War as a behavioral concept has become so successful, so popular in American culture that a person can choose ‘entertainment’ from a menu of current ‘war’ themed television shows: Neighborhood Wars, Customer Wars, and even a December special called “Christmas Wars.” An endless array of ‘reality’ shows and movies feature one or another war, current or historical. Before the 1970s, war movies generally portrayed actual events in American and world history, serving as a type of education on the many failings and successes of humanity.
Wars on Americans actually began with the first colonists, who began a genocide against the Native Americans. Then there were the Black people, finally freed from slavery with the Civil War but thereafter denigrated, attacked, and lynched with impunity. The War on Black Americans escalated with the Civil Rights movement 1954-1968 when Blacks dared to stand up.
Richard Nixon ushered in a new war in 1971, the War on Drugs. In itself a misnomer, the war on drugs was actually a war on Americans who used, sold, or manufactured any non-sanctioned psychoactive substance including marijuana, hashish, opium/heroin, cocaine, LSD, peyote/mescaline, and psilocybin mushrooms, among others.
The term was popularized by the media shortly after a press conference given on June 18, 1971, by President Richard Nixon—the day after publication of a special message from President Nixon to the Congress on Drug Abuse Prevention and Control—during which he declared drug abuse “public enemy number one.” That message to the Congress included text about devoting more federal resources to the “prevention of new addicts, and the rehabilitation of those who are addicted” but that part did not receive the same public attention as the term “war on drugs.”
The target ‘enemy’ in this war was the Baby Boom generation for whom use of marijuana had become a rite of passage, along with use of psychedelics as a spiritual experience.
The motives behind Nixon’s campaign against drugs are disputed. John Ehrlichman, who was Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs under Nixon, was quoted by Dan Baum as saying in 1994:
The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.
Nixon’s alleged strategy was successful to the extent that many of the best and brightest of the generation were harmed in this war in various ways: imprisonment alongside actual criminals (often including rape, beatings, psychological abuse), loss of employment, disenfranchisement from voting or holding public office, loss of student loans and other financial aid, and outright physical harm including death at the hands of police.
And yet despite this heavy toll on an entire generation and its successors, the drug war has failed utterly to eradicate drug use or addiction. Every 25 seconds, someone in America is arrested for drug possession. The number of Americans arrested for possession has tripled since 1980, reaching 1.3 million arrests per year in 2015. The harsher penalties led to a 1,216% increase in the state prison population for drug offenses, from 19,000 to 250,000 between 1980 and 2008.
An unexpected result of this ‘war’ on drugs was the rise of a widespread underground marketplace where illegal drugs were readily sold. To the detriment of the consumers, these black market drugs were not tested or labeled for purity, nor were buyers checked for age identification as required for alcohol, allowing sales to young teens. Further, this massively lucrative market paid no taxes.
But the least expected and most destructive result of this war on Americans was the rapid proliferation of inner city gangs which used the underground marketplace to reap enormous profits. The wealth flowing into these gangs fulfilled the American dream, allowing impoverished young entrepreneurs to sport nice clothes, new cars, and—most importantly—arsenals.
In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s presidency saw a significant expansion of the drug war.
In the first term of the presidency, Ronald Reagan signed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, which expanded penalties towards possession of cannabis, established a federal system of mandatory minimum sentences, and established procedures for civil asset forfeiture. From 1980 to 1984, the federal annual budget of the FBI’s drug enforcement units went from 8 million to 95 million. …In 1982, Vice President George H. W. Bush and his aides began pushing for the involvement of the CIA and U.S. military in drug interdiction efforts.
…the number of arrests for all crimes had risen by 28%, the number of arrests for drug offenses rose 126%. The result of increased demand was the development of privatization and the for-profit prison industry. The U.S. Department of Justice, reporting on the effects of state initiatives, has stated that, from 1990 through 2000, “the increasing number of drug offenses accounted for 27% of the total growth among black inmates, 7% of the total growth among Hispanic inmates, and 15% of the growth among white inmates.” In addition to prison or jail, the United States provides for the deportation of many non-citizens convicted of drug offenses.
… during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan … the war on drugs [greatly expanded] a general trend towards the militarization of police. The 1981 Military Cooperation with Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies Act allows the U.S. military to cooperate with domestic and foreign law enforcement agencies. …This allows the U.S. military to give law enforcement agencies access to its military bases and its military equipment.
In the misguided and enormously destructive American war on Americans, the harms have by far outweighed any slim benefit. A 2018 study published in the journal PNAS found that “militarized police units are more often deployed in communities with large shares of African American residents, even after controlling for local crime rates.” The study also found that “militarized policing fails to enhance officer safety or reduce local crime.” The policies of prohibition and police militarization are responsible for the rampant violence inflicted by police on persons ‘suspected’ of criminal activity, most recently resulting in the January 2023 beating death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of five Memphis police officers.
The militarization of police escalated the war on Americans and was met with a more sophisticated response from street gangs and other outlaws. A 2014 ACLU report, War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing, concluded that “American policing has become unnecessarily and dangerously militarized …” The report cites an increase in unnecessarily aggressive raids, “tactics designed for the battlefield,” and equipment such as armored personnel carriers and flashbang grenades—as well as a lack of transparency and oversight. Drug cartels and their street dealers have met the challenge, acquiring semi-automatic weapons and other advanced weaponry.
Lured by the enormous profits involved, Latin Americans tapped into the illegal drug trade by growing fields of marijuana and acres of coca plants. The U.S. response was to send military and CIA operatives to these countries to help form paramilitary forces to eradicate the drug trade. The opposite has occurred, with Mexican and Colombian cartels now said to generate a total of $18 to $39 billion in wholesale drug proceeds per year. Latinos desperate to escape the escalating violence in their home countries settled into places like East Los Angeles and became subjects of white gang violence. Learning from their experience, the young male immigrants formed their own gangs. Ultimately, arrests for criminal activity resulted in deportation, and once deported, many of these men followed the blueprint by building gangs (cartels) in their home countries where they could intimidate local citizens, bribe police and elected officials, and ultimately create a reign of terror with kidnapping, blackmail, and murder that continues to drive terrified residents of those nations toward U.S. borders in an effort to find safety.
Since 2008, the U.S. Congress has supported the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) with approximately $800 million to “fund programs for narcotics interdiction, strengthening law enforcement and justice institutions and violence prevention through work with at-risk youth.” The CARSI offers equipment (vehicles and communication equipment), technical support and guidance to counter drug trade. The program also supports special units that cooperate with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Guatemala and Honduras to investigate drug cartels, share intelligence, and promote regional collaboration.
Overall, the harm resulting from the War on Drugs far outweighs any supposed benefit. It has brought us to a point where aggressive policing results in regular beatings, shootings, and murders of Americans, especially Black males. It has drained the U. S. Treasury an estimated $1 trillion while drug use, abuse, and production have accelerated. Currently, drug offenders form 47% of the federal prison population (2020) and 23.5% of Arkansas’ prison population (2019). It has fostered the immigration problem at our southern border.
Legalization of all drugs is the answer, and long past due. People can legally risk/ruin their lives with tobacco and alcohol, and illicit drugs must be regulated and taxed the same. Eliminating this travesty against Americans and the horrific expense of tax dollars will allow the funding of community clinics where anyone can seek help if they need it. Meanwhile, legalization eliminates the inner city police mindset of ‘war’ and moves us a step closer to ending our ‘war’ on our neighbors.
 John Ehrlichman, to Dan Baum for Harper’s Magazine in 1994, about President Richard Nixon’s war on drugs, declared in 1971.
Newly installed Arkansas Governor Sanders could have picked any number of other issues more critical to the welfare of Arkansas residents than CRT. Her decision to address Critical Race Theory signals her lack of insight or, more likely, her debt to her behind-the-scenes bosses who care nothing for Arkansas citizens—with the exception of manipulating them into voting Republican.
Like her predecessors in the Arkansas state house, Sanders won office with the votes of a minority of eligible voters. Over 1.79 million Arkansans are eligible, but only 50.8% of them voted, meaning that Sanders won office with the votes of only 31.9% of eligible voters. Arkansas ranks last in both voter turnout and registration and has the highest absentee ballot rejection rate in the nation. This parallels other low rankings of the state:
44th in health matters. Measures contributing to Arkansas’s low overall performance include the number of adults who have lost six or more teeth, adults without dental visits, and premature deaths from treatable causes — all measures for which Arkansas is ranked last among states. Other factors include the number of children who are overweight or obese, the number of adults with any mental illness reporting unmet needs, and preventable hospitalizations for adults ages 18–64.
47th in education, based on factors including educational attainment, school quality and achievement gaps between genders and races
43rd in economic activity, economic health, and a state’s innovation potential
4th worst state to live in, with the breakdown as follows:
2nd in teen pregnancy with 27.8 per 1,000 – Sex education is allowed but not required, and local districts largely sidestep the topic. Arkansas schools are not required to offer instruction on HIV or STIs. Further, sex education—in the rare instances it is offered—is hamstrung with multiple restrictions:
If sex education is offered, curriculum must stress abstinence.
If sex education is offered, curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent.
If sex education is offered, curriculum is not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Arkansas has no standard regarding the ability of parents and guardians to remove their children from sex education instruction.
Arkansas has no standard regarding medically accurate sex education instruction. However, instruction on dating violence must be based on scientific research.
Children in foster care (2022): 4,127. Households with grandparents responsible for grandchildren under age 18: 70,290
5th highest incarceration rate of all states, higher than the national rate
Extreme poverty 9%
Poverty rate 16.2%
Working family under 200% of poverty line 39.4%
Percent of jobs that are low-wage 30.1%
In a 2014 study, of the total eligible voters in the state, 46% were Republican, 38% Democrat, and 16% non-affiliated. Evangelicals comprise 61% of Republican voters, 29% of Democrat, and 11% of non-affiliated. Predictably, Republican voters are less educated, with 42% with high school or less, 34% with some college, 17% with a college degree, and 6% with post-graduate degree compared to Democratic voters with 52% high school or less, 30% some college, 9% college graduate, and 9% with post graduate degree.
While Sanders states her priority is education improvement, the areas of education which she targeted in her statement are very limited. Aside from banning CRT, she has nominated Jacob Oliva to head the Department of Education. Oliva has previously served that role in Florida, where ‘Don’t Say Gay’ has been one of the guiding mantras of the DeSantis administration; the measure “contains language to prevent the ‘instruction’ or ‘discussion’ of sexual orientation and gender identity at certain grade levels and in an ‘age-appropriate’ way. The vagueness of the law has called into question how teachers could handle teaching history or questions raised in class about sexual orientation.”
