Thursday, March 26, 2020

The coronavirus COVID-19 is not the only threat China represents

Many years ago, there was a very popular movie, “The China Syndrome.” It was a thriller about a potential cataclysmic event that could possibly destroy China, due to a problem in an American nuclear power plant. We now face another sort of China Syndrome.

This one originated in China, and has already killed thousands, and will likely kill thousands more around the globe. It was in China where the novel coronavirus COVID-19 first appeared and eventually was made public.

It angers many people when this disease is identified by its country of origin as the “Chinese virus,” or the “China virus.” But doing so is not racist. And it is not xenophobic.

It is no more so than “Chinese food,” “Chinese Communists,” or “Chinese checkers.” Many other diseases have likewise been named after their countries of origin: German measles, Spanish flu, Japanese encephalitis, Ebola virus, West Nile virus, and MERS (the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome). These names merely accurately identify the diseases’ origin; they reflect reality. Nothing more.

Carelessly slinging around epithets, like calling the use of the term “Chinese virus” racist, and mis-labeling people as racist, xenophobes, etc., devalues those terms. Where Donald Trump is concerned, this happens often. Such usage gives credibility to the term “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” It may be as real as the China virus.

That China is no friend of the United States is a story with a long, long history. In recent history, its tariffs on American products have worked against us for many, many years, reaching a record $375 billion in 20l7. Its penchant for intellectual property theft, stealing American technology through the work of spies acting as workers or associates, and often requiring companies to voluntarily share new technology with the Chinese Communist Party in return for being allowed to market products to China, also severely damage the U.S.

The onset of the coronavirus has thrown spotlights on the dangerous degree to which pharmaceuticals are now made in, and controlled by, China. Irresistible incentives offered to American drug companies resulted in the transfer of production of drugs from America to China.

“Multinational drug companies, many of them headquartered in the United States, began buying ingredients for critical drugs in China after the U.S.-China Fair Trade Agreement passed nearly two decades ago,” notes an article in U.S. News. “State-owned Chinese companies, buoyed by heavy government subsidies, set their prices so low that they were able to undercut established manufacturers in the U.S. and elsewhere, prompting them to shut down their plants and move their operations to China,” the article continued. 

China’s “Thousand Talents program tries to recruit experts from Western universities to work in China and ramp up its progress in science and technology,” reported NBC News in January. An FBI complaint charges that the program has “rewarded individuals for stealing proprietary information and violating export controls.”

NBC also reported on the arrest of Charles M. Lieber, the chair of Harvard's Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. Lieber is alleged to have failed to disclose his involvement in the Thousand Talents program to the Department of Defense.

Lieber was allegedly paid $50,000 monthly by China's Wuhan University of Technology, and also received $158,000 in living expenses, and a $1.74 million award to set up a research lab at the Wuhan University.

Knox News, the online presence of the Knoxville News Sentinel, reported in February that “Anming Hu, an associate professor in [the University of Tennessee’s] Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering, faces three counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Hu allegedly neglected to make UT aware of an affiliation with a university run by the Chinese government, which then resulted in UT falsely certifying to NASA that it complied with the appropriate laws.

President Donald Trump has begun fighting back against China’s outrageous tariffs, by putting tariffs on Chinese products. As with everything Trump does, this, too, has drawn much criticism. But Trump notes that after years of sitting mildly by while China hurts American business interests and strengthens itself, it is time to fight back.

The country has been gradually coming on board with Trump’s plan. The latest ABC News/IPSOS poll shows that 55 percent of Americans now favor his actions, while 43 percent still oppose his handling of this crisis.

Addressing the threat posed by China today, historian and former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich notes, “Now we face the fifth great challenge to our survival as a free country (following the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War II, and the rise of the Soviet Union).”

In his new book, “Trump vs. China: Facing America’s Greatest Threat,” in which he tracks China’s centuries-long development up to today, he describes the situation. “The Chinese Communist Party’s totalitarian system is big, and getting bigger, getting richer, and becoming more sophisticated. It is the greatest competitor that America has faced in our history.”

