Greatness Agenda

China Must Release the Secret Records of the Wuhan Biolabs

It’s time for Beijing to come clean.

The leaders of the Chinese Communist Party have a lot to answer for.

Clearly, it was the CCP’s coverup and incompetence that first allowed the Wuhan virus to reach epidemic proportions in China, and then spread around the world. A congressional resolution authored by Representative Jim Banks (R-Ind.) condemns China for these misdeeds. It should be an easy vote.

But what if China is responsible not only for the global spread of the Wuhan virus but also for the original infections?

There are many, myself included, who suspect that this particular coronavirus may have been under study at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and that it somehow escaped from the lab.

A paper by two Chinese scientists outlined a plausible scenario about how this leak might have happened at either the WIV or at another nearby biolab run by China’s Centers for Disease Control. They argue that “Patient Zero” was a lab worker who accidentally infected himself with a bat coronavirus. The paper was quickly censored by the Chinese authorities, which only heightens suspicions.

Without question, China for years has been doing research at its Wuhan biolabs that could be used to create coronaviruses harmful to humans. The researchers have left a clear paper trail.

In a 2008 article in the Journal of Virology, WIV researchers described how they were genetically engineering SARS-like viruses from horseshoe bats to enable them to use angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) to gain entry into human cells.

In other words, more than 10 years ago the Wuhan biolab was already creating entirely new and deadly viruses by inserting that part of the dangerous SARS virus that allows it to infect people into a second bat coronavirus, which was then able to attack human cells just like the Wuhan Flu virus does.

Then there is a 2013 article in Nature by some of the same WIV researchers entitled, “Isolation and characterization of a bat SARS-like coronavirus that uses the ACE2 receptor.”

They conclude that “Chinese horseshoe bats are natural reservoirs of SARS-CoV, and that intermediate hosts may not be necessary for direct human infection by some bat SARS-like coronaviruses.”

Here we find the Wuhan biolab involved in collecting a range of SARS-like coronaviruses from horseshoe bats and proving that, like the SARS virus itself, some of these other naturally occurring coronaviruses could infect human beings directly. Again, just like the Wuhan virus does.

Now if either genetically engineered or naturally occurring coronaviruses capable of infecting people escaped from the Wuhan biolab, this could be the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and I are being hammered in mainstream media outlets for even suggesting that the Wuhan virus may have escaped from a Chinese lab. They have tried to “fact check” our concern to death by mischaracterizing it and by citing so-called experts.

A left-wing site called Health Feedback falsely accused me of suggesting that the virus was definitely a genetically engineered bioweapon. A Forbes columnist claimed that both Cotton and I had said it “was manufactured in a lab.” The Daily Mail wrote “Sen. Tom Cotton and American social Scientist Steven Mosher push this theory that the virus was manufactured.”

On and on it goes.

What Cotton and I actually said was that it may have escaped, in one way or another, from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Many of those who rush to China’s defense, it turns out, have undisclosed ties to that country, and even to the Wuhan Institute of Virology itself. Virologist Danielle Anderson, who was cited by Health Feedback in its hit piece, works for the National University of Singapore, which in turn is an “International Partner” of WIV.

In fact, her joint project with the Wuhan lab is called “Combating the Next SARS- or MERS-like Emerging Infectious Disease Outbreak by Improving Active Surveillance.”

One assumes she and her Chinese partners have moved on from the current pandemic and are now researching the “next outbreak,” since they obviously missed this one. 

This means Anderson is not just an interested party; she is a heavily invested party. If WIV is the cause of a worldwide pandemic, obviously she and others with ties to that institution will see their reputations suffer by association.

Whatever reasons China’s apologists have for defending China—to protect themselves and their Chinese colleagues, to shift the blame away from China onto America, to blame President Trump—they are offering opinions, not facts.

To determine the actual origin of the pandemic we need only one thing. China must immediately release all of the coronavirus research records of the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control.

Once we have these records from China, it will be easy to do a comprehensive sequencing comparison of the Wuhan Flu virus, SARS-CoV-2, with all of the coronaviruses isolated, sequenced, and studied at these biolabs.

In particular, we would want to take a very close look at how the Wuhan virus compares to all the human-ACE2-binding coronaviruses that these biolabs have created or collected. This is the feature that allows SARS-CoV-2 to invade the lungs, where it causes the pneumonia that is characteristic of COVID-19 illness.

If we find no matches in the research records, this will prove China’s innocence, at least in terms of the origin of the epidemic.

If there is a match, we will know not only that it escaped from the lab, but we will also learn from the research records whether it was in some way engineered.

Now, if the Beijing regime has nothing to hide, then it should be happy to authorize the release of the records that will clear its name. So should the Wuhan Institute of Virology, whose director recently said in an emotional interview that she swears on her very life that her Institute did not release the virus.

Fine. Then release the research records to prove it.

Because of the importance of finding out the truth, I believe that President Trump should both personally and publicly request Chinese President Xi Jinping to authorize the release of the research records.

If President Xi refuses, that should be taken as an admission of guilt on China’s part.

Then we will have one more reason to continue calling this “made in China” pandemic the Wuhan Flu. Or, if you prefer, the China virus.

Greatness Agenda

End China’s Chokehold on Pharmaceuticals

A strong domestic healthcare manufacturing base is as much a matter of national security and defense as it is of public health and augurs the very survival of America.

China is the perfect incubator for epidemic contagion. It boasts an understaffed, overwhelmed, and under-resourced healthcare system crushing under the weight of its totalitarian government’s monomaniacal obsession with secrecy and its penchant for self-aggrandizing propaganda. At any given time, it stands precariously perched on the tip of a most delicate homeostasis, and the faintest spark of infectious contagion can cast it hurtling down into the abyss of spectacular pandemonium. 

As it did before with SARS, earth’s most populous nation continues to be the number one travel destination on any world domination aspiring infectious pathogen’s fantasy vacation list.  

For a nation gripped by fear porn, impelled stock plunges, toilet paper stockouts, and fertility clinic egg freezing frenzies it seems fantastical to envisage the end of this epidemic but end it will. The long term national and health security risk posed by our dependence on a Chinese manufactured supply chain, however, pales in comparison to that of short-term contagion. 

Factory shutdowns across China have already impacted the supply of medications and uncovered our addict like dependency on Chinese-manufactured healthcare supplies. 

An overwhelming majority of the world’s prescription drug supply, either completely manufactured generics or raw materials used in pharmaceutical manufacture, come from China. By some estimates, this number is as high as a staggering 90-95 percent. 

The Chinese chokehold on American, and indeed global pharmaceutical supply chains has effectively positioned them as the world’s pharmacy, by design, and constitute a key sector in Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” and the 13th of their “Five-Year” plans. Even India, traditionally viewed as a viable alternate supplier, depends on China for as much as 80 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and chemical intermediaries for pharmaceutical manufacture. 

The facts surrounding our non-existent ability to manufacture key pharmaceuticals are astounding, especially when you consider that we are now more dependent than ever on the Chinese, and that this occurred in the face of an established history of horrific manufacturing practices and Chinese inveigling to circumvent U.S. regulatory oversight. 

A dispassionate reading of the facts should convince even the most irrational among us to abandon our interminable hoard lust for the magical protections conferred by a year’s supply of assorted dry goods, cat food, and bath tissue, and instead comprehend the catastrophic consequences of an epidemic-disrupted pharmaceutical supply chain with the potential to impact the lives and survival of even the non-infected. 

The future probability of an epidemic leading to a pandemic is 100 percent. The probability of a basement full of toilet paper preventing an epidemic is zero. 

