A few of the articles I read this morning over coffee with short comments on each.
Protests against lockdowns and stay-at-home orders begin. Are these starting organically or driven by right-wing organizations?
Back in January when SARS-COVID-2 began to spread from China, a good friend of mine told me government would eventually have to shut down businesses and limit large gatherings of people in order to limit the contagion and protect the health care system. I responded that even if necessary, lockdowns like this would generate protest and backlash in the US if they lasted more than a week or two. Those protests have started.
Both Capitol and Virginia State Police were on hand and had to remind the protesters to maintain social distancing guidelines since they said the groups encouraged participants to hug and share food during the event.
“The reason why I’m not wearing a mask is that I’m not going to have someone tell me I have to,” said protester Benjamin Wright, who lives in Richmond.
My first post in the Lincoln-Douglas II: the Sanders-Scott Debates series. We’ll both be following up in the other’s comment sections. Cross posted at Virginia Right. You can read Sandy’s initial entry here.
I’ve written in the past about existential issues – policy questions that settle the political debate for many Americans. Some focus on Second Amendment rights, others on taxes or religion. Abortion – reproductive health care – is one of the big ones.
Most activists frame the abortion discussion in terms of rights. The pro-life side privileges the right to life for the fetus. Others fight for a woman’s right to reproductive choice. Advocacy coalitions on both sides privilege the freedom of the individuals they wish to protect.
Rights often conflict in a democracy, and the adjudication of these conflicts forms the core of politics. Madison expected factions to argue and fight and try to convince others they’re in the right and should form policy. Today we’re so polarized that these existential issues divide us in ways Madison didn’t expect. So even when one side or the other wins power and acts to implement policy, the other side rejects its legitimacy. Abortion is, after all, murder if you accept the personhood of a fetus. If you don’t, the pregnant woman’s health and personal freedom take precedence. She is, after all, the only human being involved.
Settling the abortion debate then depends in part on settling the question of when life begins. But even if one side won the argument, and its opponents accepted the legitimacy of the policy they seek to implement, this victory probably does not lead to optimal policy outcomes.
Sandy is a Hanover County attorney who earned his J.D. at the University of Alabama in 1983 and now works as an Appellate Procedure Consultant for a downtown legal firm. He has written or co-authored ten scholarly legal articles, including one on the “Effect of the USA Patriot Act on Money Laundering and Currency Transaction Laws.” His resume includes work as an Appellate Defender, adjunct professor of law at the T. C. Williams School of Law (University of Richmond), and service on the Appellate Practice Subcommittee of the Litigation Section of the Virginia State Bar. Sandy is very active in his church and supports its missionary work. He also helped bring curling to Virginia!
A couple of days ago I posted about how COVID-19 sidelined the USS Theodore Roosevelt. In that post I wrote that I expected the Navy to take any action necessary to protect the crew and get the ship back in action as quickly as possible. Now it looks like this didn’t happen quickly enough to satisfy her Captain, and he was not shy about letting people know. This got him canned.
After evacuating more than a hundred COVID-positive sailors to quarantine on Guam, Captain Brett Crozier became concerned that the Navy would not act fast enough to protect the rest of the crew. On 30 March, Crozier sent a sharp letter to his superiors pointing out that while the ship could fight if necessary, failure to rapidly disembark sailors during peacetime risked their lives unnecessarily.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt, a Nimitz class nuclear aircraft carrier, has a crew of about 3200, not including its associated Air Wing. More than four thousand Naval personnel were on the Theodore Roosevelt when the vessel docked in Guam with more than 100 crew members testing positive for the virus, according to the linked article.
A few days ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine who teaches economics and finance at the university level. I wondered out loud why the invisible hand of the market didn’t generate increased production of N95 masks and other protective equipment for medical personnel, not to mention life-saving equipment like ventilators and respirators. It seems to me, I said, that the risk-taking entrepreneurs who drive free markets should have been able to recognize an upcoming requirement for expanded production by late January. Even if not sold immediately, these items will eventually sell, if only for government or health care system stockpiles.
My friend chuckled a bit and explained two things to me. First, the people who make decisions for late capitalist firms do not gamble. They are risk averse and wait for orders to come in so they don’t get stuck with inventory they cannot sell. This is why you can’t find bathroom tissue at your local grocery store. More importantly, my friend continued, late stage capitalists use their market power not to innovate but to block the threat of innovation by other firms by securing control of production and markets.
Reading the news this morning I happened to spot a good example of this.
A few links to things I read while having my Saturday morning coffee today:
One of the many things I’ve thought about since COVID-19 forced us into severe social distancing is the effect it must be having on military units. It has to have limiting effects on recruiting and basic training, and I”m not sure how tank platoons keep training and operating effectively unless medics can test and track the spread of the virus within the ranks. This story about the outbreak on the Theodore Roosevelt brings that worry home.
An authoritarian figure who has joked about being President for life runs the Federal Government during a pandemic that could literally kill millions of Americans and disrupt society for months. States are postponing primary elections and struggling to figure out how voters can cast ballots while keeping social distancing. Understandably, some people worry that Donald Trump might take advantage of the crisis to stay in power.
These discussions focus narrowly on two questions: whether States could physically hold elections during a pandemic using modern systems and what would happen if they couldn’t. Most agree that elections can take place if state legislatures hurry up and figure out how to use expanded absentee voting, other voting by mail systems, or even the internet. They also think that if for some reason elections cannot be held, someone other than Trump would take power based on existing statute.
What none of these articles mention is the Electoral College and the role of state legislatures in choosing these Electors. This is the group that actually elects the President, as we found out the hard way in 2016. These days voters choose these Electors by casting votes at polling stations or by mail because state legislatures want it that way – this is not a Constitutional requirement. This means that elections for President and Vice President can take place as long as state legislatures can meet and choose Electors before Election Day.