Great America

Why the Remedy May Be Worse Than the Disease

As of this writing, 6,400 people all over the world have died from the coronavirus. In the United States, 68 people have died.

Some perspective:

Chinese deaths (3,217) account for half of the worldwide total. If you add Italy (1,441) and Iran (724), two countries where many Chinese were allowed in until recently, that totals another 2,165. In other words, outside of China, Italy and Iran—with 5,382 deaths collectively—1,018 people have died. There are 7.8 billion people in the world.

Regarding Italy, the Jerusalem Post of March 16 reported that according to Nobel Prize-winning chemist Michael Levitt, “Italy’s higher death rate was likely due to the fact that elderly people make up a greater percentage of the population than they do in other countries such as China or France.” As former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson further explained: “Italy has the oldest population in Europe and more elderly per capita than the U.S. Most of the Italian deaths are in patients in their 80s and 90s. In addition, Italy has a great number of direct China contacts. Italy was the first to join China’s ‘silk road’ economic partnership project … (Italy’s) deaths are out of a population of 60 million people.”

Regarding Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported on March 11:

“Iranian officials trace the origins of the country’s coronavirus epidemic to the holy city of Qom, home to … a number of Chinese-backed infrastructure projects built by scores of workers and technicians from China … ‘(China has) turned into a very toxic bomb,’ said Sanam Vakil, deputy Middle East director at Chatham House, a think tank in London.”

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump announced a ban on flights from China on Jan. 31—for which he was denounced by leading Democrats and throughout the left. The very next day, presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden declared, “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia—hysterical xenophobia—and fearmongering.” On Feb. 2, the American Civil Liberties Union announced, “These measures are extraordinary incursions on liberty and fly in the face of considerable evidence that travel bans and quarantines can do more harm than good.”

The current consensus favors near total social isolation, or “social distancing,” as it is now called. The thinking is that we must shut down the Western world to prevent the exponential growth of the virus. If we don’t, our hospital systems will be overwhelmed. Many thousands, maybe more, would die, as doctors have to make grisly triage decisions as to who gets care and who doesn’t. This latter scenario is reported to have already happened in Italy.

Though there is no longer an exponential growth in the United States, they may otherwise be right.

Is this thinking correct? The truth is we don’t know.

We have no idea how many people carry the COVID-19 coronavirus. Therefore, the rates of either critical illness or death are completely unknown. Perhaps millions of people have the virus and nothing serious develops, in which case we would have rates of death similar to (or even below) the flu virus. On the other hand, perhaps not many people carry the virus, but the rates of illness demanding intensive care and of death are much greater than those of the flu.

We can only be certain that shutting down virtually every part of society will result in a large number of people economically ruined, life savings depleted, decades of work building a restaurant or some other small business destroyed. As if that were not bad enough, the ancillary effects would include increased depression and divorce and other personal tragedies. The effects of closing schools for weeks or months will include family chaos, vast numbers of bored young people, health care providers who will have to stay home and more. Yet young people are the least likely people to become ill from the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this statement regarding closing schools:

“Available modeling data indicate … that other mitigation efforts (e.g., handwashing, home isolation) have more impact on both spread of disease and health care measures. In other countries, those places who (sic) closed school (e.g., Hong Kong) have not had more success in reducing spread than those that did not (e.g., Singapore).”

But the longer-term ripple effects are potentially far worse. Economic disasters rarely remain only economic disasters. To give a particularly dramatic example, the Nazis came to power because of economics more than any other single reason, including Germany’s defeat in World War I, the Versailles Treaty or anti-Semitism. Nazi success at the polls was almost entirely related to the Weimar economy. Communist parties don’t fare well in robust economies, but they’re very tempting when people are in dire economic straits. Only God knows what economic dislocation the shutting down of American and other Western economies will lead to. I am not predicting a Nazi or communist ascendancy, but economic and political disaster may be as likely, or even more likely, than a health disaster.

But here is a prediction: If the government can order society to cease functioning, from restaurants and other businesses to schools, due to a possible health disaster, it is highly likely that a Democratic president and Congress will similarly declare emergency and assert authoritarian rule in order to prevent what they consider the even greater “existential threat” to human life posed by global warming.

The dam has been broken. Maybe it was necessary. But when dams break, flooding follows.

COPYRIGHT 2020 CREATORS.COM

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: Protesters wearing protective suits and masks protest outside Downing Street on March 16, 2020 in London, England. The Prime Minister announced that the UK is entering the delay phase of emergency planning. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
Great America

The ‘Pitiless Crowbars of Events’ Are Teaching Us Again

What is this crisis teaching us about ourselves and our institutions?

In a long-forgotten episode of “Family Guy,” baby Stewie is sitting at a baseball game with a souvenir ball. The child next to him, holding a souvenir bat, says he wants the ball, and Stewie offers to trade. The trade completed, Stewie bashes the other boy with the bat, reclaims the ball, and says “what have we learned.” Well, what have we learned over the past week, as coronavirus hysteria spread faster than the disease itself could do?

On the one hand, there is some humor in all of this. Many have noted on social media that we are about to discover which meetings could have been emails. The Babylon Bee, a satire site, “reported” that the nation’s parents were horrified to learn that they would have to parent their own children as schools across the nation closed.

Yet even this attempt at humor contains a serious point: To what extent have parents ceded control of the raising of their own children to the state? 

After more than a week of full-blown coronavirus panic, a number of salutary lessons have already been placed before us, if we would notice them. Governors are enacting questionable orders in the face of the panic and on Monday The Hill reported that the Senate is considering yet another economic stimulus package, à la 2008-2009. Because that worked so well the last time. 

The last thing the country needs is more cronyism, corruption, and wasted money.

The Federal Reserve has helpfully shown us what government by expertise means in practice. The Fed last week slashed interest rates in the name of propping up the economy. The result? The markets tanked. So Sunday, the central bank did the same thing. And wouldn’t you know it—we got the same results!

One can only conclude that either the “experts” at the Fed are beings of indescribable stupidity (the kind of people who stick a fork in an electric outlet over and over again), or they are intentionally wrecking the economy for some reason. Either conclusion should be instructive regarding slavish deference to the “expertise” of our supposed “elites,” and that lesson should carry over to other areas.

Various actors outside of our government have revealed themselves as well. Our news media has not exactly covered themselves in glory. The self-appointed guardians of the public interest have taken the threat of an infection which can do serious harm to certain populations but will not decimate the country in the way they suggest and intentionally created mass hysteria. While much of this can be attributed to a crass desire for ratings, it would be foolish to overlook the potential political dimensions of the crisis. 

It is time that we recognized that economic efficiency is not the sole test of the public good.

It is hard to believe that it is mere coincidence that the media began stirring this frenzy in the aftermath of the failure of the Democratic Party’s attempt to remove President Donald Trump by impeachment on the flimsiest of grounds. Couple that with the fact that this was almost the exact moment when the country realized that the Democrats are about to nominate the senile and corrupt Joe Biden for president, an even worse candidate than Hillary Clinton, if such a thing is possible.

It should go without saying that the Chinese Communist government cannot be trusted, and yet here we are. They have lied constantly to the rest of the world about the origins and scope of COVID-19. They have tried to cover up what they were doing in that research facility in Wuhan, and how the coronavirus got loose. Disturbing reports have emerged about the nature of the internal Chinese response.

Descending from personnel to policy, it is hard to avoid the lesson that “free trade,” understood as economic open borders, is a false idol. Over the course of the last several decades, America has allowed its productive capacity to atrophy in the name of lowering the price of goods. America’s lifesaving antibiotics are mostly imported. My own mother, a hospital operations manager in the Midwest, reports that her hospital’s robes and masks are produced in Hubei province, China, whose capital is . . . Wuhan. 

It is time that we recognized that economic efficiency is not the sole test of the public good. Besides creating jobs for American workers, public health and national security alike demand home production, and we need policies that encourage this production.

As we look at the effects of coronavirus on other countries, we ought not to miss the lesson that socialized medicine has produced very dubious outcomes in coping with this public health crisis.

Italy is most instructive in this regard. The Italians clearly lack the equipment, facilities, and personnel to deal with an outbreak, and they have reached the point of deciding not to treat elderly patients, who coincidentally are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. They simply don’t have the resources.

Whatever may be conceded to be the advantages of socialized medicine in terms of point-of-entry access, observers have long noted that, even in quiet times, such nations lack adequate specialist, critical, and advanced care resources. In a crisis situation, these problems become undeniable.

It is almost certain that reality will impart both additional lessons and further reinforcement for these lessons, in the very near future. It is also equally near-certain that we won’t learn them without repeatedly being bludgeoned by what Alexander Solzhenitsyn called “the pitiless crowbar of events.”

Great America

Portrait of an American City at the Dawn of a Pandemic

The quintessential American Everyman is ordinary only to the unobservant, his common traits are generosity, pride in community, volunteerism and knowing everyone by name.

PITTSBURGH—On Friday, James Coen is folding and unfolding, arranging and rearranging the piles of colorful St. Patrick’s Day T-shirts he has displayed on folding tables outside one of the three sports retail stores he owns. The stores are all large historic buildings with big, shiny, planked hardwood floors, all snuggled in a three-block radius between assorted assemblages of late-19th-century buildings along what is affectionately called “The Strip” or “Strip District.”

No one calls him by his given name. He is “Jimmy Yinzer,” the unofficial mayor of the city and purveyor of all things Pittsburgh. He’s mostly known for having the largest inventory of Steelers, Penguins and Pirates items you would need to wear, wave or grill. His stores are all called Yinzers, an affectionate hat tip to the people of the city he loves, whose unique dialect includes referring to a group of people as “yinz.”

It is nearing 70 degrees, and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Had it been any other March day in any other year, the nine blocks that make up the Strip District would be so overflowing with people that cars would have a difficult time navigating Penn Avenue to get to their destination, especially just days ahead of Pittsburgh’s legendary St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

But while the district is not barren, and at times it is bustling, the numbers are still down.

Coen is used to holding court, solving problems and waiting on customers at an exhausting rate. On Friday, he is enjoying a rare lunch at Cafe Raymond across the street from his marquee store, a lunch hour he typically works through. The biggest times of the year in retail for him and the rest of the Strip are football season, Penguins postseason, Pirates opening day, Christmastime and the lead-up to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The parade was just canceled.

“Last weekend, I thought we might be able to hold our own through this crisis,” he explains. “By Monday of this week, we were down 50 percent in our business. By the time they canceled the parade Wednesday, I was down 75 percent.”

Those St. Patrick’s Day T-shirts that help him make bank every year are now 50 percent off.

“I have 25 employees,” he says. “I looked at my bank account. I am not sure what I can do if this goes on much longer.”

Raymond Mikesell, the owner of Cafe Raymond, is watching the cafe dining room from the kitchen counter. The day before, there was nobody eating his legendary food. On Friday, the place was doing much better: “Thursday was the worst,” he says. “Every catering job we had scheduled has been canceled all the way through until May. Today is a much-needed improvement. I had people coming in steadily and just said they wanted to support us.”

Mikesell tears up. “That is who we are here. We lift each other up, and people kept telling me we are all in this together.”

Think of the Strip District as Pittsburgh’s continuous tailgate party, with the sounds, smells and sense of singular purpose that goes with that. There are people tossing pizza at Bella Notte; stacking mile-high sandwiches filled with French fries and coleslaw at Primanti’s; sipping the finest coffees at La Prima, surrounded by more Italian-speaking patrons than not; and eating Cafe Raymond’s famous ricotta pancakes stuffed with oversized blueberries.

There is also live music played at nearly every corner by street musicians, fiddlers, rappers, drummers and that guy who always sings Crosby, Stills & Nash songs a little off-key. The bars vary from charming dives to an authentic Irish pub.

You can buy trinkets, pottery, lavish handmade clothing, jewelry and funky furniture at Hot, Haute, Hot, and antiques from the finest robber barons’ homes at Mahla. Or you can pick up ingredients at kosher Chinese, Greek, Polish and Serbian groceries, and at the king of Italian epicureans, Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, filled with whatever you need from the “old country.”

Over at La Prima, the regulars can’t help themselves. Old and young people are either standing around at the tables or outside.

Over at the Italian grocery, Pennsylvania Macaroni co-owner Rick Sunseri says that because everyone is rushing to the big-name grocery stores and growing weary of the long lines, their store has been OK. “We have plenty of our specialty food, which for Italians is just food,” he says with a smile. “But we have plenty of water and necessities and no panic buying. It was slow Tuesday and Wednesday, slower than usual, but it picked up today.”

Pittsburgh, at the moment, is a flurry of contradictions. There are still people out and about—not at the normal clip but not in complete withdrawal. Shelves are not empty in several CVS and dollar stores, but they’re wiped out at Whole Foods and Costco. Schools were still open Friday afternoon, until Gov. Tom Wolf announced a 10-day closure, with some districts announcing longer closures.

Everyone you talk to points to Allegheny County chief executive Rich Fitzgerald for pulling the local civic, health care, labor, foundation and business leaders together Thursday afternoon to offer a calm, coordinated plan going forward.

By Saturday morning, Fitzgerald confirmed the first two cases of the virus in Allegheny County.

“That is what we do around here,” Fitzgerald says. “Our civic leaders in medicine, business, labor and foundations all pull our expertise and abilities together, because we are all in this together, and you see that reflected in people everywhere here.”

Fitzgerald is not wrong. Despite facing financial peril, Coen is also pulling the local businesses together in the Strip to accumulate, store and distribute food and necessities to elderly and sheltered people in the area.

He is the quintessential American Everyman. Ordinary only to the unobservant, his common traits are generosity, pride in community, volunteerism and knowing everyone by name.

