News of Otsego County

Larry Bennett

BENNETT: There’s No Doubt, Vote Out Trump

We’re All In This Together

There’s No Doubt,

Vote Out Trump

Larry Bennett, retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, lives in East Merideth.

I am deeply uncertain about our world. Our larger one, as in the entire planet – and our smaller one, the United States of America. Every day I read the papers and online news, and the news is unbearable.
There is no longer any reasonable doubt that human beings are responsible for climate change. Ice caps and glaciers melt, fires ravage the parched West, and record numbers of hurricanes appear. Snow caps melt, rivers flood and farmland washes away.

There is no longer any reasonable doubt that many Black Americans lead lives that are economically deprived, that Black Americans are often subject to police brutality, that Black Americans go to jail and prison much more frequently than white Americans charged with the same offences, and that Black Americans are often charged with offences for which white Americans are given a pass.

There is no longer any reasonable doubt that COVID-19 swirls actively around and among us, that it can be deadly to every age group, and that it will be months before a vaccine is widely available.

There is no longer any reasonable doubt that many of the 200,000 Americans who have died need not have died, and that they died in great part because of the ineptitude of this administration, which has politicized the simple and effective interim defenses against the virus.

There is no longer any reasonable doubt that our economy is going to experience even more pain over the next months. Now that government support is winding down, major companies are laying off tens of thousands of workers, medium size companies are cutting workers and hours, and small companies are closing up for good.

There is no longer any reasonable doubt that this President is incapable of understanding or acknowledging, let alone managing, any of these huge crises.

He denies climate change, even as fires rage. He denies Black lives are at greater risk every day than are white lives, even as police take more Black lives across the country.

Even as he was hospitalized with the virus, he denied that COVID-19 is still dangerous, he denies that medical professionals know better than him about the pandemic, and he denies that it is important to do the basics to keep from contracting or spreading the virus.

There is no longer any reasonable doubt that this President is out of touch with reality, with humanity, and with simple decency.

There is no longer any reasonable doubt that this President lacks even the smallest common respect for others who have different opinions, that he views every opponent as a blood enemy, and that he will say and do anything to try to tarnish others.

There is no longer any reasonable doubt that this President dishonors the very idea of democracy, and that his baseless and unending attacks on voting express his disdain for the fundamental principles of
our Republic.

There is no longer any reasonable doubt that this President can’t tell the truth instead of a lie, or even tell the difference between the two.

There is no longer any reasonable doubt that this President has spent the past four years coarsening every aspect of our political discourse and our cultural life.

There is no longer any reasonable doubt that this President threatens the very essence of America. That this President, elected to represent us all, represents only his own interests, doubts, and fears.
There is no longer any reasonable doubt that this President must be voted out.

BENNETT: Praising Judge Ginsburg, Except


Praising Justice Ginsburg

…With One Reservation

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

We mourn Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Born in Brooklyn in 1933, she taught at both Rutgers and Columbia, and became Columbia’s first tenured female professor. She was director of the Women’s Rights Project of the ACLU during the 1970s, and argued six important cases on gender equality before the Supreme Court, winning five of them.

President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1980, and Bill Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court in 1993.

Her intelligence, intensity and persistence remain an inspiration to millions of women here and around the world, and to all who believe in gender equality. She will be rightfully honored and remembered not only for all the doors she opened for women, but also for her gender-blind positions on all law. Initially regarded as a moderate to liberal justice, she became a liberal bulwark as the court moved to the right.

Ginsburg brought a substantive legal mind to and was a force on the court. She is perhaps best remembered for her dissenting opinion in the case of Bush v. Gore, which decided the 2000 presidential election. Disagreeing with the court’s majority opinion in favor of Bush, Ginsburg concluded her objection with “I dissent,” a not-so-subtle and cutting departure from the traditional “I respectfully dissent.”

Her celebrity most likely began then. She became a celebrity in many parts of our world, from law schools to SNL skits. She enjoyed unprecedented publicity for any justice of the Supreme Court. Even locally, Ginsburg’s love for opera and her talks at the Glimmerglass Festival made her a celebrity in Otsego County.

Having said that, I want to consider the idea of celebrity. Supreme Court justices are seldom celebrities, though many are considered illustrious, from Warren to Douglas to Scalia – and often regardless of their politics. Yet in my 71 years no Supreme Court justice attained the level of celebrity and fandom as did Ginsburg. Douglas came close, and he was revered by many for his 36 years on the bench. Yet in 1975 he retired at age 77.

Ginsburg did not retire when Obama was president, even though she was into her ’80s and had been through several bouts of cancer. When the suggestion that she might retire was raised, she asked the question: ”Who do you think that the President could nominate that could get through the Republican Senate? Who would you prefer on the court rather than me?” Since the President appoints, not the Senate, he could have gotten a nominee through, even with compromises. If Ginsburg had retired at 80 Obama would have had four years to replace her.

Even for the best of us, celebrity and fame comes with the lure of hubris.

Today we face an almost certain third Trump nominee, setting the stage on the court for another 20 years. Any non-celebrity, moderate judge that Obama might have appointed would have been preferable to this situation. Ginsburg did us no favor by staying on, regardless of all the love for her and her resultant celebrity.

The media-driven fame game is part of what is rotting our nation and society. It needs to be corralled. Public servants should do their duty and then go, opening the way for others. The Congress, Presidency, Vice Presidency, and the Supreme Court offer a grand total of 546 seats. In a nation of 330,000,000 we can certainly find other intelligent, capable, and – yes – persistent people to fill those seats. Even on the U.S. Supreme Court.

BENNETT: Non-Violence Worked For Revered Trio


Non-Violence Worked

For Revered Trio

Larry Bennett, retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, lives in East Merideth.

Does anyone remember how Mahatma Gandhi changed the world? How a slight Indian man, a lawyer who never carried a weapon, defeated the strongest empire in the world and rewrote the future of billions of people?

