Posted by: SWL | September 17, 2021

Science Wins!

Last month, President Joe Biden announced that Americans would need COVID vaccine booster shots 8 months after their first two doses. The administration even purchased additional vaccine for the national stockpile.

Today the Federal Drug Administration voted (18-2) to not endorse boosters for healthy adults. They said the data from Israel was not a large enough sampling and Israel has a larger percentage of their country vaccinated, both of which do not compare well with the situation in the US.

The FDA panel did say they would examine evidence to determine if medically vulnerable individuals might benefit from a third dose of vaccine.

Biden jumped the gun with his August announcement. He should have waited for FDA approval, both for making proclamations and buying additional vaccine. Pharmaceutical companies make large campaign donations to politicians, even down to the gubernatorial level. There needs to be more transparency in the national vaccine process to be sure science, not drug companies, is driving national COVID policy.

Posted by: SWL | September 14, 2021

NFL’s Uplifting 9-11 Twentieth Anniversary Tribute

With the recent deaths of thirteen US service members during the evacuation from Afghanistan, Saturday’s 9-11 commemoration left me a bit depressed. Sunday morning before leaving for church I turned on the TV to catch the beginning of the San Francisco-Detroit football game. I was just in time to see the NFL’s 9-11 tribute.

Of course, it was September 12, but they used that to emphasize the American strength and unity that emerged on the day after the 9-11 attacks. The video asked us to bring back that spirit to sort through the problems the US faces right now. The presentation ended with our national anthem sung by the daughter of a man who died in one of the twin towers.

The NFL did a great job getting the tone of the presentation right. It was the best tribute I saw during the weekend. Rather than film and stories of the horrors of 9-11 that left me feeling sad, the NFL reminded us of the unity and resolve Americans are capable of. They asked us to remember and move ahead to make the country better.

I was feeling pretty discouraged when I wrote my 9-11 anniversary post. But the NFL tribute left me feeling that although prospects of national unity look bleak, we are Americans and we can find a way to get past the current divisions.

Posted by: SWL | September 12, 2021

Remembering 9-11

September 11, 2001 began as an ordinary day. I’m blessed to work from home and typically stay organized by not accessing any media in the morning. So I didn’t hear of the dire events until my spouse called from work. Immediately turning on the television, I watched in disbelief as repeated video replays of planes flying into the two towers of the World Trade Center were shown.

Then the first tower collapsed, and so did I. I’m not embarrassed to say I lay on the floor with my dog and cried. The horror of what the people in the tower experienced was incomprehensible.

News of the Pentagon and the plane crash near Shanksville, Pennsylvania came in. The emotional weight of the news became heavier as the day wore on. Yet the pain I felt was nothing compared with the crushing agony enveloping those who escaped the crash sites and those who lost loved ones.

In the 20 years since that day, horrible things related to 9-11 have continued. The US and our allies sent tens of thousands of military personnel to Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands were wounded by improvised explosive devices. While most would have died in previous wars, medical technology saved them. But many live without one, or often multiple, limbs.

Then came the rise of ISIS. I couldn’t believe anyone could be so overtaken by evil that they would cage innocent people, douse them with gasoline and set them on fire.

And, just weeks ago, the US government drew the War on Terror to a close. In the process, 13 American service members and hundreds of Afghans died in a suicide bombing. (The last remains were returned home to Massachusetts on September 11.) Their deaths were just as senseless as the others I’ve mentioned (and wouldn’t have occurred had the situation been handled differently).

The unity we saw in the months after 9-11 has shattered into many pieces. Twenty years ago, members of Congress from both political parties sang “God Bless America” together. Around the country, people from all walks of life gathered for candlelight vigils.

Now Democrats refuse to advance compromise legislation through Congress. Republicans are almost as bad, although they have gone along with liberal legislation several times, often getting vilified by conservative commentators for putting citizens over politics.