America Has No Antibiotics Industry

Consider this: the three most important antibiotics used to treat anthrax: Ciprofloxacin, Doxycycline, and Penicillin, are either no longer made in the United States, or made in such small quantities that the supply chain is effectively controlled by China.

The United States no longer makes penicillin. Yes, you read that right. The last penicillin fermentation plant closed in 2004. Chinese companies cartelized, sold product on the global market below market price, and drove U.S., European, and Indian producers out of business. As expected, prices increased once the Chinese gained a dominant global market share. 

The United States pioneered the mass production of penicillin and its application in World War II in one of the greatest wartime triumphs of American ingenuity and innovation. What great irony then that we no longer produce any, and the country that sells it to us is now the crucible of epidemic contagion.

The situation with doxycycline is just as bleak. In the aftermath of the 2001 anthrax attack on Capitol Hill, the U.S. government was forced to turn to Portuguese company Hovione to buy 20 million doses of doxycycline, a drug originally invented and developed in the United States. 

Hovione had to buy the chemical starting material from China. CEO Guy Villax warned: “If we were asked to do this again, we would be dependent on China providing us with key starting materials that are unavailable in the rest of the world.” 

The antibiotic Ciprofloxacin, like doxycycline, is critical in the treatment of both Anthrax and Bubonic plague. After the 2004 expiration of patent protection, ciprofloxacin is now mass-produced by generic firms that acquire a key ingredient, dichloro fluorobenzene from one of four Chinese companies or two Indian firms.

Cheap Chinese Products Kill Americans

Heparin is an injectable anticoagulant or blood thinner used for the treatment of blood clots. In 2007 and 2008, heparin sourced from Chinese manufacturers was linked to the deaths of nearly 246 Americans. Pharmaceutical company Baxter subcontracted the creation of precursor chemicals of Heparin to a company with production facilities in China. A lethal counterfeit precursor costing a fraction of the true starting material was deliberately placed during the manufacturing process in China for economically motivated reasons. Since then, the FDA continues to raise concerns that some of the original Chinese companies are operating under new aliases and supplying their products to third parties thereby circumventing their import alert ban.

There is no denying that the coronavirus epidemic will worsen before it gets better, and its economic impact will be significant. One of the most important lessons here is that China controls our healthcare. This is no exaggeration.

Valsartan, a commonly used blood pressure medication with a tainted saga received widespread news media coverage in 2018 when certain batches of Chinese manufactured Valsartan contained, per pill, more than 200 times the acceptable interim limit for the carcinogen N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). Subsequently, at least two more carcinogens and a potential fourth one was linked to its Chinese manufacture. 

Even more concerning, the FDA and their European and Chinese counterparts who inspected facilities found no critical concerns or manufacturing malpractice. The failure of these safety net processes came to light just a month after hundreds of thousands of children’s vaccines were revealed to be faulty, putting an unknown number of Chinese infants at risk and at least another 400,000 doses of the same vaccines, produced by a different, second company, the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, were found to be substandard. Wuhan, of course, is the epicenter of the current Coronavirus outbreak. 

China Defeats U.S. Regulations

Unfortunately, such stories are legion, and they drive home a salient point: The FDA can regulate the manufacturing process of generic drugs. It cannot regulate the ingredients manufacturers buy. 

Almost as important, the law doesn’t require the sources of a drug’s ingredients be disclosed. Rather, a drugmaker can claim as the country of origin wherever the drug’s various components were “substantially transformed” into the final product. That means a pharmaceutical manufacturer can source ingredients from around the world. But if it pulls them all together into pill form in America, the country of origin can be claimed as the United States.

FDA inspectors can show up unannounced at domestic manufacturing facilities, but overseas operators get weeks or even months’ advance notice. Manufacturers have been known to circumvent regulatory oversight by using some ingeniously depraved maneuvers. 

U.S. inspectors were served contaminated water in India, making them sick after they discovered that the manufactured insulin contained black metallic particles and caught an employee absconding with a bag full of destroyed manufacturing records. In another shocking instance, FDA inspectors were held hostage by company officials at a Chinese manufacturing facility after the inspector began uncovering systematic issues around testing the purity and strength of the drug product. 

The FDA recently pulled inspectors from China and halted inspections of drug and device factories amid the coronavirus epidemic. The FDA’s database of inspections, current as of February 7, shows the agency has not listed any inspections of any Chinese sites since December. It doesn’t take an overactive imagination to ponder the level of Chinese manufacturing diligence under conditions of worker shortages unburdened by regulatory oversight at facilities routinely accustomed to churning out substandard drug products.

Drug Shortages Are Already Happening

The FDA on February 27 released a statement warning that the United States was experiencing its first drug shortage directly related to the coronavirus outbreak. The agency did not name the drug but said that there were manufacturing issues with a pharmaceutical ingredient related to a site affected by the coronavirus. 

Drug shortages in healthcare are not uncommon. For example, a 2018 survey of 719 pharmacists nationwide by University of Chicago researchers found that in the span of the past year all experienced at least one drug shortage, and 69 percent had experienced at least 50 shortages during that time. 

Sudden disruptions to already constrained supply chains during times of surging patient volumes and caseloads, as in an epidemic, could lead to rationing of drugs and substitutions whereby less efficacious drug alternatives are administered in place of more efficacious ones and could result in catastrophic consequences by scuttling an already strained healthcare system.

That the United States, the foremost leader in drug discovery, innovation, and healthcare can be reduced to hand wringing helplessness at the prospect of jeopardized overseas supply chains impacting the health of its citizens is unconscionable. While President Trump signed an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill and Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced a bill aimed at diversifying the U.S. medical supply chain, not much effort or attention has been directed towards the immediate establishment of American manufacturing capabilities for critical pharmaceuticals that can be scaled up in times of national emergencies. 

Without extant manufacturing, scaling up is an impossibility. Establishing a pharmaceutical supply chain from the ground up is an onerous and complex multi-year process requiring myriad applications, navigating a maze of regulatory processes and a concatenation of approvals. Abbreviated regulatory processes and incentives would go a long way to ease the pain of kickstarting our endogenous supply chain. 

There is no denying that the coronavirus epidemic will worsen before it gets better, and its economic impact will be significant. One of the most important lessons here is that China controls our healthcare. This is no exaggeration. From pharmaceutical building blocks to finished drugs and components in diagnostic medical equipment, our chief global rival has complete monopoly on the tools we need to diagnose, treat, control and cure disease. We inexplicably and frighteningly no longer make things we need to survive and prosper. 

A strong domestic healthcare manufacturing base is as much a matter of national security and defense as it is of public health and augurs the very survival of a nation. The current coronavirus epidemic arose from the very conditions due to which we lost our manufacturing independence: China lacks health and safety standards that allow it to price us out of competition by flooding the market with cheap and frequently substandard goods and medications. 

Yet if China were to announce an export ban on medical exports, our healthcare infrastructure would collapse in a matter of months if not weeks. In fact, in an article in Xinhua, the state-run media agency considered the mouthpiece of the Communist party, China bragged that it could throttle pharmaceutical exports and plunge America into “the mighty sea of coronavirus.” This demonstrably underscores our vulnerability to the weaponization of foreign-sourced supply chains and its potential to be used as leverage in times of national crisis. Even worse, what if the nation supplying the cure was the perpetrator of bioterrorism? 

If there ever was a silver lining to an epidemic, it is this: it has cast into sharp relief the unroofed scabs and track marks of our self-inflicted pharmaceutical dependence and given us a preview of what a drug withdrawal feels like. If we can’t get clean and sober from our fatal addiction, we may be consigned to an interminable future of compromising our national interests in exchange for our drug fix. 

