The United States should be at its pinnacle of strength. It still produces more goods and services than any other nation—China included, which has a population over four times as large. Its fuel and food industries are globally preeminent, as are its graduate science, computer, engineering, medical, and technology university programs. Its constitution is the oldest of current free nations. And the U.S. military is by far the best funded in the world. And yet something has gone terribly wrong within America, from the southern border to Afghanistan.
The inexplicable in Afghanistan—surrendering Bagram Air Base in the middle of the night, abandoning tens of billions of dollars of military equipment to the Taliban, and forsaking both trapped Americans and loyalist Afghans—has now become the new Biden model of inattention and incompetence.
Or to put it another way, when we seek to implant our culture abroad, do we instead come to emulate what we are trying to change?
Take COVID-19. Joe Biden in 2020 (along with Kamala Harris) trashed Trump’s impending Operation Warp Speed vaccinations. Then, after inauguration, Biden falsely claimed no one had been vaccinated until his ascension (in fact, 1million a day were being vaccinated before he assumed office). Then again, Biden claimed ad nauseam that he didn’t believe in mandates to force the new and largely experimental vaccinations on the public. Then, once more, he promised that they were so effective and so many Americans had received vaccines that by July 4 the country would return to a virtual pre-COVID normality.
Then came the delta variant and his self-created disaster in Afghanistan.
To divert his attention away from the Afghan morass, Biden weirdly focused on an equally confused new presidential COVID-19 mandate, seeking to subject federal employees, soldiers, and employees of larger firms to mandatory vaccinations—right as the contagious delta variant seemed to be slowly tapering off, given the millions who have either been vaxxed, have developed natural immunity, or both.
Consider other paradoxes. American citizens must be vaccinated, but not the forecasted 2 million noncitizens expected to cross the southern border illegally into the United States over the current fiscal year. Soldiers who bravely helped more than 100,000 Afghan refugees escape must be vaccinated, but not the unvetted foreign nationals from a premodern country?
Scientists now are convinced naturally acquired COVID-19 immunity from a previous infection likely provides longer and better protection than does any of the current vaccinations.
Yet those who suffered COVID-19, and now have antibodies and other natural defenses, must likewise be vaccinated. That anomaly raises the obvious logical absurdities: will those with vaccinations—in reciprocal fashion—be forced to be exposed to the virus to obtain additional and superior natural immunity, given the Biden logic of the need for both acquired and vaccinated immunity?
We have Afghanistanized the border as well, turning the United States into a pre-state whose badlands borders are absolutely porous and fluid. There is no audit of newcomers, no vaccinations required, no COVID-19 tests—none of the requirements that millions of citizens must meet either entering the United States or working at their jobs. Our Bagram abandonment is matched by abruptly abandoning the border wall in mid-course.
Yet where the barrier exists, there is some order; where Joe Biden abandoned the wall, there is a veritable stampede of illegal migration.
October 7, 2019. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Coups, Juntas and Such
Third-World countries suffer military coups when unelected top brass and caudillos often insidiously take control of the country’s governance in slow-motion fashion. The latest Bob Woodward “I heard,” “they say,” and “sources reveal” mythography now claims that General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, discussed separating an elected commander-in-chief from control of the military. Woodward and co-author Robert Costa also assert that Milley promised his Chinese Communist military counterpart that he would tip off the People’s Liberation Army of any planned U.S. aggressive action—an odd paranoia when Donald Trump, of the last five presidents, has proved the most reluctant to send U.S. troops into harm’s way.
If that bizarre assertion is true, Milley himself might have essentially risked starting a war by eroding U.S. deterrence in apprising an enemy of perceived internal instability inside the executive branch, and the lack of a unified command. (So, Woodward wrote: “‘General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable, and everything is going to be okay,’ Milley said. ‘We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.’ Milley then added, ‘If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.’”)
More germanely, when Milley called in senior officers and laid down his own operational directives concerning nuclear weapons, he was clearly violating the law as established and strengthened in 1947, 1953, and 1986 that clearly states the Joint Chiefs are advisors to the president and are not in the chain of command and are to be bypassed, at least operationally, by the president.
