Mar 11, 2021

Letters to Tangle — readers sound off.

Letters to Tangle — readers sound off.

Plus, the news of the day.

I’m Isaac Saul, and you’re reading Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum — then “my take.” You can can reach me anytime by replying to this email. If someone forwarded you this email, they’re asking you to sign up. You can do that by clicking here.

Today’s read: 11 minutes.

Some quick hits you should know — then a compilation of reader feedback. Reminder: I wrote yesterday about how Tangle is taking a quick breather. We’re sharing some reader perspectives today, taking tomorrow off, and will be back in your inbox on Monday.

Quick hits.

  1. It has now been one year since the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global pandemic. (The New York Times)
  2. The House passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan in a party-line vote, sending it to Joe Biden’s desk to be signed tomorrow. (CBS News)
  3. Three of President Biden’s Cabinet nominees were confirmed yesterday: Merrick Garland for attorney general, Michael Regan as an administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Marcia Fudge as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. (NPR)
  4. A judge reinstated the third degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin, the officer involved in the killing of George Floyd. Chauvin is already facing charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter. (CNN)
  5. Democrats are pushing two gun control measures this week, aiming to expand the kinds of gun sales that require background checks and extend the background check period from three days to 10 days. (The Wall Street Journal, subscription)

Reader feedback.

Doug from New Jersey responded to Gov. Abbot lifting mask mandates in Texas, writing “Even in a ‘free society’ there are some duties that we owe to our fellows, including the duty not to undermine public health. Someone with Tuberculosis has no right to override the state in its decision to quarantine, couching it as a private rather than public decision and there is no ‘choice’ for an individual to counter established law and ‘decide for myself’ to pour poison into a public water body.

“Masks protect me from those around me. On that basis, it might be ok to argue that I can make my own decision to wear a mask or not when my benefit alone is at risk. More important, however, is that masks protect those around me from my infecting them. I have no right to ‘choose’ to put others at risk. So the governor of Texas can argue, against the science, that on balance masks are more [a] danger than benefit and that we all should not use them as a matter of public policy. He cannot, however, say that an individual can decide for themselves whether it's OK to chance infecting the rest of us.”

Another reader wrote in about states lifting coronavirus restrictions. “You said the case for ending the mandate/lockdown was [that] the pandemic was headed in the right direction,” he wrote. “No. The case is that the mandate/lockdown did nothing and should have never been enacted in the first place. I have no doubt Gov. Abbott's justification for lifting the mandate/lockdown cited COVID trends, which angers me to no end. Abbott was cowering to the mob by enacting them, and even now as he (somewhat) stands up to them he still lends credibility to their underlying claims with such language.

“Lockdowns and mask mandates were implemented for optics. He was facing political pressure, and unlike other governors like Gov. DeSantis who stood by the facts, Gov. Abbott caved to that pressure. It's that simple. This is why his approval is in the toilet with republicans. It's certainly not because we felt his lockdown actually worked so well that now Texas is ‘able’ to re-open again.

Last week, I wrote critically about the Supreme Court code of conduct being in a $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Christina from Kalamazoo, Michigan, wrote in to make the case for why it should be included.

“All judges in other courts at all levels, nationally, have to ensure that they avoid the potential risks of conflicts of interest, in the quest to remain impartial and therefore, fulfill their role competently and fairly. But the Supreme Court does not have such a Code of Conduct. Presumably, it’s because the quest to be fair should have been so patently obvious and entrenched into one’s psyche by the time one would be anywhere close to the ranks of a Supreme Court justice, that a Code of Conduct was rendered as superfluous and unnecessary… Given that the Legislative and Executive functions design and operate along partisan lines, the Supreme Court is the last bastion of hope for Equitable Justice. Admittedly this hope rings hollow for now. Since the Supreme Court has been the arbiter of key issues in respect to voting rights, this is a valid issue within HR 1.”

I also found this Washington Post op-ed making a compelling case for this point.

LynAnne from Colorado said she was disappointed that in my analysis of H.R.1 I did not “include the success of Colorado’s all mail-in ballot system.”

“Coloradoans have been automatically voting by mail for seven years, and not only do we have huge voter turn-out, but our system is considered to be one of the most secure elections in the country. In fact, according to the Denver Post in the 2020 election, ‘Colorado had a double voting rate with mail ballots of .0006% and mere .0027% of ballots were referred for further investigation for potential fraud.’ In addition, Colorado’s voting system is fair and has elected many controversial Democrats, including Governor Jared Polis, and Republicans like U.S. Representative Lauren Boebert. Even ultra-conservative U.S. Congressman Ken Buck agrees, ‘…people understand that in Colorado — I can’t speak for other states, but in Colorado — we’re doing it the right way and we have confidence in our election results.’ (Denver Post). If you are analyzing election laws, Colorado’s mail-in ballot system deserves to be in the conversation.”

Another reader who moved to Arizona 27 years ago wrote in to share their perspective on immigration detention and what’s happening at the border. The reader lives in a very rural area of Arizona on the border with Mexico.

“When we first moved here in 1993, things were quiet and serene. Several years later the illegal immigration turned into a tidal wave. We couldn't walk our dogs without being accosted by illegal immigrants asking to use our telephone, asking for directions, asking us to contact their ‘coyote’ to pick them up. It took too many years for the Border Patrol to get enough officers to this area to at least slow the tidal wave. We lived in fear because numerous homes had been broken into by illegal immigrants over that period.

