Monday, January 17, 2022

Polarization, Truth and "Mojo"

 

Where Polarization Leads

We hear a lot about the desirability of bi-partisanship these days in government and elsewhere in our society.  All we seem to be getting, though, is unbridled polarization, the presidency and Congress being prime examples.

In the “Critics” section in the January 3 & 10 issue of the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert discusses several books dealing with America.  Proceeding from one suggesting “thoughtful self-examination” as a way to “get America out of its rut,” she turns to Stephen Marche, novelist and former Esquire columnist, to whom the answer is clear. He indicates in “The Next Civil War: Dispatches from the American Future” (Avid Reader, publisher) that the answer is obvious, “the United States is coming to an end.” 

Kolbert writes that Marche is fond of sweeping claims. ‘No American president, of either party, now and for the foreseeable future, can be an icon of unity, only of division,’ Kolbert quotes him as writing. ‘Once shared purpose disappears, it’s gone,’ he declares in that same chapter. Unfortunately, Kolbert concludes, too many of his pronouncements ring true, such as ‘When the crisis comes, the institutions won’t be there.’

This is not a book for optimists, or maybe it is.

For additional opinions and reading material on this vital subject, check out what Dr. Barbara F. Walter (Univ. of California at San Diego) and writer Ezra Klein have to say.  ‘Googling‘ them will give you an idea of what both have written in articles and books.  They are not quite so pessimistic as is Stephen Marche but lean in that direction. 

JL

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Truth

In the blog posting before this one, probably available right below this one, I said in regard to determining the ‘truth’ (you know, the stuff “ye” ought to know that supposedly ‘makes you free’), one must recognize that what is presented as ‘truth’ is sometimes based on misinformation. So let’s look at these sources of ‘information’ and ‘misinformation.’ Can you tell one from the other? Which report information?  Which report disinformation? Which report both?

Wall Street Journal – Washington Post – New York Times – the Guardian – Atlantic Monthly – Commentary – USA Today – National Public Radio – Fox News – the National Review - CNN – MSNBC – OAN – Newsmax – and numerous internet sites, some with agendas ranging from far right to far left and some purporting to be objective. 

The same story can appear quite different depending on where and how it is reported.  The recent attack on a synagogue in a Dallas suburb illustrates this.  (I suggest you take a look at Bari Weiss' Substack blog "Common Sense" for her views on this, posted this morning.  Access to her blog, unless you care to comment on it, is free.  CLICK HERE TO READ IT)

And of course, some sources engage in passing on outright lies someone else reported somewhere else that they heard someone else reporting. Official-sounding or what appear to be reliable sources may not be what they claim to be. One should be able to recognize them.

Somewhat appropriate is the song from “HMS Pinafore” where Buttercup sings:  Things are seldom what they seem, Skim milk masquerades as cream; Highlows pass as patent leathers; Jackdaws strut in peacock's feathers.’

Finally, there must be an old proverb somewhere, probably from an ancient Chinese philosopher predating our First Amendment, which says, “Man who bend over backwards too far so words of opponent may be heard may never regain equilibrium.”  If no one before has said that, well, I’m saying it now.

 JL

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A Maureen Dowd Column 

Maureen Dowd has some insight into why President Biden is having so much trouble getting his agenda passed.  Check out her New York Times column suggesting he needs more “mojo” which can be found at ….  (the column, not the “mojo.”)  Try CLICKING HERE or just visit:

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/15/opinion/biden-senate-mcconnell-sinema.html#commentsContainer

After reading the article, I made the following comment which the Times website added to the many they received.

Although I voted for Biden in 2020, I did not vote for him in the Democratic primary (I have since become a 'No Party Affiliation' voter.)  I feared that he lacked the fire needed to combat the Republicans about which Ms. Dowd writes. I also wonder what has happened to our vice-president, who was loaded with fire when she entered the Democratic primary with a dynamic speech in Oakland. Is Biden's problem contagious? Biden only got the nomination because of the support of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, led by South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn and that wing has not proven to be an asset to the President, once he was elected. On the contrary, it has hurt him, giving the Republicans a target.”

 JL

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Certified Liars

Pinocchio

In today’s political climate, it’s best to doubt anything *most Republicans say, not even if it’s their answer to a simple question like “What time is it?”  If you stop to think about it, nothing that comes out of their mouths can be believed. The presidential election results, the January 6, 2021 Capitol invasion, the need to vaccinate and test for Covid-19 ... you name it! Whatever!  Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy make Pinocchio look honest.

 *(There are exceptions, like Liz Cheney.)

 JL

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Reminders:  

1. Get vaccinated against Covid-19 ... and if you already are, get a booster shot.  

2. Test yourself with readily available 'antigen' home tests to see if you might be infected and capable of spreading the virus.  

