This is a COVID update post, but I think it’s important for me to start tonight’s post by addressing the big elephant in the room: yesterday’s violent happenings in Washington.
I live in New York City, so for all my international friends, I am okay and far away (as in a couple hundred miles away far) from what happened yesterday. However, that doesn’t make the violent uprising in Washington okay.
What happened yesterday was un-American. As I said already on my personal Facebook wall, as well as my blog’s Twitter page, part of life in living in this democratic republic is dealing with the fact that your candidate of choice sometimes loses, and dealing with that fact in a peaceful manner. Sometimes, dealing with the aftermath of that internally is tough, and acting with grace is tough when you are upset with the result. I know that from experience because there have been times when my candidate of choice lost. But the American thing to do is to move on from that loss with dignity and with accepting the will of the people, not by invading the United States Capitol Building and disrupting the proceedings of democratically-elected legislators. The individuals who did this were insurrectionists, not patriots.
On the topic of COVID, which is the main purpose of these weekly updates, the numbers are looking increasingly bad. In my part of New York City, the positivity rate has climbed to above 15%–high enough that certain things I felt safe going to when numbers were lower (such as church) are now places I don’t feel safe going to these days. More disturbingly, it feels like, as the numbers get worse, the compliance people are having with mask-wearing and social distancing has also become worse. Americans, and New Yorkers, need to do a whole lot better with their mask-wearing and social distancing.
One of the alarming things to me about COVID is that, as I learned when I listened to a CNN show discussing how the United States responded to the Spanish Flu in the late 1910s, many of the same mistakes we made then are mistakes we’re making now. Some of those mistakes include not following basic disease prevention precautions (such as…wearing a mask) and a president wanting to focus attention on other things (in the late 1910s, Woodrow Wilson wanted to focus on World War I, and in 2020, it was President Trump wanting to win re-election). In both cases, the consequences of our mistakes led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of Americans.
On a personal level, my family is still COVID-free, thankfully. Hopefully it stays that way. That being said, I did struggle with a head cold for some of the holidays so I was not 100%, but thankfully I am now feeling better physically. Emotionally though, I am definitely still a bit rattled from what happened in Washington yesterday.
I am not one for hyperbole, but the 2020 Presidential election is extremely important. In addition to many local- and state-level races, the election will determine who will control Congress for the next two years, and who will occupy the White House for the next four years.
Heading into such consequential elections, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) would be a helpful tool in making sure that candidates for the United States House of Representatives, United States Senate, Presidency, and Vice Presidency were not running afoul of federal campaign finance law.
There’s one problem though—the FEC is not in a position to enforce federal campaign finance law heading into this. Why? Because the FEC needs at least four commissioners (out of six that could be in place) in order to enforce federal campaign finance law, and right now, the FEC is at…three commissioners. It was an issue noted the previous time the FEC lacked a quorum (which was just mere months ago), and it’s an issue again.
The reality is that this situation has been in the making for quite a while now. Back in 2018, one of the commissioners at the time, Lee Goodman, resigned and the FEC went down from five to four commissioners—the bare minimum needed for quorum. What this meant was that if one additional person resigned, retired, died, or was otherwise not present for an FEC meeting, the commission would lose the power to enforce campaign finance law. Therefore, when another of the commissioners, Matthew Petersen, resigned in August 2019, the FEC was left with only three commissioners, which was short of the quorum of four they needed to make any substantive decisions. Only when Republican Trey Trainor was confirmed did the FEC regain its ability to enforce campaign finance law, but it once again lost that ability when another of the commissioners, Caroline Hunter, resigned.
While we wait for there to be a quorum with our election commission, I can’t help but think that heading into this election year, we actually do have a major election integrity issue. But, the issue is not with fraud resulting from absentee voting—it’s with the lack of enforcement of campaign finance law because of an election commission that is not functioning properly. Unless this issue gets resolved, I worry that 2020 will be a bit of a “wild west” in terms of adherence (or lack thereof) to campaign finance laws.
Those of you who’ve been on my blog during the last week or so will know that I’m doing a mini-series on what it was like to have current candidate for president Michael Bloomberg as Mayor of New York City. I explained in Part One why his record as mayor is relevant, and I explained in Part Two the multitude of problems he had with his treatment of others. Today is the third and final part of my mini-series, which will go into his record on some other issues, as well as where we should go from here with the Bloomberg candidacy.
One of the most important issues this campaign is that of trying to “save our democracy.” And rightfully so, because there is a genuine fear among many that President Trump is dangerous to American democracy. However, if Mayor Bloomberg’s record tells us anything, it’s that he would also be a danger to American democracy. New York City voted not once, but twice, to have term limits for people holding elected office in New York City government (mayor, comptroller, public advocate, council members). Yet, Bloomberg, with the help of the city council at the time, overturned the voice of the people, and changed the limit from two terms to three (it was changed back to two terms…after Bloomberg won a third term). People fear that President Trump would try to overturn the election if he loses, or ruin our democracy further if he wins—those are understandable fears because he has been, for example, not always indicated a willingness to concede an election to a winning candidate, even if it is clear he loses the election. However, Bloomberg, with the help of the New York City Council, managed to do something that not even President Trump has managed to do (yet): actually overturn an election (Bloomberg overturned two, after all). If he becomes President of the United States, let’s hope he leaves his ability to overturn elections in New York City, and not bring that ability to Washington, DC.
