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Monday, June 01, 2020

Secure elections are imperative for a free and honest society


The stay-at-home orders, the business and school closures, certainly have introduced a lot of changes to our daily lives. These changes have interfered with some of the spring elections across the land, and created questions about what to do on Election Day in November. That has spawned a movement to use voting by mail as the way to resolve fears and possible problems that voters may encounter by going to their local polling places.

Voter convenience and safety from the COVID-19 virus are cited as reasons for mail-in voting. And we are told that voter fraud does not make a difference in any given election.

But voters in parts of Florida, Missouri, New York, and North Carolina have reasons to disagree, based on what has occurred in recent years.

Voter fraud in these states resulted in overturning elections. The Daily Caller listed 15 state and local election results over the last few years that were overturned due to mail-in voter fraud. Guilty parties were removed from office, fined, or sentenced to community service, probation, or jail time.

The ballot crimes involved bribery, vote buying, ballots stolen from mail boxes, absentee ballots asked for or purchased from valid recipients, voter assistance involving filling out an absentee ballot in a way other than how the voter directed or without direction from the voter, the casting of absentee ballots by persons who did not receive absentee ballots, ballots with forged or not properly witnessed signatures on them, illegally applying for absentee ballots and voting them, racially motivated manipulation of ballots, and obtained and improperly counted defective absentee ballots.

Things were bad enough in Florida that the state Department of Law Enforcement concluded: “The absentee ballot is the ‘tool of choice’ for those who are engaging in election fraud.” 

Things in Texas were no better. An assistant attorney general with the Criminal Prosecutions division in the Attorney General’s Office, Jonathan White, testified that mail ballot fraud “is by far the biggest problem that we see across the state ... It’s the wild West of voter fraud.”

And, highlighting the larger scale problem mail-in voting could cause is this: "A significant increase in mail-in voting this fall could greatly incentivize 'ballot harvesting,' where third parties collect mail-in ballots on behalf of voters and deliver them to election officials," Real Clear Politics reported. "There’s long been a consensus that such a practice incentivizes fraud ..."

To illustrate the risk, Logan Churchwell, a spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), notes that in 2016 Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by garnering over 2.8 million more votes than Donald Trump. But nearly 6 million unaccounted for mail-in ballots were never counted in 2016, more than twice her margin in the popular vote. Based upon this, Clinton may have won the popular vote by a wider margin, or maybe have lost.
Concerns about fraud in mail-in ballots were serious enough that a 2008 report produced by the CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project recommended that states “restrict or abolish on-demand absentee voting in favor of in-person early voting.”
The convenience that on-demand absentees produce “is bought at a significant cost to the real and perceived integrity of the voting process,” the report added.

But the PILF obtained voter data from Oregon, the first state to adopt voting by mail exclusively, for the 2012 and 2018 elections and checked it against census data. Of the 7,000,000 ballots the state sent out in those two elections, some 871,000 ballots were totally unaccounted for.

The U.S. Census Bureau data show that 11 percent of Americans move every year. And it further shows that lower income voters are much more likely to move around. This makes it difficult or impossible to reliably get ballots to the mobile population without lots and lots of ballots going to the wrong address, where they may be illegally marked and submitted.

And the federal Election Assistance Commission reports that between 2012 and 2018, 28.3 million mail-in ballots remain unaccounted for. The missing ballots amount to nearly one in five of all absentee ballots and ballots mailed to voters residing in states that do elections exclusively by mail.

From 2004 to 2016 the number of mail-in ballots more than doubled, from 24.9 million to 57.2 million, and roughly 40 percent of U.S. voting is done by mail.

Yet this huge increase in mail-in ballot use has been accompanied by little if any additional research on the risks of voting by mail, or improved methods to secure the process. And the methods of fraud mentioned could dramatically increase if more than 200 million ballots are mailed out for the November general election.

Every American voter should be concerned about the security of the election process. No election, at any level, can be decided by cheaters who want to overrule the decision of the citizenry for cheap political purposes. State and local governments must insure an honest and fair election process.
If we can go to big box stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and other such places safely by employing safe distancing and other sensible measures, we can safely go to polling places and vote in a more secure process.

Monday, May 25, 2020

A broad, reality-based COVID-19 perspective is desperately needed




Stipulated: COVID-19 is a serious disease. If you get it, you may be in for a few horrible weeks of fighting it. And, you may lose your life.

This coronavirus sneaked out of China, and caught the world by surprise. Very little was known about it, and dealing with it was difficult.

The warnings from scientists about becoming infected were horrifying. Which explains why such drastic actions by federal, state and local officials were so readily obeyed. At first.

