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Life Expectancy in the US has dropped a median of 2 years since March 2020. Over a million Americans have died of COVID. We are doing worse than most other advanced nations as a result of the former guy’s mismanagement. None but me dare call it treason.


COVID-19 was one of the top three causes of mortality in the US and number one in ages 40-54, according to a study of the leading causes of death during the eighteen months starting in March 2020 and ending in October 2021. Out of six million total deaths, over a million were ascribed to COVID. Among the most significant findings:

“Among people who were 85 or older, COVID-19 was the second leading cause of death during the first 9 months and the third leading cause during the second 9 months.”

“Among middle-aged people (age range, 45–54), COVID-19 was the fourth leading cause of death during the first 9 months and the top cause of death during the second 9 months.”

“For every age group from 1 to 44, accidental death was the top cause of death for both time periods.”

So, during the period January-October 2021, the leading cause of death among middle-aged people was COVID-19; accidental deaths outnumbered COVID deaths among younger people. The deaths among those 45 to 54 are partly related to the low uptake of coronavirus vaccines in this age group.

Only 56% of all adults in the US were fully vaccinated by October 2021. The other big cause of mortality was poor compliance with mask-wearing among the middle-aged population (this is my anecdotal opinion.)

Vaccine rates among the elderly have been as high as 92-95%, which helps to account for their dropping death rates from infection despite their poor immune systems and high death rates once infected. Uptake rates among younger adults ranged between 70 to 65%.

That’s good rates, especially among the elderly, but it’s not enough. Experts have estimated that vaccine rates of over 90% are needed to really arrest a pandemic as contagious as COVID. As a result, COVID was the leading cause of death among those 45-54 during January-October 2021. Why has the vaccine not gotten universal acceptance among the young and middle-aged?

One answer is that there is a concerted disinformation campaign by a large group of vaccine deniers, especially on social media and through lawsuits to prevent mandatory masking and shots. Content on social media comes from the opinions, ramblings, and delusions of uninformed people– there is no special emphasis on the opinions of people who really know what they are talking about.

The opinions of those who really understand the underlying science and the hard numbers are not given any platform or special emphasis. Instead, the opinions of ignoramus types are equally represented without any information about whom to believe.

The former guy was a master at exploiting the lack of emphasis on informed opinion on Twitter, for example. He used Twitter and Facebook to spread lies that minimized the risk, failed to push the population to set themselves on a war footing against COVID, boosted useless or dangerous remedies like hydroxychloroquine and bleach injections, denigrated experts like Dr. Fauci, ridiculed masks (and lied that they didn’t work) and on and on.

The former guy could have made a public media event out of getting his vaccinations, but he didn’t– he did it in secret. All the other presidents publicly got their shots and made sure the media was informed.

If you looked in the right place, you could find the warning that everyone should get his shots as soon as possible, and everyone should wear a mask in public. But that information was not emphasized in a consistent way– it should have been presented to all users as soon as they signed in on the web sites. At best, some of the gross disinformation was treated with a tepid warning box that linked to accurate information.

Only the worst of lies about COVID was removed by Twitter “censors”, and even then, the work was spotty and incomplete.

Why didn’t Twitter (for example) put up information boxes for everyone to see first every time they signed on? Before they were exposed to disinformation from all sides?

There are so many simple things that could have been done, that would have made things better. Another example would have been if the former guy took the initiative in March 2020: if he had told everyone to wear masks and took the time to walk around in public with a mask on. Masks would have obviated the need to close down all the schools for so long (another disruptive move, which has resulted in massive losses in education levels.)

That one failure, to promote mask wearing, dramatically worsened the spread of COVID throughout the US. Some countries are accustomed to wearing masks in public (Korea and Japan, for example) and they have had much better experiences with COVID, even without sufficient vaccines. We should have had a big campaign to make masks popular, fashionable, and even de rigueur, led by the President, who should have worn a mask everywhere, even while giving speeches.

Hindsight is 20/20, but we can learn from our mistakes. We can get our shots and wear masks all the time in public. We are facing a potential spike in COVID-19 Omicron B.5 this winter, and the new vaccine just approved by the FDA could arrest it– but only if everyone gets their shots. The only difference with Omicron that we know for sure is that it is much more contagious than the original coronavirus– making cloth masks obsolete and N-95 respirators de rigueur. (sorry, no references at hand for the differences between old and new.)

