Politics

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: “Dragging democracy to hell”

Renée Graham of the Boston Globe writes that time is running out for American democracy and the rule of law
We’re less than a month away from the first anniversary of the day when Trump’s white supremacist supporters assaulted police officers, breached the Capitol, hunted for lawmakers, and chanted “Hang Mike Pence.” More than 600 people have since been charged with crimes committed on Jan. 6.
When she sentenced four insurrectionists to jail time in October, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan said, “There have to be consequences for participating in an attempted violent overthrow of the government, beyond sitting at home.” So far, the masterminds behind that attempted violent overthrow of the government, including Meadows, have dodged any real consequences for their culpability.
[…]
This is about going after Trump — and every last one of his co-conspirators. It’s about a political party’s allegiance, not to this nation or its Constitution, but to a bitter old man who defiled this country during his catastrophic term as president. It’s an indictment of how insidious GOP loyalties, whether driven by misguided beliefs or fear of reprisals from Trump and his minions, are dragging democracy to hell.

Lindsey M. Chervinsky, writing for Washington Monthly, says that the GOP manufactures crises so that they can blame President Biden.

The president of the United States is the most powerful person in the world, but he cannot single-handedly fix our politics.

To a certain extent, Biden perpetuated the idea that he could return calm to our politics: “American people are looking for a candidate who will promise them peace, not just victory.” He campaigned on the idea that Donald Trump’s presidency was “an aberrant moment in time,” arguing, “We have to remember who we are.” He promised that he would work with politicians on both sides of the aisle to pass legislation—and he has fulfilled that promise. Indeed, he has passed more bipartisan legislation than many of his supporters anticipated, such as the American Rescue Act and the infrastructure package.

Of course, politicians always make bold promises during campaigns. But perhaps Biden oversold his ability to restore decency to our nation’s politics. When he launched his presidential bid in May 2019, he acknowledged that the American people were “sick of the division. They’re sick of the fighting. They’re sick of the childish behavior.” In other words, his presidency would be the solution.

But it’s one thing to work with the few moderate Republicans who are left, and it is another to change the behavior of the party’s rank and file—especially when the GOP, as a whole, is still led by a would-be autocrat, and their whole modus operandi is to manufacture problems they can blame on Biden.

Nicole Karlis of Salon speculates that America may be going through a Jungian “mass psychosis.”

Given the perturbed psychological state of so many Americans, it is worth asking if something is happening — psychologically speaking — that is causing many Americans to live in very different realities.

Psychologists say yes; and, moreover, that what is happening was actually predicted long ago by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. Indeed, Jung once wrote that the demise of society wouldn’t be a physical threat, but instead mass delusion — a collective psychosis of sorts.

[…]

Bainbridge said in order to contextualize what’s actually happening in America through a Jungian lens, one must consider the role of a central guiding myth.

“Jung said man cannot live without religion — so you make it up,” Bainbridge said. “You can’t not have a central myth to live by. He would say maybe in this time that we’ve lost that — we don’t have a collective unifying principle.”

Karlis’s essay relies a little bit too much on both-siderism but I do agree with her (and Carl Jung) that a people need myths to live by. 

And if religion or God is dead, then maybe what the late feminist theorist and author bell hooks called the “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” constitutes a central myth that a great many Americans live by.

If God did not exist…

Mark Honigsbaum writes for The New York Review of Books ($$$), reminding us that vaccine hesitancy and resistance is nothing new.

…Why, more than any other medical procedure, do vaccines provoke such heated passions?

One answer lies in the history of the state’s attempts to compel compliance through vaccine schedules, particularly in England during the Victorian period. Under the Compulsory Vaccination Act, which originally came into force in 1853 and was amended in 1867 and 1871, failure to vaccinate a newborn before the age of four months could result in a fine of twenty shillings and imprisonment. As the medical historian Nadja Durbach shows in Bodily Matters (2004), her excellent study of Victorian opposition to the act, resistance to vaccines stemmed from a constellation of factors, including concerns about the expanding influence of the state, beliefs in the rights of the individual, and ideas about the sanctity of the human body.[…]

Much as today, Victorian-era vaccine hesitancy was tied up with distrust of the medical profession and of the power of the modern state. In that period of imperial expansion, it became increasingly important for nations to regulate the health of their populations against epidemics of smallpox, cholera, and other preventable diseases that had the power to roil economies and topple governments. Authorities thus defended mass immunization as a rational scientific program, undertaken for the common good.