What better way to stimulate our economy and strengthen the country’s immunity to extraneous forces than by ensuring a domestic supply chain capable of producing items critical for the safety, survival, and health of Americans? There never has been a greater opportunity to harness the kinetic energy of our nation’s emergency response within the eye of a pandemic maelstrom and use it to unleash the golden age of American manufacturing renaissance. Carpe diem.


Greatness Agenda

The Virus Is Speaking Chinese

It’s time for a conscious uncoupling from China before this miscreant mess of a rogue state destroys the economy and kills us all.

Imagine this scenario: You have a bunch of kids on a school bus. Most of them, all but one, are behaving themselves. They’re bathing regularly. Brushing their teeth. They’re not going around touching everyone else. They’re not acting up, not sneezing on other kids, or getting in anyone else’s face or causing problems.

But then there’s this one kid. He’s a total mess. He’s acting up and popping off on all the other kids around him. He hasn’t bathed since God knows when. He’s got a runny nose. He’s wiping that nose on his sleeves and on the other kids around him. He’s disgusting, and every time he gets in another kid’s face his spittle lands on them. Every time he slaps or touches another kid, that kid is liable to pick up whatever bugs this kid has.

Every kid who was within arm’s reach of the misbehaving mess is probably getting sick, and carrying the disease with them, spreading it all over the place. Those kids will take it home, give it to their parents, and their parents will take it to work and spread it around some more.

We have one planet. We have one school bus.

The behaving kids are Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, France, Finland . . . most of the world. The misbehaving kid is China. And he’s a clear and present threat to the whole interconnected world now.

It may be time to open the school bus’s emergency exit door.

The news media are gaslighting us all out of using the very accurate shorthand description they themselves used for COVID-19 just a few days ago: Wuhan coronavirus. It’s accurate because the disease COVID-19 comes from a coronavirus, but there are lots of strains of coronavirus. As we’ve all read countless times on social media by now, the common cold is usually caused by a coronavirus—just not this coronavirus.

This coronavirus, the one that has caused a global pandemic and shut down all sports, music festivals such as SXSW and other large gatherings for the time being, originated from Wuhan, China. Wuhan is a city in the Hubei province of China. The virus, some say, probably came from people there buying live exotic animals in “wet markets,” taking them home and eating them. And if not, then possibly it escaped the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory.

So, in order to distinguish this coronavirus from other ones, it’s handy to call it the Wuhan coronavirus. There’s nothing racist about that. It’s geography.

We still call the 1918 bug, which caused the last great pandemic and killed 20 million to 50 million people, the “Spanish Flu.” It’s not called that because anyone hates Spain. Everyone loves Spain. It’s achingly beautiful in the golden light by the Mediterranean. It’s where crazy people run with live agitated bulls. The Spanish Flu is called that because, at the time of the pandemic, scientists believed it originated in Spain.

So Wuhan coronavirus is a handy moniker for COVID-19. Big deal. And by the way, this isn’t even the first time a global, deadly plague has originated in China. The Black Death, which was the greatest human catastrophe in recorded history, killed an estimated 60 percent of Europe’s population in the 1400s. It menaced the world for about 400 years.

The Black Death originated in China in about 1308. From there it spread to Italy in 1346. Sound familiar? Today Italy is again at the epicenter of an outbreak that started in China, and its 60 million people are on lockdown, thanks to the virus that spread from Wuhan to there.

COVID-19 originated in Wuhan. Even worse, the Communists who rule China with an iron fist may have delayed the whole world’s response to the virus. The South China Morning Post, which is based in free Hong Kong, reports that the Chinese Communists knew about the virus a month earlier than they have admitted.

China gave the world the bug and delayed response by covering it up. But to hear some Democrats and the media now, it’s “racist” to call this coronavirus the Wuhan virus. What the hell is wrong with these people? Our priorities are all wrong.

Actually, that’s the wrong question to ask. The right question to ask is not what’s wrong with them but rather to ask who’s paying them.

Remember when a Houston Rockets official criticized the Chinese communist government a few months ago? He sided with the freedom protesters in Hong Kong. That escalated quickly, and pretty soon the whole NBA was acting like an arm of the Communist Party, suppressing dissent wherever it popped up.

Then a backlash began in the United States and the NBA whined that it was going to lose piles of money from its Chinese fan base if it couldn’t get along with the ChiComs. The ChiComs hate free speech, and the NBA valued greenbacks more than liberty. It was a shameful spectacle. The NBA looked terrible.

Is that what’s happening in the media now? We know the Chinese have a stranglehold on pharmaceutical supplies and manufacturing, thanks to years of bipartisan Clinton-Bush-Obama fecklessness in Washington. China owns a huge share of the world’s supply chains and manufacturing, and it has all but cornered the rare earth minerals supply. Those are necessary to build the smartphone in your hand, among other things. So China has American corporations by the short hairs, and American corporations advertise on big media. Big media know who feeds them, and it’s not you, Mr. and Mrs. America. Ultimately, it’s the ChiComs. You’re just the chump in the chair listening to the funeral dirge.

Since our current mortal enemy doesn’t like being blamed for the virus that sprung up from people buying live bats and eating them in Wuhan, they’ve yanked corporate America’s chain, and here we are: Saying the name of the town the virus came from is “racist.” Wuhan has become Voldemort, the One Who Must Not Be Named.

That’s stupid. The virus is Chinese. It’s the Wuhan coronavirus. Period. China touches everything and everyone, everywhere, whether we like it or not. And it’s a mess. And it lies about the disasters it spawns. It’s time for a conscious uncoupling from China before this miscreant mess of a rogue state destroys the economy and kills us all.

Greatness Agenda

What’s in Your Chinese-Supplied Medication?

Shortages aren’t the only problem with our overreliance on China for prescription drugs and drug ingredients.

The New York Post last week published an article with the ominous headline, “Pharmacists quietly panicking over looming respiratory drug shortage.” The gist was that in addition to the rush on personal protection products such as face masks, hand sanitizers, disinfectants, and rubber gloves, the supply chains for various important prescription drugs, especially generics with components made in China, are fraying.

This should come as no surprise. As the number of cases of infection with the novel coronavirus (formally SARS-CoV-2, with the illness it causes designated COVID-19) continues to mount and China and other countries aggressively impose quarantines and perform screening, isolation, treatment, and tracking of patients’ contacts, the demand for various essential medical items is unprecedented.

Ironically, most of the world’s supply of masks and respirators, along with other materials essential for health care, comes from manufacturers in China. American medical practitioners and dentists who go through large numbers of surgical masks and protective gowns daily already began to encounter shortages several weeks ago.

This situation reveals a vulnerable link in the global supply chain that supports everyday healthcare in hospitals around the world. Even without an aberration like the emergence of a new pandemic virus, which has caused China’s prodigious manufacturing sector to slow to a crawl, for years drug shortages have plagued the practice of medicine in the United States.

University of Chicago researchers in 2018 surveyed 719 pharmacists at large and small hospitals across the country and found that all of them reported experiencing at least one drug shortage in the past year, and 69 percent had experienced at least 50 shortages in that time. The majority were generic injectable pharmaceuticals commonly used in hospitals, including analgesics, cancer drugs, anesthetics, antipsychotics for psychiatric emergencies, and electrolyte solutions needed for patients on IV supplementation.

The FDA maintains a current list of drugs that are currently in shortage. As of March 5, about 100 drugs were on it, and the list read like the contents of the pharmaceuticals cabinet of a hospital ICU or emergency room.

Hospitals are scrambling to assure adequate supplies of drugs that are in short supply, or to find substitutes for them. In the University of Chicago study, one-third of hospitals reported needing to ration drugs at least once. That means some patients got the second or third choice of a drug treatment, increasing the likelihood that the drug will be ineffective or only marginally effective, or may have unwanted side effects.