Remember that the more people who get COVID infections, even if they are mild, the more chances the virus has to mutate into a more infectious and more efficient predator. Minimizing the total number of infections is extremely important, even among the very young (who are efficient spreaders because they usually have mild disease and interact with many other children.)

I have an appointment on September 15 to get my fourth vaccine– this time against Omicron. I urge you to do the same, and if your primary series isn’t complete, get that out of the way (although the new shot, given twice, should substitute for the primary series of shots. Sorry, I can’t make the rules about things like that.)

photo by anastasia gepp courtesy of

If you think we’re in trouble now, read this: drone of unspecified origin shot down over Taiwanese-owned island by Taiwanese defense forces after repeatedly buzzing the island


Taiwan’s defences shot down a drone over a Taiwan-owned island after it ignored several warnings and repeatedly buzzed the island. The drone’s origin has not been specified by either the Taiwanese or Chinese governments.

We suspect that the drone’s controllers were of Chinese origin, but it doesn’t matter: this is one of the earliest examples of shooting in the brewing Taiwan-China war.

A two-front war analogous to World War Two would severely tax America’s resources. Asia now has vastly more technological and production resources than ever it did in the second world war, which ended in a peace overwhelmingly in American and Soviet victory, with the English suffering the second after the French and Dutch the first, not counting Poland and Czechoslovakia, which were not war but armed seizures after a treaty agreed upon by two aggressive, fascistic, and militaristic countries.

I could go on, but the point is, the second world war never ended anything because it allowed for fascist countries like the Soviets and Spain to prevail.

Now the two biggest fascist countries in the world (I think) are China and Russia. Open conflict between us and them is more a certainty than a likelihood, in my humble opinion. We’d better define the lines of conflict between nations: which side are you on? Two Scandinavian countries have already answered in the affirmative by applying for NATO membership.

guns photo by Tumisu via

The Law of Unintended Consequences in action: 30 foot high border wall causes hundreds of serious or fatal injuries in people climbing over it.


The former guy is notorious, for among many other things, for building a 30 foot high “unscalable” border wall in places along the US-Mexico border. He had 52 miles of new wall built and supervised raising of portions of the 649-mile wall already in place as of 2011. From Wikipedia:

 In May 2011, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated that it had 649 miles (1,044 km) of barriers in place.[4]An additional 52 miles of primary barriers were built during Donald Trump’s presidency.[5] The total length of the national border is 1,954 miles (3,145 km). On July 28th 2022, the Biden Administration announced it would fill four wide gaps in Arizona near Yuma, an area with some of the busiest corridors for illegal crossings.[6]

If you want to go around the fence, you might try the mountains or the desert– fifty miles of empty land, finally touching a road on the Totono-O’odham Reservation.

The wall/fence was initially proposed by a Republican Congressman in 2005, who wanted a fence along the entire border. An “electronic fence” was proposed and tested, but apparently never really got off the ground; it was administered by Boeing Corporation, which had “numerous delays and cost overruns” (you could say that about almost every project ever conceived.) The next year, a law was passed and money was appropriated for fencing along about 700 miles of border. Mexico, Central American countries, and even the Mayor of the City of Laredo vociferously objected.

Nonetheless, President Obama announced in May 2011 that the wall was “basically complete.” He said (again, from Wikipedia):

We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement. All the stuff they asked for, we’ve done. But … I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time. They’ll want a higher fence. Maybe they’ll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat.[a] They’ll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That’s politics.[4]

Inevitably, the former guy, engineering and construction genius that he is, demanded that the wall be raised and extended. An entirely new type of “wall”– an open grid of steel bollards 30 feet high in places and with anti-climbing features– was designed and began to be built. It ran into “numerous delays and cost overruns” but construction continued until the last day of the former guy’s presidency.

One of the former guy’s ex-aides participated in a $30 fund-raising fraud advertising “more wall” to the right-wing faithful. He was caught and prosecuted, but surprise, surprise, he was pardoned by the former guy.

Coyotes soon figured out that a battery-powered saw could cut through the bollard in a few minutes (anecdotal information.) A number of locations have had to be repaired after “doors” were cut into them.

The simplest solution, a taller ladder for climbing, was even more popular. This inevitably led to people falling off of ladders and being injured from dropping thirty feet to the ground on the other side. Some people were even killed in this maneuver.

