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Friday, September 25, 2020

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has passed away: What happens now?

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away last week at the age of 87 from cancer. She is receiving much praise for her life’s work. Ginsberg was the second woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, being appointed by President Bill Clinton and taking her seat in 1993. The first woman to serve on the Court was Sandra Day O’Connor, starting in 1981.

Among the many praises of Ginsberg’s life and work was this one from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg selflessly pursued truth and justice in a world of division, giving voice to the voiceless and uplifting those who were pushed aside by forces of hate and indifference,” he said. Cuomo said that New York will erect a statue honoring the legacy of Justice Ginsberg in her native Brooklyn. 

Her passing resulted in much sadness and regret, and it has also brought forth a hot political issue: How and when to fill her seat on the Court?

Democrats say President Donald Trump must not nominate anyone. They are horrified at the prospect of the President doing so this close to the election. 

Some Republicans also think an appointment should wait until after the election. However, with millions more mass-mailed ballots in this election, the results may not be known for several days, a few weeks or even months. With this possibility, we need a full, nine-member Supreme Court to address potential issues.

Many people have expressed their opinions about this situation. One of them is Mark Levin, attorney, author and chairman of Landmark Legal Foundation, who had this to say: “I can think of no president who has chosen not to nominate a candidate to the Supreme Court when a vacancy occurs, regardless of when that vacancy occurs. Whether the Senate confirms or not is a wholly separate issue. But for a Republican president not to try to fill a vacancy with a Republican Senate (despite some weakness among certain senators) is irrational. The Democrats have not and would never do such a thing.”

What PJ Media reported may also carry some weight: “When a similar scenario occurred four years ago, following the death of Antonin Scalia, the Republican-controlled Senate blocked Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. It was a controversial move, and Ginsburg had something to say about it.”

“That’s their job,” Ginsberg said in July, 2016. “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says the President stops being President in his last year.” And, a few months later she said, “Eight is not a good number for a collegial body that sometimes disagrees.” Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was with her at the time, agreed: “I think we hope there will be nine as quickly as possible.”

“The Republican position on filling vacancies arising during a presidential election year has been consistent and follows historical norms,” wrote judicialnetwork.com. The record is as follows:

* “When the same party controls the White House and the Senate (e.g., now), the confirmation process proceeds as usual and the nominee is almost always confirmed. A new justice has been confirmed 8 out of 10 times this has happened.”

* “When different parties control the White House and the Senate (e.g., in 2016) the confirmation process either does not proceed or proceeds and the nomination usually fails. In the handful of instances when such nominations proceeded (excluding one case in which there was a recess appointment), they failed 4 out of 6 times.”

Some accuse the Republicans of trying to rush the process. However, other confirmations have been completed in a short time frame.

“According to Senate records,” The Federalist reports, “Justices Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens, and Sandra Day O’Connor were all confirmed in a short period of time. Stevens’s confirmation in 1975 took 19 days, O’Connor’s confirmation in 1981 took 33 days, and Ginsburg’s confirmation in 1993 took 42 days.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Ga., offered additional information. “The two biggest changes regarding the Senate and judicial confirmations that have occurred in the last decade have come from Democrats. Harry Reid changed the rules to allow a simple majority vote for Circuit Court nominees, dealing out the minority. Chuck Schumer and his friends in the liberal media conspired to destroy the life of Brett Kavanaugh and hold that Supreme Court seat open.”

And, each side has produced comments from members of the other side that contradict their current positions. Fox News “Media Buzz” host Howard Kurtz noted that politicians do exhibit “flexibility” from time to time.

However, there are activist justices on federal courts, including the late Justice Ginsburg, who insert their personal or political beliefs into their work. They view the Constitution as a “living” document, the meaning of which changes with the winds of cultural evolution or personal preference, instead of applying the Constitution’s original meaning. That destroys a stable judicial system. Justices and judges must apply the law, not make law.

If removing President Donald Trump from office was a legitimate effort to protect the country, then stabilizing the judicial system with judges who honor the Constitution and laws as they are written, and not as they wish they were written, certainly is, also.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The United States of America: how things used to be, and are now

Last Friday, the nation recalled the events of that day 19 years ago: September 11, 2001.

It was on that beautiful morning that out of nowhere, an airliner crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in downtown New York at 8:45. What the heck had happened?

Eighteen minutes later, another airliner hit the south tower, and it became clear what was going on: America was under attack. The attack continued, with a third airliner crashing into the
Pentagon in Washington, DC. And a fourth airliner, with an unknown target, had passengers who had become aware of the other attacks, organized and stopped the hijackers, resulting in the plane crashing into an empty field in Pennsylvania, instead of, perhaps, the U.S. Capitol Building or the White House, or some other important target.

That night, then-President George W. Bush addressed the nation. “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America,” he said. “These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.” 

In all, these attacks killed 2,996 people in the crashes and their aftermath. It was and is the deadliest day in the nation’s history. And the terrorist attacks triggered major U.S. initiatives to combat terrorism. In that regard, Bush said, “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”

The 19 militant Islamic al Qaeda members who hijacked the four airliners had destroyed property and killed nearly 3,000 people, but they also rekindled the American national spirit. 