The commander in chief sets policy. And if it requires the use of force, he directs the secretary of defense to relay presidential orders to the relevant theater commanders. Milley had no authority to discuss changing nuclear procedures, much less to convey a smear to an enemy that his commander in chief was non compos mentis.
Milley has been reduced to a caricature of a caricature right out of “Dr. Strangelove”—and is himself a danger to national security. After Milley’s summer 2020 virtue-signaling “apology” for alleged presidential photo-op misbehavior (found to be completely false by the interior department’s inspector general); after leaked news reports that Milley considered resignation (promises, promises) to signal his anger at Trump in summer 2020; after his dismissal of the 120 days of rioting, 28 deaths, 14,000 arrests, and $2 billion in damage as mere “penny packet protests”; after his “white rage” blathering before Congress; after the collapse of the U.S. military command in Kabul; and after his premature and hasty assessment of a U.S. drone strike that killed 10 innocent civilians as “righteous,” Woodward’s sensationalism may not sound as impossible as his usual fare.
Milley should either deny the Woodward charges and demand a real apology or resign immediately. He has violated the law governing the chain of command, misused his office of chairman of the Joint Chiefs, politicized the military, proved inept in his military judgment and advice, and may well have committed a felony in revealing to a hostile military leader that the United States was, in his opinion, in a crisis mode.
Yet, Milley did not act in isolation. Where did this low-bar Pentagon coup talk originate? And who are those responsible for creating a culture in which unelected current and retired military officers, sworn to uphold the constitutional order and the law of civilian control of the military, believe that they can arbitrarily declare an elected president either incompetent or criminal—and thus subject to their own renegade sort of freelancing justice?
As a footnote, remember that after little more than a week of the Trump presidency, Rosa Brooks, an Obama-era Pentagon appointee, published in Foreign Policy various ways to remove the newly inaugurated president. Among those mentioned was a military coup, in which top officers were to collude to obstruct a presidential order, on the basis of their own perceptions of a lack of presidential rectitude or competence.
We note additionally that over a dozen high-ranking retired generals and admirals have serially violated the uniform code of military justice in demonizing publicly their commander in chief with the worst sort of smears and slanders. And they have done so with complete exemption and in mockery of the very code they have sworn to abide.
Two retired army officers, colonels John Nagl and Paul Yingling, on the eve of the 2020 election, urged Milley to order U.S. army forces to remove Trump from office if in their opinion he obstructed the results of the election—superseding in effect a president’s elected powers as well as those constitutional checks and balances of the legislative and judicial branches upon him.
We know that these were all partisan and not principled concerns about an alleged non compos mentis president, because none of these same outspoken “Seven Days in May” generals have similarly violated the military code by negatively commenting publicly on the current dangerous cognitive decline of Joe Biden and the real national security dangers of his impairment, as evidenced by the disastrous skedaddle from Afghanistan and often inability to speak coherently or remember key names and places.
In short, is our new freelancing and partisan military also in the process of becoming Afghanized—too many of its leadership electively appealing to pseudo-higher principles to contextualize violating the Constitution of the United States and, sadly, too many trying to reflect the general woke landscape of the corporate board to which so many have retired? Like tribal warlords, our top brass simply do as they please, and then message to us “so what are you going to do about it?”
Achin, Afghanistan, 2011. John Moore/Getty Images
The Constitution as Construct
How paradoxical that the United States has sent teams of constitutional specialists to Iraq and Afghanistan to help tribal societies to draft legal, ordered, and sustainable Western consensual government charters that are not subject to the whims of particular tribes and parties. Yet America itself is descending in the exact opposite direction.
Suddenly in 2021 America, if ancient consensual rules, customs, and constitutional mandates do not facilitate and advance the progressive project, then by all means they must end—by a mere one vote in the Senate. It is as if the centuries of our history, the Constitution, and the logic of the founders were analogous to a shouting match among a squabbling Taliban tribal council of elders.
