Electoral Delusion a National Risk

Unfortunately, I’m returning to the subject of Donald Trump, this time in his doings as a private citizen. They are ominous.

Paul  Waldman, a Washington Post columnist, writes: “Former president Donald Trump went to Arizona  Saturday (Jan. 15) for a rally of the faithful, and what was most disturbing wasn’t even Trump’s own litany of lies and conspiracy theories. If you sat through Trump’s tired recitation of the old hits, you’d think he was slipping into irrelevance, a pathetic loser trying to convince a dwindling cadre of fans he was still relevant.

“No, what mattered about the event was the parade of Arizona politicians who came to pay tribute to him, one more extreme than the next, each there because they hope they can ride Trump’s support to their own positions of power. 

“And they just might.”

The American system relies on free and fair elections. When a losing candidate alleges that because he lost,  an election was rigged, he discredits the process on which democracy is based. And when voters, in this instance fans of Donald Trump, cheer him on for making such an assertion, the system is threatened by their acceptance of a delusion.

Then. when candidates for other state or national offices ride along on the cheers, as in Arizona, the damage is magnified.

You almost get the sense that American history isn’t being taught in schools and colleges any longer, or that the voters involved in the deception weren’t learning from their teachers. That suggests a more profound disconnect than “simply” a political one. 

A great nation needs to be grounded in accuracy and reality, lest it slip into chaos.

Student Loan Burdens Can Become Awfully Weighty

What’s fair about a college or university student loan program that leaves graduates facing virtually a lifetime of debt? This question is raised in a Wall Street Journal article “Financially Hobbled for Life”: The Elite Master’s Degrees That Don’t Pay Off”.

The writer of this post is retired now, but looks back on a college education that, thanks to devoted parents, after-class jobs and a reasonably priced school, left him free of any lingering student debt in the 1950s. The contrasting story of Zack Morrison, a 29-year-old filmmaker and Columbia University Master of Fine Arts graduate, is faced with paying off a student loan balance of nearly $300,000.

“Columbia University President Lee Bollinger,” the news story reports, “said the Education Department data in the Journal’s analysis can’t fully assess salary prospects because it covers only earnings and loan repayments two years after graduation. ‘Nevertheless,’ he added, ‘this is not what we want it to be.’”

That’s hardly surprising. Faced with the expenses of getting established in a career and having a family, if they can afford it, college or university graduates saddled with educational debt that dwarfs their salaries are in a really tough spot.

Morrison praises the quality of his Columbia master’s program but  wonders, “How the hell am I ever going to pay this off?”  That’s a fair question when his graduate student loans balance “now stands at nearly $300,000, including accrued interest. He has been earning between $30,000 and $50,000 a year from work as a Hollywood assistant and such side gigs as commercial video production and photography.”

Schools like Columbia have reason to be proud of their educational offerings, but their cost to students needs, it appears, to be reconsidered.

When an Association Owns a Building, Who’s In Charge?

Condominium – An apartment building in which the apartments are owned individually. – American Heritage Dictionary

Okay, but who’s in charge? Who’s responsible for the upkeep of a condominium building and for the safety of the “owners” who have apartments therein. In all fairness, who was in charge, or should have been, at the Champlain Towers South condo association before part of the building collapsed into deadly rubble in Surfside, Florida?

The condo building’s setting on the Florida shore made it especially vulnerable to erosion and other environmental factors.

“I’ve seen up and down the coast hundreds of buildings where you have concrete problems,” said Greg Batista, a specialist in concrete repair projects quoted by CNN. . “If not maintained, whether it’s a concrete problem or a settling problem, it could be a bridge, it could be a building, it could be a dam or a sea wall — these kinds of things happen if not tended to.”

But who should have been seeing that the condo building’s condition was being tended to in a timely, effective manner? CNN noted that the condo owners “were facing $15 million worth of repairs”. These, of course, are merely rhetorical questions at this point in the collapse that apparently took more than 150 lives early one morning.  But they are questions that matter, deeply so.

Heads Up to Avert a Covid-19 ‘Doomsday’

Rochelle Walensky, MD, the director of the federal Center for Disease Control, is a forthright person and for that she’s to be praised. On March 21, Ms. Walensky advised :

“When I first started at CDC about 2 months ago, I made a promise to you: I would tell you the truth even if it was not the news we wanted to hear. Now is one of those times when I have to share the truth, and I have to hope and trust you will listen. I’m going to pause here, I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.”

“Doom” because too many people, principally younger people, aren’t heeding appeals to continue taking COVID-19 seriously  and have been having a springtime fling. Witness, notes WebMD, the “spring break crowds (that)  have overwhelmed some areas, such as southern Florida. Governors and health officials have expressed concerns about the latest coronavirus data in their states.”

It isn’t fair when people turn aside advisories of the health risks their behavior might well inflict on others. Covid-19 is a silent killer – hence Ms. Walensky’s doomsday warning.

We need more community-based thinking and response in the midst of a continuing pandemic.  Look around – vaccinations are gaining ground, but there are risks aplenty remaining

At the Supreme Court, a Troubling Photo

The photo of the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., “protected” behind a wire mesh fence topped by barbed wire, really gets to you. The “framing”, of course, was added after the capitol riots on January 6, 2021.

The Supreme Court is where ultimate justice is rendered.  Anyone with a grievance that rises to the level of being heard by the nation’s courts can expect it to be resolved fairly by the nine-member Supreme Court if the dispute gets that far. The building’s entrance is topped by the words “Equal Justice Under Law”.

The Supreme Court building shouldn’t need protection. Instead, its occupants protect all of us.

Texas Hit By a Climate Punch

Texas being smacked with an unexpected, and largely unplanned for,  cold snap in February 2021, demonstrates how important it is to think more strategically than defensibly about one’s readiness for weather and other emergency situations.

Events don’t always unfold as we expect them to and it’s only fair that we limber up our readiness to deal with unexpected challenges.

“A cold snap unusually powerful for the state crippled Texas’ electrical grid this month,” The Wall Street Journal reported.  “It left more than four million Texans without electricity and heat, many for days in subfreezing temperatures, and resulted in 80 deaths.”

“Nearly 185 generating units, mostly gas and coal-fired capacity, tripped offline. The resulting shortages and unexpectedly high demand led to soaring electricity prices,” The Journal reported.  “Wholesale power prices were more than 400 times last year’s average.”

Regulators are now reviewing the state’s electrical grid, which functions largely utility by utility and has little tolerance for weather emergencies. Yet they occasionally occur, more frequently, possibly, with Earth’s changing climate.

When a utility “system” collapse occurs, it can hit very hard. “We need to make changes, and rethink, from the bottom up, how we deliver energy and keep it reliable, ” said Gina McCarthy, head of the White House  Office of Domestic Climate Policy.

“Rethinking” may well be the need of our times for many of us, not only Texas utility executives.

(In the photo with this post, note how the traffic lights on a Texas street were off, like the electric power everywhere else there.)