Does anyone remember how Martin Luther King changed the world? How a Black Southern Baptist preacher, a man who never carried a weapon, changed two centuries of oppression of Black Americans and opened new doors for millions of them?

Does anyone remember how Desmond Tutu changed the world? How a Black South African Anglican cleric and theologian, a man who never carried a weapon, changed 50 years of apar-theid, segregation and white-minority rule, and opened the way for majority rule and an end to separation?

None of these leaders saw all their dreams realized – in some cases the dreams veered astray but they changed history forever and did it through non-violent means. Driven by their religious beliefs, their beliefs in the humanity of all, and by their own consciences, they made the world a better place for all people, not just for their own.

These leaders were people who had plenty of human failings and who made plenty of mistakes. Yet they kept working for decades to bring their vision to an all-too-frequently blind world.

They were often opposed by their own people who thought them either too conservative or too radical.

They were opposed by their national power structures who always believed them too radical. Their lives were in constant jeopardy and their futures were never assured, and both Gandhi and King were assassinated.

Even in the midst of mortal fear they carried on. They believed so deeply that they risked everything to seek justice for all people. They knew well they could die violent deaths yet the decried the use of violence. They offered self-sacrifice we seldom see. They moved other people to follow them, they converted enemies, they offered their everything, and in Dr. King’s words they “bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice” for the entire world.

Today, justice is certainly not complete for Black Americans, Native Americans, and many immigrants; nor for the poor of all Americans, regardless of color. As a nation we have come a huge distance from my childhood in the 1950s, but we are nowhere near where we should be.

In the face of injustice, demands for justice are always to be expected. Injustices visited on so many Americans by our white culture are obvious everywhere. The demands for justice need to be heard, acknowledged, and addressed.

Today we see little willingness for self-sacrifice, or even a willingness to honestly discuss the core morality of our nation. If we are not willing to be selfless, and if we are not willing to openly confront
our nation’s historic demons, we fail both as a nation and as a people.

I hope and believe there are enough Americans of good faith to confront the demons. But I don’t expect our politicians, of any stripe, to lead the confrontation.

In our times few politicians really lead; they mostly react to their loudest or wealthiest constituents. The real leadership needs to be individual, then come together at local levels, and then move up the ladder to lead the politicians.

BENNETT: Compared To Elsewhere, No Exceptionalism Here


Compared To Elsewhere,

No Exceptionalism Here

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to

The world population is 7.8 billion people. The U.S. is 330 million people, making us home to 4 percent of humanity.

The world’s total COVID-19 cases is 20 million and climbing. The U.S. is 5 million and climbing faster than most of the world. With only 4 percent of the world’s population, we have 25 percent of the world’s COVID-19 cases.

Larry Bennett, retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, lives in East Merideth.

The total number of COVID-19 deaths in the world is 733,000. Total U.S. deaths are 166,000. That’s 23 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the world.

Around the world the average COVID-19 death rate is 94 per million. In the US, it’s 500 per million, five times worse than average. Our national claim to exceptionalism is false, unless you count being among the worst as exceptional.

The U.S. death toll by the end of 2020 is projected to go as high as 300,000. In the last five months of the year the U.S. will almost double the number of deaths in the first seven months. While the entire world’s number of dead will also keep rising, the U.S. is on track to keep outpacing every other nation.

There is little need to go on about the abject failure of Trump in this crisis. He will go down in history with the likes of Herbert Hoover, who famously did nothing about the Depression until it was too late for everyone, and the U.S. endured years of despair. In any case, we will decide on Trump’s fate in November.

The most critical decision we will make between now and November is about reopening schools.

K-12 students are generally required to attend, and cannot opt out ¬– unlike college students, who can choose not to return to campus until the pandemic is gone. There is a wide-ranging debate across the nation over if, when, and how K-12 reopening should happen.

And since it’s America, we get to try anything we can think of. But are we thinking first of missed education, or of schools sitting empty, or of the difficulty and compromise in distance schooling? Of parents overwhelmed by trying to be teachers as well as parents?

Assessing the actual risk to the children should be first on our minds, as well as risks to teachers, aides, assistants, staff, bus drivers, and cleaning crews.

I’ve read many different ways to approach the reopening, but the one thing they have in common is that students, faculty, and staff will be placed in situations where they will have daily exposure to the virus.

No amount of planning, or wishing, or praying can make that go away.

Last year 56 million students attended elementary, middle, and high schools across the U.S. The 56 million, along with the 4 million teachers and staff, total 60 million people.

If the U.S. rate of 500 deaths per million continues, we could expect 30,000 deaths among this group – and potentially more deaths among non-teaching husbands and wives, as well as parents and grandparents.

But let’s agree children are less susceptible to COVID-19 and cut that number in half, to 15,000 deaths. Since there are about 13,000 U.S. school districts that’s an average of a little over one child per district.

Of course, poorer districts with poorer families will face much higher risks. But nobody can expect an absence of risk.

That’s the price we have to be willing to pay if we reopen too soon. On average, one child or teacher per school district will die. To me, reopening too soon means before this pandemic is crushed, which is not near.

BENNETT: Slavery America’s Original Sin


Slavery America’s Original Sin

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

Eighty million native people of color lived in the Americas in 1492; 65 million primarily white people lived in Europe; 46 million people of color lived in Africa.

In December of that year, Christopher Columbus landed on the Caribbean island of Haiti, which he then named Hispaniola, or Little Spain. It was the first recorded contact between Europeans and the indigenous Americans who called themselves the Taino. The Taino were divided into five kingdoms around the large island, and their estimated population ranged from 1 million up to 3 million.

The exact number of Taino people at first contact can never be known, but it is known that after 50 years of massacre, disease, forced digging in gold mines and being enslaved and shipped to other islands to work plantations, the Taino population was reduced to 500 people. The Taino then disappeared from the face of the earth. The first genocide in America by Europeans was complete.