Thus, the attitude of the American people toward the terrorist attacks was voiced, and the will of the people and their ideas of national pride and determination were strengthened.

In annual observances of that fateful day, the names of those lost in the attacks are read, and honor given to all those who died. Many of them died bravely trying to save others trapped in the buildings. Many more died years later from effects of the pollutants from the fires and the collapsed buildings they encountered.

What a difference in spirit we see today, compared to the strong pro-America attitude in the years following 9/11. 

There are tens of thousands or millions of younger Americans whose lack of knowledge of their country and its founding principles is astonishing. America’s ideals are unique in the degree of personal freedom and personal opportunity they provide, but many of these people have little or no idea about that.

Cultural decay has been brought on by the breakdown of the two-parent family, the movement away from attending church and Sunday school where we learned the rules for good living, and schools that ceased teaching about our country’s formation and system of government.

Single-parent households have replaced two-parent families in shocking numbers. “For decades, the share of U.S. children living with a single parent has been rising, accompanied by a decline in marriage rates and a rise in births outside of marriage,” according to the Pew Research Center. Its study of 130 countries and territories “shows that the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households.”

Children generally do better when they have both a responsible father and a responsible mother to help them grow up to be productive, responsible adults. Children who grow up with an engaged father are less likely to drop out of school or wind up in jail. They are more likely to have high-paying jobs and healthy, stable relationships when they grow up, and tend to have fewer psychological problems throughout their lives.

Lacking a more stable home life and the critical background about their country, many people, children and young adults, are not adequately prepared to fully appreciate our country and carry on the American spirit that was revived following 9/11. Since millions were not yet born, or old enough to appreciate what had happened that day, they were unable to grasp and appreciate the spirit of America that was so strong.

As traditional values are being abandoned — including the idea of marriage and family, the sanctity of life of the unborn, self-reliance and personal responsibility, tolerance for ideas different from their own — many Americans, and not just the younger generations, see the nation’s shortcomings to the exclusion of its positive aspects.

Many see America as an evil nation, and are determined to bring it down. Some indulge in riots, destroying property, assaulting people, and chanting “death to America.” 

These riots are not happenstance; there is significant organization and financing behind them. Evidence exists that the funding comes from factions both inside and outside the country that are seeking to weaken it, and turn America into one more failed socialist state.

America definitely faces a serious crisis. And while the nation has seen and dealt with serious crises before and emerged better for the experience, we must ask whether this one will be just one more time of trouble that we survive?  Or will it be the end of America as we know it? 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Violence is growing, and rioting is now moving into neighborhoods


Violence in America’s larger cities, like Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and New York, has been going on for decades. Recent violence in other cities, that began as peaceful protests of police misbehavior or malfeasance, have been going on for more than a hundred nights. And in neither case have these situations been effectively dealt with, or in the case of the recent riots, hardly dealt with at all.


The violence in Seattle, Washington; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Portland, Oregon; Kenosha, Wisconsin and St. Louis, Missouri began as peaceful protests of the treatment of black residents by police. But while there may still be some peaceful protesters in these cities, they have been pushed aside by violent rioters.

 

These people are bent on violence and destruction, looting businesses and sometimes setting them on fire, trashing and burning police vehicles and even police stations, attacking police officers who are trying to protect people and property, and threatening and assaulting bystanders. How this violence is supposed to help anyone, the rioters have not said.

 

The violence is moving from the downtowns into neighborhoods, with homes being threatened. After rioters broke through the gate of their St. Louis residential community, a couple appeared outside their home holding firearms to protect themselves and their property from the criminals. The rioters appeared at the curb, threatening to take over their home, arguing about who was going to occupy which room in the house, or perhaps, to burn it down and kill the owners.

 

Not so many years ago, these groups would have been quickly dealt with, many arrested and charged with crimes. Not today. Today, the two people trying to protect their home from criminals were the ones charged with crimes.

 

Today, instead of protecting the citizens and businesses in their cities, mayors tell the police to keep their distance, and leave the rioters alone, still inexplicably referring to them as “protesters,” as if there is no violence. One mayor’s plan is to just let things take their course until the rioters get tired and give up.

 

Another mayor did act, but only after the rioters approached her home. And still another mayor has moved his family after rioters tried to burn down the condo building where they resided.

 

The longer it takes to start countering the rioters, the stronger the actions against them will have to be to get them to stop, as this period of doing nothing has greatly emboldened them.

 

People across the nation have taken notice that this violence against innocent people and destruction of their property is growing. They have begun to worry about their own safety. If elected “leaders” will not allow police to interact to protect their citizens, the citizens understand that they will have to protect themselves and their property.

 

People are arming themselves in greater numbers than before. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) reports that as of July, 2020, 40 percent of firearms purchases were by people who have never owned a firearm before.

 

The NSSF, utilizing the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System, determined that from January through July, 12.1 million background checks were recorded, which is 71.7 percent higher than the same period last year. The NSSF notes that this equates to nearly 5 million first-time gun owners in the seven months surveyed. More than a few gun purchases were by women who fear for their security.