China has become the world’s largest producer and exporter of the essential “active pharmaceutical ingredients” (APIs) used in the manufacture of drugs, not only in China but also in other countries, including the United States. The United States imported $3.9 billion worth of pharmaceutical raw material from China in 2017, an increase of nearly one-quarter from the prior year, according to IHS Markit.

Shortages aren’t the only problem. APIs in China are currently produced without sufficient quality control to ensure drug safety and efficacy, according to the findings of an important report from the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission, which was established by Congress in 2000 when China was permitted to enter the World Trade Organization.

Moreover, when it comes to shopping for these kinds of drugs, we can’t vote with our feet, because drug companies are not required to list the country of origin for APIs on drug labels. The result: “U.S. consumers may be unknowingly accepting risks associated with drugs originating from China,” the report noted.

But surely, drugs produced in China must be regulated, either there or by U.S. regulators, right? In fact, according to the report:

There are thousands of drug manufacturers in China, and the government’s regulatory apparatus has insufficient resources to oversee them . . . In 2016, the China Food and Drug Administration investigated 1,622 drug clinical trial programs and rejected 80% of these applications after it found evidence of fraudulent data reporting or submissions of incomplete data, among other problems.

In the U.S. and Europe, the percentage would likely be in the single digits.

Deficiencies in the regulatory oversight of Chinese manufacturing also extend to our FDA. The commission’s report observed that the FDA deploys far too few inspectors to China for the large number of manufacturers there.

The bottom line, from the report:

As a result of U.S. dependence on Chinese supply and the lack of effective health and safety regulation of Chinese producers, the American public, including its armed forces, are at risk of exposure to contaminated and dangerous medicines.

Complementing the findings of the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission, a Government Accountability Office report released on December 10, found that the FDA is not completing enough foreign drug inspections, cannot hire enough inspectors, and provides up to 12 weeks advance notice for some overseas inspections.

“We have long-standing concerns about FDA’s ability to oversee the global supply chain, a High-Risk Series issue for 10 years,” the report concluded.

Quite apart from the threat of disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the lack of oversight is a prescription for disaster.

The disruptions from the novel coronavirus outbreak are a reminder that, whatever the benefits of globalization, the production of vital medicines should not be compromised by reliance on a single, potentially unreliable source or country. We need to take measures to make the changes necessary to protect the availability of safe, high-quality drugs for the American public. Demanding that U.S. regulators do their job at ensuring the integrity of imported drugs and precursors would be a good start.

Greatness Agenda

Wall Street Elites Made Us Dependent On China

Choosing to invest in China versus the United States is not a simple dollars and cents bottom-line calculation.

As America faces possible shortages of antibiotics, face masks, iPhones and various other items now produced in China, it’s time to consider how we got here.

Although it looks like the blame lies with thousands of businesses in different industries, in this case, we’d do well to round up the usual suspects, a smaller number of players operating in one particular industry: big finance.

The financialization of the economy gave Wall Street primacy over the productive economy. Financiers drove the consolidation of various industries into fewer and fewer hands, harvesting billions of dollars first through the sell-off of productive assets in a mania of mergers, private equity, and leveraged buyouts, and then through global labor arbitrage as they drove (what was left of) America’s industries offshore.

Wall Street bet on substituting well-paid American labor with Communist China’s regimented cheap labor and replacing sales to a (once) prosperous American middle class with sales to China’s managerial class.

Affinity to one’s place of birth, fellow citizens, or culture did not fit in their MBA spreadsheet.

They first justified the calculus that created the largest transfer of wealth in human history with the Cobdenite utopian fantasy that as China grew more prosperous, it would also become more democratic, less militaristic, and so forth.

When that outcome did not materialize, the financiers found a new rationale: manufacturing (or coding or whatever) should be done in China because … shareholder value! Boards of directors of publicly traded companies demanded it. Venture capitalists forced startups to accept it.

The slick telegenic sharks of Shark Tank were so cocksure of the prevailing conventional wisdom they told a pickup truck driving entrepreneur committed to hiring Americans to build his product, “Get lost.”

And as big banks gobbled up smaller regional banks, lending to local manufacturers—the backbone of what was once the U.S. manufacturing supply chain—dried up.

Meanwhile, the management consultants, financiers, and politicians in both parties told us working with China was a win-win. We were beyond the era of competition; this was now a non-zero-sum game.

Wrong again. It is zero-sum.

Every dollar invested in China is a dollar not invested in America.

Every dollar invested in developing the skills, talents, and workforce of China is one not developing the skills, talents, and workforce of America.

Nor can we kid ourselves and believe an ascendant China will do the job of building up America. If you think that’s credible, watch “American Factory.”

The Obamas’ Oscar-winning documentary shows the clash of Chinese Communist authoritarianism and American values when a Chinese company takes over an American auto parts factory.

That takeover occurred thanks to the Obama Administration’s Wall Street-driven auto industry bailout. The financiers who engineered that bailout believed it didn’t matter who owns factories or even where they are. If the spreadsheet says it’s “more efficient” to make widgets in China, so be it.

Michael Boskin, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H. W. Bush, captured the worldview from beneath a green eyeshade perfectly when he declared, “It does not make any difference whether a country makes computer chips or potato chips.”

But now we’ve learned what we should have known all along. Of course it matters.

And it especially matters when a hostile foreign power has a monopoly on those computer chips, medicines, and other essential commodities.

Fact is, choosing to invest in China versus the United States is not a simple dollars-and-cents, bottom-line calculation. Certain “externalities” enter into the equation. Externalities such as national security. Externalities such as the continued existence of the United States. Externalities such as the continued existence of freedom of thought, freedom of religion, and individual liberty in this world.

By now it should be crystal clear to anyone but the willfully blind that the communist party ruling China holds and promotes values antithetical to our own.

It does not believe in free speech or God. It believes it should control every aspect of life and has constructed a technological surveillance apparatus to enforce the subordination of individuals to the state, euphemistically termed “the harmonious society.”

Even worse, the Chinese Communist Party is not content with imposing its totalitarian vision just on its own citizens. It is intent on exporting its governance model to the rest of the world.

Beijing demands allegiance from other governments and anyone it does business with including most notably American businesses. We’ve seen that with the NBA, Google, and Hollywood among others.

We must disabuse ourselves of the notion that the Chinese Communist Party is in any way friendly to our way of life.

China wants to replace the United States as the world’s superpower. It wants the world to emulate its totalitarian model, not American ideals of individual liberty.

We know this because China says so.

The late Israeli prime minister Menachim Begin said when the enemy tells you he wants to destroy you, believe him. Don’t doubt him for a moment.

China has told us what it wants to do. Are Wall Street and Washington listening?

Greatness Agenda

Trump Needs to Stick It to China

Coronavirus may or may not prove as deadly as the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. But the disease has clearly shown the need to end China’s dominant position in the global supply chain. 

Last year, President Trump agreed to a “Phase One” trade deal with China. As a result of this tentative agreement, the president paused a “trade war” that had begun to harm American farmers. But China hawks believed (and still believe) that whatever damage America sustained in the near-term was worth the longer-term changes President Trump hoped to force China to make in its grotesquely unfair trade practices with the United States. 

Still, the agreement helped accomplish two things: first, it boosted the U.S. economy heading into an election year; second, it helped ailing farmers, who form a key constituency in President Trump’s eclectic electoral base. 

The harder hit this voting base was by the “trade war,” the greater difficulty President Trump would have in what already has proven to be a contentious election season. 

Yet, the limits of the deal are being exposed. 