Undoubtedly the most destructive education measure touted by Sanders is the voucher option for parents, which Sanders vows to enact. The National Education Association explains why vouchers are not in America’s best interests:
No matter how you look at it, vouchers undermine strong public education and student opportunity. They take scarce funding from public schools—which serve 90 percent of students—and give it to private schools—institutions that are not accountable to taxpayers. This means public school students have less access to music instruments and science equipment, modern technology and textbooks, and after-school programs. Moreover, there is ZERO statistical significance that voucher programs improve overall student success, and some programs have even shown to have a NEGATIVE effect for students receiving a voucher. Furthermore, vouchers have been shown to not support students with disabilities, they fail to protect the human and civil rights of students, and they exacerbate segregation.
Vouchers were first created after the Supreme Court banned school segregation with its ruling in Brown v Board of Education. School districts used vouchers to enable white students to attend private schools, which could (and still can) limit admission based on race. As a result, the schools that served those white students were closed, and schools that served black students remained chronically underfunded. The pattern of discrimination continues with vouchers today. Unlike public schools, private schools can (and some do) limit their admission based on race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and any other number of factors. Furthermore, vouchers rarely cover the full tuition, so families who were promised a better education are left footing the bill.
Many Arkansas parents are strongly evangelical and would prefer religion and prayer be included in their children’s education. But we’ve already been there.
The Supreme Court entered the evolution debate in 1968, when it ruled, in Epperson v. Arkansas, that Arkansas could not eliminate from the high school biology curriculum the teaching of “the theory that mankind descended from a lower order of animals.” Arkansas’ exclusion of that aspect of evolutionary theory, the court reasoned, was based on a preference for the account of creation in the book of Genesis and thus violated the state’s constitutional obligation of religious neutrality.
We’ve seen what can occur when religious belief usurps rational education. The Duggar family homeschooled their children in ‘devout Christian beliefs’ including oldest child Josh Duggar who, after molesting his younger sisters and their friends, is serving a twelve-year prison term for ‘receiving’ child pornography. Reports state that Jim Bob Duggar consulted ‘church elders’ who apparently did not urge him to report his son’s abuse to the authorities. Josh’s parents kept it secret until the statute of limitations had expired.
In fact, it was this nest of evangelical excess in Springdale from which sprang the Reverend Ronnie Floyd. The following is excerpted from Wikipedia’s page on Floyd:
A strong advocate of evangelism and discipleship, Floyd was a member of the “conservative resurgence” that retook control of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) during the 1980s. In 1989 he was a candidate to become president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, but was defeated by Mike Huckabee. …On June 10, 2014, Dr. Floyd was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the SBC’s annual gathering held in Baltimore. Upon close of the meeting, he became the 61st president of the SBC, succeeding the Rev. Fred Lute. …In October, 2019, at a conference regarding care for those who have been sexually abused in Christian contexts, Rachael Denhollander referenced abusive treatment of a sexual abuse victim by Dr. Floyd and other leaders at the Executive Committee as an example of why those who are abused are reticent to report.
Subsequently, in May, 2021, multiple internal whistle blower reports alleged Dr. Floyd had actively sought to intimidate victims, advocates, and stall progress in the sexual abuse inquiry within the Southern Baptist Convention. …In an unprecedented move following weeks of turmoil over allegations of Floyd’s handling of the sexual abuse crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention, the delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention voted to mandate an independent third party investigation into the Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse cases, victims, and advocates, including an investigation into Dr. Floyd’s actions.
…Floyd’s leadership was marked by yet another unprecedented milestone for the Southern Baptist Convention when he and the Executive Committee trustees failed to fully comply with the directive of the Convention’s delegates when, amidst calls for his removal and a tumultuous trustee meeting, Floyd’s resistance to complete transparency and participation in the commissioned abuse task force was supported by the Executive Committee trustees.
Floyd subsequently resigned after the independent investigation revealed that Floyd’s committee members responded to sexual abuse survivors with “resistance, stonewalling and even outright hostility” to nearly two decades of allegations against clergy. According to the report, the group kept a secret, running list of accused Baptist ministers to avoid being sued – even as the committee publicly claimed it didn’t have the authority to create such a list. A LIST OF BAPTIST MINISTERS ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ABUSE!
While multiple sexual abuse scandals within churches is not the topic at hand, hardly a week passes without yet another report of sexual misdeeds by pastors, youth counselors, or other church personnel. To a disinterested bystander, it seems the frantic outrage over drag queens (who, incidentally, are rarely if ever accused of sexual misconduct) would be more appropriately directed toward religious leaders. To assume that children are ‘safer’ or more lovingly educated within the context of parochial schools is yet another example of willful ignorance. Yet Sanders, herself the child of a Baptist minister, is apparently blind to this hypocrisy.
Republicans routinely cultivate a receptive audience of voters by spotlighting hot button issues such as abortion, homosexuality, ‘woke’ culture, and religion, yet there is scant evidence that any of their radical rhetoric or legislation has any positive impact on the troubles Arkansas faces. [Based on the outraged edicts from evangelicals, a casual observer might assume that it’s drag queens abusing all these children rather than religious leaders. Strangely, no record of drag queen abuses is found.] Children still leave their school years without the ability to read or reason, without understanding of how the government works or the scientific method, without the skills necessary to negotiate life in the modern world.
Some of this results from the parents’ inadequacy in time or knowledge, a generational failing in many Arkansas households. But it can be argued that the greater failing is in Arkansas’ penchant for electing more of the same, people like Sanders, who can’t seem to grasp the actual needs of Arkansas children—not banning CRT or saying ‘gay,’ not siphoning tax dollars away from public schools, not school prayer or any of the other worthless ideas promoted by Republicans. What is needed is for government to get its foot off the neck of teachers and offer much higher pay in order to attract skilled instructors who know how to engage students in the love of learning.
Arkansas’ new governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has raised the colors for her term at the helm of the ship of this state. Not that these are ‘her’ colors, per se, but rather edicts scripted for her by her bosses behind the Republican curtain. These are the same entities who put her in front of a microphone to lie for Trump as his press secretary, apparently under the promise that they would support her efforts toward future political office.
Evidence of her bought-and-paid-for status can be found in the immediate issuance of her ban on Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the public schools. The boiler-plate executive order commands, in part, that the Arkansas Department of Education:
“Review the rules, regulations, policies, materials, and communications of the Department of Education to identify any items that may, purposely or otherwise, promote teaching that would indoctrinate students with ideologies, such as CRT, that conflict with the principle of equal protection under the law or encourage students to discriminate against someone based on the individual’s color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law.”
Sanders’ measure is put forth as enforcement of Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241), which was established to ensure equal rights to everyone.
“People of one color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law are inherently superior or inferior to people of another color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law…”
This and similar bans present two absurdities. One, the ban alleges that efforts to reduce and/or eliminate the negative impact of entrenched racism are a form of racism. Two, the ban demonstrates either an utter lack of understanding of CRT or an ingrained denial of systemic racism, either of which would be remedied by a study of CRT. The rightwing furor over CRT is a perfect example of racist thinking and reassures its racist followers that rightwing Republicans will resist any effort to encourage white people to think equitably of their darker-skinned brethren.
Critical Race Theory advances the idea that multiple aspects of American law, institutions, and social structures enshrine racist ideas. Wikipedia describes the tenets of CRT as follows:
“Scholars of CRT say that race is not “biologically grounded and natural”; rather, it is a socially constructed category used to oppress and exploit people of color; and that racism is not an aberration, but a normalized feature of American society. According to CRT, negative stereotypes assigned to members of minority groups benefit white people and increase racial oppression. Individuals can belong to a number of different identity groups…
“Derrick Albert Bell Jr. (1930 – 2011), an American lawyer, professor, and civil rights activist, writes that racial equality is ”impossible and illusory” and that racism in the U.S. is permanent. According to Bell, civil-rights legislation will not on its own bring about progress in race relations; alleged improvements or advantages to people of color “tend to serve the interests of dominant white groups,” in what Bell calls “interest convergence.” These changes do not typically affect—and at times even reinforce—racial hierarchies. This is representative of the shift in the 1970s, in Bell’s re-assessment of his earlier desegregation work as a civil rights lawyer. He was responding to the Supreme Court’s decisions that had resulted in the re-segregation of schools.
“The concept of standpoint theory became particularly relevant to CRT when it was expanded to include a black feminist standpoint by Patricia Hill Collins. First introduced by feminist sociologists in the 1980s, standpoint theory holds that people in marginalized groups, who share similar experiences, can bring a collective wisdom and a unique voice to discussions on decreasing oppression. In this view, insights into racism can be uncovered by examining the nature of the U.S. legal system through the perspective of the everyday lived experiences of people of color.
“According to Encyclopedia Britannica, tenets of CRT have spread beyond academia, and are used to deepen understanding of socio-economic issues such as “poverty, police brutality, and voting rights violations,” that are impacted by the ways in which race and racism are “understood and misunderstood” in the United States.
Conservatives, including Governor Sanders’ managers, look for any advances toward greater social equity as a destructive force to their world view. Or, perhaps more to the point, greater acceptance of social equity would reduce or eliminate race as a hot button issue in driving Republican voters to the ballot box.
“One conservative organization, the Heritage Foundation, recently attributed a whole host of issues to CRT, including the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, LGBTQ clubs in schools, diversity training in federal agencies and organizations, California’s recent ethnic studies model curriculum, the free-speech debate on college campuses, and alternatives to exclusionary discipline—such as the Promise program in Broward County, Fla., that some parents blame for the Parkland school shootings. “When followed to its logical conclusion, CRT is destructive and rejects the fundamental ideas on which our constitutional republic is based,” the organization claimed.”
“[On the other hand,] Leading critical race theory scholars view the GOP-led measures as hijacking the national conversation about racial inequality that gained momentum after the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minnesota. Some say the ways Republicans describe it are unrecognizable to them. Cheryl Harris, a UCLA law professor who teaches a course on the topic, said it’s a myth that critical race theory teaches hatred of white people and is designed to perpetuate divisions in American society. Instead, she said she believes the proposals limiting how racism can be discussed in the classroom have a clear political goal: “to ensure that Republicans can win in 2022.”
Other early signals from oligarchs behind Sanders’ governorship include her push for school vouchers whereby tax dollars can be funneled into religious and private schools who can offer non-scientific theories of human origin and alternative histories while ignoring important preparation for citizenship such as debate and civics. Sanders also has plans to address the state’s shortcomings in prison space, although it is doubtful this will translate into an innovative look at ways to reduce the demand. More likely, her ‘reforms’ will mean spending more of the state’s scarce tax dollars on building more prisons in order to, as she has stated, requiring prisoners to serve out their full terms.