Black Lives Matter groups around the country have demanded defunding of police forces, which when supported by local politicians, has left many communities with growing crime waves. BLM protesters vandalizing hundreds of businesses and took over part of downtown Portland for a time. Extreme supporters of former President Trump have publicly insisted, usually in less violet ways, that their solutions are the only ones that can fix the country’s problems.

Americans come together on anniversaries such as yesterday’s, but cannot seem to maintain that spirit other times. I often think of common sense solutions that should bring relief or benefits to both sides of a situation (one of the reasons I blog). But I am at a loss to see any way to heal the political divide in the US that satisfies all factions while actually using the power of government to bring meaningful help to citizens.

Posted by: SWL | September 10, 2021

No Vaccine, No Job

I feel like I’ve been in a time warp and landed in the former USSR. Where else would a government force people to take an experimental drug as a requirement to interact normally in society?

Thursday Joe Biden announced he is mandating that private businesses in America must require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. (A reminder: two of the three types of vaccine are still considered experimental, approved only for emergency use.)

Biden said this is to “protect the vaccinated from the unvaccinated.” I did a double take at that, but that is exactly what he said. What he didn’t explain is why those who have had a coronavirus immunization should need any additional protection from the virus. We have been told that the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines are over 90% effective. If the vaccinated can become infected from the unvaccinated, how is that different from everyone being unvaccinated? Why did the US spend millions to develop a vaccine?

If allowed to stand, this rule will create two classes of Americans, and an underground economy of unvaccinated individuals bartering and selling among themselves, trying to survive without jobs. Has the Biden administration considered that these people will likely end up on the unemployment and welfare rolls?

In March I hesitantly made the decision to be vaccinated. (Hesitant because my daughter – a geneticist – has reservations about the mRNA vaccines.) It was my choice about how I wanted to manage my health. Everyone deserves that choice. And it’s not really a choice if the only options are vaccine or unemployment. That is called blackmail.

Biden said, “This is not about freedom or personal choice.” But it should be because, in the US, medical care decisions have always come under the banner of personal choice. People at the end of their lives determine – with their doctors – what treatments to receive. Many adults choose not to get an influenza vaccine each year. Biden and other Democrats talk frequently about the right of women to choose what to do with their bodies in the event of an unwanted pregnancy. So how did the American value of self-determination get pushed aside for a vaccine?

Biden is sounding more like a Soviet leader than the president of a democracy.

Posted by: SWL | August 9, 2021

Happy 60th Birthday, Mr. Obama

Former President Obama had a big birthday bash this past weekend on Martha’s Vineyard. From photos and video of the event, it appears no one wore a face mask. A commentator (on CNN, I think) said likely everyone attending had been vaccinated. So I say, I hope they had a great time!

But I also ask governors, the CDC and the Biden administration to allow the same opportunity for unmasked fun for the rest of us – the non-celebrities, non-politicians, non-wealthy/elites. Here in Nevada, most of the state has been ordered to wear masks indoors again, even if vaccinated. That does not seem to follow science.

We’re being told that vaccinated individuals can still transmit the virus. How does that compare to other vaccines? When my granddaughter was born a few years ago, there was an ongoing whooping cough outbreak across the nation. I’d had a vaccination when I was young and wasn’t particularly concerned about contracting the disease, but got a booster to protect my granddaughter. I was not told I could still transmit whooping cough after being vaccinated.

When I get the flu shot each autumn, I am not told to wear a mask or that I can still transmit the flu to others. There is no reason those of us who have received a COVID vaccine should be able to transmit the virus to others any more than influenza or other diseases for which we get vaccinated.

I suppose a possibility is that since COVID vaccines were created differently than typical vaccines, that they do not protect as well as other vaccines. In that case, I would suggest no FDA approval until drug manufacturers come up with a way to assure that those vaccinated do not transmit the disease.

After a year of wearing a mask and following CDC guidance, I am becoming skeptical of what the nation (and the world) is being told. Too many contradictions and not enough detailed information. I would like to know specifics, not just a blanket statement that I should wear a mask even though vaccinated.

