We surely live in interesting times

posted in: Life and things | 0
Dinosaurs fighting as the comet approaches

It has been a momentous week in the world. Events in the USA are always of interest to those of us lucky enough to live in the “West” as the November presidential election looms. The American people or the electoral college – (I don’t understand the US electoral system – but it sure ain’t ‘one man one vote’) get to choose between Donald Trump and VP Mike Pence, and Joe Biden and VP Kamala Harris. On the face of it for someone like me, it’s an obvious decision. Donald Trump is an odious individual.

In contrast, Joe Biden appears to be a good man. Doubts have been raised about his mental capacity for the job but I think he proved himself in the first “debate” with Trump. That was not a debate, it was a bruising, name-calling brawl, unedifying on both sides. But Trump set the tone, repeatedly interrupting and hectoring, I expect in an attempt to fluster Biden. He didn’t.

I’d be voting for Biden, but not just because of the odious Donald. The Republican party is becoming increasingly patriarchal. An excellent example of that mindset is epitomised in Mike Pence. He is one of those Christian religious nutters who thinks a woman’s place is to do whatever her husband (or responsible male relative) tells her to do. A bit like the Taliban or Saudi Arabia. People like him would strike out all the advances women have made since the fifties. Let me list a few.

  • A woman doesn’t have to retire from her job when she gets married.
  • She can’t be fired for getting pregnant.
  • She (more or less) gets paid the same as a man for the same work.
  • She can take out a credit card in her own name or get a bank loan.
  • She can wear trousers to work.
  • She can be an airline or air force pilot, sit on the judiciary
  • She can choose whether she should have an abortion – without some male’s permission.

In America, all those steps forward were helped along by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died recently, aged eighty-seven. She had always been a supporter of human rights and equality. This is a quote from a biographical article.

“Ginsburg continued to appear frequently before the Supreme Court, arguing cases of sex discrimination. One of the most important of these was Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld (1975). Stephen Wiesenfeld was a widower who had been denied the Social Security child support benefits that a woman would have received in the same situation. Her victory in this case was followed three years later by another in Duren v. Missouri. State law in Missouri had made jury duty compulsory for men but optional for women. Ginsburg argued that this devalued women’s contribution as citizens, and once again Ginsburg’s position prevailed. By this time, she had earned a national reputation as a leading advocate for the equal citizenship status of men and women.” [source]

And her nominated replacement? Amy Coney Barrett, an extremely capable forty-eight-year-old strict Catholic who belongs to a right-wing group called People of Praise. “The group’s current “coordinator,” Craig Lent, confirmed that People of Praise opposes abortion, gay rights, and marriage equality, and believes that “men are leaders of their families, but that they should be ‘servant leaders,’ as Jesus Christ was.” [source]

Although her religion should not interfere with Judge Barrett’s ability to make a judgement on a point of law, Joan Walsh, who wrote the article cited above, argues that Barrett has already shown signs of bias in her career. Barrett is also on record as saying that civil rights legislation (the 14th and 15th amendments) is illegitimate. [source].

Did you read Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale? Did you watch the mini-series? That terrifying spectre is taking form, no longer a far-fetched piece of fiction. Let us all hope that the death of Helen Reddy, who sang the iconic women’s anthem “I am Woman” is not a portent.

We surely live in Interesting Times. In China, that saying is a curse – so very fitting for 2020, the year of the rat. Whoever wins the presidential race in November, I have no doubt America is in for a torrid and dangerous time. Trump has told his white supremacist supporters to “stand back and stand by” rallying them for a disputed result in November. I’m eternally grateful that my parents decided to emigrate to Australia, not the United States of America. It’s sad and scary to be sitting here half a world away watching that country tear itself apart.

Back in Australia, the number of covid-19 cases is dropping, even in Victoria. Chairman Dan has decided to lift his curfew altogether, having admitted the he doesn’t know who decided to impose the restriction in the first place. He has landed responsibility for the hotel quarantine debacle at the feet of the Victorian health minister, who has now resigned. I’ve worked in government departments where contracts are to be awarded to tenderers. Decisions are usually made after an apparently endless round of meetings which are carefully minuted. After the meetings, somebody writes a report, including an executive summary and a recommendation, which is handed to the responsible bureaucrat, who should be reporting to the minister. The alternative (and I’ve seen the results of some of those) is “i want it done NOW’. It’s all very hurried and often not optimal – but somebody is pointing a finger and demanding results, which means ‘taking responsibility’. If the minister was not properly briefed, maybe a few senior bureaucrats should also resign. But really, resignation is a cop out. If something like this had happened in private industry, where a deadly illness was allowed to spread due to negligence, the people responsible would be prosecuted. Having to say sorry on the telly is hardly an appropriate penalty.

If the quarantine hotels fiasco wasn’t so devastatingly serious, directly leading to the deaths of more than seven hundred and fifty people, the episode would have been wonderful fodder for the writers of that evergreen TV series, “Yes, Minister”.

On the home front, Pete and I developed sore throats early in the week and did the right thing by getting a covid test. There are no active cases in our town but we are being urged to ‘get tested’ if we display any symptoms, even if they’re mild. So, we took ourselves off to the local fever clinic, set up in caravan in a parking area next to a hospital.  We had to register our details with the Hervey Bay hospital, accomplished via a mobile phone while we sat in our car at the testing place. That would be for contact tracing. Once our registration details were printed on documents in the caravan, the nurse came out to administer the test. She explained she would take a swab from our throats (open wide and say AH) and then she would stick the swab up one nostril (it will make your eyes water). The test itself took five seconds. It does make your eyes water but that’s it. Trivial discomfort. We had to self-isolate until we got the results via text message. Pete got his result the next day, mine came a little later. As we expected, both negative.

Mum talking to/feeding the chicks

The pale-headed rosellas who have taken up residence in our nest box appear to be proud parents. The male comes every morning and every evening and calls to his mate in the nest box. They go off for a fly together and then he brings her home. Lately they both stay around the nest talking to each other and the kids, and presumably feeding them. A third party has appeared several times, resulting in much yelling and screaming and almost flying feathers as the pair defend their territory. We had a scare on Thursday (this being 2020) when we feared the parents had abandoned the nest, but now I think there’s a hatchling, but still eggs to incubate. I’m looking forward to seeing the chicks appear when they fledge.

Isn’t it nice to finish this post with something uplifting and hopeful? Oh – and Donald Trump and his wife have contracted covid-19. Did I mention we live in interesting times?

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