As of Sunday, nearly 90,000 Americans had died from it, and about 1.5 million Americans were known to have been infected with the disease. But there are some problems with these numbers.

We really don’t know how many have actually been infected, because many infected people don’t have symptoms, or have mild symptoms, and are not tested. If they aren’t tested, nobody knows they have the virus. An article in Forbes magazine cited a study by a team at Kyoto University estimating that nearly 18 percent of those with the virus had no symptoms. We have learned the percentage of persons tested that have a positive result is about 13 percent.

If testing shows that 1.5 million Americans have the active virus, applying the Kyoto study’s data to that figure means that approximately 1.8 million actually have been infected. Two hundred thousand to three hundred thousand people were going about their business, never knowing they were infected, and could have been infecting others.

The number of people who actually die from it is also uncertain. That’s because if a person passes away and has been infected, the mandated conclusion often is that they died of COVID-19. There is no distinction between whether someone died “because of” the virus, or merely “with” the virus.

Factcheck.org noted in an analysis that “The CDC guidance says that officials should report deaths in which the patient tested positive for COVID-19 — or, if a test isn’t available, ‘if the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty.’ It further indicates that if a ‘definite diagnosis of COVID–19 cannot be made, but it is suspected or likely (e.g., the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), it is acceptable to report COVID-19 on a death certificate as probable or presumed.'”

So, if someone has pneumonia or is run over by a beer truck and dies, and they test positive for the virus, they may be recorded as having died of the virus, whether that was the primary cause of death or not.

In dire situations like this pandemic, a reasoned perspective is needed, but is very difficult to develop. We certainly do not want to make too little of the coronavirus, putting Americans needlessly at risk. But we also must not make too much of it by needlessly continuing the heavy economic and social restrictions, and the damage they produce. It is a narrow line to walk.

On May 17 there were 1,507,829 active cases. Of those, 89,589 had died and 275,560 had recovered. For active cases, death occurred for 6 percent, while 18 percent recovered. No information is provided about the other million-plus who tested positive.

USA Today reported earlier this month, “Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified to Congress in March that the mortality rate may be as low as 1.0 percent when accounting for people who are infected but don’t develop symptoms severe enough to be tested.”

Some perspective on causes of death in 2018, from the CDC:
Heart disease: 647,457; Cancer: 599,108; Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936; Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201; Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383; Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404; Diabetes: 83,564; Influenza and pneumonia: 55,672; Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,633; Intentional self-harm (suicide): 47,173.

Available information indicates that unless you are elderly or have some sort of pre-existing health issue, you have a very good chance of surviving COVID-19.

Fauci, who is President Donald Trump's coronavirus expert, stated at a coronavirus task force meeting, “I've looked at all the models, I've spent a lot of time on the models. They don't tell you anything. You can't really rely upon models," according to The Washington Post.

Yet inaccurate models were utilized in developing the measures that health officials said should be implemented to limit the impact of the virus, and a one-size-fits-all list of restrictions was imposed on the nation.

As time passed, while New York, New Jersey and a few other states were hit hard, several states were barely affected. Alaska, Montana, Hawaii, Wyoming and Vermont had fewer than 1,000 cases and fewer than 100 deaths. Eight other states reported more than 1,000 cases, but also fewer than 100 deaths. The harsh restrictions in these states may have done more harm than good.

As more time has passed, some states have relaxed restrictions, allowing a slow, careful reopening to occur. Georgia and Florida have drawn criticism for their re-opening actions, but have shown declining cases, so far.

Abandoning the one-size-fits-all approach and treating areas according to their actual disease level is a sensible way to start getting the economy re-started. That is a very important step.

Friday, May 15, 2020

The United States is being torn apart … from the inside!


The good news is that there is a large, strong faction of Americans that recognizes the superior nature of our republic’s original and unique design that is fighting to keep it intact.

But there is another faction that is working to disassemble the republic, and turn it into a totally different nation. Some in that faction are doing this deliberately, while others may not even realize that what they are doing will negatively affect the country.

No nation ever was or ever will be perfect, and the United States isn’t perfect. But a major transformation would be magnificently foolish. The United States must simply work to continue to improve itself, and watch for and combat efforts at fundamental change. One such problem is the education system.

A new report on the state of public education shows that schools are performing poorly on basic educational goals. The results of testing on a representative sample of 42,700 eighth grade students from nearly 800 schools in 2018 showed that students are deficient in learning U.S. history, civics and geography.

Test scores in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for geography and U.S. history declined, and civics scores are unchanged from the last test in 2014.