Don’t believe me? Check out this article from a medical ‘zine: “A Trauma Team’s Nightmare: Six Border Wall Fall Patients in Six Hours.” The article says: “Just from Jan. 1 to July 31, [Scripps] Mercy reported treating 141 patients and UCSD [both of San Diego, 25 miles north of the border and the biggest trauma centers in the area] reported 159, putting them on track to beat prior years’ wall-fall counts.”

That’s three hundred people who fell from the wall, survived, and had injuries serious enough to be transferred to trauma centers in seven months. At two trauma centers 25 miles from the west end of the border– never mind the ones further east. Aside from the human toll in serious (possibly disabling) injury and death, there’s the economic injury: none of these patients, including a few with half million dollar bills, had no way to pay either out of pocket or through insurance of any kind.

So the idea of a “great, big, beautiful wall” has become another nightmare for refugees trying to flee disintegrating countries, poverty, heat, drought, and hunger. Such wonderful people we are. Why could we not have seen that an “electronic wall” would be less intrusive, avoid injuries, and provide pictures of everyone who crossed over day and night?

No fence is unclimbable. Has no one ever thought that we need these immigrants for our economy? Has it never occurred to anyone that some of these people will be going to Canada as the world heats up even further?

[Note on the above text: there is overt and implied sarcasm in the comments expressed here. For instance, the former president is referred to as “the former guy” thanks to President Biden’s characterization of him early in his presidency, and this term is widely used.]

photo by Queven courtesy of

The former guy says that, if he is indicted, the protests will make January 6 “look small by comparison.” Nice country you got there– shame if somebody should burn it down. This is Mafia-talk for overt extortion.


I think I’m going to throw up. I am so disgusted by the mob mentality, criminality and sheer chutzpah of this guy. He’s basically extorting the Department of Justice to get out of a felony: removal, concealment, and/or destruction of presidential papers, plus multiple counts of obstruction– of which he is so guilty, I, as a non-lawyer, could probably prosecute him successfully. He was caught red-handed with classified documents in his personal desk on August 8 of this year.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a quote from an email that the Atlantic sent me: “According to Rolling Stone, he’s also told numerous people that should he be indicted, the protests would make January 6 “look small by comparison.” Which is pretty chilling, given, y’know, what happened on January 6.”

All I would have to do is call an FBI agent as my only witness: “Did you search the personal desk of #45 pursuant to this search warrant?” “Yes I did.” “What did you find in the desk?” “These documents, and an empty can of Diet Coke.” “Would you hold them up please?” He does so. “Ladies and gentleman of the jury, you can plainly see that these documents have cover sheets marked Top Secret. I’m sorry that I can’t show you the actual documents until you get a security clearance, which could take three months. In the meantime, I rest my case.”

Should take about an hour, including lunch, to come back with a verdict of “guilty.”

Then there’s Senator Graham, who said there’d be “rioting in the streets.” He’s not wrong, but jeez, is that fully disgusting or what? Go ahead, riot all you want, we’ll pick you up later after going through the security camera footage and using Face Identification.

If we have to try 40% of the adult population of this country for insurrection, then we’ll just have to gird up our loins and do our duty. Plea bargain for probation works for me, but remember, to accept a guilty plea, the judge will make you get up in open court and admit that you did it and you knew it was against the law at the time. Otherwise, it’s a month in jail even if you plead no contest.

Remember, “none dare call it treason” in the mainstream media. But I digress. You can read between the lines, can’t you? Anyone with a high-school education that included a class on ethical behavior can see the crimes he’s committed all his life. The Russians were cultivating him as a “useful idiot” since 2007, but the real criming started when he ran for president.

He denied having any business in Russia when he still had an open line on the Trump Tower of Moscow. His campaign manager gave confidential inside campaign information like opinion polls to a known Russian agent. His son had a meeting with known Russian operatives during the campaign and didn’t report it to the FBI. He allowed the Russians to spread anti-Clinton propaganda on Facebook and didn’t even condemn it.

He spilled a secret he had learned from the Israelis to Russian official visitors in the Oval Office– intelligence that forced the Israelis to recover one of their own moles. He never, ever, said or did anything to cross Putin– in fact, he tried to break up NATO. He’s a traitor.

Even worse, he approved of the invasion of Ukraine. Look it up, I’m too disgusted to spend another second on this bum. Just Google “Trump opinion Russian invasion Ukraine” and you’ll get things like this WSJ headline: “Trump Calls Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine Smart, Blames Biden for Not Doing Enough”.

image courtesy of Christian Dorn via

The Civil War is about a regime of forced labor defined in racial terms.