 

“This is a tectonic shift in the firearm and ammunition industry marketplace and complete transformation of today’s gun-owning community,” said Lawrence G. Keane, a senior vice president of NSSF. Many or most of those purchases are due to the out-of-control riotous element causing so much damage and injury in recent weeks. It is likely that some of these new gun owners were previously not strong supporters of our Second Amendment, but have seen the light, and now appreciate the right to bear arms for their own defense.

 

Evidence is growing that the riots involve people who don’t live in the cities where the riots take place. Police in Kenosha report that 175 rioters were arrested. More than 100 of them were not Kenosha residents, and in fact, had come there from 44 other towns and cities, according to local media.

 

Following the Republican National Convention event in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 27, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and his wife were shoved, shouted at and threatened as they walked to their hotel, and had to be protected by police. Paul believes the crowd that protested President Donald Trump’s speech was not there by chance.

 

He said they were organized, well-equipped, and had a neater appearance than rioters usually do. "My feeling is that there's interstate criminal traffic being paid for across state lines, but you won't know unless you arrest them,” he said, adding, “I promise you that at least some of the members and the people who attacked us were not from D.C....they were paid to be here."

 

If rioters are financially supported and being bused to locations, they are much more dangerous than groups arising spontaneously, and riots will most likely continue. And, they will move into other parts of the country. This violence must be stopped.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Looking at Trump, Biden and the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic

 

Among the stacks of criticisms of Donald Trump’s presidency is his response to the COVID-19 virus. Trump didn’t do anything, or didn’t act quickly enough, or didn’t do enough, or was just plain wrong, came the complaints.

 

Lost in the rush of condemnation were some relevant facts:

* The China virus caught the world by surprise.

* Even the much-vaunted health/disease experts made mistakes in recommendations and in reporting relevant data.

 

Now that Joe Biden has become the Democrat candidate to oppose Trump in the November election, his comments, past and present, are relevant.

 

Trump formed the Coronavirus Task Force on January 29, less than a month after the first cases were reported by China to the World Health Organization (WHO). Two days later, he announced travel restrictions on China.

 

From his basement, Biden reacted to the restrictions as “hysterical xenophobia.”

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an administration agency, began to ship test kits to U.S. and international laboratories on February 6. On February 29, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, advised us that “There is no need to change anything you’re doing on a day-by-day basis. Right now, the risk is still low.”

 

And all the while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, was in Chinatown, not social distancing, and inviting her constituents to join her there. Soon thereafter, the administration requested $2.5 billion to combat the virus.

 

Obviously, Trump was no farther behind the curve than Pelosi and Fauci.

 

In early March, Trump signed a bill to fight the outbreak, totaling $8.3 billion, and he and Vice President Mike Pence met with health insurance officials to secure a commitment to waive co-pays for virus testing. And the following day Trump announced travel restrictions on foreigners who had visited Europe.

 

On March 13, 16 and 19 Trump did three things:

* declared a national emergency to access more than $42 billion in existing funding.

* announced the “15 Days to Slow the Spread” COVID-19 guidance. 

* signed an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act to prohibit hoarding of vital medical supplies.

 

Meanwhile, during the March 15 presidential debate, Biden accused the Trump administration of refusing “to get coronavirus testing kits from the World Health Organization (WHO).” However, the WHO had not offered COVID-19 test kits to the United States.

 

Trump signed the CARES Act into law, and the USNS Mercy arrived in Los Angeles on March 27. And on the 31st, Trump officially announced “30 Days to Slow the Spread.” 

 

Trumps actions dealing with the virus continued. But, so did Biden’s misstatements of fact.

 

In a comment, Trump noted that the Democrat’s politicization of the virus crisis was a hoax, like the Russia controversy and the impeachment were hoaxes. Not content with an accurate quote, Biden mis-quoted Trump as having said, “Coronavirus, this is their new hoax.” Trump did not call the virus a hoax.

 

Did Biden deliberately take Trump’s words out of context? Or, did he not understand the difference? Whichever the case, The Washington Post awarded Biden four Pinocchios for his error.

 

Biden said on ABC’s “This Week” in early March that “They’ve cut the — the Centers for Disease Control. They’ve cut the funding for — they’ve tried to cut the funding for NIH, the National Institute (sic) of Health.” In reality, the CDC’s budget is 7 percent higher than under the Obama administration, and the Obama administration had tried to cut the budget in five of its eight years.

 

“The Obama-Biden Administration set up the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense to prepare for future pandemics like COVID-19. Donald Trump eliminated it,” Biden tweeted on March 19. But this, too, was wrong. The Directorate was made part of a new unit, the counterproliferation and biodefense directorate, which strengthened the response to biodefense threats.

 

On CNN in late March, Biden suggested Trump should send our experts to China to help out. “There was no effort to do that,” he charged. But CDC representatives visited Wuhan on January 8th.

 

According to Biden, Trump told governors to get their own medical equipment. But he had blundered again. “Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,” Trump had said. But Biden neglected the rest of the comment. “[The federal government] will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself.”

