Great America

Watch for Waste in Stimulus Spending

Americans are rightfully worried about the health of their friends, families, and 401Ks. We are, too. People shouldn’t also have to worry that federal emergency funds meant to save lives and livelihoods are being wasted to put fish on treadmills or renovate an opera house.

The Trump Administration and Congress are hashing out a stimulus package expected to cost taxpayers over $2 trillion to combat the devastating effects of the coronavirus outbreak on workers, businesses, and the economy. American families are hurting and Congress has a responsibility to consider targeted measures that help those who are feeling the economic effects of this pandemic. However, even in times of crisis, systems for transparency and accountability are needed to ensure these precious public dollars are not wasted.

With the pork stuffed into some of the COVID-19 stimulus proposals—like Democrats’ plan to bail out the U.S. Postal Service’s debt, reform small newspapers’ pension programs, and give a $35 million payout to D.C.’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts—we need to be vigilant to ensure this stimulus doesn’t turn into a slush fund as others have.

A decade ago, President Barack Obama enacted an $862 billion stimulus package to reverse the Great Recession that followed the financial crisis. The program fell short of its lofty job creation, infrastructure, and growth goals, in part because too much stimulus money was spent on irrelevant and inefficient programs.

Many people have heard about the $535 million in stimulus money wasted when failed solar panel company Solyndra went under, but waste, fraud, and abuse under the previous stimulus program were widespread.

In 2010, a year after the stimulus was passed, former Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) released their now-legendary report, “Summertime Blues: 100 stimulus projects that give taxpayers the blues.” The report highlighted Obama stimulus projects that the Senators said had “questionable goals,” were “being mismanaged or were poorly planned” and were even “costing jobs and hurting small businesses.”

One infamous example from the stimulus report that attracted the ire of fiscal hawks and animal-lovers was a $144,541 National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded experiment that hooked monkeys on cocaine. Coburn and McCain wrote, “Researchers at Wake Forest University think that, in at least one case, it is good to monkey around with your stimulus dollars.”

Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) later uncovered a study that used $560,000 in Obama stimulus money from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to put fish on treadmills

Surely, this is not how Americans intended for this stimulus money to be spent, and the opportunity still exists for this abuse of taxpayers under the guise of a national emergency.

Earlier this month, Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) lambasted an NSF-funded study that wasted over $900,000 to place dead turtles and living turtles on a treadmill to study how they move. White Coat Waste Project recently exposed that the NIH shipped over $6 million in tax dollars to a U.K. university to addict monkeys to cocaine, heroin, and alcohol and wasted more than $16 million scaring monkeys with fake snakes and spiders. 

Wasteful junkie monkey experiments and treadmill tests are alive and well, and we can’t let government bureaucrats and special interests exploit a tragedy again to funnel vulnerable taxpayers’ money to their pet projects. 

Something the Obama Administration’s stimulus bill got right was assigning an independent body to oversee stimulus projects and launching Recovery.gov to track spending and report abuse. For each project, the now-defunct government website reported how much money was spent, the number of jobs created, and other details. 

Any stimulus bills that make it to the president’s desk should include a mechanism for independent oversight of spending and mandate a transparent and user-friendly system allowing taxpayers and lawmakers to hold government accountable for where stimulus money is going and what impact it has on the economy.

Americans are rightfully worried about the health of their friends, families, and 401Ks. We are, too. People shouldn’t also have to worry that federal emergency funds meant to save lives and livelihoods are being wasted to put fish on treadmills or renovate an opera house.

Great America

Dangerous Curves

If this is the new normal, where incomplete data and media-fueled panic rule the day, that is an even more frightening prospect than what’s happening right now.

If you weren’t very ill in late January or February, you probably know someone who was. The complaints often sounded the same: A fever for days, a stubborn and unusual-sounding cough, a persistent sore throat—the severity of the symptoms seemed worse than the usual influenza.

Doctors, assuming it was a version of the seasonal flu, administered flu-fighting drugs without testing. (My college daughter was very sick with the same symptoms; her flu test was negative.) Plenty of afflicted Americans just stayed in bed without ever seeing a physician.

Obviously, anecdotal evidence that the COVID-19 illness has been around for at least the past few months isn’t enough to make the case that there’s a chance the worst days of the outbreak are behind, not ahead, of us. But data from the Centers for Disease Control seems to support the possibility that the country has been besieged by the novel coronavirus since the start of 2020.

And while political leaders and medical experts push for more and more draconian measures to “flatten the curve,” it raises some questions. Are we looking at the right “curve?” And how accurate is the current curve if it doesn’t include possible cases before the height of the hysteria began in late February and early March?

The curve, according to one report, “refers to the projected number of people who will contract COVID-19 over a period of time.” To date, the novel coronavirus curve undoubtedly looks ominous. Only a smattering of coronavirus cases was reported in the U.S. during January and February; that figure jumped at the beginning of March due to testing availability.

The first known American victim, a Washington resident who had traveled back from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, was confirmed on January 21. The U.S. coronavirus graph basically flatlines from that date until the last few days of February.

But since the disease originated in China in December at the latest, it’s highly unlikely the number of reported cases in the United States between January 1 and late February is accurate. (It’s important to note that in its order prohibiting most noncitizens from entering the United States from China, the White House confirmed that an average of 14,000 people per day traveled between the two countries in 2019. That means tens of thousands of potentially infected people entered the country for weeks prior to the travel stop.)

Therefore, how could a highly-contagious virus remain nonexistent in a free-moving society for several weeks?

The answer is, it probably did not. The CDC tracks a category called “influenza-like illness,” or ILI. Since symptoms of the flu and coronavirus are very similar, it’s instructive to look at this data, which is based on visits to health care providers in all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. “For this system, ILI is defined as fever (temperature of 100°F or greater) and a cough and/or a sore throat,” reads the CDC webpage on influenza-like illness.

“What influenza-like illness is saying to us is that you have a virus likely affecting your respiratory system that is making you feel crummy and, currently aside from influenza, there aren’t good therapies for these other viruses, so we just treat the symptoms,” Dr. Michael Ison, a professor of infectious diseases at Northwestern University in Chicago, told WebMD.com in January. The underlying cause could be any number of undetected respiratory viruses.

During the week of January 18, 2020, the number of people complaining of ILI started to spike dramatically. That week, nearly 90,000 Americans visited a health care provider with ILI symptoms; by the following week, that figure jumped to more than 107,000. For the next two weeks, into mid-February, the number stayed about the same. And that doesn’t include people with symptoms who didn’t see a doctor.

During the same period, testing for influenza A and B also spiked. Positive tests for both flu strains began to climb during late January and plateaued in mid-February before declining. At its peak, about 20,000 people per week were diagnosed with influenza—but it also represented a positive rate of around 30 percent. That means lots of people were tested for the flu, had flu-like symptoms, but did not have the flu.

Now, again, one can dismiss those figures as the usual discrepancies in any given flu season. But another CDC chart shows that, with the exception of the highly virulent 2017-2018 flu season, this year’s measurement of ILI reports from January 1 until mid-February is the second-highest in the past decade. Then, from the third week of February until now, nationwide reports of influenza-like illness surpassed the 2017-2018 season and now have leveled off.

Again, that too could be written off as a fluke and unrelated to coronavirus. But the CDC acknowledges a connection between coronavirus and reports of influenza-like illnesses: “Clinical laboratory data remain elevated but decreased for the fourth week in a row while ILI activity increased slightly. The largest increases in ILI activity occurred in areas of the country where COVID-19 is most prevalent. More people may be seeking care for respiratory illness than usual at this time.”