Junk the 233-year-old Electoral College and the constitutional directive to the states to assume primary responsibilities in establishing voting procedures in national elections. End the 180-year-old Senate filibuster. Do away with the now bothersome 150-year nine-justice Supreme Court. And scrap the 60-year-old tradition of a 50-state union.
Impeachment was intended by the founders as a rare reset of the executive branch in extremis. Now it is to be a pro formaattack on the president in his first term by the opposite party as soon as it gains control of the House—without a special counsel, without witnesses and cross-examinations, without any specific high crimes and misdemeanors or bribery and treason charges. And why not from now on impeach a president twice within a year—or try him in the Senate when he is out of office as a private citizen?
When private citizen Joe Biden is retired from the presidency, will his political enemies dig up his sketchy IRS records alleging that he never paid income taxes on the “big guy’s” “10 percent” of the income from the Hunter Biden money machine?
We may think virtue-signaling pride flags, gender studies, and George Floyd murals in Kabul remind the world of our postmodern sophistication. Yet, in truth, we are becoming far more like Afghanistan in the current tribalization of America—where tribal, racial, and ethnic loyalties are now essential to an American’s primary identity and loyalty—than we were ever able to make Afghanistan like us.
When we read leftist heartthrob Ibram X. Kendi’s endorsement of overt racial discrimination or academic and media obsessions with a supposed near-satanic “whiteness,” or the current fixations on skin color and first loyalties to those who share superficial racial affinities, then we are not much different from the Afghan tribalists. We in America apparently have decided the warring badlands of the Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks have their advantages over a racially blind, consensual republic. They are the model to us, not us of the now-discredited melting pot to them.
How sad in our blinkered arrogance that we go across the globe to the tribal Third World to teach the impoverished a supposedly preferrable culture and politics, while at home we are doing our best to become a Third-World country of incompetency, constitutional erosion, a fractious and politicized military elite, and racially and ethnically obsessed warring tribes.
Britain investigating Delta subvariant as possibly more transmissible
The UK Health Security Agency designated a Delta coronavirus subvariant called AY.4.2 as a "Variant Under Investigation," saying there was some evidence that it could be more transmissible than Delta.
Britain says investigating Delta subvariant as possibly more transmissible
October 22, 2021; 9:17 AM EDT
LONDON, Oct 22 (Reuters) – The UK Health Security Agency on Friday said it designated a Delta coronavirus subvariant called AY.4.2 as a “Variant Under Investigation”, saying there was some evidence that it could be more transmissible than Delta.
“The designation was made on the basis that this sub-lineage has become increasingly common in the UK in recent months, and there is some early evidence that it may have an increased growth rate in the UK compared to Delta,” UKHSA said.
“While evidence is still emerging, so far it does not appear this variant causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective.”
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
uk coronavirus covid-19
‘Build Back… You Know, The Thing’: Americans Have No Idea What’s In Biden’s Economic Plan
‘Build Back… You Know, The Thing’: Americans Have No Idea What’s In Biden’s Economic Plan
While Congressional Democrats spar over the ultimate size of President Biden’s "Build Back Better" economic plan, Bloomberg astutely points out that..
While Congressional Democrats spar over the ultimate size of President Biden's "Build Back Better" economic plan, Bloomberg astutely points out that Americans have no clue what they're signing up for with their tax dollars. In fact, according to a CBS News poll published Oct. 10, just 10% of Americans say they know the specifics of the bill, while only 1/3 think it would benefit them directly.
What's more, "Not even Congress knows what the bill would accomplish, with the contents of the plan changing day-by-day as Democrats squabble over how much it should spend, who it should benefit and who should pay for it."
For example, on Tuesday, the White House suggested it would jettison free community college. The next day, Democrats were focused on proposed tax hikes after moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) put her foot down over corporate and personal tax rates.
In an attempt to provide some clarity (don't hold your breath), Biden on Thursday night held a CNN town hall-style event (on the same night as Dune's US release).
In short, their messaging sucks.