Speaking of tax dollars, Sanders also plans to reduce taxes with the goal of eliminating income tax. Her plan for accomplishing this pipe dream is to find ways for the state to operate more efficiently. Her campaign statement on this topic hints at the real goal:
“When I take office, we will work on responsibly phasing out the state income tax to reward work – NOT government dependency – and let you keep more of your hard-earned money in the failing Biden economy,” Sanders said in a Twitter post.
According to critics, this is simply the latest Republican iteration of their efforts to please their masters: “to wreck the state’s fiscal system so that people of inherited riches or high incomes will never again have to worry about paying much in the way of taxes to support education, health care and law enforcement — i.e. government services for the needy and the commoners, for which a few comfortable people think they should not have to pay.”
With all cannons on deck loaded with her preprogrammed agenda, we can be certain this is only the beginning of pushing Arkansas further into the sea floor. Ironically, argument can be made that the label ‘ideologies’ such as forbidden in the CRT ban could be assigned to religion, i.e. “the beliefs and practices of that religion [which] support powerful groups in society, effectively keeping the existing ruling class, or elites, in power.”
Americans should not fail to recognize the inevitable: the immigration problem will only get worse. The current crisis with Haitians flooding the Texas border isn’t an isolated event. Haitians (and Hondurans and Salvadorans and Guatemalans, Vietnamese and Jews, etc.) have been seeking asylum in the United States for decades. The irony is that Europeans invaded a populated continent in the 15th and 16th centuries in order to gain shelter from abuses and to gain better livelihood. We are those Europeans…and all who have come since.
“Of the roughly 1.8 million Haitians living outside their homeland, the United States is home to the most, about 705,000. Significant numbers of people from the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country also have settled in Latin American countries like Chile, where an estimated 69,000 Haitian immigrants reside, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
“Nearly all Haitians reach the U.S. on a well-worn route: Fly to Brazil, Chile or elsewhere in South America. If jobs dry up, slowly move through Central America and Mexico by bus and on foot to wait — perhaps years — in northern border cities like Tijuana for the right time to enter the United States and claim asylum…
“Many Haitians began attempting to enter the U.S. in the 1980s by sea. Most of them were cut off by the Coast Guard and perhaps given a cursory screening for asylum eligibility, said David FitzGerald, a sociology professor at the University of California, San Diego and an asylum expert. In 1994, U.S. authorities reached an agreement with Jamaica to anchor ships off its coast to hold shipboard hearings for Haitians intercepted on boats. Attempts by sea waned after a Supreme Court decision allowing forced repatriations without refugee protections.”
Illegal immigration from Haiti has plagued multiple presidencies. After the devastating earthquake in 2010, Haitians first flocked to Brazil to jobs in support of the 2016 Olympics. When those jobs dried up, President Obama at first allowed some to enter the U.S. on humanitarian grounds, but soon began flying them back to Haiti. Trump’s solution was widely panned for its inhumanity, and now Biden faces even bigger numbers of determined illegal immigrants due to the recent assassination of the Haitian president and ensuing political chaos, exacerbated by yet another massive earthquake.
Under Biden, the United States has pledged more than $32 million in aid to Haiti in addition to the disbursement of more than 160,000 pounds of food aid, construction of field hospitals and temporary shelters, and has flown more than 400 injured Haitians to medical attention in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere. But U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator Stephanie Power remarked that the United Nations estimates a total need of over $187 million. All this follows a similar aid effort after the 2010 earthquake of over two billion which still reverberates through USAID and the Red Cross, among others.
A 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office found the USAID efforts were hampered by ”lack of staff with relevant expertise, unrealistic initial plans, challenges encountered with some implementing partners, and delayed or revised decisions from the Haitian government.”
“The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people, but the number of permanent homes the charity has built is six. NPR and ProPublica went in search of the nearly $500 million [donated for this cause] and found a string of poorly managed projects, questionable spending and dubious claims of success, according to a review of hundreds of pages of the charity’s internal documents and emails, as well as interviews with a dozen current and former officials.”
Haiti is not the only neighboring nation subject to earthquake and devastating hurricanes. In the coming decades as sea levels rise and incidence of violent weather increases, human populations will suffer more such hardships. All the Caribbean islands as well as coastal cities including our own will face the destruction of storm surges, hurricanes, and other flooding.
Of course our first reaction to news reports showing border patrol officers on horseback charging at desperate refugees is sympathy for the refugee and disgust with the officers’ tactics. But we need to ask ourselves, honestly, what are the options?
Already we have spent billions of taxpayer dollars in an effort to rebuild Haiti so that its people can remain and thrive in their homeland. But isn’t this a repeat of similarly futile efforts in areas of the United States where massive flooding occurs yet when the water recedes, we provide money to rebuild in the same flood-prone locations?
We have just witnessed influx of over 70,000 refugees from Afghanistan as the extremist Taliban takes charge of that country. The need to accommodate refugees on our lands is not limited to neighboring countries like Haiti. We’ve seen the steady push of Syrian refugees into Europe, of Palestinians, of Colombians… As of 2020, 82.4 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order. Of these, nearly 26.4 million are refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18.
Lest we in the United States shed a tear for all our sacrifices, readers should be aware that the U.S. falls far short of addressing the global refugee crisis compared to other nations. The following report by the Norwegian Refugee Council reveals the big picture. In order of the most refugees per a nation’s population, here are the heavy lifters:
1. Lebanon – 19.5 per cent of the total population
Lebanon, with a population of 6.8 million, is currently hosting an estimated 1.5 million refugees from Syria. The real number is probably even higher because the national authorities demanded that the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) stop the registration of new refugees in 2015. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees live in the country.
Lebanon itself has been ravaged by a civil war that lasted from 1975 until 1990. It is a densely populated country with a fragile political balance between different ethnic and religious groups.
In 2019 and 2020, the situation has gone from bad to worse, with large-scale popular protests eventually leading to the Prime Minister’s resignation. Unemployment is sky-high and the country’s currency has dropped in value by 85 per cent, meaning much of the population is no longer able to afford the necessities of survival. Recent surveys put more than 50 per cent of the population below the poverty line. For Syrian refugees, the figure is even higher, with 83 per cent living below the extreme poverty line.
On top of an already difficult situation came the Covid-19 pandemic and the Beirut explosion, which killed more than 200 people, wounded more than 6,000 and displaced around 300,000. Lebanon now has an urgent need for the rest of the world to step up and help the country that has taken the greatest responsibility for helping displaced people.
2. Jordan – 10.5 per cent
Jordan has received over one million refugees in the last ten years. The vast majority were fleeing neighbouring Syria. While a comparatively small number have since decided to return to Syria or have been able to resettle in other countries, there are still more than 660,000 Syrian refugees registered with the UN refugee agency living in Jordan today.
Over 80 per cent of Syrian refugees in Jordan live in urban centers where they face the challenge of finding sustainable work and affordable housing. Competition for limited employment opportunities can lead to tensions with the local population. The remaining 20 per cent of Syrian refugees live in one of two refugee camps, established by the Jordanian authorities for Syrian refugees and managed by the UN refugee agency.
Jordan also houses 2.3 million Palestinian refugees. These are people who fled or were expelled from their country during the 1947-49 Palestine war and the Six Day War in 1967, and their descendants.
3. Nauru – 5.9 per cent
This small island state has received boat refugees who were trying to get to Australia when Australian authorities refused to accept them. The UN refugee agency has been highly critical of the agreement Australia has made with Nauru and other countries and is concerned about the reprehensible conditions the refugees live under. Australia has now agreed to stop sending refugees to Nauru.
4. Turkey – 5.0 per cent
Turkey has received more refugees than any other country since 2011 – as many as 4.3 million. Turkey is a large and populous country and is better equipped to handle the challenge than, for example, Lebanon. Nevertheless, it is challenging to provide protection to such a large number of people within a few short years. Turkey signed an agreement with the European Union (EU) in 2016 that prevents refugees from moving on to Europe. This has had serious consequences for both the refugees who have made it to Greece and those who remain in Turkey.
5. Liberia – 4.1 per cent
Liberia is another country that has shown great hospitality to displaced people. It has received 212,000 refugees, even while the country itself was in a difficult situation. Liberia went through a long and bloody civil war just a few years before it opened its doors to refugees from the Ivory Coast. It was also hit hard by Ebola, which meant that refugees from the neighbouring country could not return home as quickly as the UN refugee agency had planned.
6. Uganda – 3.7 per cent
Uganda has received 1.7 million refugees over the last ten years and is one of the largest recipients of refugees in the world. In recent years, Uganda has provided protection to people from DR Congo and South Sudan in particular, but the country has also received refugees from Burundi, Somalia, Rwanda and several other countries. Uganda is a pioneer in integrating refugees and giving them full rights.
7. Malta – 2.7 per cent
Malta is the Western country that has received the most refugees relative to its population. The country is located near the coast of North Africa and receives many refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe from Libya. The pressure has become even greater since Italy has made it almost impossible for rescue vessels to dock at its own ports.
8. Sudan – 2.6 per cent
With over one million refugees since 2010, Sudan is the fifth largest recipient country in absolute numbers. Most have fled the conflict in neighboring South Sudan. Sudan is also a key transit country for refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, among others, who are trying to flee to Europe.
9. Sweden – 2.6 per cent
Sweden has long had the most generous refugee policy in Europe and, unlike many other countries, has actively welcomed refugees. But the large influx of refugees to Europe in 2015, where many European countries were unwilling to share the responsibility, led the government to introduce a temporary law that limited the rights of refugees to a minimum of what the country has committed itself to through international conventions. Despite this, Sweden still received far more refugees than most European countries.
10. South Sudan – 2.5 per cent
Although South Sudan is better known for its own displaced population, it is also home to more than 300,000 refugees from neighbouring countries. Most are refugees from Sudan who fled conflict in the border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile in the years after South Sudan gained its independence in 2011.
In addition to these ten countries that have received the most refugees relative to their population, there are certain populous countries that have received a large number of refugees during this period and have contributed positively to giving many people a secure future.
The most important of these countries are:
Germany – 1,265,000 refugees (1.5% of the total population)
Clearly these various concentrations of refugees result from the recipient nations’ proximity to those in crisis. Just as Haitians find the United States near enough to gain access to our borders, so do populations in the Middle East seek safety in nearby places. Yet the numbers alone should help us in the U.S. consider the big picture of what likely lies ahead not only for us, but for the rest of the world.
