Author: Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi
On January 15, 2020, a man of Chinese descent and a U.S. resident in his 30’s, arrived in Seattle from Wuhan. When asked about his contacts in China, he clearly lied to the authorities, as the Chinese Communist Party did to the rest of the world about COVID-19 cases throughout the People’s Republic of China. This deliberate act of President Xi and his despotic party unleashed global suffering and devastation across the globe. Explore the historical constructs and political climate affecting recovery from the Novel Coronavirus, both worldwide and in the United States of America.
Calls come as center's director, Biden's secretary of state nominee, undergoes Senate confirmation process
By Alana Goodman • The Washington Free Beacon
A good-government watchdog is calling on secretary of state nominee Antony Blinken to disclose any foreign-funding sources for the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Biden Center, where Blinken served as director, as part of his Senate confirmation vetting process.
The National Legal and Policy Center (NPLC) is arguing thatany foreign money that made its way into the Penn Biden Center could pose a conflict of interest for Blinken, who served as the center’s director from 2017 to 2019 and received a more than $79,000 salary, according to his financial-disclosure records. The watchdog group said the university also saw a significant spike in contributions from China after the Penn Biden Center opened in 2017, raising questions about whether the funding had any connection to the policy center.
While President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to tighten ethics standards for his incoming administration, the Penn Biden Center’s lack of financial candor raises questions about the Biden cabinet’s commitment to transparency as Blinken testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday afternoon.
“The Penn Biden Center is the poster child for revolving-door conflicts of interest,” said Tom Anderson, director of the NPLC’s Government Integrity Project. “It’s time they disclose their donors and allow the American people the opportunity to evaluate whether any lines have been crossed.”
The Penn Biden Center was founded by Joe Biden at the University of Pennsylvania in 2017. Biden’s other policy-research institute at the University of Delaware has faced similar criticism over a lack of transparency and has no plans to disclose its donors after the president-elect takes office. Both organizations have served as cabinets-in-waiting, employing former Biden advisers who are now expected to join his administration.
Stephen MacCarthy, a spokesman for the University of Pennsylvania, told the Washington Free Beacon that the Penn Biden Center “is funded entirely with University funds” and doesn’t engage in fundraising.
“The University has never solicited any gifts for the Center. Since its inception in 2017 there have been three unsolicited gifts (from two donors) which combined total $1,100. Both donors are Americans,” said MacCarthy.
MacCarthy declined to discuss additional details of the center’s funding, or the sudden spike in donations from China, on the record.
Foreign contributions to the University of Pennsylvania tripled since the Penn Biden Center’s soft opening in March 2017, rising from $31 million in 2016 to over $100 million in 2019. The largest foreign contributor was China, which significantly increased its gifts to the university after the Penn Biden Center opened.
The University of Pennsylvania took in around $61 million in gifts and contracts from China between 2017 and 2019, according to records from the Department of Education. This was a substantial uptick from the prior four years, when the university received $19 million from China.
Many of the Chinese contributions were listed as coming from “anonymous” sources, according to the university’s disclosure records. Between March 2017 and the end of 2019, the university received a total of $22 million in anonymous gifts from China—a spike from less than $5 million during the preceding four years.
Blinken’s work outside of the Penn Biden Center also involved China and university funding.
Blinken cofounded the consulting firm WestExec, which helped U.S. universities raise money from China without running afoul of Pentagon grant requirements, the Free Beacon reported last month. WestExec scrubbed the details of this work from its website over the summer.
Anderson said his group is preparing to file a supplement to a Department of Justice complaint filed against the University of Pennsylvania last year.
The NLPC’s complaint asked the DOJ to look into whether the University of Pennsylvania or the Penn Biden Center violated the Foreign Agent Registration Act by accepting foreign funding in exchange for promoting the interests of foreign governments. Anderson said the new complaint will include Blinken’s work assisting universities that receive funding from China.
Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters that the committee will likely vote on Blinken’s confirmation on Monday.
By Lee Ohanian • Hoover Instituion
Last year, 621 people died of drug overdoses in San Francisco. To put this in perspective, 173 people died from COVID-19, which is identified as the primary public health crisis in the Bay Area.
For years, San Francisco has tacitly encouraged drug abuse with remarkably lenient policies, and those policies are now inadvertently killing hundreds of people annually. San Francisco uses a policy approach called “harm reduction,” which stresses “culturally competent, non-judgmental treatment that demonstrates respect and dignity for the individual.”
