Everyone Needs To Work Together To Defeat The COVID Pandemic

9-25-2021
   We are still in the COVID Pandemic folks. This is a fact. The Delta Variant is much more contagious than earlier variants and is spreading very quickly. This is also a fact. Many hospitals around the country are filling up again with COVID patients. We are at the point now where people who need ICU beds aren’t always able to get them, and as a result, some of these individuals have died when they likely could have been saved if they had gotten into ICU. Now consider that of the COVID patients who are in ICUs, the significant majority are unvaccinated individuals.
   Think about that. We have safe vaccines available that we know are very effective in decreasing the chances of getting severe disease from COVID, yet millions of Americans are still refusing to get vaccinated even when they could. Hospitals are getting overwhelmed and people are dying who could have been saved otherwise because so many people are refusing to get vaccinated. This is a cold, hard fact.
   On top of this is how so many people in the United States refuse to wear masks when they should. Masks work. They decrease the chances of people spreading and catching the virus.
   Masks are most effective when everyone is wearing them, particularly inside spaces with less ventilation. Consider this: you have a room full of people. If one of those individuals has COVID, that person is shedding the virus as they breathe and talk. The virus then spreads on small water droplets (>5 microns) and probably also in the form of much smaller aerosolized particles. The droplets fall into the ground quicker, whereas aerosols can linger in the air for hours. There is evidence that COVID can be spread via both methods. If someone with COVID is in such an environment without a mask on, then everyone right around that individual will be at risk of breathing in virus laden droplets that the person is breathing out. The longer these people are in close quarters to the COVID individual, the greater the chance they will become infected, especially if they’re not wearing masks. Individuals who are inside the room but a little farther away may also be at risk via breathing in virus containing aerosols. This risk obviously goes up if they are in the room for extended periods of time and aren’t wearing masks. But if everyone, including the individual with COVID, is wearing a mask, then the risk of other people getting infected significantly goes down. This is because masks help decrease the amount of virus that is breathed out into the atmosphere of the room by the COVID individual while also decreasing the amount of virus the uninfected people might breathe in.
   Now imagine this room is full of your kids and their teacher at school.
   This is why mandatory mask wearing in schools is so vitally important right now. We are seeing a significant rise in the number of minors catching COVID (and going to the hospital) right now. These kids who are getting infected can then in turn spread the virus to others in their household, some of whom might be at greater risk of getting severe disease.
   In order to get a better handle on this pandemic and defeat it, everyone needs to work together like happened during World War II. During that conflict, people worked together to achieve victory. Everyone from civilians to soldiers. But this is not happening during the current COVID Pandemic, even though we are at war with a virus. According to Johns Hopkins University, as of September 25, 2021, 687,572 human beings have died in the United States alone from this virus (418,500 Americans died in WW2). Too many people are not wearing masks / social distancing when they should and too many are still refusing to get vaccinated even though they could. These individuals are being extremely irresponsible and frankly selfish. They are the major reason why hospitals are getting overwhelmed with COVID patients.
   It’s time for everyone to do their part for the greater good, like occurred during WW2. People who are able, need to get vaccinated immediately, and everyone should wear masks (and social distance as much as possible) when inside public places or in concentrated outdoor crowds. If enough people would do this, we would get a much better handle on the COVID Pandemic, which in turn would save lives.

