Early this week there was a leak of information showing the Supreme Court may be poised to send decisions about abortion regulations back to the states by reversing the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. President Joe Biden said that if that is the final court decision, it would be “radical“.

Biden has been in DC long enough to know that the original 1973 decision was itself radical. States had been regulating abortion and suddenly the Supreme Court negated all those laws, unleashing a free-for-all where abortion doctors could do almost anything they wanted. It has taken decades to get some semblance of health and safety regulations in place. For some reason, courts have mostly shot down legislation that required even things as simple as sanitation rules or informed consent for clinics – regulations that any other medical facility must follow. Abortion has had some kind of magical Supreme Court protection that extended far beyond the original ruling.

If the Supreme Court draft that was leaked becomes the final ruling, abortions will NOT be outlawed in the US. Any statements to the contrary is fear-mongering or ignorance. President Biden’s declaration that such a ruling could be used to separate LGBTQ+ students from straight students in schools defies logic – there is no legal similarity in the two issues.

Yes, some states may outlaw abortions, or at least gruesome late-term abortions. But that would be because a pro-life majority of citizens in a state elect pro-life legislators, who follow the wishes of their constituents, and pass pro-life legislation. The principles of democracy would be in action. Of course, that is what scares the pro-abortion crowd. They would prefer that nine justices make the decision, not the people – unless the justices decide against their views.

The Department of Homeland Security has launched a Disinformation Governance Board. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told a Congressional committee last week that the board will work to counter false information online concerning the upcoming November election and the incorrect (according to DHS) information that the US southern border is open.

This sounds like fiction, similar to the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s “1984”. Unfortunately, this is real. And a serious threat to our freedom of speech.

It might be a bit less concerning if this board was the result of bi-partisan legislation in Congress and there were multiple persons appointed to an actual board who came from conservative, liberal and libertarian backgrounds.

But the Disinformation Board and Homeland Security are part of the executive branch of the US federal government, under the ultimate control of the President and his administration. The administration has a vested interest in the outcome of the November election; therefore the Disinformation Board cannot be viewed as neutral or non-political.

The other concern is that this is not really a board. It appears decisions will be made by one person, Nina Jankowicz. Before the 2020 election, she was quick to declare as true the information from the Steele dossier, which claimed the Russians had material to blackmail Donald Trump (now proven false). Jankowicz also said the existence of Hunter Biden’s laptop (with e-mails showing his father met with his business associates) was a “Trump campaign product” (this claim now proven true). One biased person deciding what information should be banned from internet sites.

A few days ago, in a Congressional hearing, Sec. Mayorkas said he did not know about the disinformation concerning the Steele dossier or the laptop spread online by Jankowicz. Is the administration vetting anyone, or just handing out political rewards?

It is not the job of DHS (or any government agency) to decide how/where we learn information on Ukraine/Russia, the border problems, the upcoming election or anything else. The free flow of information from libraries and news media for 200 years, and now from the internet, is the hallmark of democracy – along with the right of free speech. Could DHS move from social media to censoring news reports of campaign events they don’t want voters to see? What about television campaign advertising? Once something like this starts, it is likely to grow into a monster threatening all aspects of our lives.

Some Republicans are working on legislation to dismantle the Disinformation Governance Board and deny federal funding for any aspect of this. Write to the Congressional representatives from your district and demand they protect free speech by supporting this legislative effort.

Posted by: SWL | March 31, 2022

Chris Rock Was as Wrong as Will Smith

Days after the Oscars ceremony, people are still talking about the slap heard around the world, so I thought I’d weigh in too.

Although Will Smith handled the situation poorly, Chris Rock was the real offender. Rock said he did not know Jada Pinkett Smith -subject of Rock’s joke and Smith’s wife – has alopecia, a medical condition that causes a person to lose clumps of hair. (I pay little attention to the personal lives of actors, but I had heard about it, so I find that rather hard to believe.) Regardless, it is absolutely wrong to make fun of a person’s physical looks. You might get away with a joke about a woman’s extreme evening gown, but physical attributes should be off limits. A good comedian does not need to resort to insults to be funny.

It is sad that the audience laughed along with this crude “joke”. Rock should have been boo-ed down immediately. The Hollywood elite are offended by a man defending his wife, but not about the same woman being insulted for something over which she has no control.

Perhaps Smith should have stood and shouted for Rock to stop insulting his wife, or gathered his family and walked out in protest. Physical assault was not the way to deal with the situation. But Smith had every right to be upset and speak up for Pinkett Smith.