There are thousands of different Jimmy Yinzers in thousands of different cities and towns and villages across this country. They are the ones who are going to feel the hurt the most, and they are going to be the first to rise up and help others.

He says what happened is no one’s fault, and he admits the crisis is going to get worse before it gets better. “Whatever this looks like on the other side, we will prevail,” he says. “That’s not just here. That is in most places in America.”

COPYRIGHT 2020 CREATORS.COM

Uncategorized

Morning Greatness: Geezers Debate as Wuhan Virus Shuts Down America

Good Monday morning.

Here is what’s on the president’s agenda today:

10:30AM   Members of the Coronavirus Task Force hold a press briefing

  • The president participates in a video teleconference with G7 Leaders on coordinated action in response to COVID-19
  • President Trump participates in a video teleconference with Governors on partnership to prepare and respond to COVID-19
  • The president has lunch with the Vice President
  • President Trump receives his intelligence briefing

Old geezers shake fists at the sky during “debate”

Medically-fragile Democrat duo Biden and Sanders met in some sort of clean room to “debate” last night. One of the most irritating things about these set ups is that the pretend moderators never question what the candidates say. They don’t know enough or don’t want to discredit any of the crazy crap these jokers are spitting up. No one says “Well, who will pay all the people that will lose their job or be out of work because our country is in the middle of a pandemic? Will you force companies to pay? What if the company can’t afford to pay their employees when they have no revenue coming in? Will the government force them out of business? Is it better for businesses to close temporarily and rehire their workers or should the government jackboot drive them from operation forever?” We don’t hear anything about reality from these fools or the “moderators.”

Tomorrow there are some primary elections with more than 500 delegates up for grabs. People are supposed to “socially distance” especially those who are vulnerable but those people are the Joe Biden voters. Could Bernie sweep with the younger people who ignore instructions to distance and go to restaurants and bars and primary elections while Biden voters are busy washing their hands? It could happen.

Related:
‘The Thing In Africa’: Biden Stumbles Over Virus Names, Can’t Remember Ebola
Bernie Attacks Biden For Flip Flopping On Gay Marriage, Abortion
‘No New Fracking’: Biden Calls For High Speed Rail To Move US Away From Oil Drilling
Biden Defends Wall Street Bailouts: ‘This Was About Saving An Economy’
White House calls for federal agencies to maximize telework
Biden says he would mobilize the military to address coronavirus
Biden gets backing from largest U.S. teachers union
Joe Biden Promises to Nominate Black Woman to Supreme Court for ‘Representation’
The biggest takeaways from the Biden-Sanders coronavirus debate
Let’s all ‘go to the YouTube’: Bernie Bros jump on 78-year-old’s call

Wuhan virus shuts down America

Read Deb Heine’s article about the pork-filled Wuhan Flu bill from the House and their sneaky games.

Businesses, restaurants, Disneyland, Broadway…it’s all shutting down. Social distancing is the new normal. What will this do to our economy? What unforeseen consequences will we see from such rapid changes? These are the kinds of events that leave a big mark.

The fedgov, a hero to some and enemy to others, is not designed to mobilize rapidly in a health crisis. Perhaps there will be an overhaul to agency bureaucracy that is dragging down our ability to respond with speed. Ridiculous processes for drug companies, labs, health care professionals to spring into action do not serve us.

A good example of this is the benevolent FDA allowing pharmacists to compound hand sanitizer now there’s a national shortage. Really? Compounding pharmacists make our drugs all day long but the FDA had give approval to for them to mix aloe vera gel and alcohol? The agency said “it won’t take any enforcement action against certain facilities or licensed professionals who make hand sanitizer for consumer use as long as they use high quality ingredients and follow a recipe laid out by the agency.” Good grief.

I’ve heard several media-lefties squawk about how the U.S. turned away the World Health Organization’s Wuhan virus test. Why did we refuse? Was it because the test would need to undergo a burdensome approval process by health agencies and it would be faster to develop our own?  South Korea had a WuFlu test very quickly but testing came from four private corporations. Our corporations have no incentives to do that because their tests would be stuck in a red tape mess for a year or more. Also, South Korea is a surveillance state.

It’s no help that our pharmaceutical supply comes from foreign countries.

The media and the Democrats continue to use this tragedy as a political hammer. At these (mostly) daily pressers they ask gotcha questions to Trump or Pence instead of asking the scientists for information that would be useful for for the public. On the one hand, the media pretends its message is “don’t panic” but the media and the Democrats are constantly manufacturing reasons that the leadership is incompetent, lying, misleading them. We have disgusting ghouls like Democrat scribbler Jen Rubin calculating that more MAGA idiots will die than Democrats.

Wash your hands, if you’re in a vulnerable population, wait it out in the safety of your home.

Related:
Amid coronavirus buying, Amazon sold out of bottled water and toilet paper, too
The race to find a coronavirus treatment: One strategy might be just weeks away, scientists say
Washington state orders all restaurants and bars to close over coronavirus
California calls for all seniors to stay home, closure of bars and wineries
Los Angeles shuts down bars and clubs, limits restaurants to takeout and delivery
Las Vegas Strip resorts closing as a result of coronavirus: MGM, Wynn, Encore
Trump Tells Consumers To ‘Relax’ In Grocery Stores
United warns of cash bleed, empty planes even after more schedule cuts
Americans will have access to more than 2,000 labs for coronavirus testing, Pence says
U.S. eyes aid for airlines; sees no domestic travel curbs for now
White House urges against ‘hoarding’ as Trump talks to grocery store executives
WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin: There Will Be ‘Less Democrat’ Coronavirus Deaths
Source: U.S. Will Need up to 500,000 Ventilators for Coronavirus Victims
Thousands left cruise ship without screenings after ex-passenger got coronavirus
Peace Corps suspending operations, evacuating all volunteers over coronavirus
Emergen-C responds to boozy ‘quarantini’ with vitamin C: ‘We do not recommend’
Idiots. Coronavirus ’emergency’? Oregon police ask people to stop calling 911 because they ran out of toilet paper
Nike, Urban Outfitters and other retailers shuttering stores temporarily because of coronavirus
Lindsey Graham says he tested negative for coronavirus
Here’s a complete list of every state health department’s coronavirus website
Tenn. brothers donate sanitizer products bought for resale
Federal vaccine development sites ill-suited to counter covid-19 epidemic

Other morsels:
Swedish Priest Accused of Smuggling Migrant Out of Detention in Suitcase
Clyburn calls Trump a racist, warns US could ‘go the way of Germany in the 1930s’
Trump ‘strongly considering’ Flynn pardon
Andrew Gillum entering rehab, stepping back from politics following Miami hotel incident
Trial of Robert Durst delayed for 3 weeks amid virus fears
US attorney charges alleged MS-13 members in San Francisco

And that’s all I’ve got, not go wash your hands!

Great America

Government Pensions Are Dividing Americans and Damaging the Economy

Patriotic members of the public sector must make some tough choices in the coming years. If lean years come, do they want America to be run by an international plutocracy, where citizenship is meaningless, but their own jobs as government enforcers are secure and lucrative?

Now that financial markets around the world are experiencing a long-overdue correction, the best we can hope for is that we hit bottom before a deflationary cascade causes a worldwide depression. Those economists who believe in the long-term debt cycle may claim that this time the end has arrived, and they may be right. COVID-19, oil price wars, traders and investors hating Trump—these are just pinpricks. This bubble has been inflating for decades.

There have been plenty of warnings. Interest rates at near zero in the United States and actually negative in European nations. Record borrowing by the federal government, and, possibly worse, record levels of consumer debt. Corporate borrowing to buy back stock instead of invest in R&D and plant modernization.

In January 2000, at the peak of the internet bubble, total credit market debt in the U.S. was $27.8 trillion. By October 2007, at the peak of the housing bubble, total debt had climbed to $51.4 trillion. As of October 31, 2019, the most recent period for which data is available, total debt had climbed to $73.4 trillion.

Debt accumulation is not a sustainable way to stimulate growth. At some point, there is not a mere “correction,” such as what was seen in 2000 and 2008, but a fundamental restructuring of the financial economy of nations, such as happened in the 1930s. Has that reckoning arrived?

Either way, as of close on March 12, the Dow Jones had given up nearly three years of gains, with no real end in sight.

Wall Street’s Biggest Player: Public Employee Pension Funds

Which brings us to public sector pensions, which are among the most socially divisive, economically damaging scams that nobody has ever heard of.

To get an idea of the financial scale of public pensions, note that the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the total invested assets of pension funds managed on behalf of local, state and federal government employees is $4.3 trillion. Roughly 17 percent of Americans either work for or are retired from a local, state, or federal government agency.

By contrast, the Social Security Trust Fund, serving all 327 million Americans, and in which many government employees also participate along with receiving their pensions, has a total asset value of $2.9 trillion.

This is an incredible fact. Taxpayers—who it should go without saying, are paying for both systems—have contributed to a public employee pension system that is 50 percent larger than the Social Security Trust Fund, even though Social Security serves six times as many Americans.

By now most Americans, most definitely including voters, will have stopped reading. Pension finance is a boring topic. But public sector pensions pose a far bigger threat to America’s government budgets than Social Security ever will.

For starters, Social Security is adaptable. Lower the benefits, establish means-testing for benefits, raise the contribution percent, raise the contribution ceiling, raise the retirement age; all of these options are but one congressional vote and presidential signature away from implementation. Not so with public pensions, where financially responsible modifications to the pension systems are thwarted by collective bargaining contracts and union power. How bad is the problem?

Determining just how in the red public pensions are today depends on who you ask. And thanks to lax reporting requirements, good data is typically about two years behind. A Pew Research study released in June 2019 estimated the pension funding gap, “the difference between a retirement system’s assets and its liabilities,” for all 50 states, to be just over $1 trillion. But that’s only the officially reported number.

A study conducted by the prestigious Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research put the total at over $5 trillion. This massive disparity in estimates is because how much has to be invested today in order to fund pension payments in the future largely depends on how much pension system fund managers think their investments can earn. Private-sector pensions have to use the bank lending rate as their required earnings estimate, which is why private-sector pensions are, generally speaking, not in financial trouble.

Public-sector pensions, on the other hand, are heavily influenced by government union bosses who want to maximize pension promises with minimum input either from their members through withholding or through direct contributions by government agencies. So they hire actuaries and money managers who claim they can earn, on average, 7 percent (or more) in interest on their investments, every year, year after year.

But what happens when they don’t?

That is where we find ourselves today. Pension funds, over the long term, are considered financially “healthy” if they are 80 percent funded or more. That means, for example, if the official numbers for 2018 are correct, the public sector pension assets nationwide were $4.3 trillion, the total liability was around $5.3 trillion, and the funds in aggregate were around 80 percent funded. There are big problems with this, however.

First of all, nobody believes the collective unfunded liability of America’s public employee pension funds is only $1 trillion. As noted, the Stanford researchers put that number at over $5 trillion. But most ominous is the fact that even if these pension systems were 80 percent funded, that is not where they’re supposed to be at the tail end of an 11-year bull market. Over the past 10 years, the U.S. stock market has tripled. Why are these pension systems, at best, only 80 percent funded?

Dividing Americans, Damaging the Economy

Public employee pension funds are among the biggest players, if not the biggest players, on Wall Street. If you want to know where literally trillions of dollars are being aggressively invested in private equity deals, hedge funds, and countless other speculative investments in debt, real estate, and foreign securities including in fascist China, look no further. These funds are under relentless pressure to deliver rates of return that are historically unsustainable, and the reason they are historically unsustainable is intimately connected to the populist discontent sweeping America today.

Public-sector pension funds, because they involve trillions of dollars, are too big to beat the overall rate of investment returns, and ultimately the rate of investment returns cannot exceed the rate of economic growth. The fact that investment returns have exceeded the rate of economic growth over the past few decades is precisely the reason there has been a widening in the gap between the super-rich and the desperately poor in America. It is the reason for the financialization of the American economy, where asset bubbles create collateral to create debt to create liquidity to create consumption to create profits.

This can’t go on, but the money managers want it to go on so public sector pension systems can buy another quarter of phony solvency. The alternatives are unpleasant to contemplate.

A few years ago the largest public sector pension system in the United States, the California Public Employees Retirement System with over $300 billion in assets, announced it was going to double the required payments from participating agencies over the next five years. That process is well underway and is the primary motivation for the hundreds of local tax and bond proposals on every primary and general election ballot in the state. If there is a recession, much less a depression, it won’t be enough.

Meanwhile, in the rest of America, those private-sector workers who are required to save money in 401k plans to supplement their eventual Social Security benefit, are now watching their retirement security vaporize before their eyes.

How is this fair? How is it that public sector employees can collect guaranteed pensions that pay, on average, two to three times as much as Social Security and, on average, are collected ten years earlier in life?

Defenders of public employee pensions point out that investment returns pay most of the cost for these pensions, not taxpayers. That’s only true, however, as long as those investments continue to deliver excellent returns. Once that assumption goes off the table, taxpayers pay for public-employee pensions. This results in higher taxes and lower services, and still doesn’t solve the problem of poorly regulated pension funds rampaging through the financial sector with trillions of dollars and grossly inadequate risk aversion, since they know taxpayers will pick up the tab whenever their schemes falter.

Public Sector Union Agenda Aligns with Big Finance

Public-sector pensions are yet another reason why the big corporate and financial sector political contributions in America overwhelmingly favor Democrats. These pension systems, and the benefits they provide, establish a common interest between government workers and big finance. Through the political agenda of their public-sector unions, which are overwhelmingly Democrat, the economic interests of public employees and America’s wealthiest elites are kept in perfect alignment.

