Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Seattle, Washington’s CHAZ/CHOP experience: A cautionary tale

The takeover of six blocks of Seattle, Washington early last month as a protest of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis, Minnesota police was allowed to stand by the Seattle mayor, Jenny Durkan.

Perhaps she truly believed that allowing a group to hijack an area of her city, given the current riotous atmosphere in the country, was the best way to address the problem. Maybe the protesters would get tired in a few days of living without the normal comforts of life, and the small price those who lived, worked or owned businesses in the area had to pay was worth it. Or, perhaps she was just afraid to do her job, as she was expected to do.

Durkan characterized the Capitol Hill area as a place where people often express themselves. Defending her decision, after visiting the area where she had spoken with organizers, she said it was a place where people, including police officers, come and go freely.

She is not the only one who attempted to paint a rosy picture of the goings-on. A reporter for MSNBC termed the atmosphere there as “almost like a street festival.” His characterization was immediately disputed by an unhappy protester who said, “No, it is not a street festival! It is not a street festival! It is not a street festival! Do not say that!”

The mob of thousands that took control of the area -- which included a police precinct that was willingly abandoned by the mayor, in a move to defuse the situation -- called the area the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). Later, the CHAZ was renamed the CHOP, which had two different, but similar translations: Capitol Hill Occupied Protest or Capitol Hill Organized Protest.

As should have been expected, what Durkan called “a summer of love” turned bad rather quickly. The takeover should have been met with immediate action by the city’s elected leaders and the police department. But the takeover was allowed to stand.

Judging by what transpired in the CHAZ/CHOP, a more appropriate name for it would have been the Capital Hill Anarchy Zone.

The mostly peaceful daytime hours devolved as darkness fell, with violence growing as time passed. Graffiti on streets and buildings, trash and other things left in the street, robberies, assaults and other violent crimes, including three serious injuries from shootings, and two black teenagers who were shot to death.

Horace Lorenzo Anderson, Sr., the father of Lorenzo Anderson, Jr. the 19-year-old boy who was murdered on June 21, said that neither the mayor nor anyone in the city administration notified him of his son’s murder. He heard about it from two of his son’s friends who happened to be in the area. He criticized local officials for failing to stop the violence sooner.

Durkan reacted to the shootings by noting that the CHAZ had grown less safe instead of safer over time, and the effect on the surrounding community had not been positive. Was that not absolutely predictable?

“The cumulative impacts of the gatherings and protests and the nighttime atmosphere and violence has led to increasingly difficult circumstances for our businesses and residents,” she said. “The impacts have increased and the safety has decreased.” She ordered the area cleared.

Seattle police chief Carmen Best said: “This order, and our police response, comes after weeks of violence in and around the Capital Hill Occupied Protest zone, including four shootings, resulting in multiple injuries and the deaths of two teenagers.”

And so, the end of something that should never have started finally came about. At least 13 people were arrested.

And, guess what? Durkan called for charges to be dismissed against those who were arrested for misdemeanors. She also said that the community garden and artworks that protesters created would be saved.

However, businesses and property owners affected by the CHAZ have filed a federal lawsuit against the city claiming officials’ tolerance of the CHAZ deprived property owners of their rights by allowing the zone to exist.

Perhaps it was just a coincidence that the mayor awakened to the problem shortly after the “summer of love” street party rioters showed up at her home. A female member of the BLM mob told KING-TV, "We came down to Jenny Durkan's mansion to bring the demands of the movement and of the families who have been impacted by police violence, uh, to her doorstep and she seems to not be able to hear our demands any other way."

The leftists in Black Lives Matter and Antifa seem to think mob violence is the way to control the narrative. And, based upon many non-responses to mob violence, it seems to be working.

Giving in to the mob in Seattle and elsewhere has allowed much destruction and many injuries, and two deaths. But the complacency that allows the riots to continue seems at last to be waning.

