Another nail in the coffin of public confidence in the press
By Peter Roff • The Washington Times
America’s experience with the COVID-19 pandemic is little surprise given the major media coverage. It’s another nail in the coffin of the public’s confidence the mainstream press is an information conduit and neutral arbiter of disputes between the powerful and influential rather than a mouthpiece for a political agenda.
The press has taken sides and the people don’t like it. The March 2020 Gallup poll shows its approval rating lags President Donald J. Trump and Congress and, at 44 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove, is the only institution tested with numbers underwater.
At the beginning of the current crisis, it was easy to dismiss the Chinese virus, as most media institutions called it then, as a noteworthy, probably insignificant outbreak. As recently as February, for example, New York City’s top public health official was still promoting the city’s celebration of the Chinese New Year rather than calling for self-imposed isolation.
Now, New York City has been hit harder by the COVID-19 virus than perhaps any other place in the country. That’s not surprising; it is the nation’s largest city. But it’s hard to argue based on the information available at the time that anyone promoting Chinese New Year celebrations is responsible for what’s happening now.
These are unprecedented times. We haven’t seen anything like this since the 2009 Swine Flu outbreak or the 1918 Spanish Flu. We face a threat about which we learn more each day and we remain unified, supportive of one another, and help ensure everyone is educated with the most accurate information we have at the time we have it to get through it.
Or that we must rely on a media establishment that has had trouble separating its dislike for the president from the need to get the facts to the American people. Anyone who stands with President Trump, even momentarily, is subject to criticisms that, when magnified through social media, blunt even the important and helpful things they have to say.
Fox News, the nation’s most successful cable news channel, has been and is still being attacked over its early coverage of COVID-19. This ignores how the network, like The New York Times and everyone else, shifted their tone as the seriousness of the story became more apparent. Now, instead of being praised for its coverage which, if it came from almost any other source would be hailed as good journalism, it is still under assault.
It matters, and not just for political reasons. Fox’s demographic is comprised of people considered high-risk if exposed to the virus. Recognizing this, the network has hired new health professionals and physicians as news contributors. It increased the airtime devoted to discussions of what people must do to protect themselves from COVID-19 exposure. It launched Q&A segments, roundtable discussions with physicians, townhalls, a daily blog written by medical experts where viewer questions are answered and the CoronavirusNOW.com — a free-to-use website featuring the latest news about the virus.
Moreover, and most unusual in the news business, the dayside anchors and infotainers who dominate prime time have conspicuously corrected their earlier statements downplaying the threat. Sean Hannity, who the so-called responsible media has thrashed for spreading inaccurate information, told his viewers on Feb. 27, “Make no mistake. Coronavirus, it is dangerous. Those infected are contagious before they show symptoms during incubation period. They don’t know they have the disease. The rapid spread of the virus across continents, it is, of course, concerning.”
The so-called responsible media, meanwhile, has been having a field day for which they have yet to account. On Feb. 26, New York Times columnist Gail Collins wrote a piece poking fun at the president’s handling of events titled “Let’s Call It Trumpvirus.” On March 4, when CNN’s Anderson Cooper should have known better he was still telling viewers “if you’re freaked out about the Coronavirus you should be more concerned about the flu.”
And the “great, gray lady of American journalism?” Beside continually fanning the public’s fear it changed a headline on The New York Times website not once but three times to turn House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s successful bid to wreck the passage of aid to beleaguered American businesses and workers sidelined by coronavirus from a negative for the Democrats into a positive.
COVID-19 is scary. It’s an unnerving time but that doesn’t justify irresponsible attacks on anyone. The learning curve has produced plenty of human error, but the time to evaluate them is largely on the other side of the pandemic. Lots of mistakes have been made. We’re taking this day by day and must remember to be unified in the fight against the virus and not fight each other.
By John Cochrane • The Grumpy Economist
Will the recovery be V shaped, quickly roaring back to the previous level? It does that every January 2 after the long Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Years slowdown, and it did in 1984. Or will it be an agonizingly slow U or L shape, as the recovery from 2008 turned out to be?
I had early hope for a V, but a fear that shuttered businesses and permanently fired people would turn it into an L. Those take much more time to reorganize. Hence, lots of blog posts advocating a more nuanced policy than a blanket lockdown.