No wonder public employee unions don’t fight open border policies. Not only do millions of destitute immigrants require more government administrators at all levels, but corporate profits—to help the pension funds—are boosted by the influx of cheap labor. No wonder public employee unions love draconian environmental regulations. The regulations create artificial scarcity—especially the policies of urban densification—and scarcity creates asset bubbles which help the pension funds.

No wonder public employee unions don’t object to exporting private sector jobs—international corporate profits translate into higher investment gains. No wonder public employee unions always support more bonds and borrowing—the proceeds expand government payrolls at the same time as underwriters and investors reap billions in commissions and interest payments.

And no wonder public employee unions don’t care if the welfare state implodes when the debt bubble pops and government deficits become unmanageable. Public employees don’t depend on the same network of taxpayer-funded social entitlements as the citizens they serve. To put it in terms that are crude but regrettably accurate, American citizenship is economically irrelevant to public employees. They are a separate class of Americans, exempt from the pitfalls of stressed public services, and exempt from the perils of market crashes.

The best thing that could happen to unite Americans would be to eliminate all public sector pensions and transfer the assets into the Social Security Trust Fund. One may endlessly argue the virtues or vices of Social Security, but you could do a lot worse than Social Security.

Unlike public employee pension formulas, Social Security benefits are progressive, meaning that high-income Americans have a lower ratio of contributions made to benefits received than low-income Americans. Unlike public employee pensions, there is a cap on Social Security benefits, and there is the ability to fine-tune the system to retain solvency.

Most important, however, if there is going to be a taxpayer-funded retirement security net for all Americans, it should be one system, with one set of formulas and incentives, equally applied for all citizens. If police, firefighters, nurses and teachers are heroes that deserve generous compensation, fine, let that take the form of higher salaries. Then they might invest their monthly surpluses into 401K plans, like the rest of us. And if that’s unacceptable, then they might make common cause with their private citizen counterparts to arrive at ways to improve Social Security. But all Americans would be confronting these problems together.

Patriotic members of the public sector must make some tough choices in the coming years. If lean years come, do they want America to be run by an international plutocracy, where citizenship is meaningless, but their own jobs as government enforcers are secure and lucrative? Or do they want American citizenship to still mean something? Pensions might be a useful litmus test.

Elections

Running In Front, Running Clueless

The exclusives to American Greatness keep coming. Here is the transcript of Joe Biden’s speech in Dayton, Ohio, March 12, 2020.

Joe Biden: Folks, it is great to be here with you! I wish I could tell you what state we are in right now, as in, “it is great to be here with you in the great state of Iowa,” or some such, but I have to be honest with you: I have absolutely no idea where I am or what city this is. In fact, I stopped recognizing the states where I was holding my campaign events weeks ago. But don’t worry about it. I am certainly not worried, so you shouldn’t be either. No joke!

Folks, I am now the front-runner in this race for . . . for . . . ummm . . .  er . . . to become the . . . er . . . for the top job. That means, I am out in front, as opposed to being behind. Being behind really sucked. People were saying all sorts of nasty things about me, that I am clueless, that I am senile, that I am a doddering, shambling, bumbling, mumbling fool, that I lost a step or two . . .  Well, we sure proved them all wrong, didn’t we?

Well, OK, maybe we didn’t prove them wrong about those particular comments, because I can see how some people might misinterpret that vacant look I have in my eyes most of the time, but the important thing is, I’ve got more delegates now. It doesn’t matter if I can finish a paragraph or not, when I give a speech, I now have . . . I can finish the paragraph every time I start . . .  finish . . . I can . . . every paragraph that I start deserves to be . . . paragraph . . . finishing a deserving paragraph . . . er . . .

Let me tell you about delegates. I don’t know how many more of them I’ve got, I have got people keeping track of these things, so I don’t have to bother with small details like that, but you can’t argue with success! What I am trying to say is that more is more. That’s all that matters. I am being serious!

The other guy, Barney Sanders, he is way behind in delegates. And let me tell you about him and his brothers and his other relatives. Those Barney Brothers and Barney Sisters, it’s just a terrible thing, what those Barney siblings are doing. Barney . . . I mean, Bernie, has all those Bernie brothers and sisters doing all those . . . things, all those . . . bad things, and I simply won’t stand for it!

Folks, this is the most important presidential election of our lives! I should know—I’ve been through dozens of them, so I know what I’m talking about. As an O’Biden-Bama Democrat, I will bring my razor-sharp intellect to the White House. No joke!

Am I Running  for Election or Re-Election?

Let’s face it, folks—Trump knows nothing about our traditions of dignity and civility. And that is why we cannot possibly win this election! We cannot get re-elected, and we know it. We can only re-elect Donald Trump! We will engage in a circular firing squad, because we don’t know how to run a positive campaign! Yes! Er . . .  No . . . That’s not what I mean . . . We need to do more negative attacks on Trump! Ahh . . . Wait . . . We need to do positive attacks, not negative attacks, because it is up to all of us to re-elect Donald Trump!

Er . . . I mean . . .  What..? What am I saying? We need to re-elect me! No, no, wait . . . Am I running for election or re-election? We don’t need to re-elect Trump at all! Or do we? No, no, absolutely not!

What I am trying to say, folks, is this: we in the Democratic Party know all about firing squads. And all those Bernie Brothers should face one, and the sooner, the better! Er . . .  I don’t mean, like, a literal firing squad, I mean, they should be shot, but not using real bullets. Er . . . Although . . . What would be the point of shooting them, then? That doesn’t make any sense . . . Why shoot the Bernie Brothers, if you are not gonna use real bullets? I am being serious!

Here’s the deal, folks: if the firing squad uses real bullets, they shouldn’t use high-capacity magazines. And no AR-14s, either. I strongly oppose AR-14s! I also oppose AR-13s, and AR-12s! I oppose all assault weapons, because they can be used to assault people—and I have always opposed all forms of sexual assault.

For the record, everything I’ve ever done with women has always been 100 percent consensual. In fact, as a senator, I passed legislation against . . . legislation that . . . as committee chairman, I strongly supported legislation that . . . made it a crime to assault . . . use an assault weapon to assault . . . weapons with magazines . . . big magazines . . .

Look, folks, I don’t care what they say, if you say you want to have an AR-14 for self-defense, you are full of shit! I can tell some of you in the audience might have one at home—well, I am here to tell you, you don’t need an AR-14. It’s a machine gun, for chrissakes! So hell yes, we’re gonna come for you, and we’re gonna take those damn AR-14’s of yours! No joke!

You over there! Yeah, you! The fat guy. You have one? You do, huh? Well, don’t tell me that, pal, or I’m going to go out and slap you in the face! What, you think I can’t? I can give you an ass-whooping right now! Who’s gonna stop me? You? Hah! You can’t stop me! So don’t be a horse’s ass! What, you think I work for you? Come on, man! I don’t work for you! You really think I work for you? Hah! You are full of shit, aren’t you? You are so full of it, you can’t tell shit from shinola!

A Heartbeat Away from the Presidency

These people . . . I can’t believe them . . .  Why am I even talking to these fat low-class losers? Where the hell is my staff? Why did they put me in this event, with all these working-class idiots?

What? Jill? Would you stop whispering in my ear! What? Can’t you see I’m doing something here! Oh . . . Hold on a sec, folks, gimme a moment while I . . .

Whew . . . that caffeine I had this morning really packs a punch, doesn’t it? I feel more awake now than I’ve felt in years . . . I really should drink more coffee . . .

Folks, I feel the need to remind you that I was vice president to President . . .  I was the vice president when President . . . when . . . he . . . when my boss was president, I was the number two man. I was the numero uno. Er . . .  Just wait a second . . . “Uno” means “one” in some non-English language, right? So I couldn’t have been the numero uno, because President . . . the president, who was president at the time, he was numero uno . . . I must have been the numero duno.

And just like other vice presidents, I was a heartbeat away from the presidency. For example, President O’Clinton had a vice president, whose name I can’t recall. President O’Carter also had one, even though I can’t remember his name either. President O’Roosevelt, I am pretty sure, had a vice president. At least, I think he had one . . .  Yeah, he did, didn’t he? So, folks, what I am trying to tell you is that it is not unusual for a president to have a vice president, although none of them were as smart or as accomplished as I am.

Folks, there is an issue that I will address as soon as I am re-elected to the presidency. I will appoint the first African-American Woman Senator to the Senate. I will also appoint the second African-American Woman Senator to the Senate. In fact, I am not gonna stop there. On day one, I will appoint all 100 Senators, and every single one of them will be an African-American woman, and you can take that promise to the bank! It is about time the Senate got a little diversity going, is what I’m saying.

Discriminating Against Foreign Viruses Is Un-American

And folks, let me tell you another thing: that Trump’s peace plan for Afghanistan is a disaster. I was the O’Biden Administration’s point man on Afghanistan, because President O’Biden, before he was elected, promised to win the war in Afghanistan. And let me tell you, under my leadership . . . er . . . under President O’Biden’s leadership, we came pretty darn close. I argued for an additional 200,000 troops, and if the generals had given me those 200,000 troops in Afghanistan, I would have won the war.

Now, this Afghan peace deal that Trump made—I have no idea what’s in it, but I don’t like it. I haven’t actually read it, but it doesn’t sound like a victory to me, and Trump never even asked for my opinion, if you can believe that! Here’s the deal: I don’t need to read it in order to be dead set against it—and let me assure you, when I am president, there won’t be any more peace deals with the Germans. Er . . . I mean, with the . . . with the people who . . . with those people . . . those bad people.

What America needs is a victory—and that is why when I was president, we did . . . er . . . I mean, when I was vice president, we were . . . they were . . . we had a plan to win the war, and . . . it was a good plan, a verifiable plan . . . it was . . . I mean, it was a certifiable plan . . . we definitely had a plan . . . we needed just eight more years to win that war. It was just like Vietnam, only better! Er . . .

Folks, there is one issue that I know all of you care about, and that’s the coronavirus. I know all of you have confidence that I would do a much better job than Trump, in dealing with the coronav . . . corona . . . coron . . .  the virus. Trump doesn’t know what he is doing. Why does he call it a Chinese virus? Viruses have no nationality. That coronav . . . coro . . . corona . . . that virus is as American as apple pie. Just because it came from China is no reason to call it a foreign virus—it’s here now, just like many other viruses, trying to make a decent living for its family. In fact, some of my best friends came from China. I am serious!

That coron . . . coronav . . . that virus should not be discriminated against, just because it is of foreign origin—it is completely un-American to discriminate on the basis of origin. In fact, I know China, my family has done a lot of business there while I was vice president, and there is absolutely no reason to remind people that the coronav . . . coron . . . the virus is from China.

We need better border controls, and that’s why I’ve always supported open borders. We need more testing, and that’s why I have no idea how much testing we have done for the corona . . . coronav . . . coro . . .  er . . . the virus. But I know we need to do more. We should stop all incoming flights from affected countries—and that’s why I’ve opposed Trump’s actions to stop the flights from China and Europe from day one. In other words, my plan is the opposite of Trump’s plan. So you can see that I have a totally comprehensive plan to use the coron . . . coronav . . . cor . . . the virus to attack Trump.

Now, folks, Republicans are still trying to attack me and my son because he took that job with a Ukrainian oil and gas company. Let me tell you something: Shame. On. Them!

Nobody has ever proved that there is anything wrong with taking a job with a Ukrainian oil and gas company. Most Americans, if offered a job like that, would surely take it, especially since it paid very well and required Hunter to do absolutely nothing.

Besides, my baby boy had a drug and alcohol addiction at the time, so you can see why he needed the money. All that coke and expensive liquor doesn’t come cheap, you know. And those stripper friends of his don’t dance for free either. Why, I remember, when I was a senator, and me and Teddy Kennedy used to go to . . .  Er . . . Umm . . . Never mind.

Look, folks, a job’s a job, is what I always say. Hunter is a very bright guy, and I am not surprised at all those Ukrainians wanted to hire him. Besides, nobody has proven yet that there was anything illegal about this, at all. Nothing illegal. Nothing. Not a thing.

And this only illustrates the point I always try to make: every child in America deserves to be provided with a quality edu . . . ed . . . educa . . . educ . . .  a thing. Yes. I mean it! A quality environment. An environment where everyone can learn to code.

Thank you, folks!

Elections

Jeepers Veepers!

As Joe Biden emerges the Democrats’ likely nominee, the focus inevitably will shift to who will be his running mate and heir apparent. But why on earth should it be Kamala Harris?

Prior to gaining national notoriety as California’s junior U.S. senator, Kamala Harris was widely considered a rising star in the Democratic Party. She spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2012 as her state’s attorney general, entering to the tune of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin.’”

Just as Barack Obama had been eight years earlier, Harris was being groomed for bigger things beyond her state’s borders. She was featured by McClatchy in a profile of the new Gen Xer politicians along with Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

It was thought that the spotlight would do for her what it did for Obama, transforming her from a local prospect into a major league slugger for the party. In September 2017, only eight months after taking office as a freshman senator, Newsweek asked if she was the favorite to take on Donald Trump in 2020. CNN’s Chris Cillizza dubbed her the frontrunner immediately after the 2018 midterm elections.

At a certain point, however, reality kicked in. Kamala Harris—try as she might—does not have the charismatic cadence Obama had, nor does she have his smooth mannerisms.

Unlike Obama in his 2008 campaign, Harris has never made any overtures toward middle America on any issue. Last May, she declared she would require states and municipalities to obtain federal approval before enacting laws that restrict abortion. She also proposed far-reaching executive orders that would impose mandatory background checks and allow for prosecution of gun manufacturers. These are two areas where Harris, apparently, is claiming as president she would reprise the role that she currently plays as a legislator—something that Obama ended up doing but never bragged about before his election.

