This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
The progress of a quarter-century of medical advances has essentially been wiped out in just two years.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, life expectancy in the US has fallen by 2.4 years total. The decrease of a .6 year in 2021 mounts on top of the loss of 1.8 years recorded in 2020.
As the World Socialist Web Site noted when the CDC’s preliminary mortality report was issued in August, the figures constitute “a damning indictment of the homicidal response to the pandemic that has characterized the Trump and Biden administrations. Biden—who was elected in large part because of popular revulsion at Trump’s callous and anti-scientific response to COVID-19 and who was armed with effective vaccines from the beginning of his term—stands thoroughly exposed.”
Indeed, despite the availability of lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines and Democratic control of the White House and Congress, 2021 was far deadlier than 2020. According to CDC data, total US deaths increased by 80,502 compared to 2020, above all, due to the continuing pandemic.
Citing CDC statistician Kenneth Kochanek, NPR notes that COVID-19 accounted for nearly 60 percent of the decline in life expectancy in 2021. The total number of deaths in which COVID-19 was the underlying cause increased by 18.8 percent, from 350,831 in 2020 to 416,893 in 2021. It remained the third leading cause of death in 2021 following heart disease and cancer.
If the typical CEO of a large U.S. corporation clocks in at 9 am on January 2, by 3:37 pm that afternoon he’ll have earned $58,260 — the average annual salary for all U.S. occupations.
In other words, in less than seven hours on the first workday of the New Year, that CEO will have made as much as the average U.S. worker will make all year.
Based on the oral arguments in the case of a Christian web designer seeking to gut nondiscrimination protections, 2023 isn’t looking like a good year for LGBTQ+ rights on the Supreme Court. But it’s not looking like a great year for the Court itself either.
The Court is heading into the new year at a level of disarray and public distrust not seen in modern times. Moreover, there’s little sign that the justices intend to do anything to address the issue, except to possibly make it even worse.
As it turns out, there’s speculation that the author of the draft, Samuel Alito, may have been the leaker. The reason is that the former leader of a right-wing group now says that Alito gave major donors of the group a heads-up on another major decision a few years back (Alito denied the report).
The leaks are just one sign of a dysfunctional Court. Alito has given full vent to the sneering side of his personality, publicly mocking foreign leaders who objected to the abortion ruling. Under normal circumstances, this would be a terrible breach of etiquette, but now it’s what passes for normal “own-the-libs” rhetoric from the Court’s conservatives.
Then there’s the conflict of interest problem rife among the justices on the right. On top of the list is Clarence Thomas, whose wife, Ginni, is a would-be seditionist. Despite her deep involvment in Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, Justice Thomas has yet to recuse himself from cases involving the January 6 insurrection.
That’s not the only shady example. A representative from an arm of the anti-LGBTQ+ group Liberty Counsel boasted that the group regularly prays with justices in their chambers, despite having cases before the Court (Liberty Counsel said that was a past practice, as if that made it okay).
In a more festive and equally disturbing example, Justice Brett Kavanaugh attended a Christmas holiday party hosted by the head of the Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC). Among those in attendance were a who’s who of the right, including Stephen Miller, the loathsome architect of Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies. More recently, Miller has been heading a group, American First Legal, which took a lead role in anti-trans ads in the midterms and – oh, by the way – has filed briefs before the Supreme Court.
Just to show you where their loyalties lie, Alito, Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch showed up at a gala dinner in November held by the Federalist Society, the right-wing legal group that vetted Trump’s judicial appointees, where they received a long ovation for their ruling overturning abortion rights.
Such disregard for the appearance of neutrality is possible because the Supreme Court doesn’t have any ethical guidelines – literally. Unlike any other judicial body in the U.S., the Court relies upon the integrity of the justices to police itself.
Look at where that’s gotten us.
No wonder the public’s trust in the Supreme Court is at historic lows.