The United States agreed to exempt Chinese high-tech firms, such as Huawei, from doing business in the United States. It also allowed for technology transfers between U.S. and Chinese tech companies. These transfers have proven to be devastating to American interests in the past, as Chinese state-owned companies use data from U.S. firms to advance their military technology. Co-opting advanced American technology also furthers China’s long-term strategic interests. 

Coronavirus also presents a strategic challenge. COVID-19 is a novel disease with a transmission rate even higher than that of influenza. The question is just how deadly the disease will prove to be to humans. It has already proven to be a grave threat to the logic of letting China remain the dominant player in the global supply chain.

China struggled to contain the virus at first. In fact, Beijing attempted to stage-manage news of the outbreak by pressuring the World Health Organization (WHO) and carefully controlling the medical data coming from Chinese hospitals. The Chinese spent nearly two months attempting to cover-up the outbreak, thereby allowing for thousands if not millions of people potentially infected with the disease to leave Wuhan and travel the world, spreading this disease to other countries.

Even when Chinese authorities began responding to the outbreak, their purportedly superior centrally planned system was unprepared. Chinese medical staff were poorly protected against the disease and became carriers of the disease rather than defenders against it.

Moreover, the coronavirus outbreak may not have been an entirely natural event. Whereas many in the scientific community take China’s word that the disease originated at a legendary outdoor Wuhan marketplace known for the sale of exotic meat (such as bats, snakes, dogs, cats, and other strange critters), Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ala.), the defense reporter Bill Gertz, and I have challenged these assumptions. Wuhan is home to China’s bioweapons program. In fact, it houses a Level 4 virology lab that specializes in research on novel coronaviruses. Reports have surfaced in recent weeks that researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology had been complaining about lax safety standards when dealing with bats infected with a coronavirus that sounds eerily similar to the COVID-19 strain currently rippling throughout the world. 

In any event, as the disease has spread, the world economy has suffered. Once the Chinese Communist Party began efforts to contain the virus’s spread, Beijing was forced to shut down most production and shipping within and from the country. Demand for oil plummeted, causing world oil prices to drop precipitously. Meanwhile, as the disease spread to neighboring countries, global demand for goods suffered as well. Even if COVID-19 isn’t as deadly as the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, the legitimacy of globalization is looking pretty sick at the moment.

We may never know the true extent, nature, or origins of the coronavirus. Nevertheless, the West has taken a disturbingly blasé attitude toward China’s assurances about its containment efforts. In fact, Beijing has attempted to blame the United States for the disease while at the same time using what should be the greatest example of Chinese weakness as a case for creating an alternate World Health Organization-type institution run by China. 

Clearly, the coronavirus is not a case study of unity and cooperation, as so many utopians in the West would like to think. Beijing is looking at this as another example of furthering its bid to displace the United States as the world hegemon.

The Trump Administration should recognize Chinese perfidy not only on the matter of its coronavirus response but on trade as well. Rather than continuing to press for more trade deals and a stabilization in U.S.-Chinese relations, the White House should more fully embrace the restrictive trade and immigration policies on which President Trump campaigned during the 2016 election. 

The president would do well to put a halt to all technology transfers between U.S. and Chinese companies. He also needs to make it more difficult to share sensitive data between American and Chinese institutions. Then, the White House needs to more completely decouple the world supply chain from China and return many of those capabilities to the United States and its allies. Only by weakening China now can we prevent its plan for global domination from being realized. Trump needs to stick it to China bigly, no matter the short-term costs. 

Greatness Agenda

Don’t Be A Bigot! Let The Coronavirus In!

Globalists think that open borders make the world a better and safer place. Coronavirus shows the exact opposite. Western leaders need to learn this before it’s too late.

The Centers for Disease Control warned America Tuesday that coronavirus will likely hit our country hard. This news comes after weeks of the media telling us that the flu is worse than the virus.

Now that the virus is clearly a bigger threat than the flu, liberals have decided to worry about the spread of something far worse than a deadly disease. Racism.

Dozens of articles have appeared to denounce Westerners wanting to ban Chinese travel to their countries. To liberals (and Chinese officials), it’s unthinkable to keep out people who may carry the virus. In their opinion, the real tragedy would not be thousands of Westerners dying but rather giving up on globalism and mass immigration in response to a deadly global pandemic.

One easy response to the outbreak is to close the borders to Chinese nationals. Russia did this after the virus began to spread and it has only experienced two cases of the disease. Both of the coronavirus carriers were Chinese who now reportedly have recovered. Several other countries, including Australia and New Zealand, also have imposed travel bans on China. But Western journalists say the bans are a very bad idea.

The Guardian shrieks this response leads to “xenophobia and racism,” so we must avoid it.

The New Republic declares “racist, right-wing isolationism favored by the Trump administration is as bad an answer to the coronavirus as it is to the climate crisis.”

The Economist bemoaned how the coronavirus “spreads racism” and more should be done to combat these prejudices.

Leftists and Chinese activists in Australia and New Zealand have demanded those countries lift the ban. They say the ban is a “racial panic” and discriminates against the Chinese community. “While we recognise the need to prioritise public health and safety, this travel ban is an unreasonable and unempathetic response,” New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations president Isabella Lenihan-Ikin said in a press statement. “It fails to consider the impact on international students and staff travelling from or through China, in light of minimal public health risk.”

The experts say coronavirus is not a minimal public health risk and dramatic efforts must be deployed to stem it. But New Zealand leftists think it’s far worse to inconvenience international students.

Left-wing journalists seem more focused on how to stop the epidemic of racial stereotypes.

The Columbia Journalism Review lamented all the “racist tropes” fostered by coronavirus. The austere institution interviewed scholars who specialize in Chinese studies to advance their formulation of rules about how the media should cover the crisis. Chinese political communication scholar Maria Repnikova, who is not a health expert, said outlets shouldn’t even show Chinese people in their coverage.

“[T]he scene itself, without the people, would show the isolation and sadness and fear, without sparking so much racism,” she told CJR. CJR’s analysis also warned journalists to not speculate about whether Chinese dietary habits or inadequate hygiene led to the outbreak.

NBC News published an article about the way college students and professors are angry at their universities’ responses to coronavirus. No, it’s not because the schools are failing to contain the disease. The schools are apparently failing to contain racism.

“The proliferation of anti-Asian images and comments, in association with fears over coronavirus, show that while colleges and universities are sites of learning, they are also places where misinformation and racism can spread all too quickly,” University of Maryland professor Janelle Wong says.

Some American colleges easily could become disease epicenters due to the high number of students from affected areas. But the most important task facing the university is to ensure no student makes rude remarks.

The South China Morning Post, which is alleged to have ties to Chinese authorities, published an op-ed saying the Chinese should not be surprised by the alleged rise in racism. According to the op-ed, the West is inherently racist toward Chinese people. The proof is in the West’s travel bans of Chinese nationals. The op-ed also claims a Wall Street Journal column saying China is the “real sick man of Asia” is a sign of the West’s anti-Chinese racism. The column concludes that the West enjoys China’s suffering.

There are no really good arguments against a travel ban. There is no reason to bet on travelers from affected areas to be totally free of the virus. The only counterargument is that we must support open borders at all costs. The Left is more committed to this principle than to protecting their fellow countrymen.

Globalists think that open borders make the world a better and safer place. Coronavirus shows the exact opposite. Open borders can kill.

Western leaders need to learn this before it’s too late.

Greatness Agenda

Coronavirus, the ‘Phase One’ China Deal, and Globalization

The owners of capital and their McKinsey consultants would do well to follow the teachings of David Ricardo—all of them.

It is said that the first casualty of war is the truth. That would make globalization, and specifically the “Phase One” trade deal with China, the second casualty in the war against the coronavirus.