3. If you experience symptoms, go for more sophisticated, and accurate, PCR testing. 

4. Failure to vaccinate or test, even if such inaction is encouraged by Floriduh's governor, guarantees the continued spread and mutation of Covid-19, so please, vaccinate and test!  Ignore the Governor!

 JL

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Thursday, January 13, 2022

1-13-22 -The Silent Republicans, A Biblical Quote Revisited and At-Home Covid Testing Clarified, Sort Of - (Slight Color Change Made on the Blog Today. Easier on the Eyes I Hope.)

Silent Republicans and Stopping a Street Fight

The Republicans who have chosen to be held in contempt of Congress rather than to answer a subpoena from the Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 violence at the Capitol, along with those who have indicated that they would not cooperate with that investigation, have one thing in common.
Each one of them, if they testified, would be in the position of incriminating the defeated former president, resulting in his being tried for treason if they revealed the nature of their conversations with him. Lying would subject them to risking being prosecuted for perjury and using the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination would amount to an unspoken, tacit admission of their guilt along with that of the defeated former president.  So they choose not to show up.

None of them … Bannon, Meadows, Clark, McCarthy … want to be the one whose testimony sends the defeated former president to prison. And once the defeated former president is in the hands of the law, Vladimir Putin also may be concerned about what he might say to avoid imprisonment which might affect the tenuous relationship between the United States and Russia.  He might even take steps to see that the defeated former president never has the opportunity to “come clean” to avoid prison. It might hurt him and lead to rash action.  Once Pandora’s box is opened, no one knows what will pop out of it.

But Getting Back To the Issues About Which All of This Revolves:  In a 'street fight' which is what the struggle for voting rights bills in Congress and elsewhere is turning into, the gang that plays by the rules usually loses to the gang armed with unacceptable stuff like baseball bats and brass knuckles instead of merely fists.

(And as for those 'voting rights' bills, I wonder if Senator Shumer will today be offering Senators Manchin and Sinema a deal leaving the filibuster alone in exchange for their votes for still-further-watered-down versions of the  Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.  We'll see.)

In our current ‘street fight,’ that gang also includes those who think the January 6, 2021 invaders of the Capitol were just enthusiastic tourists. The two issues are not unrelated.

For democracy to be preserved in the United States, the Attorney General and the DOJ must act quickly to get those who don't play by the rules regarding these issues put behind bars, and that includes those who inspired and instigated them. That's what the police who arrived at a ‘street fight’ with a paddy wagon used to do to lawbreakers, hauling them off to jail, especially those who ‘didn’t play by the rules’ (whatever they are regarding ‘street fights’) and let the courts take it from there, telling them to "tell it to the judge."

  JL

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Secular Meaning To Biblical Quote 

‘You shall know the truth and it shall make you free” is a New Testament biblical quote (John 8:32) dealing with accepting the divinity of Jesus. 

It also takes on a totally secular meaning today when considering current political issues.

Actually, when John wrote his Gospel, about two generations after the events in Jesus’ life, the conflict between those Jews who believed in his divinity and those Jews who did not, was, I believe, a current issue in Roman-dominated Israel at the time where political and religious issues were inseparable, as they still are in some places in the world today. But I’m not writing about religion today.

Today, in our world, there are different versions of what purport to be political  ‘truths’ circulating on TV, in print, on radio and on the internet.  ‘Truth’ is not a relative thing.  Multiple versions of ‘truth’ are not possible. Much of what is presented as ‘truth’ therefore is based on misinformation.

Those who believe what they choose to believe as being the ‘truth’ claim that those who believe otherwise have been conditioned by such misinformation through the media mentioned above to do so.

Understanding what is the ‘truth’ is crucial to preserving democracy in the United States.  There is a test, though.  Throughout the centuries, history has repeated itself.  Understanding history enables one to properly evaluate what they see, hear and read in terms of its truthfulness.  That is the key to knowing the truth, and insofar as current political and social issues go, that truth can make you free. Without knowledge of history, that becomes difficult if not impossible.

 JL

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 Covid Testing At Home

It looks like inexpensive (or perhaps free through government support) frequent ‘at home’ Covid-19 testing will soon be readily available to all, although I am a bit uncertain how this will work with Medicare Parts B and C.  These will be simple antigen tests, not requiring any computer involvement, and enable users who test positive to modify their behavior (masking – social distancing – possible quarantine or isolation), perhaps consulting with their personal physician, or getting retested (perhaps with a physician-administered more definitive PCR* test) and thereby reduce the spread of the virus resulting in Covid-19. 

Paired with vaccinations which will at a minimum reduce the severity of an infection, if not fully preventing it, such testing will go a long way toward defeating the pandemic.  In my blog posting of January 10, I quoted my recent letter to the Palm Beach Post, the last sentence of which read, “Until frequent, inexpensive, self-administered COVID-19 testing becomes the rule, vaccinations are the best safeguard we have."  Well, it looks like that’s where we now are at! 

