The Greatest Country in the World?

Coronavirus

Coronavirus from Wikimedia Commons

April 2, 2020: In a crowded, impoverished refugee camp in Greece, one refugee tested positive for Covid-19. The camp immediately tested her 60 contacts, and found 20 more positives, none of whom were showing symptoms. Then they began testing the rest of the camp’s 2,700 refugees, while imposing a 14-day quarantine and lockdown.

In Minnesota’s Moose Lake prison, an inmate tested positive for Covid-19 on March 30. Then two more. On April 2, the fourth prisoner tested positive for Covid-19. All four are in the prison in Moose Lake. So is the second Minnesota Department of Corrections staff member to test positive for Covid-19. (The first was in Red Wing.) The Moose Lake prison is on lockdown, sort of, though correctional officers come in and out daily. When the fourth prisoner was taken out of his cell, the guards gave his cellmate a mask. They did not test him for Covid-19.

Only 7 of more than one thousand inmates at Moose Lake have been tested for Covid 19. Only 31 of more than 9,000 Minnesota prison inmates have been tested for Covid 19. The Minnesota Department of Corrections website lists no plans to test all of the 1046 inmates at Moose Lake for Covid-19.

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Prisons: Petri Dish for Pandemic

Coronavirus

Coronavirus from Wikimedia Commons

In a “socially distant protest,” people rallied in their cars outside the governor’s mansion on Summit Avenue in St. Paul on Friday, calling for the release of inmates from Minnesota jails and detention centers. They livestreamed the protest to one another and to others in their homes and delivered a petition with more than 800 signatures. The protest is part of a growing national movement to release nonviolent offenders, those on work release, those who are particularly medically vulnerable, those with only a short time left on their sentences, and those who are awaiting trial but cannot post bond.

A prison doctor in Los Angeles wrote that “Prisons are petri dishes for contagious respiratory illnesses.” Continue reading

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Beyond Handwashing and Social Distancing

RLM Stay Aware

This is part of an amazing series created and generously shared by Ricardo Levins Morales for this time of crisis. Check out the whole series on his Facebook page and at his studio https://www.rlmartstudio.com

Coronavirus news and misinformation spreads farther and faster than the virus itself. You could spend all day in complete social isolation, just trying to separate the science from the silliness. Luckily, you don’t have to tackle that alone. Here are some resources and ideas for coping with coronavirus, while remembering and acting as part of a community. Continue reading

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Coronavirus: Here and Growing

Coronavirus

Coronavirus from Wikimedia Commons

As friends left a party today, they offered an elbow bump rather than a hug. That’s just one of many symptoms of how fear of the coronavirus has affected our daily lives. So for all of my friends and family who are not news junkies, here’s the latest and most reliable information I have found on the present state of the coronavirus in the United States.

The first coronavirus (Covid-19) death in the United States was reported today, February 29: a 50-something man in the EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland, Washington. Two other people in LifeCare Center, a Kirkland, WA long-term care facility, have tested positive, one a resident reported in serious condition and one a health worker reported in stable condition. In the LifeCare Center, 27 of 108 residents and 25 of 180 employees have reported symptoms of the disease. Seattle public health authorities say they are being tested, and that they expect more people to be confirmed with coronavirus by the testing. None of these individuals has traveled abroad recently. Three other people in Washington State have tested positive: one a high school student with no  travel abroad, and two others who had traveled to South Korea or China.   Continue reading

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This Morning’s Big Lies

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

Think twice and find trusted sources: that’s the message I take from three of today’s big news stories about media manipulation in this campaign season. U.S. intelligence officers warned Congressional leaders last week that Russia is already deeply involved in the 2020 election, interfering to try to get Trump re-elected. Add to that the news that climate change deniers are using bots to generate nearly a quarter of all tweets about climate change and a separate story about Michael Bloomberg posting a misleading campaign video, and we all have reason to be wary. Continue reading

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White Collar Crime Pays

Individual income tax return form,

Fotolia image

Think you’re too not wealthy enough to get audited by the IRS? Think again. The IRS audits low-income taxpayers at about the same rate as the top one percent. Why? Because it’s easier to audit lower-income families. Continue reading

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Profiles in Courage: Mitt Romney

 

Impeachment rally.

Impeachment rally. Photo by Phil Roeder, published under Creative Commons License.

Adam Schiff, in closing speech to Senate: “Every single vote, even a single vote, by a single member, can change the course of history. is said that a single man or woman of courage makes a majority. Is there one among you who will say, ‘Enough’?”

Senator Mitt Romney was the only one: the lone, courageous Republican vote to convict the president. Since his vote, Romney has endured the vehement denunciation that he knew would follow his vote of conscience. He has been denounced by people in his own party and by the President of the United States. His principled stand gets praise mainly from people whose politics remain far different from his own—people like Stephen Colbert. In his monologue, Colbert referred to his own faith, and then went on: Continue reading

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Trillions of Dollars and Little Sense in 2021 Budget Document

money bags

Photo by 401kcalculator.org, published under Creative Commons license

“The president is either brazenly lying about his 2021 budget or doesn’t know what’s in it,” writes Aaron Rupar at Vox.

Budgets are moral documents, meaning that where we put our money reflects what we believe and value. This record $4.8 trillion budget plan is a fairly immoral document. Luckily, it is a wish list and political platform, not a serious proposal with a chance of becoming law. If you want to know what’s in it, read on for a short and not-so-sweet summary, distilled from half a dozen news sources.

“The budget does not mention climate change. It also states misleadingly that air pollutant emissions dropped between 2016 and 2018, and credited the Trump administration with overseeing “some of the cleanest air and water in the world” while eliminating clean air and water regulations.

“After a decade of improvement in air quality nationally, federal data last year showed that fine particulate pollution has increased in the last two years.”

The deficit is the measure of how much spending exceeds income in each year. The national debt is the cumulative consequence of borrowing year after year to make up deficits. This budget projects a $3.4 trillion increase in the national debt by 2024.

While it will take up Congressional time and political space, this remains a fantasy budget, with zero chance of being passed by Congress. For that, at least, we can be thankful.

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Profiles in Courage: Marie Yovanovitch

Marie Yovanovitch taking her oath before testifying to the House impeachment committee.

Marie Yovanovitch taking her oath before testifying to the House impeachment committee.

Marie Yovanovitch: “I have seen dictatorships around the world, where blind obedience is the norm and truth-tellers are threatened with punishment or death. We must not allow the United States to become a country where standing up to our government is a dangerous act.”

Marie Yovanovitch worked for the State Department for 34 years, ending her career as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. She refused to go along with the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into becoming an arm of the Trump re-election smear campaign, so she was forced out of her post. Then she refused to be silenced, instead testifying under oath in the House impeachment hearings. She showed the highest kind of courage in refusing to give in to intense, high-level political pressure. Continue reading

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Profiles in Courage: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman

purple heart

The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded to those wounded or killed while serving with the U.S. military.  

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman: “The uniform I wear today is that of the United States Army. We do not serve any particular political party; we serve the nation.”

On February 7, President Trump ordered the firing of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman (and his twin brother Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman.) Despite Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s plan to leave his National Security Council at the end of the month, Trump ordered him marched out of the White House by security guards. Vindman is an Iraq War veteran who earned a Purple Heart, among other decorations. He was fired from the National Security Council for the now-unpardonable crime of testifying truthfully under oath when called by the House impeachment committee. Continue reading

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