A True, Courageous Hero

A True, Courageous Hero

            Robert A. Levine 2-20-24

Alexi Navalny’s murder last week was act of conspicuous evil by the autocratic Putin regime in Russia. Putin’s malign control of the Russian state and his actions against his political opponents mirrors those of his glorified predecessor, Joseph Stalin, during the existence of the Soviet Union. But instead of the KGB, we have its successor the FSB meting out killings and torture to those who refuse to accept Putin’s desires as paramount in the Russian state. Alexi Navalny must have known what fate likely awaited him when he returned to Russia from Germany in 2021.

Navalny’s political crusade against Putin and his corrupt United Russia party gained public attention in 2011 when he came out and called Putin’s organization “the party of crooks and thieves,” spearheading a national protest movement. This was in preparation for a parliamentary election held the following year. Though United Russia won the election, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported irregularities and abuses in the electoral process making the outcome preordained.

In 2013, Navalny was arrested and convicted on charges of fraud, but never-the-less-ran for mayor of Moscow that year. He attained 30 percent of the vote, an unheard-of figure for an opposition candidate in Russia, and claimed that he only lost because the vote was fraudulent. But Navalny showed there was a considerable segment of Russians who were dissatisfied with Putin and gave them a voice. Subsequently, Navalny traveled through Russia trying to set up local political organizations opposing Putin and United Russia.

On a flight from Tomsk to Moscow in August of 2020, Navalny was noted to be sick, and the plane landed in Omsk where he was taken to a hospital. His family was unhappy with his medical care and was able to have him transferred to a hospital in Germany where it was determined that he had been poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. This method of assassination has been utilized domestically and internationally by the FSB to silence Putin’s critics. With the discovery that Novichok had been used, there was little question where the order to kill Navalny had originated.

Subsequently, with his treatment at a German hospital, Navalny appeared to have recovered completely. Showing no evidence of fear, Navalny decided to return to Russia in February 2021, against the advice of family and supporters. He knew that he would be arrested but felt that to emphasize his love for Russia and desire for democratic change, he had to go back. Indeed, Navalny was quickly arrested upon his return on trumped up political charges.

Since then, he has been incarcerated in increasingly harsh conditions in special Russian prisons distant from Moscow. He was kept in a freezing isolation cell much of the time and tortured in various ways. Transferred to a penal colony north of the Arctic Circle, he kept up his spirits and his vision for Russia. He managed to get out letters and communicate with supporters about his condition and what he wanted them to do to change Russia’s autocracy. His acolytes both in Russia and out of country followed his instructions attempting to bring about change. He was a staunch opponent of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in addition to Putin’s structure of the government and the corruption by Putin and his associates.

Finally, on February 16, Navalny was murdered, though the authorities claim he died a sudden death because of a heart problem. His mother asked for a release of his body so that a private autopsy could be done, but so far that has been refused. It is believed that the government does not want the manner of his death to be revealed. There have been demonstrations and memorials all over Russia in honor of Navalny and his wife has vowed to take up his baton to bring about democratic change in Russia. Hundreds to thousands of people supporting Navalny have been arrested by the FSB.

Navalny is a true hero because he was willing to risk torture and death to return to Russia to fight for his beliefs- freedom, human rights, and democracy for the Russian people. There are very few individuals who can withstand torture and the threat of death and yet be willing to defend the principles for which they are fighting. John McCain was another hero who was tortured by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, but never denounced the United States. Donald Trump, who managed to avoid military service because of a supposed bone spur in his foot, called McCain a loser because he had been captured by the North Vietnamese. In fact, Trump has labeled the members of our military forces as suckers and losers because they are willing to fight and die for our country. Trump has it backwards. Our military men and women deserve our admiration and Trump himself is a loser. Navalny and McCain are examples of true heroes.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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The Impact of Pollution

The Impact of Pollution

            Robert A. Levine

Every society and culture has been guilty of polluting their local areas of work and habitation, with some societies defiling more extensive regions or the world itself. As humanity has advanced scientifically, industrially and technologically, with more goods produced and longer lives, the amount of pollution has increased dramatically. Progress and pollution appear to go hand in hand. It is only recently that small numbers of people have realized the dangers of pollution and how the destruction of the environment and various ecosystems are bad for the planet and ultimately bad for humans. Some of these people have become organized into environmentally friendly groups who are ardently working to save endangered species and ecosystems and preserve the planet. The general public does not seem aware of how pollution and contamination can damage the world and affect them.