Opposing School Mask Wearing Mandates During This Surge Is Grossly Irresponsible

8-26-21
   What is wrong with people? Hmm? I’d really like to know!
   We are still in the COVID Pandemic and are experiencing a serious surge. The Delta Variant, which is now the predominant form of the disease, is multiple times more contagious than earlier variants.  We know this. We also know how mask wearing and social distancing help significantly decrease spread of the virus. It’s also clear that to gain the maximum effect, everyone inside a public space should be wearing a mask. This is because masks decrease the amount of virus that is exhaled into the air by someone (who may have COVID and not realize it) while also providing protection for other people in the room who would be exposed to what virus is able to escape into the room’s atmosphere. Think about it. It makes perfect sense.
   Now consider how schools are trying to return to in-person learning in the middle of a rising surge. It should be abundantly obvious that everyone inside a school should be wearing a mask. Everyone. Kids and staff are going to be inside rooms in close proximity to each other for hours. We’re also seeing how in this current surge, a growing number of young people are getting infected with some going to the hospital due to having severe cases that are potentially life threatening. This is that much more reason why everyone should be wearing a mask inside schools.
   It’s not rocket science folks.
   Yet many people are fighting against mask wearing mandates in schools claiming that not wearing a mask should be their individual right. The problem with their argument is that we are dealing with a pandemic and with public health. This means that wearing a mask inside a school is not just about protecting the well-being of the wearer. It’s also about protecting everyone else in that school.
   It’s about doing what’s right for the greater good.
   This is why when people are vehemently opposing mask wearing mandates in schools, they are being grossly irresponsible and are endangering the lives of not just their own children, but those of other people as well. This sort of selfishness is sickening and abhorrent on so many levels.
   In times of crisis, everyone needs to pull together and do their part for the greater good and let go of some of their selfish desires and demands. This is what happened during World War II when everyone did their part to defeat Nazi Germany, Italy, and Japan. The problem is that right now millions of Americans are refusing to do their part in that they’re not wearing masks and social distancing when they should and many are refusing to get vaccinated despite the fact they are medically able to do so.
   So I ask again: what’s wrong with people? Why are so many being ruthlessly selfish to the point of endangering the lives of not just themselves and their own children, but those of other innocent people as well?
   What happened to doing what’s right?
   What happened to fighting for the greater good?
   I’d really like to know.

Tragedy In Afghanistan

8-17-21
   Afghanistan has fallen to the Taliban as the entire world has seen with tragic images and stories of fear, despair, and horror unfolding before us.  On TV, we saw Afghans clinging to planes as they desperately tried to escape the victorious Taliban. Women have virtually disappeared from Kabul’s streets as they hide in their homes fearful of what the Taliban may do to them. There is serious concern that a horrendous humanitarian disaster is in the making.
   So what happened? How did things come to this?
   There is no simple, easy answer.
   Afghanistan is not like many other countries around the world. It’s still a very tribal society with powerful warlords and chieftains who hold great power over their own territories. It has never been a strongly united nation. It has also been a very male dominated society for ages, especially in the rural areas. Men run the villages and have the power. For many generations, severe limitations have been placed on women in terms of education, jobs they are allowed to do, clothing they must wear (particularly in public), and so on.
   When the Taliban were in power before, they enforced an extremist, draconian form of Sharia law where men were in control. TV, movies, and most music were banned as was media, photography, or art that showed people or other living things. Girls were not supposed to go to school over the age of 10, and women were not allowed to hold almost any job outside of health care (the only reason they were allowed in this area is because male doctors were not supposed to directly treat women). People who committed adultery could be publicly executed, and individuals who stole might have a hand cut off.  Men were required to have beards, and women had to wear a burka (that covered their head and most of their body) when in public.
   The United States got directly involved in the Afghanistan conflict after 9/11 (the Taliban had harbored Al-Qaeda terrorists including Osama Bin Laden). With US involvement, the Taliban were swept from power pretty quickly, but the war did not end. The Taliban retreated to the countryside and continued fighting. The US attempted to establish a democracy in Afghanistan in the hopes of creating a more stable ally in the war on terrorism. Efforts were made to try to improve women’s rights and opportunities in life. But the conflict dragged on.
   Thing is: it’s very difficult to establish a stable democracy in a society that has no real history of it. And when you consider the tribal nature of Afghanistan, warlords, much of the population lacking the opportunity for education, poverty, and so on, the chances of establishing a strong democracy get even worse. It’s a safe bet that many of the warlords and other tribal leaders had no desire for true democracy since it could decrease their power. The Taliban certainly didn’t want democracy with their extreme version of Sharia law. And many of the everyday people were just trying to survive. There has been conflict and war in Afghanistan for decades. As a result, many people will switch sides quite readily depending on who has the most power in their area because folks are trying to survive. A consequence of all this is that the elected Afghan government was weak and many people were hesitant to fully commit to it. There was also a significant amount of corruption going on. Whereas the Taliban combined politics with a twisted, extremist, often barbaric version of religion so that many of their soldiers thought they were fighting a holy war and were more willing to die for their cause. 
   The United States (with NATO involvement at times) spent 20 years trying to train and build up a strong Afghan security force to help keep the Taliban in check and uphold the Afghan government. But due to the situation I just described, Afghan security soldiers were not as committed to their cause as Taliban troops were committed to theirs. So with the US pullout, the morale of the Afghan forces disintegrated.
   The Trump Administration had talks with the Taliban and signed an agreement with them that committed the US to pull out of Afghanistan by May 1st, 2021. The Taliban agreed to stop attacking American forces and promised to separate from Al-Qaeda. While they seemed to uphold the first provision, they likely did not honor the second. Once Biden came into office, he decided to go along with the agreement, though he did extend American presence beyond May 1st.
   Then we all saw how quickly things unraveled. The Taliban had clearly been planning for this. As a result, once enough American forces were out, the Taliban launched large scale attacks on Afghan security forces, and the latter fell apart. The Taliban seized control in less than 2 weeks.
   As to the blame game, there is plenty of blame to go around. Trump is the one who set this final American withdrawal in motion by signing an agreement directly with the Taliban in February of 2020. The Afghan government was left out which seriously weakened it and led to further plummeting of security force morale since they felt abandoned by the United States. Biden inherited this situation and then decided to go along with the agreement. The Biden Administration also seemed to seriously underestimate how quickly the Taliban would overrun the country. This likely played a role in why thousands of people (many of whom are Afghan allies who had helped the United States and NATO) are currently trapped in Afghanistan with unknown futures. Another factor in why so many Afghan allies didn’t get out in time is that the special visa program used to get them to the United States was mired in bureaucracy and staff shortages. It appears the Trump Administration made no effort to fix the issues so that almost a year was wasted. This had to have strongly contributed to why far too few of our Afghan allies got out. Biden did try to improve the program’s quagmire so that the number of approved visas rose from 100 per week in March of 2021 to 813 a week more recently. Plus, don’t forget that this war involved 2 other American presidents as well. There are also the factors of Afghanistan itself (that I’ve already described) which played major roles in the tragedy that is unfolding before us.
   So, what will the future hold? We’ll have to see. Will America be able to get our Afghan allies out of the country? Will the lot of women and LGBTQ people become as bad as last time? Will Afghanistan become a training site for terrorists like before?
   Time will tell.

