Los Angeles Times - 03.04.2020

(C. Jardin) #1

A10 FRIDAY, APRIL 3, 2020 LATIMES.COM/OPINION


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W


hen Gov. GavinNewsom
announced a statewide
moratorium on evictions
last week, there was a col-
lective sigh of relief from
renters across the state. At a time when un-
employment has skyrocketed and incomes
have plummeted because of the COVID-
closures, tenants could rest assured that
they would be able to keep a roof over their
heads.
Or so they thought.
It turns out that Newsom’s executive
orderisn’t really a moratorium on evictions.
It’s a delay on evictions. Landlords can still
initiate evictions if tenants cannot make the
rent this month or next, and tenants can be
ousted from their homes after May 31.
Far too many people live paycheck to
paycheck in California and can’t make the
rent if their income drops, even if it’s just for
a few weeks. The economic rescue package
Congress approved last week includes cash
payments of $1,200 or more for most Ameri-
can households and much higher benefits
for the unemployed, but the money hasn’t
arrived yet and the April rent is due.
How many tenants are going to be in ar-
rears within days? And how many landlords
will start the eviction paperwork? Under
Newsom’s flimsy executive order, there’s a
real chance that California could see a wave
of evictions just as the state is attempting to
reopen and return to normal after months of
sheltering in place.
Another problem is that Newsom’s order
doesn’t cover all renters or stop all evictions.
The minimal relief provided by the order is
available only to tenants who can document
that they’ve lost income as a result of the
pandemic. It doesn’t offer any protection for


tenants whose landlord wants to remodel
their unit, take it off the rental market or
move a family in. Those tenants could still
be left scrambling to find a new home at the
worst possible time.
Further complicating matters, Newsom
has encouraged cities and counties to enact
their own eviction moratoriums, and many
have — including Los Angeles, San Jose and
San Francisco. But the details and qualifi-
cations vary by city, creating a patchwork of
imperfect protections across the state.
The result, tenant advocates say, is that
both renters and landlords are confused
about what they can and cannot do. Ever
more worrisome, the governor’s announce-
ment made it sound like renters had more
comprehensive relief than provided by his
executive order, meaning some tenants
could unwittingly set themselves up for evic-
tion.
It’s dangerous and counterproductive to
allow any evictions to occur in the midst of a
growing pandemic, when slowing the dis-
ease requires people to stay in their homes.
Newsom needs to enact a true eviction mor-
atorium that halts — not just delays — evic-
tions for any and all tenants until after the
emergency has ended.
Under all the various eviction moratori-
ums passed so far, tenants will eventually
have to come up with the rent payments
they missed. That will still be a problem for
people who live paycheck to paycheck, and
there’s increasing discussion over whether
the government should demand or fund
rent and mortgage forgiveness. For now,
Newsom needs to ensure that renters can
continue to have a stable roof over their
heads this month and into the foreseeable
future.