According to an American Lung Association report in 2022, over a third of United States residents were impacted by unhealthy air. However, this report was issued prior to the extensive Canadian and American wildfires in the spring and summer of 2023 which considerably downgraded air quality in much of America. It was noted that over 63 million Americans faced daily spikes in lethal particle pollution, the most in a decade, with California the hardest hit. Air pollution, like all pollution is rising annually in America and worldwide.

Poor air quality is a major factor in the causation of numerous illnesses, both from chemical pollution and wildfire smoke. The common pathway for many of the diseases is an increase in inflammation. Air pollution encompasses particles of varying sizes and from varying sources as well as a range of gases that serve as irritants when inhaled. While pulmonary, coronary and brain afflictions are most common, virtually every bodily organ can be affected, with rates of cancer also increased. Chronic exposure to atmospheric pollution is more frequently seen in impoverished neighborhoods, underdeveloped nations and in certain industries where pollutants are regular byproducts.

            Several decades ago, the term ‘exposome’ was conceived to capture all the compounds to which we are exposed that can affect our health, whether dietary or environmental. Our genomes play a large role in determining our risk of many diseases or causing diseases, and exposomes are also involved. Scientists trying to calculate the impact of exosomes upon us, run blood and urine tests to look for chemicals or their breakdown products formed by the enzymes in our bodies. Special laboratories take blood samples and use techniques like gas chromatography, liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to assess the samples and find any chemicals or byproducts present. However, finding these compounds is not enough to know their effects upon us. Many have to be investigated and the time one is exposed to these compounds may also be important. Discovering this may be difficult to ascertain and what the safe levels of these chemicals are.

            New chemicals and compounds are constantly being invented and produced by industry, some of which may be harmful or toxic at low levels. In 2017, MIT started a collaborative project, one of roughly two dozen nationwide, labeled the Superfund Research Program (SRP) to learn the effect of carcinogens that originate from toxic sites. These teams study five areas, water, air, systems biology, mutations and genetic susceptibility, examining the environmental impacts of industrial processes. They are searching for contaminants or byproducts that may be carcinogenic. One chemical, NDMA, a manufacturing byproduct and probable carcinogen has been found in Zantac and other pharmaceuticals and can also show up in drinking water after municipal water treatment. Most of the Superfund sites are polluted with harmful compounds that are also carcinogenic, some of which have contaminated groundwater. At present, there are over 1300 Superfund sites in the U.S, of which 452 have supposedly been remediated. However, tiny amounts of many of these chemicals can impair human health in various ways, including cancer. One estimate has NDMA contaminating at least 1 percent of the U.S. water supply.

            There are many old sites in the US of toxic contaminants that are not well known to the public and are continuing to cause disease and genetic damage to exposed humans. For instance, Indianapolis contains one of the largest dry cleaning Superfund sites in the nation. Tuchman Cleaners operated a number of cleaning stores throughout the city from 1952 to 2008. The company sent the clothes to a central site for dry cleaning using perchlorethylene or PERC. This highly toxic compound was kept in storage tanks under the building where the cleaning occurred. Leakage and spills from these tanks were noted first in 1989 and by 1994, the compound was discovered in a nearby aquifer. The EPA became involved in 2011 by which time the compound had seeped more than a mile beneath a residential neighborhood and had contaminated a well supplying drinking water to the city. Yet inhabitants of the city for the most part were unaware of their exposure to PERC which is a neurotoxin and possible carcinogen.

            This is not an isolated story and similar events exposing people to dangerous chemicals, with or without their knowledge has happened in a number of areas throughout the country. Environmental damage often occurs slowly and out of sight which means the public may not recognize the dangers to which they have been subjected. City administrations may not want to publicize these hazards because of fears it may hurt investment in the city. And distance and time may keep many of these toxic legacies hidden. In the U.S. and other industrial nations, there appears to be a split among those alert to the threat of pollution and climate change, and those who want economic development full speed ahead no matter what the environmental cost may be. Many eyes are closed to the poisoning of the planet.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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The Urgent Threat of Global Warming