Unfortunately, because of selfish and ignorant politicians like Florida’s Governor DeSantis who does not actively support vaccinations nor testing, there will always be some spreading of the virus’ infection. Blame him and those like him.  They are willing allies of the virus, hanging their hats on Americans’ freedoms to do what they wish, including remaining unnecessarily susceptible to Covid-19 infection, and dying in the process, if that is their choice.

I saw a nurse on TV earlier today (Wednesday) pointing out that hospitals were filled with unvaccinated people, infected by the milder, but more contagious, Omicron variant, leaving NO BEDS for those needing hospitalization for a myriad of non-Covid-19 problems.  Should they die because of not being able to get into a hospital, the Governor of Florida, and those others who shun masking and vaccinations must share the blame.

As for those ‘at home’ tests, a recent USA TODAY article found at https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2022/01/10/covid-home-tests-easiest/9129309002/?gnt-cfr=1 reported that most of them did the job, but that some were better than others. They ranked Intrivo’s On/Go on top and BD Veritor at the bottom. The heavily used BinexNow (see my January 10 blog posting) ranked somewhere in the middle. The article also mentioned eMed.com which I included in my posting as another option.  CareStart and FlowFlex were other highly ranked antigen tests.  I will probably use whichever is readily available in stores or online.  Nevertheless, antigen tests are not as accurate as the PCR* tests physicians provide.  Some recommend at least two negative antigen test results within 48 hours to increase their reliability.

* (a Polymerase Chain Reaction test is a molecular test that checks the upper respiratory specimen for genetic material (RNA) including the virus that causes Covid19 rather than just seeking the presence of antibodies which is what the antigen tests do.)

JL

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Monday, January 10, 2022

1-10-2022 - BinexNOW Covid-19 Testing

 

So You Want to Take an “At Home” Covid-19 Test – Read On!

Over the past weekend, I took advantage of Palm Beach County’s offer of two free home Covid19 testing kits and spent an hour in a line of cars in the new County Park on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, way, way, way out west, beyond US 441, to get mine.  (An email from County Commissioner Mack Bernard clued me into their availability … even though we don’t live in his district.  Good man!)  I was handed two Abbott “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test” kits there, and using one, I found that I tested negatively. Within the next 48 hours, I used the second kit for a second test, which also was negative.  More about that later on though!  It's important.

These are not quite the same as theBinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test” tests kits that sell in drug stores, when they have them, in a box containing two tests for about $20.  There are some significant differences.  A relative who purchased such a kit told me it contained full detailed instructions as to how to use its contents to test oneself, which she did.

The ‘free’ kit I received, it turned out, contained no instructions whatsoever, but screamed at me from its box, in red, not to open it until instructed to do so. On the front of the box, It instructed me to first download a free app, Navica, in order to create an account prior to “my appointment.”  I did this and was transferred to another site, eMed.com, where a ‘trained proctor’ took over and with the aid of an online audio and video connection, told me to finally open the box and then walked me through taking the test, after which the results were printed out for me on both eMed.com and the Navica app, the latter of which afforded me the opportunity to forward them to other organizations, such as employers or cruise lines.  (If you start off on eMed.com where the test card provided in the box does the actual testing, they ask you to go back and first download the Navica app, which is managed by Abbott, who manufactures the Binex tests.)

The ‘trained proctor,’ who sounded to me like he was in Manila was extremely helpful and if I had lacked the computer expertise to set up the necessary audio and video linkage, was apparently willing and able to guide me through the procedure via a ‘chat’ box.  (The ‘proctor’ on the second test I took automatically duplicated what she was saying in the ‘chat’ box.)  For example, both proctors asked me to display before my camera the QR block on the test’s box, and later on the test card itself, as well as my ID (drivers license).  If I hadn’t been able to do that, there was a lot number on the box, and my drivers license number, which I could have transmitted via the ‘chat’ screen I suppose.

The relative who took exactly the same test using her store-purchased kit did not have to get involved with either Navica or eMed.com, full instructions having come enclosed with her kit.  In fact, she did not even have to own a computer.  Both tests use the same linear graphics to indicate a positive or negative result which appear right on the test card, for any who take the test to see.  The downside of the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test, the one sold in drug stores, is that those linear graphics reporting a positive or negative result are the extent of what gets reported to her. (I am not sure, but it seems possible that the Navica app might be accessible subsequently, for those who do not start the testing process on it.)

BinexNOW test card provided in either of these kits


On the other hand, with the “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test,” the free one provided by the County, I was immediately able to print documents from both Navica and eMed, stating the test’s results, the latter even being signed by a physician.  The drug-store version not requiring use of a computer or mobile phone lacks the ‘virtual visit’ with a ‘trained proctor’ described above which enables someone (eMed.com) to ‘certify’ the digital test result for forwarding to other parties, such as an employer or cruise line, which is where the Navica app is used. 

