Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Let Me Just Say....

"Being enforced" is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence:

Major US movie theaters say they do not plan on reopening until the summer, despite Georgia authorizing cinemas to resume screenings on Monday, and Texas planning to follow suit.

Social distancing rules are being enforced in those two states.
Greg Abbott, governor of Texas Our Texas, announced yesterday that if anyone violates his orders on social distancing and reopening businesses (which are allowed to have only 25% capacity of person (customer?  employees?  both and a little bit of neither?) are subject to fines for doing so.  In the same press conference he said Harris County (3rd largest in the nation, largest in Texas Our Texas) cannot, however, impose any fines on people violating the new county ordinance to wear masks in public.

Texas counties have the authority to pass ordinances enforceable by law.  The Governor of Texas Our Texas has no authority to issue "executive orders" which have the force of law and can result in fines. Not only is his "order" unconstitutionally vague (25% of capacity is calculated how?  And who does it cover?  All persons?  Customers?  Employees plus customers?  And which headcount is official?*), it's unenforceable.  Indeed, it sounded in the press conference like he was picking up on Harris County's language because he answered a question about the mask ordinance (no, they can't do that) but picked up the amount of the fine for not wearing a mask and attached it to his order, just to prove he was the authority, not a county judge (which is a constitutional office in Texas, just like the Governor's office.  Yes, we have a weird constitution.).

But are the Texas Rangers and the sheriff's deputies and constables and local police all going to be patrolling places of business to "enforce" social distancing with a pre-approved double yardstick and a book to write out citations when they calculate how many people are in the building?  No, of course not.

The rules are mostly being enforced by popular consensus.  There are no cops at the checkout counters making sure you stay back from the person checking out at the moment.  There are no Texas Rangers standing by the door keeping track of how many went in and how many came out so more can go in.  It's gonna be a mess in some places and not so bad in others.  I have a friend who owns a bookstore who will be sending books to me for the foreseeable future, since I'm not about to enter her charming but tiny place of business (I will miss that).  I don't want to go to a theater, even if all seats have to be purchased on-line and they limit the number who can watch the movie.  Too many people in the bathroom, for one thing (one more person would be too many.  Urinals are not set up for social distancing, nor are the sinks.).

This whole business is crackpot.  Consider Dan Patrick's (I know, he's my nemesis now) assertion we should all go to work and take one for the economy.  Well, more people get sick than die, by a large margin.  What of the sick?  Who cares for them, and who pays for that care?  According to Robert Reich:

An estimated 9.2 million have lost their employer-provided health insurance.

So if we really start spreading this thing around, potentially some percentage of 9 million people could be in healthcare with no way to pay for it.    And back to that whole issue of suffering and who allows it:

The Remotes among us should be concerned, and not just because of the unfairness of the Covid-19 class divide. If the Essentials aren’t sufficiently protected, the Unpaid are forced back to work earlier than is safe, and the Forgotten remain forgotten, no one can be secure. Covid-19 will continue to spread sickness and death for months, if not years to come.

That is happening already, Reich argues, for the "Forgotten" (racial minorities, prisoners, etc.  And prisoners includes prison guards, let us not forget).  And it's only going to get worse; even Bill Kristol sees that:
If that happens (and it is happening now, for the "Forgotten"**), if we decide money is more important than people, first:  is that evil?  And if it isn't, why not?  Second:  who is to blame?  God?  Or us?

*As was pointed out on local news tonight, Abbott's "executive order" (he likes that, it sounds Presidential and official!) says some businesses in Texas (bars, gyms, etc.) "shall refrain" from opening.  Which ain't the same thing as "shall remain closed until further notice."  The latter might be enforceable in court; the former sure as hell ain't.  Abbott is a lawyer, he knows this.

**Word is this is also happening in South Korea, where much of the stoop labor is done by non-Koreans, who live in what amount to ghettoes.  Koreans kept their distance from each other and drove the virus spread down, but it thrived among the laboring class to which most Koreans don't give a second thought.  And from there it is spreading in South Korea again.  So the next time somebody complains about prisoners being released from jails to control the spread of the virus, remind them there is a practical, as well as moral, aspect to the issue.

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of the stories they used to tell about dances between Catholic schools where the nuns supposedly walked around with a ruler to make sure the brats weren't dancing too close. Yeah, a real smart use of law enforcement resources during a national crisis.

    Republicans are the banality of evil made flesh.