The Urgent Threat of Global Warming

                       Robert A. Levine    January 2, 2024

The world is totally immersed now in the wars in the Ukraine and Gaza while other problems simmer on the back burner. The sojourn of humans on Earth is transient and it is our responsibility to protect the environment and ecosystems we inherited for the generations to follow and the other species with which we share the planet. Global warming is real, dangerous and mostly of our doing, with all of the environmental changes it has wrought. And the trajectory of climate change can be halted and reversed if we take the appropriate actions. At least for now! The question is whether climate change or one of its harmful effects will reach a tipping point where all of humanity’s efforts will not be able to nullify the transformation that has occurred. Unless there is a concerted effort by the major nations on the planet to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Earth is due to attain temperatures of about 3 degrees C (5.4 degrees F) above preindustrial levels by the end of the century, and possibly much higher. One would have to go back millions of years to find the planet’s temperature in that range.

        Many people and nations still refuse to accept the reality of global warming and refuse to take actions that might inconvenience them, or cause them minor financial harm; to do their part in reducing the menace of climate change. Some individuals believe themselves invulnerable to whatever transformation global warming will bring. At the same time, other individuals wonder about the morality of bringing children into a world of heightened warming, where discomfort and possible disaster are on the horizon and the endpoint is unknown.

        The research that has been done on climate change is voluminous and there is no question that global warming is occurring and likely accelerating. Attribution studies have also left no doubt that global warming is mainly of human origin caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Other attribution research has catalogued the effects global warming has had on the weather, the atmosphere, the land and the oceans and its impact on various ecosystems. Though extreme weather was seen prior to humans burning fossil fuels, never in human history has damaging weather been so frequent and devastating.

           A Pew Poll released in August 2023 revealed that many Americans refuse to accept the reality of global warming or say it is part of a natural cycle rather than man made. They refuse to acknowledge any urgency in the changes occurring on our planet and the necessary ways we must alter our behavior. Ignoring scientists who call for immediate action on our part and evidence that supports this need, they deny the role that the burning of fossil fuels has played in this crisis. In rejecting the scientists who offer evidence for global warming, the deniers claim that proponents of climate change are misguided or have ulterior motives. And the national media are not considered as credible sources for information on climate, felt to be pushing their own agendas. The deniers emphasize the need for respecting individual freedoms and choice in the use of energy. Fully 40 percent of Americans say there is no solid evidence that climate change is occurring, or that it is mostly the result of natural patterns. Only 37 percent see climate change as an urgent priority that government must address.

         The main culprit, carbon dioxide, is an odorless, tasteless gas, produced by the burning of fossil fuels for energy in automobiles, trucks, ships, planes, power plants and so forth. Fossil fuels include coal, wood, oil and gas, with coal appearing to be the greatest contributor to this problem. Other greenhouse gases also play a role, like methane and water vapor. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and radiate it back to the surface of the planet instead of allowing it to dissipate into space. Though humans have been burning wood and coal for millennia, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere started rising rapidly in the mid-to late 19th century after the industrial revolution. In the 20th and 21st centuries, CO2 escalated even more rapidly, as the human population exploded and demand for various goods and products increased, causing global warming to threaten the Earth’s ecosystems.

         What once seemed like a planetary crisis off in the future is now more of an immediate threat. Action cannot be delayed when the atmospheric heat is soaring globally, floods are overwhelming some regions while drought is a problem in other areas. Rainfall and storms are more destructive now and ocean levels are rising. There seems to be a confluence of extreme weather devastating to humankind and the environment. It is as if there were a feedback loop among these events, heightening their severity and impact. Instituting measures to adapt to climate change is necessary to protect population and property at risk, but is not an answer for the long term. Funding and effort must be directed to reducing global warming as rapidly as possible by ending fossil fuel use, and people and governments must accept that the Earth is imperiled.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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The Need for Immigrants

The Need for Immigrants

                        Robert A. Levine   12-19-23

The population of virtually every advanced nation in the world is either stable or declining. The United States would be in the same situation aside from an influx of immigrants. To replace a country’s population, there has to be an average of 2.1 children per woman. According to the UN’s listing of fertility rates, the U.S. has 1.66 children per woman as of 2023. A number of nations in a similar range in terms of fertility rates are not replacing their populations. These include France at 1.83, Mexico 1.82, Ireland, Denmark and Columbia at 1.72, Australia 1.70, Sweden 1.67, Netherland 1.62, Germany 1.58, UK and Norway 1.56, Russia 1.49, Canada 1.43, Greece 1.39, Poland 1.33, Japan 1.30, Italy 1.25, Spain 1.19, China 1.16, South Korea 0.81. Virtually every nation with high birth rates, from 4-6.8 children per woman is in Africa. And almost every country whose birth rate is enough to replace their population is in the developing world.

