Category Archives: science news

And now … a good word about Operation Warp Speed


Admittedly, this blog has spent a great deal of time, emotional energy and cyberspace over the past four years bashing, slashing and smashing at the Donald J. Trump administration.

Trump is about to exit the political stage in less than 30 days. I now want to say a good word about what — in a normal world — should stand as an enduring legacy to his term in office.

This isn’t a normal world. Operation Warp Speed is a creation of someone within the White House to define the mission of finding a vaccine for the coronavirus that has killed more than 300,000 Americans and nearly 2 million people around the world.

The COVID-19 virus arrived early this year. Trump dragged his feet in recognizing publicly the peril it posed. Then he owned up to its consequence. He also announced the strategy he said would expedite the research and development of a vaccine that could cure the world of the pandemic.

Trump predicted during his failed re-election campaign that we could have a vaccine by the end of the year. Skeptics scoffed. I don’t recall speaking directly to Trump’s boast, but it did ring a bit hollow. Others in the White House task force formed to come up with a response strategy said it would take longer.

Well, guess what. Donald Trump was right. Pfizer and Moderna have produced highly efficient vaccines that are now being administered around the world. A third pharmaceutical firm, AstraZeneca, is about to bring a vaccine on line.

There is plenty of debate about the impact that Operation Warp Speed had in delivering these vaccines. Some experts say the drug firms were well on the way to producing it already; others give Warp Speed a ton of credit for goosing the companies to delivering the goods in a timely fashion.

I am willing to dole out praise to Donald Trump for providing some of the impetus to get this vaccine developed and approved. But not all of it. Indeed, I am weary beyond belief of hearing Trump take undue credit for work that others did.

Drug company researchers and scientists worked their butts off to produce a vaccine with an efficacy level that experts have called “extraordinary.” Yet there was Trump the other day stepping into the limelight to say that no other politician in human history could have produced those kinds of results.

Mr. President, the program that came to be under your watch has done well. Accept the congratulations that belong mostly to the researchers … and then get the hell out of the way.

Turning the COVID corner? Hah!


OK, Mr. President, let’s lay it on the table, shall we?

You keep saying we are “turning the corner” on the coronavirus pandemic. That is a lie. Which isn’t a surprise, given your penchant for lying.

Damn near every state in the Union is experiencing an increase in coronavirus infections. Yes, some of those states see a decline in deaths, which of course is good news.

But for criminy sakes, dude, stop lying about “turning the corner.” We aren’t turning anything resembling a corner in this fight.

Joe Biden has built his electoral lead on the back of your consistent denial over the seriousness of the killer disease. Holy cow, man! Didn’t your own infection, or the infections of your wife and son, Barron, teach you anything? Don’t answer that. I know it didn’t.

I’m glad you’re better. I am particularly glad to know that the first lady and young Barron are OK, too. Your cavalier attitude about the coronavirus, though, only proves your unfitness for the office you want to keep.

So, with that I guess I could ask you to keep up the charade.

Many millions of us know better than to buy into the nonsense you seek to peddle.

There he goes again … taking undue credit

There he was yet again, Donald John “Braggart in Chief” Trump taking credit he doesn’t deserve for the return of the U.S. manned space program.

Trump slathered himself with praise over the successful launch Saturday of the SpaceX rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., saying that only on his watch could this effort have become a reality.

Actually, it was the result of an effort began a decade ago during the Barack H. Obama administration, which in fact was a continuation of an effort started during the George W. Bush administration.

According to National Public Radio: “Today is the culmination of three and a half years of renewed leadership in space,” said Vice President Pence, who called the launch “a tribute to the vision and leadership of a president who, from the very first days of this administration, was determined to revive NASA and American leadership in human space exploration.”

C’mon, man! Get real!

Yes, I have lamented the end of the space shuttle program, even with its two disastrous missions — Challenger’s explosion in 1986 and Columbia’s disintegration in 2003. However, the SpaceX program initiated by Elon Musk now holds a huge new promise of manned space flight for the United States, as it was demonstrated Saturday with the launch and the successful docking today with the International Space Station.

It has been many years in the making, long before Donald Trump soiled the presidency with his presence in the Oval Office.

But that wouldn’t dissuade Trump and Pence from taking undue credit. Hey, it’s an election year … so I’ll presume that everything now becomes fair campaign game.


Finally, something to cheer!

Amid all the gloom and grief, and all the mayhem and misery associated with a global pandemic and the death of a man at the hands of brutal cops in Minneapolis, Minn., I found time today to cheer an event for which I have been waiting.

At around 2:30 p.m., Central Daylight Time, a rocket launched from Pad 39A at Cape Canaveral, Fla. It carried two American astronauts into orbit. It was the first launch of Americans from a U.S. launching pad in nearly a decade.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are orbiting Earth and will dock sometime tomorrow with the International Space Station.