I also do not like the contemptuous attitude among government servants and the media. The commentator (I wish I remembered her name so I could demand she apologize) who said everyone at Obama’s party was vaccinated, prefaced that with a statement that these are “sophisticated” people. That seemed to imply that the Obama crowd would not spread the virus while other vaccinated groups might. Vaccinated is vaccinated – if immunized Friends of Obama do not need masks, then others who have received the vaccine do not either.

Over the weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on Meet the Press. He said he feared the Sturgis (SD) motorcycle rally would be a super spreader event. Another condescending attitude. Fauci had no idea how many attending the event were vaccinated, but his comment implied that most were not and there would be many new infections. While I am sure there were more unvaccinated individuals in Sturgis than at Obama’s fete, that’s because it is a larger gathering, not necessarily because the majority of attendees are anti-vaxxers. (And if Fauci is wrong about Sturgis, I am betting he will not apologize.)

Motorcycle riders, Nevada gold miners and casino workers, Midwestern farmers, coastal fishermen, office workers everywhere, etc., etc. are all capable of deciding if they should get the COVID vaccine. Over half of American residents have already been immunized. And those people should be allowed to choose to mask up or not.

Have you noticed that at almost every public appearance by President Biden, VP Kamala Harris is lurking in the background? She’s usually standing off to the side, in a black suit. If I didn’t know she was the VP, I would think she was a Secret Service agent.

Of course, maybe she is there to protect Biden – from gaffes possibly. Is she there to step in if he goes too far off the script he’s been given? Or do Dems just want to get people used to seeing her?

Harris was there again when Biden went to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta last Friday to tout 100 million COVID vaccinations. But where was she earlier that day when the president fell while climbing the stairs to board Air Force One?

A president and VP are usually not together often. It’s a national security risk. If there is an attack, accident or natural disaster in the president’s location, the VP should be safe in another place. Maybe someone needs to remind the administration of this.

Posted by: SWL | March 23, 2021

Biden Immigration Orders Endanger Americans

Americans have a variety of opinions about how to address the issue of families seeking to come into the US to find a better life. But I would hope we are united in wanting to keep our country safe. Unfortunately, President Biden’s executive orders (EOs) concerning those who have or will soon cross our southern border illegally are putting the country in danger, especially border communities.

One part of his EOs stops the deportation of those already in custody. Because of court ordered limits on holding time and space limitations, the functional consequence of Biden’s order is that these people are being released in the US. The problem with that is that 80-90% of those in custody are convicted criminals, the reason they are scheduled for deportation.

Why would Biden and others pushing this agenda want to release criminals into our society?

Another part of Biden’’s “immigration” EO is allowing virtually anyone to cross anywhere along the border, and pulling Border Patrol agents off the border and assigning most to taking care of those who have crossed the border. Whatever requirements (or none) you think should be placed on migrants, you should desire some screening process that endeavors to keep out drug runners and others with bad intentions – or even those with COVID.

The number of illegal crossings has increased so dramatically that in many places the Border Patrol is just issuing notices for future court hearings and releasing the migrants. In a few locations virus tests are given and those with positive results are being placed (at US taxpayer expense) in local hotels. Communities along the border are ordering extra test kits, worried about a surge in cases as migrants interact in their towns. (Why aren’t the Feds providing test kits to border cities?) Borders all around the world (including the official checkpoints along our southern border) are closed or have virus restrictions, but Biden has put out the welcome mat for anyone to cross our border illegally.

After some setbacks for the Mexican drug cartels in the recent past, they are strengthening. There are reports of cartel members torturing and killing ordinary people living along the border. The killers may be leaders trying to intimidate villagers and new/younger cartel recruits, or recruits forced to commit atrocities as initiation. Regardless of reason, they are well-armed, heartless and vicious.