There are a number of reasons the birth rates of various nations are what they are. Those nations with the highest birth rates do not have contraceptives readily available, abortion is prohibited, women are mostly uneducated and stay at home, and there may be religious reasons. Low birth rates in developed nations are because women are educated, have jobs outside their homes and like to have feelings of independence. Also, good, inexpensive child care may not be available and the women don’t want to surrender their careers. Many women are remaining single until later in life or throughout their lives, and if they marry may not have children or have fewer children. Women are also generally more educated than men and may not be able to find proper mates.

In addition, because of pollution and plastic infestation of our bodies, men and women are not as fertile as previously and may have difficulty getting pregnant. Sperm counts in men and in different species are down from previous levels and the quality of the sperm is not as good, also believed due to various pollutants. Women’s reproductive apparatus has also been affected. So the drop in population in developed countries is both voluntary and involuntary.

Migration is being driven by lack of opportunity in some nations, crime, lack of freedom, and climate change which may make living conditions intolerable. Migrants to the United States come mainly from Latin America- Mexico, Central and South America, but also from other nations around the world.

The United States as other developed nations needs to maintain its population if we are to keep our position of power and keep a capitalist system functioning. Capitalism needs people to produce various goods and needs consumers to buy them. If our population continues to decline, we will not have enough producers or consumers. In addition, America has an aging population and we need enough young people to take care of our elderly. We need blue collar workers- caregivers, agricultural workers, factory workers- H2B immigrants to fill jobs that are going begging. Some of these jobs may eventually be automated with robots performing the work. But right now we need people.

If we are going to maintain our technological advantage in the world, we also require H1B, or educated immigrants. These fill high tech jobs and are also responsible for many of the patents in our nation and the start-up companies that are formed. They also fill positions in the community and in hospitals as physicians, nurses and pharmacists, all of which are needed. These immigrants go to our universities and graduate schools, often remaining as professors, teachers and researchers in biological and physical sciences if we allow them to stay. Though H1B immigrants come from many nations, most of them are from India and China.

Our immigration system must also be fixed so immigrants and asylum seekers do not enter illegally through our southern border. But the delays and back-ups in our legal immigration system must be corrected so that people can be vetted and accepted or rejected within a period of days to weeks rather than waiting sometimes for years. We must also make it easier for migrants to get green cards and to become citizens if we see that they are the hard working people we want.

Many right-wingers and Christian nationalists do not want immigrants in our country, believing in white superiority and that immigrants will somehow dilute our blood line, an egregious bit of misinformation. However, the opponents of immigration have to decide whether they want an America that is a great power and on top technologically, with a capitalist economic system. Or if they would prefer a smaller, second rate nation that is scientifically backward and no longer powerful.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

Buy The Uninformed Voter on Amazon or Barnes and Noble


The Need for Immigrants

The Need for Immigrants

                        Robert A. Levine   12-19-23

The population of virtually every advanced nation in the world is either stable or declining. The United States would be in the same situation aside from an influx of immigrants. To replace a country’s population, there has to be an average of 2.1 children per woman. According to the UN’s listing of fertility rates, the U.S. has 1.66 children per woman as of 2023. A number of nations in a similar range in terms of fertility rates are not replacing their populations. These include France at 1.83, Mexico 1.82, Ireland, Denmark and Columbia at 1.72, Australia 1.70, Sweden 1.67, Netherland 1.62, Germany 1.58, UK and Norway 1.56, Russia 1.49, Canada 1.43, Greece 1.39, Poland 1.33, Japan 1.30, Italy 1.25, Spain 1.19, China 1.16, South Korea 0.81. Virtually every nation with high birth rates, from 4-6.8 children per woman is in Africa. And almost every country whose birth rate is enough to replace their population is in the developing world.

There are a number of reasons the birth rates of various nations are what they are. Those nations with the highest birth rates do not have contraceptives readily available, abortion is prohibited, women are mostly uneducated and stay at home, and there may be religious reasons. Low birth rates in developed nations are because women are educated, have jobs outside their homes and like to have feelings of independence. Also, good, inexpensive child care may not be available and the women don’t want to surrender their careers. Many women are remaining single until later in life or throughout their lives, and if they marry may not have children or have fewer children. Women are also generally more educated than men and may not be able to find proper mates.