I could not believe the flutter in my heart this afternoon as they counted down the final seconds before the launch. Then the Space X rocket lit up and burst off the pad toward Earth orbit.

NASA and Space X have teamed up for a historic event and this one was worth cheering … loudly, in fact. I was thrilled in a way I hadn’t been thrilled since I was a whole lot younger watching the early launches of the American space program with my mother.

Indeed, I thought of Mom today as I watched Space X roar into space, wondering how she would have reacted to the sight of Americans zooming into the heavens aboard an American-made rocket, from a U.S. launch pad. Mom would be proud, too.

Space X is the product of a company owned by Elon Musk, the zillionaire owner of Tesla. His company has designed a fantastic space vehicle. I noticed how they first-stage rocket was able to soft-land on a drone ship at sea in good enough shape to be used again on a subsequent space flight.

This is really cool stuff, man. It’s cool for those of us old enough to remember the excitement and romance that used to be associated with space travel.

I am no Pollyanna. I know this is expensive, even with a privately ownership taking the lead on this kind of exploration. However, I have long believed — and always will believe — that humanity was put on this good Earth to venture as far as possible to explore.

I am just glad to see American technology being brought back into the picture once again to take that next “giant leap for mankind.”

Given the troubling context of the times, it was a welcome sight to this old man’s eyes.

Looking forward to this launch

It has been a good while since I’ve felt this kind of excitement preceding the launch of a rocket ship … but here it is.

They’re going to fire a rocket into space on Wednesday with two astronauts aboard. The launch will occur at Cape Canaveral, Fla. The rocket will be a Space-X ship and it will take place under the auspices of NASA, the U.S. space agency. The rocket will ferry the astronauts to the International Space Station.

It’s been more than a decade that U.S. astronauts have launched from an American launch pad. We have been flying Americans into space aboard ships launched from Russia.

The Space-X launch is a big deal in that it signals a potential return of manned space flight in the nation was able to put men on the moon, was able to set many space-flight records.

I plan to watch the launch when it occurs Wednesday.

My excitement over this launch is beginning to remind me of how excited I used to get when I was a boy. I would awaken every morning during the Mercury space program of the 1960s. I would watch and wait — and then wait some more during the delays — with my mother. We would cheer the Redstone rockets as they lifted off the pad. They graduated to the Atlas rockets for the orbital flights. Eventually we would cheer the monstrous Saturn rockets as they hurled astronauts toward the moon.

I certainly got excited during the launch of the initial space shuttle launches, beginning in April 1981 when the Columbia took off with John Young and Robert Crippen aboard.

The shuttle program ended. Since then we have relied on the Russians to take our men and women into space.

Now we’re getting back into the space game with the Space-X ship set to take off.

I’ll be in front of the TV … cheering the launch just like the old days.

‘I don’t know who he is; I’ve never met him’

Donald J. Trump’s response to the scathing testimony from a fellow he demoted in the midst of an infectious disease pandemic speaks volumes to me.

Dr. Richard Bright is now a whistleblower who is reporting to Congress about what he believes are serious shortcomings in Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Bright once led the administration’s effort to search for a vaccine to fight the virus, but then questioned whether Trump was correct to push a drug with little known affect on the COVID-19 virus.

Trump got angry and pushed Bright aside, sent him to a midlevel post in the National Institutes of Health.

OK, so Trump responded Thursday to a question about Bright’s testimony. He said he doesn’t “know him; I’ve never met him.” He said he doesn’t “want to meet him” and that Bright sounds like a “disgruntled employee.”

Let’s ponder that response for just a moment.

If Donald Trump is telling the truth — and that is a highly dubious presumption — then he has just revealed to the world precisely why his pandemic response has been such a hideous failure to date. The man chosen to lead the vaccine research effort is unknown to the commander in chief who wants to be known as a “wartime president”?

Suppose, too, that Trump is lying, that he really has met Dr. Bright; that tells me plenty as well about Trump’s reliability, his leadership and his command of the situation.

Bright said the fight against the pandemic lacks a coordinated national effort. Gosh, who do you suppose should be providing that national coordination? Hey, I’ll take a stab at it: The responsibility belongs to the president of the United States.

He has failed!

As Bright told the congressional committee: “We’re in deep s**t.”

Politicians should cease setting back-to-normal schedules

The feeble efforts by human beings to predict when they’ll be able to declare victory in a fight against a deadly virus make me want to … pull my hair out by the roots.

One such human being happens to be the president of the United States, who keeps insisting he has a preferred date in mind when he can start relaxing guidelines brought to bear by the coronavirus pandemic.

How many times must we tell Donald John “Stable Genius” Trump what should be patently obvious? Politicians cannot dictate to a deadly virus when it should stop sickening and killing human beings! We need science to determine when that will occur. We need human beings with deep scientific backgrounds and experience battling infectious disease to take the lead on this endeavor.