Over the first century and a half after Columbus’ voyages, the native population of the Americas fell by an estimated 90 percent, from an estimated 80 million in 1492 to 8 million in 1650. While a majority of the deaths were caused by outbreaks of Old World diseases, many millions were also killed by the European invaders.

A second genocide visited on native Americans was well under way. It arguably continues today in Brazilian rain forests and on American Indian reservations.

From 1500 to the end of the slave trade in 1860, at least 12 million Africans were abducted and taken to the Americas. It’s estimated that an additional 1.5 to 2 million died during the ocean passage. About 500,000 slaves went to North America, while the majority went to South America and the Caribbean. Still, by 1850 there were 4 million Africans in the United States. Of the 4 million only 10 percent were free and 3.6 million were enslaved. In 1850, the 4 million made up 17 percent of the total U.S. population of 23 million, but they constituted over 37 percent of the population of the South.

The American Civil War abolished slavery and gave new freedoms to one sixth of the population. If the nation had moved on from there, honoring the rights of all people of all colors, we would live in a much different world today. But it didn’t work that way. Reconstruction lasted from 1863 to 1877, when it fell apart under heavy pressure and constant attacks by Southern Whites. The Democrats of the time were the party of White supremacy and they used every tool to diminish Blacks.

Economic pressure, governmental pressure, social pressure, intimidation, threats and violence were the norm. Lynching andother forms of murder were common. A third genocide continued.

A key part of the post-Reconstruction repression of black Americans was the use of white government forces — be they sheriffs, policemen, guardsmen, or judges – to visit daily and deadly violence on black citizen. Whites creating the violence went unpunished. (Does this sound eerily familiar?)

After the end of Reconstruction, lynching intensified. Lynching involved criminal accusations, often false, against a black citizen, an arrest, and the assembly of a lynch mob intent on subverting the judicial process.

Victims would be seized and subjected to every imaginable manner of physical torment, with the torture usually ending with being hung from a tree and set on fire. More often than not victims would then be dismembered. It’s hard to imagine human beings committing such vile and cruel acts against other human beings.

Over 4,000 people were lynched in the U.S. between 1877 and 1950. The vast majority were Black. That was over one lynching a week for 73 years. All in a nation that declared itself dedicated to liberty and justice for all.

Today, black Americans make up about 13 per cent of our population, but are three times more likely to be killed by police than whites. Typically, 30 per cent of black victims are unarmed compared to 19 percent of White victims. Finally, 99 per cent of all black killings by police are not prosecuted by the legal system. Only the most egregious videos seem capable of forcing police to punish their own, and then often only after protests and demonstrations.

Since 2015, American police have killed over 1,000 people every year, with over one third being people of color. It appears that institutionalized dehumanization of these people, be they black, Hispanic, or Native American, encourages the police to pull the trigger quicker. As a culture, white European-descended Americans have always dehumanized and demonized others. We have always slaughtered others for their land, their gold and silver, and finally, just because they don’t look like us.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes,
lives in East Merideth.

BENNETT: It Isn’t All Gloom And Doom


It Isn’t All

Gloom And Doom

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to

The title of this column is, “We are all in this together.” It’s a statement of a simple reality, but it’s also a dream about working together that I wish to be true for everyone – from our town, to our state, to our nation, to our world.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

Now that the world is all in this together with the COVID-19 nightmare, it’s useful to look at how we are responding to the crisis.

Different nations are taking different paths, some more successful than others.

Early on China exercised its authoritarianism to suppress the bad news, until the bad news became insuppressible. Then it used that same authority to impose a lockdown that seems to have worked to slow the spread.

In Europe the spread was treated somewhat predictably. In Italy, never a nation known for its governmental stability and consistency, the virus raged out of control for weeks until the political became less important that the practical.

In Germany, a nation where discipline and high regard for democratic authority is combined with governmental compassion for all its people, the outbreak has been minimized as much as seems possible. The German government explained its reasoning and rules fully and enabled its citizens to comply.

Sweden, a bit of an odd outlier, chose to not impose a strict response, believing in its ability to weather the storm differently. Their decision now seems foolhardy, as cases there grow.

In the U.S. we know what happened. The president, never one to consider the facts when his instincts tell him differently, decided the economy ­­– and his election prospects – were more important than anything else.

Used to blustering and bluffing his way out of tight spots, he gambled that he could do the same here. But no one can bluff biology and he failed miserably.

The U.S., with 1/20th of the world’s population, now has over one quarter of the world’s cases (555,000 cases out of 1.8 million) and almost 20 per cent of the deaths (22,000 out of 113,000).

Still, even as the president continues to misrepresent the truth and as he tries to present himself as our war leader, I think we, the nation and the entire world, have come together. We have a newfound appreciation for our medical professionals who have proved to be amazingly courageous and dedicated, literally the heroes of this disaster.

When the pandemic comes under control, I think we will all be more willing to offer stronger support for them, to fund more medical research, and to try to implement a more equitable health care system.

Another way we have come together is in reconsidering and adjusting our relationships with other people. Millions are hurting, are running low on food and other essentials, and are out of financial resources. Americans are responding by building up food banks, by donating to helping causes, by doing tasks for others who can’t do them.

Many companies, even as they are being battered economically, are doing more to assist their communities. State governments, often derided as ineffective and bureaucratic, have stepped up to support, protect, and lead their citizens.

Many national governments, notably excluding ours, along with international institutions and corporations, are beginning to work together more effectively to share assistance and information.

To be sure, there are exceptions to the above, and we are far from winning this battle, but there is reason for hope. There is mounting daily evidence that people can rise above their own self-interest and work for the greater good. There is more proof we are all in this together, and for the better.

Finally, I’d like to remind us all that we can play a part. We can find a way to help today. Needs are everywhere. Contact your church, your food bank, your local government, and local charities.