So to recap: The current coronavirus “curve” cannot be accurate since it does not include suspected cases of the illness before late February. (It’s unclear why scientists have not yet produced any models that attempt to calculate the virus’ presence here until testing was available.) A big increase in symptoms very similar to coronavirus occurred a few weeks after the first case was recorded, a timeline in accordance with the estimated trajectory of the illness’ spread. And roughly 70 percent of those expressing flu-like symptoms did not have the flu. So what was it?

It’s not unreasonable, in fact, it’s necessary and responsible, to consider that COVID-19 has been in the states since the first of the year; that people suffering similar symptoms to the flu actually had COVID-19; and that the peak of the outbreak occurred last month. The number of people now testing positive for the virus does not mean that the outbreak is accelerating because the data is incomplete.

That’s not the only concern about the veracity of data related to the transmission, spread, and fatality rate of the disease. Experts are cautioning that the available data is not sound and should not be used to justify draconian government measures now enacted at the federal, state, and local levels at a tremendous cost.

“The data collected so far on how many people are infected and how the epidemic is evolving are utterly unreliable,” Dr. John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Stanford University, wrote this week. “Given the limited testing to date, some deaths and probably the vast majority of infections due to SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID-19] are being missed. We don’t know if we are failing to capture infections by a factor of three or 300.”

The encouraging news, for now at least, is that the coronavirus does not appear to be as deadly as the seasonal flu in terms of sheer numbers. Based on CDC estimates—again, important to note that even the detection of influenza-caused hospitalizations and deaths is not an exact science—between 36 and 52 million Americans have contracted the flu since last October and anywhere between 22,000 and 55,000 have died.

While the number of detected coronavirus cases continues to rise due to widespread testing, about 150 people reportedly have died from the infection. Nearly half lived in the state of Washington; many states are reporting single-digit fatalities. Further, hospitals are not yet overrun with coronavirus patients and, according to the CDC, hospitalizations this year due to the flu “is lower than end-of-season total hospitalization estimates for any season since CDC began making these estimates.” Good news if indeed the number of coronavirus sufferers requiring hospitalization actually materializes.

This is a dangerous time and not just because of the threat of a treatable disease. Americans are willingly surrendering to government their freedom, their livelihood, their long-term economic security, and their mental well-being over unjustified panic about a virus that might have already spread and now is abating. If this is the new normal, where incomplete data and media-fueled panic rule the day, that is an even more frightening prospect than what’s happening right now.

Great America

China’s Post-Virus Plan to Destroy America’s Economy

The “respected voices” calling for America to lift the tariffs on China are simply swallowing Beijing’s sophisticated propaganda. China means to use this crisis to destroy us.

The virus that originated in Wuhan, China poses a double threat to America.

The first is to our health as the virus spreads through the U.S. population. The second is to our economy as more businesses, schools, and events shut down to slow the spread of the contagion.

We must not underestimate the economic threat because the Chinese Communist Party is using the pandemic to achieve its goal of supplanting the United States as the world’s leading economic, diplomatic, and military power.

Sounds unbelievable?

A new report from Horizon Advisory consultants details Beijing’s post-virus strategy—already operational—to leverage the pandemic to seize global market share in key industries, further global dependence on Chinese manufacturing, and reverse efforts in the United States and elsewhere to decouple from the People’s Republic.

“Beijing intends to use the global dislocation and downturn to attract foreign investment, to seize strategic market share and resources—especially those that force dependence, and to proliferate global information systems; to as Chinese sources put it, ‘leap-frog’ industrially, ‘overtake around the corner’ strategically, capture the ‘commanding heights’ globally. Beijing intends to reverse recent U.S. efforts to counteract China’s subversive international presence; at the same time to chip away at U.S.-Europe relations. In other words, Beijing will use COVID-19 to accelerate its long-standing, strategic offensive,” the Horizon report states.

We’re witnessing Beijing’s attempt to scrub its culpability for the pandemic from the world’s memory. Chinese Communist propagandists declare, “China is owed a thank you for buying the world time” and the New York Times dutifully repeats it.

After covering up the novel infection and unleashing it on the world, Beijing’s rulers bought up the world’s supply of protective gear and respirators.

Then they sell these critical goods to Italy while portraying themselves as the heroic humanitarian savior of the world, not unlike a pyromaniac who takes credit for calling the fire department.

Now, as China’s factories come back online at the same time the West’s economies shut down, Beijing sees further opportunity to extend its soft power and tighten its grip on global supply chains.

Don’t take my word for it. Authoritative policymakers and leading players in China’s government-industrial system have told us.

The Horizon Advisory report draws on their writings and statements.

On March 12, Song Zhiping, representative to the 15th Party Congress, former party committee secretary, and chairman of the state-owned China National Building Materials Group Corporation declared:

China will “turn crisis into opportunity: It will transform and upgrade and strengthen its position in the international industry chain.” Chinese enterprises “must not just resume production. They must also boost economic development and exposure to the world in order to speed up the adjustment of the industrial structure, to enhance competitiveness in the international industrial chain, and to build an advance strategic positioning.”

That comes directly from the Horizon report.

The CCP Central Committee identifies industries to “seize in the adjustment of the international industrial chain while fighting the epidemic and resuming production.” These include 5G construction, urban high-speed rails, urban rail transit, new energy vehicles, big data in infrastructure, artificial intelligence, automobiles, electronics, ships, aviation, power equipment, and machine tools.

Han Jian of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and director of the Ministry of Civil Affairs’ China Industrial Economics Association put it more succinctly on March 4: “It is possible to turn the crisis into an opportunity—to increase the trust and the dependence of all countries around the world of ‘Made in China.’”

The Chengdu municipal government echoed the party line on March 5, calling on enterprises and individuals

to focus on turning crisis into opportunity: Make full use of the important window after the epidemic and focus on the strategic opportunities such as the new technological revolution it will bring about, the new international market demand, and the shortcomings of supply which will need to be filled . . . Deeply integrate into the global supply chain system in the fields of biomedicine, electronic information, intelligent manufacturing, and agricultural products.

Beijing’s post-pandemic plan and the industries mentioned above are in line with its longstanding  “Made in China 2025” strategy for global dominance of crucial industries.

Moreover, Beijing sees an opportunity in the pandemic to reverse President Trump’s call to move manufacturing out of China.

In a report on the economic effects of the Wuhan virus, China’s State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), stated: “China will get more opportunities, including in the reduction of pressure for the international industrial chain to transfer away from China . . . The global epidemic has provided opportunities for improving China’s international position and countering anti-globalization.”

An expert from the Beijing Administrative Review Committee put it this way:

With the globalization of the epidemic and the general frustration of the global economy, Western countries’ reliance on China ’s economy and markets will deepen, and the United States’ use of the epidemic to accelerate its ‘decoupling’ from China is likely to be counterproductive . . . China’s policy drive for anti-epidemic conversion has fostered strong manufacturing, including of masks, medical devices, and technology systems. All can become new growth points for China’s foreign aid and exports, thus providing strong support for the international radiation of China’s soft and hard power . . .  The U.S. economy meanwhile will decline.

“The third decade of the 21st century,” he concludes, “is launched with China’s fight against the epidemic—with it the structural improvement of China’s interaction with the world economy and a breakthrough in China’s global role.”

China plans to target the very industries hit hardest by the pandemic and use the same predatory practices it has used in the past to subjugate the world’s industries.

The State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense lays out the strategy: “Accurately support industries affected by the global spread of the new epidemic, proliferate information technology and other industries overseas to help fight the epidemic, and pave the way for international market expansion after the epidemic is over.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, “proliferate information technologies” means wheeling out techno-surveillance Trojan Horses, integrating temperature monitoring with facial recognition, big data, artificial intelligence, and government-monitored social credit scores.

Beijing has a plan to gain ground after the setback it experienced from the Wuhan virus. It is deploying all its resources—industrial, economic, and information—to achieve its goal.