Nations in political crisis have no leadership or organizational capability to handle emergencies like floods, earthquakes, or war. Just as wars in the Middle East will likely not end anytime soon, and thus refugees in that region will continue to seek safety and the means of livelihood, so will environmental and political crises continue to send waves of refugees to American borders.
Americans need to unify behind some clear-cut policy.
Do we allow refugees to enter the country illegally? If not, what is the answer to situations like the current influx of Haitians? Aside from a fence, which has already been considered, tried, and seen to fail, what possible barrier can we construct to force refugees to abide by our policies?
Border patrol agents are duty bound to stop people from swarming into the U.S. illegally. Is it unreasonable for them to chase down people trying to evade our laws? It seems clear that anyone trying to enter the country illegally already knows they are breaking the law. That does not bode well for their actions and attitude once in our communities.
We have rules, specific steps a person must take to apply for asylum before entering the U.S. Are we to ignore those rules?
How much money should we spend to improve conditions in places like Haiti?
How much should the U.S. or the UN interfere in places like Haiti where the government has more or less collapsed following the assassination of their president? Do we or the UN force a government model and de facto leaders in such situations? The U.S. has a dark history of interfering in the governments of other countries, most notably in efforts to displace so-called socialist or communist regimes, which in turn has contributed to their political instability. How would our interference now be any different?
What is the alternative?
Each of us needs to consider these questions and understand our responsibilities to communicate with our elected representatives as they grapple with this problem.
In an ideal world, government provides for its citizens by addressing problems so complex or so large in scope that citizens alone or even in groups cannot address them. Our tax dollars support government agencies that regulate the costs of necessary utilities, the purity of our food and drugs, and the safety of our mass transportation systems such as airlines and trains, among many other things. Under our U. S. Constitution, matters of personal conscience such as privacy and religious belief are left to the individual.
At the local level, we here in Washington County, Arkansas now find ourselves with a county government which has forgotten—if indeed they ever knew—their proper role. For example, about a year ago, the county government closed their south Fayetteville hazardous waste collection center. There was no public notice of this decision.
Meanwhile, a resolution introduced by Quorum Court Republican Patrick Deacon and passed through committee last night quotes a Bible passage and presumes to embed certain religious beliefs into county law. A more experienced county judge would have stopped this presumption in its tracks.
A deeper look at the county judge’s tenure finds that upon taking office, he not only fired experienced county employees but replaced them with cronies from his former position at Ecclesia College. He gutted several of the county’s departments and ended up defending his actions in court. Environmental affairs, tasked with protecting our natural springs, streams, and the rest of our land, was reduced to one employee. The county archives, a priceless repository of old deeds, marriage records, and other arcane and fascinating bits of our local history, was relieved of its professional archivist and its open hours reduced to a few hours one day a week. Other departments suffered similar cutbacks, all in the name of saving money and, to the Republican mantra, reducing government.
Hazardous waste isn’t something to toy with. These subtle poisons are found in virtually every household—cleaning products, solvent-based paints, pesticides, weed-killers, and other garden chemicals, batteries, motor oil, kerosene, swimming pool or hot tub chemicals, pharmaceuticals (all medicines), obsolete computer equipment and televisions, thermometers, barometers, thermostats, fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent globes (CFLs), and more. Educating the public about household hazardous waste (HHW) over the last thirty years has been a major effort for community recycling and solid waste departments.
Washington County had made some headway not only in educating residents about the nature of HHW but also in providing a convenient drop-off location where such items could be safely collected for appropriate disposal. This has meant that tons of these chemicals have NOT ended up being poured on the ground or dumped into landfills where someday, no matter how great the liners, they will leak into the ground. Chemicals in the ground don’t just sit there. They don’t decompose into harmless biomass. They migrate through fragmented limestone and clay and every other type of strata until at some point they join groundwater. And sooner or later, that groundwater becomes the water we must drink.
Now perhaps Judge Wood and his cohort were not aware of the dangers inherent in HHW. Perhaps their only thought was to make other use of that small building on the county’s south campus that would save the county a few dollars. (The building is currently used for storage.) And perhaps their thought was that any solid waste issue, including HHW, properly fell into the domain of the Boston Mountain Solid Waste District (BMSWD).
Whatever the considerations which entered into the decision to close the HHW collection center, these considerations did not include the cardinal rule about the safe disposal of HHW: disposal should be convenient for the greatest number of people.
In a society acculturated to the concept of convenience, it is the burden of public officials to ensure that the solution to important problems like proper HHW disposal is made as convenient as possible. Number 1 consideration should be to accommodate the operation of a facility which has become well known and well used by area residents.
When the county closed its HHW collection center in south Fayetteville, BMSWD scrambled to open a new collection center in Prairie Grove. However, Prairie Grove has a population of about 5,800 people whereas Fayetteville’s population is over 85,000, which raises the question of who is being served with this location change. The tenuous justification for the move hinted that it wasn’t the county’s responsibility to collect HHW for Fayetteville. Also, that Prairie Grove was more rural and therefore more suitable for HHW collection from county residents.
Questions posed in early April to Judge Wood were diverted to Brian Lester, formerly county attorney and now assistant to the judge.
Q: How much money did the county spend on the south Fayetteville HHW collection center?
Q: What was the tonnage collected annually at the Fayetteville HHW center? Has that tonnage increased or decreased in the year since the south Fayetteville facility closed?
Didn’t have any data.
Q: Why did the county not notify Fayetteville solid waste officials about the planned termination of the south Fayetteville site and ask for a cost sharing solution?
Q: Is the county’s population center at or near Prairie Grove?
A: No, the center is just south of Fayetteville.
Mr. Lester alleged that BMSWD now offers local HHW pickup at various outlying communities such as Elkins. Not true. The district’s plan for HHW collection is that if a community decides it needs a HHW collection, it will provide a location and staff and the district will provide education and disposal of said waste. At the present time, the only HHW collection service in the county is a weekly one-day collection event in Fayetteville, which began AFTER early April when we circulated our questions to not only Mr. Lester, but also a quorum court member, BMSWD employees, and Fayetteville solid waste representatives.
BMSWD confirms that they received no advance warning that the county judge planned to terminate their contract to use the county’s building in south Fayetteville for the HHW collection center. Likewise, Fayetteville solid waste officials confirm that they received no warning or offer of cost sharing or other arrangements to secure the south Fayetteville location for the program.
No one advising Judge Wood or his staff on this decision seems to have considered that lots of residents of small towns and rural areas of Washington County used the Fay’vl HHW facility because Fayetteville is the largest city and the county seat and serves as the shopping, entertainment, and employment destination for most of the small town/rural residents of the entire county. Which, obviously, means Fayetteville is the most convenient HHW disposal location for most county citizens.
The allegation that Prairie Grove is a more convenient disposal location for rural citizens than Fayetteville is a fabrication based on the need to cover ass after the issue was raised with hard questions.
Government and only government has the power and scope to make decisions that provide protection for the region’s water supply for decades and centuries to come. Unfortunately, Judge Wood and his cohort’s interests seem to center on his religious beliefs and how to best impose those beliefs on individual county residents.
Despite Judge Wood’s administrative experience in various posts, his primary interest seems to follow his Masters of Christian Leadership degree (2016). Aside from imposing religious beliefs on county government, Joseph Wood’s righteousness apparently suffers lapses.
“In the 2016 race for County Judge, former Ecclesia board member Joseph Wood replaced Republican nominee Micah Neal when he abruptly withdrew from the race. Neal later pled guilty to federal bribery charges over state funds he directed to the school. Wood’s first actions as judge were to fire employees without cause, and violate county policy by hiring Ecclesia cronies without posting the position. It’s not gotten any better from there. Despite running on fiscally conservative credentials, Wood has presided over dwindling reserves and a budget shortfall in the county.”
Not only Neal, but another state senator Jon Woods (appealing a fifteen-year sentence) and a well-known lobbyist Rusty Cranford (serving a seven year sentence) were part of this scheme to divert tax dollars to a religious school while lining their own pockets. As investigators ultimately discovered, the scam involved sixteen people in two states.
“As part of his guilty plea, Neal admitted that, between January 2013 and January 2015, while serving in the Arkansas House of Representatives, he conspired with an Arkansas state senator [Jon Woods –ed.] to use their official positions to appropriate government money known as General Improvement Funds (GIF) to a pair of non-profit entities in exchange for bribes.”
While Joseph Wood may not have been complicit in this scheme, his position as Ecclesia College board member made him responsible for the activities of its representatives. If he knew about this illegal scheme, perhaps he viewed it in the same way he views the unconstitutional overreach of the proposed resolution declaring the county ‘pro-life’ – that the end justifies the means. The end, in this case, would be a ‘Christian nation.’
Joseph Wood announced in May 2021 that he is running for lieutenant governor, a position one step away from the power of state leadership. In his lengthy press release announcing his candidacy, Wood extolls his career and adds his blessings to the Trump presidency:
“President Trump will go down in history as one of the greatest Presidents because he pushed ahead in the face of adversity and delivered results. Arkansas needs a proven leader for the future of Arkansas. I am running as a strategic thinker and leader who consistently delivers results. I am running as a conservative, committed to faith, family, and fighting for what’s possible in Arkansas.”
The tenure of Judge Wood has been a black mark on our county’s reputation. If elected to state office, this man and his supporters will only drag the state further down, and we’re already scraping the bottom.
We aren’t the only person to speak out about egregious behavior by Republicans on the Quorum Court. This letter to the editor was published in the Northwest Arkansas edition of the Democrat-Gazette on February 7, 2021. Please note that this Patrick Deakins is the same member of the court who put forth the pro-life resolution cited above.
“Public’s voice provided little time in meetings
“On Tuesday, Feb. 9, after months of the public calling for a public discussion regarding over $4 million in CARES Act relief funds being sent to Washington County, the public was finally offered an opportunity for discussion. Or so we thought.
“I was excited for this opportunity as my own Justice of the Peace, Lance Johnson, will not respond to my other attempts to reach him. At the beginning of the meeting, JP Patrick Deakins was elected chair of the committee, then rudely and sarcastically breezed his way through the entire agenda and insisted the only time for public comment would be at the very end, even though an agenda item was named for “public discussion.” At the end, under a brand new rule, only 12 minutes were allowed total for the entire agenda, 10 items in total.
“Five members of the community, in a county of over 230,000, were allowed to speak. Five. And, the last person speaking was yelled over and cut off, on an item that hundreds of us have waited months to discuss.