Harris also distinguished herself during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings as a sensational grandstander, outdone perhaps only by “I Am Spartacus” Booker.  For example, she grilled the judge over whether he’d had any conversations with a partner at the Kasowitz Benson Torres law firm about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The implication was that Harris had a “reliable source” that such a conversation had occurred. What was unstated, however, is that judges do not typically ask nor need to know with which law firm any given lawyer is affiliated when arguing a case, much less when they have a casual conversation. Kavanaugh would have had to risk perjuring himself if he’d said he hadn’t had the conversation and it later turned out that he had unknowingly.

The upshot? A month after the original exchange went viral on #Resistance Twitter, Kavanaugh answered the question saying he had not spoken with any such person. Almost no one called out Harris for bluffing except for a brief summary in her hometown San Francisco Chronicle.

From Sure Thing to Abandon Ship!

It was only three months after that on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2019 that the Kamala Harris presidential campaign was announced. Despite months of fawning press coverage and cooing interviews with such luminaries as Jimmy Kimmel, her campaign was rocked by problems from the beginning.

Whereas in 2008 Obama distinguished himself as the suave alternative to Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, Harris simply was outshined by her rivals—whether it was Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders and his fanatics, former Vice President Joe Biden with his instant Obama credibility, or Mayor Pete Buttigieg who was accused of outright ripping off Obama’s speaking style.

She was caught lying in an interview with one “Charlamagne tha God” about being a Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur fan in college—years before they were even active. Her big moment came with the first Democratic debate in June when she shamed Biden for his past opposition to federally mandated busing in the 1970s that integrated northern and western urban school districts. In retrospect, no matter how hard it is for his opponents to admit it, then-Senator Biden and many others opposed the policy because forced busing tore neighborhoods and communities apart and led to traumatic violence for children driven across town to schools that were often hostile to their presence.

No matter. In late June and early July after that debate, Harris’s national polling aggregate jumped from 7.5 to 15 percent at the expense of Biden who tumbled from 32 to just over 25 percent.

It seemed like Kamala had the tailwinds in her favor, so why is it that by December she was forced to drop out?

For one thing, a big wave named Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) swept over her decks. Gabbard, who was also profiled in the same 2016 McClatchy story, was aware Kamala Harris had a weak point in her armor: the real Kamala Harris.

Given a brief moment in the July debate, Gabbard slayed her by bringing attention to her record as a prosecutor withholding exculpatory evidence for a death row inmate, imprisoning drug offenders contrary to her own admission to smoking marijuana and other failings. By doing so Gabbard gained very little herself, but torpedoed Harris in the polls near to where she had been.

Even those who disagreed with Gabbard’s critiques of Harris’s performance could not help but notice that she could not respond to any of the Hawaiian congresswoman’s points. Try as she might, Kamala and her swarm of Twitiots known as #KHive could not get back in the saddle. When Michael Bloomberg entered the race in December, she threw her hands up and quit. She blamed money in politics, racists, and sexists for her flame-out. It was a typically tone-deaf tantrum from an awful candidate who had ignored all signs of her own shortcomings.

Put Me In Coach!

Despite her abysmal performance, Kamala Harris is leading the field according to oddsmakers trying to predict who Biden’s running mate will be.

Newsweek has proposed her as a “woman of color” option along with failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams and freshman Representative Val Demings (D-Fla.). She is now ahead of fellow former presidential candidates Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is the only man on the list.

Harris endorsed Biden, the man she once charged with racial insensitivity, on March 8. Biden has already set aside crucial roles in a future administration for fellow primary dropouts Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke. But why would the nominee (or the DNC) give the nod to one of his most bitter detractors during the campaign, after such a bold and charged attack?

The key word to remember for vice presidential candidates is reliability. This is why Mike Pence was chosen over other GOP former candidates in 2016 as Trump’s running mate. It is also why at the time the youthful rival John Edwards was picked in 2004 for John Kerry, and Paul Ryan for Mitt Romney in 2012.

The major difference this year would be that the vice-presidential nominee would be seen as a much more immediate potential successor should Biden win the presidency, and therefore must be reasonably younger. In this respect, Elizabeth Warren is at a disadvantage at age 70. But beyond her youth, Harris has the distinction of having been the product and instrument of the northern California political machine headed by her mentor and former lover Willie Brown.

As San Francisco mayor in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the rakish Brown appointed his mistress to key roles within the city’s various boards and departments. In 2003 he backed her in the city’s district attorney election against rival Terence Hallinan.

As the city’s top prosecutor, Harris allowed pedophile priests to escape justice and became notorious for putting the Brown machine’s friends ahead of the law. This is coming from a woman who reamed former Labor Secretary Alex Acosta for his light prosecution of sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein that happened during her tenure as D.A.

Much of this information is available from Bay Area media, but it has been copiously compiled by investigative journalist Peter Schweizer in his new book Profiles in Corruption. As California attorney general, Harris angered progressives by declining to prosecute former OneWest Bank executive Steven Mnuchin, now the treasury secretary under Trump, for foreclosure violations in 2013.

Time after time, Kamala Harris has come through for the right people when it mattered for her career. Other rival candidates may have shot themselves out of the cannon too fast, like former Obama housing secretary Julián Castro when he boldly accused Biden of having memory issues during a debate in September. A month earlier Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) did the same thing over a supposedly sexist op-ed that Biden had written in 1981. Booker questioned Biden’s mental acuity around the same time as Castro.

If he has any sense in him, however (which is an open question these days), Joe Biden will steer clear of Kamala Harris.

In September it was reported that she was polling at only 8 percent in the Bay Area against fellow Democratic presidential candidates. By November 2019 her national favorability was at -12 percent, far below Mike Pence who is at -7.6 percent. Beyond the polling, such a selection would be a blatant middle finger both to his party’s progressive wing and to any potential swing and undecided voters, as well as an embrace of wanton corruption. She is almost worse than having no running mate at all.

First Principles

The Real Goals of ‘The 1619 Project’

Teaching young people they have no country, that there is neither God nor justice, but only their own anger to right wrongs leads not to civilized self-rule but to fanaticism and self-destruction.

From Frederick Douglass to Martin Luther King Jr., many Americans have tried to bridge America’s racial divide. America’s newspaper of record believes it has discovered a new way.

No longer preaching faith in the Constitution or civic brotherhood, the New York Times hopes that—by creating enough hatred for the nation’s founding, its ideals, and for America’s majority group—justice and harmony will somehow emerge. This, anyway, is the idea behind its “1619 Project.”

Its lead essay, written by activist Nicole Hannah-Jones, falsifies important parts of American history with a view to engineering this new approach. While it has been roundly debunked by a chorus of renowned academics for gross factual and thematic inaccuracies, its most outlandish claim is that the American Revolution was fought to protect slavery. The preeminent historian of the American Revolution, Gordon Wood, points out that he does not know “of any colonist who said that they wanted independence in order to preserve their slaves.” Nor does anyone else. There is no historical record.

After months of embarrassing criticism, the Times finally issued a non-apology apology, which it comically calls an “Update.” What looks like a redaction is really a hardening of their original position—for they “still stand behind the basic point.”

Had the Times simply admitted its many errors, it could have begun to claw back what remains of its reputation for honest journalism. But it will not retract or apologize.

No longer really a newspaper, the Times more and more represents the postmodern age of propaganda; its goals of moral and political transformation, distinct from honest reporting, are barely hidden. And the 1619 Project seems to have at least three such goals.

Get Them When They’re Young

For at least a generation, many colleges and universities have taught students that America fundamentally is a white supremacist regime in need of deconstruction. By offering an accompanying school curricula, the 1619 Project explicitly targets middle- and high-schoolers, so far largely untouched by this propaganda. But since the 1619 Project’s publication last August, tens of thousands of students in all 50 states have been taught parts of its curriculum.

Last month, the administrators of Buffalo Public Schools announced their district will “infuse 1619 Project resources into the mainstream English and Social Studies . . . at grades 7-12.” Montgomery County, Maryland, and Chicago Public Schools have followed. Others will join them soon.

The overriding lesson is clear: young people must learn to despise their nation—its Constitution, ideals, economic system, and its Founders. They must resent and reject their past; possess an aggressive, contemptuous, and disobedient attitude toward the present; and strive forcefully to create a triumphant future where the enemies of old are punished, and the innocent finally rule. Teaching young people that they have no country, that there is neither God nor justice, but only their own anger to right wrongs leads not to civilized self-rule, but to fanaticism and self-destruction.

Hannah-Jones has spoken openly about the project’s second goal: “When my editor asks me, like, what’s your ultimate goal for the project, my ultimate goal is that there’ll be a reparations bill passed.”

In other words, as Americans learn to despise their country and their fellow citizens, they should demand a moral buyout, where moral debts are settled in cash. Of course, remaining unanswered is what will happen when neither equality nor moral wholeness emerges as a result of cash transfers?

Identity Politics Über Alles

But the real goal of the project, as Hannah-Jones explains, is to get “white people to give up whiteness.” This statement appears opaque at first, but follows the unmistakable logic of identity politics. Getting rid of “whiteness” means that whites must stop thinking of themselves as a group. To accomplish this, they must learn (or be compelled) to practice unreflective deference to the morally innocent—the marginalized. This means #believingher without facts, or taking the victim’s self-styled narrative (like the 1619 Project) as sacred and beyond rational scrutiny. As “whiteness” dissolves, however, all other marginalized groups must adhere even more strongly to their own group identities.

Since this final goal will surely require more than just propaganda, Hannah-Jones settles for reparations as a second-best arrangement. Obtaining reparations, after all, is “more realistic than, like, can we get white Americans to stop being white,” she notes. Nevertheless, Hannah-Jones seems to think that both reparations and the dissolution of whiteness should be attempted, even if neither is likely to occur.

America’s liberal elites, represented by and educated in the moral fashions of the Times, are remarkably short-sighted. It is not difficult to see that a new spirit of vengeance created by such “journalism” will lead neither to political stability nor to justice. Nor is it difficult to see why mainstream journalism has rightly fallen out of public favor.

First Principles

Tolerance Is Not Enough

While it is important for us to come together and work to address shared concerns and strive to reach shared goals, it is important to remember that cultures and religions have fundamental and occasionally contradictory principles.

Last week, the Hudson Institute and the European Leadership Network hosted a panel discussion on anti-Semitism featuring many high profile religious and interfaith engagement leaders, including Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, a renowned moderate French Muslim who maintains close relations with Jewish organizations in France.

The discussion, which took place in the Hudson Institute’s beautiful Pennsylvania Avenue offices and featured an open bar, predictably featured what some may call platitudes about building bridges between communities and fostering dialogue to fight hate. But while such “platitudes” can seem tired and cliché, it is important to remember that they became clichés, that is, repeated ad nauseam, for a reason—precisely because they contain valuable advice.

Of course, it is easy to talk about building bridges and fostering dialogue. But actually doing it requires hard and dangerous work. It often requires putting yourself in uncomfortable and foreign situations where your audience, at best, is skeptical and at worst, hostile.

Remarkably, most of the panelists at this event had put in the work to convert platitudes into action and actually have built bridges and fostered dialogue.

Most panelists agreed that it was important to focus interfaith conversations on the concrete issues that each community faces and to address particular instances of religious intolerance case by case, while attempting to put them in their broader contexts. It is far easier to work together and find compromise when an issue is narrowly defined and there is a well-defined goal in sight. Most of these panelists spoke from experience.

The imam later showed me pictures he had taken with a wide variety of religious and political leaders from both the Jewish and the Muslim communities. He told me about events he had organized to bring the two communities together to have conversations and to foster friendships. He spoke glowingly of his dream to export love and good relationships through his example and to create strong friendships that would last through difficult times.

The Anti-Defamation League’s Washington director for international relations for highlighted the Bearing Witness program as a particularly successful example of cooperation between prominent Jewish and Catholic organizations to address the history of anti-Semitism, the role of the Church during the Holocaust, recent changes in Catholic teachings, and practical strategies for teaching students about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.

The other panelists spoke with passion about how they engaged faith leaders in various communities to help reduce sexual exploitation of children, bolster national security, and increase the civic engagement and assimilation of Muslim-American voters—all admirable causes that most, if not all, Americans would and should support.

The event was worthwhile for the exchange of good news about improvements in various areas that most people support. It is good for various community leaders to come together to develop working relationships to address issues where there is already common agreement. But such meetings, however useful, should not be considered successful “interfaith exchanges. These engagements rarely address, let alone resolve, fundamental irreconcilable differences between religions and cultures. They are palliative—not permanent.

Irreconcilable differences are—as the name suggests—irreconcilable. And while tolerance may help various cultures and religions to co-exist, it is naïve to believe that tolerance will be or even can be a cure-all.

France’s ban on full-face veils in public areas (a ban that Imam Chalghoumi said he supports) is a perfect example of an irreconcilable difference that cannot be alleviated by tolerance. The very existence of a law prohibiting any action is a societal claim that the action is intolerable. And the pervasive contentiousness in politics about such actions is ample evidence that people may disagree vehemently about what should and should not be tolerated.

Kumbaya moments arise from shared assumptions and beliefs. One such shared assumption could be that tolerance should be an overarching principle in our civics. But even the most tolerant-minded among us can quickly find themselves advocating South Parkesque death camps of tolerance. Those who preach tolerance are typically intolerant of ideologies that they view as intolerant. And so it becomes a circular argument. We find ourselves unable to be completely agnostic.

Another shared assumption could be that we should mitigate violence at any cost.

