Since the deadly biblical struggle between the two brothers Abel and Cain, humanity has grappled with the fundamentally existential paradoxes between good and evil, free will and subjugation, dominance and obedience, as well as fear and coercion. These bifurcations of societies and communities into freedom by personal responsibility and disenchanted irresponsibility by surrender to seductive illusions have always been lurking under the notion of obligatory assimilation throughout the 244 years of American history. The Declaration of Independence with its lofty ideals of ubiquitous equality and of inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, has always hidden the potential of disappointments in imperfect governments. This interaction between the expectant masses and the thus pressurized governments has created a permanently unpredictable interplay between the majority that has needed guidance and the minority that has been elected to command. The reactions to such an unstable situation have been either compliance or revolt. Both have depended on circumstances that mostly have been foreseeable but occasionally subject to barely explainable circumstances.
The death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during an attempted arrest, has given rise to both open-ended peaceful protests and unbridled lawlessness. Coupled with the relatively draconian anti-pandemic measures instituted by the federal and state governments, these two events have been the fundamental causes of the present infantile idiocy gripping the nation.
The initial reaction to the unwarranted violence has been fear. Cain was afraid of Abel, therefore, he killed him. He was punished by having been uprooted and condemned to impermanence. Similarly, those who destroy statues and monuments are devoid of solid roots in American society. Having been grown up without serious parental guidance and having been confused by their scant education, they are miserable in their primitive loneliness. Lacking any sense of personal responsibility, they demand absolute freedom for themselves and total subordination by the majority. The result is complete, absolute, unconditional insecurity, as well as chaos, anarchy, and terror.
Clearly, such a situation cannot be tolerated at all. The overwhelming majority must transition from merely defending itself to going on the offensive against the unfounded charges of racism, white supremacy, intentional oppression of minorities, and the senseless denigration of a successful national history. There is no institutionalized and systematic racism in the United States of America. The charge of white supremacy is a myth. Minorities are not oppressed. On balance, the 244 years of American history is unequivocally positive.
The only true meaning of democracy is that single issue minorities cannot seize power from the majority by force. Any nation would be in mortal danger if minorities with destructive ideas would want to impose on the majority unworkable ideas that would run counter to the constitution, the laws, the traditions, and the morality of the nation. Attempting to replace the Judea-Christian-based spiritual realm with pseudo-Marxist and outrightly fascist social justice and inhuman rights rhetoric, would only lead to the demise of Western civilization. Unless these minority movements can prove that their ideas and policies could win elections, they must be dealt with harshly within the confines of the rule of law.
The American Republic can only survive if the majority refuses to excuse evil. Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and like-minded minority movements are evil. As long as they embrace violence, they must not be permitted to operate outside the law. The media that promotes these evil movements must not be allowed to hide behind the First Amendment. Such destructive opposition cannot be glorified by the Democrat Party without political consequences at the ballot boxes.
The United States of America has its faults. Yet, the constitutional and political powers upon which it has existed for almost two-and-a-half centuries rest on firm foundations. For this reason, the United States of America has always possessed the strength necessary to progress without borrowing its inspiration from external sources, material or moral. Its greatness has come from its individual as well as its collective ethos.
The ultimate guarantee of this greatness resides in the character of the President, the Vice President, members of the cabinet, members of the House of Representatives, members of the Senate, and the office holders of the Judiciary. What the Democrat Party and the various extremist movements represent is antithetical to the Judeo-Christian governance of America. Marxism has always been against democracy, religion, the family, and the nation state. Fascism is the despotic version of Marxism. Thus, Marxism and Fascism can be defined as political regimes based on the rule of the minority over the majority, in which the minority controls politics and the economy. Moreover, both are irrational, because they are forced to make bad compromises, in order to survive. Finally, having trafficked in lousy ideas and disgraceful emotions, Marxism and Fascism ended up as abysmal failures whenever they were tried in practice.The state of the constitutional institutions have always determined the viability of a democracy. Lawlessness, chaos, and anarchy engenders a feeling of uncertainty. Adherence to the rule of law generates confidence. Presently, only President Trump comprehends what is really happening in the United States of America. Defending and reinforcing the Judeo-Christian foundations of America are the keys to preserving and strengthening the constitution-based governance of the greatest nation on earth.
U.N. reprimands Tehran amid ongoing nuclear ramp-up, development of missiles
Iran engaged in covert nuclear work that breached international accords as recently as 2019, according to nuclear inspectors who have been blocked from accessing these contested military sites.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors officially reprimanded Iran on Friday for denying inspectors access to at least two sites now known to have been part of Tehran’s secretive atomic weapons program.
The two locations have remained off limits to the IAEA despite evidence they were used for illicit nuclear operations in the last year. At least one of these sites contained a secret high-explosives testing site that could have been used to advance Tehran’s nuclear know-how.
The resolution was forwarded by France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, all of which are still party to the nuclear accord with Tehran. While these nations have sought to preserve the accord, their willingness to publicly reprimand Iran is a new sign of mounting frustration with the country’s behavior. In addition to blocking IAEA access, Iran has ramped up its development of advanced missiles and enrichment of uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon, to levels needed for a bomb.
The resolution highlights what these nations described as a “continued lack of clarification regarding Agency questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear related activities in Iran.”
The move was met with anger by Iranian officials, who said they will continue to block access until the international community offers greater concessions, particularly relief from biting economic sanctions that have crippled the country’s economy.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran’s behavior is proof that it continues to lie to the world about its development of nuclear arms and has no intention of curtailing its nuclear program.
“Iran’s denial of access to IAEA inspectors and refusal to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation is deeply troubling and raises serious questions about what Iran is trying to hide,” Pompeo said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Iranian military leaders announced on Thursday the successful test-firing of both short- and long-range cruise missiles, which could be used in a conflict with the United States and allied partners operating in the region. The firing of these missiles runs counter to United Nations restrictions on Iran’s missile program.