The first casualty—truth—occurred in December, when the Chinese Communist Party hid the outbreak just as it continues to hide the true number of infections and deaths.

Let’s look at the China trade deal before examining why the coronavirus should sound the death knell for the current model of globalization.

Anyone trying to sell anything to China will feel the impact as that country’s economy slows. GDP estimates for China have been downgraded. Prices for global commodities from energy to agricultural goods have plummeted as traders expect weaker demand.

The “Phase One” trade deal with the United States commits China to increase its purchases of American energy, agricultural, and manufactured goods by $200 billion over the next two years.

Since purchases are pegged to a dollar amount, lower commodity prices require China to buy a higher volume of goods. But analysts doubted China could fulfill its obligations even when prices were higher.

It’s another provision in the agreement, however, that calls the entire deal into question.

Article 7.6 states: “In the event that a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event outside the control of the Parties delays a Party from timely complying with its obligations under this Agreement, the Parties shall consult with each other.”

Consider: Beijing certainly knew it had a coronavirus problem on January 15 when it signed the deal with this custom-built escape clause tacked on.

The question is not if but when Beijing invokes the pandemic to get out. It may already be heading for the exit.

As the full dimensions of pandemic become known, the frailty of global supply chains and the fallacy of the management theory calling for intercontinental supply chains and just-in-time inventory management has been exposed for all to see.

While quarantining more than 50 million people in China in over a dozen cities, the Chinese government has closed thousands of factories as a public health measure.

Problems extend far from Wuhan, the cradle of the coronavirus.

Hangzhou, a city next to Shanghai announced it is closing down “all non-essential public places and locking down residential communities,” the Communist Party propaganda organ Global Times reports.

The local government limits the hours of “farm markets, supermarkets and pharmacies,” orders families to assign “one person every two days to go out to buy daily necessities,” and requires shoppers to wear masks and receive temperature checks.

Expect this to put a crimp in sales at the local Starbucks (it’s closed more than half its stores in China).

“In addition, all villages, residential communities and companies must adopt closed management, people from other places should show their ID cards, get registered and receive temperature checks. People holding or participating in crowd activities shall be seriously punished, and weddings are forbidden,” the Global Times informs readers.

Macao, the world’s richest gambling market with five times more revenue than Las Vegas, closed its casinos to keep the contagion from spreading. MGM, Las Vegas Sands, and Wynn Resorts are taking a hit.

Apple is closing all its stores in China, one of the company’s largest markets. More significantly, it’s reducing iPhone shipments by 10 percent this quarter because of disruptions in its China-dependent supply chain. This affects Apple’s sales beyond China.

And the impact goes far beyond Apple’s sales.

Corporate mouthpieces in the financial media never cease telling us how business likes certainty (who doesn’t?).

Yet these same businesses have entrusted the wellbeing and future of their enterprises to a totalitarian regime that, it is certain, will lie and violate basic governance and public health standards we take for granted in the United States. What could possibly go wrong?

Blame a selective reading—or misreading—of the economic text management gurus have used to justify outsourcing entire industries to communist China.

They point to the seminal treatise from 1817 by David Ricardo laying out the theory of comparative advantage in international trade, On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation.

Ricardo calls for a national division of labor, with countries focusing on products they are best at producing and trading with other countries doing the same rather than trying to produce everything at home. His oft-cited example has Portugal trading Madeira for the textiles that were a British monopoly at the time.

But in his theorizing, Ricardo includes an important caveat, one overlooked by the free-trade-über-alles lobby: capital stays in its place of birth.

“The fancied or real insecurity of capital,” Ricardo explains, “when not under the immediate control of its owner, together with the natural disinclination which every man has to quit the country of his birth and connexions, and intrust himself with all his habits fixed, to a strange government and new laws, check the emigration of capital.”

In plain English, he’s saying the reasonable man wouldn’t invest his capital in a foreign country with “a strange government and new laws” for the same reason he wouldn’t leave his country of birth to live in a foreign country away from his family, friends, and ancestral culture.

If the Chinese Communist techno-totalitarian state weren’t enough to dissuade C-suite executives from entrusting their capital to “a strange government and new laws,” the coronavirus pandemic and the social, market, and industrial chaos resulting from the communist party’s botched handling of the crisis should be a wake-up call.

The father of comparative advantage wrote that he would “be sorry to see weakened” feelings of affinity to one’s place of birth. (So much for the unicorn dream of “global citizenship.”)

Ricardo counseled “men of property to be satisfied with a low rate of profits in their own country, rather than seek” higher profits “in foreign nations.”

The owners of capital and their McKinsey consultants would do well to follow the teachings of David Ricardo—all of them.

We may never know what the final death toll from the coronavirus is, but it has already claimed cherished nostrums of corporate globalization.

Greatness Agenda

Teasing the Tiger

A Spanish lesson and a warning for the American Right.

It is impossible to understand Spain today without using the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) as a guide to everything that has happened since. “Spain’s present starts in 1936,” declared author Javier Cercas Mena. With this in mind, we have no option but to begin there as well.

With the abdication of Alphonso XIII in 1931 Spain was thrust into a modernity it was ill-prepared to confront. Riven by ethnic, class, regional, economic and above all, ideological divisions, the next five years saw three governments composed of ever-diverging motley assortments on both its political Left and Right. 

The Left had seized the initiative in the wake of the abdication to form a progressive government that immediately sought to strip landowners of their property and redistribute it to the landless peasants (campesinos), and to separate the all-powerful Roman Catholic Church from the state in order to eliminate what they perceived as its “medieval influence.” Driven by an increasingly extremist wing informed both by Marxism and anarchism, this loose coalition lost popular support as a reaction swung Spain once again to the right, this time under the Catholic banner of the Spanish Coalition of Autonomous Rights (Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas, or CEDA coalition).

The return of the conservative Right to power only saw the political temperature immediately rise as the mining-rich region of Asturias openly rebelled against the new government (which was put down by a rising young general named Francisco Franco). The Left, having tasted power, sought to collapse the regime through the use of political violence which was met tit-for-tat by the increasingly-radical nationalists opposing them. 

Similar to how the current American political scene is divided by “different truths” and where honest engagement between Left and Right has been rendered all but impossible in a hyper-social media environment best-described as “toxic,” Spain was by this point ungovernable. Asked in a brilliant 1983 Granada TV (UK) documentary series called “The Spanish Civil War” why conflict was inevitable, Francoist-era Spanish politician and one-time young conservative military officer Tomás Garicano Goñi poignantly replied, “We couldn’t stand each other.

Closely monitoring the unfolding disaster was the privileged Spanish military officer class. Imbued with the motto “Dios, Patria y Libertad!” (God, Fatherland, and Liberty), they felt it their duty to be the custodians of Spain, reserving for themselves the right to interfere in politics should the politicians let things get too out of hand. A poorly organized coup attempt was put down by the liberal-leftist government in 1932, but the situation had changed so drastically for the worse by 1936 as the CEDA-led government lost to the Left in a new election that the generals were certain to launch another one. Political assassinations on both sides, murders of priests and nuns, looting of churches, physical attacks on landowners, all combined to force the generals’ hand, leading to a half-successful coup d’etat in July of that year.

The Spanish Civil War deserves a much longer treatment than I can give here so we will have to content ourselves with some broad brushstrokes. 

The coup d’etat was only partially successful as anarchist and Marxist trade unions in places like Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia managed to convince authorities to hand them weapons, alongside significant portions of the various police forces that stayed loyal to the new government. The loyalists, known as Republicans, had in their tent liberals, Marxists (Stalinists and Trotskyites), nationalist Basques seeking self-rule, Catalonian separatists, socialists, campesinos, tens of thousands of foreign volunteers (almost entirely Communist, including the Abraham Lincoln Brigade from the United States) and unique in Europe at the time, anarchists. 