Only 25 percent were “proficient” in geography. In civics, only 24 percent performed at or above the “proficient” level. And worse, only 15 percent scored “proficient” or above in U.S. history. At least 25 percent of the entire group are classified by the NAEP as “below basic” in all three testing areas, and have an inadequate level of understanding of civics, historical issues, and geography.

These kids have a generally poor understanding of their country, how and why it is designed as it is, and why that is important. They are therefore ripe for political indoctrination.

Columnist Michael Barone recently discussed the sad state of affairs among giant Internet companies that want to censor “inappropriate” speech.

Two law professors, of all people, say controlling speech on Internet platforms is necessary. Jack Goldsmith from Harvard University, and Keane Woods from the University of Arizona, writing in The Atlantic, stated the following: "Significant monitoring and speech control are inevitable components of a mature and flourishing internet, and governments must play a large role in these practices to ensure that the internet is compatible with a society's norms and values."

So, in the age of the Internet the First Amendment is no longer important. And if free speech is suspended by online platforms in order to be “compatible with a society's norms and values," how long before that dark cloud of censorship covers all speech in America?

The “old ways” are under attack. Because something was utilized a century ago, it is considered invalid because of its age and the current social climate. Under such a system, nothing can be thought of as eternally good, or even eternally bad.

What was accepted as good in the 1800s is useless today. What we replace the old ways with today will be useless in 2080. Stability is becoming non-existent.

Today, some want to force “clean” energy on the nation in the name of a pure environment, even though clean energy sources are not capable of satisfactorily replacing fossil fuels, and the U.S. leads the world in carbon reduction.

Making some things free, like a college education, is thought to be useful to establish equality. But free things are not necessarily better than costly things, and not everyone who will avail themselves of a free college education needs to, or should go to college.

There is a move to devalue success, because celebrating success supposedly belittles those who didn’t win the race or become the valedictorian. Everyone gets a participation trophy, so they won’t feel bad. So, what’s the point of working to achieve?

Also, let’s put more of our lives under control of the government, which always knows best what we need.

The coronavirus pandemic has sickened and killed thousands and struck fear into the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. In trying to protect people and stop the spread of the virus, businesses have been closed and people confined to their homes.

Fear is a great motivator. The more the people are made to fear things — going to work or school, going to the grocery store or other commercial establishments, any activity that puts them too near other people — the fewer of us will dare to restart living our lives as we used to.

Some governors and mayors have imposed overly-restrictive rules on things people want and need to do. People are fined, arrested and jailed for not abiding by the imposed guidelines.

Does a governor or mayor have the unilateral authority to implement rules and penalties with the force of law that deny people their Constitutionally guaranteed rights in an emergency?

If so, perhaps we will see a rash of emergencies develop, as the element of control becomes more popular among office holders.

If you don’t do anything else while you are keeping yourself safe at home, give some thought about who is being hurt by this shutting down of society, and also about exactly who it is that benefits from it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

The “New Way Forward Act” is more like the “New Way Backward Act”


Forty-four members of our House of Representatives have come out in support of a bill — H.R.5383 — that has received precious little attention from our national news media. After you learn what is in this piece of legislation and what it will do, you are likely to wonder why such sweeping legislation would not at least peek through the coronavirus mania that now receives almost as much attention as Donald Trump’s latest imagined booboo.

The New Way Forward Act, in the words of its primary sponsor, Democrat Illinois Rep. Jesús García, simply asks for a “fair shot at the opportunity for immigrants to stay in the country they call home.”

That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Finding a way for those immigrants who love America and want to come here, become true Americans and contribute to making us an even better nation — who could possibly object to that, other than those who are racists and xenophobes?

Why, then, would such a humanitarian-oriented bill escape the notice of the mainstream news media?

Then, on the other hand, when the immigrants in question are frequently or mostly illegal aliens, who have broken the law to come here, and more than a few have committed other crimes before and/or after coming here, maybe this law isn’t such a great idea.

Matthew Tragesser, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), had this to say about it: “The New Way Forward Act is arguably the most radical piece of immigration legislation in American history.”

Some of the features of the New Way Forward Act are:
* It will assist foreign born criminals to live here
* It will allow people who have committed serious felonies in other countries to move to the United States
* It will make it much more difficult for federal immigration officials to detain potentially dangerous immigrants
* It will transport deported criminals back into the United States at our expense
* It will give free health care to illegal immigrants
* It will abolish ICE

This measure needs to be ripped up and tossed in the trash, ala Nancy Pelosi at the State of the Union address.