This Pandemic Is Not Over Folks!

8-13-21
   Ok, I know: people are sick and tired of the COVID Pandemic.
   I get it. I am too. We want are lives back. Dream about things being normal. Doing things we used to do. I hear you.
   But folks, this thing is not over.
   The Delta Variant of COVID is much more contagious than earlier variants and is now the dominant form in the United States and much of the world. Case numbers are quickly rising so that almost the entire country is now rated by the CDC as having substantial or high rates of transmission. We are seeing increased numbers of younger people getting severe COVID cases that are sending them to the hospital.
   Thing is: there have been too many people refusing to get vaccinated and not wearing masks when they should. Earlier in the summer, too much of the population started acting like the Pandemic was over. They stopped wearing masks and quit social distancing. This allowed the virus to spread faster. The more a virus spreads, the more mutations occur. These mutations lead to new variants. Add in the fact that many people had not been vaccinated, and you have a recipe for disaster.
   Well, the disaster is here.
   So, everyone needs to buckle down and do their part in battling COVID-19. Practice social distancing and wear masks when inside public places or in large crowds. And unless your doctor has legitimate medical reasons not to, get vaccinated! If everyone would do their part, we could get through this much faster, and that would help people get back to more normal lives quicker and safer. But more importantly, it would save lives.
   So please do your part.
   Practice social distancing!
   Wear masks inside public places and in large crowds!
   And unless your doctor has legitimate medical reasons not to, get vaccinated!