Posted by: SWL | March 12, 2022

My Life is Easy While Ukrainians Suffer Needlessly

A few evenings ago, I was in my warm home, sitting on a comfy sofa, watching big, wet snowflakes falling outside the window. The news was on the television, with reports of Ukrainians sitting in damp basements or laying on hard benches in the subway, hoping to escape Russian bombs and rockets. In southern cities, people do not have heat or water.

The next morning I woke to find a 12-foot long, five inch diameter tree branch hanging off my roof – brought down by the weight of the wet snow. The gutter was broken and some roof shingles damaged. But that damage is nothing compared to Ukrainian homes shaken by shelling, or destroyed by a direct hit.

Cleaning up the mess took two hours. My gloves got wet while I worked. I was able to go inside and choose another pair from several I own. Ukrainians fleeing their homes can take only the belongings that fit in a suitcase or backpack.

Eventually, I ditched the gloves. Then I scraped up my hand. I had the medical supplies to bandage the wound, while most cities in Ukraine have run out of medicine and supplies.

That night my leg muscles throbbed. I felt guilty that it made me grouchy, knowing that many Ukrainians fleeing the war are walking to Poland or Romania, and must have aching legs from the trek, as well as achy backs and arms from carrying their belongings or their young children.

Even when I face unexpected problems, life in the US is pretty easy. I feel so frustrated that I can only watch from afar while my government does little that will truly stop the Russian violence that is causing so much suffering for the Ukrainian people.

May God have mercy on Ukraine.

Before he invaded Ukraine, Russian president Vladimir Putin said his “red line” was Ukraine being allowed to join NATO. He considered that line crossed when NATO would not declare definitively that they would not accept Ukraine as a member.

What is the red line that will cause the US and NATO to take offensive action against Putin? It wasn’t a violation of a cease fire when Russians shot at Ukrainian civilians trying to flee their devastated city through a so-called humanitarian corridor. It wasn’t the bombing of a maternity hospital in besieged Mariupol. President Biden’s administration has refused to say that Putin using chemical weapons would be a red line. What greater atrocity must occur before the West sends aircraft to Ukraine or creates a no-fly zone or something else that would actually stop Putin?

All the sanctions so far are good. But they clearly have not stopped Putin. The main value is the financial pain on the Russian people, so they realize there is more going on than they are told by Russian state media.

A bully picks on those who are weaker. The only thing that might give Putin pause is facing military equipment and weapons equal to his.

Posted by: SWL | March 9, 2022

FINALLY — US Bans Russian Oil

On Monday the Biden administration banned importation of Russian oil and gas. They finally got on board with the most consequential sanction against Russia – one that most other NATO nations implemented last week in an effort to stop Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Great Britain still lags behind, saying they will phase out the use of Russian oil products over a number of years. I can give them a bit of slack, since they rely heavily on Russian oil and gas. The US administration has no excuse: according to press secretary Jen Psaki, the US only imports 10% of its oil from Russia (an average of 700,000 barrels a day in 2021). That should not hurt Americans much, but the loss of $800-900 million per day will certainly hurt Russian president Vladimir Putin’s war effort.

The Biden administration has politicized the ban on Russian oil, saying gasoline prices will continue to go up because of the ban. Certainly prices have been rising rapidly during the 2 weeks since the invasion began, but prices began a slow rise the day after Biden was sworn in as president, when he cancelled pipelines and declined to issue permits for already approved drilling projects. Biden is trying to rewrite the history of his first year in office.

If the administration is really concerned about the effect of gasoline prices on Americans, they could fast-track permits for oil drilling leases already sold on federal land. (Don’t be fooled when Psaki talks about how many leases are held by US oil companies. Companies cannot drill until a slew of federal and state environmental studies are done and permits are issued.) Fast-tracking permits would not lower gas prices tomorrow, but the long-tern results would be good for the US – both in prices and keeping us from being dependent on hostile nations like Russia, Iran and Venezuela.

I am willing to pay more for gas to help Ukraine, but I expect the White House to do what they can to help Americans during a time of world crisis. Green energy is fine, but it is not yet ready to power everything, so we still need petroleum products in the short-term. Because of US regulations, oil and gas produced here is cleaner than Russian and Iranian products. You would think that would be important to green energy supporters, but they seem more concerned with optics. While Biden was announcing the Russian oil ban, VP Kamala Harris was giving a speech on electric school buses.

The Greenies think an America that does not produce oil and gas looks better – as long as you don’t look behind the curtain and see our imports. It was reported today that Biden asked to speak with Saudi leaders about oil, but they declined to take his call. If we drill for and pump American oil, we will not need Saudi oil, or any from Iran or Russia. And we could help our allies with any supply gaps they have from banning Russian oil. Let’s make responsible use of the resources the US has been blessed with, both for our own citizens and other democracy loving nations.