But now I think it’s clear the virus will not end with a sudden all-clear, like January 2 or an air raid. If, as we all hope, the current unbelievably costly lockdown does its job, we will in a month or two emerge with the curve bent, a stable or declining number of cases. But the vast majority of the population will still not have been exposed. We will not have “herd immunity” — and a good thing too as 1% of the herd will not have died to get there. And cases both home and abroad will not be zero.
Nothing short of a cheap, effective, incredibly safe vaccine given to just about everyone on the planet will change that.
That means the virus is ready to reemerge promptly. All it takes is one person to travel to a town, go to a restaurant or club meeting, wait two weeks, and you have an outbreak all over again. We will have hotspots and flare-ups needing intense testing, contact tracing, local lockdowns, travel restrictions, and so forth — if our bureaucracies are finally up to the task of doing anything competently.
On the individual and public health level this means almost all of us — who have not gotten it or don’t trust that you can’t get it again — will be practicing some sort of social distance for a long time. And, getting to the point, this all suggests a period of very slow economic activity. I don’t want to call it “recession” as that word implies simple lack of aggregate demand, the Keynesian uni-causal story. No amount of printed or borrowed money will get the social distance economy going again.
Ross Douthat nicely sketched a picture of the coming economy in the Sunday NYT:
Life at half capacity: Right now our institutions must survive while essentially closed — with few or no customers, moviegoers, travelers. But soon they will have to figure out how to reopen while maintaining the social distancing that semi-normalcy requires.
… fewer people will come out, and because there will be rules governing how many people can come in.
…the scenes at some grocery stores right now, the line of people six feet apart waiting to come inside and shop, may become a permanent feature of the semi-normal landscape. Churches will hold services with every other pew occupied. Restaurants will seat every other table. Planes could fly without a single middle seat occupied. Sports may resume without spectators, relying on TV revenue alone.
Ross doesn’t fully draw the economic conclusions of this vision. Such grocery stores can only serve a fraction of the number of customers, yet need more employees and still have to pay the rent. Such restaurants make half as much money yet still must pay the rent. Such airlines still pay the pilots, flight attendants, fuel, and larger cleaning and disinfecting crews. This is not a sustainable economy — at today’s prices.
Ross turns to the government
And since the flow of money and custom and attendance won’t come close to what existed just a month ago, any government response will have to be calibrated to a half-capacity world — where institutions are technically open for business, but they still need help to stay alive.
I have bad news. The government is also a limited resource. We cannot go on for months on end with the government paying half the bill of everything. Just who is buying all those government bonds? With what income? A trillion dollars a month adds up.
The answer is, this is an enormous negative supply shock, together with a big shift in demand. If only half the seats can be filled, running an airline just got twice as expensive. If only half the tables are filled, running a restaurant just got twice as expensive. Those prices have to double. Which in turn, will drive customers away, towards driving (RV sales should go up), cooking at home, fancy takeout, and so forth.
There is likely also to be a shift towards precautionary savings. I think lots of people and businesses have figured out that keeping some cash or money market investments around is a good idea, and overall appetite for risk is going to be lower. I diagnosed markets as suffering from a panicked demand for cash last month. But the standard business cycle mechanism of lower “risk appetite” makes a lot of sense. The shift towards a desire for safe investments may also keep markets low for a long time. This is the standard business cycle mechanism. (Don’t think about saving vs. investment. Think about desire for risky vs. safe investments. Business cycles are about risk premiums.)
Torsten Slok writes by email (summarizing gated DB research) suggesting
Increase in precautionary savings for households… More space between seats at restaurants, cinemas, sports events concerts, conferences, trains, buses and airplanes. Fewer people traveling on vacation and going out… Older generations staying at home, less willing to put parents in retirement homes. Limits on the numbers of people un supermarkets, more online shopping, more online doctor visits. Fewer people going to fitness centers, doing group sports. More people driving their own car to avoid public transportation.
Aside. This could be the kiss of death for public transport in the form of busses and trains. If there is anything that cannot stand a doubling of its cost, and attendant decline in demand, that’s it.
Less business travel.. more video conferencing… fewer buybacks, lower dividend payouts [more equity less debt]
and, I am not alone worrying
more supply of government bonds, increasing risk of a debt crisis.