Not Having Mandatory Mask Wearing In Schools Will Cost Lives

8-10-21
   What has this country come to? Hmm? So many people are refusing to get vaccinated or wear masks even though it’s been proven that both are extremely important in fighting the COVID Pandemic. And it sure seems like a significant chunk of the Republican Party keeps sinking to greater and greater depths of irresponsibility which is endangering people’s lives as well as our democratic values.
   It’s bad enough how so many Republicans are trying to change the narrative of what really happened on January 6th and who was responsible. Too many continue to spread Trump’s lies about the election, and Republicans around the country are even trying to pass voting laws that a lot of experts feel would make it more difficult for many Americans to practice their constitutional right to vote. These actions are clearly undermining and threatening our democracy.
   But what is also sickening is how such a great number of people, many of whom are Republicans, are so willfully ignoring and mishandling the COVID Pandemic. They seem to be denying or avoiding scientific evidence and advice about how to fight COVID-19. A great number of individuals are not wearing masks when they clearly should and far too many are still refusing to get vaccinated despite the fact that vaccinations are vitally important in battling this deadly virus. Even before the current surge which is enveloping this country exploded, the CDC was recommending unvaccinated people wear masks when inside public places or in big crowds, yet many were totally disregarding this advice. A variety of people from different walks of life have been doing this sort of thing unfortunately, and it’s been a significant problem among Republicans. Polls and studies have shown that as a whole, Democrats and Independents have been more likely to take this Pandemic seriously when compared to Republicans. A higher percentage of Republicans say they will not get vaccinated as compared to Democrats. It’s been Republican states which have been having much lower vaccination rates and thus faster spread of the Delta Variant. Now we are in another surge as the Delta Variant, which is much more contagious than earlier forms of COVID, spreads rapidly around the country and the world. The CDC is recommending that in areas with substantial or high rates of transmission (which is most of the United States), everyone should wear a mask when inside public spaces. This includes those who have been vaccinated. Yet many people are ignoring this. And what makes matters even worse is the fact that there are Republican leaders such as the governors of Texas and Florida who are refusing to institute mandatory mask wearing for schools. Governor DeSantis of Florida is even going to the extreme of threatening the salaries of education officials who enforce mandatory mask wearing in their local school districts. This is beyond sickening!
   Mask wearing absolutely saves lives in that it decreases the chances of the virus spreading from person to person. The scientific evidence for this is beyond overwhelming. A significant majority of kids are not vaccinated, especially those under 12 because they’re not allowed to get one of the vaccines at this point. And we know kids can catch and transmit COVID. We’re also seeing in the current surge a greater percentage of young people ending up in the hospital because of COVID infections. So it’s blatantly obvious that everyone in schools should be wearing masks and that doing so would help limit the amount of spread that occurs. Yet Republican Governors DeSantis and Abbott are completely ignoring the scientific evidence and are opposing mandatory mask wearing in schools. This will absolutely cause lives to be lost needlessly and unnecessarily.
   What is wrong with such members of the Republican Party? How low are they going to sink, and how many innocent people have to die because of the irresponsible behavior of leaders such as DeSantis and Abbott (as well as that of everyday individuals who refuse to wear masks or get vaccinated)?
   When history looks back on this time, it’s going to treat a great many people, especially a significant number of Republicans, very harshly, and they’re absolutely going to deserve it!

Olympic Games Have Gotten Outrageously Expensive For Host Cities

   For many people, the Olympics is an amazing, magical time. Athletes all over the world train, sacrifice, and push themselves to their limits and beyond as they strive for a chance at Olympic Glory. But it goes beyond sports when you think about it, for nations, including those that are literally at war with each other, gather together for peaceful competition. It’s one of the few times where the world has some form of unity.
   But these days, a major problem is how exorbitantly expensive hosting Olympic Games has become. In Ancient Greece, city-states would send contingents of athletes to compete in the Games every 4 years at a permanent site in the southern part of the country, Olympia. Only men were allowed to compete, and there were also religious celebrations in addition to the athletic competitions. Artists were present looking for patrons and perhaps trying to sell some of their work as well as politicians on site trying to expand their influence. But it stayed peaceful, which was a significant accomplishment considering that the Ancient Greek city-states were often at odds with each other, and open warfare was not uncommon.
   Obviously, much has changed with regards to the Olympics. Thankfully, competition is not restricted to just men now, and the variety of events has vastly expanded. Also, modern Olympics include nations from all around the world as opposed to just the Greek world. Another major change is how the Olympics are held in different cities instead of being in one permanent location as was the case in the Ancient World.
   Having different cities host the Olympics is in many ways a noble idea. It helps uphold the concept that the Olympics are truly international and don’t belong to any one country or place. And while this lofty ideal has its merits, there are serious problems with it as well, one of which being the extreme cost that hosting the Olympics has become. Each time a new city is going to host the Olympics, that place has to build and expand infrastructure in order to meet demands of the Games and International Olympic Committee. This is no small feat considering how vast the Olympic Games have become in terms of numbers of athletes, supporting staffs, the variety of different events (some of which require very specialized facilities), and the growing need for increased security (both physical and cyber). The result is that host cities have to spend billions of dollars and frequently go into massive debt which can take them years, if not decades, to pay off.
   Here are some examples of the costs. According to Forbes.com, the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro cost approximately 13.7 billion dollars. The Sochi Winter Games of 2014 cost around 21.9 billion dollars, and the 2012 London Summer Games cost approximately 15 billion dollars. That is vastly expensive for something that will last only a few weeks. Another problem is how some of the facilities that have to be constructed are very specialized and often don’t have any use after the Games are over. There are numerous cases where such sites have literally just been abandoned, or more money needs to be spent revamping them or knocking them down to build something else that would be of use to the community. The result is that fewer cities are interested in hosting modern Olympic Games, and this is especially being seen amongst democratic countries. Fewer cities are competing to become future hosts, and what is likely to occur is that as time goes by, more and more of the host cities are going to be in countries that are run by dictatorships because dictators are less likely to worry about the financial costs. They tend to be more interested in using the Games as a way to try to expand their power and influence over their own people as well as other countries.
   So my thinking is that maybe it’s time to find permanent locations for the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. There could be one permanent site for each or one location that would host both. Countries around the world could contribute financially to building and maintaining the site so that the host doesn’t incur crippling debt. In terms of choosing such a location(s), I would recommend finding a place that is a stable democracy and is also neutral in terms of international affairs. Perhaps Switzerland or somewhere similar. This way, the spirit of the Olympic Games would live on and the financial burden would be lessened. The costs that would occur could be spread throughout the world instead of individual cities having to go into massive debt, debts that can easily take decades to get out of.
   Now, I realize that making this idea a reality would not be easy. There would be fights over where the permanent site(s) should be and battles over who pays what. But if it could be pulled off, I do think it could solve a lot of problems and help the Olympic Games thrive well into the future.
  