Congratulations to the administration for joining the ban on Russian oil. Now they need to be persuaded by everyday Americans that they need to bring more American oil online. Use the “Contact Congress” tab above to share your opinions with your elected federal representatives.

The Canadian government has banned the import of Russian oil and natural gas. Germany says they will not take delivery of oil when the NordStream2 pipeline from Russia gets regulatory approval. Many military and economic experts say that keeping Russia out of the world oil market will cripple the Russian economy (and the funding for their war against Ukraine). Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and John Barrasso (WY) have introduced a bill to ban the US government or any US companies from buying Russian oil. There is bi-partisan support for the move in Congress.

Yet, on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the US has “no strategic interest” in halting purchases of Russian oil and gas products. She said that would raise US gas prices and hurt Americans.

Does Psaki think Americans have the attention span of a toddler? The administration’s position ignores the fact that gas prices were going up well before Russia invaded Ukraine and now are rising just on concerns about possible supply problems because of the conflict. Gas stations where I live have literally been raising prices two or three times a day for over a week, although they are not getting new shipments of higher priced gas that often.

I prefer not to pay higher fuel prices, especially with rising inflation in every other area, but a little financial discomfort and “belt-tightening” for me is nothing compared to the suffering of millions in Ukraine. Biden’s team looks totally uncaring.

Psaki said Russian oil only accounts for 10% of US imports. So a ban would hurt them more than us. And we would be able to keep our financial pain short-lived if President Biden would allow more US production. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is stalling final approval of several oil related projects that have already made it through the environmental and permitting process.

On the “Contact Congress” tab, you’ll find a link to let your congressional representatives know you support a federal ban on Russian oil.

I am in 100% agreement with a statement actor Sean Penn made from Ukraine: ‘If we allow it [Ukraine] to fight alone, our soul as America is lost’. (Penn traveled to Kyiv, Ukraine just days ago to film a documentary about the crisis.)

America has always been the defender of democracy, freedom and those who cannot defend themselves. We (as a nation) have failed this time. Actually, failure would mean trying and not succeeding. The White House did not even make firm, substantial efforts to try to stop Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

What Russian president Vladimir Putin is doing is nothing new. In 1990, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein used similar flimsy excuses of border disputes and disagreements over oil production to invade neighboring Kuwait.

Where these stories diverge comes in the international response. Hussein failed to heed an ultimatum at the beginning of 1991, so US-led troops from 34 nations began aerial raids and followed with ground troops to push the Iraqis out of Kuwait. The Iraqi army retreated. There was certainly no ultimatum to Putin and no threat of sanctions before he sent his troops into Ukraine as “peace keepers”.

While we don’t want to start World War III, fear of that cannot keep nations from coming to the aid of Ukraine. The brave Ukrainians have a fierce resolve, but they do not have the military equipment to resist for long.

Posted by: SWL | February 26, 2022

Where Were Sanctions Before Invasion of Ukraine?

I have wanted to comment on the Ukraine crisis for two days. But the situation is complex and I am so angry at the Biden administration for needlessly allowing the Ukrainian people to suffer, that I am having trouble distilling my thoughts into a thoughtful post.

The United States has been the world’s defender of democracy. It should not matter that Ukraine is not a NATO member. The US defended Kuwait against an Iraqi invasion in 1991, during George HW Bush’s presidency. We joined with the UN to bring peace in Bosnia. Unfortunately, after the second Iraq war and the recent disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, Americans are weary of our soldiers dying for democracy that doesn’t materialize. But that does not mean we should allow Ukraine to fall under the control of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Russian troops have been amassing along the Ukraine border for months. Despite President Biden’s statement Thursday that sanctions were never meant to prevent Russian action, sanctions have previously always been labelled “deterrents”.

de·ter [di túúr]: restrain from taking action: to discourage somebody from taking action or prevent something from happening
[Mid-16th century. < Latin deterrere “scare off” < terrere “scare”]
Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Logically, this means sanctions should be announced before something happens to try to prevent it. Already, Russia has control of various regions of Ukraine. What good are sanctions that Biden says may take a while to be felt by Russia?

Biden said his team will assess the results of sanctions in a month. The main part of the invasion will be over by then. Putin just needs to put up with the sanctions long enough to destroy the current Ukraine government and install a puppet government. Then he can agree to withdraw if the West removes sanctions. He will have gotten everything he wants.

This is another foreign policy disaster for the US. No, actually, it is a crime against the Ukrainian people.

(If you want to ask your Congressional representatives to pressure President Biden to be tougher on Russia, use the Contact Congress tab above.)