But this approach, as it is practiced within San Francisco, is inhumane and cruel. It is destroying the dignity of the lives that some could have with more sensible policies. In addition to overdose deaths skyrocketing, drug abuse has increased in San Francisco, and it is becoming more difficult for addicts to affect positive change.
If you spend much time in San Francisco, you know this, as several areas of the city have become de facto open-air drug bazaars, with drug abuse and drug sales taking place for all to see. Harm-reduction policies are expanding drug use among youths through the dispensation to homeless adolescents of “safe snorting kits” and “safe smoking kits” for crack use. As if any crack use could be considered “safe.”
There are an estimated 25,000 drug users in San Francisco, which if anything is too low of a count since that estimate is nearly two years old. This exceeds San Francisco’s high school population by more than 50 percent and works out to about 522 drug users per city block. Sadly, thousands of human tragedies unfold every day, eviscerating those who use drugs, and forever affecting the lives of those who see it daily, including many children.
Drug abuse is challenging to treat, but a recent handbook of best practices for substance abuse treatment by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that targeted treatment can be very effective, particularly when intervention occurs early.
But a drawback to San Francisco’s acceptance and facilitation of drug use is that it prevents early intervention. Unless San Francisco completely changes how it views drug abuse, these numbers will become even worse. The country’s most progressive city needs to understand that their policies are creating implicit death sentences for many who could be helped with a different policy approach.
Understanding this begins with the simple economics about drug use, which highlights why harm reduction has failed. On the demand side, drug users come to San Francisco from elsewhere because they know the city tolerates and facilitates drug use, which includes providing free hypodermic needles. While giving away nearly 5 million clean needles annually (which boils down to nearly 6 needles for every San Franciscan) admirably reduces communicable diseases, it has created a public health hazard, because about two million used needles are disposed of on city sidewalks. Over $30 million has been spent on dealing with drug abuse within the public transit system, but one could hardly tell this by viewing transit stations that anything has been done to deal with this issue.
On the supply side, selling drugs in San Francisco has become extremely profitable, given a demand side of 25,000 consumers and the city’s tolerant policies. In contrast to most other cities, the drug trade in San Francisco operates within what is almost a normal marketplace setting, where buyers and sellers can find each other easily, and with a relatively small chance of being arrested. Both of these factors promote relatively low prices, which stimulate demand, and high profits, which stimulate supply.
By normalizing drug abuse, San Francisco has created a perfect storm of a vibrant, well-functioning market of buyers and sellers who trade drugs much like a basket of fruit is traded at a farmer’s market. Unfortunately, the basket that is being traded in San Francisco’s drug bazaar is increasingly becoming the opioid Fentanyl, which can be 100 times more powerful than morphine.
Fentanyl is sufficiently strong that much less than one milligram is used as general anesthesia during major surgery. Just two milligrams—the equivalent of about 25 grains of sand—can be lethal. Emergency personnel responding to a Fentanyl overdose must take precautions so that they do not accidentally inhale Fentanyl. And yet Fentanyl is now being widely traded every day in San Francisco, driving up overdose deaths to about two daily.
What to do? Drug addiction can be treated medically and compassionately without viewing it as part of normal, everyday life, which is what is being practiced today in San Francisco. The city currently allocates over $5 billion to community health and human welfare.
Surely those budgets can be repurposed to treat drug abuse using best practices as outlined by the Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with greater efforts to identify family members who can assist with treatment and support. At the same time, the city must reduce the amount of Fentanyl and other lethal drugs that are being sold routinely in open-air markets.
Many of San Francisco’s drug users have lost control over their lives. The last thing that drug addicts need is another drug pusher, but this is what San Francisco’s policies have created. Lives can be saved, but not unless policies are changed.
By Alex Nester • The Washington Free Beacon
President Donald Trump cut aid to China by 52 percent over the last year, the Spectator reported Friday.
The United States slashed $32 million in aid to China in fiscal year 2020, from $62 million in 2019 to $30 million, according to an Office of Management and Budget report.
The first government-wide China spending report comes as Trump enters the final days of his presidency. His administration implemented aggressive economic policies against China in an effort to thwart the Chinese Communist Party’s growing influence in the United States and the global market.