Remember that when you hear “respected voices” such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers or the Peterson Institute for International Economics call for lifting tariffs on China.

Like the New York Times, they are simply swallowing Beijing’s sophisticated propaganda.

Great America

America In a New Upside-Down World

Who can game the election-year politics of these chaotic times, especially the more macabre calculations of the electoral beneficiaries of the media-driven hysteria over the COVID-19?

The world is changing at a pace not seen in years, and it is no time to become captives of fear despite the real and immediate dangers we face.

The coronavirus and the ensuing panic, at least for a few more weeks, have stagnated the economy and scared global financial markets, accompanied by both collateral, and independent and simultaneous, bad news. Rumor- and panic-mongers predominate; the rational and reasonable are written-off as naïve and out of it. Thousands may die, but millions who will not are terrified into anxieties and sleeplessness that they will.

COVID-19 itself has raised fundamental questions about the merits of globalization in general, and in particular the wisdom of any sovereign nation outsourcing key industries like high-tech, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, and food processing to an autocratic, non-transparent—and dangerous—nation like China.

The current oil glut and price crash—a result of a Saudi-Russian price war, in part directed at record U.S. production, in part due to the crumbling of OPEC, and less demand as a global public, frightened by the specter of the Wuhan virus, stays closer to home—are radically changing the relationship between oil sellers and buyers. In particular, vulnerable cash-hungry exporting countries like Iran, Russia, and Venezuela are losing clout. Interest rates are also dropping. The world at large may for a time experience historic de facto negative interest.

Trump Was Right About China

Ostensibly, all of this news should be terrible. And, of course, terrible is the reality that as I write over 6,000 people have died worldwide (out a global population nearing 8 billion) from the disease caused by the coronavirus. But that said, there will emerge winners and losers in every crisis, whether medical, economic, psychological, or political.

Donald Trump was ridiculed for taking on the Chinese juggernaut in 2017, even though he was not wrong that China was a serial world trade cheater—manipulating currencies, dumping products below the cost of production, appropriating technology, infringing on patents and copyrights, and running up huge asymmetrical trade surpluses.

The writ against his pushback on China was that it was hopeless to fight a 1.4-billion-person powerhouse, destined to surpass the United States in annual GDP in just a few years. Or Trump was deemed naïvely reckless, given that to achieve symmetry, legality, and fairness would incur too much pain and involve ossified and discredited concepts like tariffs.

But either by design or accident, the Trump standoff tore off the China scab. The exposed putrid wound beneath has terrified the world: lying, deceit, and subterfuge surrounded the mysterious COVID-19 contagion that emerged from Wuhan late last year and now has spread worldwide and panicked the globe. The coronavirus helped remind the world that the Hong Kong democracy protests, the creepy 1-million-person reeducation camps for Uyghur Muslims, and internal Chinese Orwellian surveillance were characteristic not aberrant.

In a reductionist sense, it is not surprising that a China, systematically lying to and cheating its trading partners, cannot be trusted to tell the world how a virus was born on its own soil, spread among its population, and hopped oceans into other nations.

When the virus peters out and the panic fades, China may be permanently rebranded and recalibrated by the world at large. Its trading partners will trust it far less to honor any commitments or to abide by any international agreements. Supply chains will be diversified. Tourism will be reduced in fears another such coronavirus will follow SARS and COVID-19—and be hushed up. Countries that had particular close commercial and cultural ties with China—Iran, South Korea, and Italy—were hurt most during the epidemic by Chinese silence and duplicity.

Some assembly plants will be shut down. Nations will be less trusting to outsource key industries to Chinese companies. Supply chains were changing before the epidemic and will redirect even more afterward.

In sum, China’s mercantile system will take a hit. The only country that can match and surpass its economic output, the United States, will be the long-term beneficiary as investors and businesses look away from Beijing to a more transparent partner.

More Bad News for Bad Actors

The United States, remember, is both the world’s largest energy and food producer. In that regard, such self-sufficiency once again will be appreciated by tens of millions of Americans as they sequester at home with ample food and power to allow the virus to sputter out. Isolated Americans worry not over whether they will starve or have enough heat in their homes, but whether their prescriptions will be filled, and safely so.

Crashing oil prices will also hurt the expansionary agendas of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, especially in places like Syria and Eastern Ukraine. Russia is already bleeding billions of dollars by propping up the murderous Assad dictatorship in Syria. Soon it will be doing so with far less apparent discretionary income.

Iran may be the biggest loser of the current chaos. U.S. sanctions already had cut Iranian oil revenue by about 90 percent. The remaining ten percent of sales, and in addition whatever income Iran received through smuggling and illicit sales, may be worth about half of what such reduced revenue garnered just a few months ago.

The theocracy has lost all credibility with the financially strapped Iranian people, 1,500 of whom it recently murdered in the streets. The mullahs lied to Iranians both about the shooting down of the Ukrainian jetliner and the extent of the COVID-19 infection sweeping through their country. The U.S. policy of “maximum pressure” replacing the flawed and appeasing Iran nuclear deal, will be seen as especially more effective each week.

Certainly, the regime is threatened with financial crises not seen since its war with Iraq in the 1980s, but this time of its own making and due largely to its own duplicity.

The Toll—and Eventual Upside—at Home

Ostensibly, the panic-driven shutdown of the U.S. economy could plunge us into recession or worse, with dire consequences for the 2020 campaign. Some on the Left see COVID-19 in unapologetically political terms, as the magic solution to ending the Trump presidency and his supporters in a way that all the past hopes and dreams of doing so—from subverting the Electoral College after the November 2016 election to Mueller and impeachment, and all in between—utterly failed.

Whatever the ultimate human and economic toll from the coronavirus, there is no doubt that Trump, as president, will be blamed for the economic slowdown of spring and perhaps even early summer. The media despises the president as does entertainment, academia, and the media, ensuring in popular culture and the news that he will be demonized in a way Obama was not, despite reacting far more slowly, to the swine flu threat of 2009.

But here are some caveats. Warmer weather and spring, global quarantines, travel bans, more testing and increased knowledge of the virus may all eventually conspire to slow its spread. And when its relative non-lethality is fully digested (perhaps 98 or 99 percent of those in the general population below 65 in previously good health who are infected recover), and the cases begin dropping off, the economy will not just recover but take off.

That more positives come back from far more testing does not necessarily mean a pandemic in the tens of millions of cases is certain, but perhaps reflects that the continuing ripples of the initial outbreak. In the two to three months when China did not apprise the world of the outbreaks and 10,000 and more a day were flying into American airports from China, lots of Americans were exposed and became carriers, and either had no symptoms or attributed their illnesses to the flu or bad colds as still more were infected. After all, it is hard not to concede that hundreds were not coronavirus positive of the million or so Chinese visitors who arrived in the United States during that critical time frame between November and January.

As is always the case at the beginning of an economic recovery, the end of a war, or the relief that follows from the departure of a plague, the public rejoices and then spends and splurges. Reason will eventually replace panic as Americans conclude that COVID-19, while more lethal to vulnerable age groups and those with chronic illnesses, may not be quite as pandemic in the manner of historic influenzas such as those in 1918 (500,000 plus US deaths) or even 1957 (70,000 deaths).

That ensuing economic uptick will be multiplied by crashed oil prices that are likely to help U.S. consumers while not permanently hurting U.S. frackers, much less the U.S. economy, which is both the world’s largest consumer and producer of oil and natural gas. More likely, it will do more damage to the oil-producing Middle East and Russia. American consumers will receive a huge stimulus of reduced prices at the gas pump, just as summer driving approaches.