Therefore, the “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test,” bought in drug-stores, is useful only for one’s personal use and knowledge as to whether they might be infected, its result being displayed right on the test card but not otherwise documentable as is the “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card” Home Test’s result, which also, of course, is visible on its test card. One's personal behavior should be governed by the test result, however it may be obtained.

With tens of thousands of these free kits requiring signing on via one’s computer or mobile phone being distributed, it was understandable that the first few times I tried to get tested, I couldn’t get into the system’s network.  I kept getting a cryptic message saying, “Network connection failed.” I correctly assumed it was overloaded with testing requests.  However, after a few hours, I tried again and was then able to get on to their network and be tested.  With many tens of thousands of these free “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test” kits each requiring about twenty minutes of computer contact with a ‘trained proctor’ being distributed, the amount of human labor needed to administer them seems enormous.

Another friend of mine went to her personal physician who administered the more sophisticated PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test, a molecular test that checks the upper respiratory specimen for genetic material (RNA) including the virus that causes Covid19.  He was able to report the results to her in about three days, after getting them back from a lab.  I saw my results on the test card in precisely fifteen minutes, as did the relative who had bought the same kit in a drug store, which came with an instruction sheet and did not even involve using a computer.  

But there’s a tradeoff involved.  These almost instant BinexNOW results were based on finding or not finding antigens in the sample, a less accurate testing method than the PCR lab test which checks RNA.  In fact, it is recommended that a negative test result on an antigen test (which the ‘BinaxNOW’ tests are) should be followed by a second test between 24 and 48 hours later, to more or less confirm its findings. Apparently, that is why the “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test” is sold in drug stores in packages containing two tests and the County’s free test distribution consists of two individual one-test boxes of the “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card” Home test.  Unfortunately, when I received my first test’s negative result, there was no specific instruction to take the second test to confirm it.  You have to search around to find that recommendation, but it is there! Getting the result twice reinforces its validity to some extent.

In the future, I will periodically take whatever "at home antigen Covid19" test is available, aware that a positive result or any Covid19 symptoms should direct me to my personal physician who might consider more accurate PCR testing. I believe we all should act similarly.

If home testing is going to be the wave of the future in dealing with Covid19, and I believe it will be, along with vaccinations geared to emerging variants, some improvements will have to be made, as evidenced by the differing approaches mentioned above, bearing in mind that there are similar tests on the market from companies other than Abbott (maker of the Binex tests), adding to the confusion.

 JL

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Sunday, January 9, 2022

1-9-2022 - Last Year’s Attempted Coup, Voting Rights, the Constitution, Covid19 and College Football

 

Thoughts on the January 6, 2021 Insurrection, One Year Later

The following comments were made to a joint session of Congress the evening of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection:

"I want to say to the American people the United States Senate will not be intimidated. We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs or threats. We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation. We are back at our posts. We will discharge our duty under the Constitution and for our nation. And we're going to do it tonight.

This afternoon, Congress began the process of honoring the will of the American people and counting the Electoral College votes. We have fulfilled the solemn duty every four years for more than two centuries. Whether our nation has been at war or at peace, under all manner of threats, even during an ongoing armed rebellion and the Civil War, the clockwork of our democracy has carried on.

The United States and the United States Congress have faced down much greater threats than the unhinged crowd we saw today. We've never been deterred before, and we will not be deterred today. They tried to disrupt our democracy. They failed. They failed. They failed to attempt to obstruct the Congress. - This failed insurrection only underscores how crucial the task before us is for our republic. Our nation was founded precisely so that the free choice of the American people is what shapes our self-government and determines the destiny of our nation – not fear, not force, but the peaceful expression of the popular will.

Now, we assembled this afternoon to count our citizens' votes and to formalize their choice of the next president. Now we're going to finish exactly what we started. We'll complete the process the right way by the book. We'll follow our precedents, our laws and our Constitution to the letter. And we will certify the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Criminal behavior will never dominate the United States Congress. This institution is resilient. Our democratic republic is strong. - The American people deserve nothing less."

These were the words of Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who a year later, is strangely silent.  His refusal to continue to speak up leaves the Republican Party in the hands of liars and fascists.  Any Republican who doesn't join with Congresswoman Chaney in denouncing the defeated former president is an overt or covert ally of Gaetz, Greene, Boebert and the other right-wing nut-jobs now controlling the G.O.P.  They are, along with the January 6 insurrectionists, and those that inspired them, including the defeated former president, no less at fault than the Secessionists who fired on Fort Sumter in 1861Guantanamo Bay must be refurbished to house them all.