In addition, because of pollution and plastic infestation of our bodies, men and women are not as fertile as previously and may have difficulty getting pregnant. Sperm counts in men and in different species are down from previous levels and the quality of the sperm is not as good, also believed due to various pollutants. Women’s reproductive apparatus has also been affected. So the drop in population in developed countries is both voluntary and involuntary.

Migration is being driven by lack of opportunity in some nations, crime, lack of freedom, and climate change which may make living conditions intolerable. Migrants to the United States come mainly from Latin America- Mexico, Central and South America, but also from other nations around the world.

The United States as other developed nations needs to maintain its population if we are to keep our position of power and keep a capitalist system functioning. Capitalism needs people to produce various goods and needs consumers to buy them. If our population continues to decline, we will not have enough producers or consumers. In addition, America has an aging population and we need enough young people to take care of our elderly. We need blue collar workers- caregivers, agricultural workers, factory workers- H2B immigrants to fill jobs that are going begging. Some of these jobs may eventually be automated with robots performing the work. But right now we need people.

If we are going to maintain our technological advantage in the world, we also require H1B, or educated immigrants. These fill high tech jobs and are also responsible for many of the patents in our nation and the start-up companies that are formed. They also fill positions in the community and in hospitals as physicians, nurses and pharmacists, all of which are needed. These immigrants go to our universities and graduate schools, often remaining as professors, teachers and researchers in biological and physical sciences if we allow them to stay. Though H1B immigrants come from many nations, most of them are from India and China.

Our immigration system must also be fixed so immigrants and asylum seekers do not enter illegally through our southern border. But the delays and back-ups in our legal immigration system must be corrected so that people can be vetted and accepted or rejected within a period of days to weeks rather than waiting sometimes for years. We must also make it easier for migrants to get green cards and to become citizens if we see that they are the hard working people we want.

Many right-wingers and Christian nationalists do not want immigrants in our country, believing in white superiority and that immigrants will somehow dilute our blood line, an egregious bit of misinformation. However, the opponents of immigration have to decide whether they want an America that is a great power and on top technologically, with a capitalist economic system. Or if they would prefer a smaller, second rate nation that is scientifically backward and no longer powerful.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

Buy The Uninformed Voter on Amazon or Barnes and Noble


The Need for Immigrants

The Need for Immigrants

                        Robert A. Levine   12-19-23

The population of virtually every advanced nation in the world is either stable or declining. The United States would be in the same situation aside from an influx of immigrants. To replace a country’s population, there has to be an average of 2.1 children per woman. According to the UN’s listing of fertility rates, the U.S. has 1.66 children per woman as of 2023. A number of nations in a similar range in terms of fertility rates are not replacing their populations. These include France at 1.83, Mexico 1.82, Ireland, Denmark and Columbia at 1.72, Australia 1.70, Sweden 1.67, Netherland 1.62, Germany 1.58, UK and Norway 1.56, Russia 1.49, Canada 1.43, Greece 1.39, Poland 1.33, Japan 1.30, Italy 1.25, Spain 1.19, China 1.16, South Korea 0.81. Virtually every nation with high birth rates, from 4-6.8 children per woman is in Africa. And almost every country whose birth rate is enough to replace their population is in the developing world.

There are a number of reasons the birth rates of various nations are what they are. Those nations with the highest birth rates do not have contraceptives readily available, abortion is prohibited, women are mostly uneducated and stay at home, and there may be religious reasons. Low birth rates in developed nations are because women are educated, have jobs outside their homes and like to have feelings of independence. Also, good, inexpensive child care may not be available and the women don’t want to surrender their careers. Many women are remaining single until later in life or throughout their lives, and if they marry may not have children or have fewer children. Women are also generally more educated than men and may not be able to find proper mates.

In addition, because of pollution and plastic infestation of our bodies, men and women are not as fertile as previously and may have difficulty getting pregnant. Sperm counts in men and in different species are down from previous levels and the quality of the sperm is not as good, also believed due to various pollutants. Women’s reproductive apparatus has also been affected. So the drop in population in developed countries is both voluntary and involuntary.