In its place must be measures to secure borders and ports of entry, and punish those who flaunt our immigration laws. The following should be done:
* Stronger measures to prevent illegal entry into the country
* Charging illegals who illegally re-enter the country with a crime and jailing them, not deporting them
* Illegals who have committed crimes in other countries and/or in the U.S. should be jailed, not deported, so they cannot once again try to re-enter the country
* Confinement for breaking immigration laws should be neither inhumane nor pleasant. It should be a deterrent against entering the country illegally, and a measure that costs tax payers as little as possible

In a “nation of laws, not men,” as the United States is, and as a nation where citizenship is a valued asset that can be earned by those from other countries, the provisions of the New Way Forward Act are poisonous. They are precisely opposite to what is needed for a secure nation. They are sharply at odds with the principles our Founders set forth two and one-half centuries ago. They also are at odds with common sense.

By relaxing our immigration standards to allow whoever wants to come in, we will have no idea who is coming in. Will it be only honest, hard-working, good people who want to become Americans? Will it be lazy people who want to live off the government? Or, thugs and criminals who will commit all manner of crimes?

The answer: all of the above.

Surely the proponents of this horrible mis-named legislation are capable of understanding the dangers of this concept. Or, perhaps they just don’t care.

García and 43 other Democrat House members introduced the New Way Forward Act last December. Some of the 43 others are Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer, and the infamous “Squad” which is known for its radical ideas: Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, Massachusetts’ Ayanna Pressley, New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib.

Other House Democrats who support lax enforcement of immigration laws include Michigan’s Andy Levin, Minnesota’s Keith Ellison, and the Speaker of the House, California’s Nancy Pelosi.

It is interesting to watch people in Congress, some of whom live behind gates and are very careful about who comes on their property. Many of them support lax immigration policies that would allow people to enter their country that they would never allow in their homes. On the one hand, safety is the main concern. On the other, political expedience is the main concern.

Democrats more and more are trying to change America’s basic orientation. While he didn’t start this trend, former President Barack Obama certainly properly characterized it: fundamentally transforming the United States of America.

But America does not need fundamental change. Its design is so far ahead of other countries that it would be, to put it in the most graphic terms, stupid to follow the Democrat’s preferred path, and turn it into one more socialist state bound for failure.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

How to hold elections during the age of the coronavirus pandemic?


Every true American understands the importance of her/his right to vote and the importance of secure national, state and local election systems that allow us to express our preferences for elected officials.

Elections must be conducted in a secure, fair and sensible manner. Only eligible voters — which, in most every case, involves only citizens — must cast ballots in our elections. And measures are required to assure, to the greatest possible extent, that only eligible voters vote.

Conveniences have been made a part of the election system to make voting easier. But elections are far too important to allow measures to weaken the systems for no better reason than for a little voter convenience. Having to endure a little inconvenience in order to secure this vital process is a small price to pay.

In certain circumstances, absentee ballots may be allowed. Military personnel and others who must be away from their voting district on Election Day, as well as seniors and others who are unable to get to the polls, are legitimate candidates for mail-in ballots. But we must recognize that voting by mail is an insecure process — one with great opportunity for fraud.

And can you guess which voting convenience has the most support among those who wish to transform the country?

Absentee voter fraud — voting by mail — was so great a problem in Florida, Missouri, New York and North Carolina that some elections in those states were overturned.

The case in North Carolina involved the 9th Congressional District race, which the state election board overturned due to illegal vote harvesting, including forging and altering absentee ballots.

Under present circumstances, tens of millions of eligible American voters are under restrictions, including no gatherings of more than 10 at a time, social distancing, masks, gloves, stay-at-home orders or recommendations, etc. The primary elections are upon us and Election Day, 2020 is a bit more than six months away.

Some opportunists want existing election system weaknesses to remain in place into the future, and for the upcoming elections to be carried out by mail. All in the name of safety, they say. As genuine as these concerns may be for some of them, this suggestion is a prescription for voter fraud at a previously unimagined level.

And with the help of absentee voting the evil orange man, if he has his way, will easily win reelection.

Or, perhaps the other side will do the better job of “getting out the vote,” particularly since it is the liberals/Democrats that are campaigning for voting by mail.

Currently, millions of those whose names are on voter rolls are deceased, have moved, or are ineligible for various reasons. Automatically mailing ballots to these people does not merely allow for the ballots to be stolen, marked, and returned, it invites that result.

If you are still not convinced that voting by mail is fertile ground for fraud, consider this: a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch against the city of Los Angeles and the state of California alleging failure to maintain accurate voter registration rolls has been settled.