During this year, the U.S. Government has allocated $112 billion to Ukraine, in order to defeat Russia in the battlefields of Ukraine. Russia allocates normally $60 billion per year for its entire military, but this year has increased that 40% to $84 billion, because of its invasion of Ukraine. Russia invaded Ukraine because, on 17 December 2021, Russia had demanded that the U.S. Government and its NATO anti-Russian military alliance stop trying to place its missiles on and near Russia’s borders (especially in Ukraine, which is the nearest of all bordering nations to Moscow); and, on 7 January 2022 America and NATO said no. Russia then invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, in order to prevent Ukraine from becoming a launch-pad for U.S. missiles. That’s what the war in Ukraine is — and always has been — about, from the Russian viewpoint: not being faced with U.S. missiles that are only a five-minute missile-flight-time away from Russia’s central command in Moscow.
The war in Ukraine started in February 2014, by America’s coup there that overthrew Ukraine’s democratically elected neutralist Government and replaced it by a rabidly anti-Russian and pro-American one on Russia’s border, in order ultimately to become able to place just 317 miles away from the Kremlin U.S. missiles which would be only a five-minute flight-time away from nuking Russia’s central command — far too little time in order for Russia’s central command to be able to verify that launch and then to launch its own retaliatory missiles. It would be nuclear checkmate of Russia, by the U.S. (with the assistance of its NATO allies, which then would include Ukraine).
+ All it took was a downed powerline, or perhaps a spark from the shed at the compound of a Christian cult, to ignite a wildfire on the Rocky Mountain Front on the afternoon of December 30th, – a fire that race across 6000 acres, burning 1,084 homes and 30 commercial buildings in less than a day. Propelled by hurricane-force winds, the only thing that slowed the fire’s spread was the much-belated arrival of the first major snowfall of the season on the high plains of Colorado. The Marshall fire, one of the most destructive in the state’s history, erupted only a couple of weeks after 80-mph winds powered a 250-mile-long dust storm that swept across the eastern half the state and into Kansas, an event that the National Weather Service labeled a “never-before-seen storm.” Never isn’t what it once was.
+ Iraq’s agricultural production has fallen by 40% in 4 years. Much of the decline is due to drought and heat. Over the next few decades, the UN projects temperatures in Iraq will rise by another 2 degrees. Livestock numbers have crashed.
+ More than 40% of Americans live in counties hit by climate disasters in 2021.
+ A global study conducted by 98 researchers measuring over five million forest trees found that the largest 1% of trees equaled over 50% of total carbon containing biomass.
Manchin: “The climate thing is one that we probably can come to an agreement much easier than anything else.” Don’t worry Thing, help’s on the way…!
+ $100 billion: the estimated cost of climate-caused disasters in 2021.
+ After declining for six years, coal generation increased by about 22% in the U.S. in 2021, largely in response to higher natural gas prices. Meanwhile, the Governor of Wyoming issued an emergency executive order to forestall the impending shutdown of one of the state’s largest coal plants.
+ The rightwing shop ALEC is pushing legislation modeled after BDS bans that would permit states to “request written verification from a financial company that it does not boycott energy companies.”
+ Like the deadly Camp Fire, this July’s Dixie Fire, which burned more than 963,000 acres in the Northern California, destroyed 1,329 buildings and damaged 95 others, ignited after a tree came into contact with PG&E’s power lines near the Cresta Dam about 100 miles north of Sacramento.
+ Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe (who happens to be an evangelical Christian) told the NYT this week: “The biggest problem is not the people who aren’t on board; the biggest problem is the people who don’t know what to do. And if we don’t know what to do, we do nothing. Just start by doing something, anything, and then talk about it!” I admire Hayhoe, but surely the biggest problem is that a very small group of people and non-human entities given the rights of people by the Supreme Court are making unimaginable streams of money from enterprises they know are turning the atmosphere into a global gas chamber…
+ Nearly all juvenile winter-run salmon perished during the hot, dry summer on the Sacramento River last year. Just 2.6% of the endangered fish survived.
+ Tidal flooding on Monday in Westport, Washington, at the mouth of Gray’s Harbor…
Really, Margaret Kimberley, that's who you choose to highlight on your Twitter feed?
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