Policy will face the usual cruel tradeoff: The more help you give the unfortunate, the more disincentives, and the slower the recovery. Noah Williams writes perceptively of unemployment expansion (which, whatever its faults, is probably the best of the government’s responses — better than cash payments to everyone which will arrive late summer, better than bailouts for airline stock and bondholders, and municipal bond holders)
the program is poorly designed. It provides incentives for employers to lay off workers. In the future—assuming the pandemic restrictions are lifted before August—it will discourage people from returning to work.
The current federal relief package extends unemployment benefits to 39 weeks, plus additional payments….Under the new expansion, the average replacement rate across states would increase to roughly 116 percent
You’re running a business. You have some cash around, and could keep people on, at least at reduced hours and health insurance. If you fire them, though, they can get 116% of their salary from the government, and Obamacare. It’s a no brainer.
There is good news in this however. It means that much of what looks like unemployment may really be furlough. The people and employer know where each other is and can snap back more quickly.
39 weeks of 116% of salary though gives people little incentive to answer that phone call. Especially while schools are closed, day care is closed, and gardeners aren’t allowed to come around.
Moreover, there is already a shift in demand — to cleaning crews, online services, and so on. Paying people to sit at home makes sense in the lockdown. But much less in life at half capacity — and rapidly changing — economy.
This seems heartless, but it is brainless to ignore that there is always a tradeoff between help and incentives. The last recession and half-hearted recovery was a chaos of bad incentives. Noah:
In general, unemployment-benefit programs try to balance insurance with incentives, seeking to provide relief when needed while also offering motivation to look for work. States typically require recipients to search for a job. Setting the replacement rate well below 100 percent is usually a strong encouragement for them to do so.
Covid-19 presents unusual circumstances because unemployment has been enforced by government decree. Much of this joblessness will likely be temporary, with workers rejoining their employers once the pandemic subsides and restrictions are removed. Further, while some employers (Amazon, Walmart, grocery stores) are adding jobs, most companies are, at best, putting a freeze on hiring. The disincentive effect of unemployment benefits in the current crisis is minimal, while relief needs are large; thus, Washington has increased benefits, and many states are waiving job-search requirements.
Policymakers should be wary, though, of implementing relief provisions that will delay economic recovery, as occurred during the Great Depression and the 2008–2009 Great Recession. The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program is time-limited, but if the shutdown ends within the next four months, the aggressive unemployment-benefit replacement rates well in excess of 100 percent would hamper the labor market’s recovery.
In short, great generosity makes sense in the lockdown, but must be much more carefully calibrated if we do not want an L shaped recovery.
And emerging chaos at unemployment offices and small business administration suggests the help may come just as it is no longer needed.
Column: The enduring relevance of a tricky concept
By Matthew Continetti • The Washington Free Beacon
Long before the onset of the pandemic, some of the journalists and politicians on the American right began speaking of the “common good.” Back in 2005, Rick Santorum titled one of his books, It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good. More recently, last October Sohrab Ahmari wrote that the common good should replace individual autonomy—i.e., freedom—as the touchstone of a new conservatism. The following month, Marco Rubio told an audience at Catholic University that a “common-good capitalism” would promote dignified work for all and incentivize businesses to reinvest “enough” of their profits to create jobs in the United States.
Reaction to the upsurge of interest in the common good was divided into predictable camps. Social conservatives applauded the introduction of another concept from Catholic social thought into conservative discourse. They hoped that the common good would be added to solidarity, subsidiarity, and the preferential option for the poor as a guidepost to political action and public policy. Economic conservatives rejected the term as meaningless at best and authoritarian at worst. The other day, during a discussion of trends on the intellectual right, a young person asked me in earnest, “And, what is the common good?” It was the right question. There is no easy answer.
The coronavirus prompts us to think about this question a little more seriously. The mounting toll of the disease and the extreme measures governments around the world have imposed to contain it suggest that there really is something called the “common good” after all. It is the flourishing of communities, from family to neighborhood to locality to state to nation, that the virus endangers, and that the authorities hope to preserve. This good both includes and transcends the flourishing of individual persons within the community. A functioning system of public health, then, contributes to the common good. So does the rule of law, and an economy where households do not go bankrupt because of social distancing.