“The next step by the Border Patrol was to build checkpoints on every road leading out of the area. The checkpoints are approximately 25 miles north of the border. In order for us to get to Interstate 10 or Tucson or anywhere north we must pass through a checkpoint. There, an officer checks the interior of our vehicle and sometimes our vehicle is sniffed by a drug-detecting dog. They can, if they feel the need, direct you to a search area where they can more thoroughly search your vehicle. I completely understand the need for this to happen, but I don't like it because I am an American citizen and things like this shouldn't be happening in my country. There should be no need for this to be occurring in our country, yet it is necessary because of the illegal immigrants.”


I recently asked readers from Texas to share their stories after the winter storms and power outages. Here are a few things people wrote in:

We lost our power and water, and the temperature in our poorly insulated apartment started plummeting quickly. We’ve got two daughters, one of which is a newborn, so we couldn’t even put her down because she would get too cold. Eventually we had to grab our stuff and brave the icy backroads (all the freeways were closed) to get to my in-law’s house (normally a 30 minute drive.... took almost an hour and a half this time). Still we were shown a tremendous amount of kindness from family and friends who have housed, fed, and cleaned us during the past week. We only got hot water back yesterday, and still can’t do laundry because a pipe burst going to the washer and it hasn’t been fixed yet, but overall we are doing okay now. I’m just a little disappointed I never got to mark myself as safe from the storm on Facebook for my first natural disaster!

—Amanda from Texas

I live in Houston and went four days without power, water or cell service. It got down to 33 degrees in my house, so that was rough, but all in all the recovery happened pretty quickly. We had a boil water notice until this past Monday, but schools are reopened now (I'm a teacher) and life seems pretty back to normal as if the past week and a half just never happened (for the most part). I did have a student lose her apartment to a fire while they were trying to keep warm and have some friends with flood damage after pipes bursted, so there are definitely people still struggling with the aftermath, but here in Houston at least we are very used to natural disasters and I've heard from a lot of my students they are just grateful it wasn't to the same effect of the devastation after Hurricane Harvey in 2017. I was surprised at their gratitude because even for me as an adult it was difficult to be thankful for anything while I was sitting in a 30 degree house when it was 10 degrees outside. However, it just goes to show the resilience we have built up against facing natural disasters, which is unfortunately a necessity of the future generation due to the harsh realities of climate change.

— Sierra from Houston

My boyfriend was without water FOR A WEEK after his upstairs neighbor’s pipe burst, almost flooding his apartment. His complex’s management is clearly horrid, but still. All because of Mrs. Winter Storm Uri. My family in Houston (three separate households) were without power AND water for 2 days. My oldest sister has two young children that she had to sleep with [them] in a tent & sleeping bag to keep them warm —how eerie. And two days before that multi-day outage, her house’s sprinkler system busted. Flooded their yard and forced them to turn off the water until my brother-in-law and dad could repair it.  

My parents’ elderly neighbor slipped on ice in his driveway and cracked his head open. But it was in the middle of the icy road days, so an ambulance took over an hour to arrive while he was screaming and bleeding. My dad called 911 again and got an automated MESSAGE saying all emergency advocates were unavailable due to high demand.... how comforting! Luckily, all the neighbors assisted in moving him (forgoing COVID distance due to the urgency) to a warmer area with a first aid blanket. He got about 6 stitches.

— Alison from Dallas

My townhouse unfortunately had a few pipes burst, so the water and electricity remained off until plumbers could get out to my place in addition to other units in the community. While the pipes have thankfully been fixed, there's still damage that needs to be fixed.

My landlords were very lucky to get a personal contact with access to a plumber, but many have not been as fortunate. Contractors to repair damage from flooding are also extremely hard to come by. All in all, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Most of the damage was to the townhouse itself, not my personal belongings. My neighbor on the other hand, her entire first floor completely flooded. Initial estimate for her to be able to move back in is around 3 months. I know of several coworkers who are still without water due to the limited availability of plumbers and contractors. Our corporate office in Austin opened up the last several days to allow for families who still don't have power to come use showers that are on site. They've also been handing out packs of bottled water.

— Kristen from Austin, who said she was writing in from a hotel room

Life returned to normal for my family Monday afternoon when our boil water notice was lifted after 3 days.  We didn't have water at all for 30+ hrs prior and we started the week with 32 hrs of no power and then rolling blackouts.  Even in my 3 year old well insulated home it was in the 40s inside Tuesday morning the 16th.  Our pex piping held as designed despite a couple lines that stopped and we leaned on and helped [a] nearby family to get through so I consider myself among the fortunate.  I definitely preferred being out of water to no power, not that either is anything less than dangerous. My toddler coped much better when he was warm and able to sleep with his white noise machine.

— James from Texas

I think it is great that you checked on your Texas readers in today’s edition.  Did you know that SW Louisiana, around the Lake Charles area, was hit just as hard by the storm leaving many without power and water? This is on the heels and recovery efforts of Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Delta. Along with the Covid disaster declaration, that is 4 natural disasters in a 12 month period. While many suffered through the ice storm with tarps on their roofs, the media has largely ignored this area.  Please don’t forget about us.

— Angela from Louisiana

Have a nice day.

Nursing home residents who have had two weeks pass since being fully vaccinated can now have indoor visitors and receive hugs from guests. Almost one year to the day since coronavirus was declared a global pandemic, elderly Americans who have been vaccinated will return to a bit of normalcy. Americans living in long-term facilities represent about 1% of the U.S. population but one in three of all COVID-19 deaths, according to the Associated Press.

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