I don’t know where I found the quote that titles this post; it may have come from a comment on a post on the New York Times in the past couple of days. It relates to the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which abolishes slavery, “except as punishment for crime…”

Googling the phrase, I find the first entry to point to the Wex legal dictionary maintained by Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute and the term “slavery.”

This tome (a Wiktionary-like legal dictionary) states, and I quote (bolding is mine):

“Slavery is the practice of forced labor and restricted liberty. It is also a regime where one class of people – the slave owners – could force another – the slaves – to work and limit their liberty. Throughout history, some forms of slavery existed as punishment for committing crimes or to pay off debts. In the United States, individuals were forced into slavery, born into slavery, and were slaves for life based on their race. Slaves were recognized as [objects or property] of the slave owners. Slavery was widely accepted worldwide, and many countries gained their capital from the practice of slavery [capitalism, you see, is a major feature of slavery], especially from the triangular trade among Europe, Africa, and America. The United States abolished slavery through the 13th Amendment after the Civil War [actually at the very end of the Civil War; Lincoln delayed peace negotiations with the South by a day to ensure that the Amendment would pass the House after triumphing in the Senate– see the recent movie “Lincoln”]. While the practice of slavery is no longer legal, it still does exist. According to the 18 U.S. Code § 1583, individuals may be fined or be imprisoned for life if they kidnap, carry away, or use any other method to hold someone against their will.”

Note that the concept of forced labor is paired with restricted liberty (as well as lack of personal or bodily autonomy.) Also note that the practice is “no longer legal”, which I assume means in the USA and most other countries– surely there are a few countries that do not explicitly outlaw slavery. Also note that you may be imprisoned for life under federal law if you try to perpetrate this crime– perhaps fitting for this transgression.

Restricted liberty means no freedom to travel beyond a certain boundary. Here we mean the household or institution within which the victim is confined.

The definition of slavery, therefore, includes the lack of “freedom to travel.” This point will, I’m sure, be litigated by our revanchist Supreme Court in the near future unless somebody does something about it.

This is because the same forces which want to prevent abortion within certain states are fully aware that a woman can, if she has the means, travel out of state to obtain the procedure if abortion clinics within the state are forced to close. The practice of abortion within the home will also become a target of opportunity for these antilibertarian authorities.

We of the imaginary Democratic Republican Party must band together to make sure that abortion is safe, legal, and rare. We can only do this by ensuring that the State encourages and supports contraception for all who wish to avoid conception– thus the proposal, recently voted in the House with zero Republican support, to legalize contraception by statute rather than depending on the Supreme Court’s fickle good graces.

I would suggest that President Biden use reconciliation to pass contraception in the Senate, since there is little else he can do with the power of the majority and it would make a popular symbolic shot at the Republicans, sure to win votes this fall. Let them try to overturn that law if they get a majority (which so far seems likely.)

By the same token, we must also fully support the growth, development, and especially education of children, and ensure that those who do not have parents able and willing to care for them are fully supported and educated to the greatest extent that they are able to learn (not just in school but throughout life.) We must also encourage the freedom to travel, to the extent possible, for all citizens and residents, legal and illegal, of our great United States.

photo by Dkadume courtesy of

Following the beaten path, or “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”


I have been posting on this site/blog since, I think, 2011. At first, I published mostly photographs, since that is my area of special expertise as an avocation. Once I had published most of my good photographs, I started writing general pieces covering everything that interested me.

To date, after posting 2,291 times, I have a list of 173 people who have requested email notifications of new posts but only two or three reads each for most of them. That, I would say, is an unmitigated failure if my criterion were the number of people I have reached. However, my actual criterion for success is whether I have enjoyed doing it, and there it has been resounding.

Notably, over the time I have been blogging, the number of people who do that (blog) has increased many-fold, with inevitable division of the audience for each individual site.

So, there is that.

Unfortunately for me, last year I came down with a fairly bad case of COVID (despite full vaccination with two Pfizers) and was admitted to the hospital on September 11 (or was it the 12th?) with a temp of 102 and an oxygen saturation of 88. Oddly, I had little or no cough. Subsequent evaluation revealed a right middle lobe pneumonia, which has gradually improved but not fully resolved on serial CT examination.