Needed: Real eviction relief


T


o slow the COVID-19 pan-
demic, countries around the
world are entreating or even or-
dering residents to stay home as
much as possible and keep a safe
distance from one another. And to make
sure the message gets through, they’re
keeping a much closer eye than usual on
where people go and what they do, often by
monitoring data from smartphones and
other location-sensitive devices.
The United States has yet to adopt the
most aggressive of the surveillance-state
tactics that other countries are deploying in
the name of public health. But as the death
toll mounts in the coming weeks, so will the
pressure to follow the lead of countries that
claim to have slowed the spread of the co-
ronavirus significantly with the help of am-
bitious and intrusive monitoring.
In a crisis like the one we’re in now, the
United States has to find the right balance
between individual freedom and public
health. And most Americans would prob-
ably be happy to trade off some freedoms in
the interest of curbing a disease that’s
killing thousands. We would too, but with
some strings attached: The sacrifices must
be both temporary and necessary — and
we’re not persuaded that some of the moni-
toring being done in the name of stopping
COVID-19 is truly effective or necessary.
Many of us have already voluntarily
ceded our 1st Amendment right to assemble
in the name of social distancing, and for
good reason. The novel coronavirus trans-
mits from person to person with unusual ef-
ficiency, and we’ve seen the devastating re-
sults among people gathering on cruises, in
nursing homes or even at choir practice.
That’s why roughly 40 states adopted some
version of California’s stay-at-home rules to
try to slow the spread of COVID-19 by keep-
ing people apart.
In the process, we’ve ceded an unprece-
dented amount of peacetime power to state
and local officials to decide which activities
are essential and thus can continue, and
which ones are not. That would be intoler-
able under normal circumstances, but
strikes us as justified now.
These distancing efforts, however, are
painful and costly, which helps explain why
compliance has been uneven. Hence the
government’s interest in using tools to mon-
itor the public’s movements as a way to en-
force the new rules. Such monitoring can
also help identify where the virus is quietly
spreading, public health experts argue, so
that we can contain infections and start re-
storing our lives and livelihoods.
The most visible of these efforts are the
barriers erected by countries, and even
some U.S. states, to limit the arrival of peo-
ple from virus hotbeds. Yes, it’s disturbing
and un-American to see troopers patrolling
the borders of Texas, Rhode Island and
Florida to intercept out-of-state travelers
and order them into quarantine. But at
least the public can see what’s being done,
document when the restrictions are being
applied unfairly and know when they end.
By contrast, the measures taken by nu-
merous countries to use location data from


cellphones in the fight against COVID-19 are
often invisible and even undisclosed. That
makes it hard, if not impossible, for the pub-
lic to weigh the privacy trade-offs.
That’s why aides to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-
Ore.) are investigating what kind of surveil-
lance may be taking place in the U.S. and
how effective experts believe it may be.
The Wall Street Journal reported last
week that federal, state and local officials in
the U.S. are using anonymized data col-
lected from advertisements on mobile de-
vices to measure the effectiveness of the cur-
rent social distancing guidelines and man-
dates. The goal is to help estimate how
many infections may develop and need
treatment locally, as well as potentially to
identify the businesses and sites that aren’t
complying with the rules.
Using aggregated, anonymized data this
way serves a valid public health purpose.
Nevertheless, phone users would probably
be shocked to learn that online ad compa-
nies were tracking their movements in the
real world and sharing it with local author-
ities, and there is a risk that some of the
data collected is unique enough to reveal the
identities of the individuals involved. That’s
why governments should reveal what track-
ing they’re doing and commit not to retain
the data they use.
Meanwhile, some countries are trying to
harness cellphone data to track the move-
ment of individual people who’ve tested
positive for COVID-19 and to figure out
whom they’ve contacted. But using a mobile
phone’s signals to help enforce quarantine
orders will be truly effective only if people
don’t know they’re being monitored — oth-
erwise, they could leave their phones behind
when they leave home to avoid detection —
or if they’re forced to offer proof repeatedly
that they are complying, as in Poland.
And the data generated by mobile devic-
es simply isn’t reliable enough to tell when
someone who doesn’t have the virus has
come into close contact with someone who
does. Instead, these contact tracing efforts
are likely to identify far too many people as
being potentially infected, only pushing the
demand for tests further past the supply.
The threat of COVID-19 may be great
enough to justify certain infringements of
civil liberties. And under the circumstances,
the shortcomings of some monitoring tech-
nologies may not be serious enough to rule
out trying them. But again, any effort to col-
lect location data should be done publicly
and transparently, with assurances that the
data won’t be preserved or used for any
other purpose. That’s especially true for
personally identifiable location data, which
is both sensitive and coveted by advertisers,
data brokers and others seeking to mone-
tize information about you.
How government responds to this pan-
demic will set a precedent for the pan-
demics that are almost certain to come in
the future. That’s why it’s vital that the steps
taken have a proven connection to public
health, that the public know what data is
being collected by whom and for what rea-
son, and that the measures will come to a
certain end.

Trading privacy for health?