BENNETT: The Question Of Out-Of-Towners


The Question Of


By LARRY BENNETT • Special to

FOR: First is the idea that all have the right to remove their family from a place of apparent danger to a place seen to be safer. Second is the economic idea that second-home owners have the absolute right to relocate to those homes, which they own and pay taxes on.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

Presumably that is also true if a city resident can afford to rent a seasonal home here, or borrow one from friends or family who are not using it.

It’s hard to argue with the humanity of the first idea. It’s why the U.S. offers refuge to people fleeing failed states to the south. It’s why Europe offers refuge to people fleeing the Syrian war and other such catastrophes.

Yet nations never do this as well as is possible, and they almost never welcome the poor as graciously as the well-to-do. But that’s a different story.

The second idea also seems reasonable. If you have a right to flee and have the economic resources, you are entitled to utilize your resources to their maximum, and do or go where you desire. If you have been smart enough, or lucky enough, or born into the right family, who’s to say “no” to you leaving everyone else to their fate?

AGAINST: What is the greater good? What happens when your flight brings threats to those who live where you are fleeing? What if you leave the physical location of your troubles but unknowingly bring the underlying conditions of those troubles with you?

If you live in New York City and other downstate areas, you live in the eye of the COVID-19 storm. What if you flee the storm but bring the weather? It is going to happen. It is unavoidable.

What about the fact that every health expert says containment is only way to defeat the virus? In a closed population it runs its course, and the severity of the course depends on how well the population follows the rules. If they do it well the virus runs out of opportunity faster and with less damage.

The CDC and the governor’s directive is, “Don’t travel unnecessarily and if you have to go out, keep your distance. Don’t spread the virus.”

Traveling unnecessarily might be taking the subway uptown to visit a friend, or driving out to Coney Island to find some sun and fresh breezes. Urban residents are being clearly directed not to do so. Is packing up their cars and driving three hours to here ignoring the directive?

News stories tell of an influx of people in The Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard and other vacation destinations for the wealthy.

Those communities are not prepared for the crowds. They typically staff up in May, not now – hiring more people at everything from grocery stores to medical facilities, and increasing inventory of consumable goods, be they food or medical goods.

The communities are now feeling overwhelmed. Year-’round residents are now going to have to compete with short-term residents – or even just visitors – for common needs such as food, on up to vital needs such as tests, hospital beds and respirators.

There are reports of wealthy visitors arriving and immediately going into grocery stores to buy thousands of dollars of staples at a time. And those actions also raise the issue of the 14-day self-isolation that travelers to a new location are supposed to observe, but many do not. All of these actions are cause for real concern.

A friend says that it is wrong to discriminate against people because of where they are from. But what if it’s not because of where they are from, but because of what they may bring with them?

Since the virus only travels through people it’s inevitable that they will bring more of the virus up here. On the other hand, we are not going to the city – for any reason – and bringing the virus back.

Should we do our best to welcome and help urban dwellers who rightfully fear the chaos and uncertainty in the city? If so, are there measures to take to better protect ourselves? Or should we implore the residents to please not leave the city – to not bring us a bigger share of chaos and uncertainty, which we are ill-equipped to handle?

BENNETT: This Is What ‘Worst’ May Look Like


This Is What ‘Worst’

May Look Like

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to

According to the CDC, from Oct. 1, 2019, through March 7, 2020, an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 Americans died from seasonal flu-related illnesses. That’s out of 36 million to 51 million total flu illnesses.

It appears that seasonal flu vaccines have mitigated the numbers, as have some people’s immunity, as well as having fully staffed and equipped medical facilities at the ready.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

Larger numbers are attached to the corona virus. The CDC says between 160 million and 214 million people Americans may be infected, and the U.S. epidemic could last for months.

Using the CDC base, other experts say as many as 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die. Compared to seasonal flu, we have no vaccine, we are still short on tests, and it’s widely agreed we’ll run short of hospital facilities, equipment and medical staff.

While some say 200,000 to 1.7 million deaths is a worst-case scenario, no one can prove that.

In the Civil War, 620,000 Americans perished. Two thirds of the deaths were to disease and one of the biggest killers was “the ague,” which was almost certainly the flu but wasn’t yet called that.

WWI saw the deaths of 116,000 U.S. servicemen, and 63,000 of them died in the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. In fact, that epidemic was the single most lethal event in American history up to that time. According to the CDC, it was responsible for 675,000 total American deaths.

By comparison, WWII killed 418,000 Americans – military and civilian combined. The Korean War took 33,000 American lives. Vietnam claimed 58,000 American lives. In single event catastrophes, the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor took 2,403 American lives. The 9/11 terrorist attacks had 2,977 fatalities.

Back to today:

Researchers say the Coronavirus is as transmissible as the Spanish Flu, while a bit less physically severe. But
it’s also is higher in transmissibility and severity than any other flu virus since the Spanish Flu. This could become the single deadliest assault on Americans over 80 in our 243-year history.

That’s why preparedness for a worst-case scenario was so important. That’s what the CDC was for, before it was politicized by the Trump Administration. That’s what the White House pandemic response team was for, before it was fired by John Bolton in 2018.

As the Coronavirus spread around the world, the Trump Administration misrepresented its severity, stonewalled the facts, and stuck its head in the sand for two months. Trump himself was a fountain of misinformation about what was happening and, even worse, what could happen.

He hobbled the CDC early on, then classified CDC public health information. He talked about the virus being utterly unimportant. Finally, his recent public pronouncements acknowledging the danger felt so off-kilter that he seems to be speaking from some strange Twilight Zone dream state.

His mistakes and lies regarding the pandemic are endless. In the beginning they seemed to be about protecting the stock market and his re-electability. But they now seem different. They seem to be the mistakes of someone so far in over his head that he can only flail about, grasping for anything to hang onto to keep from drowning.

(Anyone with lifesaving training can tell that’s the most dangerous person to try to save, because he will mindlessly drown you in attempting to save himself.)