Migration is being driven by lack of opportunity in some nations, crime, lack of freedom, and climate change which may make living conditions intolerable. Migrants to the United States come mainly from Latin America- Mexico, Central and South America, but also from other nations around the world.

The United States as other developed nations needs to maintain its population if we are to keep our position of power and keep a capitalist system functioning. Capitalism needs people to produce various goods and needs consumers to buy them. If our population continues to decline, we will not have enough producers or consumers. In addition, America has an aging population and we need enough young people to take care of our elderly. We need blue collar workers- caregivers, agricultural workers, factory workers- H2B immigrants to fill jobs that are going begging. Some of these jobs may eventually be automated with robots performing the work. But right now we need people.

If we are going to maintain our technological advantage in the world, we also require H1B, or educated immigrants. These fill high tech jobs and are also responsible for many of the patents in our nation and the start-up companies that are formed. They also fill positions in the community and in hospitals as physicians, nurses and pharmacists, all of which are needed. These immigrants go to our universities and graduate schools, often remaining as professors, teachers and researchers in biological and physical sciences if we allow them to stay. Though H1B immigrants come from many nations, most of them are from India and China.

Our immigration system must also be fixed so immigrants and asylum seekers do not enter illegally through our southern border. But the delays and back-ups in our legal immigration system must be corrected so that people can be vetted and accepted or rejected within a period of days to weeks rather than waiting sometimes for years. We must also make it easier for migrants to get green cards and to become citizens if we see that they are the hard working people we want.

Many right-wingers and Christian nationalists do not want immigrants in our country, believing in white superiority and that immigrants will somehow dilute our blood line, an egregious bit of misinformation. However, the opponents of immigration have to decide whether they want an America that is a great power and on top technologically, with a capitalist economic system. Or if they would prefer a smaller, second rate nation that is scientifically backward and no longer powerful.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

Buy The Uninformed Voter on Amazon or Barnes and Noble


A Right Turn

A Right Turn

            Robert A. Levine     November 28, 2023

Why are so many democracies electing right-wing parties or coalitions to power? Nations that were previously centrist or leftist are suddenly giving the right governmental control. Is it because of local issues or is it a global phenomenon? Does it have any implications for the 2024 national election in America? Even where the right has not attained power, it is gaining more support from the populace. It is also occurring in strange places like Sweden, the Netherlands and Argentina. In Germany, the AfD, Alternative for Deutschland is now the third largest political party, a successor to the Nazis, polling between 19 and 23 percent behind the Christian Democrats and the Socialists. In France, Marie Le Pen’s far right National Rally in one of the major political parties with a racist and fascist past. In an April poll by Paris Match, Le Pen came out ahead of President Macron, 47 percent to 42 percent. The National Rally is the major opposition party in the French Assembly.

            In October 2022, Sweden elected the most far right-wing government in its history led by the Sweden Democrats, a party that is anti-immigrant and anti-multi-culturalism. Scandinavian nations have been traditionally left wing and almost socialistic, so the election was a major surprise. Other European nations with right wing governments include Italy where the Brothers of Italy Party and Lega rule, with Giorgia Meloni as Prime Minister. In Hungary, the Fidesz Party under Victor Orban has been in power for years, controlling the media and the educational system. The Finns Party in Finland, the second largest political party, is also right-wing and the rightest United Serbia Party controls Serbia. In Switzerland, the Swiss People’s Party, a right wing nationalist organization runs the country. Slovakia, a neighbor of Ukraine, elected a right-wing coalition government in September 2023 that supports Russia, as does Hungary.

            Latin America which defeated a right wing President Bolsonaro in Brazil last year, elected a rightist government in Argentina this month headed by Mauricio Macri who has strange economic ideas including making the dollar the nation’s official currency. Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador all have right-wing or right leaning governments. New Zealand also elected a right wing government this year. And at the moment, right-wing Republicans control the House of Representatives in the U.S. and Trump is ahead of Biden in polls for the presidential election in 2024

            Right-wing populism appears to be booming in the western world. Why?

            The two main reasons are a reaction to immigration and unhappiness with inflation. Nations with a predominant ethnic group are unhappy about what they see as hordes of immigrants either entering their country or trying to get in. They’re afraid about competition for their jobs and that some or many of the immigrants may require government support, the funding coming out of their taxes. Even more important, they don’t want mixing of their ethnicity with that of immigrants, particularly if the migrants are African or Middle Eastern in origin.