“I hope the public is aware that whether for or against any items, we have been completely shut out of participating in our local government. This 12-minute rule applies to all county business. The county received “reimbursement” for over $4 million dollars in funds they claim they spent on covid-related expenses, yet detailed as their justification were expenses that were budgeted prior to the pandemic. They have hijacked our tax dollars and our democracy. That is our money and our Quorum Court, and we are not allowed to have an opinion? This should rock every one of us to our core and they should be ashamed of themselves.
“Start talking to your neighbors, friends or family about running. We have a Quorum Court to take back.” Written by ReBecca Graham.
Never before has the heavy hand of religion gripped so hard in its effort to control a state government. The Republican majority of the 2021 legislative session has strained to enact every conceivable moral judgment on the state’s citizenry, promising that a large sum of taxpayer dollars will be tossed into the maw of federal courts defending the church’s agenda.
Since many of these laws intrude into the private homes, bedrooms, and bodies of Arkansans in violation of their Constitutional rights, they will—hopefully—be overturned.
Established by Jerry Cox in 1991, the Family Council is again the force behind another disgraceful session, wielding its medieval outrage over Republican legislators who can’t seem to see beyond the church hymnal. It’s as if science never existed, which is exactly what the Council wants. The Council’s agenda could not be more conspicuous: strangle the privacy and individual rights of the people of Arkansas through the enactment of laws that move social norms backwards a century or more.
“The Family Council is a conservative education and research organization based in Little Rock, Arkansas. Our mission is to promote, protect, and strengthen traditional family values found and reflected in the Bible by impacting public opinion and public policy in Arkansas.”
Purportedly a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, the Council lists its areas of concern as Abortion, End of Life Issues, Stem Cell Research, Human Cloning, Physician-Assisted Suicide, Same-Sex Marriage, Religious Liberty, Homosexuality, Gambling, Judicial Activism, Education Choice, Home Schooling, Divorce, Taxes, and Healthcare.
Seven of these fifteen ‘areas of concern’ are very personal, private matters, yet the Council has convinced legislators they have the right, yea, even verily the responsibility, to wade in and slam a fist down on the dinner table.
What follows is taken from the Council’s website.
“What a week at the Arkansas Legislature!
“The legislators stood strong and enacted H.B. 1570, a really good bill protecting children from dangerous gender-reassignment procedures. Lawmakers did this despite immense pressure from liberal groups across America.”
Following ‘a brief look back at the week,’ the Council gets down to passing judgment on the legislation passed so far:
Good Bills Passed So Far
H.B. 1570 (Prohibiting Sex-Reassignment on Children): This good bill by Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R – Springdale) and Sen. Alan Clark (R – Lonsdale) prohibits sex-reassignment procedures on children. The bill also prevents funding of sex-reassignment procedures performed on children. This bill will protect children from being subjected to surgeries and procedures that can leave them sterilized and permanently scarred. The bill has passed the Arkansas House of Representatives and been sent to the senate. See how your state representative voted here. See how your state senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
Act 562 / H.B. 1402 (Abortion-Inducing Drugs): This good bill by Rep. Sonia Barker (R – Smackover) and Sen. Blake Johnson (R – Corning) updates Arkansas’ restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs like RU-486. It outlines requirements that abortionists must follow in administering abortion-inducing drugs, and it prohibits abortion drugs from being delivered by mail in Arkansas. It also updates current law to ensure doctors who perform chemical abortions are credentialed to handle abortion complications and can transfer the woman to a hospital if she experiences complications. The bill has passed the Arkansas House. See how your state representative voted here. See how your state senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
Jerry Cox visits with Capitol Police officers ahead of a press conference in support of H.B. 1570, the SAFE Act.
Act 560 / H.B. 1572 (Informed-Consent to Chemical Abortion): This good bill by Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R – Springdale) and Sen. Scott Flippo (R – Mountain Home) outlines the informed-consent process for chemical abortion. Arkansas’ current informed-consent laws for abortion are geared primarily for surgical abortion procedures. H.B. 1572 will help ensure women get all the facts about chemical abortion — including its risks, consequences, and pro-life alternatives. This will help save many unborn children from abortion. The bill has passed the Arkansas House. See how your state representative voted here. See how your state senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
Act 462 / S.B. 289 (Conscience): This good bill by Sen. Kim Hammer (R – Benton) and Rep. Brandt Smith (R – Jonesboro) protects healthcare workers’ rights of conscience. Arkansas’ current conscience protections are narrowly focused on abortion, abortifacients, and end of life decisions, and they protect only a limited number of people. S.B. 289 helps broaden these protections for healthcare workers. See how your state senator voted here. See how your state representative voted here. Read The Bill Here.
Act 498 / S.B. 85 (Abortion): This good bill by Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R – Rogers) and Rep. Joe Cloud (R – Russellville) requires an abortionist to show an ultrasound image of the unborn baby to the pregnant woman before an abortion. Currently, Arkansas law says an abortionist must offer to let the woman see the ultrasound image. Research indicates that some women are less likely to have an abortion once they see an ultrasound image of their unborn child. That means pro-life bills like S.B. 85 can help further decrease the number of abortions in Arkansas. Arkansas Right to Life is the chief proponent of this bill, and we fully support their efforts. See how your state senator voted here. See how your state representative voted here. Read The Bill Here.
Act 309 / S.B. 6 (Prohibiting Abortion): This good law by Sen. Jason Rapert (R – Conway) and Rep. Mary Bentley (R – Perryville) prohibits abortion in Arkansas, except in cases when the mother’s life is in jeopardy. Family Council worked closely with Sen. Rapert to pass this good bill that could save the lives of thousands of children and give the courts an opportunity to overturn decades of bad, pro-abortion rulings. See how your state senator voted here. See how your state representative voted here. Read The Bill Here.
Act 226 / H.B. 1116 (Simon’s Law): This good bill by Rep. Jim Dotson (R – Bentonville) and Sen. Bart Hester (R – Cave Springs) is named in honor of an infant in Missouri who died after doctors put a Do Not Resuscitate order on his chart without his parent’s knowledge or permission. If passed, it would help protect children in Arkansas from being denied life support or having a DNR placed on their medical charts without parental consent. The bill has passed into law. See how your state representative voted here. See how your senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
Act 392 / H.B. 1544 (Pro-Life Cities Resolution): This good bill by Rep. Kendon Underwood (R – Cave Springs) and Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R – Branch) affirms the right of municipalities in Arkansas to declare themselves pro-life. H.B. 1544 outlines some of the findings and language that cities can put in their pro-life resolution. The bill also clarifies that Pro-Life Cities can install signs or banners announcing that they are pro-life. The bill has passed the Arkansas House and the Senate City, County, and Local Affairs Committee. See how your state representative voted here. See how your state senator voted here. Read the Bill Here.
H.R. 1021 (Home School): This good resolution by Rep. Cameron Cooper (R – Romance) recognizes and celebrates 35 years of homeschooling in Arkansas. The resolution passed the Arkansas House on a voice vote. Read The Resolution
H.B. 1882 (Privacy): This good bill by Rep. Cindy Crawford (R – Fort Smith) and Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R – Branch) protects physical privacy and safety of Arkansans in showers, locker rooms, changing facilities, and restrooms on government property. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 662 (Prayer): This good bill by Sen. Ricky Hill (R – Cabot) and Rep. Cameron Cooper (R – Romance) establishes a Day of Prayer for Arkansas Students annually on the last Wednesday of September. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 388 (Abortion Facilities): This good bill by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R – Jonesboro), Rep. Joe Cloud (R – Russellville), and Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R – Springdale) requires any facility that performs abortions to be licensed by the Arkansas Department of Health as an abortion facility, and it prohibits abortions in hospitals except in cases of medical emergency. S.B. 388 will help ensure that every clinic that performs abortions follows all of Arkansas’ laws concerning abortion facilities. This has the potential to save many women and unborn children from abortion. See how your state senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 527 (Abortion Facilities): This good bill by Sen. Ben Gilmore (R – Crossett) and Rep. Mary Bentley (R – Perryville) requires abortion facilities to have transfer agreements with hospitals, and it fixes a flawed definition in a pro-life law passed in 2019. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 463 (Abortion Facilities): This good bill by Sen. Blake Johnson (R – Corning) and Rep. Tony Furman (R – Benton) requires the State of Arkansas to report abortion data to the federal Centers for Disease Control. It also tightens Arkansas law concerning abortion facility inspections, and it requires abortionists to file certain documentation when the woman is a victim of rape or incest. The bill has passed the Arkansas Senate. See how your state senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1830 (Religious Freedom): H.B. 1830 by Rep. Jim Dotson (R – Bentonville) protects the right of public school students to express a religious viewpoint in class assignments the same way they could appropriately express a secular viewpoint in an assignment. See how your state representative voted here. Read The Bill Here.
S.J.R.14 (Religious Freedom): S.J.R. 14 by Sen. Jason Rapert (R – Conway) and Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R – Paragould) amends the Arkansas Constitution. It prevents the government from burdening a person’s free exercise of religion. The measure is similar to Arkansas’ state Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Family Council strongly supports this good amendment to the Arkansas Constitution. Read The Bill Here.
H.J.R.1024 (Religious Freedom): H.J.R. 1024 by Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R – Paragould) and Sen. Jason Rapert (R – Conway) amends the Arkansas Constitution. It prevents the government from burdening a person’s free exercise of religion. The measure is similar to Arkansas’ state Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Family Council strongly supports this good amendment to the Arkansas Constitution. Read The Bill Here.
H.J.R.1025 (Life): H.J.R. 1025 by Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R – Paragould) amends the Arkansas Constitution. It says that the sanctity of life is paramount to all other rights protected by the constitution. It states that Arkansas citizens, acting as jurors, have the sole authority to determine the amount of compensation or civil penalty imposed because of injuries resulting in death or resulting from acts that create a significant risk to life. H.J.R. 1025 will help prevent the State of Arkansas from placing a price tag on human life. Family Council strongly supports this good amendment. Read The Bill Here.
H.J.R.1010 (Casino Gambling): H.J.R. 1010 by Rep. Joe Cloud (R – Russellville) amends the Arkansas Constitution to remove authorization of a casino in Pope County. This is a good amendment that will help curtail casino gambling in Arkansas. Family Council supports H.J.R. 1010. Read The Bill Here.
H.J.R.1011 (Casino Gambling): H.J.R. 1011 by Rep. Joe Cloud (R – Russellville) amends the Arkansas Constitution. It changes the casino amendment that authorizes casino gambling in Pope, Jefferson, Garland, and Crittenden counties. Under H.J.R. 1011, the Arkansas Racing Commission would not issue a casino license in Pope County unless the voters of the county approve conducting casino gaming at a local election. Family Council supports H.J.R. 1011. Read The Bill Here.