The tests were conducted in the Indian Ocean and Sea of Oman, according to reports from Iran’s state-controlled media. Tehran claims the military operation was “more sophisticated” and “more difficult” than previous drills.
The launch marks a significant escalation in Tehran’s ongoing standoff with U.S. military vessels operating in the region. Iranian military boats have routinely harassed American ships and sought to choke off access to key shipping lanes in international waters. The display of new cruise missiles is a warning to the United States that the Iranian regime is ready for a military confrontation.
A United Nations embargo on Iran’s purchase of advanced weaponry is set to lift later this year. If the United States fails to extend the ban, nations will be able to legally sell Iran missiles and other offensive weapons. The Trump administration is currently pressing its allies at the U.N. to extend this embargo, though these efforts are likely to be blocked by Russia and China, Tehran’s top patrons.
If the arms embargo lapses, the United States is likely to push for a so-called snapback, the reimposition of all international sanctions that were lifted as part of the nuclear deal.
An Iran analyst said Tehran’s latest moves are a ploy to stave off international scrutiny.
“All eyes should be on Iran now to see how it will make good on its threats which were intended to scare and prevent the vote on this critical [IAEA] resolution,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a hawkish think-tank with close ties to the Trump administration. “Tehran often uses such flashpoints to incrementally ratchet up the pressure through expansion of its nuclear program.”
Ben Taleblu said that nations such as France, Germany, and the U.K. will have to get tougher on Iran if they want to change its behavior. Although they backed the IAEA’s latest censure, these nations also have worked to block the reimposition of major sanctions on Tehran.
Harvard researchers publicly walked back Monday a key finding in a highly touted but hotly contested paper linking air pollution exposure to deaths from the novel coronavirus, slashing the estimated mortality rate in half.
The preliminary study by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health made a splash when the results were announced April 7 in The New York Times, prompting alarm on the left as Democrats sought to connect COVID-19 deaths to the Trump administration’s regulatory pushback.
A few weeks later, however, its researchers quietly backtracked from their finding that people who live for decades in areas with slightly more particulate matter in the air are 15% more likely to die from the coronavirus, lowering the figure to 8%. The press release was revised Monday.
“This article was updated on May 4, 2020, based on an updated analysis from the researchers using data through April 22,” reads a footnote on the Harvard press release.
The revision came after weeks of criticism over the study’s modeling and analysis. Tony Cox, a University of Colorado Denver mathematics professor and chairman of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, said the model used to derive the 8% figure had “no basis in reality.”
“The model has not been validated and its assumptions are unrealistic,” said Mr. Cox, who heads the advanced analytics consulting firm Cox Associates. “In layman’s terms, it assumes an unrealistic effect of fine particulate matter on deaths, and then with that assumption built into the model, it uses data to estimate how big that unrealistic effect is. They’re making an assumption that has no basis in reality.”
JunkScience’s Steve Milloy said the Harvard paper is “not just junk science, it’s scientific fraud.”
So, naturally, Democrats are pushing to have them sent to every voter — or ‘voter.’
Enormous pressure is being mounted to use our current crisis as an excuse to transform how we vote in elections.
“Coronavirus gives us an opportunity to revamp our electoral system,” Obama’s former attorney general, Eric Holder, recently told Time magazine. “These are changes that we should make permanent because it will enhance our democracy.”
The ideas Holder and others are proposing include requiring that a mail-in ballot be automatically sent to every voter, which would allow people to both register and vote on Election Day. It would also permit “ballot harvesting,” whereby political operatives go door-to-door collecting ballots that they then deliver to election officials. All of these would dramatically reduce safeguards protecting election integrity.
But liberals see a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sweep away the current system. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted that a mandatory national vote-by-mail option be forced on states in the first Coronavirus aid bill. She retreated only when she was ridiculed for shamelessly using the bill to push a political agenda. But Pelosi has promised her Democratic caucus that she will press again to overhaul election laws in the next aid bill.
If liberals can’t mandate vote-by-mail nationally, they will demand that states take the lead. Last Friday, California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, signed an executive order requiring that every registered voter — including those listed as “inactive” — be mailed a ballot this November.
This could be a disaster waiting to happen. Los Angeles County (population 10 million) has a registration rate of 112 percent of its adult citizen population. More than one out of every five L.A. County registrations probably belongs to a voter who has moved, or who is deceased or otherwise ineligible.
Just last January, the public-interest law firm Judicial Watch reached a settlement agreement with the State of California and L.A. County officials to begin removing as many as 1.5 million inactive voters whose registrations may be invalid. Neither state nor county officials in California have been removing inactive voters from the rolls for 20 years, even though the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed last year, in Husted v. Randolph Institute, a case about Ohio’s voter-registration laws, that federal law “makes this removal mandatory.”
Experts have long cautioned against wholesale use of mail ballots, which are cast outside the scrutiny of election officials. “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud,” was the conclusion of the bipartisan 2005 Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by former president Jimmy Carter and former secretary of state James Baker.
That remains true today. In 2012, a Miami–Dade County Grand Jury issued a public report recommending that Florida change its law to prohibit “ballot harvesting” unless the ballots are “those of the voter and members of the voter’s immediate family.” “Once that ballot is out of the hands of the elector, we have no idea what happens to it,” they pointed out. “The possibilities are numerous and scary.”
Indeed. In 2018, a political consultant named Leslie McCrae Dowless and seven others were indicted on charges of “scheming to illegally collect, fill in, forge and submit mail-in ballots” to benefit Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris, the Washington Post reported. The fraud was extensive enough that Harris’s 900-vote victory was invalidated by the courts and the race was rerun.
Texas has a long history of intimidation and coercion involving absentee ballots. The abuse of elderly voters is so pervasive that Omar Escobar, the Democratic district attorney of Starr County, Texas, says, “The time has come to consider an alternative to mail-in voting.” Escobar says it needs to be replaced with “something that can’t be hijacked.”
