A blast of greatness

By Edward Achorn

I needed that: A blast of fresh air, relief from our incessant focus on sickness and ugliness — the coronavirus and the mob violence following an act of police brutality.

I loved this reminder of the greatness that is at the heart of America, and of our profound good fortune to be living here and now.

In an extraordinary private-public partnership, Elon Musk’s SpaceX Saturday launched NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley into space on board the Dragon spacecraft. They are now on board the International Space Station.

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Police brutality and accountability

By Edward Achorn

One of the reasons American history is critically important is that it teaches us how rare and precious civil liberties are.

Many Americans want to dispense with them. They want voices they disagree with to be silenced or constrained. They want government to exercise extra-constitutional powers for months on end to keep us all “safe.” They don’t care when one party uses the powerful apparatus of our nation’s intelligence agencies to spy on the campaign of another party.

But the horrible sight of a white police officer’s knee on the neck of a black man who was restrained and offering no resistance should remind us all of the importance of civil liberties.

It is hard to imagine a more potent symbol of the state’s unjust use of power against the individual.

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Trump, tweets and the truth

By Edward Achorn

President Trump is crude and obnoxious, especially on the Twitter platform. Like many politicians, he says many things that are patently untrue. His propensity for bullying and insulting others disgusts many decent Americans.

But his enemies have turned off people, too.

Their actions have caused Mr. Trump’s base to rally around him, arguably strengthening him politically rather than weakening him. I have often thought Democrats would have been much better off just letting him hang himself.

Now these adversaries are seeking to blunt one of his political weapons, his Twitter account, which has 80.4 million followers.

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Coronavirus facts argue against fears

By Edward Achorn

We are learning that COVID-19, while deadly, is much less deadly than originally feared. Moreover, it cruelly targets the elderly and those with serious health conditions, while tending to leave the young and healthy alone.

Whether the public knows that is another matter.

Rhode Island internist and epidemiologist Andrew Bostom, using the federal Centers for Disease Control’s “most likely case scenario” data  (published on May 21), has calculated that the infection fatality ratio of COVID-19 is 0.20% to 0.27%. The ratio for the 1957-1958 Asian flu was a comparable 0.26%, but nobody dreamed of shutting down the American economy back then.

Citing a British statistical analysis, Dr. Bostom also argues that a child under 15 in the United Kingdom is four times more likely to die from a lightning strike than from COVID-19.

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The lessons of Memorial Day 2020

By Edward Achorn

The coronavirus crisis has had many depressing effects. One is that it has underscored that many Americans do not seem to understand their basic rights, the nature of their Constitution and how their government works.

Unless Americans reconnect with how this country is supposed to work, and why it remains a beacon of hope to oppressed people around the world, it is hard to see how our freedoms will survive.

An understanding of history is a crucial part of that, because it informs us of the nature of most human societies, and how rare and magnificent our blessings are.

History also acquaints us with the cruel cost of protecting these freedoms. This weekend we mark Memorial Day. Barbecues and sunshine are part of the celebration, even in this grim year, but the day is really about those who laid down their lives to preserve this country.

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We didn’t close America in 1957-1958

By Edward Achorn

I was born in 1957. That’s me at the piano — late that year, I think — with my older sisters Susan (middle) and Nancy.

That fall, a deadly flu was tearing through America.

It ended up killing some 116,000 Americans — in a country that, with 170 million people, had about half the population of today’s America.

Even using inflated numbers, about 95,000 have died so far from the coronavirus, by comparison.

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Illinois, Rhode Island the most restrictive states

By Edward Achorn

A new survey by Wallet Hub, based on data gathered Monday, concludes that the most restrictive states (and the District of Columbia) for coronavirus lockdowns are (in order):

51. Illinois

50. Rhode Island

49. District of Columbia

48. Massachusetts

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The courts, the Constitution and the coronavirus

By Edward Achorn

Another judge has ruled that Americans live in a constitutional republic — virus or no virus.

The Associated Press reported: “A judge in rural Oregon on Monday tossed out statewide coronavirus restrictions imposed by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, saying she didn’t seek the Legislature’s approval to extend the stay-at-home orders beyond a 28-day limit.

“Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff issued his opinion in response to a lawsuit filed earlier this month by 10 churches around Oregon that argued the state’s social-distancing directives were unconstitutional.”

Governors may use emergency powers to issue edicts — specifically to protect the public — but in most cases only for a limited time. That is because, in America, power is supposed to reside in the people.

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Abraham Lincoln and the power of opinion

By Edward Achorn

If we hope to retain a representative democracy — always a difficult task — we will have to protect expressions of opinion and analysis, including unpopular ideas.

The heart of America remains the First Amendment — our right to question a powerful government without being punished or suppressed by that government.

Certainly, Abraham Lincoln understood the importance of public opinion in a free nation.

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Astrid Kirchherr and the Beatles

By Edward Achorn

A beautiful woman died in Hamburg on Wednesday at the age of 81, a few days short of her 82nd birthday. I will always love her from afar.

Astrid Kirchherr will be remembered as the artist who crafted perhaps the most striking photographs of the Beatles ever taken — when they were unknowns, working all night, every night, in a seedy club on the Reeperbahn, in what George Harrison called “the naughtiest city in the world.” It was there the Beatles honed their craft.

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