The COVID-19 threat that originated in China will most likely be defeated in time. The greater threat posed by China, however, will still exist, and must be addressed.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

What, exactly, is a right, and which ones are free for everyone?

We hear a lot about “rights” in these days and nights of political jockeying. What does it mean when someone says that you, or I, or we “have a right” to something? And what, exactly, is a right? 

A right is a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something, or to act in a certain way.

That the people are guaranteed certain rights is a major benefit of the United States of America that nearly everyone understands. That was affirmed in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Later, when the U.S. Constitution was written and passed, Americans were guaranteed certain rights by the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights. Some of these are: the right of freedom of speech, of religion, of the press, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to a speedy and public trial for alleged crimes, and protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Other rights are assumed, but not specifically guaranteed by the Constitution. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "a right is not something that somebody gives you; it is something that nobody can take away."

Thus, having a right to something guarantees only that it cannot be taken away, not that it is automatically delivered to you without you doing anything to realize it. The Declaration mandates that one may pursue Happiness, but it does not automatically deliver it.

And some things claimed as a “right” are merely desires, and can be nothing more than outrageous cravings. 

Two perfect examples of such things are: Haagen-Dazs, an American ice cream brand, whose name consists of made-up Scandinavian words, insisted that it owns the rights to all fake Scandinavian words. And this: Spike Lee claimed that only he had the right to call things “Spike,” after The Nashville Network/TNN changed its name to "Spike TV."

Yes, those examples are absurd. However, the modern American Left supports a list of things that, while not absurd like the previous two examples, are things that it believes we Americans have a “right” to, like a college education, health care, child care, and housing. 

They further believe that they should be provided to everyone, for free. Yes, we all do have a right to pursue these things, but not a right to have them given to us.

Democrat nomination candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said on ABC's “This Week” recently, “The United States must ‘end the international embarrassment’ of not guaranteeing health care as a right. We need more changes in our health care system, you talk about a public option, many people will not be able to afford a public option," he said. "What the American people have got to decide is one simple question: 'Do we create a health care system, guaranteeing health care for all people without insurance companies and drug companies making huge profits and distorting health care in America?' That is the issue.”

All of us have a right to get healthcare, of course, but no one has a right to be given health care that is paid for by the rest of us. Some Americans get health care as the result of the government’s Medicaid program for the needy. Others get care through Medicare as a result of having contributed their money to the Social Security program. But no one has a right to free health care, or any of the other freebies that Democrats campaign on.

The idea of “free stuff for all” carries real problems with it. Cost is a serious consideration. What will/can a government do to pay for the “free” services?

The gargantuan and Democrat-favorite “Medicare for All” would cost $32 trillion or more over 10 years, according to research from the Mercatus Center’s Charles Blahous.

The proposed FY 2021 federal budget is a record $4.829 trillion. The Blahous estimate of $3.2 trillion a year represents increasing government spending by nearly 67 percent.

And Blahous noted that his estimate is probably low. Free stuff tends to attract more users than stuff with a price tag. People will head for the doctor’s office or hospital with every sniffle or stubbed toe. Shortages of care would inevitably result, meaning that government would then decide who gets treatment, and who doesn’t.

Democrat candidate Mike Bloomberg has a solution: "If you show up with prostate cancer, you're 95-years-old, we should say, 'Go and enjoy. Have [a] nice – live a long life.' There's no cure and there's nothing we can do."

For less serious circumstances, you might get treated in a timely fashion. Or, you may have to wait a few weeks, or months. A Fraser Institute study released last December showed the median wait time for medically necessary treatment in Canada’s free system in 2019 was 20.9 weeks.

An article in HuffPost noted that Canada’s health care system lacks medical technology and demands high taxation to pay for it.