So here we are: our putative national leader, President Trump, failed to prepare for a worst-case health scenario. He then denied the facts about the pending disaster to prop up his own interests. He continued to deny facts pouring in from experts around the world. He finally acknowledged the crisis four to eight weeks too late to mount a strong offense against it. Instead, he left the entire nation playing defense because of his continuing ineptitude.

This may yet make Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and even WWII look like walks in the park. Make no mistake, many thousands of avoidable deaths will be directly attributable to Trump. More Americans may die unnecessarily on his watch than any other president.

Trump will again say, “I’m not responsible.” And that is so true.

BENNETT: Otsego County’s Allocation Of Testing Kits? 3.
We’re all In This Together

Otsego County’s Allocation

Of COVID-19 Testing Kits? 3.

Reports about the coronavirus offer hugely differing opinions. That the facts are in dispute isn’t surprising, since this is a novel virus that health systems around the world are fighting for the first time.

Still, some facts are agreed on.

As of March 1, the World Health Organization reported 87,000 confirmed cases, 2,989 deaths, and cases in 60 countries. 80,000 cases are confirmed in China with the death toll approaching 2,800. Still, the growth rate of new cases in China has slowed, likely due to highly restrictive quarantines the government has in place. The next most effected countries are South Korea (3,736 cases), Italy (1,128), Iran (593), Japan (239), Singapore (106), France (100) and the U.S. (62). This was on March 1, but by now the numbers will have grown.

China is in internal travel lockdown. Germany says it faces a coronavirus epidemic.
Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, and France are taking massive preventative measures, including closing public spaces, some travel restrictions, and checks of people on the move.

The first coronavirus case was reported to the WHO in Wuhan, China on Dec. 31, 2019. The WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Jan. 30, 2020. At that time there were already known cases outside of China – Germany, Japan, Viet Nam, and the U.S. One month later, the first American death occurred in Washington State. There the virus has spread undetected in about six weeks and hundreds of new cases are expected. A first case has been confirmed in both New York City and Rhode Island, with health officials bracing for more.

Which brings up our national preparedness for the pandemic.

To head the government’s response Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence, who has no expertise in the area, and who as Governor of Indiana worsened an AIDs epidemic for political and fiscal reasons. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II, a lawyer, lobbyist, and also of Indiana, seems to be a typical Trump toady, saying of Trump’s appointment of Pence, “that’s genius.”

Trump has also muzzled Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, because Fauci publicly contradicted Trump’s downplaying of the situation. Fauci must now clear public statements through Pence, an act that replicates the public health disaster of official censorship in China, when early in the epidemic the state silenced doctors after they discussed the outbreak with colleagues. This not only enabled the virus to spread, it also took the life of Li Wenliang, one of the first doctors to speak out, who subsequently died from the virus.

Trump recently said that the virus “could get worse or better in the days and weeks ahead, but that nobody knows.” That’s not true. It will get worse and the U.S. is unprepared. Ignore for now budget cuts Trump proposed at the CDC. Ignore the firings of staff of the National Security Council pandemic team. Ignore the total chaos in our national response. Ignore that Trump’s entire administration is reminiscent of the Inquisition that tried and convicted Galileo for speaking scientific truth.

But don’t ignore this: The U.S. has made and sent out 15,000 coronavirus testing kits to cover the entire nation. That’s one kit for every 22,000 people in the U.S. Which means if an outbreak started now in Otsego County we’d have access to three kits.

Some 60,000 more kits are supposedly being made, meaning an upgrade to one kit for every 4,600 people. Even so, the odds of seeing a single kit here are unlikely. The kits are going to fifteen key cities where testing is now officially approved by the government. Since these are port-of-entry cities the risks there are obvious, but what about everyone else?

Why has this administration done almost nothing for two critical months? The answer is that it’s willfully ignorant of science and contemptuous of our citizenry. It only became concerned when the stock market started tanking. The one thing it can relate to is losing its own and its big donor money.

Should we be afraid? It appears to depend on which we value more: life or money.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang

creative director who is active in local causes, lives in East Meredith.

BENNETT: Are 2 Billionaires Best Choice For U.S.?


Are 2 Billionaires

Best Choice For U.S.?

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to

I am undecided.

After a year of run up to the Democratic primaries it seems safe to say party voters still don’t know who they want. The only thing they agree on is they want the candidate most likely to defeat Trump.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

Yet the entire party is tied up in a Gordian knot of confusion about who that candidate should be. There is no obvious white knight with a sword sharp enough to slice through the knot.

I am a good example of the doubt within the party. I’ve generally believed the Democratic Party offered the best of the two feasible political choices available to me. Third parties have sometimes received my vote, but with my understanding that they had no chance of winning. Those votes were usually my small protests against the mainstream parties’ offerings.

I now see the current offerings of the Democratic Party as confusing, even bewildering. I understand that regardless of my primary vote the entire state will safely deliver its electoral votes to whomever is the chosen Democratic candidate. Still, I’d like to settle on a choice that makes me feel good about the direction of the party.

Joe Biden is the definition of the moderate Democratic candidate, but he seems to inspire no real following. He lacks the ability the incite passion in voters. He offers no agenda to fall in love with. Perhaps that’s an unfair criticism as moderates are by definition dispassionate, but I don’t see how such a candidate can defeat Trump, who lives for and by his passionate followers.

Elizabeth Warren is sharp, smart, and brimming with policy ideas and a strong desire to implement them. Yet her inherent policy wonkiness seems to be working against her. Proving again that it’s hard to become a passionate supporter of someone with a catalog of bullet-pointed white papers.

Pete Buttigieg is a creation of our times. He’s smart, personable, and admired as someone who has overcome an obstacle that would have excluded him from consideration as a presidential candidate even 20 years ago. But he seems to be politically untested in the kind of warfare that will be needed to defeat Trump.

Bernie Sanders has the ability to incite passion. He does so at every event. Contrary to the fears of both pundits and party elders, he isn’t a firebrand socialist.

