the common good, the deprivation of movement will win over doubters. Some unvaccinated Americans in areas where vaccination seekers face scorn among their peer group may even be happy to have an excuse to protect themselves.
The public debate about making vaccination a precondition for travel, employment, and other activities has described this approach as vaccine mandates, a term that, to conservative critics, suggests that unvaccinated people are being ordered around arbitrarily. What is actually going on, mostly, is that institutions are shifting burdens to unvaccinated people—denying them access to certain spaces, requiring them to take regular COVID-19 tests, charging them for the cost of that testing—rather than imposing greater burdens on everyone. Americans still have a choice to go unvaccinated, but that means giving up on certain societal benefits.
Nobody has a constitutional right to attend The Lion King on Broadway or work at Disney or Walmart. Employers and entertainment venues are realizing that they can operate more easily without the hassle of planning around unvaccinated employees and customers. Amid a global health crisis, people who defy public-health guidance are not, and do not deserve to be, a protected class.
For the privilege of flying, Americans already give up a lot: We disclose our personal information, toss our water bottles, extinguish our cigarette butts, and lock our guns in checked luggage. For vaccinated people, having to show proof of vaccination when flying would be a minor inconvenience.
The Biden administration could give unvaccinated Americans a brief window in which to get shots. A travel rule that took effect by October would cover those who hope to visit relatives during the holiday season. Vaccine verification and legitimate exceptions for age or preexisting health conditions can be part of airline databases, as are other security features. The current reliance on paper vaccination cards makes for a clumsy system, but better public- and private-sector systems are likely to emerge if employers, entertainment venues, and the TSA all seek to verify individuals’ status. Some people may try to lie and cheat their way around a TSA requirement, but violating federal aviation-safety measures is generally a crime.
By requiring proof of vaccination for flights, the U.S. government will better protect society and get out of the business of helping the coronavirus proliferate in another place. People who still want to wait and see about the vaccines can continue doing so. They just can’t keep pushing all the costs on everyone else.
This needs to happen!
Make Vaccine Refusers Pay More for Insurance
America’s Covid-19 vaccination rate is about 60 percent, for ages 12 and up. That’s not enough to reach so-called herd immunity, and in states like Missouri — where a number of counties have vaccination rates under 25 percent — hospitals are overwhelmed by serious outbreaks of the more contagious Delta variant.
The vaccine resisters offer all kinds of reasons for refusing the free shots and for ignoring efforts to nudge them to get vaccinated. Campaigns urging Americans to get vaccinated for their health, for their grandparents, for their neighbors, to get free doughnuts or a free joint haven’t done the trick.
[T]here are still huge numbers of unvaccinated people. Federal, state and municipal governments, as well as private businesses, continue to largely avoid mandates for their employees out of fears they will provoke a backlash.
So how about an economic argument? Get a Covid-19 shot to protect your wallet. Getting hospitalized with Covid-19 in the United States typically generates huge bills. . . . a more than $1,000 out-of-pocket bill for a deductible — plus more for copays and possibly some out-of-network care — should be a pretty scary incentive.
In 2020, before there were Covid-19 vaccines, most major private insurers waived patient payments — from coinsurance to deductibles — for Covid treatment. But many, if not most, have allowed that policy to lapse. . . . . More than 97 percent of hospitalized patients last month were unvaccinated. Though the vaccines will not necessarily prevent you from catching the coronavirus, they are highly effective at ensuring you will have a milder case and are kept out of the hospital.
For this reason, there’s logic behind insurers’ waiver rollback: Why should patients be kept financially unharmed from what is now a preventable hospitalization, thanks to a vaccine that the government paid for and made available for free?
The Affordable Care Act allows insurers to charge smokers up to 50 percent more than what nonsmokers pay for some types of health plans. Four-fifths of states follow that protocol . . . . In 49 states, people who are caught driving without auto insurance face fines, confiscation of their car, loss of their license and even jail. And reckless drivers pay more for insurance.
The logic behind the policies is that the offenders’ behavior can hurt others and costs society a lot of money. If people decide not to get vaccinated and contract bad cases of Covid, they are not only exposing others in their workplace or neighborhoods; the tens or hundreds of thousands spent on their care could mean higher premiums for others as well in their insurance plans next year.
Many holdouts say they will be vaccinated only if required to do so by their employers. . . . But what if the financial cost of not getting vaccinated were just too high? If patients thought about the price they might need to pay for their own care, maybe they would reconsider remaining unprotected.
Tuesday, August 03, 2021
11th Circuit Upholds Megachurch Hate Group Designation
Fortunately, the hate group designation has restricted Coral Ridge's ability to utilize fundraising platforms such as the AmazonSmile Foundation. As a result, Coral Ridge sued Amazon, the AmazonSmile Foundation and the SPLC. A three judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (all three judges are Republican appointees) upheld the dismissal of Coral Ridge suit and by extension upheld the hate group designation. Courthouse News Service looks at the ruling:
The 11th Circuit on Wednesday struck down a Florida evangelical Christian ministry’s claim that it was discriminated against and defamed after the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled it a hate group, causing Amazon to deny its application to fundraise through the online retailing giant’s charitable website.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based appeals court upheld an Alabama federal judge's September 2019 decision to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Fort Lauderdale-based Coral Ridge Ministries Media (also known as D. James Kennedy Ministries) against Amazon, the AmazonSmile Foundation and the SPLC.
