Category Archives: Governments

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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

This 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.)

As the Virus Persists, ‘Hurry Up and Wait’

In a time, like the present, of challenge and peril, wishing will get you nowhere. Patience needs to prevail, and that can mean a grueling wait.

In the U.S., from the White House to countless other locales, impatience seems more the rule. We’ve got to ‘open up’, get back to normal, restore jobs, get on with living sustainably.

The problem is, though, the virus has its own timetable and it’s going to take longer for a vaccine to be available then we sometimes feel we can endure.  Witness, as The Washington Post reports,  the situation that exists in Beirut, Lebanon. 

“Lebanon on Tuesday became the latest country to reimpose restrictions after experiencing a surge of infections,” the Post reports, “almost exactly two weeks after it appeared to have contained the spread of the virus and began easing up. Authorities ordered a four-day, near-complete lockdown to allow officials time to assess the rise in numbers.”

“Authorities” everywhere need to be mindful that virus-based events are currently following their own calendar, and to go with the flow of whatever’s best for people in the short to longer-term. Patience and fortitude are today’s highest behavioral and, indeed, political, values.

In South Korea, The Post adds,  President Moon Jae-in is warning the country to “‘brace for the pandemic’s second wave,’ calling the battle against COVID-19 a ‘prolonged’ fight.” And, alas, in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where it all began,  “authorities on Tuesday ordered the testing of all 11 million inhabitants after a cluster of six new infections emerged, five weeks after the city had apparently rid itself of the disease.”

It’s much the same in Germany, “which is widely regarded as the model in Europe of a balanced coronavirus response.” 

Reality these days takes patience, lots of it. In Lebanon, where we began, “authorities have imposed a new four-day lockdown.” Four days only?

 

Downplaying the Coronavirus

The presumptive President of the United States, Donald Trump, says the Democrats are “politicizing” the coronavirus, that it’s “their new hoax” – that’s what he was saying at a rally yesterday in South Carolina. Of course, Trump isn’t our “presumptive” president at all, he’s for real in the role – and that could mean woe is us.

The President, of course, has placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of coordinating the federal response to the virus threat. From Trump’s tone yesterday, Pence shouldn’t have much to do, and we know that’s not the case at all.  The first death from the virus has just been reported in Washington State, And the virus appears to be spreading up and down the West Coast and heading inland.

Scoffing can be taken too far. Defenders of the President say he didn’t call the virus itself a hoax.  But if there were ever a time for choosing one’s words carefully, this is it and Trump spoke rather spitefully.

There are times when Trump’s handling of his nation-leading job seems as much prompted by whimsy as reality, and this is one of them.  We should be expecting more of the President – caution in the face of a health hazard that threatens us all. Yet the coronavirus is “the Democrats’ new hoax”. We couldn’t let that one pass by. That wouldn’t be fair to a nation whose apprehension is growing  over the prospect of the virus spreading from coast to coast.

Let’s hope it doesn’t, but let’s not downplay the possibility either.

Speaking Freely. . .and Officially

Righteousness, at least self-righteousness, doesn’t necessarily jibe with fairness. It has, however, been a hallmark of the Trump Administration in Washington.

We’ve had this in mind especially since reading an Associated Press dispatch a while ago about a Trump administration official saying that the inscription on the Statue of Liberty refers to “people coming from Europe” and that America only wants migrants “who can stand on their own two feet.”

For a refresher, courtesy of AP,  Emma Lazarus wrote her “New Colossus” poem in 1883 “one year after Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned laborers from China. The poem is best known for its line about welcoming ‘your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Beginning in the 1930s, AP added, supporters of immigration began using the poem to bolster their cause. Biographer Esther Schor said Lazarus was “deeply involved in refugee causes”.

Thus fairness involves, from the start, getting one’s facts straight and, especially if one is a government official, being well-informed and careful about even impromptu comments.

Yes, fairness is a discipline in itself, appropriate for all government officials yearning (as we assume most do) to speak truthfully and as well as officially.

(The photo above shows Karen Meja, left, fitting her mother, Leonor Chipayo, with a souvenir Statue of Liberty foam visor on a visit to Ellis Island last year in New York.)