I cannot imagine that Biden and his advisors are so out of touch with international issues that they are not aware of the drug situation, or so stupid they cannot see the logical consequences of this policy. This is far more than not building the border wall or making changes to previous immigration law. Biden’s EOs effectively nullify all previous law, and even more importantly, will allow a uninterrupted flow of drugs into the US and force residents just north of the border to face the same risk of torture and death as those living south of our border.

What possible reason could Biden & Company have for allowing this? There are numerous other ways to allow asylum seekers in, give Dreamers access to citizenship, provide welfare benefits to those here illegally. (Whether any of that is wise is a subject for another day.) There has to be some unstated but purposeful intention for what Biden has ordered. And the thought that the administration would disrupt US society with these dangers is of great concern. We need answers. Ask your Congressional representatives to provide them.

Posted by: SWL | March 16, 2021

Dallas Seavey Wins 5th Iditarod

Early Monday morning, Dallas Seavey won his fifth Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Dallas Seavey, in Nome after winning his first Iditarod championship in 2012

Last year the coronavirus lockdowns came while the mushers were on the trail in Interior Alaska. Officials with the city of Nome implored spectators not to come to the finish line.

The race normally begins near Willow and finishes in Nome. (The Interior portion alternates between a northern and southern route.) The race route has been altered a couple of times in the last decade. Twice the race began in Fairbanks because there was not enough snow in the Anchorage area and the Alaska Range.

This year the Iditarod Trail Committee (ITC) came up with a familiar but still very different route. The race began at Deshka Landing, not too far from the usual starting line. It ran over approximately half the normal southern route to the old mining town of Iditarod. Then mushers turned around and raced back over the same trail they had just traversed.

There would be three major differences to this routing:

  • Mushers would camp out at every checkpoint except McGrath. This was to keep everyone associated with the race out of the villages along the trail to prevent the possible spread of COVID. Normally checkpoint villages welcome mushers with food and a warm place to sleep in their schools or community centers. Instead, this year some teams experienced -55° F in Iditarod, extreme even for Alaska in March.
  • Once the first mushers turned at the halfway point, they would be facing slower teams head-on. In previous races, a team might pass another from behind, like passing a slower car on the highway. This year, at least in some spots, it was more like passing an oncoming car on a single lane country road. No one was sure how the dogs would react. But there were no reports of any problems.
  • Going back over a trail that had already seen 40 teams would probably mean a fast, hard-packed trail and snow worn away in some places. Luckily, the areas which were of the most concern received some snow before most of the dog teams returned.

The ITC came up with an innovative solution to continue a tradition and things went smoothly. As of this posting, 14 mushers are still navigating the trail. The race should conclude on Wednesday.

Traditional Iditarod finish in Nome, Alaska

Posted by: SWL | March 10, 2021

COVID Stimulus Checks for Prisoners

Congressional Democrats should be ashamed of themselves! There were several changes made to the $1.9 trillion COVID pandemic relief legislation when it was in the Senate. Republicans specifically asked that pandemic relief checks slated to go to Americans would not go to prisoners. Democrats rejected that amendment. Why???

Prisoners have not lost jobs because of pandemic closures or having to take care of children doing remote learning. Their food and medical care are provided. They don’t need to buy hand sanitizer and other personal PPE. And in many states, prisoners have been put ahead of older Americans to receive coronavirus vaccines. Prisoners have not suffered the financial problems many taxpayers have dealt with.

There are income limits in the COVID legislation, so that Americans who least need the $1400 per person don’t get a stimulus check. (The upper income limits of $80,000/$160,000 per individual/couples are far higher than necessary, but that’s another discussion.) Prisoners are another group that do not need the funds. Dems are wasting taxpayer dollars for absolutely no reason; there’s not even political gain in this move.

This week’s cold wave across the southern US is a rare and deadly event. The electrical problems in Texas are a preview in miniature of what could happen in the rest of the country if extreme “green” energy policies are implemented too quickly.

Texas is the only state with its own power grid. Like all government entities, they are working toward using greener energy sources, taking advantage of the state’s abundant sunshine and wind. Wind power makes up about 10% of the state’s power capacity, but was supplying about 40% of the energy shortly before the storm hit.