As the coup failed to install military rule across Spain, the country was divided in half between the Republicans and the Nationalists. In places like Barcelona and Aragon, anarchists spearheaded a social revolution. One could fairly describe them as proto-social justice warriors. They killed landowners who hadn’t escaped to the Nationalist side, collectivized land through campesino-led councils, torched and looted churches (anti-clericalism led to the left-wing politics typical in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna today), murdered bishops, priests, and nuns (7,000 in total by the end of the conflict with some help from the Stalinists), eliminated marriage to promote “free love,” and introduced abortion on demand. Dissent was deemed counterrevolutionary, and massacres of class enemies began in earnest.

The Nationalists gave no quarter to the Republicans. An alliance of the top military brass, industrialists, landowners, the Catholic Church, nationalists, and fascists, they quickly consolidated power in their half of Spain, arresting all those associated with the Republicans, annihilating labor unions, and also engaging in massacres of perceived enemies. 

Thanks to support from Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany, the Nationalists were able slowly to begin squeezing the Republicans whose only aid came from Stalin’s USSR. The Soviets had flooded Republican Spain with their own GRU agents (the forerunner to the KGB) and this resulted in a “civil war within a civil war” as Stalin’s henchmen not only sought out anti-Stalinist Trotskyites but eliminated the Anarchists as a rival force as well. George Orwell, targeted by the GRU for being part of the quasi-Trotskyite POUM militia, barely escaped with his life as the Reds took over Barcelona in the May Days of 1937.

From Anti-Communist Bulwark to Political Anachronism

With Spanish leftists mortally wounded by this internal conflict, General Francisco Franco, now head of the Nationalist forces, was able to finish off the Republicans in the spring of 1939. Known as “The Sphinx” because he rarely, if ever, offered up his opinions on politics, Franco ruled Spain for the next four decades with the proverbial iron-grip. Having the wisdom and foresight to opt out of World War II, he bought grace from the victorious allies who saw in him a dedicated anti-Communist. 

Buttressed by the “Spanish Miracle,” an economic boom that lasted from 1959-1974, Franco’s regime saw little serious challenge to its rule. Spain became the sunny playground for vacationers from Western Europe while it turned into a political anachronism as World War II and the Spanish Civil War faded in the distance.

Yet problems were bubbling under the surface. 

Basque separatists engaged in political violence and terrorism were growing in confidence. The entrenched regime was weakening due to nepotism, corruption, and a weakening of its cadres as unscrupulous opportunists increased in number. 

Alongside this, the liberalization in much of the West began to seep into Spain by proximity and osmosis. How could the U.S.-led “Free West” be attached to an authoritarian and dictatorial regime that repressed its political opponents? This was an internal contradiction (albeit not the only one, as Pinochet’s Chile and the Junta’s Argentina exemplified) brought to the fore with the death of Franco in 1975.

Spanish liberals and leftists are teasing the tiger, and the tiger is finding its footing. Is the American conservative tiger made of paper? Or is it real?

Transition and Liberalization

Franco’s body, entombed in the Valley of the Fallen alongside thousands of civil war dead, was still warm when those charged with perpetuating the regime immediately started to work to reform it either out of principle or self-interest. Juan Carlos began his reign as monarch and blessed a democratic transition that took form in the 1978 Constitution under Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez

Motivated more by selfishness than by philosophical principles, nepotistic and corrupt products of the Franco regime chose sides to solidify its prospects in the new democratic constellation. Moving too quickly for reactionary elements to react, these liberalizing reforms saw the return of the socialists and even more disturbingly, saw the homecoming of the dreaded Communists, including civil war butchers like General Enrique Lister and arch-propagandist Dolores Ibarruri, a.k.a. “La Pasionaria.” 

All the ghosts of the past were returning as if the Franco era was merely an intermission.

Despite a last-ditch (and pathetic) effort by a tiny group of Franco-era nationalists to overthrow this New Spain, liberal democracy began to take root on its hard soil. In 1982, the socialist PSOE managed what was once thought impossible and returned to power in a landslide election victory. 

Defeated and demoralized, devoted Francoists were now a marginalized remnant as Spain’s future belonged not only to the PSOE but also the PP, the center-right party that rejected Franco’s legacy. The two parties traded governments, with their duopoly characterized by increasing corruption and the immediate reality of Basque terrorism from ETA. After joining NATO and the European Union, Spain’s transition into a modern liberal-democratic state was complete.

Throughout this new era of freedom Spanish society was changing. The Catholic Church’s privileged role in Spanish politics and culture quickly subsided as Spaniards secularized. Never a homogeneous country, regionalism beyond that of the Basques began to shout out its names, with Catalonian autonomists leading the pack. Free-market politics led to construction booms, while tourist development continued its brisk pace. Immigrants began to arrive in ever-increasing numbers, with Moroccans the most prominent. Spain now resembled France, Italy, and Germany where once it was the odd man out. 

Many observers began to ask the question: “Who really won the Spanish Civil War?”

Photo by Keystone/Getty Images

Economic Shock and Secessionism

On my way to a wedding in Valencia in 2011, I decided to take a leisurely drive from Barcelona, hugging the coast the entire way. The impact of the 2008 banking crisis was on display as I drove past dozens of uncompleted large-scale construction projects that dotted this part of Spain. 

Spain’s banking sector was significantly exposed to bad loans, with sky-high youth unemployment creating a class of cynics and pessimists, seeing no future for themselves. It is a truism that bad economic times lead to political radicalism and Spain is not only not an exception to this rule, but can be seen as its poster child in light of its tumultuous 20th-century history. 

The ghosts of the past were being disinterred. Now-institutionally entrenched political liberals and leftists declared war on history, seeking a symbolic victory by demanding that Franco’s remains be removed from his tomb (which they succeeded in doing in 2019). 

History would have to be rewritten in order to control the present narrative so as to determine the future course of events. Much like the attacks on “dead, white males” in U.S. history (as with the removal of Confederate statues, renaming of schools, and the leftist influence on the Common Core state standards), the Spanish Left moved to erase all reminders of the Franco era. Yet by doing this they also resurrected old political conflicts that belonged to that same past. Wanting to rid the country of Franco, Spain’s liberals and leftists also opened the door to the old cry of Catalonian Independence.

Scoring concession after concession from Madrid in the new democratic era, Catalonian separatists began to make moves to secede from Spain. 

The great fear among anti-secession Spaniards is that Catalonian independence will result in a Spanish “domino effect,” whereby granting Catalans the right to leave would eviscerate any argument insisting that Basques, Galicians, Valencians, and Andalusians remain united in one country. Riven by increasingly hostile polemics between the PSOE and PP, the ruling duopoly has continued to act meekly (in the minds of many Spaniards) toward the separatism emanating from Barcelona.

A sputtering economy, high youth unemployment, Catalonian secessionism, a significant immigrant population that not only had terrorist elements embedded within it but also alienated many of Spain’s have-nots and middle class, the country’s political scene quickly began to resemble the turbulence of the 1930s. 

Without charismatic leaders of their own, challengers to the ruling duopoly’s right and left began to appear. Podemos appeared on PSOE’s left, protesting against what they saw as the latter’s corruption and adherence to neoliberal economics. Vox appeared on PP’s right, disturbed by the perceived weak response to Catalonian secessionism, and as a reaction to what they saw as PP’s inherent wimpy behavior and broken promises, mirroring the populist movement supporting President Trump against the Republican Party establishment.