Pneumonia was not my only problem, however. For nine days, I was isolated and not allowed to even get out of bed (at all). After seven or eight days, when I threatened to sign out Against Medical Advice (cutely called “eloping”), I finally received a visit from my entire team of doctors… this turned out to include the “senior” doctor, whom I don’t recall seeing ever before or since.

None of them dared to come within ten feet of me, but they all insisted that I had to stay in the hospital for at least another week and get a colonoscopy (where they stick a tube up your rectum nine or ten feet to see why you’re bleeding.) Of course I refused that too and a couple of days later they had to let me go. The diarrhea stopped the day I left the hospital.

When I was finally released (after they finally allowed me to get out of bed and shuffle to the door and back one time) I was profoundly weakened and depressed. Did I mention the bloody/melanotic stool (black and smelly diarrhea) that was provoked by their treatment with anticoagulants?

Parenthetically, complete bed rest rapidly causes profound weakness in almost everyone, sick or well. Within three days a person’s strength and stamina is often decreased by half.

I have been getting, finally (since June), “home health care” (rehabilitation therapy) twice a week for the new few months. Otherwise, I was forced to recover on my own and developed a string of complications, none of them really serious (if you don’t count the episode of atrial flutter, commonly known as an “irregular heart beat.”) but several for which the doctors added additional medications (notice that I didn’t say “required”– I didn’t really need them.)

So I have a good excuse for not posting, at least since last May. I have improved, mostly on my own, which is in line with my behavior over the years of refusing medical care or even hospitalization after many serious illnesses and injuries.

Probably the most serious of these was a concussion after someone ran a stop sign and crashed into my pickup while I was innocently driving along a country road on December 27, 1999. I won’t bore you with the details of the others, particularly since I have kept a “stiff pecker” (a Britishism, meaning in American a stiff upper lip or attitude of reticence and denialism) about most of them.

If anyone should happen to read this, please do not comment merely to provide sympathy. I will not approve a comment unless it is at least two-three sentences and appears to express a unique non-automated opinion.

Otherwise, thank you for taking the time to read this.

sleeping fox by pexels via

A message from the writer


I have gotten sick and tired of supplying random tidbits of information about the continuing pandemic. I will satisfy myself by saying that it will probably never end, just gradually get worse and different. I have to say that I tried to pick and choose the most significant items, and to some extent succeeded– but other people are spending more time and getting more views on this subject, and I don’t see myself putting in that much effort when I can see the broad picture already, and my predictions generally are pretty conservative.

I have received some frightening comments since April, such as “great blog you have there, Conrad.” and the like. Nothing specific or unsubtle, just a tingle up the spine. Actually, they are readily explainable by either someone who wishes me well ( a happy birthday sort of message) and bots loading to my site from wordpress itself to encourage me to write again.

Two possibilities concern me. One, that the site has been hacked by a malicious operator. Two, that performance has degraded for an unknown reason.

Neither of these is of life threatening concern. I encourage anyone who happens to come upon this site to comment; I only ask that you be as prolix (write as much) as possible, and as original as possible. Two sentences minimum, no obvious messages, and no congratulations or queries about my health. Please. I’m not going to approve a comment that says, “Nice site you have” or “happy birthday” (or a similar sentiment on my birthday.) That’s a hard no now. Although the site is dormant at this time, I do currently come back to check on it now and again.

COVID-19 Omicron variant has taken over US in 3 weeks by doubling every 1.5-3 days. It is more transmissible and evades vaccination. We need a new vaccine, now.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that the Omicron variant has increased as a proportion of new isolates from less than 1% to 2.9% to 73% in the US over the last three weeks. The Delta variant continues to account for a significant proportion of new COVID infections, but it is expected that Delta will essentially disappear in the next couple of weeks.

Omicron is estimated to be three times as contagious as Delta and is much less susceptible to blockage by any of the vaccines currently available.

The Omicron variant has more than 30 mutations in its spike protein as compared to the original strain isolated just two years ago. The sequence of the original strain was reported by the Chinese researchers early in January 2020. This enabled US vaccine makers to create a new type of vaccine based on messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA). mRNA has been studied for the last two decades as a candidate for producing new vaccines, but had never before been carried through to an actual operating vaccine for humans. The spike protein of COVID was selected as a target because it is the most prominent protein that the virus has, and antibody binding to the spike protein was expected to inactivate the virus.

