Category Archives: Politics

UM’s Alex Azar Appointment Gets Deserved Flack

Alex Michael Azar II in caricature © 2020 DonkeyHotey, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It doesn’t quite rise to the level of ‘man bites dog’ but when the president of your local chapter of the American Association of University Professors objects to the hiring of someone as any sort of Professor, it’s at least unusual. But here comes Scotney D. Evans, an associate professor in the School of Education and Human Development, with a statement (written with graduate student Thomas Kennedy) opposing the UM Business School’s hiring of former Trump Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar as a researcher and adjunct professor in UM’s Business School. They have some cogent points:

Hearing that the Miami Herbert Business School hired Alex Azar, former President Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary, we both reacted with a mix of horror, disgust and sadness. With all the amazing, diverse and socially responsible policy experts out there that can really motivate and inspire students into “ethical citizenship and service to others” with “a respect for differences among people,” as stated in UM’s mission statement, they choose this guy? There are a lot of important reasons why Azar should be unemployable by any reputable organization that values common humanity and equal rights for all.

Trump’s family separation policy is one of the most shameful stains on the moral character of this country in recent years. Stephen Miller, a senior policy advisor and director of speechwriting for Trump, and other Trump cronies like Azar helped enforce a policy that resulted in children being ripped from crying mothers’ arms to be placed in facilities where sexual abuse and mistreatment were rampant. Unaccompanied minors who were coming to this country looking for a better life did not fare much better, as they were also placed in detention facilities in which they were routinely denied hygienic products and basic necessities. Our very own community became a flash point during the Trump years because of an infamous detention center for migrant children in Homestead, Fl.

I (Thomas) have worked on campaigns to close and prevent the reopening of that detention facility and heard firsthand the awful conditions that children were subjected to, including a military style regimen in which they were not allowed free movement, afforded very limited call time, given inadequate access to lawyers and were mistreated and abused by staff. The for-profit detention of immigrant children under horrid conditions outraged many of us, but unfortunately, those who were involved in implementing these horrible policies have not suffered repercussions. Azar was complicit in implementing these detention policies during the Trump era, and was responsible for the administration of immigration detention centers, including the one in Homestead.

This hire directly contradicts the university’s espoused commitment to racial justice. You can’t be against racism and hire Azar. In addition to being complicit in the racist Trump policies described above, he also botched the COVID-19 response that disproportionately harmed and killed Black people, and he tried to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid which greatly benefit people of color. Being anti-racist as an institution means taking a strong stand against racist policies and those who have a hand in creating or upholding them. Alex Azar was directly involved in creating, implementing and rationalizing racist discourse and policies while employed by the Trump administration.

This hire reminds us of the saying – “don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do.” University statements against systemic racial injustice are meaningless without decisive action against racist policies and the public figures who propagate them. Frankly, we’re dismayed that more faculty, staff and students have not strongly vocalized opposition to this hire. Are faculty in the business school on board and willing to ignore Azar’s role in toxic policies? Is the harm that Azar helped cause simply being waved away and whitewashed under the guise of welcoming a diverse “marketplace of ideas”? As University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Professor and activist David Shih has suggested, the marketplace of ideas fails when we cannot make objective choices about racism.

We believe in free discourse and think our campus benefits from a variety of beliefs and opinions to encourage a healthy and diverse learning environment. We also believe that people make mistakes and should be afforded opportunities to repent. But Azar was complicit in some of the most horrific policies enacted during the Trump era. His hire was a huge mistake.

Posted in Trump, U.Miami | Leave a comment

DeSantis Basks in His New Popularity

They love, they really…well, hate him, actually.

And if you think he’s unpopular now, wait until a child dies of COVID in a school that wanted a mask rule but wasn’t allowed to have it because DeSantis and his team forbade it. I hope that never happens, but if it does, I hope it’s the centerpiece of a commercial playing every hour on every major station in the next election.