It is perhaps too much to hope that the leftists will learn from this cautionary tale, but the country will certainly be far and away better off if they do. In any case, the lawlessness must be stopped.

Friday, July 03, 2020

The cancel culture judges America by her mistakes, not her strengths

As the nation watches the riots and criminal behavior that evolved from protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, Black Lives Matter (BLM) has turned its attention to removing monuments to personalities from the Civil War that led to the end of slavery in the United States with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865.

But the mission to take down these monuments was confused from the beginning. It could have been a civil effort to have the “offending” items removed legally by petitioning the appropriate government agencies or property owners on which the statues reside, which is the proper way to do things. The statues could have been moved to museums or other places, if the proper authorities agreed with the petitioners.

But that wasn’t good enough for the cancel culture, which felt that the things must be removed now! And so, rioters — not protesters or demonstrators — turned their criminal behavior to destroying these historical items.

In addition to the monuments to southern Civil War personalities, they also blindly go after some who were on the same side of the slavery case as they are.

The statue of Ulysses S. Grant is one example. Grant was the 18th President of the United States following the Civil War, from 1869 to 1877. But more illustrative of what a magnificent error it was to take down his statue, Grant was the Commanding General of the U.S. Army that defeated the hated Confederates — the targets of BLM — and won the Civil War, leading to emancipation of the slaves.

An even more astonishing mistake is the threatening to take down the Emancipation Memorial. Because this memorial features the likeness of Abraham Lincoln with a black man, Archer Alexander, in chains at his feet, it is regarded by the rioters as a symbol of slavery.

The former slave and now-famous American Frederick Douglass, however, predicted that members of his race “will think of [the Memorial] and speak of it with a sense of manly pride.”

Rather than being a passive, submissive slave, the Memorial was in fact designed to show Alexander at Lincoln’s feet exerting his own strength to break the chains that bound him.

Douglas said, “We have done a good for our race today. In doing honor to the memory of our friend and liberator [Lincoln], we have been doing highest honors to ourselves and those who come after us,” and “we may calmly point to the monument we have this day erected to the memory of Abraham Lincoln.”

And then there is Charlotte Scott, a former slave freed by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, who said upon hearing of Lincoln’s assassination, “the colored people have lost their best friend on earth! Mr. Lincoln was our best friend, and I will give five dollars of my wages towards erecting a monument to his memory.”

Her contribution sparked a movement among freed slaves to raise money for a memorial to Lincoln which totaled more than $12,000. At that time $12,000, and even $5, was a lot of money.

Female RE-Enactors of Distinction (FREED) is a group of actors that is committed to accurately depict the role of African Americans, including the U.S. Colored Troops and their families during the U.S. Civil War.

Marcia Cole is a member of FREED who portrays Charlotte Scott. Regarding the Memorial, she told Washington, DC TV station WJLA, “I’m here to speak on behalf of the legacy of Charlotte Scott. I understand there’s a big campaign trying to raise money to either take it down or mend it, and I say ‘no’ on behalf of Ms. Charlotte.” 

But the rioters don’t know this history.

So, the historical figures and sites that the BLM wants removed will not be decided by the American people and their governments, but by a relative handful of the people, who don’t know history and don’t care about history. They care nothing about what others think and willingly, eagerly, turn to criminality to accomplish their goal.

That isn’t the American way. But America and her ways are a foreign language to most of these folks. They judge America by her mistakes only, ignoring her strengths. They apply his same myopia to Civil War figures. They see only a part of the lives of the individuals that they target. That small part is all that matters to them.

That sentiment was fairly clearly stated by Hawk Newsome, president of the Greater New York Black Lives Matter. “If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it,” Newsome said in an interview on Fox News’ “The Story” with Martha MacCallum.

And so, what we really have is not merely a crusade by a relatively small group to cleanse the land and remove elements they dislike and that stain our history, it is to wreak havoc and impose their will on the rest of us.