It is good, however, to see that President Biden at last seems to be giving up on the idea that he can be willing to compromise with, or at least talk to, those who oppose him and who even challenge his legitimacy as President.  If you hold a serpent to your breast, as the Aesop fable goes, you may be bitten fatally.  Better to not welcome it and possibly to even cage it.  And attempting to defang it can be dangerous.

Verbally, at least, Biden has started calling Republicans out for the un-democratic obstructionists they are.  He at last has started to blame his predecessor in office for his transgressions. Up to now, he has avoided mentioning him.  Now he does, as “the former president.”  I would prefer that he referred to him as “the defeated former president.”  In order to maintain majorities in both the Senate and the House, Biden must get much tougher and take off the gloves. As Maureen Dowd wrote the other day in the Times, “This is not a moment for punch-pulling.” 

And that goes for Kamala Harris as well.

 JL 

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Voting Rights, the Filibuster and the Constitution

I am certain that many Americans agree that first priority of Congress should be the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. They are the doors that must be opened, but the key to the lock on them is doing away with or modifying the filibuster. Without that, voting reform won't be passed. It is a poison pill to Republicans guaranteeing defeat for many of them so they universally oppose changing it. But the fact that the SCOTUS was able to weaken the 1965 Voting Act in 2013 in Shelby vs. Holder, strengthening States' ability to restrict voting, suggests that even such progressive legislation is not the final answer.

The "Founding Fathers," in order to get the Constitution ratified in 1789 bought the votes of Southern States by avoiding the slavery issue. Reversing that through the very demanding Amendment procedure was difficult (13th, 14th & 15th Amendments) and still allowed States to restrict voting in various ways throughout the ‘Jim Crow’ period even up to now.

Lurking behind this is the simmering need for a new Constitution to replace the patched-up 1789 document which gives far too much power to States, resulting from that trade-off regarding slavery. The existence of State laws regarding tax avoidance, guns and abortions are, for example, obvious results of this. It isn't just voting rights, but that's where it must start.

 JL 

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We Cannot Forget About Covid19 – Even in Florida

My layman’s approach to Covid19 testing, based on newspaper reports of a  Palm Beach County “positivity rate” ranging from 17% to 20%, is as follows: 

1.      In my opinion, those testing positive should maintain a quarantine period (five days is the latest CDC recommendation but ten is better, especially if Covid19 symptoms are present) and afterwards, should observe social distancing, avoid crowded public places, wear a mask and schedule a future test.  

2.      In my opinion, those untested should do the same, on the chance that they would be among that significant percentage which would have tested positive if they had been tested, but without the necessity of a quarantine period unless they had been in contact with an individual known to be infected or are manifesting symptoms. A test to confirm their status would be reassuring, but not an immediate necessity so long as they behave as if they were positive.  

3.       In my opinion, testing negatively should not be taken as a license to return to pre-pandemic behavior patterns, which would make one vulnerable to infection. 

4.  Florida Gov. DeSantis’ feels that the more people who are tested, the more will be found to be ‘positive,’ increasing the number of cases and justifying the arguments for masking mandates and vaccinations, both of which he does not support, preferring antibody treatments for those already sick. I liken this to discarding fire prevention measures and replacing them with more fire engines. Governor DeSantis and his Surgeon General are politically motivated educated imbeciles. Take pride in ignoring whatever they say.  And of course, in my opinion, the governor should be voted out of office in November.

 And if you are among those who like to cruise ...   

I wouldn’t vacation on a cruise ship at this time.  All the cruise lines are reporting positive Covid19 tests among passengers and crew  (all of whom are supposedly vaccinated or recently tested negatively) although the number of those infected is really miniscule compared to the number of people on the ship.  (The numbers in the letter below translate to about eight tenths of one percent.)  Nevertheless, so long as such susceptibility, however tiny, is present, masking and social distancing is being practiced on board these vessels.  Frankly, I wouldn’t enjoy being on a cruise ship and having to wear a mask when out of my stateroom. Takes all the fun out of it.  Here’s my letter to Palm Beach Post on this subject published about a week ago.

"COVID testing, masks and vaccines needed  -  -  - 

From what I have read, It is clear that vaccinations, while reducing the chance of COVID-19 infections and minimizing the disease’s severity for those infected, are not the equivalent of a negative COVID-19 test. The Dec. 21 Post article reports that 98% of the 48 passengers and crew who tested positive on a recent cruise ship, a minuscule number considering that there were over 6,000 passengers, and crew on board, were fully vaccinated. So long as vaccination is not 100% protective, wearing masks and social distancing in public places should still be practiced. Until frequent, inexpensive, self-administered COVID-19 testing becomes the rule, vaccinations are the best safeguard we have."

 

JL 

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Close the Portal

Local sports pages recently indicated that football players have transferred to Florida State University from the following colleges: Wisconsin, Illinois, Arizona State, Louisville, Oregon and Lamar (part of the Texas University System). It should make FSU alumni proud that these students felt that they could receive a better education at the Tallahassee college than they apparently were getting at the schools where they had been studying and chose to transfer.  