Even assuming that the coronavirus remains a serious health issue in November, there is no reason to abandon in-person voting. A new Heritage Foundation report by Hans von Spakovsky and Christian Adams notes that in 2014, the African nation of Liberia successfully held an election in the middle of the Ebola epidemic. International observers worked with local officials to identify 40 points in the election process that constituted an Ebola transmission risk. Turnout was high, and the United Nations congratulated Liberia on organizing a successful election “under challenging circumstances, particularly in the midst of difficulties posed by the Ebola crisis.”
In Wisconsin recently, officials held that state’s April primary election in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. Voters who did not want to vote in-person, including the elderly, could vote by absentee ballot. But hundreds of thousands of people cast ballots at in-person locations, and overall turnout was high. Officials speculated that a few virus cases “may” have been related to Election Day, but, as AP reported, they couldn’t confirm that the patients “definitely got [COVID-19] at the polls.”
In California, the previous loosening of absentee ballot laws have sent disturbing signals. In 2016, a San Pedro couple found more than 80 unused ballots on top of their apartment-building mailbox. All had different names but were addressed to an 89-year-old neighbor who lives alone in their building. The couple suspected that someone was planning to pick up the ballots, but the couple had intercepted them first. In the same election, a Gardena woman told the Torrance Daily Breeze that her husband, an illegal alien, had gotten a mail-in ballot even though he had never registered.
“I think it’s a huge deal,” she said. “Something is definitely wrong with the system.”
The Los Angeles Times agrees. In a 2018 editorial it blasted the state’s “overly-permissive ballot collection law” as being “written without sufficient safeguards.” The Times concluded that “the law passed in 2106 does open the door to coercion and fraud and should be fixed or repealed.” It hasn’t been.
John Lieberman, a Democrat living in East Los Angeles, wrote in the Los Angeles Daily News that he was troubled by how much pressure a door-to-door canvasser put on him to fill out a ballot for candidate Wendy Carrillo. “What I experienced from her campaign sends chills down my spine,” he said.
What should also spook voters who want an honest election is a report from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. It found that, in 2016, more mail ballots were misdirected to wrong addresses or unaccounted for than the number of votes separating Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. She led by 2.9 million votes, yet 6.5 million ballots were misdirected or unaccounted for by the states.147
It would be the height of folly for other states to follow California’s lead. In the Golden State, it already takes over a month to resolve close elections as mail-in ballots trickle in days and weeks after Election Day. Putting what may be a supremely close presidential election into the hands of a U.S. Postal Service known for making mistakes sounds like a recipe for endless litigation and greatly increased distrust in our democracy.
We feared hospitals would be overwhelmed. Instead, in many states, they’re emptying out and laying off doctors and nurses.
We had to destroy the hospitals to save them.
You could be forgiven for thinking that’s the upshot of the coronavirus lockdowns that have suspended elective surgeries and generally discouraged people from going to hospitals.
Many hospitals are getting pushed near, or over, the financial edge. At a time when we feared that hospitals would get overwhelmed by a surge of patients, they have instead been emptied out. At a time when we thought medical personnel would be at a premium, they are instead being idled all over the country.
We are experiencing an epidemic that bizarrely — and in part because of the choices of policymakers — has created a surfeit of hospital beds and an excess of doctors and nurses.
Not everywhere, of course. Hospitals in New York City and parts of New Jersey have been tested to their limits. But throughout much of the country, hospitals are drastically underutilized, both because states have banned elective procedures and people have been too afraid to show up.
One reason that we didn’t want hospitals to get overrun by COVID-19 patients is that we didn’t want to crowd out everyone else needing care. But, as a deliberate choice, we’ve ended up crowding out many people needing care — even where COVID-19 surges haven’t happened and probably never will.
Drastic measures were called for when the coronavirus hit our shores and began to spread out of control, especially in urban areas particularly susceptible to the pandemic. It is understandable that we wanted hospitals to prepare for the worst, and to preserve and muster equipment necessary to safely care for infected people. Hospitals themselves can become a vector for spread of COVID-19, so keeping away people who didn’t absolutely need to show up was a reasonable impulse.
But this is a case where the cure may be really worse than the disease — or at least has created its own crisis.
Elective surgeries are a major source of revenue for hospitals, which have taken an enormous hit as they have disappeared, often in response to state orders.
West Tennessee Healthcare, based in Jackson, lost $18 million in March after the state prohibited elective surgeries, and furloughed 1,100 out of a 7,000-person staff, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. Summit Healthcare in Arizona expects as much as a 50 percent drop in revenue after the state’s ban on elective surgeries. Philadelphia-based Tower Health, also dealing with a 50 percent drop in revenue, furloughed 1,000 employees out of 14,000.
The examples go on and on and on. Even hospitals in New York State, a center for the virus, are feeling the pinch. Catholic Health and Kaleida Health in Buffalo are furloughing workers. So is Mohawk Valley Health System in Utica, Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, and Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson.
Elective surgeries aren’t necessarily what you think. As a piece in The Atlantic pointed out, they aren’t just knee replacements. They include procedures for serious illnesses such as cancer. A recent New York Times story was headline, “The Pandemic’s Hidden Victims: Sick or Dying, but Not from the Virus.” It led with the story of a Rutgers University professor who couldn’t get treatment for the recurrence of his blood cancer.
As with the lockdowns in general, it’s not clear how much of the reduced traffic in the hospitals has been the result of people changing their behavior on their own based on fear of the virus, and how much has been the result of state edicts. But it’s certainly true that the prohibitions on elective surgeries — more than 30 governors had issued some version of them as of late April — were too clumsy and sweeping, and not geographically selective enough.
Governors in some states are now loosening them up, and it’s time for other governors around the country to follow suit, except in true hot spots. In retrospect, the bans fail the cardinal rule of health care: First, do no harm.