FDR, perhaps the most loved president of the 20th Century, would have found Bernie a kindred spirit. He and Bernie reject the power of the wealthy and they champion the cause of the everyday person that is America’s supposed reason for being. Yet the press, the pundits, and the party believe he could not defeat Trump.

Enter Michael Bloomberg – a Republican running as a Democrat.  Perhaps as the last of the Rockefeller Republicans. Socially liberal, fiscally conservative, administratively competent, and theoretically insulated from corruptibility by his wealth, he appears to offer something other Democrats can’t offer. He simply pays his own way and owes nobody anything.

His wealth lets him compete without having to balance competing claims on him by interparty interest groups. His hubris rivals that of Trump, but he is much more adept as hiding it behind his screen of hyper-competency, something which Trump has neither the ability or desire to do.

He believes he can beat Trump. That he can match or exceed him in dollars spent. That he can offer the most rationally competent alternative to Trump. That he can run the country without the corruption and venality endemic to Trump. That he can win on dispassionate competency.

All this may be true, but will voters care? Or should they care? Is Bloomberg a strategic genius for avoiding the beauty pageant run-up to the primaries? Or is he just trying to buy the election? Is there real reason to believe he could best Trump?

Finally, is there a defensible reason American voters should have to make a choice between two putative billionaires?

BENNETT: Acquittal Emboldens Trump, For Now



Acquittal Emboldens Trump, For Now

Larry Bennett

No, Chicken Little, the sky is not falling. Donald J. Trump has dodged the impeachment bullet just as he dodged the Mueller Report.

He may feel emboldened to continue to ask others to dig up on his opponents; to continue to look the other way as Russian trolls do dirty work for him; to continue to require Republican politicians to
swear fealty and kiss his pinkie ring. He will continue to rant-tweet.

But he can’t dodge the election.

The American public is appalled by his lying and coarseness. His approval rating is 40 percent while his disapproval rate is 52 percent. His reelection support is 40 percent versus an unnamed Democrat getting 50 percent.

Even though Trump denies it happened, 50 percent of Americans believe Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and 73 percent believe Russian interference affected the outcome. Meanwhile, 47 percent of the public believes Trump lied about trying to strong-arm Ukraine to aid his reelection.

Just 31 percent of Americans like him as a person or say he is trustworthy, while 44 percent believe he is racist. All in all, 54 percent of the American public believes Trump is unfit to be president.

These numbers, from The Economist/YouGov Poll of Dec 28-31, 2019, show Trump is vulnerable.
Yes, the Electoral College is tilted in his favor. Yes, the Republican Party engages in voter suppression in dozens of states. Yes, Trump has tons of money to advertise and buy supporters. Yes, the path to victory over him will be difficult, but it can be navigated.

But first, one other set of numbers has to be addressed; numbers from the YouGov Poll – confirmed by the Census Bureau.

In the 2016 presidential election, 39 percent of registered voters didn’t vote. That means two of every five registered voters stayed home. Of the 250 million registered American voters, 139 million voted while 111 million did not. Two common reasons cited are, “politicians are all corrupt,” and, “my one vote won’t matter anyway.” Back to that later.

By party affiliation, the U.S. is 28 percent Democrat and 28 per cent Republican. 41 percent are independents – and those split in half when asked how they lean. The playing field appears relatively level, while in fact it is tilted a bit to Democrats.

Only one state has more registered Republicans than Democrats – Wyoming, the least populous American state, with three Electoral College votes.

This is the path to every successful election campaign – get out your voters. Everything else in play, from advertising dollars to policy proposals, count for nothing if your voters stay home.
Democrats are not doing the work needed to win in the right places, but Republicans are. Clinton received more popular votes in 2016, but Republicans turned out more votes where they mattered.

What can you or I do? What can Democrats across the nation do?

We can each identify one Democratic or sympathetic independent voter and get them to the polls.
Start working on it now. Ask friends, neighbors, and family members if they voted in 2016. You probably have a clue who they would have voted for. Talk to them now. Talk to them frequently. Find out whom they might like and why. Encourage them to participate in primaries.

Pick them up and drive them to the polling station. Buy them a cup of coffee afterwards. If you’re a resident of safe states like New York or California, work on friends and relatives in swing states like Pennsylvania or Arizona. Vote early by mail at home and go there to take them to the polls. It’s worth the effort.

One more thing. Don’t waste your time attacking Trump. Devote your time and energy to helping one person become motivated to vote for someone and something positive. Get one Chicken Little to cross the road and head to the polls.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes,
lives in East Meredith.

BENNETT: Sanctuaries For People, Not Guns


Sanctuaries For

People, Not Guns

A sanctuary, according to Merriam Webster, is

“A consecrated place such as:
“A: The ancient Hebrew temple at Jerusalem or its holy of holies.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

“B: The most sacred part of a religious building, such as the part of a Christian church in which the altar is placed.
“C: A place of refuge and protection.
“D: A refuge for wildlife where predators are controlled and hunting is illegal.”

In 2018, California implemented a sanctuary law, SB 54, which largely prohibits police from cooperating with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) unless an individual commits a serious crime.
This law was designed to be legal and operative under the California constitution, as California police are not tasked with enforcing federal laws, unless at the scene when a crime is committed. Even then a federal law officer has to take charge of suspects at first chance and do the criminal investigation.

The law applies statewide and is not subject to reinterpretation by counties, cities, and towns. It was designed to keep ICE, a federal agency, from dragging every local and state California law officer into employment helping ICE bust potential illegal immigrants.

The sanctuary law will probably be challenged in court, but there are pretty strong arguments, based on precedents, to support it. To be clear, this is not a law trying to protect immigrants but a law to safeguard every human being in California. Which also means not abetting the appalling police state like operations of ICE.

On another front, many rural Virginia counties have now enacted so-called “gun sanctuary” laws. These laws claim to supersede any state or federal laws pertaining to greater gun control. The laws are not written to protect citizens, but arguably put them in greater jeopardy. They theoretically protect the right to own any gun you want; every other law be damned.