In the wise words of Marcus Aurelius: “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”

Order must be restored, and those committing crimes must be held accountable.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The emotional whitewashing of history is an enormous mistake

The tragic and indefensible killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of city police officers created understandable emotions of pain and anger in the country.

We have all witnessed the resulting peaceful protesting of police brutality against citizens. But in many cases protests turned into violent, dangerous rioting, and now rising anti-slavery emotion has spawned tearing down statues associated with that dark period in American history, and condemnation of other things reminiscent of that period.

While these efforts have strong support, other people see them as wrong; as trying to whitewash history, instead of leaving these statues and other things to remind us of the evils of slavery, now gone from America for more than 150 years.

If slavery was a mistake of our nation — and it was — so is trying to erase every last vestige of it. We learn from our mistakes, so that we don’t make them again. But if there is nothing to remind us of our errors, at some point in the future we may again travel down those paths.

Through the years people have made important, illuminating comments about such situations.

One of the most relevant is this one: “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” — George Orwell, 1984

Two more are from a current source, the brilliant Thomas Sowell: “Civil rights used to be about treating everyone the same. But today some people are so used to special treatment that equal treatment is considered to be discrimination.”

And: “Emotions neither prove nor disprove facts. There was a time when any rational adult understood this. But years of dumbed-down education and emphasis on how people ‘feel’ have left too many people unable to see through this media gimmick.”

HUD Secretary Ben Carson said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” recently, “We’ve reached a point in our society where we dissect everything and try to ascribe some nefarious notion to it,” he said. “We really need to move away from that. We need to move away from being offended by everything, of going through history and looking at everything, of renaming everything. I mean, think about the fact that some of our universities, some of our prestigious universities, have a relationship with the slave trade. Should we go and rename those universities?

“It really gets to a point of being ridiculous after a while,” Carson said. “And, you know, we’re going to have to grow up as a society.”

And then there is this: “The modern Left: they cancel ‘Gone with the Wind’ ... and then burn Atlanta.” — U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R-TX.

Other targets include brand names that have been part of American life for decades, without hurting anyone: Eskimo Pie, Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix and syrup, Uncle Ben’s rice, Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup, and Cream of Wheat breakfast mix. These brands are considering changing their names and/or appearance due to pressure from the change culture.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, recently ordered the removal of four portraits of former Speakers. “As I have said before, the halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy,” she wrote in a letter requesting the removal of the portraits, “there is no room in the hallowed halls of Congress or in any place of honor for memorializing men who embody the violent bigotry and grotesque racism of the Confederacy.”

The portraits are of Robert M.T. Hunter of Virginia, Howell Cobb of Georgia, James L. Orr of South Carolina and Charles F. Crisp of Georgia. Crisp served in the Confederate Army, but entered politics after the Civil War in the 1870s. The other three were in Congress before the War, and then held high civilian office in the Confederacy.

Pelosi has been in Congress for a lifetime, and is Speaker of the House for the second time. Why did the presence of these four previous Speakers’ portraits not drive her crazy before now?

But let’s not ignore the other side of this coin. The advocates of whitewashing unpopular items from our history sometimes goof.

Along with the statues of Confederate luminaries, the cleansers of history also wanted to remove the statue of Ulysses S. Grant. Grant was in fact the leader of the Union Army that defeated the Confederates, and became the President of the United States after the War from 1869 to 1877. Yet, the cancel culture wants his statue destroyed.

And then there are objects that fit the definition of things that they want removed, but maybe after thinking about it, they might change their minds.

A Facebook tweet reads: “Yale University was named for Elihu Yale. Not just a man who had slaves. An actual slave trader. I call on @Yale to change its name immediately and strip the name of Yale from every building, piece of paper, and merchandise …”

The idea of whitewashing history is not a good thing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Censorship is a growing problem in our news and other media

Adolph Ochs, former publisher of The New York Times, back in 1896 adopted the slogan “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” and insisted on reportage that lived up to that promise. That phrase appears in the upper left corner of the paper’s front page every day.