Near-zero interest rates may be bad for the long-term economy. They punish thriftiness and (especially elderly) Americans who will lose real dollars on their savings accounts while rewarding the indebted. But in the short term, the cheaper borrowing will spur home and car sales and major consumer purchases.

Who would wish to game the election-year politics of these chaotic times, especially the more macabre calculations of the electoral beneficiaries of the media-driven hysteria over the COVID-19? Nonetheless, Vegas handicappers might envision the speculation not to whether Trump will be hurt in the late spring polls by the global panic and growing number of U.S. COVID cases (he already is), but whether he will be hurt enough to matter when the economy inevitably picks up again by later spring and summer.

One key will be how well each day Trump talks sense to the nation, explains all the measures the government currently is taking, and reassures the panicked public that whatever downturn the United States might experience over fears of a viral epidemic will be eventually mitigated by the facts of the outbreak, despite the greater dangers to those of us over 65.

Most of the data suggest that about 99 of every 100 infected under 65 will recover, the great majority without complications from the infection, allowing us to focus on those most vulnerable and most in need of medical intervention. The government is currently hellbent on ensuring that the virus slows. Facilities will treat the sick. Vaccinations are on the way in 2021. And prior travel bans, border security, and crackdowns on China’s trade cheating were wise and can be expanded.

All That Can Be Done

So the public could look forward to a rebounding late summer economy to come fueled by cheap gas, low interest, relief that COVID-19 is manageable, key preparations of pharmaceutical industries to return to the United States and realize that an already robust America can recover quickly from the virus and its associated panic.

Again, the key is not to damn the panic over the virus, but to understand and accept it—while reassuring Americans that all that can be done is being done, and what downturns they now experience will soon be overshadowed by even more jobs and greater economic expansion and wealth creation to come.

We sometimes forget, in legitimate fears of the coronavirus, that every action prompts a reaction and the massive curtailments of the U.S. economy can have as many health consequences as the virus itself—if millions lose income and jobs, become depressed in self-isolation, increase smoking, and drug and alcohol use, and postpone out of fear necessary buying and visits to doctors and hospitals for chronic and serious medical conditions unrelated to the virus.

In addition, it is not wrong to remind the public that current but once caricatured policies of secure borders, targeted travel bans, demands for transparency and symmetry from major U.S. trading partners, recalibration with China, and a return of manufacturing and assembly of key U.S. industries, from high-technology to pharmaceuticals, was long overdue—and must continue to ensure U.S. security and the long-term health of its people.

Let us relearn that at times of crisis our country is singularly resilient and self-sufficient, and we have only ourselves to save ourselves, or as FDR said in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

A homeless person on Venice beach boardwalk. The boardwalk is home to many strange and eclectic personalities.
Great America

Gathered for the Feast at the Hotel California

The ideal underlying inclusive zoning is overtly Communist. It suggests that everyone has a right to live anywhere they want, and that private property rights are a manifestation of privilege and oppression as much as of hard work. What great irony that this seductive siren call is a useful tool in the hands of political cronies and profiteers.

“Welcome to the Hotel California, such a lovely place . . . Plenty of room at the Hotel California, any time of year, you can find it here . . .”
—The Eagles, “Hotel California” 

For decades, California’s aristocracy has engaged in unsustainable feasting, as they consume the leviathan carcasses of what were for a time the world’s finest water project, freeway system, and public universities. Living off a capital endowment that once provided abundance, the aristocrats of California have neglected all of these achievements, imposing scarcity on a quiescent populace instead.

California’s aristocrats get wealthier as they ration supplies of every necessity, from housing to water and energy. The money they should have invested in maintaining affordable abundance goes instead into pay and pensions for their armies of usefully co-opted, unionized public servants, and entitlements for a growing underclass that votes reliably Democrat.

By now California’s so-called “up-down coalition” of Democratic voters has enabled its ruling class to acquire absolute power. Meanwhile, California’s beleaguered middle class either flees to other states or continues to vote against their own interests because they think it will demonstrate their commitment to the twin gods of “diversity” and fighting climate change. And as the old adage goes: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

California’s political economy today is set up to reward the wealthiest political insiders and destroy the hardest working middle-income citizens, all while expanding the ranks of the lowest-income residents and pandering to them by pretending to care about wealth inequality, social “equity,” and “environmental justice.” This explains the status of California as a sanctuary state. It also explains California’s burgeoning, unaccountable homeless population.

These deplorable social conditions, as well as the neglected infrastructure in California, easily could be managed, but then there would be no reason to expand the unionized state, no reason to drive down private sector wages while elevating public sector wages and benefits, and fewer opportunities for the wealthiest Californians to profit from asset bubbles. This is textbook political corruption. California is a one-party banana republic, run by a plutocracy that is looting the people’s inheritance to further enrich themselves.

The Hotel California Is Now Open on Venice Beach

The Venice Beach homeless “bridge housing” complex was opened for occupancy in February. It is a prime example of how crony capitalist corruption hides behind the mask of social justice and “inclusion.” This shelter is situated two blocks from the beach, on a three-acre parcel where land is valued at $30 million per acre. This city-owned land could be sold, and the proceeds could be used for shelter housing in far less expensive parts of Los Angeles County.

Instead, 154 homeless individuals are now occupying a “temporary” shelter that cost $8 million to construct and will cost another $8 million a year to operate. Eventually, supposedly within three years, “permanent supportive housing” will be constructed on-site for these homeless—or as they are called now, the “unhoused”—so they can continue to live two blocks from the beaches of the Pacific on one of the most expensive pieces of real estate on earth.

This is an example of “inclusive zoning” at its most extreme. It is based on the premise that if disadvantaged people, low-income people—even those struggling with mental illness or substance addictions—are brought into an affluent neighborhood, the habits and attitudes of the affluent residents will be absorbed by these less fortunate individuals, and “foster greater social and economic mobility and integration.”

The entire affordable housing policy agenda, enshrined in zoning regulations and tax incentives across America and especially in California, is susceptible to corruption. Why develop market housing, when you can get tax credits and tax exemptions if you instead build subsidized “affordable” housing? In California, the government implemented regulations and fees so punitive that they effectively rationed housing for all but the very wealthy, and now they are soaking the taxpayers to subsidize “affordable housing” at an average cost of more than $600,000 per unit. But why seed the most expensive parts of California’s cities with homeless shelters at a cost of over $50,000 per bed?

Here is where we could be seeing corruption disguised as compassion at its worst because the easiest way to acquire tax subsidies and tax credits is if an area can be officially declared “blighted.” Once this label applies to any census tract, not only do the federal money coffers automatically open wide for redevelopment, but the local cities can declare eminent domain to force homeowners to sell their homes which are then demolished to make way for hotels, hospitals, shopping malls, and residential high-rises—all of which offer more to these cities by way of taxes.

It doesn’t take much to tip the balance in a census tract to a “blighted” status, and it takes even less to earn a score that qualifies the area for less draconian but still very lucrative tax credits and subsidies. It is based on three variables, average median income, rate of unemployment, and rate of poverty. Take a look at this map of the coastline of West Los Angeles. The census tracts are outlined with yellow lines; some of them are only a half-mile in area, only a few hundred acres in size.

Notice that large parts of Venice Beach are already shaded yellow, meaning they are “eligible” for tax incentives based on “blight.” Flip that shade from yellow to red, as has happened in Santa Monica to the immediate north, and even more tax incentives arrive. How many people with perfect scores for “blight” would it take to transform these areas?

Don’t Walk Your Dog After Dark in Venice Beach

The homeless in Venice Beach have been a growing menace to law-abiding, hard-working residents for years. The problem has become considerably worse in just the past year, but if you object to the presence of people smoking methamphetamine and defecating on the sidewalk in front of your home or business, apparently that means you’re a fascist, a social Darwinist, and a sociopath. Never mind the fact that you and your spouse may both be working overtime to pay a mortgage, or that you have young children you want to keep safe.