Trump campaigned in 2016 on combating Chinese economic policy, which he said “took advantage” of American citizens through trade imbalances and the manipulation of currency values.
The president’s efforts to curb Chinese influence in global politics and markets heated up last year after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic: In July, Trump moved to pull out of the World Health Organization for its failure to hold China accountable for its role in the deadly COVID-19 outbreak. He levied additional sanctions on companies that supported the Chinese military and fought Chinese influence at the United Nations. Additionally, the United States imposed $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports during fiscal year 2020.
Trump also cracked down on Confucius Institutes, which are tied to the Chinese Communist Party, for propagating Chinese disinformation at American universities.
Last week, Trump imposed sanctions on two Chinese apps over concerns that Chinese Communist Party officials could use them to collect data on Americans, including federal employees.
President-elect Joe Biden (D.) has criticized the president’s trade war with China. But he could face backlash from Congress if he softens the United States’ stance on Beijing, as politicians on both sides of the aisle support implementing economic measures to punish China for its human-rights abuses and combat the communist regime’s growing influence abroad.
States should broaden policies to support the school choice parents are demanding.
By Paul E. Peterson • The Dallas Morning News
Nothing in the historical record has disrupted American schools quite like COVID-19. Millions of students will lose more than a year of classroom instruction. Only the most hopeful think schools will return to normalcy before next September. An entire generation can expect a drop in lifetime earnings of 5% to 10%, economists tell us. Even worse, social and emotional development have been stunted. Schools no longer provide eye and ear exams, nurse office visits, and ready access to social services. Children from low-income backgrounds are suffering the most.
Parents desperately search for alternatives. In affluent communities, neighbors have formed learning pods, with tutors and fellow parents sharing the instructional burden. Home schooling is on the rise. Families are shifting their children to private and charter schools. Entrepreneurial high school seniors are taking dual enrollment courses, hoping to finish high school and begin college at the same time. But too many children are occupying their time in other ways, with ever more high school students simply dropping out. Enrollment at public schools is falling by 5% or more. The opportunity gap is almost certainly widening between rich and poor children.ADVERTISING
But what happens after the vaccine arrives and the virus has been cornered? Will parents return to the status quo? Or are they going to demand more choices and greater control over their child’s education? Before COVID-19, nearly a third of all students attended a school of choice, including district-operated magnet schools (7%) other district options such as vocational and exam schools (6%), charters (6%), home schooling (3%), and private schools (8% using family and other private funds and 1% with school vouchers or tax-credit scholarships).
If parents have any say, the demand for choice is almost certain to increase. During the pandemic itself, parents reported teachers at charter and private schools were more likely to provide direct instruction. Loss of learning occurred everywhere, but it was less, parents said, at these schools of choice.
What state policies should govern choice practices in the coming decade? How can states ensure that choice facilitates, not hinders, equal educational opportunities? There is no one answer, as every state has its own history and geography. But as the COVID storm has raged, researchers at Stanford’s Hoover Institution came up with a few principles and recommendations that might serve as a guide.
Most important, school choice should reduce the achievement inequalities the pandemic has aggravated. Traditionally, choice has been mainly available to those who could afford to rent or buy a home in a neighborhood that had good schools.
Magnet schools were the first to break this connection between school and residence. To foster school desegregation, they offered specialized programs — math and science, performing arts, bilingual instruction, career and technical training — to attract students from all ethnic groups from all parts of the school district. Most studies indicate that, on average, students are learning more at magnets than in other district schools. In many cities, including Miami, Denver and New York, the magnet concept is being broadened to encompass the entire district. Every school is a school of choice. The schools that go unchosen are earmarked for special attention or may be closed for lack of enough students. States should facilitate more of these districtwide choice programs.
Charter schools — publicly authorized schools that operate under private auspices — are also broadening family options. In 2018 Texas charters served more than 330,000 students at nearly 800 schools, about 6% of all public school students.
Initially, studies showed little difference between the performances of students at charters and district schools, either in Texas or elsewhere. But recent studies show that cohorts of students who attend charters in Texas and nationwide are improving at twice the rate of students at district schools. The biggest strides forward are among African American students.