California and Los Angeles agreed to remove 1.5 million individuals who were not removed when they became ineligible to vote. It is fair to wonder what might happen to 1.5 million ballots mailed to people who are ineligible to vote, many of whom no longer reside at the address on their registration.

Naysayers contend that there is no real voter fraud threat. And those in the “nothing to see here; just move along” faction prefer a system that can be manipulated for political gain.

But even if the contention is true that no real threat exists, what harm is there in continually examining election systems, and strengthening them to prevent fraud?

However, voter fraud is a true threat. More than 1,200 instances of proven fraud can be found in The Heritage Foundation’s Election Fraud Database. These cases include absentee ballot fraud.

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter ID law, saying, “flagrant examples of such fraud … have been documented throughout this Nation’s history by respected historians and journalists [including] Indiana’s own experience with fraudulent voting in the 2003 Democratic primary for East Chicago Mayor … [and] demonstrate that not only is the risk of voter fraud real, but that it could affect the outcome of a close election.”

The most secure voting procedure is when poll workers are presented required evidence by potential voters proving they are who they say they are, and that the person is properly documented as being an eligible voter. That evidence is a valid photo ID.

Accurate voter rolls, and eligible voters with a photo ID appearing at the appropriate polling place, staffed by people dedicated to allowing only eligible voters to vote are essential elements in a secure system.

Even if the COVID-19 virus has not completely run its course before Election Day, or if it reappears during flu season, as has been suggested, polling places can be operated safely. Voters and poll workers must conduct themselves appropriately.

Under such circumstances voting in person at polling places is safe, and is also the most secure method of holding elections.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Coronavirus developments: radical restrictions, and a new wrinkle


There is a lot of concern about the on-going restrictions on activities to prevent spreading the coronavirus.

National, state and local leaders must walk a fine line between restrictions for safety and not infringing unnecessarily on their citizens’ freedoms. People are beginning to object to some of the restrictions. And a look at the things some state and local governments are doing reveals just how far over the line some have gone.

One episode in Baltimore reportedly appeared to be a drug raid, as police surrounded the building. It was Sunday, and the building was a church, in which fewer than 10 people had gathered, appropriately spaced, as per instructions. In fact, there were more police present than worshipers.

At a drive-in service in Mississippi, attendees were fined $500, even though they did not leave their cars. And in Kentucky on Easter weekend, police were dispatched to churches to record the license numbers of cars in the parking lots. Three Massachusetts men were arrested, and faced the possibility of 90 days in jail, for crossing state lines and … playing golf.

In some states, citizens are urged to snitch on their neighbors who do not obey the strict stay-at-home edicts. Hardened criminals are being released from prison so they won’t catch the virus, while stores that sell guns to people for their protection are closed. However, pot and booze stores remain open.

In Brighton, Colorado, a family was in an empty park, with the father and daughter playing softball, when police showed up. Officers alleged that the father and daughter had violated the social distancing guidelines. But none of the officers obeyed the social distancing rules they were enforcing.

The father, believing he had done nothing wrong, refused to show the police his ID, and was summarily handcuffed right in front of his wife and daughter and put in the back seat of a police car. Later, the father said, “During the contact, none of the officers had masks on, none of them had gloves on, and they’re in my face handcuffing me, they’re touching me.”

He was released from custody after several minutes, and later was issued an apology from the City. Better late than never.

Not all restrictions are so wildly radical, but citizens in at least six states have started protests over what they see as unreasonable restrictions.

Michigan bans “all public and private gatherings,” but still allows in-person lottery sales. Residents and citizens who own homes in the state in addition to their primary residence may not access their second homes.

A Facebook post declared, “Dope stores? Open. Abortion clinics? Open. Churches? Shut down. Local businesses? Going broke!” At a large protest rally in the Michigan state capitol, protesters carried signs that read, “tyranny worse than the virus” and “honk if you love liberty.”

People in stores that sell both food and other materials were able to buy food, but were prohibited from buying other products, such as hardware supplies and gardening seeds, which were deemed “non-essential.”

Michigan House speaker, Lee Chatfield, posted on Twitter: “Non-essential in Michigan: Lawn care, construction, fishing if boating with a motor, realtors, buying seeds, home improvement equipment and gardening supplies. Essential in Michigan: Marijuana, lottery and alcohol. Let’s be safe and reasonable. Right now, we’re not!”

In too many cases, efforts at imposing safe behaviors have turned into authoritarian malfeasance.

