Tags: Biden | swine | flu

Give Biden Credit for Swine Flu Comment

Tuesday, 05 May 2009 10:27 AM

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Aren’t we being overly harsh to Vice President Joe Biden who, to everyone’s consternation, recently said, “It’s not just going to Mexico, if you’re any place in a confined aircraft and one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft. That’s me. I would not be at this point, if they had another way of transportation, suggesting they ride the subway.”

I would give the vice president credit for acknowledging the elephant in the room — the swine flu pandemic. In newspapers around the world, there are pictures of people wearing surgical masks.

According to The New York Times, “In this country [U.S.], hundreds of schools have closed, including Fort Worth’s entire school district of about 80,000 students. Texas has 26 confirmed cases.”

In the U.S., there are now 226 confirmed cases and 49 of them are in New York City where two schools are closed for a few days and will be reopening this week.

Isn’t the advice of the vice president basically correct: Avoid crowds and confined spaces?

I recall months or perhaps years ago, there was a contretemps because airlines, in order to save fuel costs, were not cleaning cabin air with fresh air during flights, to the extent they did before gasoline prices soared. Have they abandoned that practice now that fuel costs have more than halved? I doubt it.

The airlines haven’t brought back the free snacks to tourist class, nor have they eliminated the outrageous second bag charge. So once again, why the uproar at the vice president’s musings?

When I was a child, each summer we worried about polio. Every morning when I awoke, I would move my limbs, one at a time to make sure I hadn’t become paralyzed during the night. Before I left the house, I put a garlic amulet that my mother gave me around my neck. Others put faith in camphor balls. Garlic evidently worked for me. It kept people away.

No one who didn’t go through the fear of catching polio every summer can appreciate the enormous relief that took place throughout the nation with the introduction of the Salk vaccine.

It is important that today that we not panic and recognize that the swine flu in the U.S. is apparently not lethal, indeed relatively mild and treatable. Contrast that with the regular flu which is responsible for 36,000 deaths annually in America.

GOP Opposes Hate Crime Laws

Republicans are still inflicting wounds upon themselves. The House recently voted in favor of a hate crimes bill by a vote of 249 to 175 with, as The New York Times noted, “most Democrats voting in favor and most Republicans against.”

The Republicans, I believe, objected primarily because “sexual orientation” was added to the list of protected classes. It seems that their anti-gay bias is part of their agenda, further alienating them from groups protected in earlier anti-discrimination bills, such as minorities, women and the disabled.

What is particularly appalling is that the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, could at one time count on the support of blacks and Jews. No more. Will the Republicans never learn?

Give Drug Offenders a Second Chance

States and the national government are wrestling with racial and ethnic discrimination in our criminal justice system. Minorities suffering to greater extent from poverty than whites, use crack cocaine more than whites, who use far more expensive cocaine to a great extent.

As a New York Times editorial puts it, “The mainly minority drug users arrested with small amounts of crack were getting harsher sentences than white users caught with far larger amounts of powder,” the ratio being 100 times the volume of powder to crack required for the sentences to be equal. Outrageous.

An effort is currently taking place to re-examine our federal and state drug laws with an eye toward reducing the draconian Rockefeller sentencing laws.

Since 1995, I have proposed in both New York State and at the federal level that a second chance be given to drug offenders who have served their time but find it difficult to get a job because employers ask on job applications, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”

My proposed legislation would allow the applicant — who completed a sentence and met other obligations such as no law breaking for five years after leaving prison and securing his/her G.E.D. (high school diploma equivalent) — to respond with “No” as a result of the sealing of his/her records.

The legislation is pending in Albany. Drug addicts in particular need family to support them in their efforts to stay off drugs and it is overwhelmingly difficult for men to attract wives if they have no job.

Six-hundred-fifty-thousand prisoners re-enter society each year. Two-thirds of them are back in prison as recidivists within three years. Shouldn’t we help them stay out?

Teach Banks a Lesson

Wall Street, especially the banks, the enablers who caused our tremendous financial crisis, destroying the savings and retirement incomes of the American public, have not learned their lesson. They continue to seek to destroy the middle class in this country.

Efforts made in the U.S. Senate to permit bankruptcy judges to change the terms of a mortgage, as they do labor contracts, and make it possible for homeowners to keep their properties, failed because of the resistance of the banks.

It was reported on a Chicago radio program that Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., stated, “And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.”

The Congress has the power to teach those banks a lesson. Instead, they respond to their lobbyists and their demands and bail them out at the expense of the taxpayers who they so cavalierly insult and destroy.

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