"I will state the obvious, but they need to shift the focus away from process to policy. So far, the coverage around their proposal is all around Democratic divisions, which inevitably makes it impossible to sell," said former Marco Rubio communications director, Alex Conant. "Frankly, they need to talk about what their goals are," he added. "Why is this necessary?"
Republicans, on the other hand, are clear on their messaging; "Massive government spending leads to massive tax hikes," according to GOP strategist Ron Bonjean. "When you have a shifting number and shifting programs, it becomes confusing to follow."
Instead of focusing on the legislation’s new investments in child care, the elderly, education, healthcare and climate change, Democratic lawmakers have openly haggled over the price tag. A standoff between the party’s progressive and centrist factions has created cable news-ready drama.
“Given how much is wrapped up in this package, it was always going to be a long and intense negotiation,” said Ben LaBolt, a former spokesperson for President Barack Obama. “One way to start is to build the case for the way this will help middle class families and focus the public on those conversations, while at the same time preserving room for the closed-door negotiations to bring all of the elements of the party together for the biggest, most comprehensive approach possible.” -Bloomberg
In a Wednesday speech in Scranton, PA, Biden tried - and failed - to convey how his economic agenda would help working class families - by intermingling stories about growing up in the area and programs contained in the legislation.
"Frankly, they’re about more than giving working families a break; they’re about positioning our country to compete in the long haul," said Biden, doing his usual poor job of reading a teleprompter. "Economists left, right, and center agree."
Meanwhile, Biden - let's face it, Biden's 'advisers' have failed to ink a final compromise between warring factions of Democrats. For the Build Back Better plan to pass, every single Senate Democrat must be on board. As moderates Sinema and Joe Manchin (D-WV) balk on the price tag and demanding deep cuts, progressive House Democrats are sure to similarly balk at passing the smaller, $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that's already passed the Senate.
While advocacy groups have started to spend heavily to promote policies in the plan, most of the discussion remains centered on its cost.
Biden’s advisers are banking on the presumption that ordinary Americans don’t pay much attention to the machinations of everyday Washington. Much as they were during the presidential campaign, the president’s aides are largely dismissive of what they call horse-race stories.
But Biden’s team had a much easier time selling his pandemic relief legislation, the American Rescue Plan, in March, with its convenient focus on three clear issues -- money for vaccines, money to re-open schools and checks sent directly to American households. -Bloomberg
"They haven’t laid out why we need this, other than Democrats are in power now and aren’t going to have it again for a long time," said Conant.
Good luck with that.
Parents were fine with sweeping school vaccination mandates five decades ago – but COVID-19 may be a different story
Public health experts know that schools are likely sites for the spread of disease, and laws tying school attendance to vaccination go back to the 1800s.
The ongoing battles over COVID-19 vaccination in the U.S. are likely to get more heated when the Food and Drug Administration authorizes emergency use of a vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, expected later this fall.
California has announced it will require the vaccine for elementary school attendance once it receives full FDA approval after emergency use authorization, and other states may follow suit. COVID-19 vaccination mandates in workplaces and colleges have sparked controversy, and the possibility that a mandate might extend to younger children is even more contentious.
Kids are already required to get a host of other vaccines to attend school. School vaccination mandates have been around since the 19th century, and they became a fixture in all 50 states in the 1970s. Vaccine requirements are among the most effective means of controlling infectious diseases, but they’re currently under attack by small but vocal minorities of parents who consider them unacceptable intrusions on parental rights.
As a public health historian who studies the evolution of vaccination policies, I see stark differences between the current debates over COVID-19 vaccination and the public response to previous mandates.
Compulsory vaccination in the past
The first legal requirements for vaccination date to the early 1800s, when gruesome and deadly diseases routinely terrorized communities. A loose patchwork of local and state laws were enacted to stop epidemics of smallpox, the era’s only vaccine-preventable disease.