As the struggles against COVID-19 continue, a professor at Tel Aviv University has discovered a new feature of the virus. Professor Yitzhak Ben Israel has determined from analyzing data from nine countries where the virus infected thousands — U.S., U.K., Sweden, Italy, Israel, Switzerland, France, Germany, and Spain —that regardless of how the country reacted to the virus, all countries experienced common infection patterns.

“His graphs show that all countries experienced seemingly identical coronavirus infection patterns, with the number of infected peaking in the sixth week and rapidly subsiding by the eighth week,” the Townhall.com story reported.

“There is a decline in the number of infections even [in countries] without closures, and it is similar to the countries with closures,” Ben Israel stated in his report.

Addressing Israel’s extremely strict quarantine and closure restrictions, he told the Israeli news agency Mako, “I think it's mass hysteria. I have no other way to describe it. 4,500 people die each year from the flu in Israel because of complications, so close the country because of that? No. I don't see a reason to do it because of a lower-risk epidemic.” 

The US response is less drastic than Israel’s response. But if the professor’s conclusion is correct, the US also has over-reacted, and is still doing so. The frighteningly high predictions of deaths and infections in the models followed by the administration’s virus task force have been greatly lowered. But the restrictions based on those incorrect models remain in place.

Each day those restrictions are in place, our economy incurs further damage, more businesses are on the edge of permanent closure, and people suffer even more of the dangers of isolation, including death.

We need to begin restoring normalcy to the country, and in doing so we must use common sense and practice responsible socializing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Opportunism is alive and thriving among Democrat politicians



“Some things never change” is a comment we hear when something negative occurs, yet again. The onset of the coronavirus has turned the country upside down, put millions in jeopardy of one sort or another, and created a situation where national, state and local officials felt the need to enforce behavioral restrictions on citizens.

With that tumult, perhaps that phrase was brought to mind from the fact Congressional Democrats remain undeterred by the pandemic, and are dutifully pursuing their regressive goal of “progressivism.”

Senate Democrats on Thursday stalled the passage of a $250 billion relief package designed to aid small businesses. Trying to speed up the passage of the needed funding, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, called for a vote by unanimous consent.

But rather than pass a measure nearly all senators supported, Democrats requested protections for minority-owned businesses and additional aid to local health care providers, blocking the measure that was intended as an addition to the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program, which gives forgivable loans to small businesses.

McConnell had said to the Senate Thursday morning, “Do not block emergency aid you do not oppose just because you want something more.” His words fell on deaf ears.

Following the failed vote, McConnell said he did not oppose the Democrats’ requests on principle, but that the Paycheck Protection Program needed urgent relief.

This effort to foul up the legislative process was not the first time Democrats had tried to force unrelated measures into a time-sensitive coronavirus support bill.

On Sunday, March 22, as the bipartisan agreement between the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate reached over the weekend was about to come to a vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, showed up with a wish list of “progressive” goodies, among which were:

1. Union Giveaways:
• Nullifies the White House executive orders on federal collective bargaining and codifies taxpayer-funded union official time.
• Requires a labor union representative on every airline’s board of directors.
• Multiemployer pension bailout lacking needed reforms.
• Permanently raises the minimum wage to $15 for any business that receives federal aid for COVID-19.
• Cancels all debt owed by the U.S. Postal Service to the Treasury.

2. Green New Deal priorities:
• Requires all airlines that receive assistance to offset carbon emissions for domestic flights by 2025.
• Includes a $1 billion “cash for clunkers” airplane program where the Transportation Department buys fuel-inefficient planes from airlines in exchange for agreeing to buy new ones.
• Includes expansive new tax-credit for solar and wind energy.

3. Student Loan Forgiveness:
• $10,000 blanket loan forgiveness.

4. Federalizing Elections:
• Mandates how states must run elections, including the nationalization of ballot harvesting, requiring early voting, same day registration, and no-excuse vote by mail.
• Puts states at risk of costly litigation if they are unable to implement these stringent mandates ahead of the 2020 election.

Fearing they might again lose an election to Donald Trump, presented with the opportunity provided by the coronavirus crisis, and bringing back the elements that didn’t get through in the stimulus bill to change the existing election process, House Democrats have created a measure mis-labeled as the “Take Responsibility Act.”

This recipe for Democrat victory calls for legislative changes to remove the ability of states to manage the “Times, Places, and Manner” of elections as called for in the Constitution’s Article I provisions.

Changes include:
• states must allow 15 consecutive days of early voting
• makes absentee voting universal
• prohibits “requiring identification to obtain an absentee ballot”
• allows “another person” to drop off absentee ballots and removes limits on how many can be delivered by one person
• ensures provisional ballots are always counted (rendering them no longer “provisional”) and provides “blank” (no printed name) absentee ballots to citizens and service members overseas 

Anyone see opportunities for fraud here?

