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I referenced last Wednesday’s horrendous Supreme Court decision that declared that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s orders to restrict religious gatherings in order to fight the spread of the pandemic to be an unconstitutional violation of the freedom of religion. The Court’s decision will, of course, mean that more Americans will needlessly die from COVID. But it also sets up the Court for a potential full-scale assault on the right of privacy in this country.

There is no specific right to privacy in the Constitution. The First Amendment gives the right to privacy in religious beliefs. The Fourth Amendment protects the individual from unreasonable search and seizures, although that right has been seriously eroded over the years, especially since the onset of the war on drugs and the war on terror. The Fifth Amendment provides the protection of personal information through the legal prevention of self-incrimination. The Ninth Amendment provides for other rights not specifically enumerated in the prior eight amendments. In addition, the 14th Amendment extended the Bill of Rights to the individual states, declaring “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”. Since its passage, the 14th Amendment has long been interpreted as providing the right to privacy involving procreation, child-rearing, marriage, and medical treatment. …


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The numbers are now simply staggering. By Wednesday, around 2200 Americans died of COVID. Another 180,000 cases were diagnosed. Over 90,000 are currently hospitalized and over 16,000 of those are in ICUs. Over the course of this pandemic, around 260,000 have died officially from COVID and there another 50,000 to 100,000 excess deaths that may be related. And over 12.5 million Americans have been infected. And all these numbers are climbing exponentially every single day.

The lion’s share of responsibility for this mass death lies with Donald Trump and his Republican acolytes both in Congress and in the states who have consistently refused to take the necessary steps to protect the American people. Even to this day, there has been no national effort to test, trace and isolate, nor a national mask mandate. Despite knowing how deadly it was from the very beginning, Trump has, for some unexplainable, pathologically twisted reason, continually downplayed the severity of the virus, even after he himself was one of its victims. Incredibly, the unwillingness to not only marshal the full power of the federal government to fight the pandemic but also turning the best preventative measure, mask-wearing, into a culture war, partisan political issue, probably cost him re-election. …


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It appears that Trump’s coming within 80,000 odd votes of winning the presidency while Biden receives at least 6 million and potentially 8 million more votes has finally brought a little renewed focus on the ossified and anti-democratic nature of our electoral systems. That focus has intensified as the Republican party establishment, pretty much from top to bottom, supports Trump’s attempts to steal the election by tossing millions of legally cast ballots, primarily from people of color, and ignore the expressed democratic will of the majority.

Since Trump had signaled his intent to cast doubt on the results of the election if he lost since, well, 2016, his refusal to concede to Biden is entirely expected. The fact that the GOP establishment is backing Trump’s efforts is apparently a surprise for many. But it really shouldn’t be when you consider that Republicans have been maintaining power while losing elections for decades now. Republicans have spent most of this decade ensuring it is as difficult as possible for Democrats to vote. When Democrats do win power, Republican legislatures strip that power away. It is not a great leap to the next step, which is simply to declare the votes for Democrats as illegitimate. For the GOP, the transition from minority rule to authoritarian rule is both a logical and seamless result. …


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I know this is like hitting a sitting duck, but Bret Stephens has once again topped himself in illustrating just how out of touch he really is while still claiming victimhood. Today’s effort was another Stephens’ tour-de-force, arguing that the left has been blinded by groupthink and their “increasingly constricted view of the world”, leaving them constantly surprised when confronted by reality.

Stephens’ first example of such “blindness” is that “Donald Trump once again stunned much of the liberal establishment by dramatically beating polling expectations to come within about 80,000 votes of another Electoral College victory”. If the “liberal establishment” consists of almost every polling firm in the country as well as a majority of old-style conservative pundits, that might be correct. …


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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That pretty much describes Democrats reaction to the 2020 election. Biden’s victory over Trump was an historic and overwhelming achievement, only the fourth time in over a century that a challenger had beaten an elected incumbent president. Biden’s popular vote margin of victory by percentage will be the largest for any challenger since FDR beat Hoover back in 1932. And yet, Democrats’ down-ballot losses in the House, the Senate, and state legislatures are a harbinger for the worst of times.

In the House, an expected dozen or so seat gain looks likely to turn into losses of a similar amount or more. The Democrats’ majority in the House will be one of the slimmer margins in recent history, providing additional challenges for the Speaker. In the Senate, hopes for at least a comfortable two or three seat majority were dashed with brutal losses in Maine, North Carolina, Iowa, and Montana. Hope for control with a 50–50 Senate and VP Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote rest on winning two races in Georgia in January. At the state level, where hopes were running high to make inroads against Republican control in places like Texas, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and North Carolina, Democrats not only failed to flip a single legislative chamber but lost their majority in both chambers in New Hampshire. …


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It is hardly a surprise that Donald Trump has refused to concede the election and is fighting to stay in power with frivolous lawsuits and baseless accusations of fraud. It was all entirely predictable. The more frightening aspect of this attack on democracy is that the vast majority of the Republican caucus has been willing to play along with this charade. And even as they try to slowly distance themselves by agreeing that Biden should at least start getting intelligence briefings, they are playing a most dangerous game.

Depending on which poll you believe, either 70% or somewhere around 50% of Republicans now believe that Biden was elected illegitimately. That bloc will make it hard to throw Trump under the bus. Worse, by binding themselves to Trump’s strategy of delaying the inevitable, congressional Republicans provide more and more opportunity for Trump to do something drastic that will force them to choose whether to stand with him or against him and that segment of their base. …

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m2c4

Thoughtful discussions on politics and economics with some sidelights in photography and astronomy.

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