The common good exists. It ought to be recognized. Dismissing the idea would be an error. But it also would be a mistake to deny that the concept is vague and slippery, that in a context of religious diversity it will mean different things to different people, and that American proponents of the common good operate within a system in which popular sovereignty coexists with constitutionally protected individual rights. “How one can square the common good with personal liberty and cultural pluralism,” wrote Michael Novak in 1986, “is most unclear.” He spent a lot of time trying.
Indeed, one of the most dispiriting aspects of the common good revival is its neglect and even derision of Novak (1933-2017). He faced a set of economic, social, and cultural issues similar to the ones that confront us today. And while one might not agree with the answers provided in his more than 50 books, one cannot pretend that those books do not exist, or do not contain at least partial truths. “The economic order of the United States tested a proposition,” he wrote in Free Persons and the Common Good (1989), “viz; whether an economy may raise the common good of all through granting unparalleled economic liberties to free persons. Such an economy is dedicated both to the general welfare and to the freedom of persons.”
As the pandemic reorders society, reorganizes the economy, and diminishes individual liberty, the sustainability of the U.S. proposition has come into question. And so some, like Adrian Vermeule of Harvard University, believe it is time to abandon a jurisprudence of original intent for a “common-good constitutionalism” whose “main aim” is “to ensure that the ruler has the power needed to rule well.” (It is noteworthy that the words “Bill of Rights” and “Amendment” do not appear in this essay on the Constitution.)
Novak acknowledged that references to the common good strike a jarring note in modern rhetoric. The very notion of a “common good” hails from an epoch when there was no distinction between state and society, between public and private. For centuries, liberal writers have defined themselves against authorities to which everyone is subject. Nor has there been a settled consensus as to what the common good actually is. “Catholic writers, one will find, not only frequently disagree about the meaning of the term but make significant errors in discussing it,” he wrote. Still, Novak continued, the common good is located somewhere in the space between individualistic self-obsession and totalitarian mass control. Why? Because both of these systems deny the dignity of the human person.
Critics accuse liberal democracy of being purely individualistic and procedural. Novak pointed to the social-cultural sphere as the potential site of robust communal activity. “The liberal society has its own methods for giving preeminence to the common good—above all, in actually achieving and in progressively raising the levels of the common good,” he wrote. “It does so, to be sure, by taking care to include within the definition of the common good the securing of human rights: that is, the rights of free persons and free associations.”
Associations are key. Under a regime in which government is limited to secure the unalienable rights men and women possess because they each were created in the image of God, society is as important as the state. “The chief and most potent instrument of achieving the common good—in such a novus ordo—is not the state but the society at large, in its full range of social institutions,” Novak wrote. “These include families, churches, schools, workers’ associations, private enterprises, and so forth. Whereas in some earlier systems or social orders, the government was believed to be the chief agent of the common good, in the novus ordo a larger and more various set of social institutions would rightfully become the primary agents of the common good.” Novak often cited the following line from Tocqueville: “If men are to remain civilized or to become civilized, the art of association must develop and improve among them at the same speed as equality of condition spreads.”
So, government is not the only means by which the common good can be pursued. Equally if not more important to human flourishing are the mediating structures of family, religion, community, vocation, and voluntary association. Yes, law, economy, society, and individual character are connected. But social causation does not follow a straight line. And just as the structure of our economic institutions might be traced to political decisions, so might the strength and weaknesses of our social institutions. From Burke to Tocqueville to Robert Nisbet, conservative social thought has catalogued the ways in which the expansive state pushes through the mediating structures by assuming their functions. Then the solitary individual is left to face the Leviathan alone. The common good and the art of association are not separate phenomena. They are linked.
A post-corona politics of the common good that recognizes freedom must be exercised within the constraints of a moral tradition; that encourages able-bodied men and women to work and form families; that makes it easier to enter a profession, buy a home, raise children; that preserves the independence of religious institutions from state interference and resists the separation of religion from society; that protects communities from lawlessness, epidemics, and external threats; and that builds the capacity of public institutions to promote transportation, health, education, research and development, and the defense industrial base would fit comfortably in the American political tradition of “freedom and justice for all.” A politics that pursues a sectarian definition of “the common good”; that models its ideal government after a religious bureaucracy with a decidedly imperfect history; and that imperiously and rather impishly rejects longstanding indigenous norms of liberty and conscience does not.