S.J.R.16 (Boys and Girls Athletics): S.J.R. 16 by Sen. Alan Clark (R – Lonsdale) would amend the Arkansas Constitution to require public schools to designate their athletic teams as “male” or “female,” and require student athletes to compete according to their biological sex. This would prevent boys who claim to be girls from competing in girls’ sports at school — and vice versa. Family Council supports this measure. Read The Bill Here.
H.C.R. 1007 (Abortion): This good resolution by Rep. Jim Wooten (R – Beebe) and Sen. Jason Rapert (R – Conway) recognizes January 22 — the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade abortion decision — as “The Day of Tears” in Arkansas. The resolution acknowledges the 61 million of unborn babies killed in abortion in America over the past five decades, and encourages Arkansans to lower their flags to half-staff on January 22 to mourn the innocent children who have lost their lives. Read The Resolution Here.
H.B. 1429 (Home School): This good bill by Rep. Mark Lowery (R – Maumelle) and Sen. Ben Gilmore (R – Crossett) makes it easier for a student to withdraw from a public school to home school. The bill reduces the fourteen-day waiting period currently in Arkansas law for families wishing to transfer out of a public school. It also makes technical corrections to the home school law. Read The Bill Here.
[My note on Arkansas home schooling policies: There are no educational requirements for parents/guardians who provide a home school for their child(ren). The law does not give the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education or the school district the authority to review or monitor a home school student’s work. Home schools are not accredited by the state. There are no grades, credits, transcripts, or diplomas provided by the state, education service cooperative, or by the local school district for students enrolled in home school. Parents are not required to test their students.]
[Additional note: Home schooling allows parents to teach religious beliefs while leaving out those pesky topics like history, civics, and science.]
Bad Bills Filed So Far
S.B. 622 (Hate Crimes): This bad bill by Sen. Jimmy Hickey (R – Texarkana) and Rep. Matthew Shepherd (R – El Dorado), commonly being called a “hate crimes law,” outlines vague, protected classes in state law. This bill is so ambiguous that it’s impossible to know just how far-reaching this legislation may be. S.B. 622’s protections for religious liberty are not adequate. The bill does not contain sufficient safeguards to prevent cities and counties from enacting their own, more stringent hate crimes ordinances. It does not do enough to protect free speech or prevent thought-policing. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1685 (End-of-Life Care): This bad bill by Rep. Michelle Gray (R – Melbourne) and Sen. Breanne Davis (R – Russellville) guts the intent of the Arkansas Healthcare Decisions Act. It lets healthcare workers who are not physicians work through end-of-life decisions with patients and family members. It does not require healthcare workers making these decisions to have appropriate training in end-of-life care. It makes it easier to deny a dying person food or water. Family Council strongly opposes this bad bill. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1686 (End-of-Life Care): This bad bill by Rep. Michelle Gray (R – Melbourne) and Sen. Breanne Davis (R – Russellville) guts the intent of the Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment Act. It lets healthcare workers who are not physicians complete Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) forms. It removes an important provision in state law that says a POLST form is not intended to replace an advance directive. It inadvertently prevents consulting physicians — such as palliative care physicians — from completing POLST forms with patients. Family Council strongly opposes this bad bill. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 655 (Sex-Education): This bad bill by Sen. Greg Leding (D – Fayetteville) and Rep. Megan Godfrey (D – Springdale) implements Planned Parenthood-style comprehensive sex-education in public schools in Arkansas. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1869 (Gambling): This bad bill by Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R – Russellville) would legalize internet gambling and Keno under the Arkansas Lottery. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 3 (Enacting Hate Crimes Legislation): This bad bill by Sen. Jim Hendren (I – Gravette) and Rep. Fred Love (D – Little Rock) enacts hate crimes legislation by enhancing penalties for crimes committed against certain protected classes of people listed in the bill. The bill is virtually identical to H.B. 1020. Family Council has opposed hate crimes legislation for more than 20 years, and we oppose this bill as well. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1020 (Enacting Hate Crimes Legislation): This bad bill by Rep. Fred Love (D – Little Rock) and Sen. Jim Hendren (I – Gravette) enacts hate crimes legislation by enhancing penalties for crimes committed against certain protected classes of people listed in the bill. The bill is virtually identical to S.B. 3. Family Council has opposed hate crimes legislation for more than 20 years, and we oppose this bill as well. Read The Bill Here.
H.J.R.1008 (Initiatives and Referenda): H.J.R. 1008 by Rep. DeAnn Vaught (R – Horatio) amends the Arkansas Constitution. It requires initiatives and referenda submitted to voters via petition drives to be approved by at least 60% of the votes cast on the measure in order to pass. However, it would not require constitutional amendments submitted by the General Assembly to be approved by 60% of the vote. Family Council opposes this measure. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1228 (Public Drinking): This bad bill by Rep. Lee Johnson (R – Greenwood) and Sen. Breanne Davis (R – Russellville) would let cities in dry counties approve public drinking in “entertainment districts” if the city contains a private club that serves alcohol. Under Arkansas’ “entertainment district” law, alcohol can be carried and consumed outdoors on city streets and sidewalks around bars and restaurants, if approved by the city council. The bill has passed the Arkansas House of Representatives, but has not been approved by the Arkansas Senate. See how your state representative voted here. See how your state senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1066 (Alcohol): This bill by Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R – Clarksville) would let microbrewery operators ship beer directly to private residences anywhere in the state of Arkansas or to residences in other states that allow direct shipment of alcohol. The bill may not contain sufficient safeguards to prevent alcohol from being delivered to someone who is under 21. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1148 (Alcohol): This bill by Rep. Frances Cavenaugh (R – Walnut Ridge) and Sen. Missy Irvin (R – Mountain View) overhauls Arkansas’ local option election law concerning alcohol. The bill reduces the threshold for taking a county wet or dry via a petition drive. Liquor stores in wet counties would be able to continue operating even if the county voted to go dry. The bill would make it easier for some cities or towns in a dry county to be wet while the rest of the county is dry. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 510 (LGBT Counseling): This bad bill by Sen. Greg Leding (D – Fayetteville) and Rep. Tippi McCullough (D – Little Rock) would prohibit healthcare professionals from helping children overcome unwanted same-sex attraction and gender confusion. However, the bill would permit pro-LGBT counseling that encourages children embrace a different sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a bad bill that hurts healthcare professionals and endangers the welfare of children. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1697 (No-Fault Divorce): This bad bill by Rep. Ashley Hudson (D – Little Rock) and Sen. Greg Leding (D – Fayetteville) permits no-fault divorce in Arkansas. Under current law, couples in Arkansas can divorces in cases such as infidelity, abuse, following a lengthy separation, and other circumstances. H.B. 1697 would permit divorce due to irreconcilable differences, discord, or conflict of personalities regardless of if the husband or wife is at fault. Read The Bill Here.
Other Legislation to Watch
H.B. 1069 (Contraceptives): This bill by Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R – Clarksville) and Sen. Breanne Davis (R – Russellville) lets pharmacists dispense oral contraceptives to women without a prescription from a doctor. Family Council previously opposed this bill. However, Rep. Pilkington has filed amendments to the bill. His amendments address objections Family Council raised against H.B. 1069. Family Council is neutral on this bill. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 32 (Alcohol): This bill by Sen. Jane English (R – North Little Rock) and Rep. Karilyn Brown (R – Sherwood) would let retail liquor permit holders — such as liquor stores — deliver alcoholic beverages to private residences in the county where the store is located. The bill may not contain sufficient safeguards to prevent alcohol from being delivered to someone who is under 21. The bill has passed the Arkansas Senate and the Arkansas House. See how your senator voted here. See how your state representative voted here. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1341 (Alcohol): This bill by Rep. Karilyn Brown (R – Sherwood) and Sen. Jane English (R – North Little Rock) permits on-premises consumption of alcohol on Christmas Day. Currently, Arkansas law generally prohibits bars and liquor stores from selling alcohol on Christmas. This bill would allow alcohol to be sold for on-premises consumption in bars and restaurants on Christmas. It would not let liquor stores sell alcohol for off-premises consumption. Read The Bill Here.
H.B. 1522 (Marijuana Transportation and Possession): This bill by Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R – Springdale) and Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R – Rogers) prohibits a person from being under the influence of marijuana in public or at a marijuana dispensary or marijuana cultivation facility. It clarifies that it is unlawful for a person to use marijuana by inhalation in a place where marijuana is prohibited by the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016. It also imposes penalties for possessing more marijuana than Arkansas’ medical marijuana amendment allows. And it makes it a crime to transport medical marijuana into Arkansas from another state. See how your state representative voted here. See how your state senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
S.B. 389 (Parental Review of Sex-Education): This bill by Sen. Bob Ballinger (R – Ozark) and Rep. Mary Bentley (R – Perryville) requires public schools to notify parents about sex-education material and give parents the option of opting their students out of the class or activity. See how your state senator voted here. Read The Bill Here.
 Some bills pertaining to non-personal/privacy concerns are excluded from this article.
For a segment of the American population, the idea of being required to wear a mask triggers outrage. Some of the outrage results in physical violence. Over a mask.
On the surface, such a reaction defies reason. But behind the curtain, there are insidious reasons, all of which are egged on by rightwing and foreign interests determined to sow chaos in this nation.
There’s the ‘freedom’ element, resistance to being ‘required’ to do anything. But why? Similar outrage is not apparent in instances of ‘required’ seat belts, or shoes and shirts in stores, or – for that matter – driving in the right lane.
There are news reports of people who claim they can’t breathe if they wear a mask, but that dog won’t hunt. Doctors, nurses, scientists, and hazmat teams wear masks every day for hours. None of them have dropped dead from oxygen starvation or carbon dioxide buildup. Yes, there may be a few with mental health issues or respiratory problems that a mask can complicate. But that’s a handful of people in the overall situation.
If we pull back the curtain further, we find massive evidence of Denial. It’s not just excuses for why a mask requirement allegedly violates someone’s freedom or that one can’t properly breathe in a mask. The denial is far more fundamental than that, and largely hidden.
Remember, for the contingent of Americans who believe in Trump, the virus started out as a Democratic hoax. It was nothing more than the flu and would disappear by April. News coverage of New York’s crisis with bodies stored in refrigerated tractor-trailer trucks or ICU beds lining hospital hallways wasn’t real, simply more of that Democratic hoax meant to scare people and mess up Trump’s chance at re-election.