In a 15-page opinion, the panel found that Coral Ridge’s defamation claim against the Alabama-based SPLC fails because it did not show that the organization “acted with actual malice” when it listed the ministry on its “hate map" as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
“Coral Ridge did not sufficiently plead facts that give rise to a reasonable inference that SPLC ‘actually entertained serious doubts as to the veracity' of its hate group definition and that definition’s application to Coral Ridge, or that SPLC was ‘highly aware’ that the definition and its application was ‘probably false’,” U.S. Circuit Judge Charles Wilson, a Bill Clinton appointee, wrote on behalf of the panel.
The SPLC’s designation of Coral Ridge as a hate group led Amazon to deny the ministry's application to fundraise as a charitable organization through AmazonSmile.
The AmazonSmile program gives eligible charities 0.5% of a customer’s purchase price if the customer shops on smile.amazon.com and picks the charity as a recipient. Eligible charity organizations must be registered and in good standing with the IRS as a nonprofit. They also cannot engage in or support violence, illegal activities or intolerance.
Coral Ridge admitted in its lawsuit that it opposes same-sex marriage and the "homosexual agenda" based on its religious beliefs.
The panel also ruled Wednesday that Coral Ridge’s religious discrimination claim under Title II of the Civil Rights Act was a non-starter.
Title II ensures equal access to services and public accommodations — including hotels, restaurants and places of entertainment — and prohibits discrimination or segregation on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin.
But Coral Ridge's interpretation of Title II runs up against Amazon's First Amendment rights, the panel found.
Amazon is engaging in expressive conduct under the First Amendment when it decides which charities to support, the ruling stated. Coral Ridge’s reading of the law would therefore violate the retailer's rights by “essentially forcing Amazon to donate to organizations it does not support."
Wilson was joined on the panel by U.S. Circuit Judge Britt Grant, a Donald Trump appointee, and Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Gerald Tjoflat, a Gerald Ford appointee.
‘Freedom,’ Florida and the Delta Variant Disaster
Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, isn’t stupid. He is, however, ambitious and supremely cynical. So when he says things that sound stupid it’s worth asking why. And his recent statements on Covid-19 help us understand why so many Americans are still dying or getting severely ill from the disease.
The background here is Florida’s unfolding public health catastrophe.
We now have highly effective vaccines freely available to every American who is at least 12 years old. There has been a lot of hype about “breakthrough” infections associated with the Delta variant, but they remain rare, and serious illness among the vaccinated is rarer still. There is no good reason we should still be suffering severely from this pandemic.
But Florida is in the grip of a Covid surge worse than it experienced before the vaccines. More than 10,000 Floridians are hospitalized, around 10 times the number in New York, which has about as many residents; an average of 58 Florida residents are dying each day, compared with six in New York. And the Florida hospital system is under extreme stress.
There’s no mystery about why this has happened. At every stage of the pandemic DeSantis has effectively acted as an ally of the coronavirus, for example by issuing orders blocking businesses from requiring that their patrons show proof of vaccination and schools from requiring masks. More generally, he has helped create a state of mind in which vaccine skepticism flourishes and refusal to take precautions is normalized.
One technical note: Florida’s vaccination rate is well below the rates in the Northeast, but closely matches the national average. But seniors are much more likely to be vaccinated than younger Americans, in Florida as elsewhere; and Florida, of course, has an unusually high number of seniors. Among younger groups the state lags behind the nation as a whole, and even further behind blue states.
So, given these grim developments, one might have expected or at least hoped that DeSantis would reconsider his position. In fact, he has been making excuses — it’s all about the air-conditioning! He has been claiming that any new restrictions would have unacceptable costs for the economy — although Florida’s recent performance looks terrible if you place any value on human life.
Above all, he has been playing the liberal-conspiracy-theory card, with fund-raising letters declaring that the “radical left” is “coming for your freedom.”
So let’s talk about what the right means when it talks about “freedom.” Since the pandemic began, many conservatives have insisted that actions to limit the death toll — social distancing, wearing a mask and now getting vaccinated — should be matters of personal choice. Does that position make any sense?
[D]riving drunk is also a personal choice. But almost everyone understands that it’s a personal choice that endangers others; 97 percent of the public considers driving while impaired by alcohol a serious problem. Why don’t we have the same kind of unanimity on refusing to get vaccinated, a choice that helps perpetuate the pandemic and puts others at risk?
[T]he link between vaccine refusal and Covid deaths is every bit as real as the link between D.U.I. and traffic deaths, but is less obvious to the naked eye. But why are people on the right so receptive to misinformation on this subject, and so angry about efforts to set the record straight?