Depending on how we decide to implement this principle, however, it is possible we may find ourselves held hostage by whichever group is willing to be the most violent—forced to bend to their will, lest innocent people die. Or we may find ourselves in an increasingly totalitarian state that excuses its threats of violence as necessary to stop violence, as speech and action are increasingly restricted.

Once again, we cannot be agnostic.

In our attempts to be tolerant and to avoid violence, we must remember the things that we value enough to fight and possibly, die for. We must not forget that we viewed Great Britain’s Coercive Acts as intolerable enough to start a revolutionary war and that we viewed the dissolution of the Union as intolerable enough to endure a prolonged and bloody civil war. We cannot be, nor should we be, perfectly tolerant. We should not delude ourselves that every disagreement can be resolved through dialogue.

While it is important for us to come together and work to address shared concerns and strive to reach shared goals, it is important to remember that cultures and religions have fundamental and occasionally contradictory principles. To pretend that they are all compatible and ultimately interchangeable—just with different veneers on the same feel-good message—in addition to being a dangerous self-deception, would be to disrespect the rich intellectual, historical, and spiritual traditions that lie behind them.

Great America

Prepare, Don’t Panic

The restrictions being imposed around the country may be justified. But let’s apply them with caution, with perspective, and with an awareness of what we’re sacrificing.

A month before our first child was born my wife and I took one of those baby safety courses. It was taught by an emergency medical technician who had seen many horrific deaths of babies and children, and had become an expert at preventing such tragedies.

The course was like a sick parody of the old Irving Maimway skit on “Saturday Night Live.” The instructor kept ranting about dead babies, screaming “You just killed your baby!” at people who gave what he considered the wrong answers to his questions. 

Lollipops were a particular obsession of his. Children’s airways aren’t developed enough for them until about age eight or 10, he claimed, and pediatricians who gave them to younger patients were ignorant of the current literature and irresponsibly putting children’s lives at risk. 

You can imagine what he thought about slides and seesaws.

Of course, by virtue of the nature of his work, he was speaking from the unfortunate experience of having seen all the horror stories he railed about—the lollipop deaths, the monkey-bar maimings, the dead 2-year-old in Central Park whose father had given him a piece of apple. He was immersed in them, and he’d studied up and become an expert on them. But as a result, he’d totally lost perspective and common sense, monomaniacally focused on averting death to the exclusion of all the joys of childhood and the capacities of most parents to mitigate risk on their own.

This story has come back to me in thinking about the coronavirus pandemic and the reaction to it, because it illustrates two of the three reasons why I’m in the “Don’t panic” camp: skepticism of the temperance of so-called experts, and concern about the human and social costs of a worldview that maximizes mere self-preservation over the joy of life. 

A third reason is a practical political one that I think should give pause to those on the Right who are hopping on the panic train: encouraging inordinate physical fear of anything ultimately will help the Left on everything—including the border security issues.

I’m not going to focus here on the statistical disputes about the constantly changing estimates of transmission rates and case fatality rates, or on reports that up to 80 percent of cases are either mild or have essentially no symptoms at all. Nor am I even going to argue about all the other pandemic scares that fizzled: H1N1, West Nile, Swine Flu, SARS, MERS, Zika, etc. The concerns I raise are important even if—perhaps especially if—this time the experts have finally cried wolf about a real wolf, and this really is The Big One.

The Experts. We’re hearing a lot of counsel demanding we listen to the medical and scientific “experts,” and mockery of President Trump for his skepticism about trusting their judgment to the exclusion of all else.

But just a few weeks ago some of those very same medical experts, from the World Health Organization and the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet, published a preposterous report purporting to show that the United States scored only 39th among the world’s nations in “child flourishing,” largely because we are supposedly outranked by third-world countries on “sustainability.”

This politically correct folly was no one-off aberration. In 2018 the leading science journal Nature editorialized that “institutions have a moral and ethical duty to make scientific research more diverse and representative. Improving the participation of under-represented groups is not just fairer—it could produce better research.” Another scientific journal recently ran this article calling for “a Critical Approach That Centers Inclusion, Equity, and Intersectionality.” And in January The Lancet lectured that “defending whiteness . . . kills.”

This is all voodoo, not science. I would go so far as to call it anti-scientific, ideologically driven, quasi-religious nonsense. And sometimes it goes beyond being silly and threatens monstrous, irreparable harm to vulnerable human beings—as with the current policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics banning treatment of gender dysphoric children except to allow them to begin “transitioning” with puberty-blocking hormones as early as eight and mastectomies or castration as early as 16.

If we only cared about maximizing everyone’s odds of survival we really would raise the drinking age to 55 and lower the speed limit to 21. Thankfully we don’t.

So, as I struggled with in this short piece a few years ago, we’re really at sea in trying to make sense of scientific issues these days, with so much of “the scientific community” not just hopelessly politicized but having gone down a cult-like ideological rabbit hole. This is not to say that they’re always wrong, and it’s certainly not evidence that they are wrong about COVID-19. 

But like all of us, scientists and doctors are humans subject to passions. And so many scientists and doctors have become zealots about theirs—on everything from the environment to sex identity that we can no longer take them at their word with blind faith. All we’re left with is our common sense and perspective, which should always counsel a bit of healthy skepticism, particularly when the experts’ warnings just happen to line up both with their institutional/bureaucratic interest in expanding their domains, and their philosophical/occupational tendency towards fearfulness. (Remember that baby safety course instructor.)

All this, by the way, would have been good advice for policymakers even before the age of political correctness. Experts notoriously get things wrong. It’s the job of government leaders to bring policy perspective and experience to bear on their recommendations (for example, by asking how a new virus strain compares to previous ones and to the common flu). It will be important to keep perspective in mind going forward, and not rotely accept “expert” prescriptions on a range of questions from trade to climate change, even if they turn out to have finally gotten one right on the Wuhan virus.

Political Implications. The ideological lines have been more blurred than many realize over coronavirus. A writer in Slate advises that the virus “isn’t as deadly as we think” while several conservative intellectuals such as Claire Lehmann of Quillette and Rod Dreher are leading the drumbeat for the most extreme and socially disruptive responses. This view is most common among my own faction of the Right—populist-nationalist cultural conservatives—and is perhaps understandable given what the spread of the virus says about the dangers of globalization. And about the criminal scandal of allowing 97 percent of our drug supply to be controlled by China.

But they’re still making a mistake politically if they throw in with panic. 

To be blunt, the major political-cultural divide of the era is between John Wayne and Pajama Boy, between fear and dependence on the one hand, and strength, toughness, and courage (“toxic masculinity” if you will) on the other.

Between “the Mommy Party and the Daddy Party.”

Yes, I know, I know; I can hear the shrieks of derision: “What’s strength and macho got to do with it? You can’t beat up a virus, you stupid Neanderthal.” And of course, you can’t. But I’m talking about a mindset here. And to the extent that public policy encourages a mindset of fear it will always redound to the benefit of the Mommy Party.This should concern not just social conservatives like me who worry about things like “toughness,” but economic conservatives who worry about dependence on government.

To take one obvious example, which also ties in to the discussion above: if we teach people to fear calamity, and to accept the word of the experts, how do we dispute the “97 percent scientific consensus” on global warming—and what will likely soon be the consensus of the politicized scientific community that only measures like the Green New Deal will avert the imminent catastrophe?

Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Broader Considerations. There are broader concerns as well that counsel against encouraging fear. These overlap a bit with the political considerations, but they should be of concern to people across the political spectrum.

The first issue is “the human cost of a widespread economic shutdown,” as Steve Malanga discussed in City Journal the other day. Concern about “the economy” is not just about the stock market and corporate profits; it’s about real people losing jobs and having to scrounge to support their families. Financial deprivation and anxiety about it entail health risks that have to be weighed along with the risk of the virus. Economic disruptions like shutting down public places may be necessary, but should not be undertaken hastily out of undue fear.

Beyond this, there are more fundamental questions about the import of a populace cowering in fear, and about a worldview that elevates maximizing the odds of survival above all else. I don’t know how to quantify these intangibles, but somehow they have to be factored into the risk equations.

And policymakers, particularly right-of-center policymakers, have generally done so in other areas. This is captured by one of my favorite political quotes, from an upstate New York State Senator named Vincent Graber, who said in response to liberal arguments about “the death rate” in a debate on one of the following two issues: “We could really reduce the death rate if we lowered the speed limit to 21 and raised the drinking age to 55.”

The social and human impact of a populace cowering in fear—physically afraid of others and, as necessarily follows, looking out only for themselves—should scare (pun intended) both tough-guy conservatives and touchy-feely liberals. Do we really want to live in a world without either heroism or hugs?

My point is not that it’s courageous to expose yourself to the small risk of disease, but that a public steeped in fear, encouraged to indulge rather than overcome that fear, will be less likely to display courage on anything. Will they run into the Battery Tunnel towards the burning towers as the off-duty firemen did on 9/11? And where are we as a society, what kind of people are we, without these objectively foolhardy actions?

Finally, as a 64-year-old with what might qualify as a pre-existing respiratory issue, I think I understand one reason why, paradoxically, older people seem to be no more panicked about the virus than younger people—and far less supportive of drastic responses to it. The older you are the less likely you are to maximize the odds of self-preservation over all other considerations.

We hear that younger people shouldn’t hug grandma, shouldn’t even visit her, lest they infect her; as a matter of fact, grandma should sit inside alone, cut off from all human contact. But a hug from her grandchildren, or a visit with friends, or just the dignity of going about her life, may all mean more to grandma than mere life extension.

This is why Senator Graber’s joke rings so true. If we only cared about maximizing everyone’s odds of survival we really would raise the drinking age to 55 and lower the speed limit to 21. Thankfully we don’t.

I’m not saying the restrictions being imposed around the country are necessarily unjustified. But let’s apply them with caution, with perspective, and with an awareness of what we’re sacrificing.

Great America

A Sign of Hope in the Coronavirus Pandemic

As the weather warms, we have reason to hope for a respite. Yes, ironically, the key to humanity’s salvation (not doom) might be in global warming

In H.G. Wells’ classic novel, The War of the Worlds, humanity is set upon by an unbeatable army of technologically-advanced aliens. All of mankind’s defenses barely slow the marauding army as it swiftly conquers humanity leaving the survivors to hide and try to survive. In the end, nature saved humanity by infecting the aliens with microbes that were novel to their alien immune systems.

The novel coronavirus feels like a “black swan” type catastrophe. I’m old enough to have lived through three or perhaps four of these panics: The 1999 Y2K panic, September 11, and the 2008 financial crash. Gather around, young people, for some unsolicited optimism about this current crisis.

There are signs that nature will save humanity from this virus. The main reason? Coronavirus doesn’t seem to do well in warm weather. 

Outside of China, the top infection zones are Iran (10,075 cases), South Korea (7,869 cases), Italy (12,462 cases), France (2,284 cases), Spain (2,277 cases) and Germany (2,078 cases). Tehran, the apparent epicenter of Iran’s infection, has an average March temperature high of 61 degrees and a low of 44 degrees. South Korea’s epicenter, Daegu, averages 54 and 38. One of Italy’s top infection zones, Bergamo, averages 57 and 39. In the United States, Seattle appears to be our top infection zone. Its temperatures in March average 52 and 42.

Contrast that to countries near China that have remained relatively unscathed. India has a mere 73 cases but averages temperatures of 91 and 70 in March. Vietnam, which shares a border with China, has a mere 39 cases. Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, has an average March high of 93 and a low of 76. Thailand has had only 70 cases. It’s capital, Bangkok averages March temperatures of 94 and 78.

Hot places seem also to have fewer deaths. Vietnam has had no deaths. Cambodia, only one. India, only one. In contrast, Italy has had nearly 1,300 deaths as of this writing. 

There are exceptions. Canada has had only 117 cases and a single death. But the trend appears encouraging: As the summer sun warms our environment, so nature may slow this terrifying pandemic. Even more encouraging, the warm climates seem to feature a lower mortality rate. Fewer people catch the virus but even fewer die from it.

Is it possible to simulate these effects by turning up thermostats? By wearing heavier clothing? By exercising vigorously? It’s not known at this point. But a summer slow-down of the virus would buy critical breathing space for scientists to study and develop more effective countermeasures. 

As for the economic impact of the virus, there’s reason for optimism there, too. The fallout from the supply interruption of Chinese-based manufacturing doesn’t appear likely to spread to warmer venues such as Mexico, India, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The disruption in China will have a permanent effect of forcing the world to reduce its vulnerability to supply chains dependent on China. Long-term, that’s a good thing. 

In the short term, China has not yet recovered but nevertheless is operating at around 50 percent capacity. Many people predicted dire projections about coming pharmaceutical shortages because so many drugs are made in China. But, as a result of a major fiscal year 2016-17 supply disruption, “domestic companies have diversified their sourcing away from China. Accordingly, API imports more than halved to USD 408 million in FY2018 from USD 866 million in FY2014.”

Bottom line: The world is not about to end. Coronavirus, and the reaction to the pandemic, obviously will cause major disruptions. But as the weather warms, we have reason to hope for a respite. 

Yes, ironically, the key to humanity’s salvation (not doom) might be in global warming

Books & Culture

A review of “I Still Believe” (Co-directed by Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin, Rated PG, 115 minutes)

‘I Still Believe’ and the Maturing of Christian Film

It’s a high-water mark and a bid for the mainstream from a faith-based film industry that has produced uneven product in its several decades coming of age.

IStill Believe,” the new film by directors Andrew and Jon Erwin, represents a high point of the Christian film industry. Faith-based films have been hugely successful in recent years, even if they haven’t attained the aesthetic excellence of more secular films. With the beautifully shot, smartly edited, and wonderfully acted “I Still Believe,” that has changed. “I Still Believe” is not a masterpiece, but it is a very good film that can compete with mainstream Hollywood.

