New York's Big Brother Has Gone Bananas
In reading the New York State travel advisory, I am reminded of one of my favorite scenes from a Woody Allen movie, this one from Bananas. Having ascended to power, the dictatorial rebel leader Esposito announces his new rules for San Marcos:
From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. ... In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now...16 years old!
Woody's character Fielding Mellish cracks, "What's the Spanish word for straitjacket?" The Spanish word is camisa de fuerza. The Swedish word is tvångströja. In any language, Gov. Andrew Cuomo surely needs one. It is bad enough that he is running the state by executive order. Worse is that the orders are nuts. If Woody Allen were to make a comic version of 1984, he could model "Big Brother" on Andrew Cuomo.
Last week, I flew into Buffalo. It was my first flight this year into New York, a state in which I have owned a summer cottage for the last 30 years. Coming from Missouri, a state on New York's travel advisory, I had to fill out a two-sided form promising that I would quarantine in place for 14 days. As if.
Missouri has had about 25 COVID-19 deaths per 100,00 people. New York has had about 165. In the western part of Missouri where I live, the rate is considerably lower. No matter. By some perverse calculation, my return to New York threatened to put the state's residents at some elevated risk.
To visit my own cottage, I had to promise not to be in public or otherwise leave the quarters that they have identified as "suitable." These "quarters" — how quaint — had to have "separate bathroom facilities for each individual or family group." More than that, I had to have "access to a sink with soap and water, and paper towels."
Esposito would have been hard pressed to imagine rules this absurd and unenforceable: "Food must be delivered to the individual's quarters"; "Garbage must be bagged and left outside by the door of each of the quarters"; "Individuals should self-monitor for fever and other symptoms of COVID-19 daily."
Big Brother Andy promises that "enforcement teams" will be stationed to "greet disembarking passengers to request proof of completion of the State Department of Health traveler form." He isn't kidding. My flight had no more than 20 people on board, but two officials were waiting at 9:00 P.M. on a Sunday night to collect our letters of transit. The penalty for leaving the airport without completing the form is a $2,000 fine and a mandatory quarantine. Knowing this, I filled mine out. I wrote on it, "Under protest, self-destructive, wasteful, oppressive."
My flight to Denver a week earlier was nearly full, but no one who did not have to come was coming to New York. The state is broke and broken. Yet it can still afford to create this Byzantine bureaucracy and impose it on those who are compelled to visit, even — hang on — those who drive to New York. Decrees Big Brother: "Travelers coming to New York from designated states through other means of transport, including trains and cars, must fill out the form online."
I know a conscientious fellow who did just that. Health authorities contact him every day to check on his progress. My friend was given a choice of call or text. He chose text. At the beginning, he was asked if he needed any help with food or medicine. I asked my friend whether the State delivered pizza. He chose not to inquire. He was afraid they might.
The tourist destinations in the mountain states are thriving. Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks is reportedly doing twice its annual business. New York State is withering. Not since Saddam taunted the U.S. into invading Iraq has the world seen so self-destructive a case of narcissism.
Pay no attention to New York's national dominance in COVID deaths. Nursing homes? What nursing homes? I am convinced that Cuomo imposed the travel advisory to creates the illusion that he has so heroically purged his state of COVID that red-state refugees can only screw things up. I suspect his forthcoming book — American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic — will assure at least the media that this is so. (And who writes a book during a crisis?)
Come what may, Cuomo has an assured place in history. He will be the first head of a state to enact a costly, self-defeating law that absolutely no one will follow and, quite likely, no one will be punished for not following. San Marcos can use a man like that.
Jack Cashill's new book, Unmasking Obama: The Fight to Tell the True Story of a Failed Presidency, is now widely available. Also see www.Cashill.com.