 

Clearly, Biden’s mangled performance on the virus is not a reason to vote for him.

 

Now that Trump’s initial actions and Biden’s falsities have been discussed, here is some information on COVID deaths from the CDC that helps clarify the high number of deaths attributed to the disease.

 

“Deaths are coded [for the virus] when coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 are reported as a cause that contributed to death on the death certificate. These can include laboratory confirmed cases, as well as cases without laboratory confirmation. … COVID-19 is listed as the underlying cause on the death certificate in 94% of deaths.” (emphasis added)

 

Far fewer people died of just the virus. Death is much more likely when other health problems are present.

 

Friday, August 28, 2020

California’s troubles are many, and some of them are manmade

 

“In the last few days, a moisture-laden heat wave has unleashed extreme weather in almost every corner of California,” the Los Angeles Times reported on August 18. “In a single day, Northern California was hit with triple-digit temperatures, as well as hundreds of lightning strikes that ignited brush fires. The mercury hit 107 degrees Sunday in Santa Cruz, known for its moderate climate, and Death Valley reached 130 degrees — one of the hottest temperatures ever recorded there.”

 

And then things got worse. High temperatures created a demand for electricity that the state’s electric utilities could not meet. Rolling blackouts turned off the lights and air conditioners of two million state residents without warning, as utilities cut power to blocks of communities in order to protect the state’s electrical grid. This heatwave has been termed the worst in generations, and the state’s power utilities simply could not produce what was needed.

 

California, perhaps the most “progressive” of our 50 states, fancies itself a leader in what’s best. And where electricity production is concerned, renewable energy sources like wind and solar are best, and fossil fuels are worst, according to politically correct wisdom.

 

California seeks to generate 60 percent of electricity via renewables by 2030, and has a long way to go. An estimated 34 percent of the state’s power came from renewables in 2018, according to the California Energy Commission.

 

In its “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” drive to replace natural gas production with wind and solar, the state’s very ambitious climate policy forced the retirement of 9 gigawatts of natural gas capacity over the past five years. That’s enough electricity to power 6.8 million homes.

 

This was done despite years of warnings that there would not be enough power generation during the peak period in summer, and that a potential shortfall of 4.7 gigawatts in evening hours could occur starting this year.

 

Despite these changes in electricity production, a staff attorney at Communities for a Better Environment, described as an environmental justice nonprofit, blamed the outages not on inadequate renewable energy production, but on natural gas.

 

“It was actually gas that failed,” said attorney Shana Lazerow. “We should be talking about how gas is unreliable.”

 

The basis for her statement is that gas is to blame because burning gas creates climate warming, and climate warming is why California is trying to rid itself of any and every fossil fuel. She fails to note that whatever the actual cause of the heatwave — climate change or the Earth’s periodic alternating cooling and heating phases — having more natural gas electric facilities would produce the power to make up for production levels that solar and wind cannot meet.

 

But, of course, what is actually unreliable is wind and solar energy, especially for large scale applications like an entire state’s electricity needs.

 

If you want to lower your electric bill by putting some solar panels on your roof, go for it! Once the investment is paid off, you will likely save money. Particularly if you live in a sunny place and have the panels located where the sun will shine on them as much as possible. And, if you can store the excess energy for periods when the sun doesn’t shine.

 

But you might want to have a back-up plan, like being a customer of the electric company.

 

On the state level, California should have maintained backup natural gas production facilities to even out energy production when wind and solar cannot meet demand. Or, had enough storage for ample excess power to cover low production levels.

 

“Big Batteries Needed To Make Fickle Wind And Solar Power Work” headlined a report by NPR.com discussing the need for storage of power produced by wind and solar applications to fill the gap when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.

 

However, the report continues, “Nobody really knows how the batteries can best smooth out the irregular power supply from wind and solar power.”

As the NPR report further noted, “That's partly because batteries aren't very efficient. Batteries waste about 25 percent of the energy in the process of being charged and discharged. These sodium-sulfur batteries need to be heated to 600 degrees Fahrenheit to work.”


In other words, California overdrove its headlights in the rush to replace dependable fossil fuels for electricity production in favor of unreliable renewables like wind and solar. Was California a student of the Obama administration’s manic efforts to do away with fossil fuels, or was it a partner?

 

This is yet more evidence of the failure of “progressive” ideals to actually deliver the results that are promised.

 

James Delingpole, writing for Climate Depot, tells us that “No successful economy has ever done [what California is trying to do]. Those that have tried — such as the state of South Australia — have had the same result as California: rocketing electricity prices; blackouts and brownouts; an exodus of businesses; misery and disruption for everyone unfortunate enough to still live there.”

 

Someday in the future, after technologies have been developed to assist wind, solar and other so-called “renewables,” the transition to non-fossil fuel energy will naturally occur. We must be smart and stop rushing the process.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Donald Trump’s difficulties began because “He’s not one of us!”



The Washington establishment consists of thousands of Republicans and Democrats who are either working in government or working as Washington lobbyists, lawyers, or in think tanks.