This is generally seen as a political ploy to try to embarrass the Democrat-controlled state Legislature and the Democrat governor, and to roil the blood of gun enthusiasts. It’s a nice piece of Republican agitprop theater, but it is all sound and no fury.

Federal and state laws on gun control cannot be nullified by local laws. No matter how many billboards the proponents of gun sanctuaries buy, or bumper stickers they make, or how many local laws they pass, those laws are not enforceable.

Some New York towns, cities and counties are now facing similar calls to become so-called “gun sanctuary” communities. Again, any town council or county board can write any law they want – even if the board’s legal adviser advises them not to.

Theoretically, anything could be written, voted on, and passed. Towns could vote to secede from the state, or to declare south as north, and north as south. But that doesn’t make the laws sensible, constitutional or enforceable, and any attempt to enforce a gun sanctuary law would certainly wind up in court, with the local government losing.

Again, this is political theater, consuming government time and public money while other issues go unattended.

Our own Oneonta now has a group calling for Otsego County to become a “gun sanctuary.” One of those proposing the law is recently elected county Rep. Rick Brockway, R-Laurens.

For the record I’ve always enjoyed reading Rick’s outdoor columns, which had no political content, and I sincerely missed them when he was running for office. But now that he’s in office he has revealed himself to be more than a respected and knowledgeable outdoorsman – he has also revealed himself to be yet another Republican grandstander and fear monger, with zero understanding of the law.

I’d like to forget the legal idiocy and go back to the original definition of sanctuary.
A sanctuary is a place of refuge and protection for human beings and other living things, often in a house of God. Describing a sanctuary as a place where every gun is protected while every person is threatened by ever more guns is absurd.

It is at best a lie and at worst blasphemous. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.” He did not say, “Let the little .38 specials come to me, and do not hinder them.”

BENNETT: President Loudest Climate Denier


President Loudest Climate Denier

Larry Bennett

The definition of ignorance is “a lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.” Climate change deniers can’t hide behind a lack of knowledge, so they claim the knowledge is false and the facts are fake.
They could also claim the earth is flat, yet a satellite would still persist in orbiting it. Facts seem to work that way.

The most important issue humanity faces is already changing the futures of all living things. The destruction of our entire planetary environment through accelerating climate change is a well-known fact that cannot be intelligently denied or ignored.

Denial is among the worst decision any human being could ever make. Pulling a trigger and murdering someone is a horrific decision, but pulling a trigger on all of the living world is immeasurably worse.
Pulling the trigger is exactly what climate deniers are doing, and they are led by the loudest and most ignorant denier of all – President Trump.

Thousands of scientists and climate experts agree we have a crisis, and that failing to address the crisis spells disaster. The overwhelming consensus is rejected by Trump, and many
others, whose understanding of science is third-grade level at best, or, perhaps more importantly, whose
wealth is dependent on denying the facts.

It can be understood why the fossil-fuel industries won’t face the facts. The only way to fight climate change is through reducing CO2 – along with other gases such as methane – that are released into the atmosphere during extracting, refining, transporting, and burning fossil fuels. To cut these emissions threatens the livelihoods of 900,000 U.S. citizens employed in the industry.

Yet the October 2019 New Scientist magazine had an article citing studies showing 9.5 million jobs, or 4 percent of the working age population, are in the green economy, which is defined as covering everything from renewable energy to environmental consultancy.

Ten times as many people at work in the green economy as opposed to roughly one million in fossil fuel is not a fact Trump will tweet. Or acknowledge. He is resolutely engaged in taking our nation back to a mythically greater time while also cluelessly edging the world closer to the abyss.

Trump’s lack of knowledge is not news to anyone. What he falsely claims to know while exhibiting a
total lack of knowledge is legion. (Wind power causing cancer and gas emissions, anyone?) In fact, the louder and more frequently he says something is true, the more certain you can be it isn’t.
The puzzling thing is why presumably intelligent people support his denier beliefs: US senators and
congressmen, governors and other state officers, business people, down to everyday citizens.

It’s simple to assume politicians are trying to avoid being ridiculed by Trump or avoiding primaries from the hard right. But that overlooks the economic incentives, such as fossil fuel industry donations to politicians and grants to state and local governments, all designed to influence legislation.

On the national level one answer is found in the almost $½ billion donated by the combined fossil fuel industries to Congressional Republicans since 2016. That buys vast amounts of influence – or perhaps more accurately, votes.

While money rolls into Republican coffers, the ice caps melt, oceans rise, temperatures rise, extreme climate events grow, and life in the seas, on land, and in the air dies off. It is outrageous that our elected representatives sell out our entire world with lies and falsehoods adds insult to injury.

Finally, I don’t understand how Republican deniers imagine they can escape climate change. Their first world lives and money will buy little respite from bigger storms and enormous wildfires, from repeated rising oceans and coastal flooding, from growing food supply issues, or other problems.

It seems their votes have been corporatized in the worst possible way – to focus on immediate returns and not think about tomorrow.

The Only Constant Is Change


The Only Constant Is Change

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to

Once we are born, every moment of every day brings change. We are born biologically complete, yet with little else to our beings. We can’t speak, walk, or talk.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

As a baby, then in our youth, in our teens, maybe even through our twenties, we live through endless and often tumultuous changes. Every day offers fresh knowledge and new experiences.

Our parents first teach us. Then other teachers bring more ideas. New ideas and feelings bring hope, fear, desire, doubt. New relationships bring new views of the world.

We develop knowledge and self-awareness. We experience gains and losses, ups and downs, and come to accept ongoing change as part of our lives.

Yet by our thirties most of us have established a reasonably well-defined life – a life with work we chose, a partner we chose, friends we chose, a place to live we chose, religious beliefs or non-beliefs we chose. We chose preferred literary, music, and movie genres.