In signing gun control bills into law last week, Virginia’s Democrat Governor Ralph Northam said, “We lose too many Virginians to gun violence.” Notice he didn’t say we lose too many Virginians to “guns,” he said, we lose too many Virginians to gun “violence.”

It is violence that costs too many Virginians their lives, so instead of laws against guns, why doesn’t the General Assembly pass, and the governor sign, laws against violence?

Oh, that’s right. We already have laws against violence, but those laws don’t encroach on citizens’ Second Amendment rights. But the new laws do. And anything Virginia Democrats can do to interfere with the Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms, they will do.

And to make the fairy tale complete, still seeking the dreamt of, and so-far elusive coup de grace: yet another investigation into Trump.

Pelosi made it official last week: House Democrats are opening yet another inquisition against Trump. The last dismal failure actually did accomplish something, however. It distracted the Congress and administration from the developing crisis of the Wuhan virus, which they then could — and did — twist into the charge that Trump did not act swiftly enough to protect the country, and now by golly, that needs to be investigated.

You have to admire the Democrats’ devotion to bring Trump down, so strong as to eclipse any other consideration, like the welfare of the country and their constituents.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Fear, questions and rumors complicate the coronavirus situation



The thought of being infected by the COVID-19 virus is truly scary. The numbers are big. On Monday, the number of Americans infected was 337,933, and the number of Americans who have succumbed to the disease was 9,653. The number of deaths after the virus has run its course is predicted to be 200,000 or more, according to some models.

A new model predicts coronavirus deaths will peak in the United States on April 16, though the research is a preprint, which means it has not yet been peer reviewed. The peer review process is a vital part of assessing new medical research and identifies weaknesses in its assumptions, methods and conclusions. This prediction could very well change.

Accompanying the actual news about the virus are rumors about the pandemic. One says it did not come from a wet market in Wuhan, China as is commonly believed, but from a biological laboratory located there. Another said that the lab developed the virus and purposely released it as a biological weapon against China’s enemies.

In another storyline, a guy claiming to have been employed in a management position in a high-tech firm, and therefore possessing special “inside” information, said that the pandemic isn’t a virus at all, but the effects of radiation poisoning from 5G technology. And it’s all part of a plot by a select few individuals who are determined to wipe out much of human life and take control of Earth.

If the latter theory were true, we might as well go back to work and forget about social distancing and hand-washing; we are all at great risk from 5G, no matter what we do.

As the coronavirus rages, we don’t need bright, happy fairy tales. We also don’t need dark, misery-laced horror stories. We need factual information, the good and the bad, absent emotional baggage. On this point, both President Donald Trump and the news media need to sharpen up.

Trump often puts things in a good light, sometimes in words that are much too positive. Embellishing is a common practice among people trying to persuade. The media, on the other hand, often reports things with a negative tone, frequently more negative than reality requires.

When Trump speaks in traditional Trump-speak, the media accuses him of lying. When the media accuses Trump of lying, he accuses the media of “fake news.”

The news business involves telling people the facts of a story. Report what Trump said, his actual words. Don’t tell us what some reporter or editor thinks he meant. If his meaning is unclear, ask for clarification.

An example, cited in a previous column: Trump said, “And this is their new hoax,” referring to the way Democrats were treating the administration’s response to the virus. This statement was misreported in reports from several respected media sources as Trump calling the virus a hoax. Is that incompetence, or politics?

Our lives have been substantially affected by COVID-19.  The tragedy and pain of suffering and death from it are enormous. And fear is at epidemic levels. Our lives have been turned upside-down, with businesses and schools closed, jobs lost and people told to stay home.

However, some more positive aspects of the pandemic can give some relief to the sometimes-overwhelming negative aspects. While America has recorded 9,653 deaths as of Monday, 17,582 infected people had recovered. And that does not count those who didn’t know they were infected and suffered no symptoms.

And the roughly 338,000 Americans who had been confirmed as infected as of yesterday is only about one percent of the nation’s 330,000,000 total residents.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) produced a model of the virus, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This model has been widely cited as what to expect.

Writing for Townhall.com, Derek Hunter looked at the model’s projections compared to reality. He wrote, “While the reporting data from some states are lagging, others have provided information that calls into question the validity of the whole model, and with it, all the actions taken by government.”

Citing the IHME model he noted that on April 4th, from 120,963 to 203,436 Americans would require hospitalization, but only 18,998 actually were hospitalized.

