Coronavirus, Domestic Policy

Protecting America and Its Workers

[With] the recent discoveries of physicians and neurologists, engineers and economists, the public can formulate minimum occupational standards below which, demonstrably, work can be prosecuted only at a human deficit. [We] hold that all industrial conditions which fall below such standards should come within the scope of governmental action and controlled in the same way that subnormal sanitary conditions are subject to public regulation and for the same reason – because they threaten the general welfare.

Theodore Roosevelt, Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech at Progressive Party Convention, August 6, 1912

Hospitals at crisis care levels. Children increasingly infected and hospitalized by the new Delta COVID-19 variant. States forcing businesses to assume the risk of employee and customer infections due to masking prohibitions. 

President Biden’s vaccination plan attempts to address these new threats from the coronavirus pandemic. Americans are understandably weary of all of the restrictions and frustrated by the failure of our federal and state governments to develop a clear path out of them. The way to examine the necessity of the plan is to ask three questions:

  1. Is it a good idea?
  2. Is it legal?
  3. Is there a better way to do it?

Is it a good idea?

As I said in my post Wasting America’s Moment, the vaccination program is an effective and uniquely American response to the pandemic. Vaccinations significantly reduce the likelihood of hospitalization and eliminate the risk of death not only for recipients, but also potentially for the unvaccinated. They are also our best way to achieve a return to normality in life by allowing business and government to reopen by lessening their liability for workers compensation and customer liability.  The toll on our children should also concern us and supports a masking mandate in at least elementary schools.

Is it legal?

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1974 grants the Federal government the power to regulate workplace safety to reduce workplace hazards, including illnesses.  This law has existed for over three decades and it’s legality has repeatedly been upheld.  In particular, section 6 (c)(1) gives the President through the Department of Labor’ Occupational Safety the right to issue Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) when employees are exposed to “grave danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from new hazards, and (B) that such emergency standard is necessary to protect employees from such danger.  29 U.S.C. § 655(c)(1). This cannot be done by mere executive order.  The proposed ETS must be reviewed by an advisory committee, drafted and then published in the Federal Register.  While it becomes immediately effective at upon publication, it expires after six months if not renewed through the usual notice and comment procedure under the federal Administrative Procedure Act. See this description of the process on OSHA’s website.

Thus, it will be at least a week before any rule or mandate is adopted. Based on the statement from the White House, the rule will allow employees to escape the vaccination requirements through weekly negative COVID-19 testing. Many other issues will need to be addressed and the President has met with business and labor leaders to begin to resolve them.  They will also be hashed out by the advisory committee.

Is there a better way do it?

The new emergency standard is unique since it will apply not just to certain industries, but to to almost every type of workplace in the nation.  Imposing a mandate of this breadth should be the province of the Congress, not an administrative agency.  Acting through legislation instead of an OSHA rulemaking would have allowed the administration to include measures that are outside of the agency’s power, such as providing federal financial support for the small number of employees who may suffer adverse reactions to the vaccine.  Even more importantly, it would have forced Republicans and Democrats in Congress to confront the issues, both specious and valid, about our pandemic response.  Such a debate would have exposed the weaknesses in both the anti-vaxxer and permanent lockdown camps, which may be why both sides want to avoid it. The eventual result would not fully satisfy either the Dr. Anthony Faucis or Rep. Marjorie Green’s of the world, but it might satisfy the average American trying to run his or her life in a responsible and caring manner. 

Nevertheless, we appear to be stuck with the OSHA emergency standard as the only likely method of spurring vaccinations and stopping the surge in the current Delta variant of COVID-19. If opponents want to be helpful, they will start demanding that the Biden Administration set a clear metric for when vaccination and masking mandates will end. What number they pick – whether it is cases, hospitalization rates or death rates – matters less than the simple courageous act of making a decision and setting a goal for the American people to rally around. Only then will we move beyond irresponsible political rhetoric and see the light at the end of this dark tunnel. 