Most of the traditional media are giving us only soundbites and small morsels of information about the potential invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Most media began to report about the cyber warfare aspects only a few days ago. This article from Politico contains extensive and extremely relevant information about how cyber attacks have been used by Russia in the region for years. Definitely recommended reading for those who want to better understand what is going on now and what future conflicts could look like.

The Olympic Games are great – the idea of the world coming together in peace, the stories of athletes overcoming obstacles. But the Games in Beijing have dimmed my enthusiasm and brought out my cynicism as fairness has been compromised.

Just holding the Olympics in China, while that government is persecuting the Uyghur people in the western region of the nation, is a stain on the Olympic ideals.

And the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) continued toleration of drug doping by Russian athletes is another black mark. Clearly Russia does not care that their athletes must compete under the name “Russian Olympic Committee”. When Russia’s doping activities began decades ago, the country was sanctioned. Then, to not penalize all Russian athletes, clean athletes were allowed to compete under a generic Olympic name. But now that the name “Russian” is being used, any sanction is a joke.

This Games’ doping example has been especially dramatic. Russian figure skater Kamila Valiyeva had a positive test for a banned heart medicine in December. COVID among testing staff in Sweden caused the results to be delivered late. The Court of Arbitration of Sport ruled Valiyeva could continue competing while the incident is investigated. They felt as a minor (15 years old), Valiyeva needed to be protected and also thought the lateness of the test results was somehow unfair to her.

The ruling brought strong negative reactions from throughout the Olympic and general sports communities around the world. The criticism continued after Valiyeva performed almost flawlessly in the Ladies’ Short Program.

Then amazingly in the Free Program, she stumbled or fell on her first five jumps. According to NBC commentator and Olympian Johnny Weir, this was more mistakes than anyone has never see Valiyeva do in a free program. (And she had performed this same program perfectly in the team skating event just before the controversy broke.) My spouse commented that Russia would probably use Valiyeva’s performance to label her the victim. That was proven correct when NBC Olympics anchor Mike Turico read headlines from Russian newspapers. One said the IOC should be ashamed and several others called Valiyeva a hero.

I have to wonder if Valiyeva might have been told to take a dive, so to speak. She looked very nervous as she began her routine. Of course, that could have been from the stress of the scrutiny since the positive test results were announced.

But other things seemed too much of a coincidence. As Valiyeva went backstage a woman in an ROC fleece jacket (not a coach) held Valiyeva’s shoulders and seemed to be scolding or lecturing her.

Weir apparently speaks some Russian and translated comments from Valiyeva’s teammates. Aleksandra Trusova, who won the silver medal for ROC, said – through tears that caused her mascara to run – that she would not go out on the ice for the flower ceremony. But minutes later, after being spoken to by Russian handlers (oops! Sorry, I meant coaches), she appeared, smiling with make-up repaired.

ROC gold medalist Anna Shcherbakova walked around with no joy in her eyes for minutes after Valiyeva’s scores were given. Later, when NBC’s Andrea Joyce asked Shcherbakova if she had mixed emotions, she replied in broken English that she was only happy.Maybe all these were natural and/or emotional occurrences. But Valiyeva (who has had several recent negative drug tests) is known for impeccable performances, certainly not any with 2 falls and 3 stumbles. By making Valiyeva a more sympathetic figure, could Russia hope to deflect attention from the country’s history of doping – maybe even stop the investigation into Valiyeva’s positive test result?

Given that many of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s statements concerning the current Ukraine situation twist reality (or are totally false) and that the Russian government controls all international level athletes in their country, I am sure any of my imaginings (and probably many other scenarios) could be true. I doubt we will ever learn the truth behind the positive test or last night’s drama.

To avoid ruining the experiences of non-Russian athletes and protect the integrity of the Olympics, Russia needs to be banned from the Games whenever their athletes test positive for banned substances. Russia needs to play with the same rules as all other countries.

Posted by: SWL | January 19, 2022

So-called Voting Rights Act Deceives

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, as well as others in the administration and Congress, keep stating that the Senate needs to vote to abandon the filibuster rules “to protect Americans’ fundamental rights” (by passing the so-called Voting Rights Act).

But the filibuster actually protects Americans’ rights. The filibuster provides a means for the minority political party (on behalf of their constituents) to stall a vote on legislation being quick-tracked by the majority party. The speaking filibuster allows arguments against legislation to be given by the minority. Hearing more information may change the minds of some Senators or public sentiment.

Framing the proposed Voting Rights Act as protecting fundamental rights is fraud. The Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 already protect the right to vote. The provision allowing outside groups to collect ballots, with no protections against altering or trashing those ballots, actually endangers rights.