https://www.usatoday.com/picture-gallery/sports/olympics/2021/07/22/abandoned-olympic-venues-around-world/8063114002/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nbcchicago.com/news/sports/tokyo-summer-olympics/images-show-abandoned-olympic-venues-around-the-world/2563311/%3famp

The Republican Party Has Gone Dangerously Off The Rails

7-20-21
   It’s really scary how off the rails so much of the Republican Party has become.
   Think about it. Really think about what’s going on.
   The Republican party in many ways is now controlled by one person, Donald Trump. That in itself undermines democracy and what democracy is supposed to be about. What makes it even worse in this case is how twisted, disturbed, and authoritarian Trump’s outrageous behavior is. He lies on a colossal scale which is made even more dangerous by the way his blind followers go right along with with these lies without question. They let him get away with it, which in turn encourages his terrible behavior even more.
   Let’s look at one example: the 2020 election. This election was free and fair. There was no widespread fraud. Every single state, including those run by Republican officials, certified the election because it was free and fair. International observers from multiple countries were present monitoring the election, and they stated the election was free and fair. There were Republican, Democrat, and Independent observers in all the ballot counting rooms in every state. Add to all this the fact that Trump and his people went to court over 60 times trying to push their outrageous false claims of widespread fraud and lost. And many of the judges who ruled against Trump had been appointed by Republicans themselves. The reason Trump and his people lost over 60 court cases in connection to the election is because they have no case. They have no evidence that would stand up in a court of law. It is very clear that Trump lost the election fair and square. But Trump doesn’t like to lose and wants power, so he has continued making his false, dangerous claims about the election even though they are flat out lies. And despite the fact that his claims are totally false, his followers blindly go along with them spreading these dangerous falsehoods.  And we all saw how on January 6th, all these false claims about the election led to a mob of extremist Trump supporters assaulting United States Capitol Building in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying this free and fair election. And yet despite all this, Trump and his supporters continue pushing their dangerous, undemocratic false claims about the election.
   This brings us to Republicans in elected positions, the majority of whom are bowing to Trump’s authoritarian leadership over the party. Some of these officials are blind followers of Trump themselves while others secretly may not like Trump but continue to bow to him because they are afraid of losing future primary elections. In other words, this latter group is putting their own desire for political power over American democracy. In Washington DC, only a few Congressional Republicans are willing to speak out against Trump.
   This state of affairs is quite scary and truly is dangerous to our democracy. We need to be aware of what is happening and stand up for our democratic values and speak out against authoritarianism in all its forms. We need to put pressure on more Republicans to break away from Trump’s extremist, undemocratic authoritarianism. And in future elections, we need to vote in people who stand for true democracy. Considering how much of the Republican Party is currently under the sway of Trump, in the next few elections, we need to vote in Democrats as much as possible in order to ensure our democracy endures. And I say this as an Independent (I’m not a Democrat). Right now, with so much of the Republican Party following an authoritarian leader, which is what Trump is, the Republican Party cannot be trusted with majority control over the government.

