Questions about the Prime Minister

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Questions about the Prime Minister


Pravina Rudra of The New Statesman says that Rishi Sunak is not the Barack Obama of the United Kingdom. Far from it.

To hear people describe Rishi Sunak becoming Prime Minister as “Britain’s Obama moment” feels…a little odd. Let me be clear: I feel warmed to know a Hindu Asian man can ascend to the highest office in the land, not least on the day my family WhatsApp groups were pinging with Diwali Gifs. I squirm at suggestions by supposed “liberals” that he (along with Suella Braverman and Priti Patel) is somehow “Asian, but not really”, because of his conservatism.

But Sunak is no transformative politician. He, like his predecessor, is a proud Thatcherite, and if he appears our centrist saviour it’s only because he is juxtaposed with Liz Truss. He is not “change we can believe in” (another Obama slogan); he is the steward after Truss’s record 50-day failure in office. He was not even his party’s first choice. Sunak lost to Liz Truss in the Conservative leadership contest over the summer, and this time his victory was only secured once Boris Johnson, our humiliated ex-prime minister, withdrew. And, of course, he was chosen by about 200 Conservative MPs not, as Obama was, 69.5 million ordinary people.

For many people Obama’s victory represented a victory over racism in the US. Racism is still prevalent in the UK – the Conservative Party member who recently told LBC’s Sangita Myska that “Rishi Sunak isn’t even British” is evidence of this. Yet Sunak’s victory cannot mean as much as Obama’s, partly because we do not possess quite the vicious depths of racism that exist in the US (and of course, it’s incorrect to assume that black and Asian people experience the same type or degree of racism). Our most comparable divide is arguably along class lines, which brings us to Sunak’s status. He was educated at Winchester College, a private school that costs £46,000 a year now, started his career at Goldman Sachs and went on to be a director at an investment firm set up by his father-in-law. He once happily admitted he had no working-class friends, and his wife owns an estimated £690m of shares in her father’s company, Infosys. It is a far cry from Obama, who went from community organiser to civil rights lawyer, and whose wife, Michelle, grew up on the south side of Chicago.

One half-joke that made the rounds in Black communities when Obama was elected President: the election of a Black President could only happen at a time when the economy was in near ruin.

PM Sunak does have that similarity with former President Obama.

Judith Hannah Weiss writes for NBC News that she is taking the media portrayal of U,S. Senate candidate John Fetterman personally.

Aphasia has been back in the headlines following the stroke that Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman suffered days before winning the Democratic Senate nomination in May. Fetterman’s campaign said earlier this month that he didn’t have aphasia. Whatever the diagnosis, though, it’s clear that several months post-stroke, Fetterman still struggles to process what he hears and sometimes jumbles words when he speaks.

The stroke added a new wrinkle to a race that could determine which party takes control of the 50-50 U.S. Senate. His Republican competitor, Mehmet Oz, has certainly made the most of it. As someone who has similar struggles, it pains me to see how the Oz campaign misrepresents Fetterman’s condition, creating more challenges for those of us who are already shamed for what is a common and often curable condition.

 Juliana Menasce Horowitz reports for Pew Research Center that as with nearly every other political issue, there is a sharp partisan divide about the education issue.

As the midterm election approaches, issues related to K-12 schools have become deeply polarized. Republican and Democratic parents of K-12 students have widely different views on what their children should learn at school about gender identity, slavery and other topics, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

They also offer different assessments of the influence parents, local school boards and other key players have on what public K-12 schools in their area are teaching. Republican parents with children in K-12 schools are about twice as likely as Democratic parents to say parents don’t have enough influence (44% vs. 23%, including those who lean to each party). And Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say school boards have too much influence (30% vs. 17%). These parents also differ over the amount of input they personally have when it comes to what their own children are learning in school.

At the same time, Republican and Democratic parents – including those with children in public schools – are equally likely to say they are extremely or very satisfied with the quality of the education their children are receiving (58% each) and that the teachers and administrators at their children’s schools have values that are similar to their own (54% each).

Nelson Morgan writes for the Arizona Republic suggesting that the media usage of “horse race” as an analogy for political contests probably should be retired.

At the end of the horse race, there might be a trophy, and then preparation for other races; but that’s it. The horse has no other responsibilities that come with winning.

I hate to pile on the media, as if it was a monolith, but our highly competitive scribes are human, and a focus on the more sensational aspects of the process is to be expected. After all, we call each election a “race.” But we have to put this in perspective – interesting, but not critical.