He might be appalled today to find that The Times, among other media, sometimes operates on the motto “All the News That Fits,” as some news media move steadily toward advocacy over objectivity.

We now find two major newspapers censoring conservative opinion on their opinion pages, where traditionally newspapers published a variety of editorial opinion in order to give their readers a diverse mixture. It’s the one place in a newspaper where opinion is appropriate.

The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer both had editors resign their positions recently because of staff objections to editorial decisions they made.

Several days ago, The New York Times editorial page editor, James Bennet, resigned following a revolt among employees over an op-ed the paper had requested from Senator Tom Cotton, R-AR, on George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

Some of the staff called in sick one day in protest, and the paper said later that a review found the piece “did not meet its standards.”

Just a week later, however, the Times published an op-ed from a person who is a fellow at George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, and who is a far-left activist. No editors resigned and no standards were violated.

The Floyd matter was at the center of another newspaper editor’s sudden departure. The Inquirer’s top editor resigned after his choice for a headline on an article addressing the mob violence which evolved from protests over Floyd’s death produced a revolt among employees.

Lamenting the senseless destruction and damage from the riots, Stan Wischnowski titled the article “Buildings Matter, Too.” The totally accurate headline was too much for the staff to swallow, so Wischnowski decided to step down.

The one place where opinions are proper in a newspaper — pages containing editorials and commentary — in those two papers now presents only that narrow set of politically biased ideas that have the approval of the newspaper staff. Ladies and gentlemen, this is precisely the opposite of what press freedom is all about.

An older tendency among news providers is for them to be politically guided in what they report and what they don’t. This tendency towards advocacy-over-objectivity is much more widespread than many realize. The reaction of the news staffs of the Times and Inquirer support that this journalistic breakdown exists.

However, such shenanigans are not limited to newspapers. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper, said about President Donald Trump, “First, we were hearing that it’s [the coronavirus] a hoax...” referring to Trump’s describing the way the Democrats used the coronavirus. Tapper later admitted he knew it was a lie, but chose not to say anything. “I thought about it, because the president did not call the virus a hoax,” he said.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which the press is quick to throw out to defend against challenges to its work, guarantees the press the necessary freedom to do its job of telling the people what is going on. That is a very valuable thing, and a rare thing in our world.

But the freedom the press enjoys is accompanied by the essential obligation to do that job honestly, without fear or favor, accurately and objectively. When those things are missing from what the news media is doing, it has abandoned its press freedom protections.

The press is a very different animal today than in the days of the Bill of Rights, and now includes broadcast media and Internet media in addition to print media.

While online social media sites are not the same as news providers, they are extremely popular communication instruments. Ostensibly an open forum for participants to post and comment whatever they choose, some have begun to monitor and over-ride participants’ posts and comments. Sometimes that action is used for improper language. Sometimes it is used to censor undesirable political content.

MSNBC producer Kyle Griffin took a quote from Trump’s Fox News interview with Harris Faulkner out of context to make it look like Trump was approving of chokeholds. “Trump on Fox: ‘I think the concept of chokehold sounds so innocent, so perfect,’” he tweeted, making it appear that Trump condones chokeholds. He doesn’t.

Contrary to its policies that “catch” so many conservative tweeters, Twitter did not flag this lie.

There are many instances of such malpractice. Either you have an open forum that leaves people alone to express themselves as they choose, or you don’t.

If you do, no problem. If you don’t, you become a different animal, one which purports to be open, but which covertly censors only some users, and may thus be subject to legal action.

Why does the left cheat like this? Because it’s much easier to gain support for your ideas when there is only one set of ideas to choose from. Why confuse people with extraneous stuff?

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The push to defund police is an ill-advised and unnecessary move

For weeks the country lived in fear of being infected with and dying from the COVID-19 virus. And thousands did become infected, many suffered but survived, and more than 110,000 lost their lives.