I just got back from Easter Vigil Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican with Pope Francis – because, why not?, when all the livestreaming world is your only option. (“Presided over by the Holy Father in a nearly empty basilica,” the Vatican English language translator, Sister Bernadette, said on the livefeed.) And as I have been for weeks – and years – I was moved by the Holy Father. His homily took us right to the heart of what we’re experiencing. The darkness. The fear. The hesitancy to sing Alleluia!, even though not only is that what is liturgically called for now, as Holy Saturday passes away – and this “Lentiest of Lents” as it has been called, but it is exactly what we need to say and hear and believe with all our hearts.
Or at least that’s where I am.
The pope talked about the women who loved Jesus so. And talked about the women who love Jesus so. As in today. As you may have picked up along the way, I’m friends with many women religious – sisters and nuns – and I happen to know that some of them are as without Mass as anyone right now in these quarantine times. And yet they pour themselves out in prayer still. They are on the phone with people suffering and then-some. (And, women, of course, are not alone in pouring themselves out, reaching out — take the Franciscan friars in the New York metro area who have a hotline for people in need of COVID-19 emergency spiritual care.) I see, too, many mothers post on social media what their families have been doing these past days, really kindling the fires of faith in their domestic churches. They are, as Pope Francis put it, sowing seeds of hope with gestures of love and care and prayer.
Hope is not optimism or empty words when we have nothing else to say or want desperately to make things better. The hope we’re talking about at Easter is a gift from Heaven we could not earn on our own, as Pope Francis put it. Jesus is the giver of this hope, of all hope. Easter is how we can be sure He says with credibility DO NOT BE AFRAID. We acquire, Pope Francis said, at Easter this fundamental right of hope. It’s planted in our hearts. Even from the grave, He brings life. Jesus emerged for us to begin a new story. He can remove the stones in front of our hearts, too. God is faithful. He entered into our pain, anguish, death. He wants His light to penetrate into the darkest corners. Darkness and death do not have the last word. Be strong. Have courage!
Courage, he continued, is not something you can give yourself. You receive it as a gift.
Receive it. Beg to receive it! (I added the second, maybe preaching to myself.)
Ask Jesus: Come to me amid my fears.
With you, Lord, we will be tested but not destroyed.
Nothing can rob us of the love God has for us.
The Lord goes before us, he said, walks ahead of us. Take some consolation in this. That Jesus goes first! Remember we have been lead and loved by God. We are born and reborn.
And we cannot keep this message of hope confined to our churches. It must be brought to everyone. [Conveniently we can’t be in our churches right now….] We who have touched the word of life must give it. Be messengers of life in a time of death! Sing the song of life, silence the cries of death!
He went on to insist on an end to war and abortion.
Fill empty hands.
His words brought me to two streets in Manhattan I haven’t been on for a while now. Margaret Sanger Place, where the flagship Planned Parenthood is and St Patrick’s Cathedral, where Will often sits at the corner, and Patrick right outside Saks Fifth Avenue across the street. Where are they? Do they have light, as they are light? They sure have shown me hope on days when I was plenty preoccupied and distracted with the world. (Patrick and I hugged just days before things started shutting down. Will such things ever happen again with the new protocols of life?)
This Coronavirus Easter is happening because death too often is our way. Even when we fight it, are we doing so with total light and love?
As he ended his homily at the Easter vigil tonight, Pope Francis said: Cling to Jesus like the women did — Jesus risen.
He offered a prayer: We turn our backs to death and turn to You, O Lord.
What does this mean in a time of Coronavirus? It is still Easter and we cannot go to church! The greatest prayer there is, the Mass, we can’t be physically present for.
It’s a matter for prayer. It’s going to look different for each one of us, according to our roles. We each have our roles, that’s for certain. And it’s a new story today of love renewed.
I once asked the late Cardinal George if the Church was in renewal. It was after the first round of scandals, and I was seeing young people on fire with the faith and giving him all kinds of other examples. He said with a fatherly wisdom that the Church is always in renewal. I see that more and more every day, but especially on account of this damned Coronavirus. It is from hell, and we cannot be paralyzed by it. We cannot stop loving. We cannot stop being and showing hope.
Think and pray about that as you launch into Easter Alleluias – out of tradition and obligation or from the heart. Say it. And pray that you can overwhelm all the world you inhabit with it in the most supernatural ways. That’s the message of Easter for us in a particular way this year: There’s darkness and sickness and death, but that’s not it! That’s never been it! But have we been living as if it is?
My Easter prayers for you, whomever you are and whatever you believe.
Peace. Courage. Hope!
Someday, someone will tell the real story of how the COVID-19 crisis came to be. A lot of that will focus on how the Chinese Communists, by keeping the world in the dark about what was happening in Wuhan put everyone at the planet at risk.
They’re the chief villains of the piece – but they’re not the only ones. What the pandemic has done is expose, at least to the American people, how dangerous the ossified, slow to move bureaucracy can be. The way the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hindered the development and distribution of tests and testing equipment until President Donald J. Trump and other members of the coronavirus task force stepped in to cut the red tape is a perfect illustration of the way in large, rule-focused institutions behave in times of crisis.
We can’t afford to let it happen again more than we can allow it to continue now. The president has been tossing out ideas from the White House podium regarding ways the private sector can respond, not only to assist the government in dealing with the crisis but on its own.
That’s a start. There needs to be more free-thinking, especially now that we’re talking about keeping the brakes on the economy for another month. If we’re going to survive, we’re going to have to take risks and be innovative.
It is a puzzlement why, for example, the hospitality industry has not been fully mobilized during the crisis. There are a few hotels in New York City and elsewhere providing free lodging for healthcare workers, but it could do so much more.
Consider the cruise line industry, which has been battered by reports of ships carrying individuals showing symptoms of COVID-19. Many of them have been blocked from entering ports and are instead anchored offshore as the disease spreads. Hundreds of scheduled trips are being canceled by cruise line operators and countless future vacations are being canceled by passengers.