 

The relevance and impact of this situation was given to me in a conversation several years ago with my Congressman, Morgan Griffith, the excellent Republican Representative of Virginia’s Ninth District. I had brought up the idea that Congressional term limits were needed, and he noted that even with term limits, there would still exist the very influential members of the Washington establishment and those in the bureaucracy.

 

While elected members of Congress’ tenure in Washington would be limited, the tenure of the establishment and the ensconced bureaucracy would not be affected, he said.

 

What normally occurs when a president’s term is over and the other party has won the election is that the new president brings in people from the law firms, think tanks and lobbying organizations to fill many administrative positions.

 

These are people who have functioned in or near the national government before, know the ropes, and can help the new president put together a knowledgeable administration in a relatively short period of time, and some of it before the election.

 

Some of the out-going administration’s personnel then move to the lobbying organizations, think tanks and law firms, and await their turn to move back into government. Those in the bureaucracy often remain in their positions. Not all of them are able to put aside their own political preferences in order to properly serve their country under a president with different ideas.

 

The “new guy” — or someday, “new gal” — has a built-in obstacle to conquer, the “bureaucrat mentality” lying quietly beneath the surface: “Presidents come and go, but we are here forever!”

 

When he was elected, Donald Trump had not only that obstacle, but he was also an outsider to the Washington establishment, and therefore was unable to utilize the establishment as other presidents have. To further complicate things, he campaigned on the idea of draining “the swamp,” consisting of those in the establishment, and in the bureaucracy.

 

Thus, Trump had a harder task than other presidents who were part of the Washington establishment, or at least had a firm connection to it. He didn’t have a group of close associates who had gained valuable experience and knowledge of how the federal government worked and could be called in — called in again, in many instances — to fill an important slot.

 

Trump had the Herculean task of forming a government in a short time period using the people he knew and thought competent, but who were from a world away. Many were in business, not politics. Such is the recipe for chaos, and that is exactly what occurred.

 

The first days of any administration are somewhat wobbly, but because of the “outsider” nature of Trump and the team he was assembling, this one was more so. Add to that the people who already didn’t like Trump in politics, including some Republicans, and the media. They didn’t like an outsider winning the election, especially this particular one. Others had their egos mortally injured by Trump’s combative style. Those factors made things even worse.

 

These folks oppose everything Trump says and does, without regard to any benefits that result from them. In fact, benefits are often twisted into negatives. And, nearly everything, despite how positive it may otherwise be, has some negatives. Small negatives are often magnified by exaggeration and portrayed as errors. It appears the operational motto is, “oppose Trump at any cost.”

 

Trump campaigned on a popular theme: “Make America Great Again!” Many don’t think America was ever great, and certainly isn’t great now. Their idea, like that of former President Barack Obama, is to fundamentally transform the United States of America.

 

Instead of helping the economy produce jobs and giving working Americans more money in their pockets, as Trump did by cutting taxes and harmful regulations, the loyal opposition prefers such expensive boondoggles as the Green New Deal, ending fracking, and Medicare for All.

 

It also wants to change the way the citizenry will vote in this election by moving away from in-person voting at polling places, under the theory that it is less safe to vote than to shop for groceries. Instead, everyone will be mailing back the ballot they received in the mail.

 

Mailing ballots works pretty well for Absentee Ballots requested by individual voters, and in states that have an established system for voting-by-mail. Prior to the pandemic, only five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — had a vote-by-mail system in place.

 

The idea that the other 45 states and the District of Columbia can clean up voter rolls and establish a dependable system is a fairy tale. Some of the problems reside in the Postal Service, but the more serious problems are in state voter rolls, where people who have moved, some to other states, and others who have died are still on the voter rolls. Each one is an opportunity for mischief.

 

Democrats and Republicans always have different ideas about the country’s needs. This Republican president, even with some successes, has had so much more opposition than the others.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The War on Coal couldn’t erase industry’s history or its future

  

The story of coal in West Virginia is a long one, with ups and downs. And while the industry and individuals in it have suffered, coal has survived a concerted effort to kill it completely.

 

Coal has been in use by humans for hundreds of years. In the early years, most coal used in the American colonies came from England or Nova Scotia. But during the American Revolution, the wartime needs spurred “small American coal-mining operations such as those in Virginia on the James River near Richmond. By the early 1830s mining companies had emerged along the Ohio, Illinois, and Mississippi rivers and in the Appalachian region,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

 

Coal for many years was the major fuel in producing electricity, and more recently, through gasification and liquefaction, is used to produce gaseous and liquid fuels that are easily transported by pipeline and conveniently stored in tanks. 

 

The Green Energy mania, spurred on by often exaggerated, funding-oriented “scientific” data dealing with the increase and dangers of CO2, and the need for America to increase its world-leading CO2 reduction efforts, produced the foolish War on Coal of former-President Barack Obama’s administration.

 

This myopic governmental overreach put thousands of Americans out of work and severely damaged state and local economies, but thrilled the Green Energy crowd.

 

The coal industry was already well down the path of being phased out in the natural transition from coal and other fossil fuels to efficient, less-expensive, cleaner and plentiful natural gas, and also the currently inefficient, but preferred renewable sources, such as wind and solar energy.