Universal mail-in voting and banning voter identification laws are touted as making voting easier, but do not change or improve our rights. Since most communities have provisions for mail-in voting, it really does not make anything easier. The new legislation will only extend the time-frame. Given that most laws now allow a week or more, the changes are not needed.

The main argument for the no-ID provision is that lower income people have a difficult time getting to locations to obtain identification cards. But poor people receiving SNAP benefits and/or Medicaid must provide identity documents when they apply. The bottom line is that the vast majority of voters already have some form of identification.

And now in some parts of the country, people must provide ID and a vaccination card to enter businesses and restaurants. Certainly it’s more important to check someone’s identity for voting than for dining out. I doubt the federal government will step in to protect Americans’ fundamental right to buy food, clothes and medicines.

I don’t suppose Democrats will say that since they are the majority in Congress, they want to make drastic changes that will keep them in power. But honesty would be better than falsehoods and deception.

Posted by: SWL | November 20, 2021

Aaron Rodgers Back in Action After COVID

Aaron Rodgers looked healthy in the Green Bay Packers’ victory last Sunday over the Seattle Seahawks. Whether because Rodgers – as an athlete – is in better physical condition than many Americans or because of the alternative treatments he received, he seemed far less ill and recovered faster from COVID-19 than the majority of unvaccinated people I know who have had the virus.

I understand why the public (or at least many in the media) might criticize him for lying about his vaccination status. But while I am always for honesty, I also understand why Rodgers would try to keep his medical care private.

Since Green Bay lost the week Rodgers was in quarantine, his team was hurt when he contracted COVID. But it would have been the same if he had contracted influenza or sprained an ankle during practice. The media would not have asked if he had received a flu shot or expected a detailed report on whether he received pain relievers for a sprain in ether of those scenarios. Most of the time we only hear that a player is on the injured reserve list and what body part was affected, without many details.

Celebrities and athletes get more public scrutiny, but with the coronavirus, all of us are being asked to routinely provide private health information. I appreciate Rodgers speaking out about the issue. His words can reach more people than mine ever could.

Many lower and middle income Americans may have breathed a sigh of relief when, under pressure, the Democrats changed the IRS provision of the Build Back Better legislation. But the details show the new provision is just as onerous.

Now the limit is $10,000 instead of $600. Seems a drastic improvement, but that’s $10K in total transactions per year. Most anyone who deposits their paycheck in a bank account will exceed the $10K limit.

And there’s more. I’ve only heard this in one news report and this change is not yet in writing, so I could not verify. But supposedly, the IRS will be checking on transactions with all financial institutions, which would mean credit cards companies as well as bank. It’s cumulative, not per transaction, so if one charges many things, it will all go into IRS files.

This would allow the government to assemble profiles of the activities of most Americans. Where you go on vacation, what charities/organizations you give to (including political contributions), what doctors you visit, etc.

It might seem far-fetched to talk about government profiling. But even 2 years ago, it would have seemed far-fetched to suggest the IRS might spy on literally all your financial transactions.

Besides being an invasion of privacy and far beyond the role of government, this would be expensive. Changing the limit on transactions did not change the amount the Dems are seeking in the bill: $72 billion. That would double the number of IRS auditors. The idea behind this spying provision is to catch more mistakes/lies by people and therefore bring in more tax revenue. That assumes most people are cheaters. But even if we were all lying on our tax returns, the IRS would not recover $72 billion over 10 years to cover the costs.

This is an invasion of our privacy, a violations of our rights. It is also costs too much for any imagined results, which equals bad legislation. Contact your Congressmen and Senators to tell them this IRS provision should be totally removed from the bill.

Posted by: SWL | September 30, 2021

Biden: Build Back Better Legislation Costs Nothing (!)

I love government math! President Biden says the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better legislation won’t cost anything!

I understand that Democrats think the business taxes, federal fees, mining royalties and other revenue raised by the bill will offset the expenses. Of course, most everyone who has checked the math, says revenue actually will not cover the spending. But even ignoring that, Biden is incorrect when he says the bill costs nothing.

My family earns income. Then we spend the money on groceries, utilities, etc. Generally, after the expenses, we are back at $0 until more income is received. But that does not mean our food, vehicle fuel, etc. did not cost anything. It just means we had funds to pay for our expenses. But we still need to evaluate the costs of items we buy to keep our account balanced. If only the government would do the same!

The only other person I know who thinks like Biden is my young granddaughter. She receives gift cards for birthdays and Christmas. When she uses one to get a toy she wants, she thinks it is free. I assume she will learn the truth as she gets older. Didn’t anyone teach that to Biden as he grew up?

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