“It is my hope,” Novak concluded, “that during the next two hundred years, the Catholic tradition and the liberal tradition will work as allies rather than enemies, each correcting the other from its own proper viewpoint. They have different purposes—one focused on the City of God, the other on the City of Man—and operate within two different perspectives. But the free persons that both address, and the common good that both are called upon to serve, dwell under the light of both Cities simultaneously. Both are called upon to promote the common good of free persons. Would that they do so together!” The time of coronavirus is an opportunity to answer Michael Novak’s call.
“He who controls the sea controls everything.” -- Themistocles of Athens, circa 500 BC
By Ernest Istook, Former U.S. Congressman & Distinguished Senior Fellow at Frontiers of Freedom • Frontiers of Freedom
INTRODUCTION: America Should Protect Its Own People and Interests
A national sentiment has recently revived which elitist for years have discouraged. This is the sentiment that America should promote its own interests, despite the globalist trend which gives the country’s needs a lower priority.
One example is the Jones Act. This long-standing law is under attack because the act favors U.S. interests within its own borders. The law essentially requires that cargoes traveling from one U.S. port to another must be carried on vessels that are American-owned, American-built, and American-crewed. But it does not apply to international shipping and trade.
The Jones Act must be appreciated in context. And it must be preserved.
The philosophy of “America First” is disparaged as being nationalistic; this ignores the key point that nationalism is not about money or military power. First and foremost, it promotes this country’s values and economic interests.
For instance, the coronavirus outbreak has increased awareness that it can be dangerous to depend on China to provide the makings of pharmaceuticals, and how risky it is when businesses large and small have their supply chains disturbed because factories abroad become idled. Overseas diseases can disrupt America just as surely as wars, political or social upheavals.
“America First” patriotism is not blind jingoism. It is not linked to any particular race. It encompasses all religions. It promotes national principles that include self-governance, equality before the law, and human rights. It promotes economic security for the people in the United States of America, and elevates their interest above those of foreign lands.
Globalism, however, considers all nations the same, treating oppressive regimes as deserving equal value with democracies, and totalitarianism as the moral equivalent of constitutional rights. Or it asserts that pursuing the well-being of a country’s own people is somehow immoral.
Critics of the Jones Act ignore the protection of American values and national interests, arguing as though U.S. law should only consider money. Their objection to the Jones Act is that some companies might save on shipping costs if foreign interests were allowed to handle domestic freight. The critics also ignore how China in particular has launched a massive plan to dominate the world’s oceans and to control the essential sector of transporting goods.
In short, America has become dependent on foreign countries to carry goods to and from the U.S., thus controlling global trade because 90% of global trade goes by ship. Only the Jones Act blocks countries from spreading their monopoly to include the waterways within U.S. borders.
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The Jones Act Is Being Attacked Although It Protects American Interests
For 100 years, a pro-American law known as the Jones Act has served national interests without controversy. But recently a campaign to challenge the Jones Act has been launched, based on claims that its pro-American requirements increase the costs of moving goods by ship between American ports.
The campaign disregards America’s national interests; it promotes a pure laissez-faire approach by the U.S. regardless of whether competing countries will support free trade. It ignores the enormous subsidies, protective tariffs, exclusionary tariffs and policies of other countries which disadvantage American businesses. Promoters oppose all forms of American tariffs, especially those of President Donald Trump, even when they are in response to tariffs enacted by other countries.
A Jones Act repeal would sacrifice America’s borders and America’s interests, allowing heavily-subsidized foreign shipping within domestic U.S. waters as well as international waters. The rationale is simplistic: Businesses might save money by using shipping offered by nations which undercut competition by subsidizing the building and operating of huge craft, and which offer foreign flags of convenience that often ignore safety and other standards.
This competition from other countries should not be labeled as free enterprise. For example, China dominates shipbuilding by using their state-owned enterprises and subsidies, weak labor protections and cheap or even slave labor, plus lavishing government money to subsidize operating costs of cargo ships.
For those whose sole criteria is lower costs, China has much to offer. China’s communism and human rights record can be disregarded if money is all that matters. According to the infamous quote attributed to Vladimir Lenin, capitalists would eagerly sell rope to the communists and then be hung by that rope.