These recent extreme cold temperatures are very rare in Texas, and many of their power sources – both green and fossil fuel – froze up. But while coal and natural gas plants can be insulated against cold (plants in northern states don’t freeze and quit operating every winter), windmills and solar panels will become inoperable when covered with ice in any location.

So solar and wind power have the potential for trouble in locations with cold weather all winter. Without back-up fossil fuel availability, people in northern states will have regularly occurring power outages every winter if they rely solely on green energy.

The Biden administration needs to slow the transition to green energy while provisions for extreme weather, bird and bat kills at windmills, and other problems are tackled by scientists and technology experts.

Posted by: SWL | February 20, 2021

Biden Townhall: Distorting Facts or Making Gaffes

President Biden went to Milwaukee Monday for a townhall broadcast on CNN. During one of his answers, Biden said there was no vaccine available before he took office.

Of course, that is not true. Even small towns here in northern Nevada received the first doses of vaccine for essential workers near Christmas. And Biden himself received his two doses of the vaccine before his inauguration.

Donald Trump supporters are jumping on this remark to charge Biden with trying to rewrite history. I would certainly believe that from others in the Biden camp. (Recently VP Kamala Harris said that because the administration had not been left a vaccine stockpile by the last administration, they had to start from scratch. All available vaccine doses after FDA approval were being sent to the states, so there were no spare doses to stockpile. Harris didn’t mention that nothing has changed – there is no stockpile now either.)

But with Biden’s remark, I think it was just another of his gaffes. If you listen to many of his townhall replies, you’ll notice his sentences are incomplete or skip essential words. It sounded like he had memorized replies for expected questions and struggled to remember the entire reply.

In some ways that is worse than distorting the facts. We need a president who is articulate and can keep up mentally with all the issues. We need a president who isn’t a puppet for his political party or the VP. This was a concern during the election, but COVID was a convenient excuse to keep Biden out of the public eye much of the time. I fear this will not improve as the president’s term goes on.

For almost 3 weeks, Democrats and a few Republicans have been saying Donald Trump is responsible for the January 6 Capitol riot because of things he said to his supporters. Words do have consequences. So I would like to see Democrats acknowledge that Joe Biden’s campaign rhetoric is going to have dire consequences for the US and for many desperate people south of our border.

Biden promised that there would be no deportations of illegal immigrants for the first 100 days of his presidency. That has led to about 8000 people fleeing Guatemala and heading north to the US border. In news reports last week, one man misquoted Biden, saying Biden has given them 100 days to get into the US without fear of being sent home. Now there is another group of a few thousand massing at the Honduran border.

The consequences?

  1. The Guatemalan and Mexican governments have to deal with the effects of these caravans moving through their countries: paying for extra police and/or military action, COVID testing for the ill, food aid. And it wouldn’t have happened without Biden’s campaign promise.
  2. At least 21 people in the first group have been diagnosed with COVID-19. They come from areas where people live close together and sanitation may be lacking. So it’s not surprising that many may be ill. If the US allows them to enter our country, it is likely that there will be surges in virus cases in states along the border.
  3. If these people are not allowed in, they face the long, physically difficult, expensive trip back to homes where they have no financial opportunities. Biden has given them false hope – the same way Trump gave false hope of overturning the election results to his supporters.

At this point, either choice – let them enter the US or send them back – is problematic. Biden should have thought through the consequences of his plan more thoroughly before he spoke.

Note: The state of Texas asked a federal court for an injunction, which was granted yesterday. The judge specifically noted that it is illegal to order federal laws not to be enforced, and that the administration did not provided any evidence that this action was needed at this time.

It’s wonderful that California governor Gavin Newsom lifted the stay-at-home order and ban on restaurant dining. His state’s economy needs it.