The existence of so many mutations in the spike protein has allowed Omicron to evade protection provided by vaccines based on the original strain. Studies over the last two months have revealed that Omicron requires three doses of the mRNA vaccine to provide significant protection against severe disease. Even three doses does not fully protect against infection, although breakthrough infections appear to be relatively mild. Vaccines other than mRNA based ones appear to be ineffective.

Unfortunately, only a small proportion of US persons have received booster doses of vaccines; about 30% of all adults are thought to have obtained the total of three doses including the booster.

Experience in South Africa, where the Omicron variant appears to have completely taken over the new infections, suggests that those who have previously had infections with other COVID variants plus vaccinations are suffering from mild symptoms. A large proportion, perhaps 70%, of South Africans have already had COVID infections, while fewer than 30% have gotten any vaccines.

There has been speculation, including in this Scientific American article, that a large number of mutations may have occurred relatively quickly by subacute infection in an immunocompromised person. For example, someone living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that is partially suppressed by antiviral treatment could be involved. In such a person, COVID infection may last for weeks or months– not just “long COVID” (in which the virus has been eliminated but symptoms persist.) An active COVID infection that lasts longer than “normal” may provide the opportunity for multiple variants to arise in a single person. If the infection is then passed on to another person, multiple mutations may appear in a single case.

What must we do to end the pandemic?

The companies creating mRNA vaccines now will develop ones based on the Omicron variant. This can be done relatively quickly; last year, a turnaround time of six weeks was claimed for a completely new mRNA vaccine. After a new mRNA vaccine is developed, it must go through testing and production has to be ramped up. This could take six months before a significant amount of new vaccine is widely available.

Pfizer, the maker of one of the mRNA vaccines, promised in June to be able to ready a completely new vaccine in 100 days.

The companies that make mRNA vaccines are ethically required to waive patent protection for them but have not yet done so. They must help to establish widely spread production facilities that can provide quantities of vaccine for the rest of the world. If accelerated production of effective vaccine is not pursued on an emergency basis, by the time a large proportion of the global population can be vaccinated, a new variant will appear. Then we will be back to square one.

We can now anticipate that the COVID pandemic will continue for at least another two years. The total death toll will at least double. For reference, 5.3 million deaths and 275 million infections have been attributed to COVID-19 so far. The case and death counts are considered to be significant underestimates, although the factor by which the virus’s toll has been undercounted could be as little as 1.5 times or as much as 12 times, depending on which scientist you consult.

There will be continued pressure on the medical care system, with cumulative long-term damage as well as acute care shortages. Without dramatic steps to reduce medical burnout, there will be further significant losses of trained personnel that cannot be made up by recruitment and training.

It is likely that our political system will be negatively affected by the pandemic. While I am not qualified to fully analyze the damages to our politics, it seems obvious to me that democratic governance will suffer. Whether this has the effect of disenfranchising Democratic voters and enabling Republican autarchy has not yet been set in stone.

The steps that Republican politicians are taking to suppress Democratic voting will likely result in loss of Democratic representation. In particular, the use of gerrymandering by state governments has already resulted in minority rule in several states and is likely to get worse unless it is stopped.

There is no excuse for the tilted representation results in a number of states which allow minority Republicans to pack their legislatures with a majority of the representatives. If just one voting law were passed by our federal Congress that outlawed the gerrymander, it would outweigh all the other issues combined.

The Supreme Court has been complicit in allowing the gerrymander to continue. Only legislative action at the federal level can help at this time.

Specific critical measures that must be taken now

We must get small-d democratic control of our State legislatures by eliminating the gerrymander. We must get serious about wearing high-quality masks (think N95). We must develop a specific vaccine for the Omicron variant and see to it that 95% or more of the population is jabbed. If we do not do all of these things, the quality of life in this country will deteriorate in a horrific fashion. Other countries will suffer as well; if foreigners cannot look to the US for enlightened leadership, the globe will be much worse off.

“The sleep of reason begets monsters”– Francisco Goya

The truth about coronavirus (COVID-19) and its vaccines.


There are many false and questionable claims about COVID-19 and the vaccines against it. The following post stands against false claims and in favor of true knowledge by refuting a few myths. First, there is the “experimental” designation that is given to new vaccines.