Of course, this is nonsense.  Academics have nothing whatsoever to do with it.  All colleges do it, but that doesn’t make it right. Colleges must abolish the “transfer portal” for athletic purposes, allowing “students” to switch schools.  Otherwise, all that we’ll have left will be the SEC, the Big Ten and the ACC, the only conferences which play to full stadiums, while the athletes they don’t hire, oops, I mean ‘need,’ find lesser ‘second choice’ schools to attend and play for.  The Big Twelve and the PAC12 are already stumbling.  Closing the portal would spread the top level ‘talent’ more widely and create more equality among college football teams.  True, it enables lesser schools to  pick up players originally drafted by the top schools, but who didn't work out well there, but the real benefit is in enabling better athletes, like the cream in the days before homogenized milk, to rise to the top.

Really, when one checks the colleges many NFL players attended, there are many from such lesser schools whom the NFL spots and drafts.  All the “transfer portal” accomplishes is enriching the already rich schools.  Rutgers quarterback Noah Vedral is a good example.  His one year at the University of Central Florida, two years at the University of Nebraska and two years at Rutgers illustrate the situation where the gridiron takes precedence over the library.  Adding to this tragedy is the presence of a similar “transfer portal” among high school athletes, particularly in backward parts of the country such as Florida.

 JL 

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Thursday, January 6, 2022

1-6-2022 - Garland Speaks Out, Aaron Burr, James Madison and the Need for Urgency

Attorney General Garland to the Rescue ... We Hope

In a speech to Justice Department personnel on Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed to hold all those responsible for the Jan. 6 riot accountable — whether they were at the Capitol or committed other crimes surrounding the day’s events — saying investigators are methodically building more complicated and serious cases and would prosecute people “at any level.” 

 “The actions we have taken thus far will not be our last,” Garland said, speaking in the Justice Department’s Great Hall in an address that was broadcast live online and by cable news channels. “The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead.”

This will probably cause many to lose sleep wondering if the facts would lead to them.  The trail goes through Steve Bannon and Marc Meadows and as the small-fry who invaded the Capitol, and also those who committed other acts, are apprehended, it will ultimately reach higher and higher.  This might cause some to "flip" and incriminate others or cause some to hunker down behind a wall of silence bolstered by legal maneuvers.  Democracy hangs in the balance, and it is but ten months until Election Day ... but Garland will be in office until 2024.

JL
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Treason Trial of a Former Vice President

Burr

Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson's former Vice President (and also the untried murderer of Alexander Hamilton, dueling being illegal in both NY and NJ at the time), was tried for treason in 1807 for doing less than what our defeated former president instigated on January 6, 2021 in an effort to remain in office.  Burr was merely training "troops" and planning an insurrection to set up a separate republic in the Southwest, but no one was killed and the Capitol wasn't invaded. Burr was acquitted since there was no 'overt act' comparable to what happened on January 6, 2021.  It would appear the Select Committee's seeking information on what happened in the White House that day is aimed at determining whether the defeated former president's behavior on that day did amount to an 'overt act.'



JL

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Think We Live in a Democracy? We Don't. 
At Least One 'Founding Father' Wanted it That Way

An opinion piece in the New York Times on January 3 was titled "The Republican Party Is Succeeding Because We Are Not a True Democracy."  Written by Jedediah Britton-Purdy, a professor of constitutional law at Columbia University, it points out the elitist aspect, historically, of American democracy.  An excerpt follows:

"James Madison boasted that the Constitution achieved “the total exclusion of the people, in their collective capacity.” Its elaborate political mechanics reflect the elite dislike and mistrust of majority rule that Madison voiced when he wrote, “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.” Madison’s condescension has never gone away. 

Walter Lippmann, perhaps the most prominent intellectual of the short American Century, reckoned that citizens were ignorant, confused and emotional. Democracy brought “an intensification of feeling and a degradation of significance” to whatever it touched. If Madison and Lippmann could have seen the “QAnon Shaman” break into the Capitol, then meander around like a tourist whose phone has lost its signal, they would have muttered, “This is what democracy looks like.”

Democracy receded from the popular imagination during the blandly optimistic decades that followed the Cold War’s end around 1989. American leaders predicted that the world would inevitably come to embrace some combination of elections, capitalism and personal freedom. Serious thinking about what democracy meant, and what could threaten it, seemed more like intellectual history than practical politics. We live in the shipwreck of that unearned optimism."

Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov observed many years ago that there has always been a strong anti-scientific, anti-intellectual strain in this country, a "celebration of ignorance" as he put it, and that "democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." If that is what democracy means, would you opt out for some other form of government?  Is that why James Madison and Walter Lippmann felt the way they did?  