To facilitate their expansion, states can authorize more schools, but limit fiscal harms to school districts. In Texas and most other states, funding follows the child when the student moves either to a charter school or from one district to another. Although the fiscal policy makes sense, districts that lose enrollment still bear legacy costs, most importantly, pensions and medical benefits for retired employees. States can mitigate the political controversies by absorbing more of these legacy costs.
Some worry that charters undermine district-operated public schools by attracting the most engaged families. Fortunately, that has not happened so far: Recent evidence shows gains in student performance at district schools when they are competing with charters.
School segregation is another concern. But even though racial isolation remains widespread in most metropolitan areas, a recent study by the liberal Urban Institute finds that choice has little effect on the racial composition of schools, one way or the other.
Still, there is much that state policymakers can do to make sure that school choice enhances equal opportunity. Charter schools can be placed in locations that foster integration. States can fund transportation costs for all students, no matter what school they attend. That is both efficient and equitable. And once legacy costs are protected, choice of school should not be skewed by favorable funding for one type of school rather than another.
Going forward, states should focus on middle and high schools. Research tells us that students in fourth grade public schools have been learning their letters and numbers as well or better than in the past. The challenge schools face comes with the onset of adolescence.
Achievement slippage is well underway by eighth grade, and it becomes increasingly severe as students proceed through high school. Rising high school graduation rates are mostly a function of easier grading practices and undemanding credit recovery courses, as shown by the astoundingly high dropout rates at community colleges. Half of all students just out of high school leave a two-year college within the first year.
Choice by itself will not solve the malaise that continues to plague too much of our educational system, especially in the middle and high school years. But if students are given a wide range of options, leading to multiple types of meaningful certificates, chances improve that young people will become more adequately prepared for what comes next. The COVID-19 crisis can become the equal opportunity moment.
By George Landrith • Townhall
This past year was one of the most tumultuous in memory. Widespread economic collapse, social and societal upheaval, violent riots, an acrimonious election cycle, and a worldwide pandemic are just a few of the major sources of upheaval.
These sorts of massive disruptions to the norm create opportunities for change and improvement. Some use those opportunities productively to work for solutions that fix real problems and improve lives. But sadly, many use these disruptions to cynically advance their own agenda while feigning concern for the plight of others. Unfortunately, organized labor falls into this latter group.
In a time when so many Americans desperately want a job and a way to fund the hopes, dreams and aspirations of their family, too many union leaders are slamming the door shut on the very people they claim to serve. To make matters worse, too many union leaders are also padding their own pockets and working to advance their own power and influence at the expense of their members.
Here are a few recent examples. Dennis Williams, the former president of United Auto Workers (UAW), pled guilty to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the union. And this scandal was preceded by his successor at the UAW, Gary Jones, admitting that he helped steal more than a million dollars from union workers. That’s a bad trend line!
James W. Cahill, a powerful and politically well-connected union leader, was indicted on racketeering and fraud charges. Federal prosecutors allege that he and others accepted bribes to aid companies that had hired nonunion labor. So the charges include accepting under the table money to work against your own members. But we are supposed to believe that the union is working to help union workers.
Chuck Stiles, the Director of the Teamsters Solid Waste and Recycling Division, has allegedly been taking large annual payouts of $65,000 for a “phantom job” on top of his $150,000 annual salary. These allegationsdon’t come from some union-hating critic, they come from an active member of the Teamsters Union. On top of that, there are allegations that Stiles’s son has also received a difficult-to-explain $10,000 payout from union funds.
This sort of double self-dealing, if true, is very troubling and it raises the question — are these unions really representing their members or are they simply pretending to, and then enriching themselves while carrying on the charade.
The cynicism doesn’t end with corrupt payments or self-dealing. For example, Stiles has decided to try to leverage the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement to increase support for the struggling labor movement. Yet the labor movement has not historically been the friend of racial minorities. And Stiles has no history of supporting minority candidates or causes. Interestingly, a public photo of Stiles in blackface has also recently emerged. So the idea that Stiles has some deep commitment to helping blacks or other minorities is a little hard to swallow. It is a fair question to ask — how serious and how sincere is this newfound interest in minorities and their economic welfare?
More than five million manufacturing jobs disappeared from the American economy between 1999 and 2011. The exodus of good paying jobs continued through 2016. China was the single biggest factor. This massive jobs exodus harmed working-class blacks, yet BLM has been silent on China and refused to support policies that would reverse our economic losses to the Communist Country. Instead, they’ve focused on odd conspiracy theories about obesity and diabetes in the black community — as if that has been more consequential to black employment and poverty than jobs being exported abroad.