Rights are ours to be had, and some are guaranteed. But free stuff isn’t free.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Elections and voting are important and demand effort and honesty

Elections are one of the most important rights and sacred duties of American citizens. Therefore, the nation must do whatever is necessary to assure that elections are free of fraud and abuse. 

Accusations of fraudulent activity are common. Thousands, perhaps millions, of people are on voter rolls who have passed away, moved to another jurisdiction, or who are not eligible voters. Elections must be limited to citizens who are legal voters and registered in the states and localities in which they live.

Some elected officials keep trying to make everything related to voting, from registration to actual ballot-casting, easier. Many believe these efforts are beneficial, and to an extent, they are. But we must work hard to protect the rights we have, and that includes our right — and our duty — to vote for those who will serve us in public office. We must not allow convenience to become the enemy of a fair and just election.

We should not mind putting forth the effort needed to get ourselves properly registered to vote, and get to the polls on election day to cast our ballots. We should not mind spending the necessary time studying those running for office so that we make educated choices. Important things deserve our putting out some effort for them.

Some people, however, cannot negotiate the rigors of registration and voting, so most states have mechanisms to help those people, and some private organizations also assist them.

Some of the “conveniences” created to make voting easier weaken the system. Early voting, for example, is a loser, as many Democrats learned recently. Three candidates dropped out before voting on Super Tuesday, meaning those who voted early for those three wasted their votes. 

Absentee ballots for people who are away from their voting district on election day are a reasonable option, but that idea, too, may result in wasted votes if the ballots are submitted too early.

And we see several other truly bad ideas for the election process that are currently being pushed. Among them are:
* All mail-in ballots - All ballots will be distributed and returned by mail
* Ballot harvesting - Permits individuals to collect ballots and supposedly return them to a sanctioned voting office to be counted
* Automatic voter registration - People are automatically registered to vote when they register a vehicle at the DMV, and must “opt out” if they are not eligible to vote
* Abolishing voter ID requirements - Show up at the polls and vote; no ID of any kind required
* Abolish voter residency requirements - Normally, name, birthdate and residential address are required, but this would do away with the residential address requirement
* Same-day voter registration - Show up at the polls and vote, and if you are not registered when you get to the polling place, you register, then vote
* Out-of-precinct voting - A variation of same-day registration

These measures are a flashing neon sign inviting election fraud, taking the control of election results out of the hands of election officials, and delivering it into the hands of cheaters, who do not want an honest system, and therefore look for weaknesses to exploit. 

And here are two more foolish ideas being floated by those wishing to weaken the election system:
* Lax enforcement of the National Voter Registration Act - Discouraging the cleaning of dead or ineligible persons from voter rolls 
* Doing away with the Electoral College - Making the popular vote determine who will be president, which allows a few high-population areas to make the decision and the rest of us are at the mercy of their choice

These ideas are, generally speaking, being advanced by individuals and organizations on the left, and more specifically by Open Society Foundations (OSF), which are organizations that have contributed $1.5 billion to 199 other organizations in the U.S. Formed in 1979 by billionaire George Soros, OSF received $18 billion from Soros in 2017, which was more than 70 percent of his total wealth of $25.2 billion, as estimated by Forbes Magazine.

During the 2004 election cycle when George W. Bush was seeking reelection, Soros contributed some $25 million to liberal and Democrat groups working to defeat Bush, according to Judicial Watch.

Since that time, he has supported Democrat candidates for national office, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Of course, Soros is not the only one seeking to influence our elections.

Campaigns cost too much, these days, and the more money that is in the system, the more likely it is that mischief will occur. Former President Barack Obama warned Americans of the perils of “dark money” in elections, saying it “pulls us into the gutter” as a nation.

Why should any person or organization be allowed to contribute to any political campaign they choose, anywhere in the country? Why should someone in one state be able to contribute to campaigns of people seeking office in other states? If someone has no direct interest in who wins or loses a particular election, why should they be able to support those candidates?

