THE POHOTTUWA GOVERNMENT OF SRI LANKA Part 2 C1
Posted on November 7th, 2020

KAMALIKA PIERIS

The US is an exceptional country that is different from and superior to all other countries,   say admirers of the USA. I always thought that Europe and North America had it figured out. I saw them as Utopia,” a commentator from Buenos Aires told TIME. She changed her mind after the Corona virus.  Here are some other not-so-lovely aspects of the USA.

The US Presidential election, which is going on, as I write, is a historic one for USA and USA watchers.  It has thrown up a hostile, divided America unlike anything ever seen before.  Party supporters are fighting on the streets while the counting is going on. In Arizona, groups were waving Trump flags and carrying guns. Concrete barricades had been put in front of the White House. Shop fronts were boarded up expecting violence after the final result was announced.

After a four year dose of Donald Trump, America found to its surprise that a   considerable segment of the population is still for Trump.  At one point the voting was 50.5% for Biden (73,486,646 votes) and    47.9. % for Trump (69,622, 185 votes).

Trump had tapped into   the public dissatisfactions lying just beneath the surface. USA was no longer a booming economy, people were impoverished and Trump’s policies   appealed to them. Trump supporters liked Trump’s policy of America First. Trump had cut taxes, removed regulations that hampered business, raised military spending, exactly as he promised. Trumpism is here to stay said analysts. Trump practiced    racism and protectionism, said his opponents.

The term Divided States of America”   was used in 2016 in an essay in the New York Times. The author said instead of being a two-party nation, USA is becoming two one-party nations.  Frontline did a documentary in 2017 on Obama’s administration and   titled it Divided States of America”.

When the 2020 Presidential election results started to come in TV anchors used the title Divided states of America”. They said that USA is a deeply divided nation that needs healing.  Who can reunite and reconcile this bitterly divided nation, asked Deutsche Welle on its ‘To the point’ programme. Sri Lanka will laugh. The US used these exact words for Sri Lanka. US said that Sri Lanka was a bitterly divided nation which needs to be reconciled.

TIME notes that there are dynasties of a sort in American politics. Rodney Frelinghuywn,    Republican representative for New Jersey is a descendant of a line of public servants going back to the Congress in 1779. In 1970 25% of the Congress members had a close relative who served in Congress. In recent years roughly 1 in 10 members of Congress has had a close relative who has served in the Capitol. In the Senate at least 25 members have some political family history, said TIME in 2013.

In the US Congress, Senators use ‘filibuster’ to delay passing of bills. The filibuster tactic has prevented important bills from becoming law. Filibuster means talking and talking to delay the vote on a bill. Senators are permitted to speak for as long as they wish, and on any topic they choose, unless 60% of the Senate gets fed up and vote to end the discussion.

US Congress permits lobbying by interested parties, when new laws are placed before Congress. This lobbying is legal.  Lobbying is considered to come under the First Amendment   and is part of ‘participatory democracy,’ representing the interests of the ‘citizens’.

However, most of the lobbying is by corporations and businesses. They hire well-connected professional advocates, often lawyers, to look after their interests in Congress.  In 2017, New York Times reported that Devon Energy, an oil and gas company and Talen Energy a coal burning electric utility fought environmental regulations, including the landmark Clean Power plan. Lobbyist of the Association of Builders and Contractors focused on legislation on overtime pay, and workmen wages for government contracts.

In 2019, lobbyists spent USD 3.47 billion on influencing policy.  Lobbyists were able to get   exemptions worth billions inserted into legislation governing trade, job safety or industry subsidies.

Lobbyists are registered with Congress. It is a paid activity. In 2009, it was estimated that there were 13,700 registered lobbyists, in Washington. There are more than 20 registered lobbyists for every Member of Congress. Most are deployed to block anything that would tax, regulate or otherwise threaten a wealthy company, said TIME.

Lobbyists made good money. One lobbyist had received more than USD 350,000 in payments in 2014 and 2015 from a dozen different pharmaceutical companies. In 2017, one lobbyist worked for 10 different health care companies, lobbying the Medicare billing rules as well as rules for health care supplier accreditations.

In USA the law courts are central to American life, not simply to American law, said the Economist. The judiciary shapes American life by its decisions, said TIME.  Courts in USA, specially the Supreme Court, are increasingly politicized, said   critics. They are appointed according to their politics. Analysts therefore speak of the   ‘slant’ of the Supreme Court. Republicans   are in control of the Supreme Court and the Federal judiciary now said an analyst in November 2020. ”

The political and religious affiliations of Supreme Court judges are known publicly and the judges are expected to   make Supreme Court rulings according to their biases. When Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, recently, there was speculation about her replacement.   If Trump’s nominee is selected then six of the     nine will be conservative, said analysts. If so, the new judge could be the deciding vote on cases to strike down the Affordable care Act and the abortion law.

Amy Coney Barrett was appointed to the Supreme Court in place of Ginsburg.  She belongs to a religious community which is   against abortion.  Analysts also observed that Judge Barrett’s confirmation to the lifelong post will favor Republicans in politically sensitive cases that will come to Supreme Court for decades to come”.   In USA a Supreme Court judge is appointed for life.

Progressive legislation does not always have a smooth ride in the USA. The pro-abortion Roe vs Wade” law has still not been fully accepted. Roe v. Wade was a landmark legal decision issued on January 22, 1973, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas statute banning abortion, effectively legalizing the procedure across the United States.  But this statute has been challenged, over and over again. Americans are divided on the matter. Many states have imposed restrictions that weaken abortion rights.

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), intended to guarantee equal rights for women through an amendment to the Constitution, has not been ratified. In 1972, it passed both houses of Congress and was submitted to the state legislatures for ratification.  It seemed headed for quick approval until women groups opposed it, arguing that the ERA would affect certain laws which favored housewives , mothers and working women. The amendment received 35 of the necessary 38 state ratifications but five of these later withdrew. The amendment did not become part of the Constitution.  However, ERA has not been abandoned. Supporters are working on it.

‘Freedom of speech’ is not so free in USA. American Higher Education Research Institute found that due to the emphasis on ‘political correctness’ there are now doubts about the right answer, and teachers talk about they really think only in secret. Many University lecturers worry that saying or doing something that students object too, could lead to complaints and they could lose their jobs. Some academics have had to resign because their observations were considered inacceptable.

The Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority was removed from his post because he sounded the alarm about the Corona virus in early January, 2020 and raised health concerns over a drug repeatedly pushed by President Trump as a possible cure for Corona virus. He said that he had been asked to buy drugs and medical products for the nation’s stockpile of emergency medical equipment from companies that were linked politically to the administration and that he resisted such efforts.

The captain of U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt”, Capt. Brett E. Crozier wrote a letter In March 2020 to the Pentagon direct, by passing the routine channels. He said that corona virus outbreak aboard his ship was spreading fast, dozens of sailors had been infected, more needed to be done to remove 5,000 sailors from the carrier docked in Guam. The media published the letter. Crozier was  promptly relieved of his command. There were not enough beds in Guam to accommodate the entire crew, explained the Navy.  (continued)

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