Then suddenly, the daily focus on COVID-19 was replaced by the death of a black man at the hands of a white Minneapolis, Minnesota policeman, and the aftermath. Video of parts of the arrest of George Floyd stunned the nation, resulting in the initial firing of the policeman and three of his fellow officers, who now face criminal charges.

Peaceful protests of this death quickly turned violent, groups of protesters turned into mobs, businesses were robbed and burned, innocent people and police were attacked and injured, rioters saw strong police response, and many were arrested.

Curiously, some of the people who witnessed Floyd dying by a criminal act protested against that criminal act by committing their own criminal acts.

These riots are not about justice for an undeserved death. They are an insult to the true, conscientious protesters and to the memory they have of George Floyd. They are all about causing damage and pain for the sake of causing damage and pain.

There is no justice in burning down random buildings, looting stores for TVs and whatever else they can steal, attacking innocent bystanders and police officers, throwing bricks and water bottles at them, and killing a retired black police captain who was protecting a pawn shop that was being robbed.

Clear thinking has been told to stay-at-home, and raw emotion now controls the mobs. Some say there are outsider-anarchists whose goal is to stir violence and are fanning the flames of revolution.

New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones said in an interview,
"And violence is when an agent of the state kneels on a man's neck until all of the life is leached out of his body. Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence. And to put those things — to use the same language to describe those two things I think really — it's not moral to do that." In her mind, destroying things in response to what happened to Floyd is okay: “Destroying property … is not violence.”

Tell that to the numerous victims of rioting in Minneapolis who face damages to their businesses and other property that are said to exceed $55 million. Millions more damage has been done across the nation.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo believes that “protests” shouldn’t be peaceful. "And please, show me where it says protesters are supposed to be polite and peaceful,” he said. 

Perhaps the U.S. Constitution can help Cuomo correct his gross mis-understanding. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees “the right of the people ‘peaceably’ [emphasis added] to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” A non-peaceable assembly — a violent riot — is not protected, no matter what the reason for the assembly.

It is stunning to see the breadth and depth of the attitude to now accept the injuries, deaths and destruction from riots as a normal part of protesting.

In what may be the goofiest idea of all, celebrities — those possessors of ultimate wisdom on all things — endorse the idea of “defunding police departments.” These self-important folks say the money spent on police would be better spent on “building healthy communities.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) wants the 800-officer Minneapolis Police Department disbanded. In a tweet she said, “The Minneapolis Police Department has proven themselves beyond reform. It’s time to disband them and reimagine public safety in Minneapolis.”
“Yes,” said Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender. “We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety.”

Someone breaking into your home? A riot on your street? Who you gonna call? Ilhan Omar, Lisa Bender?

In Los Angeles, $100 million to $150 million may soon be cut from funding the LAPD. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced Sunday that the city would move funding from the New York Police Department to youth initiatives and social services.

However, we must decide if the current situation truly warrants such drastic actions against all police departments nationwide, which seems to be what celebrity advisors want.

Far more important than the pure number of people killed by police is how many of them were unjustified, and how many contributed to their deaths by resisting police? The former number is easier to find than the latter two numbers.

Last year, nearly 1,100 people were killed by police, according to Mapping Police Violence (MPV), a research group. MPV defines police killing as any time someone dies as a result of “being shot, beaten, restrained, intentionally hit by a police vehicle, pepper sprayed, tasered, or otherwise harmed by police officers, whether on-duty or off-duty.” 

The MPV data does not say how many contributed to their own demise by resisting arrest, how many were unjustly killed, or died by accident. That is critical information in determining how great a problem police criminality actually is.

Eliminating unjustified killings by police is a critical goal, and the solution must be a sensible plan, not an emotional, chaotic one.

