Background Briefing: April 7, 2021


Republican Hysteria Over Vaccine Passports

We begin with the latest hysteria on the Right over vaccine passports which has the governors of Texas and Florida passing laws barring businesses from requiring patrons or customers from showing vaccine documentation even though large companies like WalMart, universities, gyms, hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues want to protect their workers, students and customers from infection at a time new deadly variants of Covid are on the rise. Glenn Cohen, Professor of Law and Deputy Dean at the Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics at Harvard Law School and author of Bioethics, Big Data, Health Law, and Bioethics and The Globalization of Health Care. Legal and Ethical Issues, joins us to discuss the article he co-authored at the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Digital Health Passes in the Age of Covid -19: Are ‘Vaccine Passports’ Lawful and Ethical?” We discuss the Supreme Court’s 1905 law ruling that states could require residents to be vaccinated against smallpox or pay a fine and whether requiring that you show you have been vaccinated is a lot like businesses displaying a sign “No shoes, no shirt, no service.”


McConnell Picks a Losing Fight With Corporate America

Then we look into the other Republican attack on American business, this in the form of a warning from Senator Mitch McConnell for big corporations to stay out of politics except when it comes to donating money to a party invested in voter suppression, gerrymandering and the politics of white grievance.  Lincoln Mitchell, a Professor of Political Science at Columbia University joins us to discuss his article at CNN “McConnell’s self-defeating battle against woke CEOs” and how instead of supporting corporate America in resisting Biden’s increase of corporate taxes, Republicans are picking a fight with their biggest donors.


Putin as a Weak Strongman and Personalist Autocracies

Then finally, with Putin signing a law on Monday allowing him to be president for life, extending his rule until 2036, we speak with Timothy Frye, a Professor of Post-Soviet Foreign Policy at Columbia University and a research director at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. He joins us to discuss the growing number of personalist autocracies like, Putin’s, Xi’s, Orban’s, Duterte’s, Erdogan’s and Maduro’s and his latest book, just out, Weak Strongman: The Limits of Power in Putin’s Russia.