Given that not all states had reported complete statistics when the count was taken, Hunter notes that those whose report was incomplete were smaller states with less serious effects. Therefore, even if the reported number was doubled, it was still far below the projection.

Models are informed guesses based upon a data set. The problem is which one is selected, and how much damage will be done if it turns out to be the wrong.

As of April 6, worldometer.info reported the following worldwide statistics: Of the 1,287,284 confirmed cases, 70,540, or 5.5 percent of the total, have died; and 271,950, or 21.1 percent, recovered or were discharged.

In the U.S. there are as of yesterday 337,933 identified positive cases, according to dailyrecord.com, and 9,653, or 2.9 percent have died, and 17,582, or 5.2 percent have recovered.

This isn’t good news, but it demonstrates that reality isn’t as bad as we may think.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

The coronavirus COVID-19 problems are not limited to illness



The coronavirus COVID-19 situation threatens both the health of the people and nation’s economic health. And efforts to protect either side of that coin can endanger the other side.

Keeping Americans safe from the virus and possible death is of greatest importance, but when the virus crisis is over, we don’t want to find a decimated American economy, with hundreds or thousands of businesses permanently shuttered, and thousands or millions of previously employed Americans on the unemployment line.

These are the two serious challenges from the virus, and negotiating the proper balance between them is a tricky task. We want to keep people separated from others to reduce the spread of the virus, but we can’t keep the economy in this heavily shut-down state for so long that it does serious damage.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force is staffed with medical professionals and scientists who are advising President Donald Trump on how the country should respond to this crisis.

The actions that have been taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 were based on the Imperial College London Model developed by Professor Neil Ferguson. The Imperial model predicted that up to 2.2 million Americans could die from the virus if nothing is done to stop it, and that it would peak in June. The recommended social distancing and self-isolation policies were put in place in response to that study.

Then last week Oxford University epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta published an article on another model of the virus developed at her university. The Oxford model suggests that the virus had been in the UK for at least a month earlier than originally thought, and if so, then perhaps as much as half the population had already been exposed to it, and most cases resolved themselves without any medical issues, and without an awareness that a new virus was present.

“I am surprised that there has been such unqualified acceptance of the Imperial model,” Gupta commented, arguing that the model is highly flawed.

The same condition that Gupta’s model suggests occurred in the UK may also have existed in the U.S. People with the same symptoms as with COVID-19 infection would not have been diagnosed with a COVID-19 infection, since we had little or no information on the virus, or didn’t know it was present in the country at that time. Ferguson has now revised his initial predictions downward, but believes the Oxford model is too optimistic.

The economy is struggling, and the longer these measures are in place, the worse it will get. Many businesses have closed or are working on reduced hours, and many workers have been laid off, schools are closed and children are at home. 

The longer businesses are closed or experiencing substantially lower revenue, the greater the chances that many will die and be unable to reopen, millions will be unemployed, due to the resulting job shortage. And then there is the shortage of goods and services these closed businesses are no longer producing.

Economist Thomas Friedman addresses the situation that the coronavirus taskforce faces in an op-ed in The New York Times. “Our leaders are not flying completely blind: They are working off the advice of serious epidemiologists and public health experts,” he wrote. “Yet we still need to be careful about ‘group think,’ which is a natural but dangerous reaction when responding to a national and global crisis. We’re making decisions that affect the whole country and our entire economy — therefore, small errors in navigation could have huge consequences.”

Acknowledging the seriousness of the virus and the critical need for doctors and nurses, hospital beds, critical care beds and medical equipment for those who are suffering, Friedman calls for rapid, and widespread testing to “surgically minimize the threat of this virus to those most vulnerable while we maximize the chances for as many Americans as possible to safely go back to work as soon as possible.” He then cited an unnamed expert who thinks that “could happen in as early as a few weeks.”

It is imperative that businesses should reopen as soon as they can do so safely, so that people can get back on the job. Business that are closed cannot produce the goods and services that the nation and its people rely on, and the longer the halt in production lasts, the more serious the shortages become. 

The stimulus package that Congress passed will help people cope by giving them money, but it will not address the problem of the insufficient supply of needed goods and services, such as producing and delivering food and medicines throughout the country. 

The number of Americans suffering from the COVID-19 virus is large, but it is a very small percentage of the population. On Sunday, 138,879 people were confirmed to have the virus. That is a tiny fraction of 1.0 percent of the 330,000,000 people in the country.

That number will continue to rise until we get control of the virus, and we must work hard to keep it as small as possible.

But we must also act to protect the economy from collapse. If we don’t, economic circumstances will add to the number of deaths the virus itself is causing.