This is potentially ruinous for the industry and has led for calls for an intervention by the government. If we’re thinking innovatively we should be asking how to best utilize ships and crews in danger of being laid up or off to mitigate the spread of the virus. In lieu of a cash bailout, the government might lease the ships and put people to work, helping care either for high-risk populations who have yet to show symptoms of the disease – which will be even easier to do now that 5-minute tests are hitting the market, thanks again to the spirit of free enterprise that is the nation’s hallmark – or turn them into floating hospitals on which those who test positive for the COVID-19 virus can be quarantined.
They wouldn’t have to be at sea. Most American cities, even the ones inland, have ports where they can be berthed. It might require the president or Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to waive the Jones Act for this purpose only so that foreign-flagged cruise ships could move from one coastal or inland U.S. port to another without having to meet the Jones Act requirements of calling at a near foreign or foreign port before doing so.
Cruise line operators should think about converting their assets into floating care centers while they plan for the post-COVID-19 future of the industry. Cruise ships can be quickly, easily, and efficiently converted and operators can work with the coronavirus task force to identify where they’re needed.
If this strategy works, it can be replicated around the world. Cruise ship design allows for ample conversion from leisure to quarantined accommodations for patients, one to a cabin, including cabins for doctors, nurses, and orderlies. There is ample additional on-board public space to convert to fully functioning hospital use, triage, and nurses’ stations. These vessels feature have state of the art communications centers, have power plants and climate control and industrial kitchens, and, most importantly, can be moved from city to city as disease clusters ebb and flow.
The ships are ideal and available as are the crews that currently man them. And a conversion such as proposed here could add additional vital information needed to flatten the curve while helping to mitigate risk while scientists and immunologists learn more about the disease, find ways to cure it and race toward a vaccine at lightning speed.
Cruise ships can play a vital role in providing a viable alternative for the COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patient population as needed. Either way, cruise ships and crew that are not operating because of the current crisis are a potential resource that ought to be considered when we’re looking for ways to deal with what we know will be a sudden but hopefully temporary influx of sick people that threatens to overwhelm the healthcare system as currently organized.
The British author Joanne Rowling of the fantasy series Harry Potter has introduced the Dementors in Harry Potter and the Prisoners of Azbakan. These hooded humanoid characters have been depicted in the movies as skeletal figures with the ability to fly unconstrained by the laws of physics. They are the prison guards of Azbakan whose task is to create utter hopelessness and even suicidal self-hatred by the inmates. Their destructive energy can be spread like a virus through the air and also by invisible, yet direct contacts with humans. Arabella Figg, a character in OP8 describes them thus: “Everything went cold….and I felt…as though all happiness had gone from the world…and I remembered….dreadful things.”
Viktor Orban’s Hungary is Joanne Rowlings’s Azbakan and the metastasizing fatal cancerous tumor gnawing on the body politic of NATO and the European Union. He and his very small circle of co-conspirators, better defined as his accomplices in setting up and running his criminal enterprise, are the Dementors of the Hungarian people.
Since his party FIDESZ has been brought back to power by a two thirds majority in the Parliament in 2010, and have been kept in power through a new and taylor made constitution as well as election frauds in 2014 and 2018, Viktor Orban has had a deliberate plan to kill every aspect of Hungary’s fledgling democracy. His diabolical legal and extra legal schemes of demoralization of the population have been designed to reduce the entire nation to profligate imbecility. His so-called “illiberal democracy” has stripped the citizens of their chance to vote out his government by free elections devoid of voter fraud, ballot stuffing, and the forced inclusion of ethnic Hungarians in the local and national elections from the neighboring countries.
His and his accomplices shameful corruption has impoverished Hungary and has kept the bulk of the nation as near to abject poverty as seemed appropriate for a modicum of societal tranquility. Politically, Viktor Orban has pursued a host of tactical opportunities that has aimed at propping up his autocracy. His means have included every conceivable move, including cozying up to dictators from the east, such as the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Russia, Valdimir Putin, and a colorful assortment of really nasty authoritarians from the former Soviet Union. Domestically, the tactics that Viktor Orban has employed have been drastic. He and his accomplices have ruined the health industry and destroyed almost the entire educational system. As a result, most of the experienced physicians and qualified nurses have left Hungary, and teachers have lost their jobs in the thousands. Thus, the difference between the general condition of Hungary now and the days before 1990, is one of degree, the latter state might have been better than the former.
Yet, no economic decline or financial troubles appear to rattle the consciousness of Hungary’s Dementors. As in Rowlings’s masterpiece, Viktor Orban and his accomplices possess no soul and know no mercy. Stealing and embezzlement are continuing unabated. His boyhood body from his home village Lorinc Meszaros and his son in law Istvan Tiborcz have become billionaires. Clearly, they are Viktor Orban’s premier Strohmen. His previous financial guru Lajos Simicska fell out of favor years ago, because he became too powerful and knew too much about Viktor Orban’s and his accomplices’s shenanigans. For his alleged and actual sins, Simicska was destroyed as a businessman and completely ruined financially.
A lot already has been written about Hungary’s new emergency legislation due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to giving unlimited powers to Viktor Orban both in scope and duration, the legislation eliminates every vestige of democracy, freedom, independence, and individuality. Again, as in Rowlings’s masterpiece, Hungarians have been relegated to zombie existence. This condition will not change until Viktor Orban and his criminal gang continue to possess absolute powers.
Adding insult to injury, the European Union has never taken decisive actions against Hungary. However, if Brussels does not intervene, Viktor Orban will continue to weaken the cohesion of the organization. The founding values of the European Union are at stake. More importantly, he is not entirely alone. The states of the former Soviet bloc, with few exceptions, are as corrupt, if not even more, than Viktor Orban’s Hungary.
The United States of America has not fared better against Hungary than the European Union. The current administration has sent to Budapest an amateur whose understanding of Hungary is near zero. His only dubious accomplishment is that he has made a fool of himself by becoming the lapdog of Viktor Orban. In this manner, the White House and the State Department have been deprived of objective and unbiased information about the situation in Hungary. Clearly, Viktor Orban represents a very serious threat to NATO as well as the European Union. The time is running out for corrective actions. The Hungarian people are getting more and more desperate. The possibility of a bloody upheaval against VIktor Orban’s autocracy is real. To prevent it should be high priority for Brussels and for Washington too.