In response to the criti-
cal shortage of materials
essential to securing public
health during the current
crisis, and with states
bidding against each other
and the federal govern-
ment for supplies, Presi-
dent Trump should be an
overseer with absolute
authority to bring order to
the current chaos.
In May 1940, with Great
Britain facing an attack by
Nazi Germany, upon tak-
ing office Prime Minister
Winston Churchill named
Max Aitken, a newspaper
publisher with no manu-
facturing experience, min-
ister of aircraft production.
Under Aitken’s driven,
relentlessly demanding
production schedule,
Britain was soon produc-
ing hundreds of planes and
engines each week and had
nearly 2,000 operational
aircraft to face Germany.
Later that year, the
Royal Air Force won the
Battle of Britain, moving
from total unpreparedness
to triumph in the skies.
Is the logic of appoint-
ing someone with similar
authority over medical
supply production not
apparent in the White
House?
Gordon Cohn
Long Beach

::

I don’t blame medical
personnel for contacting
their well-connected bene-
factors for much-needed
supplies to deal with the
COVID-19 pandemic.
The fault lies with the
Trump administration
that all along should have
been managing the current
pandemic with the same
urgency as if we were in
World War III or faced with
the 1918 flu pandemic.
With Trump largely
AWOL or in denial, it
should behoove Gov. Gavin
Newsom and his team to
see that medical supplies
—diagnostic kits, N
masks, gowns and ventila-
tors — are distributed to
the facilities where they are
in greatest demand, and
not to institutions greedily
snapping up whatever they
can.
Harold N. Bass, MD
Porter Ranch

COVID ‘coup’


can happen here


Re “Pandemic fostering
‘coronavirus coups,’ ”
April 1

An alarming report in
the Los Angeles Times
points out how authoritari-
an leaders in the Phil-
ippines, Brazil and Hunga-
ry are using the fear and
chaos caused by the
COVID-19 pandemic to
claim emergency powers
and weaken the rule of law.
What came to my mind
immediately is that our
own Department of Justice
last month proposed allow-
ing federal court chief
judges to halt all criminal
court proceedings in this
emergency. This would

apply to “any statutes or
rules of procedure other-
wise affecting pre-arrest,
post-arrest, pre-trial, trial,
and post-trial procedures
in criminal and juvenile
proceedings and all civil
process and proceedings,”
according to the Justice
Department.
This is an ominous
development that would
affect civil liberties, and it
must be rejected. This is
how democracies weaken.
Christopher T.
Armen
Calabasas

::

Your article places
Israel, a parliamentary
democracy with lively
discourse, in the same
category as Hungary,
whose leader Viktor Orbán
secured powers to rule
indefinitely by decree.
While Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netan-
yahu is trying to postpone
his upcoming criminal
trial, he has stood in no
fewer than three recent
Israeli elections, having to
form Israel’s present gov-
ernment with his opponent
Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu is in a pre-
carious position regarding
his legal future. Gantz, now
the powerful speaker of the
parliament, is poised to
take over.
Israeli media are unre-
lenting in their criticism of
Netanyahu. That would
not be allowed in Hungary,
where press freedoms have
declined since 2017. Orbán
has been called a dictator,
whereas Netanyahu is a
wily, possibly corrupt
politician.
There’s a big difference.
Carrie Luger
Slayback
Newport Beach

::

I find it interesting that
voices on the left formerly
condemning Trump for his
“authoritarian” ways are
now condemning him for
not being authoritarian
enough in his handling of
the coronavirus crisis.
One might almost have
concluded that, for all his
characterization as a fas-
cist or Nazi, he would have
used this opportunity, like
Orbán, to amass power
and rule by fiat.
Jeff Denker
Malibu

Is ‘pragmatic’


voting a trap?