Now that the Hotel California “bridge housing” is officially opened up, a new breed of homeless has arrived on the scene. As if the nonstop distribution of shit on Venice’s sidewalks and syringes on the local lawns wasn’t bad enough, eyewitness accounts offer lurid details of local women now being aggressively followed and harassed by gangs of young men who correctly identified this new “shelter” as a place where they can get free meals and free overnight accommodations.

Common sense would suggest that if the civic authorities had the slightest respect for the residents, this shelter would have a curfew, and would not admit intoxicated individuals. But the opposite is the case. Out of respect for the human rights and dignity of the “unhoused,” Venice Beach’s Hotel California is a “wet” shelter, meaning that any time of day or night you can stagger in as stoned or smashed as you wish, get some sleep or a free meal, then leave again.

Exactly how is something like this not expected to attract even more of the “unhoused” to make Venice Beach their free home? They have everything they need—free food, free shelter, freedom of movement, “tolerance” of their “lifestyle,” and no accountability. But in a census tract of only a few blocks, a facility of 150 people without jobs (perfect score on “unemployment rate”), without income (ditto), and clearly living in poverty, watch out. Blight, and with that, eminent domain by the City of Los Angeles, could swiftly follow.

Inclusive zoning, California style, includes the practice of redistributing poverty to make certain neighborhoods blighted and low income, so that developers, working closely with the city bureaucrats, can use major federal financing incentives and eminent domain to completely demolish previously intact neighborhoods where residents invested their lives and fortunes to call home.

The ideal underlying inclusive zoning is overtly Communist. It suggests that everyone has a right to live anywhere they want, and that private property rights are a manifestation of privilege and oppression as much as of hard work. What great irony that this seductive siren call is a useful tool in the hands of political cronies and profiteers.

And so California continues its descent into madness. At least, down in Venice Beach, one may get out as well as get into the Hotel California. But what incentive might prompt anyone to do that? From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.

 

Great America

Canceling the ‘Miracle on Ice’

Team USA’s 1980 hockey victory over the USSR was only a “lucky win” by players who are now “old white men,” a McClatchy columnist contends.

When it comes to American greatness, it’s hard to top the victory of the U.S. men’s hockey team over the Soviet Union in the 1980 winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York. A team of no-name collegians took down the best team in the world on the international scene.

“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” shouted play-by-play man Al Michaels as the clock ticked down on the Americans’ 4-3 victory. Chants of “USA! USA!” rang out across a country suffering through the Carter era, with its “misery index” at home and caving to Iranian hostage-takers abroad. Americans needed a victory, and they got one. Big time.

It was as though Bemidji State had taken down the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, perhaps the greatest moment in sports history. Then, on the 40th anniversary of this historic feat comes word that it was all a fluke, a “lucky win that spawned a myth.” The gold medal winners and their fans might wonder, says who?

Turns out, it’s Marcos Bretón, co-author of Away Games: The Life and Times of a Latin Baseball Player, and Sosa: An Autobiography. Marcos Bretón is also a columnist at the Sacramento Bee, flagship of the bankrupt McClatchy newspaper chain. Marcos comes billed as the “proud son of Mexican immigrants” but claims that the 1980 American victory once inspired him. That changed when, on the 40th anniversary, some team members showed up at a Trump rally with “Make America Great Again” hats.

“When I saw the image of the team as old white men wearing red hats next to Trump,” Bretón explains, “the spell was finally broken.” So beyond the politics, the problem was skin shade and age, factors beyond the control of any human being.

“The ‘Miracle on Ice’ guys were perfect for adulation because they were all white, fresh-faced and eager to embrace the flag without question,” the columnist explains. They were all from Minnesota and Boston, says Bretón, “places I had never been to.” This literary stylist also has a problem with the American white guys’ victory.

If the Soviet and American teams had played again in the Olympic tournament, Bretón writes, the Soviets would have “wiped the ice” with Team USA. The Soviets had indeed trounced the Americans 10-3 in an exhibition game, but that contest might have been the real fluke.

When it all counted, Team USA faced a Czech team that featured the three Stastny brothers, future players in the National Hockey League. The Americans defeated them 7-3, and it was at this game that the “USA! USA!” chants first rang out in force, as Al Michaels recalls in You Can’t Make This Up. Then the U.S. team, average age 21, faced the mighty Soviets, who did not wipe the ice with them.

The Americans were “skating faster than our players” and dominating play, said the Soviet play-by-play man, as noted in the ESPN documentary “Of Miracles and Men.” Buzz Schneider blasted a 50-foot slapshot past Vladislav Tretiak, perhaps the best goalie in the world, and Mark Johnson picked up a loose puck and scored in the final seconds of the first period to tie the game at two.

The swift Soviets had their chances but defenseman Ken Morrow and goalie Jim Craig held them off. Mike Eruzione wristed in a bullet to make the score 4-3. The Americans held on for ten minutes but to win the gold they had to face Finland, a strong team with Yari Kurri, a future NHL star and teammate of “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky. The USA came from behind to win 4-2 and claim the gold, but according to Bretón, the celebration was all wrong.

“It wasn’t a miracle at all,” he informs us. “It was a lucky win that spawned a myth that died when the red hats came out and the truth was revealed.” Here is “cancel culture” on full display. If any of those “old white men” who won Olympic gold happened to encounter Marcos Bretón, things might get exciting.

Sacramento readers have come to know Marcos Bretón as a predictable retailer of politically correct boilerplate, but most of his columns are about Bretón his own self. His “Miracle on Ice” put-down, for example, features more than 30 personal pronouns, heavy on “I” and “me.”

Like Eve Rand (Shirley MacLaine) in Being There, Marcos reveals himself to himself, and he is drenched and purged. If the 1980 American gold-medal winners pronounced Bretón an ignoramus and bigot, they would have a strong case. American sports fans might wonder what the proud son of Mexican immigrants thinks of a more controversial Olympics.

In advance of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, students took to the streets to protest the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) dictatorship that had ruled Mexico since the 1920s. Mexican troops and police gunned down the students by the hundreds, the worst mass shooting in North American History and still covered up by Mexican politicians.

On the 50th anniversary in 2018, Marcos was pretty quiet about the massacre. In a similar style, it’s hard to find a column where he goes after the Mexican regime with the same force he deploys against the Americans who defeated the mighty Soviet Union and won Olympic gold way back in 1980. If any of those players consider Marcos Bretón a gutless hack, it would be hard to blame them.

Meanwhile, as the Americans put it in 1980, and again in 2020, “USA! USA! USA!”

Great America

The Hate America Project

How the New York Times, the Pulitzer Foundation, and America’s cultural elite have aimed a dagger at America’s heart.

America is unique among nations in being founded on a set of ideas and values rather than having a shared “identity” based solely on “blood and soil.” The founding of America during the revolutionary era of the 1770s and ’80s was based on principles that provide the sinews of our national identity. They are what create a unity out of the diverse peoples that have settled and occupied this country since its founding. They have been the inspirational force that enabled America to abolish slavery, become a global symbol of freedom, and provide the world’s chief bulwark against global tyrannies.

It is this inspirational memory that the political left has set out to erase and destroy. The most disturbing manifestation of this sinister aggression is the “1619 Project,” the brainchild of a staff writer at the New York Times named Nikole Hannah-Jones. It is supported by the Pulitzer Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, and the nation’s cultural elite. Six months after its launch, the 1619 Project is already a curriculum in 3,500 public high schools in all 50 states. Given the extreme left-wing nature of the teachers’ unions and the public education establishment, this is hardly surprising.