Let us all want and work for clean, fair and just elections.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

A truly serious health situation becomes a political football

Candidates working for a primary or a general election victory in the presidential race naturally chop each other down, and they also highlight what they see as the incumbent’s weaknesses and mistakes. This has reached new heights with President Donald Trump as the “enemy.” Everything he does, from relevant topics to the inane, is targeted by Democrats and their media friends. 

The only thing Trump could do that these folks would approve of would be to resign, or perhaps to drop out of the November election. And then he would be criticized for not doing that the “right way,” either.

Cutting taxes, getting rid of needless and harmful regulations, taking out terrorists who murder American military personnel, and strengthening the position of the United States on the international stage are among the things he’s been recently criticized for. And soon we will likely hear that he wears the wrong color socks and eats too much beef.

The emergence of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has gotten the attention of nearly everybody in the United States and, of course, that includes those running for the Democrat nomination for president.

And not surprisingly, they criticize Trump’s official reaction to the threat of the coronavirus in the U.S. When Democrats claimed that his administration was doing a poor job in addressing the threat, Trump declared those criticisms a “hoax.” Not the virus itself, mind you, but the criticism of his handling of it.

The media then took his comment out of contest and ran off the rails. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote: “Remember this moment: Trump, in South Carolina, just called the coronavirus a ‘hoax.’”

Another media mis-statement, by Politico: “President Donald Trump on Friday night tried to cast the global outbreak of the coronavirus as a liberal conspiracy intended to undermine his first term, lumping it alongside impeachment and the Mueller investigation.”

Both NBC and CBS ran similar misrepresentations of Trump’s comment.

Most Americans do not factcheck what they read and hear from news outlets. They trust them to be accurate and objective. As these examples illustrate, the media often fall short of that expected and needed purpose. Whether by shoddy work or deliberate intent, the result is the same: mis-information gets passed on as accurate news, which many automatically believe. Is that “fake news?”

As previously illustrated, this happens too frequently. Therefore, is the President’s charge that some in the media are “the enemy of the people” really so far-fetched?

And it’s not only the news media that gets things wrong. Candidates for the Democrat nomination also got it wrong. Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg said, “There’s nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing. And he’s defunded — he’s defunded Centers for Disease Control, CDC, so we don’t have the organization we need. This is a very serious thing.”

“We increased the budget of the CDC,” former Vice President Joe Biden said. “We increased the NIH (National Institutes of Health) budget. … He’s wiped all that out. … He cut the funding for the entire effort.”

But dang the luck, both are wrong. Trump is trying to reduce government spending to deal with the budget deficits and the huge national debt, which is badly needed. However, none of the cuts he has called for have been enacted; Congress did not pass them.

The Associated Press factchecked these criticisms, and defended Trump: “He’s proposed cuts but Congress ignored him and increased financing instead. The National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aren’t suffering from budget cuts that never took effect.”

And just because budget cuts were proposed does not by itself indicate that they would have affected fighting the coronavirus. Further, there is an existing fund that was created specifically for health emergencies.

Trump also has asked for additional funding for fighting the coronavirus, but Congress did not grant the request, saying that more money is needed. If so, would it not make sense to grant the initial request and then pass additional funding, rather than turning down what the loyal opposition claims is critical funding?

As for who is on the job, overseeing the work, which Democrat hopefuls also criticized, the major players are Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, and a respected veteran of previous outbreaks, Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIH’s infectious disease chief who has advised six presidents. 

These doctors provide the medical knowledge needed to protect Americans from this serious threat. And Trump has formed an administrative coronavirus task force to manage the government’s actions.

Trump has assigned Vice President Mike Pence to head the task force, which includes Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, national security adviser Robert O'Brien, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, Department of Homeland Security acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, and Domestic Policy Council Director Joseph Grogan. 

Weaponizing the coronavirus threat into a political issue is both a cheap shot and dangerous. It unnecessarily raises fears among the public where good sense is needed, and it shifts the focus of the Democrat campaign away from the radical political positions the Democrats propose.