JL

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In Short Supply - Urgency

The many important issues occupying Congress all serve to divert the Democratic Party from doing TODAY what they should have done from DAY ONE, and that is figuring out how to maintain their control of both Houses of Congress and the White House.  And that requires legislation to guarantee voting rights of all citizens!  (The mail I get from my Congressperson deals with mundane, business-as-usual, matters and goes nowhere near that.)

Why must Shumer wait until January 17 to act? Every week counts. Even if voter rights legislation is passed tomorrow, it will take months to put it into effect and battle the lawsuits against it Republican-dominated States will surely initiate. Election Day is ten months away! The good things Americans have gained from Democratic legislation are not sufficiently dramatic to win votes. (Even Republicans who voted against them confuse the voters by claiming credit for them.)

There is only one job on the workbench for Democrats and those who wish to preserve democracy in America. Regardless of whether voting rights legislation is passed, it must be the mobilization of the votes needed to keep control of both Houses of Congress in November. As I have repeatedly said, that can be done only with a massive turn-out of voters, motivated by consistent Republican opposition to anything which might be of benefit to women and persons of color. These are the specific voters whom the Democratic Party must target to mobilize now! Not tomorrow. Now. Otherwise, democracy loses.

 

JL
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Prerequisites of Nationhood

I have always felt that there are certain prerequisites of nationhood which ought to be met if a country is to survive as a legitimate nation.  There is some flexibility in them but they are: (1) logical borders such as large bodies of water, deserts or mountain ranges (rivers do not qualify), (2) at least one language or ethnicity common to its inhabitants, (3) an economic base provided by plentiful natural resources, manufacturing, trading or financial acumen and finally, (4) a workable governmental structure to manage its operation. The failure of a nation to survive can sometimes be attributed to any one of the first three prerequisites, but the absence of the fourth makes failure a certainty. Whether it be autocratic or democratic, that structure must exist. It is the glue that holds any nation together, the alternative to anarchy. Our present crisis involves testing that fourth prerequisite in the United States.

 

JL
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Quoting Bari Weiss

Bari Weiss, in her blog “Common Sense,” said the following after mentioning Jonah Goldberg’s and Liz Cheney’s alienation from the rest of the G.O.P., now afraid to lose the votes of the followers of the loud-mouth, defeated, and soon to be disgraced, former president:

"What does it say about the state of the conservative movement and the Republican Party that these two conservative Republicans now find themselves at the periphery rather than at the center? Just as old-school liberals find themselves on the outs with the new, riotous left, so too classic conservatives are finding themselves out of step with a right-wing that seeks revolution rather than conservation."

Weiss is not too far right nor too far left.  


JL

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Coming Up Next Time Around

More about Covid19 and More about College Football's problems.


JL
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Monday, January 3, 2022

1-3-2022 New York Times Editorial

The following was published in the New York Times on January 1, 2022.  It was written by their Editorial Board.  It should be read by all Americans.  I have highlighted what I feel is the crux of its message.

JL

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One year after the smoke and broken glass, the mock gallows and the very real bloodshed of that awful day, it is tempting to look back and imagine that we can, in fact, simply look back. To imagine that what happened on Jan. 6, 2021 — a deadly riot at the seat of American government, incited by a defeated president amid a last-ditch effort to thwart the transfer of power to his successor — was horrifying but that it is in the past and that we as a nation have moved on.

This is an understandable impulse. After four years of chaos, cruelty and incompetence, culminating in a pandemic and the once-unthinkable trauma of Jan. 6, most Americans were desperate for some peace and quiet.

On the surface, we have achieved that. Our political life seems more or less normal these days, as the president pardons turkeys and Congress quarrels over spending bills. But peel back a layer, and things are far from normal. Jan. 6 is not in the past; it is every day.

It is regular citizens who threaten election officials and other public servants, who ask, “When can we use the guns?” and who vow to murder politicians who dare to vote their conscience. It is Republican lawmakers scrambling to make it harder for people to vote and easier to subvert their will if they do. It is Donald Trump who continues to stoke the flames of conflict with his rampant lies and limitless resentments and whose twisted version of reality still dominates one of the nation’s two major political parties.

In short, the Republic faces an existential threat from a movement that is openly contemptuous of democracy and has shown that it is willing to use violence to achieve its ends. No self-governing society can survive such a threat by denying that it exists. Rather, survival depends on looking back and forward at the same time.

Truly grappling with the threat ahead means taking full account of the terror of that day a year ago. Thanks largely to the dogged work of a bipartisan committee in the House of Representatives, this reckoning is underway. We know now that the violence and mayhem broadcast live around the world was only the most visible and visceral part of the effort to overturn the election. The effort extended all the way into the Oval Office, where Mr. Trump and his allies plotted a constitutional self-coup.