Donald Trump wants to establish some “flexible guidelines” that would dictate whether or to lift some of the stay at home directives that governors have issued. He keeps saying he wants a May 1 deadline to reopen the economy; then he talks about some states loosening restrictions even sooner than that!

C’mon! Let’s quit this game-playing!

We need science-based facts. We need to stop trying to outmaneuver a virus. Here is one more obvious fact that still needs to be brought up once more: A killer virus is no respecter of human deadlines, human wishes and human goals.

The ‘new normal’ might become just plain ‘normal’

I now want to share a bit of good news, given that we’ve been bombarded with a torrent of bad news of late.

The good news as I see it is that the “new normal” we are likely experiencing could become simply “normal” once the crisis subsides and ultimately drifts into history.

And it will. I am confident that the coronavirus pandemic will dissipate. It will take some time, which brings me to my point.

Which is that we are going to spend a lot of time and energy changing the way we do things.

There might be so much hand-washing, using sanitized wipes, extra precaution taken with “social distancing” that it will become second-nature even after we no longer need to do all these things.

My wife and I are wiping down fuel pumps, shopping carts, door handles … you name it, we’re wiping it down. “You never know who touches these things,” my wife says with her considerable wisdom. Indeed, we’re taking precautions we didn’t use to take.

We were walking through the ‘hood the other morning when we met a gentleman who works as a construction foreman on the houses being built in our Princeton, Texas, subdivision. He has an Oregon Ducks decal on the rear window of his pickup. I asked him, “Are you a Ducks fan?” He said he is. He then told us he grew up in Portland, attended Sunset High School, Portland State University — and attended the Pac-12 football championship game in the Bay Area this past season when the Ducks “destroyed Utah.” We told him we moved to Texas from Oregon in 1984. He’s a home boy!

I started to shake his hand, then pulled my hand back. “Hey, no sweat,” he said. “I get it.”

Handshakes with strangers well might become a thing of the past, too.

Yep, the new normal is upon us. It’ll take time to get used to this new way of living. I suspect if the crisis lasts long enough, what’s new will become, well, just plain “normal.”

Times — and customs — are changing as we fight disease

We made a command decision this morning in our house: We decided to postpone indefinitely our first RV trip of the season.

There you have it. We watched the news this morning and were inundated once more with the torrent of information and advice about how to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. One bit of advice hit us squarely in the face: Do your part.

So, we heard that advice and decided to do our part by staying off the road, away from gasoline service stations, away from convenience stores, away from fast-food joints. We’re staying home for the foreseeable future. How long that lasts is damn near anyone’s best guess.

We also have decided we can spend this foreseeable future doing household projects, embark on some tasks that need doing. Sort pictures and get ’em put away; we will start slapping some paint on the walls; our garage needs to be straightened out; the yard is emerging from its winter dormancy and it needs our tender loving care.

We also want to wave at our neighbors, wish them well, extend a kindness or three when it presents itself. Heck, we might just volunteer to deliver a random of act of kindness.

Thus, our lives are changing in real time. So are some of our customs.

The question of the day: Will we continue to practice good neighborliness as the coronavirus threat dissipates? I hope we do.

Thus, I truly believe as surely as I’m sitting here that I will continue to do my part.

Trump’s crisis bumbling might have done politically mortal damage

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Donald Trump has proved to be one of the nation’s most remarkable political survivors. Concerns over his boorishness, bullying, bravado all have washed away as his base of supporters continue to hang with him.

Now comes this, the pandemic that has swept around Earth and has killed dozens of Americans while infecting thousands more.

Trump’s response has been, well, let’s just say it’s been as un-presidential as one can imagine. The difference this time as compared to earlier un-presidential responses is that lives are at stake.

Is this the turning point, the tipping point that Trump so far — until right now — has managed to avoid?

I am not going to make any predictions. I mean, this individual has proven me wrong countless times ever since he declared his presidential candidacy in 2015; my goodness, it seems like a dozen lifetimes ago!

The current president of the United States has acted time and again since the coronavirus became a household term as if his main concern centers on his re-election. At what cost? His downplaying of the pandemic’s severity while at the same time medical and scientific experts say precisely the opposite tell us all a tale of presidential incompetence.

That is precisely the kind of ineptitude that many of us saw coming. Thus, it does not surprise many of us that Donald Trump has continued to fail this fundamental test of leadership.

The Liar in Chief worries that a cruise ship docking in California will drive up the numbers of infected Americans. He likes the numbers of stricken Americans “where they are.” He continues to boast about the economy while trillions of dollars in Americans’ retirement investments are being flushed away.

Donald Trump is masquerading as president.

I take no pleasure in any of this, given the impact this crisis is having on my life and that lives of my loved ones. However, we well might be witnessing the dousing of a political career that had no business igniting in the first place.