My answer is that when people on the right talk about “freedom” what they actually mean is closer to “defense of privilege” — specifically the right of certain people (generally white male Christians) to do whatever they want.
Not incidentally, if you go back to the roots of modern conservatism, you find people like Barry Goldwater defending the right of businesses to discriminate against Black Americans. In the name of freedom, of course. A lot, though not all, of the recent panic about “cancel culture” is about protecting the right of powerful men to mistreat women. And so on.
Once you understand that the rhetoric of freedom is actually about privilege, things that look on the surface like gross inconsistency and hypocrisy start to make sense.
Why, for example, are conservatives so insistent on the right of businesses to make their own decisions, free from regulation — but quick to stop them from denying service to customers who refuse to wear masks or show proof of vaccination? Why is the autonomy of local school districts a fundamental principle — unless they want to require masks or teach America’s racial history? It’s all about whose privilege is being protected.
The reality of what the right means by freedom also, I think, explains the special rage induced by rules that impose some slight inconvenience in the name of the public interest . . . After all, only poor people and minority groups are supposed to be asked to make sacrifices.
[A]s you watch DeSantis invoke “freedom” to escape responsibility for his Covid catastrophe, remember, when he says it, that word does not mean what you think it means.
What is truly scary is that Desantis, foul as he is, is considered a "rising star" within the GOP even as the death toll from his malfeasance in governing grows.
Monday, August 02, 2021
Diocese of Albany Engaged in Decades-Long Cover-Up of Sexual Abuse
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany engaged in a decades-long cover-up of chronic child sexual abuse committed by its priests by employing practices described in a recent statement from former Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, who ran the diocese from 1977 to 2014.
Hubbard’s statement, issued through his attorney in response to a series of questions from the Times Union, confirmed that the diocese shielded priests and others facing sexual abuse allegations — sending them into private treatment programs rather than contacting law enforcement officials or alerting parishioners. Some of those priests allegedly emerged from treatment and committed more crimes.
Hubbard's response comes as he is facing multiple allegations of sexually abusing a minor, and is named in dozens of additional court cases in which he stands accused of covering up abuse by others.
The bishop's acknowledgement comes as there have been roughly 300 Child Victims Act lawsuits filed against the Albany diocese, providing an unprecedented window into the organization's documented history of abuse, as well as the actions of Hubbard.
The cases name hundreds of predators and describe decades of abuse allegedly committed by priests and others who preyed on the children in their care, while using their positions to evade accountability.
For this story, the Times Union reviewed thousands of pages of court records, including once-secret documents kept by the diocese, and interviewed attorneys, survivors and experts on child abuse.
One such case unfolded around 1983, when Eileen Thompson received a tearful phone call from her teenaged nephew.
He said he'd been molested by Gerald Miller, a priest from Altamont, and didn’t know what to do. He’d confided with another adult at his school, but that person had told him, “Well, after what happened to you, you’re never going to be a real man.”
He couldn’t stop crying during the phone call, Thompson recalled.
“I have to go. I'll call you," she remembered him saying before he hung up. She expected him to call back to finish their conversation, or maybe drop by her home to see her, which he did frequently.
Instead, the next day he went to his uncle’s house in Rensselaerville and killed himself with a shotgun.
An attorney who has handled thousands of abuse cases against the church nationally said that the body of evidence suggests Albany was a "problem diocese," as both Hubbard and his former second in command, Edward Pratt, both stand accused of abuse.
Thompson was "almost hysterical" at her nephew's funeral service. She heard someone mention in passing that Miller was supposed to officiate, since he was so close with the deceased, but ultimately hadn't for some reason. A few weeks later, Thompson called the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and asked to speak with the bishop.
“Father Gerry is being sent to New Mexico where they have more respect for priests,” Thompson said Hubbard told her. New Mexico is the home of a now-infamous treatment site where abusive priests from around the country were sent.
Jeff Anderson, an attorney with one of the largest abuse firms in the country, compared Hubbard to former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. A former powerful figure in the American Catholic church, McCarrick was defrocked due to allegations of child abuse, and on Friday was charged with sex crimes against a 16-year-old boy in the 1970s.
Hubbard "was able to protect himself and all of his priests at the same time, doing the same things that McCarrick did. As an offender and also as someone who was in complete control over all the clerics," Anderson said. "He was able to protect himself without accountability to anybody, to protect so many offenders. So many kids and so many months, years and decades.”
Attorneys for many of the alleged victims said they are seeking to prove that the diocese’s practices enabled abuse. They're seeking personnel files from all accused priests, not just the ones who allegedly abused their clients; the diocese is fighting that request in court. But an appellate judge recently ruled that the diocese must turn over the records in the coming weeks.
Given the Catholic Church's continued refusal to accept a full accounting for the abuse it allowed and in some ways fostered, I find it difficult to comprehend how moral individuals can remain members of the Church..