Friday, June 05, 2020

Many people are now questioning how we dealt with the pandemic

Andrew Napolitano is a former New Jersey Superior Court judge who has authored nine books on legal and political topics, is a syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate, Inc., and senior judicial analyst for the Fox News Channel. A recent column titled “I have a great many questions, but what are the answers?” gives us a lot to consider.

Here are some questions to think about:
* What if the government has it wrong — on the medicine and the law?
* What if face masks can't stop the COVID-19 virus?
* What if quarantining the healthy makes no medical sense, and if staying at home for months reduces immunity?
* What if more people have been infected with the virus in their homes than outside them?
* What if the government wants to stoke fear in the populace because mass fear produces mass compliance?
* What if individual fear reduces individual immunity, and if a “healthy immunity” gets stronger when challenged, and a “pampered immunity” gets weaker when challenged?
* What if we all pass germs and viruses — that we don't even know we have — on to others all the time, but their immune systems repel what we pass on to them?
* What if we never elected a government to keep us free from all viruses, but we did elect it to keep us free from all tyrants?
* What if the government — which can't deliver the mail, fill potholes, stop robocalls, or spend within its income — is the last entity on earth into whose hands we would voluntarily repose our health for safekeeping?

Have we not all seen at least a few actions by government officials and police that cause us to question what is really happening?

Here are a few examples of over-the-top state and local government actions:
* Michigan took away the business license of a 77-year-old barber who, after two months of being shut down, opened his business so he could feed his family. In addition, the state may possibly fine him $1,000 a day and jail him.

* A woman at a New York City subway station was roughly subdued by several police officers, handcuffed in front of her toddler, and hauled away to jail. What was her crime? Robbery? Assault? Insulting Mayor De Blasio or Governor Cuomo? Not wearing a mask in public? “No,” to all of those. She was wearing a mask, just not wearing it “properly,” according to New York’s Finest.

* A woman in Miami was sitting alone on a deserted beach when police officers approached and arrested her. Her crime? Sitting on a beach holding a sign that read, “We Are Free.”

* Businesses in some states and cities — Pennsylvania; Fresno, California; Castle Rock, Colorado, to name just three — have had their business licenses revoked, and/or fines imposed, and sometimes patrons jailed for opening against their rulers’ commands.

* A high school student in Marquette County, Wisconsin who had a scare with COVID-19 posted about her experience on Instagram, and a few days later, a deputy sheriff showed up at her home and demanded that she remove her post or be cited for disorderly conduct, arrested, and jailed.

God Bless America, the land of the free!

More of Napolitano’s questions:
* What if the government gave itself the power to interfere with our personal choices?

* What if that self-imposed power violates the basic constitutional principle that the government derives its powers from the consent of the governed?

Once again, that adage offered by former President Barack Obama’s wingman, Rahm Emanuel, who took it from the Saul Alinski playbook, comes to our attention: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

A crisis presents an opportunity; a chance to get something done. It may be something good, or it may be something bad. During this pandemic it has been used as an opportunity to assert control over people, an opportunity gladly utilized by far too many governors and mayors.

Some of the restrictions imposed may have been done with the best of intentions, but with far less than the best of common sense. Broad one-size-fits-all restrictions imposed on the entire nation and some states that have dramatic regional differences, are foolish and harmful.

Like Virginia, for example. What is needed or works best for Richmond, the DC area and Tidewater may be wrong for southwest Virginia. And as demonstrated by the governors of Florida and Georgia, not all states need the same treatment as New York, California and New Jersey.

Other restrictions seem to have been done with a political goal in mind. “Do as I say, because I said so,” is the dominant attitude, and some guidelines are backed up by arrests, fines and jail time. These authoritarian officials arrogantly thumb their nose at their constituents and trample on the individual freedom principles upon which the United States of America was established.

People are tiring of being controlled when the controls are worse than that which spawned them. They are ready to go back to work, to enjoy life, even if that means continuing some of the guidelines imposed on them weeks ago, but now doing it voluntarily.

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. 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.