Given all that has transpired, when BLM and unions claim to be teaming up to protect and promote the interests of working-class blacks, a huge dose of realism is needed. Who actually benefits when unions “team up” with BLM but they both refuse to actually do what is needed to promote good paying manufacturing and other skilled labor jobs? It won’t be minority workers.
Someone who claims they support workers, must point to how they’ve helped make real improvements in the lives of workers — more jobs, higher wages, etc. This is not the track record of unions or BLM in the past two decades. They have done a good job of enriching themselves and raising money and obtaining political power for themselves. But where is the evidence that they have done anything for the average American worker — black or white? And why haven’t they supported policies that have actually worked and benefited American workers — and particularly minority workers?
These questions answer themselves. Both unions and BLM do more posturing than actual good, and they are teaming up hoping to hide this inescapable truth so that they can continue to prosper while feigning concern for those they claim to represent.
By Peter Roff • Newsweek
Adapt or die.”
In business, it’s a well-known maxim but it surprisingly doesn’t carry much weight in politics. For some reason the consultants, donors and strategists driving candidate selection too often go with folks they know, thinking that a bit of tinkering with the message will be enough to carry them to victory.
They’re wrong—as many recent Virginia elections have demonstrated. Once a reliably red state at the federal level, the Old Dominion has turned blue. In Richmond, the Democrats who came roaring back into power in 2019 are of a radically different bent than the ones who made up the legislative majorities through most of the 20th century.
Being known as the party of limited government, standing for life, supporting Second Amendment rights and allowing people to keep more of what they earn still works. It’s in sync with what voters in most parts of Virginia and most parts of the nation generally believe.
To win going forward, Virginia party leaders and the folks at the grassroots level need to be bolder when choosing their messengers. It’s all well and good to talk about what policies mean for the working class, for the poor, for the communities of immigrants that have sprung up throughout Northern Virginia—all of whom, of late, have thrown in with the Democrats. To be convincing, the GOP is going to have to look beyond its traditional pool of candidates in the state legislature and in the county courthouses.
The party must expand its reach. It needs to nominate candidates who can talk convincingly about Virginia and America as places where hard work, luck and adherence to the rules and values of society should still make it possible for people to pursue, as one prominent Virginian put it, happiness.
The best candidates are the ones who know this to be true because they’ve walked the walk. Standing out among the other potential 2021 gubernatorial candidates in this regard is Sergio de la Peña, a recently retired career Army officer who spent the last four years at the Pentagon dealing with serious national security issues.
He’s a modest man of modest means. Talking with him about his accomplishments, and there are many, is difficult. He likes to share credit where it is due and regards everything he’s done as the result of team efforts. That may be his military training talking, but it works. Of late, we’ve had our fill of braggadocious politicians on both sides of the aisle who think the people’s business is all about them.
“I came to America from Mexico in 1961. I immigrated legally, went to work, learned to speak English and eventually traded my Mexican citizenship for a uniform, olive drab,” Mr. de la Peña told me. “It was the best decision I ever made.”
“Now,” he continued, “I want to pay America and Virginia back for the opportunities it afforded me by doing what I can to create an environment in which others can achieve all that their potential allows. That’s why I’m running for governor, to bring hope and opportunity to all the people of the commonwealth.”
Mr. de la Peña has strong words for what he calls “the liberal elites” who presume immigrants like him are natural Democrats and support a hard turn to the left. “Just like everyone else, [immigrants] want the chance to make it in America. We don’t want handouts. We want to work hard and build a better life for ourselves and our children. I did and I know others can too, given the chance. What the liberals in Virginia now are offering are the kinds of proposals that took Venezuela from the most prosperous country in Latin American to just about the poorest.”
“Socialism always fails,” he said. “It hurts countries and it hurts most the people it’s supposed to help. The elites, meanwhile, continue as before, fat, happy and comfortable in the belief they’re helping. I’m not afraid to say that and I won’t be intimidated into not speaking my mind. I’ve seen it firsthand and I know what I’m talking about.”