 

How much more sensible it would have been to allow these natural changes to gradually work their way into being without the heavy damage caused by this irrational War.

 

Years ago, the coal industry had already lost many jobs of miners and other industry workers through the impact of mechanization. And the government efforts to end coal as a viable and needed product further damaged coal mining regions like those of southern West Virginia and southwestern Virginia.

 

However, other nations still are using and need coal, and the industry has sputtered along filling those needs, and still exists today. Not surprisingly, these nations far out-pace the United States in CO2 emissions, but hardly get anything like the official grief that America received from the “green energy at any cost” crusade.

 

Even supporters of the coal industry understand that burning coal is a significant source of pollution, and development of cleaner ways to utilize this useful and plentiful resource are on-going. While coal is now responsible for only 11 percent of electricity production in the United States, clean coal technologies have produced some significant improvements in coal usage, which are welcomed.

 

Turning coal into synfuels, which are gases and liquids that produce less pollutants when burned than does pure coal, is one way that coal can still be a useful product. South Africa has been converting coal to liquids for decades. Other gases and liquids derived from coal function as chemicals in the production of other products.

 

A plant in North Dakota converts coal into synthetic natural gas, called “syngas.” Electricity and hydrogen are made from syngas. And a company in Wheeling, West Virginia is now working to find additional alternative uses for coal.

 

Wheeling’s Touchstone Research Laboratories is working to develop high-value-added coal raw materials that can make several products, such as carbon foams, graphites, graphene and carbon fiber.

 

A strong, fireproof carbon foam, called CFOAM, has already been developed by Touchstone, and is used in the aerospace industry to make molds for manufacturing carbon fiber rocket nozzles, and in science for the most powerful telescope in history, the James Webb Space Telescope.

 

As new uses for coal emerge, new interest in West Virginia coal follows.  Governor Jim Justice announced in his State of the State address that Ramaco Carbon will be opening a new research facility in South Charleston’s Technology Park.

 

Ramaco CEO and chairman Randall Atkins, said that the company will use that facility until it outgrows it, and then expand to other locations in the state. The opening of that facility, as with so many other things, has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Ramaco announced in June that it has entered into a five-year coal-to-products cooperative research and development agreement with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the largest U.S. Department of Energy science and energy laboratory, to study converting coal to high-value products and materials.

 

There is global interest in clean coal technology, as well. In 2019, this sector invested $3.7 billion, and projections say that figure will surpass $4.6 billion by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate of 2.9 percent.

 

No one expects that coal will ever again enjoy the huge employment figures or the quantities of mined resources of years past. But there are bright spots on the horizon for using West Virginia and Virginia coal that will offer direct and indirect employment to hundreds of people, and produce tax revenues for state and local governments.

 

We would be further down that path today, had President Obama had the foresight to reimagine coal usage a decade ago.

Friday, August 07, 2020

What in the world is happening to the United States of America?

Who among us that has been alive for more than five decades would believe what is happening today? Long-standing traditions — the things upon which the nation was created and that allowed it to thrive — are crumbling around us.

 

Once highly regarded qualities like righteousness, integrity and professionalism, have taken a beating over the last number of years. Career fields like education and journalism are now home to many who are willing to abandon their personal integrity, honesty, and professional ethics to indulge in indoctrination of students and the public at large for destabilizing political purposes.

 

Recent news reports told us that our gross domestic product (GDP) dropped by 32.9 percent in the second quarter. Whether this “news” was a deliberate attempt to misinform in order to cast further negativity on President Donald Trump, or the result of ignorance on the part of these so-called journalists, is difficult to determine.

 

But what actually occurred was that the GDP actually shrank by much less, only 9.5 percent, in the second quarter, and 4.8 percent in the first quarter. If this trend continues through the rest of the year, the “annualized decline” will reach 32.9 percent.

 

We see the effects of miseducation as people who never learned about their country reject their access to the broadest set of opportunities to achieve success on the planet, favoring instead the fairytale of equality of outcomes.

 

Colleges, where people are supposed to learn much more about general studies and their chosen area of interest, have produced the “woke” movement which, in addition to being ineptly named, is a destructive force to which its practitioners are totally blind.

 

“Wokeness” was aptly described as “pervasive trends under the guise of equality [that] makes diversity training in government, and corporate America, and schools, destructive, divisive, and harmful,” by Angela Sailor, vice president of The Feulner Institute at The Heritage Foundation.

 

Professional sports and similar activities —where people with high skills in a very narrow and unimportant area of life, like throwing, catching, hitting or “shooting” some sort of ball or other object — make millions of dollars, are now decaying organizations where many or most members proudly dishonor the flag and National Anthem of the country that allowed them to be the wealthy and celebrated individuals that they have become. And they do so with the blessing of their team and league.

 

Politics and such off-shoots as political correctness, and the new fad of hypersensitivity over small or years-old irritants now are the focus of many education and news folk.

 

The selfish desires of a relative few now are expected to be accepted by everyone else, whether or not they see any value in those desires. If you do not automatically cow-tow to them, you may be the target of physical and other violence.