Here’s how Times editorial board member Mara Gay describes the project’s mission: “In the days and weeks to come, we will publish essays demonstrating that nearly everything that has made America exceptional grew out of slavery.”

In a formal statement, the Times editorial board elaborated: “The 1619 Project is a major initiative from the New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”

In other words, in its very conception, the 1619 Project is an historically illiterate lie, whose self-evident purpose is to erase the actual foundation of the nation born in 1776 and memorialized by Lincoln as a “new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

The creator of the 1619 Project, an African American Times staff writer and pro-Castro leftist, has written an introduction to the project called “America Wasn’t a Democracy Until Black Americans Made It One.” The title reveals the thinly veiled racist attitudes of both the author and her project by suggesting that blacks wrote the Declaration of Independence, created the abolitionist movement, drafted and financed the Union army, sacrificed 350,000 lives to win the Civil War, wrote the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, created and financed the NAACP and other civil rights organizations without major support from white Americans, and wrote and passed the Civil Rights Acts. Of course, these are absurdities, and the only reason they are even entertained is that anti-white racism is so fashionable among the nation’s cultural elites at this troubled moment in our history.

Hannah-Jones’ explanation of the project to make 1619 America’s Founding instead of 1776 or 1787, describes the event in these words:

In August 1619, just 12 years after the English settled Jamestown, Va., . . . the Jamestown colonists bought 20 to 30 enslaved Africans from English pirates. The pirates had stolen them from a Portuguese slave ship that had forcibly taken them from what is now the country of Angola. Those men and women who came ashore on that August day were the beginning of American slavery. They were among the 12.5 million Africans who would be kidnapped from their homes and brought in chains across the Atlantic Ocean in the largest forced migration in human history until the Second World War. (Emphasis added.)

This description is a tissue of fictions beginning with the insinuation that 12.5 million Africans were shipped to America in the Atlantic Slave Trade. The proper figure is 330,000—bad enough—but a sign that African slavery in the Western Hemisphere was significantly less than Hannah-Jones and her enablers would have us believe.

Moreover, the 20 Africans brought to Virginia in 1619 whom Hannah-Jones describes as the beginning of African slavery weren’t even slaves. As the distinguished African-American Princeton historian Nell Painter has observed in a critique of the 1619 Project, the Africans brought to Virginia in 1619 were indentured servants, meaning that they would be free within a set number of years (usually five to seven). In fact, the majority of laborers in the Virginia colony were indentured servants, almost all of them white.

What’s more, neither the 20 indentured servants who arrived in Virginia in 1619 nor the vast majority of actual slaves who came later were “kidnapped” by white Englishmen or any other whites. They were bought at slave auctions centered in Ghana and Benin from black African slave owners. The 20 indentured servants who arrived in Virginia in 1619 had been captured and indentured by black African warlords as spoils of war.

All of these facts undermine the Times’ attack on America’s Founding, so Hannah-Jones omits them.

The ideological character of the 1619 Project is manifest in the subtitle of Hannah-Jones’ historically illiterate introduction: “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.” This claim is based first of all on a grammatical misunderstanding of the word “ideals,” and then on an extravagant distortion of the historical record. “Ideals” are by their very nature aspirations, not facts. The Founders’ ideals were actually commitments they made which they and their heirs carried out.

In the second place, Hannah-Jones characterization of the Founders as pro-slavery in her introduction is just an offensive slander. In the words of C. Bradley Thompson’s scholarly study of the Founders’ attitudes, America’s Revolutionary Mind:

Not a single revolutionary leader ever publicly praised slavery as a positive good. Benjamin Franklin, speaking as president of the Pennsylvania Society of Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, described slavery as “an atrocious debasement of human nature.” George Washington, a slaveholder, told a friend, “There is not a man living, who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of [slavery].” At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, James Madison told his colleagues, “We have seen the mere distinction of color made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground of the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.”

Hannah-Jones’ claim that the Founders led a revolution to protect slavery is also transparently false. The year 1787 saw the passing of the Northwest Ordinance, which established the settlement of the region that would become Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. It was a geographical area as large as the existing 13 states. Article IV outlawed slavery in this unsettled land. What rationale would the allegedly pro-slavery Founders have for doing that?

Inspired by their commitment to equality and liberty, the American founders immediately began dismantling the institution of slavery in the northern states, which were soon referred to as the “Free States,” a process completed by 1804. So why didn’t they simply abolish slavery throughout all the United States? An obvious, compelling reason was that they feared the catastrophe of a civil war which eventually did kill more Americans than all of America’s other wars to the present day combined.

But there was an even worse prospect for them to consider. If the Founders had attempted to abolish slavery in the South in 1787, Southerners would have joined forces with the British—the greatest empire in the world, whose soldiers managed to burn the White House in the War of 1812. Such an alliance would likely have defeated the free states of the North, and the victorious South might have extended the reign of slavery for who knows how long. So they sought to delay a bloodbath that might result in an extension of slavery, believing it was a backward economic system that was bound to fall of its own weight.

Because of their racist attitudes against whites, neither Hannah-Jones nor the Times editors even bother to ask the serious question of why the anti-slavery signers of the Declaration of Independence might have reason to compromise with the Slave South. For them, the only possible answer is white hypocrisy, white perfidy, and racism.

The real purpose of the 1619 Project is revealed in Nikole Hannah-Jones baseless claim that, “Anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country.” This was a slander infamously voiced by Barack Obama and other anti-American leftists some years earlier.

James Oakes, himself a leftist, was also one of four major American historians to sign a joint statement challenging the historical distortions and ideological nature of the 1619 Project. “These are really dangerous tropes,” he warned.

They’re not only ahistorical, they’re actually anti-historical. The function of those tropes is to deny change over time . . . . They say, look at how terribly black people were treated under slavery. And look at the incarceration rate for black people today. It’s the same thing. Nothing changes. There has been no industrialization. There has been no Great Migration. We’re all in the same boat we were back then. And that’s what original sin is. It’s passed down. Every single generation is born with the same original sin . . .  There’s nothing we can do to get out of it. If it’s the DNA, there’s nothing you can do. What do you do? Alter your DNA?

The obvious point of the DNA metaphor is that racism rather than liberty and the proposition that all men are created equal are the essence of America’s democracy. This is a transparent incitement to destroy what these determined enemies of America’s actual democracy are intent on portraying as a hypocritical, racist, sham.

But the actual history of slavery in America refutes this claim and tells the opposite story. In City Journal, the American historian Allen Guelzo dismissed the Times project as a “conspiracy theory” developed from the “chair of ultimate cultural privilege in America, because in no human society has an enslaved people suddenly found itself vaulted into positions of such privilege, and with the consent—even the approbation—of those who were once the enslavers.”

Even more powerful scholarly testimony comes from Orlando Patterson, a man of the Left and a renowned African American Harvard sociologist who has written award-winning books on  slavery and race. America, in Patterson’s words, “is the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protections of minorities than any other society, white or black; offers more opportunities to greater numbers of black persons than any other society, including those of Africa.”

The anti-American animus of the 1619 Project is not inspired by the history of American slavery and emancipation, but by the anti-capitalist and anti-white racism of the projects’ authors. This is evident from the actual articles that make up the project and its curriculum, which do not examine the facts—complex as they are—of what took place in August 1619, but use slavery as a brush with which to tar every aspect of American life.