Mr. de la Peña doesn’t fit the media caricature of a typical Republican. His policy positions are thoroughly Reaganite, which the traditional GOP vote outside Northern Virginia will find appealing. If the voters who live in the counties and communities connected to the region around the Capital Beltway—many of whom, like him, are immigrants to the United States who’ve been voting Democrat for many years—give him a fair hearing, he’s confident he can win many of them over. Enough, at least, to form a winning majority that will make him the commonwealth’s next governor.
By Peter Roff • Newsweek
It would be nice if everyone had given their attention to how quickly Congresscompleted its work Wednesday. How, after a brief disruption, it counted the electoral ballots and confirmed President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris‘s victory. That the norms were upheld and the victorious indeed emerged triumphant.
It would be nice—but it would ignore the elephant in the room.
Many regard the U.S. Capitol with the same kind of awe and reverence shown by Jimmy Stewart’s character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I know I do and, after nearly 40 years of being intimately involved in the political process, I confess a great deal of earnest sentimentalism has managed to survive beneath my hard-shell journalistic cynicism.
The Capitol is an amazing building, unique for what it represents. To the world, its dome means freedom, liberty and equality. It stands for the idea every man and woman has an equal chance to succeed, unhampered by those factors that in other nations perpetuate class, caste and regional differences. We are, as a friend often reminds me, a great country full of amazing people who often do amazing things.
What happened Wednesday is an abomination. More than that, it sullies the very democratic institutions and processes those who came to protest the counting of the Electoral College ballots in what they believe is a stolen election said they had come to protect. Spontaneous or not, the assault on the Capitol was an affront to us all, Democrats, Republicans and independents alike—no matter who committed it.
As has been argued by others, President Donald J. Trump bears considerable responsibility for this madness. He sent those people off on a mission believing they were patriots standing up against the culmination of a corrupt process that denied him a second term. That is not, however, an indictment of the nearly 75 million Americans who voted for him in November.
Those who broke the law should be sought out and, if apprehended, punished to the full extent allowable by law. Those who entered the Capitol to ransack it not only made a mockery of the majesty and ritual with which America’s legislative process is conducted, they proved the Founding Fathers to have been correct in every way in which they warned against the dangers of the mob.
There is a coarseness in politics today that, for some time, has debased our democratic system. James Madison warned that partisanship would be problematic. We can see now how prescient he was. Disagreement and dissent are now too often presented as dishonorable, especially by the people on the other side of any given disagreement. The plain fact is there’s plenty of blame to go around, and the mob that attacked the Capitol were no more “patriots” than the assassins of the two New York City police officers murdered in 2014 while sitting in their cruiser were “civil rights activists.”
Words are the way we are supposed to settle things—not violence. That’s what my mother and father taught me and, I presume, it’s what most of you who are reading this now were also taught in your formative years. The disputes we have over the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, whether grounded in reality or a fantasy-fueled attempt to hang onto power, cannot and will not be settled by brawling or attacking democratic symbols.
As a new administration comes into office, hopefully both Democrats and Republicans will adopt a calmer approach to settling differences. The persistence of our democratic republic is a tribute to the vision of the Founders and the living legacy of men like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Kennedy and Reagan—all of whom did so much to give it life. It is a tribute to them that our institutions and our democratic republic have not yet crumbled on account of the lesser lights who have been sometimes chosen to lead it.
However unfairly Mr. Trump was treated during his presidency, he must realize at some point that he brought many of these indignities upon himself. He chose to throw sharp elbows and should not have been surprised when they were thrown back. He could have left the presidency on a high note, confident he’d built a movement that would outlast him and that, in just four years, he’d successfully pushed policies leading to greater peace and prosperity (at least before COVID-19 hit). Ultimately, he surrendered to the lesser parts of our nature and seems, for the moment at least, to have destroyed any meaningful legacy he might have left.
It appears that the belief in widespread dishonesty among American youth has become an excuse to lower standards for the presumed gradual ‘development’ of more recently joined cadets.
By James McDonough • The Federalist
On March 7, 1945, Lt. Karl Timmermann joined a small group of scouts on a rise overlooking the Rhine River and saw that the bridge at Remagen was yet standing. Heroically, he immediately radioed back to his higher headquarters what he had seen.
He had to know what the subsequent orders would be—lead his men into the jaws of death, seize the bridge, and open a path into the heart of Germany. Later that day, he would earn the Distinguished Service Cross for taking that bridge in the face of fierce German resistance
Timmermann was not a West Pointer, but his character and integrity reflected the epitome of the West Point motto: Duty, Honor, Country. He would say later that he only did what was expected of him. He was right.