It’s 1999, and musician Jeremy Camp (K.J. Apa) leaves home in Indiana for a Christian college in California. At school Jeremy meets Melissa (Britt Robertson). They fall in love, and Jeremy intends to propose, but Melissa is unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer. Defying his parents and the culture at large, Jeremy and Melissa marry.

Jeremy willingly walks into a situation that is going to end badly—one from which most young people would run. Melissa is interested in astronomy, and she compares herself to a dying star whose brilliant transformation will provide the cosmic dust for the creation of even more abundant life. She accepts her end as part of a larger plan.

The story is based on the real-life romance between Christian singer Jeremy Camp and Melissa Henning, a story told in Camp’s book I Still Believe. The film is one of the first movies produced by the Kingdom Story Company, a production company specializing in Christian films that are distributed through Lionsgate. The Erwin brothers are central players in the company; Jon Erwin compared Kingdom to a “Christian Pixar” or “Christian Marvel.”

Andrew Erwin last month explained the goal: “Our focus is still firmly rooted within the church, but it’s focused out . . . And so our goal is to reach out beyond the church walls to engage a generation that’s walking away from the church—as an introduction to Christianity.”

“I Still Believe” represents something of a reversal of the old theme of secular versus religious movies and, in fact, is better than most recent Marvel movies.

For decades secular audiences considered Christian movies like “Left Behind” and “God’s Not Dead” as bromides, a cheesy celluloid form of confirmation bias for Bible Belt believers. In these films the protagonist is challenged with a crisis, but because God is all-powerful and in charge, the main thing to do is hunker down, pray, and endure things until deliverance—or accept the tragic outcome as His will. For secularists, this supposedly infantile outlook sits in contrast to the grim but adult realism of more mainstream cinema, with the struggling anti-heroes who seemed to more accurately reflect the ambiguous lives of people in the audience. Films like “Chinatown,” “Lady Bird,” “Parasite,” “Moonlight” and even “The Bad News Bears” reflect an adult world of compromise, violence, and disappointment with only intermittent or questionable redemption. It’s why “Goodfellas” is considered a masterpiece and the Christian feel-good film “The Ultimate Gift” is not.

In recent years, however, it is mainstream Hollywood that has become more and more fantastical, as Christian films have become more realistic. Superhero franchises have taken over Hollywood—movies like “The Avengers” that recycle the same plot over and over again. A threat to the galaxy is coming, and a band of flawed but lovable heroes assembles to take it on.

“Joker,” 2019’s most lucrative and highly praised film (it was nominated for 11 Oscars and won two), dramatizes the sad life of a clown whose life circles a drain of abuse and neglect until the only solution is a purgative eruption of violence. Praised for its realism, “Joker” is heavily indebted to Martin Scorsese’s films “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy.” Unlike “Joker,” however, those films had flashes of humor and even tenderness that balanced out the mayhem. “Joker” opens with a mugging and ends with a murderous riot, with nothing but more misery in between. Life certainly has its problems, but it is rarely so unremittingly bleak as “Joker” suggests.

“I Still Believe” is a much more accurate, and even adult, reflection of real life. What is it like for a person who is faced with an unbearable tragedy but who is determined not only to walk through it without completely surrendering to resentment, but to accept that suffering ultimately might have meaning? Of course, this being a faith-based film, Jeremy will accept Melissa’s death as part of God’s will. But “I Still Believe” doesn’t avoid the pain, rage, and doubts that come—and linger—with such a tragedy.

In one of the best scenes, Jeremy talks with his dad, Tom (Gary Sinise), about the “why” of it all. Sinise, a Hollywood veteran, offers a wonderfully nuanced exploration of the mystery of how self-sacrifice and life’s disappointments paradoxically can enrich us. “I had a lot of plans that didn’t work out,” Tom tells his son, “yet I stand here feeling like a very rich man.”

Sinise doesn’t deliver with blankly born-again optimism. He has real regret, he’s often tired, and he second-guesses how the whole divine-plan thing works. Yet the kids he wasn’t sure he wanted—including one who is developmentally disabled—have filled him up. To paraphrase Richard John Neuhaus, Tom has reached a faithful simplicity that lies on the far side of complexity.

After many films and several hits, the Erwin brothers are now expert filmmakers. Their previous films include “October Baby” (2011), a Christian pro-life drama, “Moms’ Night Out” (2014), and sports drama “Woodlawn” (2015). Their music biopic “I Can Only Imagine” was the most successful independent film of 2018. It made $86 million in worldwide box office against a production budget of $7 million. In “I Still Believe,” cinematography, acting, direction, editing, and music all work flawlessly and even with subtlety—something that is not always the case in Christian films. It’s a high-water mark and a bid for the mainstream from a faith-based film industry that has produced uneven product in its several decades coming of age.

News

Morning Greatness: China Claims Wuhan Flu Came From America

Good Friday morning.

Here’s what is on the president’s agenda today:

  • The president meets with Industry Executives on COVID-19 Response

I have a condensed version of the Greatness for you this morning.

Julie Kelly and I have a podcast, here is a link to our latest episode. Go have a listen.

The Wuhan Flu i is closing everything: schools, sports events, Broadway and Disneyland
Chinese Foreign Ministry suggests US Army to blame for coronavirus pandemic
China falsely blames US for coronavirus pandemic
Despite entry of large private labs, coronavirus tests remain scarce in U.S.
Sam Bee Calls Out Virus ‘Racism,’ Tying to China Is ‘Racist Orchestra’
New Roche coronavirus test wins emergency U.S. approval
Graham to self-quarantine after Mar-a-Lago trip
Wait, how did Lindsey get a test? Lindsey Graham awaiting coronavirus test results, self-quarantining in meantime
She might be right. AOC claims US coronavirus testing reaches ‘wealthy and powerful’ sooner
Sick, but denied coronavirus testing
Ohio health official estimates 100,000 people in state have coronavirus
Without Evidence, Politico Suggests Trump Intentionally Exempted His Resorts From Travel Restrictions
Trump expected to sign order unleashing coronavirus funding
Belgium closes schools, bars and restaurants
LOL. Trump officials did sound the coronavirus alarm. They just don’t work there anymore.
This is Chinese propaganda. Possible anti-Asian hate crime fueled by “bigoted notion” about coronavirus, New York governor says
Coronavirus can live in your body for up to 37 days, according to new study
Globetrotting influencers combatting coronavirus with designer face masks
American Airlines pilot based out of Dallas tests positive for coronavirus
Australian Home Minister Peter Dutton tests positive for coronavirus
Coronavirus school closings: Ohio, Maryland, Michigan become first states to shut all K-12 schools
Wynn Resorts uses thermal cameras to screen guests, 100.4 degrees or higher asked to leave
No penalty? Hotel chains differ on cancellation fee policies around the coronavirus
HHS Secretary Azar: Goverment, hospitals are prepared for worst-case scenario
Newsom executive order allows California to commandeer hotels, motels to house coronavirus patients
Rep. Katie Porter gets CDC chief to agree to pay for coronavirus testing
CIA identifies a suspected case of coronavirus in its workforce in Washington
Broadway shuts its doors over ongoing coronavirus concerns
Scientist links 2 state outbreaks with genetic fingerprints
Fact Check: No, South Korea is Not Beating Coronavirus thru ‘Medicare for All’

Presidential primary:
Oh, really? Biden ad manipulates video to slam Trump
Clowns. Sanders, Biden call for national unity in fight against coronavirus
Karl Rove blasts Biden for ‘crass’ coronavirus fundraising email: ‘Does he have no shame?’

Other morsels:
U.S. surveillance program to expire after renewal stalls in Senate
NYT ‘1619 Project’ Makes Clarification To Essay Amid Controversy
US Strikes Iran-Backed Militia That Hit Iraq Base
The president of US Soccer steps down as he apologizes for legal document’s language
Chelsea Manning ordered released from jail after more than a year locked up
Trump “postpone” idea shot down by Japanese Olympic minister
Human Smugglers Leave Pregnant Migrant, Unborn Child to Die After Fall from U.S. Border Wall
Judge Nukes Trump’s Promise to Protect American Graduates from H-1B Outsourcing

And that’s all I’ve got, now go beat back the angry mob!

Great America

The War on Coronavirus Is Too Important to Be Left to the Scientists

A whole variety of approaches to making a vaccine against the Wuhan virus are being tried. Some will work in the lab, some won’t. But the policy choices involved are beyond the realm of the scientific method.

The prestigious journal Science published a signed editorial on Wednesday attacking President Trump for begging pharmaceutical executives to pursue a vaccine for coronavirus in haste. As the president related, he told the executives, “Do me a favor, speed it up, speed it up.” The editorial claimed that there is no way to speed up the hunt for a vaccine, and that such a request is as idiotic as to ask “do me a favor, hurry up that warp drive.”

The editorial’s criticism would be worth taking seriously given one of two assumptions: Either that there is only one way to make a coronavirus vaccine, and if scientists can’t make that method work, there is nothing more to be done; or, even if there are alternative ways of making a corona vaccine, each alternative will have to be tried and discarded in series before another can be attempted.

But of course, what is true for the war on polio in the 1950s is true for the war on the Wuhan virus.

A whole variety of approaches to making a vaccine against coronavirus are, thank God, being tried. Some will work, but only in the lab, and some won’t work even there. We have reason to hope that some group, somewhere, will come up with a vaccine in time to make a difference. And what vaccines can’t prevent antiviral drugs might mitigate or even cure.

The executives in pharmaceutical companies and in government laboratories will have to face hard choices about how many parallel efforts at vaccines and therapies to fund within their own organizations, and who gets what resources and personnel. The same dilemmas, at higher levels, will be faced by U.S. government officials all the way up to Trump himself. Making the right choices probably will speed the discovery of a vaccine or effective therapy, making the wrong choices will slow it.

But nobody can tell you today which choices will turn out to have been right and which will turn out to have been wrong. And just listening to the scientists isn’t enough, because each scientist involved will push his own pet ideas or her students’ projects. Scientists are human, too.

To fight an ideology more dangerous than coronavirus, national socialism, the Western allies—the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada—worked together to build atomic bombs. To build such bombs required bomb-grade fissile material, and during the war, at least five different methods for manufacturing such materials were pursued in parallel with lavish expenditures.

Of those five methods, one headed up by the great physicist E. O. Lawrence using a variant of his cherished cyclotrons, proved impracticable and wasteful, making only a minor contribution. Two were perfected only years after the war, and two produced bombs for Hiroshima and Nagasaki—but none were developed in time to drop on Hitler.

As French Premier Georges Clemenceau, the Tiger of World War I, once said, “War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men.” The worldwide struggle to mitigate the coronavirus epidemic is enlisting the efforts of tens of thousands of scientists and physicians. But the policy choices involved, even the choices about what countermeasures to employ and what research and what therapies to fund, are far too serious to be left to the judgment of scientists.

US President Donald Trump(C) leaves after speaking about the situation with Iran in the Grand Foyer of the White House in Washington, DC, January 8, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Greatness Agenda

The Slow March to War With Iran Continues

Clearly, the Trump Administration is committed to positioning itself to attack Iran. It looks to be a matter of “when” and not “if.” 

Throughout American history, presidents have made public pronouncements about their desire to avoid war even as they also embraced conflict as a viable tool of national policy. This was the case with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s posture toward the Japanese Empire. And it could also be the case with President Donald J. Trump and Iran.

As Burton W. Folsom, Jr. and Anita Folsom point out in FDR Goes to War: How Expanded Executive Power, Spiraling National Debt, and Restricted Civil Liberties Shaped Wartime America, Roosevelt shocked his “brains trust” advisors during the transition between Herbert Hoover’s and his own administration when he expressed “strong personal sympathy” for the Chinese who had been subjugated by the Japanese. 

FDR soon became possessed of an anti-Japanese fervor that would define his foreign policy toward the Asia-Pacific in the run-up to World War II. FDR even told his advisers that he favored war with Japan “sooner rather than later.” 

Roosevelt’s decision to relocate the U.S. Pacific Fleet from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor, argues Roberta Wohlstetter in Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision, began Japan’s jog to war against the United States. FDR and his civilian planners assumed that moving the fleet would deter Japanese aggression. Many U.S. military leaders disagreed. They argued that the move was an insufficient deterrent and would likely provoke a confrontation with Japan before the U.S. military was prepared for the challenge. The military planners proved to be correct. 

Iran and America Are Already at War

Today, a similar state of affairs exists with Iran. 

A regional power possessed of extreme, religiously-inspired delusions of grandeur, the Iranians have been on an almost evangelical mission to spread their Shia Islamism and national influence by sword across the whole of the chaotic Middle East. They’ve gained undue influence in Iraq and have managed to place forces in dangerous proximity to traditional U.S. regional allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, thanks to their efforts to support the Houthi Rebels of Yemen (to target Saudi Arabia) and their support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria (thereby targeting neighboring Israel). 

Despite the president’s insistence that he has no appetite for new foreign wars, the Trump Administration consistently has opposed Iranian aggression across the Middle East.

Since taking office in 2017, Trump systematically has imposed economic sanctions and ratcheted up the military pressure on the rogue state. Notably, the president fulfilled his campaign promise of abandoning the Obama Administration’s ill-advised nuclear agreement with Iran, which merely delayed rather than denied the mullahs the ability to develop a nuclear weapon. 

All of these actions, much like FDR’s actions against Japan, make an actual war more, not less likely. 

The Iranian regime and the Trump Administration already have escalated the conflict—whether it be Iran’s insane attack on Saudi oil production facilities, or the U.S. killing of Iranian Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani, and the subsequent Iranian rocket attacks on American bases in Iraq that resulted in 109 traumatic brain injuries to U.S. service members stationed there, the two sides are escalating against each other.