Posted in 2022 Election, COVID-19, Florida | 1 Comment

How Does He Sleep at Night?

This is Florida:

And this is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, as ably summarized by Paul Waldman: fight science, keep people from stopping COVID, ignore the casualty count, brag (to the survivors) that you enraged the liberals:

Any politician can be an Internet troll concerned with nothing so much as Owning the Libs, and many in DeSantis’s party think that’s their most fruitful path to success. But to really capture the hearts of the party base, you have to show your willingness to do actual harm to people’s lives as you wage war against the other side. And that’s where DeSantis is excelling.

Not that he’s above trolling. DeSantis sells T-shirts attacking Anthony S. Fauci and is now blaming the covid crisis in his state on undocumented immigrants in Texas; presumably we’re supposed to believe they cross the border near El Paso, walk to Corpus Christi, then dive in the Gulf of Mexico and swim to Tampa, a superhuman covid triathlon that is now filling Florida’s hospitals.

That kind of idiocy aside, no governor in America has done so much to make the spread of covid more likely. DeSantis signed a law nullifying local public health measures and banning private companies from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination. In a case brought by Norwegian Cruise Line, which hopes to prevent its cruises from becoming floating superspreader events, a judge just blocked the law’s implementation.

And in an escalating battle with local officials, he instructed school districts not to require masks and even threatened to withhold funding from any district that does so.

Each of these moves creates conflict and headlines, and each one is guaranteed to produce outrage on the part of liberals and anyone else who actually would like to see the pandemic end, which enables DeSantis to position himself as a chief antagonist in the politicized struggle over covid.

To be clear, DeSantis has encouraged people to get vaccinated. But the bulk of his public focus has been on attacking efforts to actually slow the spread of the virus. “We can either have a free society or we can have a biomedical security state, and I can tell you, Florida, we’re a free state,” he says

With a state government so determined not just to do as little as possible itself to prevent the spread of the virus but to actively prevent anyone else from doing anything either, it isn’t surprising that the delta variant found particularly friendly ground in Florida. It’s now experiencing its worst covid surge since the pandemic began last year; last week the state registered an average of 19,000 new covid cases and 1,800 new hospitalizations every day. It accounts for an incredible one in five cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the entire country.

Yet the fact that Florida has become Delta Ground Zero has apparently only increased DeSantis’s determination to allow covid to continue spreading.

Certainly, to the extent that the plan is to enrage folks like me, the plan is working very well. And, true, the dead don’t vote. (They do have families.)

But hasn’t the time come to say, “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Posted in 2022 Election, COVID-19, Florida | 17 Comments

Seems Its Not Too Early For The Opening Shots Of The 2022 Election

Rubio Supports Trump by accountability.gop.

Posted in 2022 Election, Trump | 2 Comments

Is There a Powerful COVID Infection Rate Predictor?

Interesting Twitter thread about the following question: If you plot the US state-by-state  COVID infection rates since Sept 1, 2020–i.e. the recent and now receding surge–which is a better predictor:

  1. The percent of the population infected before Sept 1, or
  2. The margin of Biden’s victory in the state?

You might expect that states which had lots of COVID before Sept. 1 would have more of it after Sept. 1 for the same reasons they were getting it earlier. Or, I suppose, you might expect the reverse: states learn from their mistakes, and if infection rates were higher earlier then more people have immunity, so there’s a negative relationship between earlier infection rates and later infection rates.

According to Youyang Gu, both of those expectations are broadly wrong:COVID before/after Sept 1 2020

Instead, the single variable with the most predictive power is how strongly states voted for Biden.
COVID Infection vs Biden Vote

As commenters in the thread note, at an R-squared of about 0.5, this is not a fully explanatory variable–there’s a lot going on, no doubt. Youyang Gu’s suggestive claim is only that as single-variable explanations go, this is the most powerful.

Posted in 2020 Election, COVID-19 | Leave a comment

This

Posted in Trump | 8 Comments