We know now that top Republican lawmakers and right-wing media figures privately understood how dangerous the riot was and pleaded with Mr. Trump to call a halt to it, even as they publicly pretended otherwise. We know now that those who may have critical information about the planning and execution of the attack are refusing to cooperate with Congress, even if it means being charged with criminal contempt.

For now, the committee’s work continues. It has scheduled a series of public hearings in the new year to lay out these and other details, and it plans to release a full report of its findings before the midterm elections — after which, should Republicans regain control of the House as expected, the committee will undoubtedly be dissolved.

This is where looking forward comes in. Over the past year, Republican lawmakers in 41 states have been trying to advance the goals of the Jan. 6 rioters — not by breaking laws but by making them. Hundreds of bills have been proposed and nearly three dozen laws have been passed that empower state legislatures to sabotage their own elections and overturn the will of their voters, according to a running tally by a nonpartisan consortium of pro-democracy organizations. 

Some bills would change the rules to make it easier for lawmakers to reject the votes of their citizens if they don’t like the outcome. Others replace professional election officials with partisan actors who have a vested interest in seeing their preferred candidate win. Yet more attempt to criminalize human errors by election officials, in some cases even threatening prison.

Many of these laws are being proposed and passed in crucial battleground states like Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia and Pennsylvania. In the aftermath of the 2020 election, the Trump campaign targeted voting results in all these states, suing for recounts or trying to intimidate officials into finding “missing” votes. The effort failed, thanks primarily to the professionalism and integrity of election officials. Many of those officials have since been stripped of their power or pushed out of office and replaced by people who openly say the last election was fraudulent.

Thus the Capitol riot continues in statehouses across the country, in a bloodless, legalized form that no police officer can arrest and that no prosecutor can try in court.

This isn’t the first time state legislatures have tried to wrest control of electoral votes from their own people, nor is it the first time that the dangers of such a ploy have been pointed out. In 1891, President Benjamin Harrison warned Congress of the risk that such a “trick” could determine the outcome of a presidential election.

The Constitution guarantees to all Americans a republican form of government, Harrison said. “The essential features of such a government are the right of the people to choose their own officers” and to have their votes counted equally in making that choice. “Our chief national danger,” he continued, is “the overthrow of majority control by the suppression or perversion of popular suffrage.” If a state legislature were to succeed in substituting its own will for that of its voters, “it is not too much to say that the public peace might be seriously and widely endangered.”

A healthy, functioning political party faces its electoral losses by assessing what went wrong and redoubling its efforts to appeal to more voters the next time. The Republican Party, like authoritarian movements the world over, has shown itself recently to be incapable of doing this. Party leaders’ rhetoric suggests they see it as the only legitimate governing power and thus portrays anyone else’s victory as the result of fraud — hence the foundational falsehood that spurred the Jan. 6 attack, that Joe Biden didn’t win the election.

“The thing that’s most concerning is that it has endured in the face of all evidence,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger, one of the vanishingly few Republicans in Congress who remain committed to empirical reality and representative democracy. “And I’ve gotten to wonder if there is actually any evidence that would ever change certain people’s minds.”

The answer, for now, appears to be no. Polling finds that the overwhelming majority of Republicans believe that President Biden was not legitimately elected and that about one-third approve of using violence to achieve political goals. Put those two numbers together, and you have a recipe for extreme danger.

Political violence is not an inevitable outcome. Republican leaders could help by being honest with their voters and combating the extremists in their midst. Throughout American history, party leaders, from Abraham Lincoln to Margaret Chase Smith to John McCain, have stood up for the union and democracy first, to their everlasting credit.

Democrats aren’t helpless, either. They hold unified power in Washington, for the last time in what may be a long time. Yet they have so far failed to confront the urgency of this moment — unwilling or unable to take action to protect elections from subversion and sabotage. Blame Senator Joe Manchin or Senator Kyrsten Sinema, but the only thing that matters in the end is whether you get it done. For that reason, Mr. Biden and other leading Democrats should make use of what remaining power they have to end the filibuster for voting rights legislation, even if nothing else.

Whatever happens in Washington, in the months and years to come, Americans of all stripes who value their self-government must mobilize at every level — not simply once every four years but today and tomorrow and the next day — to win elections and help protect the basic functions of democracy. If people who believe in conspiracy theories can win, so can those who live in the reality-based world.

Above all, we should stop underestimating the threat facing the country. Countless times over the past six years, up to and including the events of Jan. 6, Mr. Trump and his allies openly projected their intent to do something outrageous or illegal or destructive. Every time, the common response was that they weren’t serious or that they would never succeed. How many times will we have to be proved wrong before we take it seriously? The sooner we do, the sooner we might hope to salvage a democracy that is in grave danger.

 

JL

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Polarization, Truth and "Mojo"

  Where Polarization Leads We hear a lot about the desirability of bi-partisanship these days in government and elsewhere in our society.  ...