September 22, 2020
I was reminded that there are institutions in need of repair other than the Supreme Court and the ones I discussed on September 11. Respect for Justice Ginsburg should postpone discussion of the Court.
1. The news media
In a way, it’s difficult to evaluate the news media, because the nature and even definition of those entities is in flux. Fox no longer can be grouped with legitimate news organizations, having become a right-wing propaganda outlet. Some, such as Facebook, would not qualify by any normal definition, but are the prime source of information for far too many. Various web sites scatter tales of conspiracies so ridiculous that the proper response would be laughter, but many swallow the bile. In a sense, the sad state of information dissemination brings us back to the sad state of the people, of their political and cultural ignorance and bias.
However, let’s look at the mainstream media, which still have standards and a sense of responsibility. The fact that Trump refers to them as enemies of the people demonstrates that they are paying attention to his failings and, to some degree, challenging them. I am most familiar with The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Seattle Times and NBC-TV, so my comments will refer to them.
As I’ve noted before, all of them, notably NBC, have been reluctant to mention climate change, even when reporting extreme weather. The western forest fires have forced some departure from that policy, but more direct, critical attention is required.
Another area in which there has been some change is the usual tendency of news reports to create false equivalence by presenting nonsense as sensible comment, in an attempt to achieve balance (or avoid attacks). The Trump administration is so vile, corrupt and incompetent that news articles, notably in The New York Times, often have been telling it like it is.
However, an example, although a marginal one, of the more usual approach appeared in The Seattle Times on Sunday. A long front-page article profiled the Republican candidate for Governor, Loren Culp. He is police chief of Republic, a town of about 1,300 people. (Due to budget cuts, Culp is now the entire police force).
The article notes many negative aspects of Culp’s views, actions or associations. However, it in effect brings him into the mainstream and confers respectability by describing him as “a proud conservative.” He is, more accurately, a right-wing extremist. (The article notes that “Culp has maintained associations with some controversial far-right organizations.”)
Culp refused to enforce the gun-control mandate of Initiative 1639. He also opposes a ban on bump stocks: “I don’t see where the government gets the power to ban any attachment to my car, or an attachment to my rifle.” He “says government should be small and mostly butt out of people’s lives,” leading him to oppose “mandatory mask orders and shutdowns of businesses meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.” His campaign has been “built on rallies across the state flouting COVID-19 restrictions.”
Culp’s campaign paid $7,000 in June, for reasons not clear, to Peter Diaz, founder of a group called American Wolf, which “has sent armed civilians to act as self-appointed, pro-law-enforcement ‘peacekeepers’ at protests against racism and policing.” Elsewhere American Wolf was described as an “armed far right group” which “has aggressively inserted itself in a quasi-policing capacity into protests addressing the murder of George Floyd.”1
Use of the “proud conservative” label might be justified on the ground that conservatism has fallen so far that Culp legitimately can be so described. (An indication that this may be so is an ad by Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., which claims she’s “more conservative than Attila the Hun.” She has a “100% Trump voting record.”)2 However, I think that any genuine conservative would be offended by the suggestion.
The Culp article leads us to another institution in serious need of reform.
2. Law enforcement agencies
There is a group known as the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) which, among other odd views, has an inflated notion of the authority of sheriffs. It asserts: “Arrest of citizens or seizure of persons or property without first notifying and obtaining the express consent of the local sheriff” “will not be allowed or tolerated.” It opposes gun control; also among the acts which will not be allowed or tolerated is “Registration of personal firearms under any circumstances.”3 It opposes federal ownership of land, demanding that it be transferred to the states.
The opposition to gun control, while dangerously illogical for a law enforcement agency, is not unusual. Thirteen Washington sheriffs announced that they would not enforce the control provisions of Initiative 1639. As noted, Loren Culp takes that view, for which, the Times reported, he was named “Police Chief of the Decade” last year by the CSPOA.
The recent killings and other assaults on blacks have exposed racism and other serious flaws in police departments, which must be addressed and resolved. Greater federal oversight probably is necessary, although any meaningful effort along that line must await another administration. The foolish defunding reaction won’t solve the problem.
3. Our health care system
One of Trump’s lies, in this case a continuing fraud, is that he will replace the Affordable Care Act with something “better.” (The mere fact that it is called Obamacare would be enough to persuade Trump to oppose it). After four years, nothing has appeared.
Meanwhile — in the midst of a heath crisis — he supports an effort to persuade the Supreme Court to find the ACA unconstitutional. This is another example of the tendency by Trump and company to do or say things which, in a rational world, would be self-destructive. As a Republican strategist put it, it’s “pretty dumb to be talking about how we need to repeal Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic.”4 This ploy is so irresponsible and harmful that eyes finally may be opened.
As to that pandemic, Trump had another typically brilliant observation: the virus “would go away without the vaccine.” How? Well, “you’ll develop herd — like a herd mentality. It’s going to be — it’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen.”5 Presumably he meant herd immunity, but correcting his diction would not erase the fact that, without a vaccine, many more would die in order to reach that goal.
(Trump’s blunder prompted a pertinent comment by Andy Borowitz: “Scientists Believe Congressional Republicans Have Developed Herd Mentality. According to a study, G.O.P. lawmakers have developed ‘near-total immunity’ to damning books, news reports, and audio tapes.”)
Although the ACA has improved our health care system, the failings of that system are no secret; in short, it produces worse results at greater cost than in comparable countries. The job losses due to the pandemic have provided another indication that we cannot rely on employer-provided coverage. Some form of universal medical insurance is needed. Whether the best answer is Medicare for all or something else is can be debated once we have a government which cares about the health of its citizens.
<br>1. https://www.irehr.org/2020/06/18/three-percenters-pose-with-olympia-police-officer- sparks-need-for-thorough-investigation/
<br>2. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/kelly-loeffler-attila-the-hun-ad_n_5f694c4fc5b6 a9b19b 3d785e
<br>4. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/26/us/politics/obamacare-trump-administration- supreme-court.html<br>5. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/09/16/problem-with-trumps-herd- mentality-line-isnt-verbal-flub-its-mass-death/