The Jones Act Webinar is part of WJLA-TV’s Government Matters series on “Sea-Air-Space 2020 Virtual Edition.” It will include Frontiers of Freedom Senior Fellow, the Honorable Ernest Istook, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2007 and is currently teaching at Brigham Young University.
The Host will be Francis Rose. Topics will include: What is the Jones Act? Why is it both a commercial and national security issue? What are common misconceptions about the Jones Act? How does it work? How does China and its “One Belt, One Road” plan play into this issue?
If you are in the Washington DC metro area, you can watch the program on WJLA 24/7 News (formerly NewsChannel 8). If you are anywhere else you can watch it at FedInsider.com.
It will be broadcast on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time.
Former Vice President Joe Biden continues his presidential campaign from Delaware in the era of the Wuhan coronavirus by conducting remote interviews from a home studio.
Biden however, whose candidacy has survived slip-ups seemingly every month on the trail still appears forgetful and frail from the comfort of his own home. While the pressures of on-the-ground campaigning are temporarily gone, the same Biden we’ve seen for much of the last year is not.
On Monday, Biden once again refreshed concerns about the Democratic frontrunner’s age and aptitude at 77 years old to win the White House in November, offering a nonsensical jumbled word salad on MSNBC with notes in his lap.
Here’s what Biden said:
Boy those very high numbers have to do at least several things. One, we have to depend on what the president’s going to do right now, and first of all he has to… tell… wait til the cases before anything happens. Look, the whole idea is, he’s got to get in place things that were shortages of.
Biden’s Monday clip comes just a week after Biden seemed to have thrown in the towel on being articulate as he has become the likely Democratic nominee.
During an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday, Biden trailed off and looked defeated after mixing up his words again prompting an awkward silence on air.
“We have never, never, never, failed to respond to a crisis as a people, and I tell you what, I’m so darn proud. Those poor people who have…” Biden said before realizing what he actually said. “Anyway…”
Last week, Biden was also caught coughing while denying he had any symptoms of the Wuhan virus.
At one point on CNN, Jake Tapper directed Biden to cough into his arm as advised by public health officials.
“You know, you’re supposed to cough into your elbow… I learned that actually covering your White House,” Tapper said.
“Fortunately I’m alone in my home, but that’s okay,” Biden said.
In the last Democratic debate between Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who remains the final major competitor in the race, Biden also opened up with a cough to answer a question about the Wuhan virus.
So what is going on with Joe Biden?
As we ponder our suddenly isolated lives, we begin searching for some benefits which may come from it all – besides, of course, the major value if we escape catching a very unpleasant disease. Some things are happening which can easily become a trend. The most obvious is the notable increase in online shopping. This was already a trend, but it may be significantly accelerated by this crisis, as a whole new population tries shopping online for the first time. The same is true of home delivery, which is a major requirement of home shopping. What is happening now, however, is the sudden spread of delivery services for restaurants and grocery stores, which started, to be sure, before this pandemic was even thought of. Nevertheless, we are seeing a major up-tick in food delivery services.
The same can be said of distance education. Never in a hundred years would public schools have participated in the development and internet delivery of K-12 schooling on a voluntary basis. The “shelter-in-place” along with the closing of so many schools has forced their hand. Once they have experience with teacher-assisted home schooling, however, they may take steps in that direction, certainly urged on by parents, especially in rural and inner city areas. It reminds us of the grand ideas of the early pioneers of educational TV who had the same idea. While they had limited success with classroom based television, it was not enough to impact the roles and structure of the school. It will be interesting to see whether this crisis ends up affecting real changes.
Working from home is a similar example. Futurist Alvin Toffler wrote in his 1970 book, Future Shock, that the time would come when electronically-enabled communication would lead to work-from-home employment on such a scale that it would eventually lead to solving the problems of overpopulation in the major cities. People would have the preference of living wherever they wished, which, he predicted, would often be smaller towns, cities, and farms – and that was before the internet! In the fifty years since, the technology has appeared and so has work-from-home, though not to the extent of lessening the population of cities. Perhaps the combination of the “green movement” and the pandemic will move Toffler’s vision along toward fulfillment.
Speaking of overpopulation of cities, what is the major complaint of city-dwellers? In most of urban America, the most frequent complaint is the traffic and the difficulty of getting from place to place. One effect of this concentration of commerce is the continually escalating cost of housing. The costs of housing gradually displace workers from housing altogether and causes the homeless problems that are found in many large cities. Certainly, Toffler’s solution would alleviate the problems as well as decrease CO2 emissions that the climate movement is so worried about. A lot of people are experiencing work-from-home for the first time, as are managers and business owners. There may be some changes made.
Needles to say, the cost of living in many US areas acts as a constant pressure affecting many social trends. For example, the high cost of living necessitates many families’ need to have two wage earners in any family, especially those with children. Parents who might prefer staying home to be firsthand observers of their children’s growing up do not have that choice. Non-farmer fathers had to give up that privilege centuries ago, mothers for the past 50 years or so. An employment situation which radically reduced the need to work in an office or factory would allow employees to choose places to live with substantially lower cost of living and therefore offer more personal choices of lifestyle and how to spend their time.
One impact of a work-from-home economy would involve a wider use of the technologies which already exist, which in turn would spur an even greater round of innovation and discovery. Home productivity might even divert some of our greatest talent away from t=weapons and into education, medicine and other peaceful pursuits. Free time also is a great stimulant to creativity. Wouldn’t it be great to spend our commuter time on something more productive, maybe even fun?