Vaccine mandates initially applied to the general population. But in the 1850s, as universal public education became more common, people recognized that schoolhouses were likely sites for the spread of disease. Some states and localities began enacting laws tying school attendance to vaccination. The smallpox vaccine was crude by today’s standards, and concerns about its safety led to numerous lawsuits over mandates.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld compulsory vaccination in two decisions. The first, in 1905, affirmed that mandates are constitutional. The second, in 1922, specifically upheld school-based requirements. In spite of these rulings, many states lacked a smallpox vaccination law, and some states that did have one failed to enforce it consistently. Few states updated their laws as new vaccines became available.
School vaccination laws underwent a major overhaul beginning in the 1960s, when health officials grew frustrated that outbreaks of measles were continuing to occur in schools even though a safe and effective vaccine had recently been licensed.
Many parents mistakenly believed that measles was an annoying but mild disease from which most kids quickly recovered. In fact, it often caused serious complications, including potentially fatal pneumonia and swelling of the brain.
With encouragement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all states updated old laws or enacted new ones, which generally covered all seven childhood vaccines that had been developed by that time: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps and rubella. In 1968, just half the states had school vaccination requirements; by 1981, all states did.
Expanding requirements, mid-20th century
What is most surprising about this major expansion of vaccination mandates is how little controversy it provoked.
The laws did draw scattered court challenges, usually over the question of exemptions – which children, if any, should be allowed to opt out. These lawsuits were often brought by chiropractors and other adherents of alternative medicine. In most instances, courts turned away these challenges.
There was scant public protest. In contrast to today’s vocal and well-networked anti-vaccination activists, organized resistance to vaccination remained on the fringes in the 1970s, the period when these school vaccine mandates were largely passed. Unlike today, when fraudulent theories of vaccine-related harm – such as the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism – circulate endlessly on social media, public discussion of the alleged or actual risks of vaccines was largely absent.
Through most of the 20th century, parents were less likely to question pediatricians’ recommendations than they are today. In contrast to the empowered “patient/consumer” of today, an attitude of “doctor knows best” prevailed. All these factors contributed to overwhelmingly positive views of vaccination, with more than 90% of parents in a 1978 poll reporting that they would vaccinate their children even if there were no law requiring them to do so.
Widespread public support for vaccination enabled the laws to be passed easily – but it took more than placing a law on the books to control disease. Vaccination rates continued to lag in the 1970s, not because of opposition, but because of complacency.
Thanks to the success of earlier vaccination programs, most parents of young children lacked firsthand experience with the suffering and death that diseases like polio or whooping cough had caused in previous eras. But public health officials recognized that those diseases were far from eradicated and would continue to threaten children unless higher rates of vaccination were reached. Vaccines were already becoming a victim of their success. The better they worked, the more people thought they were no longer needed.
In response to this lack of urgency, the CDC launched a nationwide push in 1977 to help states enforce the laws they had recently enacted. Around the country, health officials partnered with school districts to audit student records and provide on-site vaccination programs. When push came to shove, they would exclude unvaccinated children from school until they completed the necessary shots.
The lesson learned was that making a law successful requires ongoing effort and commitment – and continually reminding parents about the value of vaccines in keeping schools and entire communities healthy.
Add COVID-19 to vaccine list for school?
Five decades after school mandates became universal in the U.S., support for them remains strong overall. But misinformation spread over the internet and social media has weakened the public consensus about the value of vaccination that allowed these laws to be enacted.
COVID-19 vaccination has become politicized in a way that is unprecedented, with sharp partisan divides over whether COVID-19 is really a threat, and whether the guidance of scientific experts can be trusted. The attention focused on COVID-19 vaccines has given new opportunities for anti-vaccination conspiracy theories to reach wide audiences.
[Over 115,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.]
Fierce opposition to COVID-19 vaccination, powered by anti-government sentiment and misguided notions of freedom, could undermine support for time-tested school requirements that have protected communities for decades. Although vaccinating school-aged children will be critical to controlling COVID-19, lawmakers will need to proceed with caution.
James Colgrove has received funding from the National Library of Medicine, the Greenwall Foundation, the Milbank Memorial Fund, and the William T. Grant Foundation.cdc disease control emergency use authorization covid-19 vaccine fda spread
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