Now five months in and as the infection rate soars and hospitals in several states are nearing 100% capacity, the hoax lunacy has expanded to include screaming mobs of anti-vaxxers whose sole mission is to protect all of us from a mandatory vaccine that carries microchips which will … well, that detail is rather elusive. Some claim the chips will be the ‘mark of the beast’ that prevents its carrier from entering the Kingdom of Heaven. Others claim the chips will control our behavior and force us to accept the ‘New World Order’. Or most egregiously, it’s a Bill Gates plan to track everyone – because… ?
In a poll conducted May 20 and 21 by Yahoo/YouGov, 44% of Republicans said they believed the microchip conspiracy theory with Democrats checking in at 19%.
A Christian Right broadcaster, Brannon Howse of “Worldview Watch,” warned that Gates and the “medical globalist deep state” were using the crisis to regulate people’s fertility depending on their worldview, through “procreation tickets” and microchips.
So we have the ‘don’t tell me what to do’ mindset enhanced by the Democrats’ evil hoax and the microchip from Satan Gates himself. Some folks have even made the whole thing more concise by blaming Bill Gates for creating the virus so he could implant chips in the vaccine.
Elaborate thinking, perhaps – except it’s the result of not thinking at all.
Sadly, these conspiracy theories and rejections of facts have become fodder for political interests whose goal is to disrupt and divide the people of the United States. This has been the stated purpose of Russian disinformation campaigns for decades, but that too has become a conspiracy theory even when our best intelligence agencies confirm proof of such actions. The intelligence community is then swept into yet another conspiracy theory.
The more the far right learns (and can’t understand), the more it crafts yet another conspiracy theory. And experiences more rage.
Anger is often the result of fear, part of the adrenaline-stoked fight or flight response. Fear of the unknown, i.e. a virus or scientific process that is too hard to understand. Fear of being on the losing ‘side.’ Fear of being wrong for folks who need to feel ‘right’ in order to maintain mental stability.
With an invisible virus spreading through the population, anxiety sweeps in triggering fear. Those who are willing and able seek scientific information to help understand how the virus works, how it travels, what can prevent infection, and how he/she personally can best avoid the bug. These folks wear masks in public, stay home as much as possible, and social distance when they can’t.
But not everyone is equipped to seek out or understand scientific information and these people are more likely to be triggered into rage about wearing a mask. If these folks were capable or willing to investigate the virus instead of feeding on falsehoods promoted by Trump, they probably weren’t Trump voters to start with.
Trump voters are a strange amalgam of several sorts of people. At the core are those evangelicals who refuse to think beyond the boundaries of their religious beliefs, and those beliefs dictate saving the fetus above all else. That means a Republican vote no matter who the candidate, a constituency carefully cultivated and routinely fed hot-button rhetoric like the “Democrats want to kill babies after they’re born!”
There is no room in these minds for the rights of a woman to control her body, or the reality that abortions occurred millennia before Roe v Wade and will occur after it’s overturned, if it is. There is also no room in that lockstep for consideration of the horrific abuses perpetrated upon unwanted children, or immigrant children in cages, or children and pregnant women in places where our corporate war machines spread death and destruction on an industrial scale. Apparently ‘My Body, My Choice” slogans only apply to those who refuse to wear a mask.
Then there are those who hate government and rally behind the idea that Trump will dismantle the ‘deep state’ which describes, in their minds, a mysterious evil machinery behind all our nation’s ills. There is no room in these minds to understand how government works, no respect for people who devote entire careers to studying how chemicals in water or food affect our endocrine systems, or for people who spend every working day looking at data about our schools and whether students are learning, or the processes by which agencies can make choices about interest rates or surplus crops or weather forecasting – all of it in service to the people of our nation.
The mentalities involved in this willful ignorance and diminished reasoning capacity know somewhere deep inside they might be wrong. An internal crisis of anxiety and fear grows proportionately to the growing evidence of the possible error. When it reaches the point where their local supermarket won’t allow them through the doors without a mask, the evidence of their wrong blows up in their face.
Does that mean they suddenly realize that they were wrong? No. In defense of all the ignorance they hold dear, they rage.
Denial explains and justifies the rage. Denial that Trump is an idiot. Denial that the nation is not now nor ever was meant to be a ‘Christian’ nation, that the Republican mantra about fetuses and freedom of religion is nothing more than a political con meant to garner votes from people who are incapable of thinking for themselves. See, for example, the evangelical prediction that the world will literally end if Trump isn’t re-elected. (Footnote )
Other mask-ragers are people who fear losing the historical supremacy of white identity. People who still can’t admit the South justly lost the Civil War. People too lazy to pay attention to the facts, too busy or disconnected to read/watch the news from enough different sources to truly understand what is going on. These are people incapable of gathering relevant information regarding an issue, reasoning through that information, and reaching logical conclusions.
If we as a nation are going to survive the current chaos and move toward a more united, egalitarian future, each of these conditions among segments of the American population requires a focused examination of the cause and a concerted national effort to remediate the cause. These causes mean we are not equal. Without a long term determination to ‘cure’ these inequalities, they will destroy us. It’s not enough to have scientists discovering vaccines and advanced computing systems that can park cars for us. People have to understand how to apply rational processes and appreciate the logic of the scientific method.
Masks are a symbol of the truth of the virus, but they are also a symbol of the truth about Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Those who have embraced Trump deny they’ve been manipulated, misled, and used to further a political agenda that has – in reality – nothing to do with what they believe it to be. The agenda, in reality, is to further consolidate power and wealth in the hands of a few.
These folks have been played. Wearing a mask would require them to admit it.
Scientists have no firm grip on the fatality rate for this coronavirus. That’s because no one knows who is infected and/or who has experienced the virus without significant reaction. Until testing for the virus and antibodies is widely accessed across the entire population, these answers will remain unknown.
Ask the president when widespread testing will be available and you might trigger a temper tantrum like the one he unleashed yesterday on a FOX reporter.
Also, what anyone knows about the mortality rate depends on whether you’re talking about apples or oranges:
In the UK, as of 2 April, 2921 people had died out of 33,718 confirmed cases – a crude case fatality rate of around 9 per cent. For Italy, the figure is nearly 12 per cent and for Germany just 1 per cent. These figures don’t tell us what we really want to know, though: how many of those infected will die as a result, which is known as the infection fatality rate.
Then there’s the vaccine. Several promising ideas are in the pipeline, including a DNA-based formulation under development by Inovio and supported by Bill Gates. But by any and all accounts, a vaccine is still twelve to eighteen months away.
So why is everyone talking about an ‘end’ to self-isolating by May or June? Nothing magical happens in June. The virus will still exist. Those of us who have avoided it so far will have no more immunity in June than we have now.
Well, there is the weather. Quite a few viruses have seasonal growth and decline, and this general knowledge apparently led President Trump to assert “that the virus will be gone by April.” He claimed that when temperatures rise, ‘the virus’ will ‘miraculously’ go away.’ The idea has triggered several studies of that effect in this particular outbreak. It’s not good news.
As summarized in a report by the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard School of Public Health,
The short answer is that while we may expect modest declines in the contagiousness of SARS-CoV-2 in warmer, wetter weather and perhaps with the closing of schools in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, it is not reasonable to expect these declines alone to slow transmission enough to make a big dent. [This report is worthy of a full read!] 
So no big break from warm weather and no vaccine until 2021. Do we self-isolate for the next year?
In reality, people simply can’t and won’t self-isolate for the next year. Many aren’t doing it now either because they hold an ‘essential services’ job or because they’re stupid. Plus the government can’t and won’t send out an endless supply of money to businesses to keep people on their payrolls or send money directly to the unemployed. Jobs are jobs because things need to get done – farming, transportation, shipping and dockworkers, manufacturing of a thousand things, millions of small businesses that involve everything from plumbing to roof repair to house cleaning, haircuts and dry cleaning, auto repair and lawn mowing. Then there are the big stores where people buy groceries, batteries, and underwear, essential in their own ways.
And – if you’ll remember – those charts showed a high curve and longer, lower curve – that longer, lower curve means people are still getting infected months into the outbreak. The idea of self isolation was to spread out the incidence of infection so that medical facilities didn’t get overwhelmed all at once, not so that the mitigation ended the risk.
How do we plan for the future?
Some national leaders are telling it like it is:
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday Canadians will need to stay at home and practice physical distancing for months as the first wave of COVID-19 cases in the country won’t end until the summer and Canada won’t return to normal until there is a vaccine — which could take a year and a half.
None of this should be a surprise. Outbreaks like this have been on the rise for decades and show no sign of slacking. The World Health Organization notes that in just the last three months of 2019, there were documented cases of MERS/CoV, Yellow fever, Ebola, Measles, Dengue fever, Lassa fever, Zika virus, and Cholera in multiple locations from the Middle East to Congo to Pacific Islands and including Afghanistan, the Netherlands, and France.
Scientists have been trying to prepare us for the next outbreak. A 2018 article on pandemic preparedness published in Nature Microbiology stated:
As recent outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), Ebola and Nipah viruses, and pandemic influenza make clear, emergent infectious agents pose a continued and considerable threat to human health. However, our ability to detect and predict the initial emergence of a novel human pathogen (for example, the spillover of a virus from its animal reservoir to a human host), and our capacity to observe and forecast the transmission and spread of that pathogen within and among human populations, remains limited.
Key words: “Remains limited.”
Scientific consensus is that we are at greater risk of pandemics from both known and unknown disease vectors than in the past.
Evidence suggests that the likelihood of pandemics has increased over the past century because of increased global travel and integration, urbanization, changes in land use, and greater exploitation of the natural environment.
This is why it was criminally short-sighted by President Trump to “reorganize” Obama’s Global Health Security and Biodefense unit responsible for pandemic preparedness. The unit resided under the National Security Council (NSC), a forum of White House personnel that advises the president on national security and foreign policy matters. Now merged into one “directorate” with arms control/ nonproliferation and weapons of mass destruction terrorism, the global health and biodefense team’s clout is apparently lost in the shuffle. Trump was advised as early as December that a new bio-threat was shaping up in China and again several times in subsequent weeks, yet he failed to grasp the seriousness until mid-March.
Whether that’s a failure of his leaderless and diluted biodefense team or his basic inability to grasp anything is unclear. “Responding to an epidemic requires cooperation across a variety of government agencies, but without a dedicated coordinator, none has the responsibility to solve the problem.”
The hope for a vaccine within the next year seems to assume a vaccine will be developed. Surely it will–no guarantees. But even our best flu vaccines are only about 50% effective. That’s because these viruses mutate frequently, changing enough of their DNA to wriggle away from our efforts at prevention. So far scientists are optimistic that a vaccine might be more effective with COVID-19, known more formally as SARS-CoV-2.