Today, whether we realize it or not, we are all implicated in this biopolitical calculus. While most of us are happy to submit to vaccination in our own and other peoples’ interests, a recalcitrant minority see it as an affront to their liberty and freedom of choice. That conflict has been more or less a historical continuum. What is surprising, and demands more explanation, is the persistence of a fear of harm caused by vaccines in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccination is a boon to health and, for the most part, safe.

Given the resistance to even wearing masks long before vaccines were distributed, I wonder if public health officials and organizations like the CDC and NIAID even took the relevant history of vaccine hesitancy and resistance and if not, then why not.

Emily Kopp and Ariel Cohen write for Roll Call  that a  nationwide shortage of pharmacists may result in a lag in administering COVID-19 booster shots as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise.

Facing a shortage of pharmacists, drugstores nationwide are urging people to make appointments for COVID-19 shots rather than walking up — even as the Biden administration promotes vaccination as the key to ending the pandemic and relies on pharmacies as the main supplier.

Between flu season and the rush for COVID-19 vaccines, both neighborhood and chain pharmacies in some places are experiencing a crush of demand. A tight labor market could pose an extra obstacle to vaccination as infections tick up.

Husein Ghrouf, a 31-year-old pharmacist, said he was working more than 80 hours per week at his CVS store in New York City before he quit in October because of burnout.

“Right now, all the pharmacies are rejecting people that are walking in for the booster and telling them to make an appointment. Before, it was never really like that,” Ghrouf said. “But right now it is, because we don’t have the extra help. … What they’re doing is just putting that workload on regular staff.”

John Allen writes for The Conversation that climate models cannot now predict the severity of storms and tornadoes but that there are some things that we do know about the possible relationship of severe storms and tornadoes to climate change.

Tornadoes and the severe storms that create them are far below the typical scale that climate models can predict.

What we can do instead is look at the large-scale ingredients that make conditions ripe for tornadoes to form.

Two key ingredients for severe storms are (1) energy driven by warm, moist air promoting strong updrafts, and (2) changing wind speed and direction, known as wind shear, which allows storms to become stronger and longer-lived. A third ingredient, which is harder to identify, is a trigger to get storms to form, such as a really hot day, or perhaps a cold front. Without this ingredient, not every favorable environment leads to severe storms or tornadoes, but the first two conditions still make severe storms more likely.

By using these ingredients to characterize the likelihood of severe storms and tornadoes forming, climate models can tell us something about the changing risk.

Tracy Jan of the Washington Post reports that a year and a half after the George Floyd protests and the nation’s leading public companies saying that they would address racial inequalities within their companies, Black people in the “C-Suite” executive offices of these companies are still very underrepresented.

Eighteen months after the country’s leading businesses pledged to address racial inequality within their ranks, a Washington Post review of the 50 most valuable public companies reveals that Black employees represent a strikingly small fraction of top executives — and that the people tapped to boost inclusion often struggle to do so.

According to the analysis, only 8 percent of “C-suite” executives — the highest corporate leaders, often those reporting to the CEO — are Black.

At least eight companies — Walmart, Nvidia, Cisco, Pfizer, T-Mobile, Costco, Honeywell and Qualcomm — list no Black executives among their leadership team as of December, according to information they supplied to The Post.

The percentage of Black executives in the C-suite equals or surpasses America’s Black population of 12 percent at 10 companies. Within that group, Black executives made up at least 20 percent of the C-suite at five companies — Merck, UPS, AT&T, UnitedHealth Group and Home Depot.

Finally today, Margarita Alegría writes for STATnews that  individual states may not be ready for a new federal law that mandates a “988 system” to handle calls involving mental health and substance abuse emergencies.

A new federal law mandates that, as of July 16, 2022, every U.S. state must have in place a call system to make it easier for people to seek immediate and appropriate for mental health or substance use crises. The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 adds a complement to 911. The 988 system will be the dedicated call-in line for dispatching trained staff to respond to the mental health and substance use emergencies now met primarily by law enforcement with sometimes tragic consequences, particularly for Black, Latino, and Indigenous people, as well as immigrants, LGBTQ youth, and military veterans.

Establishing an easy-to-remember crisis phone line in every state that’s staffed 24 hours a day every day comes at a critical time for a nation grappling with a behavioral health epidemic. Suicide is the second leading cause of U.S. deaths for people between the ages of 10 and 34; more and more Black youths are dying by suicide. Mental health issues among youths have become so dire, made worse by the toll of the Covid-19 pandemic, that three leading pediatric groups have declared kids’ mental health to be a national emergency. Drug overdose deaths are also at record levels.

[…]

There’s no question that the country needs a system like 988. But putting in place a system to address the colossal demand with a well-prepared workforce ready to effectively support and serve people in need is not where it should be.

Everyone have a great day!


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