For those who cherish America’s values and system of government, other issues are paramount. Protecting America’s shipping interests was promoted by that father of capitalism, Adam Smith. He wrote in The Wealth of Nations that a country should protect its maritime trade from foreign competition. Smith saw economies as a servant of national interest.
The principle extends beyond ships. Foreign air carriers can fly between U.S. airports and those in other countries but cannot fly purely-domestic routes. Foreign trucks face restrictions on operating within our borders.
By Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi • Frontiers of Freedom
The British author Joanne Rowling of the fantasy series Harry Potter has introduced the Dementors in Harry Potter and the Prisoners of Azbakan. These hooded humanoid characters have been depicted in the movies as skeletal figures with the ability to fly unconstrained by the laws of physics. They are the prison guards of Azbakan whose task is to create utter hopelessness and even suicidal self-hatred by the inmates. Their destructive energy can be spread like a virus through the air and also by invisible, yet direct contacts with humans. Arabella Figg, a character in OP8 describes them thus: “Everything went cold….and I felt…as though all happiness had gone from the world…and I remembered….dreadful things.”
Viktor Orban’s Hungary is Joanne Rowlings’s Azbakan and the metastasizing fatal cancerous tumor gnawing on the body politic of NATO and the European Union. He and his very small circle of co-conspirators, better defined as his accomplices in setting up and running his criminal enterprise, are the Dementors of the Hungarian people.
Since his party FIDESZ has been brought back to power by a two thirds majority in the Parliament in 2010, and have been kept in power through a new and taylor made constitution as well as election frauds in 2014 and 2018, Viktor Orban has had a deliberate plan to kill every aspect of Hungary’s fledgling democracy. His diabolical legal and extra legal schemes of demoralization of the population have been designed to reduce the entire nation to profligate imbecility. His so-called “illiberal democracy” has stripped the citizens of their chance to vote out his government by free elections devoid of voter fraud, ballot stuffing, and the forced inclusion of ethnic Hungarians in the local and national elections from the neighboring countries.
His and his accomplices shameful corruption has impoverished Hungary and has kept the bulk of the nation as near to abject poverty as seemed appropriate for a modicum of societal tranquility. Politically, Viktor Orban has pursued a host of tactical opportunities that has aimed at propping up his autocracy. His means have included every conceivable move, including cozying up to dictators from the east, such as the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Russia, Valdimir Putin, and a colorful assortment of really nasty authoritarians from the former Soviet Union. Domestically, the tactics that Viktor Orban has employed have been drastic. He and his accomplices have ruined the health industry and destroyed almost the entire educational system. As a result, most of the experienced physicians and qualified nurses have left Hungary, and teachers have lost their jobs in the thousands. Thus, the difference between the general condition of Hungary now and the days before 1990, is one of degree, the latter state might have been better than the former.
Yet, no economic decline or financial troubles appear to rattle the consciousness of Hungary’s Dementors. As in Rowlings’s masterpiece, Viktor Orban and his accomplices possess no soul and know no mercy. Stealing and embezzlement are continuing unabated. His boyhood body from his home village Lorinc Meszaros and his son in law Istvan Tiborcz have become billionaires. Clearly, they are Viktor Orban’s premier Strohmen. His previous financial guru Lajos Simicska fell out of favor years ago, because he became too powerful and knew too much about Viktor Orban’s and his accomplices’s shenanigans. For his alleged and actual sins, Simicska was destroyed as a businessman and completely ruined financially.
A lot already has been written about Hungary’s new emergency legislation due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to giving unlimited powers to Viktor Orban both in scope and duration, the legislation eliminates every vestige of democracy, freedom, independence, and individuality. Again, as in Rowlings’s masterpiece, Hungarians have been relegated to zombie existence. This condition will not change until Viktor Orban and his criminal gang continue to possess absolute powers.
Adding insult to injury, the European Union has never taken decisive actions against Hungary. However, if Brussels does not intervene, Viktor Orban will continue to weaken the cohesion of the organization. The founding values of the European Union are at stake. More importantly, he is not entirely alone. The states of the former Soviet bloc, with few exceptions, are as corrupt, if not even more, than Viktor Orban’s Hungary.