So too should we expect all West Pointers—indeed, the entire officer corps—to do what is expected of them. Yet cheating scandals at West Point increasingly meet not this unflinching expectation, but excuses and accommodations.
The West Point honor code, the essential character-building element of the Academy’s rigorous four-year program, is clear and straightforward: A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do. It is a code that has existed for decades, held sacrosanct by not only cadets but also the cadre that leads them, and the officer corps in which they will eventually serve.
Or is it? The last seven decades have seen three major instances of cheating rings: a football team-centered academic scandal in 1950-‘51, an engineering one in 1976-‘77, and a Plebe (freshman) math one in 2020. The traditional sanction for such behavior was expulsion, but of the three noted above the first was partially overlooked, the second resulted in a year-long dismissal for those involved (of whom most returned to graduate a year late), and the latest—under a system “reformed” in 1977 and again in 2002 giving more discretion to the superintendent of West Point—is yet to be determined.
In late December when the latest scandal broke, USA Today summarized it this way:
More than 70 cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point were accused of cheating on a math exam, the worst academic scandal since the 1970s at the Army’s premier training ground for officers.
Fifty-eight cadets admitted cheating on the exam, which was administered remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of them have been enrolled in a rehabilitation program and will be on probation for the remainder of their time at the academy. Others resigned, and some face hearings that could result in their expulsion.
The academy’s original statement in response expressed its “disappointment,” a comment often rendered to misbehaving children by a parent. A subsequent letter from the superintendent promised to deal with the matter thoroughly and pledged devotion to a strong honor system.
I trust West Point will do so, but even in that letter, the superintendent cited the default position toward honor violations (and other egregious violations of character and discipline) as the “developmental model.” That model assumes cadets in their early years have not yet had enough time to consider the import of the honor code and its centrality to a cadet’s and an officer’s character. They must, therefore, be educated for the first two years (and perhaps beyond) to ultimately come to terms with it.
Indeed, the letter pointed out that all cadets had been sent home over COVID-19 in March 2020. Although classes continued via electronics, it said, the Plebes who cheated in May (they had entered West Point the preceding July) had been denied the onsite mentoring that would have forestalled it.
Having been given his post the day before, Timmermann had one day to come to terms with his responsibility as a company commander in combat. No one assumed he would need more time. When chosen to command, he was expected to perform, and he did.
West Point still recruits young men and women of talent and character to lead American soldiers in defense of the country. But it now has become a mantra at the academy to point out that society today does not imbue the high standards of integrity for those recruited.
“Eighty percent of high school students today admit to cheating” is a statement often heard at the academy, whose alma mater for more than a century now includes the words “may Honor be e’er untarned.” It appears that the belief in widespread dishonesty among American youth has become an excuse to lower standards to buy time for the presumed gradual “development” of more recently joined cadets to take hold.
Is that not the bigotry of lowered expectations? Is it not an insult to those recruited today—a cohort of young people more reflecting the diversity of the nation—to assume that they do not know at the outset the difference between lying and telling the truth, nor recognize that copying an illicitly obtained answer to an exam question is cheating, nor understand that lack of integrity away from West Point is no less damning than a similar failing at the academy?
Indeed, the final part of the West Point Honor Code (“or tolerate those who do”) is no doubt the most difficult part to comply with. It is one thing to maintain your own integrity, another to report a peer who cheats.
But without that final clause, honor becomes a solitary experience, not an organizational coda. If West Point tolerates those who cheat, it violates its own honor system. What does that teach the cadets it seeks to develop—that words describing an ideal may have a nice ring to them, but it is not necessary to abide by them?
Those who decry contemporary American society perhaps assume that generations ago we were peopled by plaster saints and that it would be impossible to maintain once widespread and impeccable value sets. In my view, citizens of quality remain in abundance. West Point can recruit from the best of those and expect the best from them.
Standards there can be reasonably enforced (and expulsion need not be the only sanction) and thereby maintained. These apply not only to honor, but to matters of discipline, professionalism, and the traditions of commitment to the nation and selfless service. Some of the long-term adherence to all of these has occasionally slipped as well, an indication that if we lower expectations and thereby relax standards, we can expect standards to erode.