He gets praise for his stance on the environment. And, in theory, I agree with him on the fact that the environmental crisis should be treated with urgency. However, I find that praise hollow when he drastically cut funding from public transit while he was mayor, even though use of public transit instead of the car does a world of good for the environment. It’s also hollow when his own environmental practices were subpar, such as having an entourage of SUVs that often idled (mostly to keep on the air conditioning unit on in the SUVs so that he could stay cool during the summer)—he apologized for the idling, but not for the use of the SUVs in the first place (or even an explanation of why those environmentally-unfriendly gas guzzlers were necessary for his team), to my knowledge.
Bloomberg also tries to cultivate an image for himself as being just on health care. Yet, his record on health care in New York City was anything but. Noteworthy was the number of community hospitals that, under his tenure, were forced to close. The New York Times editorial board accused Mayor Bloomberg of having long ago “checked out” on this issue, and a then-mayoral candidate by the name of Bill de Blasio got arrested for protesting the proposed closure of one of the hospitals. Bloomberg also vetoed a proposed law that would have required many city businesses to provide paid sick leave, so if he got his way (he didn’t, ultimately), then tough luck to those working for businesses that didn’t provide the paid sick leave—you’d better work through your flu with a fever of over 102 degrees, even though that would, of course, endanger yourself and others.
Economically, the wealthy became even wealthier. There’s no doubt about that. But if you weren’t wealthy? Not so much. While he thought that taxes on the wealthy were a dumb idea, he thought it was preferable to shoulder the burden of “fiscal responsibility” on unions by letting the contracts of every single one of New York City’s 153 unions expire—unions where many of the members are in the middle and working class. The most painful example of economic inequality under Bloomberg’s watch, however, was that was the increase in homelessness that happened while he was mayor—an increase that continues to this day. While I acknowledge that there may be certain factors with such trends that may not have been in his control (such as policies at the state or federal level), this is a fact worth reflecting on. Given that economic inequality is such a major issue of this era, it’s puzzling that the Democrats would even consider nominating someone for President of the United States who oversaw economic inequality become substantially worse when he was mayor of his own city.
The bottom line is that, when doing a thorough examination of his record as mayor, his record was overwhelmingly an ugly one on social justice issues. Even more alarming is the fact that many of these social justice issues he was poor on are issues that are relevant today, for whoever is President of the United States—issues such as racism, sexism, economic inequality, and protecting our democracy. As to whether you think Bloomberg is still better than the other candidates in spite of all the baggage I’ve presented, that’s for you to decide. Just make sure you vote whenever you have the opportunity.
With the school year either coming up or starting in many
states, kids are preparing to learn a multitude of subjects: history, English, Math,
and Science, to name a few.
One subject will be noticeably absent for some kids: Civics.
Civics, which is defined as “a social science dealing with
the rights and duties of citizens,”
can teach students about, among other things:
importance of voting;
to know who their representatives are;
they can be involved in the legislative process, by writing to their
representatives about important issues (or calling their legislators);
people can use their representatives to solve a wide range of issues (provided
the representative is responsive, of course);
to follow the affairs of the government in your city, state, and country.
Teaching kids about these things, and more, through a
vibrant Civics curriculum, should be an absolute no-brainer. It promotes civic
involvement and awareness of local affairs.
And yet, it seems like Civics education is often on the
chopping block in school districts, states, and even federally.
When these cuts come to fruition, what this means is that
many kids will grow into adults who are in grave danger of lacking awareness of
the full extent of their rights and duties as citizens, ranging from voting
rights to the right they have to push their representatives on major issues.
In short, hyperbolic as this may sound to some, cutting Civics
is a form of voter suppression and a form of weakening our democracy. After
all, if kids aren’t taught about who their representatives are, how will they
know to vote for (or against) their representatives when they are adults? If
kids don’t know that they can write to their representatives, what will keep a
representative from going against the will of their residents, whether that
will is spoken or unspoken? If kids aren’t taught how to follow government
affairs, how can they cast an informed ballot when they’re adults?
For those of us who think that voter suppression and disenfranchisement starts at the age of 18, when a citizen can vote, think again. It starts when kids are taught minimal or no Civics. However, my readers (or at least readers who live in the United States) can play a role in stopping this—if you ever hear your government, whether it be your school district, your city, your state, or your country, considering cuts to Civics programs, contact your representatives and make it known just how important Civics truly is.
Please note that I will not publish a post next Tuesday, as it will be the Tuesday after Labor Day.