Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Sept. 23, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

Last Friday, 318 days after the election in 2020, former President Donald Trump via a letter asked the Georgia secretary of state to decertify that state’s election results “or whatever the correct legal remedy is” so he could reclaim the presidency. Trump did not claim fraud, according to The Washington Post, but did claim a violation of chain of custody rules, which he said would make 43,000 ballots invalid.

It took 19 months for the nation to reach one in 500 people having died from COVID-19, The Washington Post reported. The death toll exceeded 663,000 last week. The figure in low-vaccinated Mississippi was one in 320 dying from COVID-19, according to Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Worldwide, Reuters says 58% of the population has yet to receive even one vaccination dose, creating a vibrant playground for COVID-19 and its variants.

Worker shortage: In the early-20th century the average age in the U.S. was 23; now it’s 38, according to Ben Waddell, associate professor of sociology and a contributor to Writers On the Range. That has narrowed the pool of potential employees. But Waddell says there are other deterrents: unaffordable rent due to the hot real estate market, and fewer immigrant workers. The latter reflects a 44% drop in temporary and permanent worker visas, and the fact that more Mexicans are going home rather than coming to the U.S. One problem faced by immigrant workers is wage theft, according to Pacific Media Workers. Some communities have ordinances against wage theft. The National Association of Home Builders said in 2020 that close to one in four construction workers was foreign born.

After Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene likened opt-out door-to-door vaccinations programs to Hitler’s Third Reich, the Auschwitz Memorial Museum in Poland tweeted that comparing public health measures to Nazi tactics “is a sad reflection of moral and intellectual decline.” The left-right political divide was further demonstrated when, at a Republican political gathering in Dallas, the audience applauded when a speaker said President Joe Biden would not be meeting his 70% vaccination goal.

The plan for Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices via the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act (BBB Act) hit a snag: all Republicans and two Democrats are resisting, as is the pharmaceutical industry.  The New York Times said high drug prices are a top voter concern. According to a Congressional Budget office analysis, prices for some drugs would fall by more than half, and the federal government would save over $450 million over 10 years if the BBB Act language is passed into law. 

Compromises taken in order to pass a $3.5 trillion BBB Act (that aims to invest in child care, education, paid family leave, health care and care of the climate) are compromises for the wrong reason, Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of labor, has written in The Guardian. While it’s normal for Republicans to make decisions based on campaign donations, he says the practice is holding sway over some Democrats, such that initial plans to tax the wealthy (660 billionaire’s fortunes increased by $1.8 trillion since the pandemic began) has instead morphed into a 3% surtax on incomes over $5 million. Reich pointed out: most wealthy people don’t live off of an income. 

Blast from the past: 159 years ago this month soldiers from the North and South fought at Antietam Creek in Maryland. The South hoped to pull Maryland into the rebellion, to weaken Lincoln’s war policies for the 1862 election. And the North hoped for a decisive victory against the South. At the end of the fight the U.S. had lost 25% of their fighting forces, and the South had lost 31%. The conflict also marked the first time photographs were taken in the war field. When shared with the public in a New York City photography studio, the bodies of dead soldiers brought the war to life in a new way. Both sides had initially thought the war would be over after a few battles. The North’s narrow victory in Maryland prompted President Abraham Lincoln to declare that as of Jan. 1, 1863, all people held in slavery would be forever free, and the U.S. government would “maintain the freedom of such persons.” By the end of 1863 Lincoln redefined the war as that of protecting the nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” The Confederates were defeated in 1865.

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