            Inflation is also making citizens in many western nations unhappy with their economic status and that of the country itself. Their wages do not go as far in meeting their needs and they are not happy with their incomes and purchasing power. They see the elites on top of the heap doing well, while working men and women suffer.

            Social media amplifies the issues of immigration and inflation even if these problems are relatively minimal in some countries. The populace believes they are a threat to their way of life. With artificial intelligence becoming more common, misinformation may surge even more online which is where many individuals get their news. Will this right-wing renaissance stop? Inflation will likely moderate over time in most countries. However, with global warming, immigration to temperate nations will only increase in the coming years. If centrist and left leaning governments cannot find a way to control immigration, the right will continue to gain more power.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

Buy The Uninformed Voter on Amazon or Barnes and Noble


It's Still Here!

It’s Still Here!

            Robert A. Levine   November 21, 2023

It’s still here. Actually it never went away. Covid-19 is still a threat though not as prevalent as at the onset three to four years ago. And the original variants Alpha and Delta seem to be gone, replaced by Omicron and its subsets of mutants. These appear to be quite infectious and are the dominant form of Covid-19 now in circulation. It spreads the same way, mainly through aerosols in the air from infected people sneezing or coughing, or even talking loudly or yelling. Being outdoors, it’s less contagious but in crowded indoor areas it can be easily disseminated. The XBB variant of Omicron became dominant in the United States early in 2023. A variant labeled BA.2.86 emerged in August 2023, followed by another mutant, JN.1. which appears to be the most resistant form of Covid-19.

Perhaps because it’s been around so long, people seem less concerned by Covid-19 and the deaths and rate of hospitalizations have gone down considerably. But they’re still happening. The CDC noted that from October 2022 to September 2023, more than 80,000 people in the U.S. died of Covid-19. The risk of hospitalization and death is much higher for adults over age sixty-five, those with underlying medical conditions, or those who are immune compromised. Patients who were not vaccinated with the new bivalent formulation also had a higher rate of hospitalization and/or death. However, many people have at least some immunity to the new variants of Covid-19 because of past infections or previous vaccinations. As the weather grows colder and people spend more time indoors, it’s likely that the number of cases of Covid-19 will rise.

No matter what the statistics are, a majority of Americans still remain unvaccinated with the new bivalent vaccine, including those over sixty-five who are at greater risk of acquiring Covid-19 and having a severe outcome. Most people also refuse to wear masks in crowded indoor areas, where the chances of catching Covid-19 remain high. Wearing masks also helps to prevent other upper respiratory diseases, particularly influenza and colds. In Asian nations such as Japan and Korea, many people automatically wear masks during colder weather and when indoors, yet Americans refuse to do so. People should still be concerned about the possibility of being infected with the Covid-19 virus and take proper precautionary measures to prevent that from happening. The virus is still here and not going away yet.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

Buy The Uninformed Voter on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.


Aging and Politics

Aging and Politics

            Robert A. Levine   November 13, 2023

Age is being increasingly injected into politics. It’s a valid issue as aging may make people less vigorous, and cognitive function declines in a large percentage of older people. But the physical and cognitive losses are not universal or uniform across the population. And there are individuals who have what is called a “large cognitive reserve” who function quite well from an intellectual standpoint. These are people who have kept their brains and bodies active over the years. But there is no question that some politicians elected to high offices are cognitively impaired.

Older politicians running for office should undergo cognitive testing before getting on the ballot. Some may believe that testing older people who seek political office is evidence of agism, but that is ignoring reality. There is no question that a subset of older people are intellectually impaired and should not be candidates for office or holding political offices. The average age of our senators is 64, with a number in their 80s and high 70s. The average age of a member of the House of Representatives is 57, with many in their 80s and high 70s. Age alone should not be a disqualifier for holding public office as many older people are intellectually sharp and very knowledgeable. But people with any cognitive impairment should not be making policy judgements for the nation. The best way to determine how well people are functioning from a cognitive standpoint is to test them. Above age 65 seems like a reasonable cut-off. Simple screening tests can be administered in less than fifteen minutes.