What Happened to Civil Debate, Open-mindedness, the Ability to Compromise, and Getting Things Done in US Politics?

7-9-21
   You know what, democracy can be messy. It sure can. When you look at history, there are plenty of examples of that. A democracy is made up of plethora of different people and viewpoints so that everyone’s not going to agree on everything. There will be disagreements. Political parties push their agendas and vie for more power. At times, arguments can get passionate and quite heated. Again, if you look at the past, there are plenty of examples. The problem these days is that divisions and severe partisanship have gotten dangerously extreme.
   If you look back at the 1980s and 1990s in Washington DC politics, sure, there were plenty of disagreements and battles in Congress. But there was also compromise and bipartisanship as well. Republicans and Democrats in Congress could sit down and hash out compromises to get things done. Senator Ted Kennedy for example was very liberal and quite passionate about his views, yet he could also sit down with Republicans and hammer out a deal to get legislation passed. While neither side got everything they wanted, in the end, they would get legislation passed for the good of the American people. Sure, it wasn’t perfect. But they were able to get things done much better than today.
   Even before Donald Trump took office, political divisions were getting pretty severe, and then when Trump took office, they got much worse since he made a point to encourage and exacerbate divisiveness. We’re seeing political extremes who don’t want to compromise, and while both parties have been guilty of this lately, the Republicans have gotten much worse about it. A disturbing example of this is the statement by Texas Republican Chip Roy when he said that he would “oppose almost everything that Congress does.” He clearly means that he intends to try to stop any significant legislation that is proposed by the Democratic majority in large part to try to increase the chances of Republicans gaining seats in the 2022 midterm elections. And Roy is not the only one guilty of this. Mitch McConnell for some years now has been going out of his way to obstruct and stop legislation proposed by Democrats in his obsession to try to gain and hold a Republican majority in the Senate. Since he is the Republican leader in the Senate, he is essentially trying to gain and hold as much power as he can in that chamber.
   It seems that too many people in Congress are showing more loyalty to their party than to the United States Constitution and the American people as a whole. And in the Republicans’ case, too many are bowing to the authoritarian style whims and demands of Donald Trump as well. This goes against what Democracy is supposed to be about.
   I’m not one of those people that glorifies the old days so to speak. While I think history is fascinating, it is important to be honest about the past and try to understand the good, the bad and the in-between. But one thing I will say is that we need to regain the ability to talk to one another, to listen to one another, to be open minded, to compromise, and to get things done. Both Democrats and Republicans need to do better in this regard. Furthermore, in the Republican Party’s case, they need to separate themselves from Donald Trump and his dangerously authoritarian tendencies and lies. Democracy frequently requires compromise because of the diversity of society. Everyone needs to remember that it’s more important to stand up for the United States Constitution, the American people, and Democracy than be blindly loyal and follow a particular political party or individual. Too many people these days are essentially being more loyal to their political party (and in many Republicans’ case, to Donald Trump) than to the United States Constitution. This trend is not only disturbing, it’s dangerous because history is full of examples of things like this and how they can lead to authoritarianism and dictatorship.
  

Majority of DC Republicans Continue Opposing a Congressional Investigation of the Jan 6th Events