 

And the relatively recent advent of social media adds to the problem. Social media to an increasing degree control what political information we can see on their platforms, and what cannot be seen. That is called “censorship,” which is not among the valued characteristics of our free country.

 

One example: Twitter removed the Star of David from several tweets, calling it a hateful image.

 

Another is that certain discussions about fighting the coronavirus are deemed inappropriate for you to see. Twitter has been identified as having taken down some tweets about a drug, hydroxychloroquine, that is favored by many physicians who have used the drug, and say it is effective against the virus.

 

In addition to Twitter, social media platforms Facebook and Google, and website hosting service Squarespace banned video from a group of physicians known as America's Frontline Doctors about hydroxychloroquine.

 

A doctor in Tampa, Florida, who is lead physician at a medical office that has 8,000 patients, created a video about how she and other physicians were precluded from prescribing hydroxychloroquine for their patients, despite their previous experience with that medicine.

 

The brilliant constitutional attorney and author Mark Levin said that the Frontline Doctors’ video was “not about the overthrow of America, not about anti-Semitism, not promoting terrorism — but talking about experience, science, medical knowledge about hydroxychloroquine."

 

Apparently, Twitter, Facebook and Google know more about medicine than doctors. And furthermore, they think you shouldn’t be able to get information on certain subjects without their guidance, which means providing only what they want you to know.

 

When someone is triggered by something — virtually anything, these days — suddenly there arises a movement to remove or replace that “something” without even a superficial attempt to understand that something's complete nature. If one out a hundred things is bad, to the dump with it.

 

Through the decades, we learned to generally trust our teachers and news organizations. We expect school subjects to be presented wholly and without bias. Likewise, news is supposed to tell us the what, where, when, why and who of events, without opinion or bias.

 

When those rules are deliberately broken in order to control what the public knows, or how the public should think about things, then the result is what we see happening so often today: the sabotage of our country; the freest and most wonderful nation in history.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Why not try to understand Trump, instead of always criticizing him?

Donald Trump is not a politician; he’s an outsider. He doesn’t think, act, or speak like a politician. Therefore, his enemies say, he is a bad dude. Many don’t like the way he behaves and talks. But why can’t they put these puerile feelings away and deal with the reality before us; the problems we have and ways to improve things?

 

Even Trump’s defenders understand that, like everyone else, he is not perfect. But so much of the anti-Trumpism is based upon emotional reaction rather than upon thoughtful analysis. And, yes, anything that Trump does that produces a positive result is bad news for the liberals/progressives.

 

Trump is called many unpleasant names, which are almost exclusively wrongly applied or strongly exaggerated. Among them are that he is a “nationalist.” Those using that term disparagingly believe that he wants America — and himself — to rule the world, and if other nations are destroyed or damaged, so what?

 

But Trump’s nationalism promotes the interests of America, not necessarily to the detriment of others. He loves America, and he wants to protect the country from being abused by other countries. This is exactly what the leader of every nation should do.

 

He especially has the aim of leveling the lopsided national playing field where we pay and do far more than our share, to the benefit of other nations, and often to our own disadvantage. The upside-down trade situation with China for so many years shines as an example.

 

Trump is a businessman and sees things as negotiations, whether with the leader of another country, or with other parts of the government. He speaks in positive, sometimes over-positive, language about efforts to get things done. He speaks in very negative terms about people, countries and things working against him, but his ultimate goal is to reach an end where America benefits.

 

Not everything that Trump has done has worked perfectly, or even well. But some of them are works in progress. Negotiations are not always pretty. Sometimes, things get worse before they get better.

 

But a good many of them do get better.

 

Following the Great Recession of 2007-08, then-President Barack Obama’s policies did little if anything to bring the country out of the recession.

 

Trump, by contrast, understands economic principles, the ones that work. He knew that tax cuts and regulatory roll-backs were key to getting the economy out of the doldrums of the recession.

 

He lowered tax rates in six of the seven brackets and increased standard deductions for married and single filers, and heads of household.

 

The theory is sound: Let people keep more of their earnings, and they will spend it on needs and wants. Let businesses keep more of their profits and they will spend them on more or new equipment, additional workers, wage increases and other positive things. More spending in the private sector leads to an improving economy.

 

Naysayers will complain that businesses just pay executives and shareholders more with their increased profits. True, that happens. But the increase in employment and the decrease in people on welfare show that the money does get used for broader benefits to the economy.

 

And, they say, the rich just get richer from tax cuts. But the hated rich don’t hide their money in their mattress; they spend it on things like homes, cars, boats, furniture, trips, food, household goods, etc. Purchasing these things promotes economic expansion.

 

And the rich weren’t the only beneficiaries of Trump’s tax cuts. They created prosperity for the middle class through higher wages, more take-home pay, more jobs and new employee benefits.

 

Trump’s actions also made operating a business in the US more attractive than it had been in many years, and American businesses began returning to the country, moving factories and jobs from overseas where they had moved years ago, and creating jobs for Americans.

 

After Ronald Reagan’s economic policies had been in place for long enough to produce positive results, he said: “I knew our economic policies were a success when they stopped calling them Reaganomics.”