Re “To beat Trump, blacks
are voting defensively.
Again,” Opinion, March 31

Erin Aubrey Kaplan’s
op-ed article on why black
voters are supporting
former Vice President Joe
Biden over Sen. Bernie
Sanders was exactly on
target. Comparing Sand-
ers’ ideas to those of Mar-
tin Luther King Jr. was
right on.
Kaplan wrote, “In the
decades since King’s
death, many black people

have lost touch with the
necessity of idealism and
imagination.” She also
pointed out that the “over-
whelming fear of a
Trumpian future” is “mak-
ing pragmatists of us all.”
Not only black voters
have traded their idealism
for fear in this election. I
am sure many other
groups have forsaken
idealism for fear-based
pragmatism, and they may
end up with the very
Trumpian future they so
deeply fear anyway.
Richard Robinson
Arroyo Grande

::

Kaplan makes the
astonishing statement
that socialism is about
government policies for the
common good.
Throughout history and
around the world, social-
ism has benefited only a
small clique: the rulers,
their cronies and their
henchmen. The average
person is sucked dry for the
benefit of these few. The
poor of course suffer the
most.
This is why capitalist
countries, rightly or
wrongly, sometimes build
walls to keep people out,
while socialist countries
have had to build walls to
keep people in.
Kaplan’s statement
reminds me of the saying
about those who forget
history being condemned
to repeat it. With many
tens of millions murdered
in the name of collectivism
in the last century, one
would hope that we have
learned something, but
apparently it is still a work
in progress.
Jaco van der Colff
Woodland Hills

Why didn’t


Congress act?


Re “Congress’ future
move,” Opinion, March 30

I read Sen. Dianne
Feinstein’s op-ed article on
the government reforms
needed to fight the next
pandemic and could not
help but feel she was “Mon-
day morning quarter-
backing.”
Over the past few dec-
ade alone, we have been
faced with SARS, MERS,
the H1N1 flu, AIDS and
Zika. With all of these
diseases appearing, why
did Congress ignore the
need for a plan that would
prepare us for the next
epidemic?
It may be that most
lawmakers were more
concerned about passing
bills that benefited their
own constituents or that
lobbyists were pushing
their self-serving agendas.
Perhaps our elected offi-
cials were more concerned
about being reelected than
focusing on what the future
may bring.
Feinstein has outlined
steps that may better
prepare us for the next
epidemic. But my guess is
that when the coronavirus
is under control, it will be
“business as usual” again
in Washington.
I truly hope history does
not repeat itself.
Frank Deni
Lake Forest

::

While I agree with Fein-
stein that we can learn
from the historical lessons
found in our government’s
response to 9/11, it is not
clear from her op-ed article
what exactly she thinks
that lesson is.
Her account of our
reaction to 9/11 omits the
Patriot Act, the invasion of
Iraq and the mass surveil-
lance of Americans. These
were the most significant
responses to 9/11, and they
were ones that Feinstein
and many of her current
congressional colleagues
supported.
Past crises have shown
that Congress responds by
passing legislation that
expands executive power.
It has sanctioned domestic
spying and global brutality.
I worry that the present
pandemic will be used to
justify similar “solutions”
in the future.
Charles Seller
San Diego

Shortages? Still?


Re “Critical condition for safety supplies statewide,”
April 2

I am weary, and not of sheltering in place or social
distancing. These measures can be difficult to maintain,
but I am a willing participant because they protect me,
my family and my neighbors.
But while I observe these guidelines, day after day I
read about unpreparedness, lack of coordination and
fierce competition among the states in obtaining vital
medical supplies. Bottom line is that we are not capable
of protecting those who are on the front lines for us by
providing basic personal protective equipment for them.
I can tolerate adjusting my daily life for the greater
good. What is unbearable and shameful is our inability to
put aside the “fierce competition” for supplies.
Why can we not coordinate our efforts? It does no
good to point out what we could have done earlier. What
is it that we have to do now, as a county, a state and a
nation, to produce and provide critical supplies where
they are needed most?
After all, we’re in this together, right?
Karen Scott Browdy
Fillmore

Gina FerazziLos Angeles Times
MEDICAL WORKERSscreen patients outside
Loma Linda University Medical Center.

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