For example, the White House recently approved plans to sell Israel eight KC-46A mid-air refueling planes that would make it easier for Israel’s air force to strike unilaterally against suspected Iranian nuclear weapons sites. Moreover, Israel has increased its military’s operational tempo against Iranian forces in Syria. Israel’s top think tank, the Institute for National Security Affairs, warned that Israel would face a war this year with Iranian proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Americans also have increased their naval patrols directed against illicit Iranian weapons shipments to Houthi Rebels and Assad’s forces in Syria. Meantime, a massive cyber war is underway between the two powers just beyond the sight of the public. Any of these actions could lead to open conflict between Iran and the United States. 

These actions mirror the escalation that occurred between the United States and the Japanese Empire in 1940-41. As the year progresses, the slow march to war will intensify—particularly as Iran presses ahead with their development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles. 

The only saving grace here is that the coronavirus pandemic appears to be weakening Iran at a time when Iran’s economy and political situation were already deteriorating. Yet, neither a flagging politico-economic situation nor the presence of a novel pandemic likely is enough to deter Iran. 

A Real War In Very Near Future?

Clearly, the Trump Administration is committed to positioning itself to attack Iran. It looks to be a matter of “when” and not “if.” 

Perhaps such a conflict will begin after Trump’s reelection. Already, American war planners have spoken of designs to cleave bits of oil-rich and strategic territories along Iran’s coastline away from Iranian control. Ultimately, as it was for FDR, the goal of the Trump Administration appears to be to deprive Iran’s regime of its territorial expansion by protecting U.S. allies, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, while seeking regime change through nonmilitary and, potentially, military means. 

There will be disagreements on the Left and Right as to the efficacy of this policy. But everyone should agree that it’s irresponsible to let Iran acquire nuclear arms and use those weapons (or the threat of using them) to continue their reckless foreign policy in the region. 

Nevertheless, embroiling the United States in what would be another major war in the Middle East might not be the best thing for either the country or for Trump’s historic presidency. 

The American people must be allowed to have an actual national debate—precisely what we were denied in the run-up to the Iraq War. Before the Trump Administration potentially commits this country to war once again, Americans need the opportunity to be persuaded that it’s necessary.

At this point, though, it seems that a war with Iran is a foregone conclusion at some point within the next four years. With the coronavirus driving down demand for oil globally and the price of crude sinking to historic lows—some are even predicting we could reach $20 a barrel this year—a Mideast war might be appealing to all parties, since it would most likely lead to a spike in oil prices.

After Iranian-backed militias operating in Iraq launched a rocket attack that killed and wounded U.S. and British troops at a base in northern Iraq, American warplanes took to the skies over Baghdad and blasted the suspected base from which the Iranian-supported militia launched the attack. This is yet another round in a seemingly ceaseless cycle of escalation that will eventuate in greater conflict and regional destabilization. 

Don’t be fooled: just as conflict with Japan was a fait accompli by the summer of 1940, at this point, some direct conflict with Iran is on its way. 

Are you ready?

Great America

Alleged Racism Does Not Justify A Mass Shooting

There’s a clear double standard when the media asks all white Americans to take responsibility for one maniac’s mass shooting, yet we’re supposed to sympathize with black mass shooters whenever there is even a dubious charge of racism.

A gunman killed five people at the Molson Coors factory in Milwaukee last month. The black shooter’s rampage ended when he killed himself.

This is a horrible outrage that cannot be justified on any grounds. Unfortunately, the mainstream media wants to paint a sympathetic picture of the black gunman. In mass shootings committed by white gunmen, the media blames toxic white masculinity, guns, and white America in general for the violence. In this case, however, the media blames racism and tries to excuse his violence.

The Washington Post, CNN, NBC News, and several other outlets published reports that the shooter allegedly experienced racism at the Molson Coors factory. One incident included a noose being placed on his locker several years ago. Even though every major outlet wants to blame racism for the shooting, police have ruled it out as a motive and emphasize that none of the victims were involved in the alleged incidents of bigotry.

The media still wants to pin the blame on racism, however. This creates a far more sympathetic portrait of a mass shooter than typical mass shooter coverage. It also blames the factory and the victims for the violence instead of the gunman. It’s disgusting, but it should be expected.

There was a very similar case in 2010 when another black shooter murdered eight of his co-workers at a Connecticut beer distillery. Before killing himself, this shooter called his family to tell them he “killed the five racists.” His family blamed the racism the black gunman allegedly faced at his job for the mass shooting. It turned out that the killer’s claims were completely bogus. As it turned out, the gunman had been fired for stealing beer and was angry about it. Before the truth came out, the media aired the racism claims uncritically and portrayed the man in a more sympathetic light than most mass shooters.

In 1993, a Jamaican immigrant also tried to blame racism for his mass shooting aboard a Long Island train. That shooter killed six people in what his lawyers claimed was a case of “black rage.” Black rage, according to his lawyers, was a result of the alleged racism he suffered in New York on a daily basis. Therefore, his lawyers contended, the shooter could not be held criminally liable. Happily, the justice system disagreed and sentenced the Long Island Railroad shooter to 315 years in prison.

The sympathetic coverage of black mass shooters lashing out at racism encourages other offenders to justify their behavior with similar excuses. When a white boy was brutally beaten on a school bus last year by black youths, the parents of the youths claimed the white victim used racial slurs. That claim managed to convince some, including the conservative blog Red State, that the assault wasn’t just a brutal mob beating.

Former Florida State football player De’Andre Johnson tried to wiggle out of a 2015 assault charge by claiming his female victim called him a racial slur. Surveillance footage showed Johnson slugging a white woman in the face at a bar. His only defense was that she called him a name. The justice system didn’t buy his defense and he was sentenced to 10 days in jail.

Unfortunately, not every instance of this defense is disregarded and prosecuted like Johnson’s. It has worked in a few cases.

Florida prosecutors dropped murder charges against a black man who beat a white man to death in a parking lot brawl. The black man said he beat the white man after hearing his victim call him the “n”-word. Even though the man admitted to the killing, authorities dropped the charges due to “insufficient evidence.”

People kill for different reasons. The victim may have angered the killer. It’s possible a shooter had a bad day at work and broke down. Maybe some killers even do experience legitimate and contemptible racism. But none of these things excuse the senseless slaughter of innocent people.

There’s a clear double standard when the media asks all white Americans to take responsibility for one maniac’s mass shooting, yet we’re supposed to sympathize with black mass shooters whenever there is even a dubious accusation of racism.

The most troubling part about the press coverage of such crimes is that insinuates it’s OK to murder people if you feel you have suffered racism. Any maniac can now expect similarly muted coverage if he has the right skin color and the right storyline. We didn’t have to listen to heartfelt reports about the bullying suffered by the Parkland shooter or the misfortunes of the Charleston, S.C. church shooter.

We shouldn’t have to hear them about other mass shooters just because they happen to be black.

Greatness Agenda

Evidence: China Executes Political Prisoners to Harvest Organs

The Chinese Communist Party treats the question of transplant volume as a state secret. But evidence is emerging that suggests China’s ready supply of organs is related to the dwindling number of government dissenters.

China’s organ transplantation system appears capable of working miracles. Need a new liver? You can get one in 24 to 72 hours—for a price. To anyone familiar with the voluntary organ donation system in the United States, where the median wait time for a liver exceeds 300 days, such availability raises the question about organ sourcing.

How does the Chinese system locate, identify, and match a deceased donor within such a short timeframe?

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) on Tuesday released “Organ Procurement and Extrajudicial Execution in China: A Review of the Evidence,” a report by China Studies Research Fellow Matthew P. Robertson that examines the evidence underlying allegations of extrajudicial killing for the harvesting of organs by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The report, together with the final judgment of the China Tribunal charged with investigating the question of the criminal liability of the Chinese state with respect to forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, challenges international complacency on the topic.

The World Health Organization and the International Transplant Society simply accept the assertion of the CCP that the Chinese organ transplant system is both ethical and voluntary. World governments do not publicly challenge China as to the source of its organs, and international medical and human rights organizations fail to raise public concerns as to the scale of the PRC transplant system and the real source of organs.

Given the evidence of ongoing organ trafficking, the falsification of official datasets, and the signs that Uyghur Muslims may be the latest victims of this form of state predation, the necessity of coordinated, international action is clear.

Robertson found that starting in 2000, China rapidly constructed a world-class organ transplantation system that began performing tens of thousands of transplants annually.

At first, Chinese officials claimed that all organs were from voluntary civilian donors. When this claim became untenable, they stated that organs, in fact, were harvested from death-row prisoners.

The claim that even the majority of organs could have come from death row prisoners is contradicted by the well-established decline in death-row executions from 2000 onward.

A close examination of Chinese transplant activity indicates that hospitals have been performing at least several times more transplants than even the largest estimates of death-row prisoners. Given this, Robertson provisionally concludes that the Chinese had some other organ source apart from death-row inmates.

Robertson also found the number of emergency liver transplants (that is, transplants performed within 24–72 hours of a patient’s presentation at a hospital with liver failure) or on an “on-demand” basis (within days or weeks) expanded significantly post-2000. This is an extremely strong indication of a blood-typed pool of living donors able to be executed on demand.

If death row prisoners were not the source of the majority of transplants, Robertson contends the only remaining plausible explanation for a substantial portion of the organ sourcing since 2000 is prisoners of conscience.

China’s anti-Falun Gong campaign in July 1999 coincided with the rapid growth of China’s transplant industry six months later. Widely reported blood tests and physical examinations consistent with those required for organ procurement, telephone admissions by Chinese doctors, threats of organ harvesting by prison and labor camp guards, and participation in the anti-Falun Gong campaign by Chinese transplant surgeons all serve as evidence supporting this conclusion.

Since 2015 and due to international pressure, China’s organ transplantation system has claimed to source organs from voluntary donors only. Forensic analysis of the relevant data shows that it has been falsified. This appears to have been a deliberate attempt to deceive the international medical community as to the current source of organs in China. Given that transplants continue both at scale and on-demand, it appears that a secondary concealed organ source is currently also being exploited.

During the same period, the Chinese Communist Party has embarked upon a large-scale campaign against Uyghur Muslims. Part of this campaign has included blood-testing, DNA typing, and the reported shipment of Uyghurs from Xinjiang to the Chinese interior by rail. Former Uyghur detainees now in exile have reported blood tests and physical examinations consistent with those necessary to establish organ health.

The coincidence of the mass internment in Xinjiang, on-going rapid organ availability in Chinese hospitals, and blood and physical tests consistent with assessing organ health, is readily explicable by the exploitation of Uyghurs for their organs.

Chinese officials treat the question of transplant volume as a state secret. When asked about it, they deflect and obfuscate. At this stage, only the CCP is in a position to put these allegations to rest.

If the allegations of systematic state-sanctioned and supported murder for the purposes of selling organs are vicious slanders, one would expect the CCP to be transparent in demonstrating the legitimate and ethical source of transplanted organs. Instead, they have co-opted international medical elites, responded with propaganda to those making the allegations, and engaged in an elaborate scheme of data falsification, creating a Potemkin voluntary donation system while continuing to offer organs on-demand to paying clients.

In short, they behave like people with something to hide.

VOC published this report to bring attention to and careful consideration of these longstanding allegations, and to prompt not only a shift in the terms of debate on this issue but long-overdue American and international governmental investigation and action.

The price of a Chinese transplant is not paid in dollars and cents, but rather in the lives of the prisoners of conscience whose organs are harvested. The price is too high.

News

Morning Greatness: Wuhan-Media Virus Infects America’s Information Stream

Good Wednesday morning.

Here is what’s on the president’s agenda today:

  • The president meets with the Secretary of State
  • President Trump meets with Bankers on COVID-19 Response
  • The President and First Lady have dinner with the Vice President and Mrs. Pence
  • 5:30PM Members of the Coronavirus Task Force hold a press briefing

Biden cleans up at Tuesday primaries

Sleepy Joe who had another “episode” yesterday, gathered more delegates in the primaries than Bernie Sanders. Pundits praised Biden’s electoral prowess but remember this Biden surge is mostly manufactured by the media. Biden was tanking and the establishment-media complex was all about Mike Bloomberg until he beclowned himself beyond belief at his lone debate performance. The Democrat machine doesn’t have anyone else to support after the poor performances in Nevada and South Carolina of Warren, Amy!, and Mayor Pete. It had to be Joe.

The problem is Sleepy Joe has to be heavily managed because he is clearly “off.” He already has had his campaign appearances shortened to prevent him from phasing out and going off piste. This is what Hillary’s handlers did and the media will let them get away with it. I remember after the 2016 election, reading the book “Shattered” which was supposed to be about Hillary shattering the glass ceiling but was quickly edited to reflect her the shattered presidential ambitions. The book was brutal about her campaign shenanigans but all the scoop in the book was withheld from the public during the campaign to protect her. The media will protect Biden in the same way. His campaign handlers will wheel him out with pope-mobile like security, he will speak briefly and they will pack him up and take him to the next location. But it’s a done deal, it’s going to be Biden.

Can Biden be managed in a debate setting? A debate is set for Sunday with Bernie (without an audience) but Biden might just pull out of it claiming nomination victory.  He will have to debate Trump and that will be quite a production.