 

And Obama’s followers were not shy about claiming credit for the quickly improving economic conditions after Trump put into effect sensible policies.

 

The US had been propping up countries damaged by wars for decades, even beyond the point where these countries could stand on their own. An example is that the US leads the funding for NATO at 22 percent of direct funding, The NATO defense spending target is 2 percent, which only eight of 29 members currently meet. Trump wants this corrected so that America carries its weight, but not the weight of most of the rest of the organization.

 

And just last Friday, Trump signed executive orders seeking to lower the cost of insulin and EpiPens, two drug products priced well beyond where they should be. The orders also allow states and pharmacies to buy drugs overseas, slash pay to medical middlemen and make sure other countries don’t pay less for American drugs than Americans do.

 

These are the kinds of governing the country needs right now, not the disastrous hands-off policies that allow violent rioting, shootings and destruction to run rampant in cities across the nation.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Selective coronavirus reporting creates confusion

As time passes we become aware of more and more “oddities” related to the coronavirus pandemic. Cutting appropriate slack for the doctors and other healthcare authorities who advised President Donald Trump and the nation on how to respond to the crisis, it was a new virus and little was known about it. We can hardly get huffy about the mistakes made early on, and to some extent, even those that persist.

Even so, dramatic mistakes were made, and playing Monday morning quarterback shows that the reactions were — and are — over-the-top, and quite harmful, in many instances.

The shutdowns closed thousands of businesses, many permanently, put tens of millions of people out of work, and contributed to deaths and other health problems not directly related to COVID-19, as elective surgeries were cancelled, and needed appointments were cancelled by people afraid to go to see a doctor, or who were afraid to go to the hospital when they were ill.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 48 percent of Americans said they or a family member canceled or delayed medical care because of the pandemic, and 11 percent said the person’s condition worsened as a result of the delayed care. Some died.

We have problems with the reporting of COVID-19 data. Media reports focus on “cases” and “deaths,” to the near exclusion of negative tests and recoveries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rules allow people who die “with” the virus to be counted along with those who die “because of” the virus, expanding the number of deaths attributed to the virus by some unknown amount.

Furthermore, according to the CDC, a positive test allows for the chance that antibodies from a virus in the same family of viruses as COVID-19, like the common cold, were found. And, if a person tests positive for the virus, and is tested periodically to determine when he/she is no longer positive, each of those positive tests goes into the positive test count until the person tests negative. How many of the positive tests result from this repeat testing practice?

A virus test that is positive is called a “case.” That implies to many people that each “case” is an illness, that people who test positive are sick. But many who test positive experience only mild symptoms, or no symptoms whatsoever.

And then, there is this: The Florida Department of Health released its daily coronavirus testing report on July 14 showing a statewide positivity rate of 11 percent. But WOFL-TV (FOX 35) in Orlando reported, “Countless labs have reported a 100 percent positivity rate, meaning every single person tested was positive.

“Other labs had very high positivity rates. FOX 35 News found that testing sites like one local Centra Care reported that 83 people were tested and all tested positive. Then, NCF Diagnostics in Alachua reported 88 percent of tests were positive. How could that be?”

An investigation into these hard-to-believe results showed that Orlando Health’s 98 percent positivity rate was wrong. When the station contacted the hospital, it corrected the positivity rate to only 9.4 percent.

Orlando Veteran’s Medical Center reported a positivity rate of 76 percent. But, again, a spokesperson for the Medical Center told FOX 35 News that the positivity rate for the Center is actually 6 percent.

How often do such “errors” occur?

Florida, of course, has seen dramatic increases in actual positive tests, but on the positive side, the state’s nation-leading increase in positive tests is not matched by a nation-leading increase in deaths, so far.

One Florida death was a man in his 20s who died in a motorcycle accident, but was classified as a COVID death. FOX 35 News received a statement from the Florida Department of Health attempting to clarify how a "COVID death" is determined. If, "COVID19 is listed as the immediate or underlying cause of death, or listed as one of the significant conditions contributing to death. Or, if there is a confirmed COVID-19 infection from a lab test – and the cause of death doesn’t meet exclusion criteria – like trauma, suicide, homicide, overdose, motor-vehicle accident, etc."

Despite the latter point, this death was classified as a COVID death.

Here are some relevant data from covidtracking.com as of July 19, 2020. The overwhelming majority of data comes from local or state/territorial public health authorities:
Total tests = 44,968,536
Positive tests = 3,962,061
Negative tests = 41,273,443
Test results pending = 3,032
Total hospitalized = 276,439
Total deaths = 132,395

These data show that only 8.3 percent of total tests are positive; that only 7.5 percent of those testing positive become hospitalized; that 3.6 percent of those testing positive succumb to the virus.

Also, fewer than half of those hospitalized — 7.5 percent of those testing positive — succumb to the disease, and 96.4 percent of those testing positive survive.

The selective choosing of which data to report can — and does — create a particular response: fear.

It would be far better — and far more responsible — to report the whole range of data so that the public will have a broad set of data on which to base its reaction.