The 100-page special issue of the New York Times Magazine that launched the 1619 Project tells one all one needs to know about its purpose. The issue includes the following articles (and only these): “America Wasn’t a Democracy Until Black Americans Made It One,” “American Capitalism Is Brutal. You Can Trace That to the Plantation,” “Why Is Everyone Always Stealing Black Music?,” “How Segregation Caused Your Traffic Jam,” “How False Beliefs in Physical Racial Difference Still Live in Medicine Today,” “The Barbaric History of Sugar in America,” “Why Doesn’t America Have Universal Healthcare? One word: Race,” “Why American Prisons Owe Their Cruelty to Slavery,” “How America’s Vast Racial Wealth Gap Grew: By Plunder,” and finally one that overtly displays the relentless political agenda—“What the Reactionary Politics of 2019 Owe to the Politics of Slavery”—in other words the Trump administration is a legacy of slavery.

The 1619 Project is an outrageous, racist, falsification of American history. A metastasizing curriculum in America’s schools, it is a dagger aimed at America’s heart, at its self-esteem and self-understanding, at its national pride. It aims to destroy America’s shield against its real-world enemies. These enemies are legion because tyrannies around the globe hate democracy in general and America in particular, as the most tolerant and most inclusive nation among all nations with large internal minorities. For comparison, there is not a black, brown or Asian nation that has elected as its commander-in-chief a white countryman the way white American majorities elected Barack Obama—not once but twice.

As a result of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ role in creating this racist, anti-capitalist and historically illiterate attack on a country that has given her extraordinary freedoms and privileges, she has been showered with awards and prizes by the cultural elite—including a $624,000 MacArthur “Genius Award.” This is the real danger embedded in the 1619 Project: It has the support of America’s disloyal, seditious elites. These are the privileged, misnamed “liberals,” who for three years have sabotaged a duly elected president through witch-hunts, beginning with a thinly veiled attempted coup by the nation’s intelligence agencies.

Inspired by identity politics, and leftist pie-in-the-sky promises, the Democratic Party supports a pro-terrorist, Jew-hating caucus in the House, promotes lawlessness at the country’s borders, casually tolerates anti-white racism, and anti-male bigotry, and sponsors presidential candidates who want to criminalize free speech, rule by executive diktat and confiscate private wealth—and who are plausibly described as Rip Van Winkle Marxists whom the Communist horrors of the 20th century seem to have passed by unnoticed.

Great America

Being ‘Pro-Woman’ Isn’t What it Used to Be for Democrats

It’s worth taking a look at what these advocates are fighting to protect—and who they are willing to put at risk—to cover themselves in the glory of unfettered abortion.

In a recent television interview about last week’s March for Life, I was asked if President Trump risked alienating suburban women with his administration’s aggressive pro-life agenda. No, I replied, because most Americans are actually fairly moderate when it comes to abortion—which is strikingly at odds with the extreme abortion agenda of the Left.

The guest opposite me, Democratic pollster John Zogby, scoffed in response. No Democrat candidate, he said, has taken extreme positions on abortion.

Zogby may want to call his office, because his view is about 20 years out of date. True, Democrats were once the party of “safe, legal, and rare” abortion. But no more. In fact, in 2012, national Democrats excised the word “rare” from their official platform, preferring instead “safe and legal” abortion.

Just four years later, in 2016, national Democrats yanked their support for the formerly bipartisan Hyde amendment, a funding rider that has been included in every federal spending bill since the passage of Roe v. Wade to prohibit the direct federal financing of abortion. Joe Biden, apparently unaware of his party’s passage into Wokeness, was forced to condemn his decades-long support for the Hyde amendment after coming under fire from liberal feminists.

It should have come as no surprise when Virginia’s Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, a former pediatrician, offered his support last year for a bill in the Virginia legislature that would allow a woman to seek an abortion even as she is about to give birth.

“I think this was really blown out of proportion,” he said in response to the horror and outrage that followed the introduction of state delegate Kathy Tran’s bill. He went on to describe in medical terms how an infant with “severe deformities” could be murdered after birth if that was what the family so desired.

Democrats and their allied media outlets amplified Northam’s message. Just two months later, 44 Democrats in the U.S. Senate went on record opposing federal legislation that would have required infants born alive after an attempted abortion to be given lifesaving care.

Safe, legal, and rare? More like unlimited, unrestricted, and unregulated.

That abortion is a tragedy for the mother, and certainly for the baby, no longer seems to be a controlling narrative on the Left. Or a narrative at all. Pro-abortion advocates now encourage women to “shout” their abortions. To celebrate them. While accepting a Golden Globe in January, visibly pregnant actress Michelle Williams proclaimed that none of her success would have been possible without the right to abortion.

Abortion, for progressives, has become synonymous with empowerment. Women are told that access to abortion, like finding a good mentor and selecting the right power suit, is crucial to their professional success and personal satisfaction.

For “Women’s Health”? No Longer

It’s ironic because the pro-abortion cause, in accelerating past any concept of abortion as a heartbreaking choice, has actually become far less about caring for women.

Planned Parenthood, the self-declared “women’s health organization,” recently fired their president for being too focused on—wait for it—women’s health.

“I came to Planned Parenthood to run a national healthcare organization,” Dr. Leana Wen said in her resignation letter. “The new board has determined that the priority of Planned Parenthood moving forward is to double down on abortion rights advocacy.”

And despite claiming that any congressional effort to revoke their millions in federal subsidies would put American women in jeopardy, Planned Parenthood recently announced it will spend $45 million to elect more Democrats.

Women’s health, indeed.

This hypocrisy will be on full display in March when the Supreme Court hears arguments in June Medical Services, LLC v. Gee. The case centers around a Louisiana law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Abortion advocates call these “TRAP” laws, for “targeted regulation of abortion providers,” and insist that they are only there to throw up more logistical hurdles to accessing an abortion, and thus must be opposed at all cost.

But it’s worth taking a look at what these advocates are fighting to protect, and who they are willing to put at risk, to cover themselves in the glory of unfettered abortion.

Rather than simply seeking to restrict access to abortion, Louisiana’s law appears to be trying to protect women from many of the state’s abortion clinics which have a disturbing record of substandard medical care and doctors who have been professionally disciplined—some numerous times—by the state.

In its review of the case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals observed a “horrifying” history of health and safety code violations as well as “generally unsafe conditions and protection of rapists.”

June Medical Services, the named petitioner in the case, has been cited repeatedly for violating basic health and safety requirements. These include failing to monitor each abortion patient’s level of consciousness and respiratory status during abortion procedures, or even the amount or length of time nitrous gas was administered. Patients were sent home without even cursory checks to ensure they were medically stable. Instruments used in procedures were found to be unclean and not properly disinfected.

The Delta Clinic of Baton Rouge, also a petitioner, has been cited for operating with unsterilized equipment, and not having emergency intravenous fluids available for a surgical abortion patient—which led to the patient requiring a full hysterectomy. This same clinic performed an abortion on a minor patient without obtaining parental consent, in violation of the state’s law.

Abortion advocates also want to protect Louisiana’s abortion doctors, whose blatant disregard for human care evokes a Mengele-esque quality.

Dr. James Whitmore, who serviced the Delta Clinic, was cited for using instruments that were rusty, cracked, and not sterile. If he did “sterilize” them, it was with a solution that was “infrequently changed and visibly unclean.” After performing one second-trimester abortion, he allowed the patient to bleed for three hours before finally sending her to the hospital, where she was found to have a perforated uterus, a lacerated uterine artery, and required a complete hysterectomy.

Not to be outdone, Leroy Brinkley, who operates both the Delta Clinic and a women’s health care center, employed the infamous Dr. Kermit Gosnell. Gosnell is the Pennsylvania abortion doctor who routinely delivered viable babies and then murdered the newborns by snipping their spinal cords with scissors. He was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and for the manslaughter of a patient. Brinkley frequently sent women seeking late-term abortions in Louisiana across state lines to Gosnell’s shop of horrors.