The vaccines (and here we are talking specifically about the Pfizer- vaccine) begin their wide use with an “Emergency Use Authorization” or “EUA”– this doesn’t occur until after tens of thousands of volunteers are safely vaccinated with the new product. EUA continues until the FDA decides that it meets all the standards for unrestricted use; this is known as “fully FDA licensed” and signifies free use by all medical professionals. The FDA is known to take its time when granting approval to a drug or vaccine, but is in this case aware that it is urgent that we have a decision– if it is good, we should be able to use it right away.

The Pfizer vaccine has not been considered for a vaccine mandate until it is “fully FDA licensed.” No-one is being forced to use it until it has been fully evaluated. Once the vaccine is licensed, a mandate is completely legal. A very old Supreme Court precedent from an early smallpox epidemic, 1905’s Jacobson v. Massachusetts, holds that inoculating against smallpox (similar to vaccination) can be required of an entire population if there is an epidemic going on. Epidemics are less serious than pandemics, so it is safe to assume that the Supreme Court gives government the authority to require its citizens to be vaccinated at the present time.

There is no religion that has a prohibition against the use of vaccines. They contain no products of aborted fetuses or other malicious material. The idea of a religious exemption to vaccination is absurd, and some state vaccine mandates do not have a religious exemption– only a medical exemption in rare cases.

The idea that vaccines are a violation of the Nuremberg Laws completely misunderstands the nature of these laws. Treatment of people to prevent or cure illness is governed by completely different laws. Medical treatment proceeds with the assumption that treatment will heal or at least relieve suffering in the patients. The Nuremberg Laws apply to those who perform experiments on people, who may or may not directly benefit from the experiment. These Laws are necessarily extremely restrictive to protect the interests of the person who is experimented upon.

Claims that there are tens of thousands of fatalities and serious injuries from the vaccines fundamentally misunderstands the source of these numbers: the Vaccine Adverse Events Recording System (VAERS), which compiles records of all complaints of adverse events that occur around the time of vaccination, whether or not they have any causative relationship. When compared with a control group, there is no sign in those vaccinated of increased morbidity or mortality. VAERS merely records randomly coincidental events associated with vaccines and has no relationship with actual causality.

Comparison of vaccinators with Nazi doctors like Mengele is particularly offensive. Mengele’s experiments were always to the detriment of those who were experimented upon. He explored unscientific ideas and sadistic surgeries too monstrous to discuss. There is no comparison to modern scientists who follow rigorous scientific ethics in searching for things that will save or improve people’s lives using documented, scientific hypotheses and sensible logical humane testing in that search.

The use of masks, especially well-fitting masks made with appropriate fabrics, has been proven to dramatically reduce a person’s risk of catching COVID-19 during exposures typical of a school, office, or bar. Numerous adaptations such as the plexiglass shields between cashier and customer have also been shown to be protective. The most risky type of social encounter has been found to occur in restaurants, where people are eating together and can’t wear masks.

The new variant, called omicron, is now thought to be more contagious than any previous variant. So far, it appears to cause mild infections, mostly in people who are double or triple vaccinated. Double vaccination (two shots, three weeks apart) gives weak protection against omicron, but taking a third shot as a booster gives good protection. Vaccine researchers are working on a new vaccine that will match the omicron variant and give strong protection– it may be two months before early samples of the new vaccine are available to test.

That’s about all she wrote. Anything else anyone tells you is false until proven otherwise.

photo courtesy of “Meine Reise geht hier leider zu Ende. Märchen beginnen mit” and pixabay

The Supreme Court and abortion


Justice Sotomayor made an unusual statement during oral arguments over Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. She wondered whether the reputation of the Supreme Court would survive the decision in that case:  “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I don’t see how it is possible.”

She went on to demand of Mississippi’s Solicitor General, who was arguing in defense of the state’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy:  “How is your interest anything but a religious view?” (I take these quotes from the Washington Post but most any national news organization will do.)

She was referring to the other justices’ eagerness to reverse the precedent set in 1973 by the case known as Roe v. Wade. This eagerness was on display during the oral arguments, especially by Justice Kavanaugh. It was facilitated by the Republicans’ intense efforts since 1973 to pack the Court with justices who would be biased against abortion to the extent that they would be willing to reverse precedent. Such bias goes against public opinion, which has favored the current standard consistently and by large margins without significant changes over the years.

