Opinion | Blocking a Mandate, the Supreme Court ‘Sided With Covid-19’


To the Editor:

Re “Justices Reverse Vaccine Mandate on Big Employers” (front page, Jan. 14):

With the justices sheltering at home, the Supreme Court had been shut down to live arguments until this past October. The court remains closed to the public, and lawyers arguing in the court have to be masked and provide proof of a negative Covid test. Omicron is still ravaging America, and the military has been dispatched to help overwhelmed hospitals.

Yet on Thursday the Supreme Court conservative majority struck down the temporary vaccine mandate for large businesses proposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and sided with Covid-19, thereby guaranteeing that the pandemic will continue into a third year of misery for Americans.

Some states, like Florida, are passing laws preventing any private business from imposing mandates. The actions of Republican governors and politicians are breathtaking as they interfere with the ability of private businesses to keep their workers safe.

To be clear, the legal resistance on display at the Supreme Court is not about vaccine efficacy or the idiosyncratic nuances of administrative law. It is to support Republican efforts everywhere to damage President Biden politically at the cost of suffering and death for millions of Americans.

Shame, shame on the Supreme Court.

Jonathan D. Karmel
Chicago
The writer, a lawyer, represents unions and workers and is the author of “Dying to Work: Death and Injury in the American Workplace.”

To the Editor:

It’s clear that the Supreme Court has converted itself into an integral part of the legislative branch of government quite independently from its historical and constitutional judicial function. The court, evidenced by its ruling on vaccine mandates, has decided that it is better suited to decide issues of safety in the workplace than the agency created by Congress to deal with that very question.

One possible reason for this is that Congress has proved that it is fundamentally incapable of carrying out its own constitutional functions and has become paralyzed by partisanship. So we have come to the point where decisions affecting many millions of Americans are being made by judicial appointees who at the end of the day are accountable to no one.

Opinion Conversation
Questions surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine and its rollout.

Peter Alkalay
Scarsdale, N.Y.
The writer is a lawyer.

To the Editor:

A virus never had a better friend than the conservative majority of the current Supreme Court.

Jim Webster
Shelter Island, N.Y.
The writer, professor emeritus of medicine at Northwestern University, is past president of the Chicago Board of Health.

To the Editor:

Re “Biden’s Voting Push Crumbles as Sinema Rejects Filibuster Change” (front page, Jan. 14):

This week witnessed a battered President Biden facing a series of setbacks: the Supreme Court ruling on vaccine mandates, inflation numbers that won’t ease and two unyielding Democrats who stymied the voting rights bill on the eve of the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

These two Democrats — Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin — have paralyzed the president’s agenda. What we are left with are top-priority bills held hostage by the refusal of the senators from Arizona and West Virginia to cooperate.

Unlike Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had a supermajority of Democrats to work with, Mr. Biden is beholden to these two senators and an archaic filibuster rule that continues to be a major roadblock in his administration. History will remember the intransigent senators and not be kind.

John V. Amodeo
Mechanicville, N.Y.
The writer is a former adjunct professor of U.S. history and political science at Mercy College’s Manhattan campus.

To the Editor:

Given the frustrations of watching a dysfunctional Senate and filibuster rules that prevent approval of proposed legislation, it’s easy to understand the pressure to change Senate rules and practices. But many of us also share a fear of how a simple, tiny majority in a divided country could affect future legislation under a different majority.

Perhaps the following simple proposals for changing Senate rules could attract bipartisan support and relieve some of the fears and frustrations while allowing the Senate to function at least part of the time:

1. In any given calendar year, the majority leader of the Senate can propose no more than two votes on issues that he or she chooses in which a simple majority would determine the outcome. This would protect the filibuster in principle while allowing flexibility in getting a couple of initiatives approved without a filibuster.

2. Individual senators cannot use privilege to put a “hold” on nominations or votes. Any hold must be requested by at least three senators from three different states.

3. Presidential nominees will automatically be approved if they are not brought to a vote by the full Senate within 90 days.

Joel Magid
Scarsdale, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Re “We Need a Second Cut of ‘Don’t Look Up,’” by Ross Douthat (column, Jan. 9):

While Mr. Douthat’s revisionist version of “Don’t Look Up” has many silly twists, the original is much better than he seems to think.

First, take the title. The MAGA-like rallies where Meryl Streep as a Trumpist president has her base chanting “Don’t look up!” to pretend the comet isn’t real is exactly in tune with the “Stop the Steal!” chants that Donald Trump leads at his rallies to pretend he didn’t lose. It would be wonderful if Mr. Trump’s base would have the epiphany that one of Ms. Streep’s followers has when he looks up at the now visible-to-the-naked-eye comet and cries, “They lied to us!”

The satire hits best when it taps into the propaganda that has millions of Americans living in an alternate reality. So let’s not try a refilming where America burns and China prevails, as Mr. Douthat’s script would have. Instead, let’s leave the original film’s ending, suggesting we all go extinct if we don’t look up at the true facts descending rapidly upon us about threats from Trumpists to our democracy, threats from climate change to our planet and threats from social injustice to our society.

James Berkman
Boston

To the Editor:

In this film, a comet is a thinly veiled allegory for climate change. My research investigating how audiences react to climate content finds that there can be unintended effects of stories like this one.

A film that portrays climate change as scary with few solutions can change risk perception and slightly increase willingness to act, but in the face of fear, viewers often deny that the problem exists. Additionally, viewers ask for specific directions about how to take action when confronted with a climate story. Unfortunately, “Don’t Look Up” offers little guidance.

I am not an armchair critic, but rather a filmmaker creating content about climate change. I understand the many challenges to telling a climate story in a compelling way. Yet my research shows that good climate stories can even bridge differences between Republicans and Democrats, motivating positive change.

As creators make more climate films, we need to both tell a good story and seek to inspire audiences to act. There is too much on the line to do otherwise.

Sabrina McCormick
Washington
The writer is an associate professor and founding director of the Climate Media Lab at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University.

To the Editor:

Re “The Urge for a Smoke Swirls Back” (Thursday Styles, Jan. 13):

It’s so dismaying to see young people falling for the old cliché that smoking is somehow cool. In reality, this is exactly what the tobacco industry wants them to believe. Smoking doesn’t make anybody “sexy,” but it certainly does make them a sucker.

Steve Heilig
San Francisco



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