It’s Political War—and They Want Your Children

Until recently, there has been a de facto gentleman’s agreement in U.S. politics between the GOP and Democrats in terms of the tone of discourse. This has been upended due to the arrival of the 24/7 news cycle with its focus on sensationalism, and exacerbated by the emergence of social media. 

The sunny optimism, deference, and politeness associated with U.S. politics by outsiders such as myself made America seem unique to many. Yet like the tragedy of the commons, the democratization of information and media has witnessed a race to the bottom in polemics and discourse, unmasking the true intentions of many across the political spectrum. 

Frustration with those failing to adapt to this new manner of communication is why President Trump steamrolled his way through the Republican presidential primaries in 2016 and why Spain’s Vox is now that country’s third-largest political party, having scored 15 percent at the polls in November. 

Led by the photogenic Santiago Abascal, Vox represents the rightist objection to the neoliberal consensus. Soaring on its hardline toward Catalonian secessionists (which then saw the government co-opt some of its language and imprison some of secession’s leading proponents) it also took aim at the PSOE’s social policies. However, despite the perceived softness of PSOE towards Catalonian secessionists, the party continues to cement its social policies as if 1936 never happened. 

The history of Europe since the medieval period has been one where the royals (and later the state) sought the monopolization of power by reducing that of the Church, which acted as a rival center. This cycle of history was completed for the most part by the turn of the last century. 

The appearance of Marxism on the political scene diagnosed another center of loyalty, the family unit, which stood in the way of total state power. Spanish leftists used the freedom of action achieved during their civil war to implement anti-family policies, declaring marriage a “reactionary institution,” free love as “freedom,” and abortion on demand as a “fundamental right.”

The PSOE and the Spanish Left as a whole didn’t miss a beat despite the Franco era interregnum, working to reintroduce and institutionalize their anti-family policies so as to transform Spain once and for all. Wholly uncompromising, the PSOE is now pushing to force Spanish children to be taught gender studies (including transgenderism) as young as the age of 6. Does this sound familiar to you Americans? Religion, deemed retrograde, hateful, and beyond the pale, is rejected as a defense. Religious liberty cannot trump “sexual liberation” and “identity.”

Typical of the Left, they intend to overplay their hand and invite a reaction. This reaction now has taken form in Vox. 

Pursuing a policy that allows parents to have a veto on education that violates their ideological, moral, or religious views, Vox is threatening to vote down a proposed budget in the Spanish region of Murcia where it holds the balance of the vote. Rejecting the claim that children belong to the state, they have been ironically denounced as “authoritarians” and “fascists.” 

We are now seeing a replay of CEDA versus Spanish Socialists and anarchists/Communists from the 1930s. Hostile polemics, aggressive denunciations, and uncompromising attitudes towards all those not aboard the progressive train are wrenching the country back to a bloody era. Spain already has experience in this type of internal ideological conflict and its right-wing, absent from the scene for four decades now, is roaring back with a vengeance, ready to defend its people, nation, and families. 

Spanish liberals and leftists are teasing the tiger, and the tiger is finding its footing.

In the United States, there are striking similarities between the civil war era in Spain and American politics today. One important lesson to be learned is that progressives cannot tolerate compromise and they view politeness as weakness. They have a religious fervor in their stated social and political goals as we see with PSOE in Spain today, who are trying to implement changes that led to their country spilling the blood of half a million of its own people.

The state is coming after your children and politeness, fairness, and compromise are all demanded of you, but not of them. Is the American conservative tiger made of paper? Or is it real?

Greatness Agenda

A Very British Goodbye

Democracy still works. Why bother voting? That helpless cry seems so silly now. Not only does voting matter—it has changed history.

Perhaps the penny has dropped. All 50 of them. In just a handful of hours, Great Britain leaves the European Union. Plagues of locusts, pestilence, and lepers wait patiently in the wings.

From where I’m sitting, though, all looks rosy. No marauding gangs of mottled malcontents seething in the streets. A distinct lack of killer bees, no super-gonorrhea—shame. The local sozzlers sink into the same cider-sodden slump.

To mark the occasion? A new 50 pence coin commemorating Brexit bearing the phrase, “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations.”

My first thought: how novel. I haven’t held a coin between my fingers since the Millennium Bug.

The Brexit Coin, as it is now known, has enraged those still unreconciled to a reality ticking away its final hours.

Remainers are cheese-melting. And I’m beginning to worry. They’re raging about . . . heptagonal slithers of metal popular with men named Harold who still buy news printed on paper.

The detractors took to Twitter. So brave. They’ll refuse to use the coin. One said it was a symbol of “pure populism,” and can “only serve to divide further.”

Another chirped that the coin symbolized colonialism, fascism, and ableism. Or something.

Sir Phillip Pullman, a grown man who pens fantasy novels about armored polar bears, called for “all literate people” to boycott the 50 pence piece. The offense? Its (admittedly saddening) lack of Oxford comma.

So, all is well and good here. Nothing has changed. People on Twitter are still beguiled by lunar cycles. At 11 p.m. London time on Friday, we leave the European Union.

Not that some will notice. They’re still fighting the referendum. It’s been four years, yet hardcore Remainers refuse to clamber down from the trees.

It’s not about that. Those who tangled so vociferously against Brexit have been unknotted by its simplicity. Brexit is done. What was once the preserve of the nutter, the pub bore, the mustard-of-trousers is now the will of a majority. Populism, it appears, is popular.

Which explains the meltdown. Democracy only counts when they win. Yet they keep losing. Now, all they have is this impotent rage—an identity rendered, in a matter of hours, meaningless.

Still, they cling. To have voted Remain means one is open-minded, international, and can say “garçon!” without the reddening of cheek.

Nigel Farage summed it up. His farewell address to the European Parliament a moment he’s worked three decades to realize.

A scene that crystallized our desire to leave. A jovial goodbye, a waving of the Union Jack, stung by an astringent humorlessness from the dignitaries at the EU to which we are all too accustomed.

Farage promised that we won’t be back. And we won’t. The European Union has learned little from Brexit. They dare not allow the Italians or the French, their own referenda: they know the likely result.

They used to laugh at Nigel Farage. They’re not laughing now.

The fanatics put up a good fight. The philosopher-kings had two elections, three dead Brexit votes, and four years convincing themselves they are right and that the wrong will be overruled.

They took us to court. They demanded a second referendum. They warned of economic catastrophe.  All of which led to naught.

Nope. Boris Johnson’s crushing win put paid to all that.

And now we are done. Democracy still works. Why bother voting? That helpless cry seems so silly now.

Not only does voting matter—it has changed history. We have left the European Union against the counsel of virtually every sinew of power—the establishment, the media, the banks, the think tanks, the judiciary, celebrities, experts—the little people have won.

The psychology of this victory is tremendous. Had the establishment got its wish, the majority would never have voted again. What would have been the point?

For the last thirty years, the majority has not mattered. You think unlimited immigration, sending good jobs abroad, and unfettered globalism was the wish of the many?

Those were the desires of the philosopher-kings. They knew, and still know what is best for us.

Which is why, even as the hours dissolve into minutes, they still cannot quite believe what is happening to “their” country.

Democracy is alive and well. Brexit is a victory of the ordinary over the elite. The many over the very few. And it tastes better now than it did on the morning it first broke.

This is just the start. Those Remainers will morph into Rejoiners. Every economic flutter will serve as “proof” to head back. You think it is over? Not quite.

Just cast your eyes to President Trump’s impeachment trial. His high crime? He beat Hillary Clinton. Democracy counts only when the right people win.

Or at least it used to. It might have taken four years, but the wrong people this time have won. And the wrong people must again win in November. Or this very British revolution will count for nothing.