The right to abort one’s own fetus has been affirmed by the Supreme Court since 1973, when it ruled in Roe v. Wade that abortion could not be prohibited up until the time of “viability” (24 weeks.) “Viability” is defined as the ability of the fetus to breathe after delivery from the mother’s womb. “Viability”, however, is somewhat arbitrary, since it does not indicate that ability to breathe on one’s own is sufficient for survival in a relatively intact state.

While children have survived birth as early as 20-21 weeks gestation in extreme cases, their condition is one that is usually severely disabled, with blindness and impaired lung function the rule. Other disabilities are common and too numerous to mention in a short blog post. The point is that “viability” is an arbitrary and elastic cut-off. Many people on both sides of the abortion debate have noted the inadequacy of “viability” as a criterion.

The use of “viability” was a compromise within the internal debate of the members of the Supreme Court. In this post, we will use a more fundamental distinction. The fetus is a human being from the time it appears as a single-celled organism; she or he requires a sophisticated gestational framework in order to progress from a single cell to a complete infant over a period of some nine months.

Despite the fundamental human-ness of an embryo, it is not inviolate by any means. The interests of the mother are critical to a reasonable discussion of the legality of abortion.

To show this, an oversimplified example will help to clarify the critical issues. Let us suppose that you woke up one morning with a set of tubes running from your arm through the wall through which your blood is siphoned off to sustain the life of another human being on the other side of the wall, and returned to you in a slightly used condition. You are informed that this arrangement is necessary to save the life of that other human being, and that further, no other person can step in and have themselves hooked up instead of you.

Are you ethically, morally, or legally obligated to leave those tubes in place for several months with the knowledge that removal of them would cause the other human (whom you cannot see or communicate with) to die?

Legally, you are not required to make a sacrifice of this type. By the same token, you are not required to give another person one of your kidneys, or a piece of your liver, or a half of one of your lungs in order to save their life. All of those donations represent a smaller sacrifice than nine months of your life, yet none of them are legally required of you.

Morally and ethically, there may exist some degree of obligation to sacrifice for other people; however, the strength of that obligation is probably attenuated by your degree of kinship with the other person. Most would agree that morally, you should (but are not required to) give one of your kidneys to your parent or your offspring– but a complete stranger has less call upon you.

Regardless of moral considerations, you cannot be legally forced to give up a portion of your body to save the life of another person. Why, then, should you be forced to give up nine months of time, significant portions of your body’s calcium and iron, and to undergo the pain and suffering of delivery? We will leave aside twenty-one years of raising a child, with the financial and emotional costs attendant on that; those things are “irrelevant” because, as Justice Amy Coney Barrett has pointed out, you can leave the baby at the nearest emergency room and walk away under the laws of all fifty states.

I reiterate that the person whose life is being saved by your sacrifice is a full human being, regardless of how many cells they have or whether they can walk, talk, or even simply breathe.

To argue that a woman is legally required to make this sacrifice and provide room for nine months within her own body for another human being just because her attempts at contraception have failed, or even because she has been raped, is morally and ethically deficient.

Furthermore, the desire to have an abortion may be dictated by medical necessity rather than personal choice at almost any time during gestation. For example, amniocentesis to determine the chromosomal makeup of a fetus is not safely performed until about 15 weeks gestation. Thus, many lethal defects in one’s genetic endowment cannot be discovered until after the Mississippi law has taken effect. Another problem that can surface which will endanger the life of the mother as well as the child is pre-eclampsia, which may not occur until eighteen weeks or later.

In some rare cases, lethal problems can arise after 24 weeks’ gestation, requiring abortion to be performed to save the life of the mother. Some conditions can rarely present which will cause the baby to die at birth or shortly thereafter– and which will not be apparent until 28 weeks or later. Very rarely, the baby may suddenly die in the womb without warning, at full term. In these unusual cases, it is essential for an expert obstetrician to make the appropriate diagnosis and fully inform the mother of the risks involved. Interference from the legal system of district attorneys, grand juries, and judges in these cases is worse than useless.

Some religions hold that the life of the baby in the womb is more important than the life or well-being of the mother. To use such an argument to create a legal prohibition of abortion would be to favor the establishment of a particular religion, which is prohibited by the first amendment to the Constitution.

Therefore, even when we acknowledge that the fetus is a full-fledged human being with the potential to grow up and become a contributing member of society, absolute legal prohibition of abortion at any stage of gestation is not morally, ethically, or Constitutionally warranted.

John Paul Stevens at 99 years of age