Then there is the whole idea of community. So much of people’s lives today is spent in self-imposed isolation. For example, it is now an American custom for adult children to “leave the nest”, frequently to live alone, some for the rest of their lives. Gone are the times when large families lived under one roof for a large portion of their lives. Traditionally, Americans have viewed separation from parents as a need for personal freedom — from domineering parents, usually. But “it ain’t necessarily so”, as the song says. In other cultures, multi-generational households have survived and thrived. Loneliness, the scourge of modern times, is one problem they didn’t have. How many of the “Lone Killer” headlines have we seen in recent years?
Already, the “shelter-in-place” requirement is opening people to re-discover neighbors. Stories are beginning to surface of new relationships and alliances forming among friends, family and strangers. If, as a matter of course, we had more leisure time, perhaps we could spend some of it closer to home and come to appreciate the opportunities which surround us. In our current lifestyle, what is the most precious thing we have? That we never have enough of? The answer many people give to this question is “time”. We have been taught to work hard and long. “The last one to leave” the office or the shop is looked upon with admiration. Maybe that would and should change as we move more and more into a digital age.
It is true that technology has revolutionized communications. But perhaps the next wave will concentrate more on meaningful technologies for person-to-person interaction. Those technologies already exist – the videophone, Zoom and Skype and others – but to date they have not truly penetrated the consumer market. That may change.
In fact, this current forced quasi-imprisonment may contribute to a lot of changes – some perhaps of major benefit to us all!
Dear Majority Leader McConnell:
Many Americans share concern for the cost of medicine, particularly our country’s seniorcitizens. And President Trump has rightly called out “foreign freeloaders” whose government monopoly health systems drastically underpay for (American-developed) pharmaceuticals. However, most of the proposals go about addressing this matter not only in the wrong way, but in highly destructive ways.
Conservatives for Property Rights (CPR) is a coalition of organizations representing millions of Americans. CPR emphasizes the central importance of private property in all its forms — physical, personal, and intellectual. The right to private property ranks among the unalienable rights the Founders referenced in the Declaration of Independence, and patents and copyrights are the only rights for which the U.S. Constitution itself provides. As you appreciate, we should not harm our patent-centric research and development sectors by gutting their property rights.
While Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s H.R. 3 is the most radical and destructive of the “drug pricing” legislation, CPR wants to make perfectly clear that the Senate Finance Committee’s Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act is also very harmful and destructive. In no way is S.2543 any sort of “compromise” or “middle-ground” alternative. This bill passed committee by a majority of liberal Democratic votes; fewer than half the majority Senators voted for it. Notably, S. 2543 does zero to remedy “foreign freeloading.” CPR regards S. 2543 as unacceptable and urges all Senators to oppose this bill.
Of this measure’s provisions harmful to America’s leadership in pharmaceutical innovation (and thus harmful to American patients), perhaps most egregious is the inflationary penalty price control mechanism. This price control would impose a confiscatory excise tax on earnings when a Medicare medication in Parts B or D exceeds the inflation rate. Such an unpredictable, disruptive government price control would wreak havoc in drug R&D, injecting much uncertainty into and causing significant loss of R&D funding from the pharmaceutical innovation process.
Conservatives for Property Rights strongly opposes the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Actand urges Senators to reject this counterproductive legislation.
James Edwards, Executive Director, Conservatives for Property Rights
Seton Motley, President, Less Government
George Landrith, President, Frontiers of Freedom
Dick Patten, President, Campaign for Liberty
Jenny Beth Martin, Honorary Chairman, Tea Party Patriots Action
Jim Martin, Founder/Chairman, 60 Plus Association
Kevin L. Kearns, President, U.S. Business & Industry Council
C. Person Noell III, President, Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.
Tom DeWeese, President, American Policy Center
Tim Andrews, Executive Director, Taxpayers Protection Alliance
Ed Martin, President, Phyllis Schlafly Eagles
Matthew Kandrach, President, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy
Saulius “Saul” Anuzis, President, 60 Plus Association
California governor Gavin Newsom on Friday announced his state spending plan to extend health care coverage to illegal immigrants who are seniors under California’s Medi-Cal program, a part of his most recent effort for statewide health care coverage.
“The Budget also moves the state toward universal coverage and furthers cost containment goals by expanding full-scope Medi-Cal coverage to low-income undocumented Californians aged 65 and above,” Newsom’s office wrote in a statement.
During his tenure, Newsom has proven his commitment to spend taxpayer money on partisan agendas. Last July, California expanded Medi-Cal coverage for low-income illegal immigrants between the ages of 19 and 26 after expanding coverage in 2016 for all children under the age of 18, including minors who are illegal immigrants. In October, Newsom signed a bill to force all public university campuses to provide abortion pills for students.
Medi-Cal is funded by the state as well as the federal government, but federal funds do not cover the cost of health carefor illegal immigrants so the taxpayer-funded coverage will come from the state’s pocket.
Knowledge can be found at all ages, and in all places. And ethics has nothing to do with degrees or pedigrees.
The Washington Post recently published a surprising indictment of MSNBC host, Stanford graduate, and Rhodes scholar Rachel Maddow.
Post media critic Erik Wemple wrote that Maddow deliberately misled her audience by claiming the now-discredited Steele dossier was largely verifiable — even at a time when there was plenty of evidence that it was mostly bogus.
At the very time Maddow was reassuring viewers that Christopher Steele was believable, populist talk radio and the much-criticized Fox News Channel were insisting that most of Steele’s allegations simply could not be true. Maddow was wrong. Her less-degreed critics proved to be right.
In 2018, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), and the committee’s then-ranking minority member, Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), each issued contrasting reports of the committee’s investigation into allegations of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign team and the misbehavior of federal agencies.
Schiff’s memo was widely praised by the media. Nunes’s report was condemned as rank and partisan.
Many in the media went further. They contrasted Harvard Law graduate Schiff with rural central Californian Nunes to help explain why the clever Schiff got to the bottom of collusion and the “former dairy farmer” Nunes was “way over his head” and had “no idea what’s going on.”
Recently, the nonpartisan inspector general of the Department of Justice, Michael Horowitz, found widespread wrongdoing at the DOJ and FBI. He confirmed the key findings in the Nunes memo about the Steele dossier and its pernicious role in the FISA application seeking a warrant against former Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page.