7-1-21
   Well, the dangerous dark path that the Republican Party is going down appears to be continuing which is frankly scary for our democracy.
   Now let’s get one thing perfectly clear here: the 2020 election was free and fair. Donald Trump lost. There was no widespread fraud. Every single state, including those run by Republicans, certified the election because it was fair. They were Republican, Democrat, and Independent observers in all the ballot counting rooms. They were international observers from multiple countries monitoring the election as well. The FBI and even William Barr, Donald Trump’s Attorney General during that time, found no evidence of widespread fraud. Add to that how the Trump campaign lost over 60 court cases where they were making their baseless claims about the election, and it is abundantly clear that the election was free and fair.
   Yet Donald Trump and numerous other Republicans spread false allegations and flat out lies about the 2020 election. And we all saw, along with the entire world, how extremist Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol Building on January 6th in an effort to try to stop Congress from certifying the election. The events that day were horrendous, cost human lives, and went against the very essence of our democratic values.
   It is clear that the United States Congress must investigate what happened on January 6th in order to understand what occurred, how it occurred, and why it occurred so that hopefully it will never happen again. A bipartisan 9/11 style Commission is clearly the preference, but Republicans disgracefully killed that idea. As a result, Speaker the House Nancy Pelosi was left with the options of doing nothing or putting together a select committee. She has decided to do the latter, and of course the Republicans are attacking this. They had their chance of a bipartisan Commission which is what most Americans wanted, but it is the Republicans who killed that possibility. So it is beyond hypocritical for them to attack the select committee. The select committee is better than nothing at all.
   The fact that the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to oppose investigating January 6th reveals how dark and dangerous a path the Republican Party is venturing down. In the history of this nation, we have never seen anything like what happened on January 6th. If you’d told people hypothetically 20 or 30 years ago that Americans might storm the US Capitol Building to try to prevent an election from being certified, the vast majority wouldn’t believe you. And if you then added that a political party would oppose Congress’s investigating the event, people would be dumbfounded in shock. Yet here we are. The majority of the Republican Party in DC is opposing any real Congressional investigation into one of the most important events in modern history. Only a handful of Republicans in Congress have shown any courage in wanting to get the bottom of the January 6th events. Republican Representative Liz Cheney is one of those few and has agreed to be a part of the select committee. While I may disagree with her on many policy issues, I have great respect for her courage in joining the committee. It’s sad and dangerous that so many other Republicans won’t show her bravery too. Instead, they seem to either actively support the terrible lies being spread by Trump and others or they choose to stay silent. But the thing is, there are times when partisan politics should be laid aside and doing what’s best for the country should take precedence. This is one of those times, and Liz Cheney is one of the few Republicans who is rising to the occasion. The vast majority of others are not. Instead, they are going along with Trump’s authoritarian tendencies and lies about the election.
   These are disturbingly scary times indeed.
   It reminds us how fragile democracy is and how we must stay vigilant and defend it because those who may try to undermine it, or even destroy it, can come from the outside or from within.
   In this case, they have come from within.

The Threat Of Cyber Attacks Is Greater Than Ever

6-22-21
   The threat of cyber attacks is greater than ever these days as the hacking of the Colonial Pipeline and resulting chaos exemplifies. And the thing is: it could have been so much worse than it was.
   So much worse.
   Technology is amazing. It is! It makes our lives so much easier and allows humanity to accomplish achievements never before seen in the history of our species. Think about it. There are multiple probes and rovers operating on Mars right now, including the first helicopter flown on another world. We can video chat with people on the other side of our planet and watch movies on our smartphones.
   Computerization is also integral in the infrastructure of modern life. The power grid, water systems, air traffic control, the internet, financial institutions, the healthcare system, and national defense are just a few examples in which technology and computers are absolutely vital for safe and proper operations.
   Now imagine the potential devastating impacts that could occur from a severe enough cyber attack on any of these systems.
   Think about it for a minute
   Imagine hackers shutting down air traffic control operations at a major international airport, or even region of the country. Consider what that could entail. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport saw an average of 300,000 people passing through every day in 2018. At the very least, you’d have the chaos of massive flight cancellations and interruptions of people’s travels, and at the worst, you could have horrible plane crashes with terrible loss of life.
   Another frightening possibility would be hackers taking control of a major hydroelectric dam’s computer systems so that they could shut down its power generation and worse, potentially create a devastating flood that could kill hundreds if not thousands of innocent people living downstream.
   Or consider this terrifying scenario: what if hackers seized the computer controls of a nuclear power plant.
   Cyber attacks are perpetrated by individuals, criminal organizations, terror groups, and other countries. The damage they can incur is downright scary.
   We as a society need to take this threat much more seriously than many have been so far. Improving cyber security is no easy matter especially when you consider that different people, companies, organizations, and governments vary as to how seriously they take it and what measures they may be implementing to protect themselves. And being a democracy, there are limitations in what the government can do because while we need better cyber security, we also must maintain people’s rights and freedoms. It can be a delicate balancing act with no easy answers.
   But seeing that we are facing serious cyber threats, like it or not, will have to grapple with finding better ways to protect ourselves while also maintaining our cherished way of life.
  

https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/2021/06/22/colonial-pipeline-jbs-ransomware-attacks-cybersecurity-fears/7547655002/