These are the doctors and clinics that abortion advocates want to protect from a law that would simply require admitting privileges at local hospitals. In their discussion of the case, they don’t even mention the status of the clinics, or the women who have been harmed. Rather, they toss out phrases like “sham laws” and “second-class citizens,” as if a law designed to ensure the safety of women seeking abortions will send us spiraling back to the 1950s. It’s unfounded nonsense.

All of this makes plain, however, that abortion activists, and the Democrat party generally, have shed any pretense of being for women—their well-being or their care. Rather, progressive pro-abortion activists and candidates are far more interested in spreading the lie that personal fulfillment requires pain and tragedy, and that success is only possible if a life is snuffed out first. Pro-woman? Hardly.

Great America

A Vision for California’s Visionless Republican Party

An effective message wouldn’t just spew carefully curated sound bites, pretending to dislike Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff. It would offer a specific policy agenda, and not only propose candidates but also offer citizen initiatives sponsored directly by the party to fulfill that agenda.

About a month ago, the California Republican Party apparently harvested my email address, because since then I’ve been the lucky recipient of an email avalanche from “CAGOP.” Every day now, sometimes twice a day, their messages turn up in my inbox with subject lines such as “Are you as tired of Gavin Newsom as we are?,” “Are YOU watching this impeachment sham, Edward?,” “Nancy Pelosi continues to drag on the impeachment SHAM,” “Will the impeachment sham ever end?,” and “Nancy Pelosi is Obstructing the Senate.”

A few weeks ago, CAGOP sent a “Sustaining Membership Statement” in the mail, complete with a “Member ID” and “Member Code,” and a “2020 Election Year Sustaining Membership Renewal, Requested Contribution” of—get this—either $290, $435, $580, or “other.” Check a box. Enclose a check. Huh? I’ve never been a “sustaining member” of the CAGOP. And what’s with the odd amounts of money? Did a focus group indicate that putting weird amounts into a letter would get our attention?

The letter, like the emails, was filled with short, single-sentence paragraphs, liberally sprinkled with words written in all capital letters, or underlined, or in bold type. Written in a style that would not challenge the average third-grader, all of them were designed to serve red meat to knee-jerk conservatives but offered nothing in the way of a policy agenda. We push buttons. You give money. Me Tarzan.

This is condescending, hypocritical garbage, coming from a party leadership run by consulting firms whose mission is not to save California, but rather to stay in business.

For starters, the leadership in California’s Republican Party doesn’t like Trump. If they did, they wouldn’t confine their endorsements of Trump to fundraising letters and emails to “sustaining members.” Instead, they would proclaim their support publicly, loudly, proudly, often, and everywhere. But they don’t.

This is not just a failure of courage and vision, it is a strategic blunder.

California’s Republican Party has declined from 31 percent of registered voters in 2009 to 26 percent in 2017 to only 24 percent today. Yet an astonishing 35 percent of all Californians approve of Trump’s job performance—that would equate to 7 million registered voters. A November 2018 Public Policy Institute poll put Trump’s support at 39 percent among likely California voters.

The last time California’s GOP had a share of California’s voters in excess of 35 percent was over 30 years ago. Until and unless CAGOP registration comes anywhere near to Trump’s approval rating in the Golden State, they cannot point to his presidency as the cause of the party’s continuing decline. CAGOP has nothing to lose in publicly supporting President Trump. Sending private emails gushing over Trump while avoiding any public mention of him is pathetic.

A Policy Agenda and Political Strategy

To be fair, it isn’t easy for the CAGOP in California, where leftist oligarchs and public-sector unions are willing and able to spend hundreds of millions of dollars every election cycle to support Democratic candidates and causes. But courage and vision are free. You don’t have to spend $900,000 on focus groups and polling if you have a good idea. You just go out and sell it.

It should go without saying, that you can support Trump’s policies without having to agree with every one of his tweets, which sometimes number over 100 per day. You don’t have to defend every action he’s taken, and you don’t have to agree with all his policies. But what you can do is visualize and articulate how Trump’s overall policy agenda is rooted in common sense centrism, and identify specific examples of how it is relevant to California’s challenges.

State-funded infrastructure projects, for example, can make libertarian heads explode. But Trump, along with most California politicians, supports infrastructure projects. And Trump, unlike most of California’s politicians and bureaucrats, actually understands the construction business. Why not invite him to lead a symposium in Los Angeles on tunneling to solve transportation gridlock? Bring in Elon Musk’s Boring Company and turn him loose on 3-D traffic solutions the same way he was turned loose on rocketry.

Energy and the environment are another area where Trump’s gut calls on what makes for practical policy are echoed by many common-sense politicians and experts. There is no reason why California isn’t building desalination plants on the Southern California coast. As relatively late adopters, California’s utilities can install pre-manufactured modular plants that are becoming the norm worldwide, and cost far less to engineer.

Similarly, there is no reason California should be importing gas and oil from Venezuela; surely there are some in-state reserves that could be tapped without creating the environmental havoc that the plaintiff’s bar . . . oops . . . the environmentalist lobby constantly alleges.

On the environment, why hasn’t the California Environmental Quality Act been repealed? It is one of the biggest reasons housing is so expensive in California. Why aren’t Californians widening and upgrading every highway and freeway in the state, and getting them smart-vehicle enabled, instead of blowing through billions on a bullet train? Why aren’t Californians allowed to build whole new cities along Interstate 5 or Highway 101? Why aren’t the connecting east-west roads—such as Highways 198, 41, and 58—being widened and improved? Why aren’t we building beautiful new suburbs that could bring to life what is now arid and underutilized cattle range?

No discussion of the environment in California can ignore the catastrophic mismanagement of forest and wildland, where for decades, environmentalist regulations ended or greatly reduced the ability for landowners to do selective logging, salvage logging, controlled burns, cut and maintain firebreaks and access roads, and create defensible space. Imagine how much could be done, fast, if Trump’s Department of the Interior got involved. Imagine the benefit if federal regulations were rewritten to permit commercial timber companies to harvest viable lumber in exchange for performing thinning operations?

Exposing Progressive Lies, Offering Centrist Alternatives

If the CAGOP had vision, party leaders would embody these projects in candidates willing to push unapologetically for their implementation. They would resolutely proclaim, accurately, that energy development, suburban expansion, public spending on infrastructure, and sensible reforms to environmental regulations are moderate centrist positions.

At the same time, these candidates can expose the stunning, corrupt hypocrisy of Democrats in California, who for years deliberately have enacted policies that have made California unaffordable to all but the wealthy elites.

You want affordable homes? Build suburbs again on open land. You want affordable energy? Keep the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant open and once again drill for oil and gas. You want, for that matter, affordable tuition? Then fire 75 percent of college administrators, who suddenly, and for no good reason, nearly outnumber classroom instructors.

Republican candidates can explain that the people most harmed by these Democratic policies are the low-income communities who, even so, constitute the strongest and most reliable support for the Democrats. They’ve been conned. For example, public schools have been ruined by the teachers’ unions. Don’t pussyfoot around, fighting over how many charter schools the legislature will “compromise” on. Call for school vouchers so parents can send their kids anywhere they want!

An effective message from the CAGOP wouldn’t just spew carefully curated sound bites, pretending to dislike Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff. It would offer a specific policy agenda, and not only propose candidates but also offer citizen initiatives sponsored directly by the party to fulfill that agenda. That’s a message that would not be deleted. That would be a message from an organization with a genuine mission, instead of yet another rote ejaculation from a diminishing fiefdom of supposedly conservative consultants, past their prime, hanging on to dwindling donor dollars.

A California Republican Party with imagination and courage would emulate President Trump, fiercely defending his policy agenda, fearlessly calling for policies in California that are consistent with what he is trying to do nationally, and stating, over and over, that they are the moderate ones, and that the Democrats are the dangerous extremists.