What IS critical is that we are going to be electing people who will be “taking the reins” of official governmental functions; after the election, they won’t be candidates. Among many other roles for each of the positions they are trying for:  

  • The governor will be approving or vetoing legislation from a Legislature that could be even more extreme than the current one.
  • The secretary of state will be setting the rules for elections and certifying the 2024 presidential vote by our citizens.
  • The attorney general will be setting the standard for prosecutions throughout the state, and choosing how to represent our citizens in suits by the state.

Karen Pennar of STATnews writes about the growing pressure on American hospitals to reduce climate pollution.

But while hospitals might seem to be the unwitting victims of climate disasters, the U.S. health care system — and hospitals in particular — shoulder a good deal of the blame. The health care sector accounts for about 8.5% of all the greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., and about 4.5% of worldwide emissions. These emissions are generated mostly from running energy-draining facilities 24/7, and from the vast array of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food, and other goods and services produced, purchased, and sometimes wasted, in the course of providing care.

Some hospitals have begun to tout their efforts to combat climate change, claiming to have achieved 100% renewable energy or “carbon neutral” status. They offer scattershot examples of progress in reducing their emissions, citing “meatless Mondays” in hospital kitchens or improved recycling programs. Yet hospitals have long been laggards in even tracking and reporting their emissions and waste — much less reducing them. Today there is no way to hold the country’s 6,000 hospitals accountable and benchmark their performance.

Now a number of forces may be converging to push hospitals — and the health care system more broadly — to undertake a massive effort to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, as well as other greenhouse gas producers, such as the gases used in anesthesia.

Joanna York of France24 says that given the similarities between the two leaders, there is a good possibility that PM Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron will find a lot that they can agree on.

Both leaders are the sons of medical professionals and were educated at prestigious schools before making their fortunes as bankers. After shifting to the world of politics, both worked as finance ministers before rapidly ascending to the top leadership. 

Young, wealthy and successful, both Macron (44) and Sunak (42) are also skilled at managing their personal brands, whether in impeccably tailored suits or hard at work in hoodies ­– as captured by their professional photographers.

“They both look the same: urbane, well-groomed, well-presented,” says Paul Smith, associate professor of French politics at the University of Nottingham. “One might imagine that they speak the same sort of language.”

“Superficially, there’s certainly a possibility for a positive working relationship,” adds Andrew Smith.

The second-round of the Brazilian elections occur this coming Saturday and Tom Phillips of the  Guardian reports that even Brazil’s gangsters are divided by the choice between incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

A bank robber, a gunrunner and a weed smuggler sat down in a square, surrounded by rifle-toting bodyguards and locked in passionate debate over their country’s political future.

“Life’s been easier under Bolsonaro. It’s easier to get guns. It’s easier to get ammunition,” admitted the gun trafficker as he and his clique pondered the battle for power between Brazil’s far-right president and his challenger, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

“But the one who governed for the poor was Lula,” he said of the leftist former president whose social programs helped millions escape poverty.[…]

The criminals’ conflicting opinions were a microcosm of a far broader fissure within Brazilian society as the South American country approaches its most discordant election in decades.

Finally today, Paul Krugman of The New York Times pens “An Ode to the New York Subway.”

There have been frequent debates about how New York’s system compares with those of other large cities, especially London. New York clearly loses on aesthetics: The system is dingy and yes, you do sometimes see rats on the track. It’s also confusing for visitors; at least once a month I find myself explaining to strangers that no, the express train doesn’t stop at Columbus Circle. On the other hand, the New York subway, with its extensive four-track system — which lets it put many local stops close together while allowing easy transfer to fast express trains — is arguably more functional than its counterparts elsewhere.

And its main function is to make a high-density lifestyle possible. Not everyone wants to live that way, but some do. For what it’s worth, dense urban environments don’t have to be the hellscapes I suspect many Americans imagine they are.

The two New York neighborhoods I know best, the Upper West Side and Jackson Heights, Queens, have population densities of 61,000 and 42,000 people per square mile, respectively. Both have extremely busy main commercial streets but are surprisingly quiet once you get off the main drags. And I wonder whether people who haven’t experienced it appreciate how life-enhancing it can be to have a huge range of services within easy walking distance.

Not everyone would want to live that way. But not everyone wants to live in a car-based metropolis like Atlanta or Dallas, either. It’s only thanks to mass transit systems like the New York subway that the United States can offer large numbers of people an alternative to sprawl. So the subway makes America more varied in lifestyles, which enriches the nation as a whole, both culturally and economically.

Have a good day, everyone!

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