public health

Managing a Pandemic, Enron-Style

The Administration’s management harkens back to a spectacular business collapse at the turn of the century.

Think of this as a parable. I’ll draw out some parallels at the end with the Trump Administration’s handling of the coronavirus, as detailed in a story in Sunday’s Washington Post. But first I’ll let you make some of the connections yourself. The Trump team’s triumph in 2016 was one of the great upsets in …

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The Mystery of McConnell’s Litigation Shield

Why is he investing so much in something so draconian and so unnecessary?

As part of their proposed stimulus package, Senators John Cornyn and Mitch McConnell introduced a bill that gives almost complete immunity protection to businesses that fail to take precautions against the coronavirus. It’s called the “Safe to Work Act,” but really should be called the “Work at Your Own Risk Act.” McConnell says he won’t …

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Constitutional Rights in a Pandemic

When does public health override individual rights?

Lockdowns and social distancing impinge on activities that are protected by the Constitution. That’s been true in many states of church services and in some states of abortion. When the cases have come before they courts, they have often turned to a 1905 Supreme Court case decision, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, which upheld a state law …

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What was Trump’s Role in Premature Reopening?

Yes, he was at fault, but it’s complicated.

In a column about a week ago, Paul Krugman pointed to the dire consequences of the reopenings in the Sunbelt and laid the blame entirely on Trump.  He viewed it as “case of Republican governors following Trump’s lead.” The “main driving force,” he said, was Trump’s reelection strategy.  There’s some truth to that, but it’s …

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The “American family” in crisis: Colonialism, COVID-19 risk, and climate vulnerability

The fight for racial justice must include a reckoning with US imperialism.

The recent spotlight on anti-Black violence has awoken many white Americans to an uncomfortable truth: that underneath its rhetoric of equality, the United States is a fundamentally racist country. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on U.S. communities of color underscores this fact. The pandemic also reveals a lesser known but equally uncomfortable truth: that underneath …

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Another Casualty of US Withdrawal from the WHO: The Environment

Unbeknownst to many, the WHO does important work on pollution problems.

Withdrawing from international cooperation in the midst of global pandemic is an idea that’s just as bad as it sounds.  President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the WOrld Health Organization (WHO) withdrawal will also be harmful in other ways. Notably, a major component of the WHO’s work involves the health impacts of pollution and dangerous …

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Networks of Misinformation

How Anti-Public Health Messages and Activities Spread

Like a virus, misinformation can spread within a population. It has its super-spreaders, just like the coronavirus. It can mutate in ways that make it more contagious. And it can be weaponized. Research into networks of coronavirus-related communication has revealed how both true and false information spread through social media .  Misinformation can spread like …

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Using and Abusing Models: Lessons from COVID-19

We’ve seen some great examples of how NOT to deal with models.

Models have figured heavily in government responses to the coronavirus. This has given us the opportunity for a real-time lesson in the uses of models. In the process, we’ve learned some important lessons in how to best make use of models — and equally importantly, in how not to use them. That’s directly relevant to …

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What’s the Matter With Bill de Blasio?

The Progressive-Leaning Democrat has more in common with Donald Trump than you might think.

Willful bungling of the coronavirus crisis cuts across ideologies and political parties. That’s the lesson that we learn from the story of Bill de Blasio. He is very different, across many different dimensions, than Donald Trump. But it turns out that he shares something important with Trump: a tendency to place personality over expertise. De …

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Free to Be Negligent?

Proposed Tort Liability Protection for Businesses

Sen. Mitch McConnell is demanding that any future coronavirus relief law provide a litigation shield for businesses, and other conservative/business interests have made similar proposals. So far, the supporters of these proposals have engaged in some dramatic handwaving but haven’t begun to make a reasoned argument in support of a litigation shield. In this post, …

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