Foreign Policy

9/11 – A Call to Courage

Courtesy of Quotes Galore

If you are looking for an explanation for the debacle in Afghanistan, the failure of our leaders to heed this advice from Theodore Roosevelt is the best place to start.  It clearly does not apply to any of the brave soldiers who served in Afghanistan, Iraq or anywhere else during the War on Terror.  They followed TR by leaving the comforts of home to join the armed services and assume the personal risks necessary to achieve victory.  However, our political leaders then betrayed this service by pursuing personal political advantage rather than a clear, defined victory.

It began with President George W Bush. Instead of calling the nation to a declaration of war and the domestic sacrifices necessary to achieve victory, he chose prosperity at any price, proclaiming that American people could best support the war effort by “going shopping”. He was more concerned about winning reelection then achieving a clear victory.  He then expanded the mission of the war to encompass a goal he campaigned against – nation-building in a country that had defied domination by two previous empires.

President Barack Obama continued this theme when he failed to declare victory after the death of Osama bin Laden and then chose peace at any price by failing to punish Pakistan for its hiding of bin Laden within sight of their own military academy.    

Donald Trump talked a good game about withdrawal but failed to implement it because of a fear of the political consequences of a failure. He chose safety first rather than duty.  Finally, President Biden’s decision to withdraw, while initially courageous, was tainted by the artificial political goal of completing it by the anniversary of 9/11 instead of waiting until the end of the fighting season in winter. This would have at least slowed the Taliban’s takeover and created more time to identify and rescue the Afghans who helped us.

So how can America rededicate itself to Roosevelt’s brand of courage? First, the reports of Taliban oppression and the attack by ISIS-K that killed 13 marines show Afghanistan remains a threat to the United States and the world.  The Taliban won the military battle, but they have yet to reckon with our economic power.  We have over $2 billion in gold and other reserves held for Afghanistan, which should not be released until they allow all American citizens and applicants previously approved under the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) to leave. To prevent future terrorists from infiltrating the United States, travel to Afghanistan should be illegal and anyone with a passport containing proof of entry there should be thoroughly vetted before entering the United States. This includes any who might be classified as refugees unless they were previously granted entry under the SIV program.  Trade by American companies should be banned as well and, if the Taliban continue to allow terrorist groups to operate in the country, foreign companies doing business there should be banned from American markets.

On Saturday, the names of those who died on 9/11 will be remembered in New York and Washington. We must resist the siren song of foreign and defense policy wonks in Washington who want us to forget those names and treat the Taliban like any other government.  We must also remember to demand of ourselves and our political leaders that America follow the advice of Roosevelt instead of the path of political expediency when we face similar challenges in the future.  Otherwise, we will choose the path to the destruction of our country.

Foreign Policy, New Nationalism News

New Nationalism News

August 24, 2021

This edition will focus on the Afghanistan withdrawal – both how we got here and the potential problem it creates for the clean energy industry.

The Sad History of the Afghan war over Four Presidencies

This story tells how a war with the clear objective of capturing or killing the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks morphed into a futile nation-building exercise and then a losing quagmire.

Bush, Obama, Trump, Biden: How four presidents created today’s Afghanistan mess – CNNPolitics

What the Taliban were telling us when we listened

A US Air Force intelligence officer assigned to monitor Taliban communications in support of our troops wrote both an inspiring and sobering account of what he learned about them and Afghanistan during his tours of duty. We are all lucky to have military members with the dedication, skill and courage this author showed during his service there.

What I Learned While Eavesdropping on the Taliban – The Atlantic

The Crisis for Clean Energy

The Taliban inherit mineral wealth worth trillions of dollars. In particular, Afghanistan has been called the Saudi Arabia of lithium, an essential element of batteries and other renewable energy sources. We may have to accept the Taliban and their radical Islam in order to meet the ambitious clean energy goals of the Biden Administration.  Otherwise, China and Russia will end up controlling the lithium reserves and require us to buy from them, endangering our broader national security. 

Under the Taliban, what will happen to Afghanistan’s minerals? — Quartz (qz.com)