The focus at present is on Joe Biden who is 80 years old, born in November 1942. There is much less concern about Donald Trump’s age, though he is 77, born in June 1946. The two men who are running for president are only separated by three and a half years. However, Joe Biden is physically active and has been all of his life. His body appears normal with no excessive weight. He has also been cognitively engaged, having held political office for decades. He is very knowledgeable about foreign affairs and domestic issues, having studied and dealt with them for years. There is a tendency for him to make verbal gaffes which is not new and does not seem related to his age.

On the other hand, Donald Trump is obese which increases his risk of diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and cognitive decline. He is also physically inactive. Golf does not provide any aerobic benefits unless the golfer walks the course, which Trump does not do. We have never seen him walking or biking long distances or exercising regularly. He has also made a number of verbal mistakes at his rallies, suggesting that he may have some cognitive problems. In addition, Trump has issues with anger management and besides his narcissism, appears to be paranoid at times, making numerous and bizarre accusations.

For the benefit of the nation, I believe it would be better if neither Trump nor Biden ran for president in 2024, leaving the field open for new and perhaps younger participants. However, cognitive testing for older men and women running for office should become the law of the land, perhaps starting with referenda in individual states. Politicians themselves are less likely to push for cognitive testing as it would put them in the spotlight. The tests could be administered by an independent medical board with the results kept secret, unless a candidate was disqualified from holding office.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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Hamas Propaganda War

Hamas Propaganda War

            Robert A. Levine   10-31-23

How can one determine who is winning or has won the war between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas in Gaza? Is it the number of people killed, the amount of land taken, the number of buildings destroyed? Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyhu has declared the destruction of Hamas is the war’s avowed aim, but that does not seem likely when the Hamas adherents are mixed in with the civilian population of Gaza or in the labyrinth of tunnels they have built.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, wars are won on social media and the regular media, and right now Hamas appears to be winning the war of public opinion. This may seem counter-intuitive since Hamas started the war by massacring 1400 Israelis, the vast majority of them civilians. They literally butchered babies as well as adults, beheading and disemboweling a number of them. Workers from Thailand and Asia were also killed by these invaders. In addition, Hamas grabbed 240 hostages to take back with them to the warrens of Gaza, perhaps to exchange them for Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails. The hostages they grabbed were civilian women and children as well as adult men, babies and elderly persons.

Yet this barbarous behavior was applauded by many progressive organizations on college campuses in the U.S. and around the world, particularly by Muslims. When the Hamas militants retreated to Gaza after their slaughter, the Israelis started bombing Gaza. Given that Hamas has intertwined itself with the civilian populations, there have been considerable civilian casualties, including children. But that is what Hamas wanted. They have always used civilians as their shields, knowing that Israelis would be blamed for all the collateral damage that has occurred. Their underground storerooms, tunnels and meeting rooms have been purposely built under mosques, hospitals and civilian homes, hoping that if the Israelis bombed these structures they would be blamed for civilian deaths which are inevitable.

Hamas is actually a death cult whose leadership does not care how many people die because of their actions, whether they be Israelis or Palestinians. They want to make the Israelis look bad in the court of public opinion. And they have succeeded with the help of Al Jazeera and other Arab media, and social media. It is forgotten that Hamas initiated the war with their overtly brutal attacks on Jewish civilians. It is also forgotten that Israel once occupied Gaza and when they left, Hamas took over from the Palestinian Authority, winning an election in 2007. There have been no elections in Gaza since. Money from Qatar and other Arab states have not been used by Hamas to improve living conditions for the Palestinians or bolster the economy of Gaza, but to build tunnels, buy weapons and train an army. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist and wants to kill Jews all over the world.

The Palestinians claim the Israelis are colonists occupying land that belongs to them. But the Jews were on this land thousands of years ago, dispersed first by the Babylonians and then the Romans. The Arabs actually colonized the land after the Jews were forced out. Israel was formed by a mandate from the United Nations and became a nation in May 1948. On several occasions, the most recent being the Camp David accords in 2000, the Palestinians had the option of having their own state in the West Bank and Gaza before the Jewish settler movement took over some of the land. But Yasir Arafat and the Palestinians turned down an agreement brokered by President Clinton that provided them with 95 percent of what they wanted, except for the right of return of the Palestinians to Israel.

So the Palestinians have had their chances to have their own state and coexist peacefully with the Israelis but rejected the opportunities they were given. As more Palestinians are killed in Gaza as collateral damage from Israeli shelling, Hamas will be happy because they are winning the war of public opinion, especially in the Arab world. Hamas does not care that their people are suffering.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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