We have probably chosen to belong to certain groups: civic organizations, trade organizations, recreational organizations, and others. We have reached a point where we don’t have to keep changing – we have chosen our place in the world.

We have likely even chosen political affiliations. Even if we don’t actively join in partisan political activities, if we want to vote we must describe ourselves to the voting registrar as a Democrat, Republican, or as a member of some other party. If we want no formal party attachment, we still have to write down Independent or Unaffiliated, even as we lean one way or the other.

Ongoing polls of American voters since 1974 show consistently and significantly lower voter turnout in younger people and higher turnout in older people. Since elections are extolled as the best means to peaceful change, and since the older we get the less receptive we are to change, it seems we could expect voting to be more appealing to younger voters. But the reverse is true.

Why do more older folks vote than younger folks? Is it a tradition the older generation upholds? Do older folks have more time on their hands? Do young people move so often they are effectively disenfranchised, or don’t stay long enough to establish a voting habit?

r is the fact that they are often renters make them feel less connected to a community and therefore feel less of a need to vote? Or are they simply absorbed in getting their lives off to a good start?

What if the idea of voting no longer signifies a gilded avenue to desired change for young people, but instead offers a burning roadblock to unwanted change for older people? It can be argued this is where we are and where we appear to be heading.

The voting cry to “Make America Great Again” is clearly about repealing the changes of the last 50 years – be they women’s equal rights, voting rights, LBGTQ rights, or many other rights.

While those who proclaim MAGA are of all ages, it turns out that those who actually vote MAGA also skew older, just as voters do on the other side of the political chasm.

What does this mean for our futures? Will more and better education turn those young MAGA-prone kids into liberal voters as they get older? Will the continuing flight from rural to urban areas by young people of all backgrounds offer opportunities to liberalize their attitudes?

Or will they progress from nonvoting MAGA-chanting youths to older MAGA folks who will habitually vote against any kind of progressive change? Or will the eventual disappearance of Trump put out all their fires?

Based on the state of our politics, the future of our nation seems unknowable. The old ironic curse, “May you live in interesting times,” seems to apply.

Still, there are dozens of theories about our destination – pick one and see where it goes. If you find you can deduce and predict the voting patterns of the next decade or two, you can rule our politics.

BENNETT: On Arms, Will Enough Ever Be Enough

We’re All In This Together

On Arms, Will Enough

Ever Be Enough?

Larry Bennett

The 2020 proposed U.S. military budget is $737 billion. When is enough, enough?

This is 37 percent of the $1.7 trillion military spending for all the world. It is more than the next 13 nations combined (numbers in billions): China ($224), Saudi Arabia ($70), India ($55), Germany ($49), UK ($49), Japan ($47), Russia ($44), France ($40), South Korea ($38), Brazil ($29), Italy ($29), Australia ($26) and Canada ($21). Only two of those nations are adversaries.

The $737 billion is but one part of the entire U.S. budget of $4.75 trillion – comprising discretionary spending, mandatory spending, and interest payments – but defense discretionary spending is 15 percent of the entire budget and half of all discretionary spending. There is an additional amount of mandatory VA and military benefits spending of some $200 billion. That’s almost $1 trillion, over 20 percent of the total budget.

Here’s what we have for our money:

• We have rough parity in deployed nuclear weapons: 2,200 for us and our allies, vs. 1,780 cumulative for Russia, China and North Korea. Few doubt ours are the most technically advanced and capable, though with nuclear weapons that seems a useless distinction. If only 5 percent of them were exploded, then the entire human race ¬– not just the combatants – would suffer horrible consequences.

• We have 13,000 U.S. aircraft vs. Russia and China’s combined 7,000. Other western and allied nations add 12,000 more to our side, so we have 25,000 vs. 7,000. Again, there is little doubt ours are the most capable.

• We have 10 nuclear-powered supercarriers, two more being built, and more planned. The Russians and Chinese each have one. Ours are supported by a massive fleet of offensive and other vessels. Russia’s fleet has heavily deteriorated since the demise of the USSR, and China’s fleet is a fledgling.

• We have 70+ submarines, all nuclear powered, classified as either ballistic missile, guided missile or attack submarines. Each of the 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile subs can deliver up to 192 nuclear warheads.

The firepower is unimaginable, and in fact half of all U.S. nuclear weapons are on
these 14 virtually undetectable submarines. No other submarine force is remotely as lethal as ours.

• We have the world’s third largest land force with 1.3 million active troops and another 865,000 in reserve. We also have a global presence unlike any other nation, with about 200,000 active troops deployed in more than 170 countries. China’s land forces are around 2 million, but again ours are advanced and capable. We fall behind in the number of tanks, having 6,200 while China has 13,000 and Russia 21,000. But many of those Russian and Chinese tanks are there to deter each other.

The U.S. competitively spent the USSR into economic collapse in the ‘80s. Russia no longer poses a substantial conventional threat to Western Europe and NATO. Its weak economy is highly dependent on resource extraction, not manufacturing.

In dealings with China, the U.S. has focused on economic competition, not military competition. We have a mixed record but it is advantageous to both nations to maintain peaceful competition and not sink into a cold war, let alone a hot war.

Then there is North Korea, which could be utterly destroyed by one Ohio-class submarine. Other threats include Iran, but it has huge internal struggles, no patron nation, and hard choices to make. Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are quagmires we can’t fix, and they pose no direct threat to the U.S. Finally, those nations bordering Israel pose no unsurmountable threat to Israel, at least by conventional means.

It seems physical terrorism and cyber terrorism are the biggest existential threats to the U.S., yet we spend enormous resources elsewhere. Our trillion-dollar defense spending offers unassailable military security but skimps on other forms of security. That missing security can be realized by reallocating hundreds of military billions to expanded healthcare, to better education, to improved infrastructure, and to fighting climate change.

We already have enough weaponry to fight off the entire world. Enough is enough.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, lives in East Merideth.

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