Related:
REPORT: DNC Asked Twitter To Label Trump Campaign’s Video ‘Manipulated Media’ On Behalf Of Biden Team
Of course he does. Rep. Jim Clyburn Wants DNC To Cancel Future Debates
Next Democratic debate ditches live audience over coronavirus fears
Exit polls show Joe Biden primary wins fueled by women, African American voters
Trump campaign announces Wisconsin event shortly after White House advises to ‘avoid crowding’
Andrew Yang endorses Joe Biden for president

Wuhan-Media virus infects America’s information stream

The ghoulish media and the Democrats continue to showcase Wuhan Flu, criticizing the administration, gleefully reporting its spread, business hardships and event cancellations. How should this epidemic have been handled? We don’t know because we don’t get solutions from the resistance only screaming. And yes, it’s the WUHAN FLU, that’s a fact-based description. It’s not racist, the flu originated from Wuhan. Full stop.

During the daily Wuhan-media virus press briefing yesterday, “journalist” Jim Acosta asked the task force if President Trump was still going to shake hands with people. UM…that’s your question about this plague devastating our community and sickening people?!? Not about the vaccine, not about further travel restrictions or what measures are recommended for nursing home residents but Trump’s hand-shaking. What a clown, really. There’s another crisis in America, and that’s the crisis of trust in the media. We are experiencing a public health crisis and the corporate media cannot be trusted to accurate report information. It’s scary.

Expect this continue because as more tests become available, more people will be officially diagnosed with the virus and the media will proudly display the disease count. Now remember, this virus first appeared at the end of November in China. Infected people were moving around the planet for at least two months before restrictions were put in place. This virus has been simmering in the population for awhile. I’m not downplaying it, if you are older and compromised please take extreme care. I’ve quarantined my mother, she is high risk. But if you aren’t in a high risk category, take steps to keep your hands clean with thorough washing and avoid sick people.

Related:
Boston conference is the epicenter of state’s coronavirus outbreak as Massachusetts governor declares state of emergency
US airlines cut more flights as demand plunges due to coronavirus outbreak
Biden to deliver address on coronavirus on Thursday
CDC chief says it’s wrong to call COVID-19 a ‘Chinese virus’
It’s literally from CHINA. Pelosi joins Asian American lawmakers in demanding McCarthy apology for ‘bigoted’ tweet
Trump officials considering extending tax-filing deadline over coronavirus: report
‘They Should Be Ashamed Of Themselves’: Dr. Drew Blasts Media’s Coronavirus Coverage
Gridiron Dinner, an annual D.C. tradition, canceled over coronavirus concerns
Panicked Brits steal hand sanitizer from hospitals during coronavirus shortage
Coronavirus vaccine could be ready by April, Chinese officials say
More than 10,000 people in Italy have coronavirus
New York’s solution to hand sanitizer shortage: Prison labor, hourly wages below $1
White House press sec demands retraction after Vanity Fair reports Trump in ‘total meltdown’ over coronavirus outbreak
Close all of them to visitors. VA nursing homes to stop visitations, new admissions amid coronavirus, except in special cases
WTF? Rep. Matt Gaetz slept in Walmart parking lot overnight, confirms he tested negative for coronavirus
MGM Resorts temporarily closing Las Vegas buffets amid coronavirus outbreak
Brit Hume warns Biden’s gaffes suggest former VP ‘is losing his memory and is getting senile’
TSA says 3 San Jose airport employees have tested positive for coronavirus
Google has asked all of its North America employees to work from home to prevent coronavirus spread
Restaurants struggle to survive as coronavirus turns Seattle into a ghost town

Other morsels:
Minneapolis mayor proclaims March 10 ‘Abortion Provider Appreciation Day’ in the city
Senate to vote Wednesday on reversing DeVos student loan rule
Harvey Weinstein Said Jennifer Aniston ‘Should be Killed’ In Unsealed Court Documents
NY GOP files complaint against Schumer for Supreme Court judge threat
New York man who threatened Ilhan Omar sentenced to year in prison
Pornhub faces bipartisan scrutiny, calls for investigation amid trafficking concerns
House moves forward with FISA overhaul amid ‘spying’ backlash
Trump snubs Sessions, endorses Tuberville in Alabama Senate primary runoff
4 deaths, 30 hospitalizations linked to listeria outbreak in recalled enoki mushrooms

And that’s all I’ve got, now go beat back the angry mob!

Elections

With Joe Biden’s Comeback, the Establishment Comes Out of Hiding

In just a few short days, what was shaping up to be a sad and pathetic end to Biden’s career turned into a richly ironic triumph. The joke’s on us.

Joe Biden’s Super Tuesday comeback is something to be both relished and feared. It is an outrageous, grimly comical turn of events: a 77-year old man who refers to the Declaration of Independence as “the thing” and who seemed to be confused about his own last name is now a leading contender for the White House.

As funny as it may be on the surface, there is something dark and sad about Biden’s rise. The Democratic Party establishment knows Biden is unfit for office. They don’t care. With Biden, the political machinery that usually operates in hiding, in the shadows, has come out into the light, in aviator sunglasses and a sunny grin. The powers-that-be are declaring, openly, that their right to rule will not be reined in by anything, least of all the perception that they are incompetent and out of touch.

Thanks to decades of failed and corrupt leadership, many Americans are developing a creeping and cynical feeling that they don’t have a voice, that voting is like choosing from a carefully crafted menu of options with the same mediocre results. President Biden would prove them right. He would eliminate the mystique that once allowed them to believe our political system is one worth respecting and complete the decline into decadence that characterizes American managerial democracy, which is now at such a late stage of decay it no longer matters if a presidential nominee can tell his wife and sister apart.

Biden’s comeback proves that many things which people thought mattered in the great American clown show of presidential politics actually don’t.

The standards are through the floor: Biden has no policies, no core philosophy, and no special qualities to recommend him other than a perception of “electability” that is driven almost entirely by a sycophantic news media.

A vote for Joe Biden is a vote to remove Trump from office, not to elect Joe Biden. He would be the first president who upon election everyone, most of all his supporters, knows would not be calling the actual shots.

Sanders supporters have now learned a harsh lesson: power, not ideology, is what matters most. Indeed, Biden’s surge has less to do with his so-called “moderate” politics—nothing about the Democratic party is “moderate” anymore—than the fact that Biden can be more easily compromised and controlled than a True Believer like Bernie. That’s the view from the halls of power, at least. There has been a convergence between party elites and primary voters, who chose Biden for similarly un-ideological reasons: they care most about removing Trump from office, and they think Biden is the candidate best positioned to do that. Sanders supporters, reeling from the rebuke of black voters, have now fallen into a familiar revolutionary pattern: blaming an uninformed lumpenproletariat for choosing the “wrong” candidate.

The black and Boomer coalition that chose Biden is just not ideologically driven the way Sanders’ young, liberal supporters are. Notwithstanding the elitism of the Sanders camp, they have a point: not that Biden’s coalition made the “wrong” choice, but that democracy is vulnerable to corruption by powerful interests, in this case the interests almost universally backing Joe Biden.

There was obvious political coordination in Biden’s miraculous “comeback.” Mighty powers came into alignment. Having won the endorsements of former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Biden went into Super Tuesday with an uncrowded field and the sanction of the mainstream media and party elites. The confusion that had troubled primary voters magically dissipated overnight.

It’s not unreasonable to wonder if many, in some sense, were swindled: many of Biden’s voters were late deciders. They were certainly cheated of decent alternatives. Democrats have had four years to find their candidate. Getting rid of Trump is all they’ve been talking about. This is the best that they could do?

Biden also was the beneficiary of a dumbing down of standards and the gamification of presidential politics by the elites. The media, by turning presidential politics into a ridiculous game show, created an environment in which an obviously senile, 77-year-old man could thrive merely because of his association with a beloved figure. Since there are no longer any standards for the presidency, the favor of the media and a scintilla of competence, in this case Biden’s link with Barack Obama, can be game changers.

Super Tuesday itself was the culmination of a tawdry spectacle controlled closely by the corporate media and the DNC. It had only the trappings of democracy. There were “debates” with arbitrary qualifications that shut out some candidates for having the wrong politics, while accommodating other, more powerful players. While lacking in substance, there was plenty of melodrama and meaningless speculation about which candidate was “winning” a media-driven horse race.

The logical outcome of this dumbing down is the scenario now taking shape: Voters accepting propaganda about a candidate with obvious signs of dementia, his “competent” leadership, and other such establishmentarian clichés—it’s about results, not revolution! Another possibility is that primary voters, rather than being duped, are cynically accepting that the myth of technocratic competence is just that—a myth—that the president is only a figurehead for more powerful forces, and that there’s nothing, in short order, that anyone can do about it.

Would Biden “govern” any differently than Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar? Of course not. His presidency would complete decades of America’s transformation into an oligarchical, managerial state.

For sociopathic strivers like Buttigieg, it would be the career opportunity of a lifetime. To Biden’s handlers, America is like a giant tech corporation, and voters are the pliable consumers—impressionable morons who can be won over with cheap slogans. The neoliberal style pioneered by Obama—the president as America’s hip, Silicon Valley-approved CEO—would find a dark echo in the Biden of 2020. The goofy “Uncle Joe” of Obama’s presidency is gone.

And so the most degrading presidential primary in American history is winding down with an anti-climatic deus ex machina. The Democratic Party establishment powers-that-be are tying up this door stopper with a twist, and the revolution that just days ago had liberal news anchors panicking from the comfort of their sinecures has been called off for now.

It’s too bad. Watching the animal fear that Sanders had provoked from the elites, it was possible for conservatives, however briefly, to be excited that a socialist was succeeding. But all of that now feels premature. In just a few short days, what was shaping up to be a sad and pathetic end to Biden’s career turned into a richly ironic triumph. The joke’s on us.

Great America

Some Reality Testing of Rosy Predictions About A Coronavirus Vaccine

A Wuhan virus vaccine in the foreseeable future? Let’s get real. In spite of the rosy predictions by self-interested corporate executives, politicians, and pundits, don’t count on it.

When President Trump met with drug-company executives at the White House on March 2, at the top of the agenda was the development of a vaccine to prevent COVID-19, the respiratory infection caused by the Wuhan coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 (the World Health Organization’s designation for the virus). “We’ve asked them to accelerate” work, the president told reporters.

As the coronavirus outbreak accelerates, with cases now found on every continent except Antarctica, and the world is hit with widespread social and economic disruption, there is intense interest in the development of a vaccine, and several U.S. drugmakers have begun working on them, independently or with the National Institutes of Health.

The media are hungry for claims about vaccines—the more extravagant, the better.

As Fox Business reported on February 13:

We were able to rapidly construct our vaccine in a matter of about three hours once we had the DNA sequence from the virus available because of the power of our DNA medicine platform,” Dr. J. Joseph Kim, Inovio’s [a Pennsylvania-based company] president and CEO, told FOX Business. “Our goal is to start phase-one human testing in the U.S. early this summer.”

Even more bullish was this statement, in a January 30 Wall Street Journal editorial: “It took scientists 20 months to develop a SARS vaccine to test on humans, but the NIH hopes to have a vaccine ready for human trials by April.”

The claims have become even more fantastic. Fox News published this on Monday:

A group of Texas scientists claims to have created a vaccine to prevent the coronavirus and, according to the CEO of the Houston-based engineering company, it could be approved and available to the public by the end of the year.

“We’re confident in the vaccine, the quality of the vaccine completely. The end result will be what the government wants to do in terms of testing,” John Price, CEO of Greffex, told “America’s Newsroom,” Monday.

The article noted, helpfully, that the vaccine would not be made available to hundreds of millions of healthy people simply on the basis of the confidence of the manufacturer’s CEO: “The vaccine will go through numerous testing stages and is not likely to be available to the public, pending approval, until the end of the year.”

Available to the public by “the end of the year.”

Uh-huh.

Let me inject a little reality testing and relevant history into this fairy tale.

Once researchers have a candidate vaccine, the regulators at the Food and Drug Administration get into the act. And therein lies a significant obstacle—an obstacle of which Price should be aware.

The FDA had a significant role in a debacle surrounding a vaccine to prevent swine flu virus infections almost a half-century ago. Of the 45 million people vaccinated against the swine flu in 1976, 450 developed a serious adverse reaction—the rare, paralytic Guillain-Barré syndrome. What made the situation even more unfortunate (for regulators) is that the predicted epidemic never materialized, so the vaccine wasn’t needed.

Once burned, twice shy, the old saying goes. But regulators have a long memory, and the FDA’s regulation of vaccines is especially conservative (read: defensive). The bar has been very high for the approval of vaccines that would be administered to large numbers of healthy people.

For example, before approval, the first rotavirus vaccine (RotaTeq) was tested on 72,000 healthy infants; the first human papillomavirus vaccine (Gardasil) on more than 24,000 people; and the newest shingles vaccine (Shingrix) on about 29,000 subjects. Also, the FDA was woefully slow, lagging behind other countries, in approving the first vaccine against meningococcus B, a life-threatening bacterial infection.

Just planning and getting clinical trials of that magnitude underway would be a major undertaking—recruiting medical practitioners and research institutions and obtaining permission from local institutional review boards, to say nothing of actually producing sufficient vaccine (under stringent “Good Manufacturing Practices” conditions) for the trials. Then comes the accumulation, organization, and analysis of the data, first by the sponsors of the vaccine, then by regulators.

Moreover, to demonstrate efficacy—the ability of the vaccine actually to prevent the coronavirus infection—the trials would need to be done in places where the disease occurs in relatively large numbers. As things stand, that probably means China, where the apparatus for organizing and performing clinical trials is, shall we say, less than optimal.

And by the way, the earlier aforementioned SARS vaccine was never commercialized. The SARS outbreak faded away, as a result of international cooperation and strict, tried-and-true public-health measures such as isolation, quarantine, and contact tracing.

A coronavirus vaccine in the foreseeable future? Let’s get real. In spite of the rosy predictions by self-interested corporate executives, politicians, and pundits, don’t count on it.