In contrast, much of what the once-praised Schiff had claimed to be true was proven wrong by Horowitz — from Schiff’s insistence that the FBI verified the Steele dossier to his assertion that the Department of Justice did not rely chiefly on the dossier for its warrant application.
When special counsel Robert Mueller formed an investigatory team, he stocked it with young, progressive Washington insiders, many with blue-chip degrees and résumés.
The media swooned. Washington journalists became giddy over the prospect of a “dream team” of such “all-stars” who would demolish the supposedly far less impressively credentialed Trump legal team.
We were assured by a snobbish Vox: “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s legal team is full of pros. Trump’s team makes typos.”
Yet after 22 months and $32 million worth of investigation, Mueller’s team found no Russian collusion and no evidence of actionable Trump obstruction during the investigation of that non-crime. All the constant media reports that “bombshell” Mueller team disclosures were imminent and that the “walls are closing in” on Trump proved false.
Mueller himself testified before Congress, only to appear befuddled and almost clueless at times about his own investigation. Many of his supposedly brightest all-stars, such as Lisa Page, Peter Strzok, and Kevin Clinesmith, had to leave his dream team due to unethical behavior.
In contrast, Trump’s widely derided chief lawyers — 69-year-old Ty Cobb, 78-year-old John Dowd, and 63-year-old radio and TV host Jay Sekulow — stayed out of the headlines. They advised Trump to cooperate with the Mueller team and systematically offered evidence and analyses to prove that Trump did not collude with the Russian to warp the 2016 election. In the end, Mueller’s “hunter-killer team” was forced to agree.
When the supposed clueless Trump was elected, a number of elites pronounced his economic plans to be absurd. We were told that Trump was bound to destroy the U.S. economy.
Former Princeton professor and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman insisted that Trump would crash the stock market. He even suggested that stocks might never recover.
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said Trump would bring on a recession within a year and a half.
The former head of the National Economic Council, Steven Rattner, predicted a market crash of “historic proportions.”
In contrast, many of Trump’s economic advisers during his campaign and administration, including outsider Peter Navarro, pundit Steven Moore, former TV host Larry Kudlowm and octogenarian Wilbur Ross, were caricatured.
Yet three years later, in terms of the stock market, unemployment, energy production and workers’ wages, the economy has been doing superbly.
The point of these sharp contrasts is not that an Ivy League degree or a Washington reputation is of little value, or that prestigious prizes and honors account for nothing, or even that supposed experts are always unethical and silly.
Instead, one lesson is that conventional wisdom and groupthink tend to mislead, especially in the age of online echo chambers and often sheltered and blinkered elite lives.
We forget that knowledge can be found at all ages, and in all places. And ethics has nothing to do with degrees or pedigrees.
As we look around at the Christmas decorations, programs, ceremonies, shopping, cards, greetings and the whole Christmas season, what messages do we get? What does it all mean?
Clearly, something unusual and good is in the air. People seem friendlier, parties and benefits are everywhere. Charities, soap kitchens, and the Salvation Army are busier than usual.
When we think of the origin of Christmas, we realize that it began as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Today, however, it is possible to go through the entire Christmastime without ever hearing that name. Many children are taught that the central figure of Christmas is Santa Claus on his mission of kindness and goodwill.
So, what about this Jesus Christ? Is he still important, even relevant?
Well, we know he must be important if much of the world still celebrates his birthday which happened two millennia ago. With a little research, we can discover that much of the world still belongs to the organization he founded, namely, the Christian church in its many variations.
Why? Why is this man’s influence still felt after so many centuries?
That is a harder question to answer. And there are many answers, some officially pronounced by church authorities, some by individuals. Ultimately, each person must give his/her own answer.
This is my answer.
Christians believe that Jesus Christ was God-come-to-earth, God’s creation of the perfect man. That idea has a richness that confirms our value as human beings, because “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”, as John’s gospel tells us. In Jesus, we have been given a vision of the perfect human being, the assurance that such a being CAN exist in spite of all the evil and pettiness we see around us. The coming of Jesus calls us all to a higher version of ourselves, a better self. The coming of Jesus set the standard of human behavior much higher than it had been before. All of us have our failures as human beings, but the fact of Jesus Christ allows us to better understand when we fail and gives us hope that we – and other people, as well — can do better, can be more like the Christ.
Then there is his story. We have only pieces of his story — bio-sketches in the gospels, along with some of his key teachings. Some of the things that happened in that story are fundamentally shocking.
He could have come to earth as Superman, but he didn’t. He came as a helpless little baby. He chose to be born poor – not the first choice of most of us. He worked his way up in the world by his words, backed up by his works – both of which were extraordinary.
He chose peaceful rebellion instead of military force. He forgave his enemies. He called everyone his brother (or sister). And he worked miracles on occasion to demonstrate that he had the power to do otherwise but chose kindness and mercy rather than violence and force.
So, they killed him. But then he did the most spectacular deed of all: he rose from the dead!
Therein lie the lessons of the perfect man: powerful yet humble, peaceful yet killed by violence, defeated yet triumphant, defining victory as resurrection rather than domination. His message is an interpretation of human life at odds with everything the world teaches us about a successful life. It is a call to become a better person.
The transcendent lesson however is pretty clear: We are all going to die. What will matter then is how we lived. How closely to that perfect human being have we been able to become?
Christmas celebrates the coming of God to earth, to us. It is a thrilling realization that this event happened, this event that brings hope and joy and forgiveness into our lives and gives us a vision of the mountain top from which we can launch our own resurrection. If God so loved us, then we are all worth loving, we all can love fearlessly, completely and happily.
We celebrate and give each other gifts as a recognition of God’s love for each of us, of your value as a person loved by God and loved by me – a value which was revealed once and for all on the day that God sent his Son to be born in a manger in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago
So, yes, Christmas is still relevant in 2018.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!