But I have to laugh at the hypocrisy: COVID rates (by various measures) are higher now than when the mandates went into effect. Clearly the mandates did not affect transmission of the virus in California. Citizens have been pleading with Newsom to lift his orders since they went into effect. So why change now? Either Newsom finally figured out the economic consequences to shutting down everything OR he was following the national Democrat script to make the pandemic and its economic effects worse during the election cycle to favor Biden.

If it’s the first reason, he’s too inept in economics to run a state the size of California. If the latter, he cannot be trusted and shouldn’t be governing. The initiative to recall Newsom is doing well gathering the required number of signatures to put the measure on the ballot. I wish them well. California is a beautiful state and deserves a better governor.

On Friday, our new president, Joe Biden, signed an executive order to provide more food assistance per month to needy Americans. He has repeatedly said he wants to help those who have lost jobs during the pandemic. He’s also pledged to create thousands of new jobs, especially in the clean energy sector.

The contradiction is that two days earlier he signed another order to stop construction on the Keystone XL pipeline in the upper Midwest, causing around 1000 workers to lose their jobs. I do not think they will feel better because Biden’s Friday order provides them 15% more in food stamps to feed their families while they hunt for new jobs in the tight pandemic job market.

The pipeline workers also cannot wait for the promised green energy jobs to be created. Besides, solar energy jobs pay less than pipeline work. Of course, there’s no guarantee they would get those jobs anyway. This is a big country – getting trained workers and jobs together can be difficult.

Shutting down pipeline construction may have other negative economic consequences:

  • The Keystone pipeline originates in Canada. The pipeline would carry shale oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries in the US Midwest and Gulf Coast regions. As soon as Biden signed the executive order stopping construction in the US, the Canadian government sent a protest. Biden has alienated our closest ally and may have jeopardized future economic cooperation between the two countries.
  • Any US manufacturers scheduled to make materials for the pipeline have lost that revenue.

The new administration seems to ignore the larger picture when it comes to US prosperity. Energy, unemployment, foreign relations and other issues are each looked at in isolation. It doesn’t seem to matter if action in one area affects another. (Do they think Americans are too busy trying to survive the pandemic to notice?) It’s a foolish way to govern. I see little besides economic chaos in the next four years.

Posted by: SWL | January 8, 2021

Trump Not Legally Responsible for Capitol Riot

Not being a fan of President Trump, I hate to defend him. But truth and fairness take priority.

So I must say that Trump did not incite the Capitol riot on Wednesday. He has done and said a lot of things that led his supporters to believe he had some major evidence of election fraud (even after not producing said evidence for two months) or other surprise that would change the results of the election. But nothing he said at Wednesday’s Washington rally explicitly – or even implicitly – told the crowd to break into the Capitol, threaten members of Congress and vandalize the buildings. Even when CNN anchors and guests were discussing why they thought Trump should be removed from office, the best evidence from the rally they could provide was a clip of Trump saying people should march to the Capitol and encourage Republican members of Congress to challenge the electors. There were no words that could be associated with violence.

This is not to say Trump is blameless. He’s been ethically reckless and selfish. He has seemed unhinged for months. And he has continued to exaggerate the election fraud that may have occurred in some states. (There are affidavits here in Nevada that document irregularities that appear illegal, but apparently didn’t make a difference in the outcome.) But there has been nothing in Trump’s speeches or tweets that encourage unlawful behavior. His actions and words don’t meet a legal definition of inciting violence or insurrection.

The rioters need to be held individually accountable where possible. One Arizona man has been identified, and spoke Thursday with a FOX News reporter, who said the man claimed Satanic rituals take place in the Capitol building. Someone like that is likely to act out with almost any provocation. The President cannot be held accountable for any unbalanced persons who attended the rally, any more than lawmakers who speak for racial justice can be held accountable for rioting and looting at Black Lives Matter demonstrations around the nation.

Trump did not discourage his supporters’ extreme rhetoric the past two months, but also did not suggest/encourage/incite unlawful behavior. I’m happy to see him go (although extremely concerned about the harm the Democrat controlled government will do to our country). But in fairness, I cannot say he needs to be held legally responsible for the DC riot.

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