To maintain high standards, West Point will need the backing of the Army and its political leadership, as well as the support of the American public, who expect the best of those it pays to put through the four demanding years at the academy. It is the latter whose sons and daughters will be led by its graduates and their peers in the officer corps.
As retired Col. Lewis Sorley, a West Point graduate, wrote in his excellent book, “Honor Bright,” on the history and traditions of the West Point honor system: “As the Military Academy moves through the 21st century, the Honor Code remains as it has always been, a precious thing, fragile, entirely dependent on each new cohort of cadets to adopt it, make it their own, fiercely protect it, and march forward in its service. That this process shall continue in perpetuity is the heart-felt hope and dream of all those—proud and grateful members of the Long Gray Line—who have shared the privilege of living by its inspiring standard.”
First Dem-controlled gov't in a decade means fights over filibuster, court packing, socialist agenda
By Charles Fain Lehman • The Washington Free Beacon
Victory in Georgia has guaranteed Democratic control of the White House and Congress, giving President-elect Joe Biden expanded options but also denying him cover from the demands of his party’s radical left wing.
Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff’s surprise double triumph on Tuesday makes possible many of Biden’s more expansive legislative priorities, such as his promised revisions to Obamacare or his $2 trillion climate plan. But it also means that he has lost the convenient excuse of a Republican-controlled Senate, which would have allowed him to refuse the more revolutionary changes endorsed by members of his party.
Instead, progressive groups are already agitating for proposals such as ending the Senate’s filibuster. Eli Zupnick, spokesman for the left-leaning Fix Our Senate, responded to the news of Warnock and Ossoff’s victory with bluntness: “What does this election mean? The filibuster is dead.”
Similar calls will soon emerge from other corners, pushing for court packing, the addition of new states, radical appointees, and the agenda of the House’s socialist “squad” caucus. Paradoxically, Biden’s victory in the Senate may have set up an even greater battle: not against Republicans, but across the ever-growing fault lines which divide his party.
As much is particularly true due to the razor-thin margin by which Democrats control government. They will hold the Senate only through the grace of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, while Republicans chipped away at their already narrow control of the House in the November election.
That margin will come into play over a likely contentious debate over the filibuster. Democrats’ sub-60-vote position means that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) can still stall much of Biden’s agenda, as he did in the latter days of the Obama administration. Recognizing this, soon-to-be majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has repeatedly signaled an openness to ending the practice.
In this, Schumer has been joined by progressive members of his caucus such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), as well as former president Barack Obama. But blue dog senators have been hostile: Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.), and Jon Tester (D., Mont.) are all opposed, while Sen. Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.) has dodged the question. So too has Warnock, while Ossoff offered only a “maybe” when asked.
Abolishing the filibuster would be a prerequisite for another major change Schumer has been eyeing—granting statehood to the District of Columbia and possibly Puerto Rico, guaranteeing two to four more Democrats in the upper chamber. But it would not be necessary to add further justices to the Supreme Court, a move many Democrats agitated for in the wake of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment. Biden has remained conspicuously silent on the issue of court packing, which would require his involvement but would see the ostensible moderate yielding to progressives over the majority of Americans.
Such major changes are not the only place Democratic control could be a headache for Biden. McConnell’s control of the Senate was expected to moderate Biden’s selection for top posts, and the president-elect has leaned toward the center in many of his taps.
But a Democrat-controlled Senate will allow more controversial choices, like the inflammatory OMB pick Neera Tanden, a serious hearing Biden may not have expected. And it could give new life to appointment priorities from the left, like the list of 100 foreign policy progressives that until Tuesday appeared dead on arrival.
A similar headache may await House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), as a smaller caucus gives more power to the growing “squad” of Democratic socialists in her chamber. A cadre of online progressives spent the days leading up to the vote for speaker agitating for Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), and others to withhold their votes unless Pelosi agreed to allow a vote on Medicare for All. Ocasio-Cortez shot down the idea but acknowledged it—indicating future pressure efforts may be more fruitful.
Pelosi, in other words, could experience a redux of the standoffs that defined the relationship between former speaker John Boehner and the House Freedom Caucus, which ended with Boehner’s resignation. Biden, similarly, risks his agenda being hijacked—not by obstreperous Republicans, as expected, but by members of his own party eager to seize power.