Based on current data, it seems as though SARS-CoV-2 mutates much more slowly than the seasonal flu. Specifically, SARS-CoV-2 seems to have a mutation rate of less than 25 mutations per year, whereas the seasonal flu has a mutation rate of almost 50 mutations per year.
Unless one lives in a remote location without human contact, chances are all of us are going to end up exposed, one way or the other. The sooner we face that existential reality and adjust our outlook accordingly, the sooner we can relax.
At the very least, the lessons of the current experience demand better federal oversight and a president who pays attention to his security briefings. We need national stockpiles that can immediately respond to the need in mass infections and a public educated in advance on social distancing and other mitigation steps. We need to bolster our institutional and personal preparation for such inevitable events.
My Berner friends may become incensed with what I’m about to say, but I have to say it. It’s not that I don’t like almost everything Bernie promises. It’s that I’ve learned in my 72 years to be suspicious of someone who offers everything I might want, especially when it’s free. What’s the catch?
I believe he promises far more than he can deliver. Obama managed to get the Affordable Care Act passed but with massive compromises even though Democrats held majorities in the House and Senate. Yet to hear Bernie tell it, he’ll wave his magic wand and give us Medicare for All.
Same thing with his talk about taxing the 1% to pay for all his promises. It sounds great to hear him talk of free college, free childcare, ending fossil fuels, etc. but – as my grandmother used to say – “It’s too much sugar for a dime.”
Immigration policy changes advocated by Sanders are extensive. Good ideas include his commitment to “ensure customs and immigration agencies have the funding and personnel necessary to eliminate the backlog of pending applications and cut wait times for immigration applications and to work with Congress to provide funding to swiftly unify families stuck in pending backlogs.”
But I’ve seen little if any analysis of the social, financial, and security costs to allow unlimited immigration. Just his Medicare for All policy for immigrants raises red flags for a lot of voters — that he would “provide comprehensive care to everyone in America, regardless of immigration status” and his plan to “provide year-round, free universal school meals; breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks through our school meals programs to all students regardless of immigration status.”
And how much is enough? One million immigrants? Five million? We already know that climate change will marginalize increasing areas of the planet. Is it our plan to let them all move here until we’re as crowded as China?
Bernie’s embrace of the Green New Deal includes statements like “Save American families money with investments in weatherization, public transportation, modern infrastructure and high-speed broadband.” And “Invest in conservation and public lands to heal our soils, forests, and prairie lands.”
Who is investing?
Short answer: the government. “Directly invest an historic $16.3 trillion public investment toward these efforts, in line with the mobilization of resources made during the New Deal and WWII, but with an explicit choice to include black, indigenous and other minority communities who were systematically excluded in the past.” And he goes on to promise “We will guarantee five years of a worker’s current salary, housing assistance, job training, health care, pension support, and priority job placement for any displaced worker, as well as early retirement support for those who choose it or can no longer work.”
Sanders vows to make “the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution, through litigation, fees, and taxes, and eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies” yet doesn’t hint at what this would do to fuel prices. He promises to “End the greed of the fossil fuel industry and hold them accountable,” what every environmentalist has wanted for 50 years. But how do you end greed?
His plan to end right to work laws alone will roil through state governments—where such laws are passed—and spark enormous resistance. Program after proposed program relies on taxing the 1% — but Sanders provides no numbers of how much tax the 1% and many others earning above $29,000 per year will actually be expected to pay.
Believe absolutely that Republicans will make those calculations and blanket the campaign with them.
These proposed policies and much more are outlined at Sanders’ campaign website and are worth a read by voters before charging off to put him into the running against Trump. To me, much of Bernie’s platform is pie in the sky without any acknowledgment of the role of Congress in passing legislation or the overall impact on American lives.
There’s a strong sense of individualism among Americans. We believe in hard work and earning what we have. It’s not going to sit well among many voters for the government to take what is earned and give it to someone else. It’s one thing to send a contribution to a request for money by someone we know or to a legitimate charity and quite another to set up massive programs where everyone can get freebies even if they’re slackers. We already have plenty of evidence that people will believe the worst about welfare recipients, some of which is well proven.
Don’t get me wrong. I fully support higher taxes on the super-rich. We might hope that some of these changes could be enacted soon, no matter who the president or members of Congress. But each member of Congress has to answer to their constituents including local businesses and people who worry about having to pay even more taxes. Waving your arms and making promises doesn’t end the human desire to earn more money (i.e. greed) or the very real limits on what we can have.
Promises unfulfilled leave a bad taste in the mouths of voters who might naively elect someone who says all the right things and then can’t deliver. Sanders could set up Democrats for losses far into the future, not only of the White House but Congress and state races as well.
To the more pressing point, if we don’t get Donald Trump and his coterie of criminals out of power, we will have a majority of right wing nuts on the supreme court (much as we love her, Ginsberg can’t live forever), continued degradation of our ethical and social standards, and the risk of losing our entire democracy. Why should Democrats take the chance that Sanders with his wild promises might go down in flames and leave Trump in office another four years? Can’t we recognize the risk and choose a less extreme candidate?
I believe if Sanders becomes the Democratic nominee for president, the Republicans will mop the floor with him and his massive tax plan.
Yes, Republicans will attack any Democratic nominee. That’s what campaigns do. But Bernie is a grenade waiting to go off in our hands. I want change. I’ve been a progressive all my life and have worked hard on issues from women’s rights to the environment. I’d like to believe that Sanders can win the presidency and deliver on his promises. But I don’t believe.
Yesterday I had an interesting experience. A Facebook friend I’ll call Barbara posted a meme promoting a moveon.org petition calling for Nancy Pelosi to be removed from office. This was the morning after Pelosi famously ripped up the print copy of Trump’s State of the Union address.
The petition’s stated cause: “By ignoring the Title of Nobility Clause (Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution), ignoring the attacks on freedom of the Press, ignoring blatant obstruction of justice and abuse of pardons, proves Nancy Pelosi is incapable of keeping this country free of a potential dictatorship and must relinquish her position of Speaker of the House.”
Absurd, and later declaimed by MoveOn, the piece didn’t shock me as much as the fact that Barbara posted it. She is an extreme liberal. But she and I have argued before about her quick acceptance of propaganda and her entrenched hatred of Democratic leaders like Hillary Clinton as a result of the 2016 campaign. Barbara is a fervent supporter of Bernie Sanders.
I commented on her post, questioning why on earth she would fall for such a vitriolic attack on Pelosi when she alone has done more for the progressive cause during the reign of Trump than any other single figure. Our discussion was quickly interrupted by a Facebook ‘friend’ of hers named Paul F. Delargy, Jr. Paul posted a string of memes showing Pelosi cartooned as a villain in various settings. One was of Trump and Pelosi standing side by side, half dressed in revealing clothes with exaggerated bodily features like Pelosi’s eyes and Trump’s belly. The meme’s text stated they were the same.
Amid the memes, Paul had little response to my questions. Barbara responded, immediately blaming the DNC for the app failure in Iowa as justification for her post of the anti-Pelosi meme. Several commenters pointed out the fallacies in her line of thought, to which her response was “and I keep getting accused of not facing reality… Keep defending the ones that you defend, the ones who keep the ones who could lead us into a better future from having power to change the party and see what happens. Primary the progressives into the ground.”
Okay, she and I have argued many times about the doubt I have that most of Sander’s promises would ever become reality in a situation where, as president, he would still have to get the proposed change through Congress. But more important in my view, Sanders has a lot of negatives that his supporters dismiss but which would be a field day for Republicans. But that’s beside the point of my topic here.
At one point, I visited Paul’s FB page, curious about him as a person. There was a generic flowery field as the header image. The inset photo of Paul showed a grizzled older man with a knit hat, holding a dog. There was no personal history and very few posts. Rushing off to errands in town, I mulled over my gut instinct that Paul was a troll. So when I returned home, I went back to Barbara’s post to further examine all of Paul’s posted memes denigrating Pelosi, the Democrats, and equating Democrats with Republicans.
I wasn’t completely shocked to discover that Paul’s memes and comments had vanished. Paul had vanished. I did a Google search on his name and found there was a real Paul F. Delargy Jr. living in a state near Barbara, age 80+, as found on whitepages.com. Another record gave his age as 91.
I don’t question the reality of Paul’s existence. I do question his presence on Facebook as an 80 or 91 year old man living with relatives. I question the photo I saw and I question his acuity with Facebook in accessing and posting so many memes on the specific issue of Pelosi. I especially question Mr. Delargy’s quick exit from Facebook after I visited his page.
This stinks of trolling with the intent of dividing Democratic Party supporters. Wednesday morning on the heels of Trump’s SOTU address was a moment for progressives to cling to any good news they could find. Pelosi’s actions at the end of his speech was one such bit of good news, reminding us that Trump isn’t yet king and we still have an election to win. It makes perfect sense that trolls working for Trump would try to pull her down. But it makes no sense that they would post a disgusting image of Trump equating him with Pelosi.
I’m left with the conclusion that Facebook Paul was a Russian troll, doing what they do best—assuming a false identity to spread mistrust and disinformation among Americans in order to damage our democracy. As stated in an intelligence report on the 2016 election and many other sources,
Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.,
Barbara is a perfect target for trollers like Facebook Paul. She posts up to 80 times a day on topics as widely varied as the purported innocence of Julian Assange, puppies up for adoption, and personal bits about her garden or family business. But her primary focus is political. She’s not particularly astute about technical aspects of social media and seems rather confused about where her allegiance lies. She’s concerned, she wants to help, and yet can’t seem to sort out the absurd or harmful from the helpful materials that cross her newsfeed, which is fed by over 1,400 ‘friends.’ Her habit of prolific Facebook posting and lack of critical analysis of the information she receives makes her ideal as a vehicle for troll posts.
So what might help protect Barbara and the rest of us from trolls like Facebook Paul?
First, when someone asks to be your ‘friend,’ don’t just be flattered. Check them out. Look at the person’s Facebook page for background information, photos, etc. How many friends do you have in common and do you personally know any of those friends? If the person doesn’t have a long record of Facebook posts and most of the photos are the person alone, chances are this person is not real.
Do a Google search.
We weren’t always under siege by trolls, so it might be helpful to go back through your friend list to check those you don’t know personally.
Always be on guard against any posts—memes or comments—that don’t quite pass the smell test. Before you share a questionable post, check the source. Do a Google search on a key phrase or section of the post, see what turns up. Ask your FB friends if they’ve seen this post before and what they think of it.
The most important thing we can do for the future of this nation is to not be part of any effort to muddy facts and raise a hue and cry when you find misinformation. It’s up to us.