The United States of America has not fared better against Hungary than the European Union. The current administration has sent to Budapest an amateur whose understanding of Hungary is near zero. His only dubious accomplishment is that he has made a fool of himself by becoming the lapdog of Viktor Orban. In this manner, the White House and the State Department have been deprived of objective and unbiased information about the situation in Hungary. Clearly, Viktor Orban represents a very serious threat to NATO as well as the European Union. The time is running out for corrective actions. The Hungarian people are getting more and more desperate. The possibility of a bloody upheaval against VIktor Orban’s autocracy is real. To prevent it should be high priority for Brussels and for Washington too.
By George Landrith • Townhall
Congress just passed an economic package designed to inoculate the American economy from the devastating impacts of the coronavirus. At the same time, medical experts are working around the clock to develop treatments to help people recover from the virus as well as vaccines to prevent it from infecting people in the future.
There is some concern that once the current emergency has passed the coronavirus could make a comeback each year like the flu itself. Developing a vaccine therefore will likely be a key part of preventing the future spread of this virus.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, now famous for his role in the daily White House COVID-19 briefings, has been the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. Dr. Fauci has overseen research during his tenure to prevent infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, Ebola, Zika, and now the Coronavirus. He recently emphasized how critical safety is when developing new medicines noting:
“The issue of safety is something I want to make sure the American public understands…Does the vaccine make you worse? You can get a good feel for that in animal [testing].”
Dr. Fauci makes the important point — science, medical ethics and human decency require animal testing for safety so that in our attempt to help, we don’t accidentally make things worse.
But there are voices that oppose Dr. Fauci. They oppose sound science. They oppose medical ethics. And they oppose basic human decency. One such group, the poorly named “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals” (PETA), oppose any and all animal testing and have tried to shut down testing and testing facilities.
PETA has mounted a pressure campaign to get airlines to not transport medical research animals. Unfortunately that means they are standing in the way of ethical and legally required research that will stop the coronavirus (and other diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease) from killing those we love.
PETA’s president and co-founder, Ingrid Newkirk, admitted: “Even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS [or cancer or other horrible diseases], we’d be against it.” PETA’s supporters have filed comments with the Department of Transportation hoping to shut down any medical research with animals by blocking their transportation. One representative comment said: “Stop experimenting on animals. Experiment on your children and mothers instead.” Then the commenter called those who reject the idea of mothers and children being used in medical testing “a bunch of barbarians.” Let that sink in for a moment. These people are unhinged extremists and their political agenda is dangerous!
Rather than stand up to these radicals some U.S. airlines, like United, have willingly accepted their demands hoping to avoid social media attacks on their brand. They now refuse to assist American research companies – the very companies we now are relying on to develop a cure for COVID-19 – in transporting badly needed research animals.
This comes despite PETA’s own horrible track record on animals. For example, in Virginia, PETA activists were charged with criminal animal abuse. It turns out that animals that were intended for adoptions were abused and then killed in 95.3% of cases— for an entire decade! Simply put, PETA’s moral compass is broken. Whether you’re talking about human lives or animal lives, PETA cannot be trusted.
Now, America needs reliable, ethical medical research more than ever before. We need to ensure that we have the desperately needed medical treatments to cure those suffering with coronavirus, and in the near future safe, effective vaccines to provide immunity. PETA stands in the way and hopes to prevent this important progress. And the airlines that have caved to PETA’s pressure campaigns unwittingly harm America and put us all at greater risk.
Given that Americans have just provided billions in financial relief to the airlines, it isn’t too much to ask that the airlines help those doctors and scientists working to find cures by not caving in to PETA’s pressure campaigns. And for the record, the airlines aren’t asked to deliver medical animals for free. Medical research facilities pay top dollar and the airlines can collect hundreds of millions of dollars transporting medical animals to research facilities. So, not only could airlines make some additional money at a challenging time, but they could help America find the cures that we desperately need.
America’s best research facilities are racing to find cures, vaccines, and treatments to combat the Coronavirus. But if researchers cannot test these cures — in a supervised and ethical way — tens of thousands of people could die. And long after the coronavirus is gone, the need to find other cures will persist.
Therefore, we must stand up to the extremists at PETA. And we must demand that airlines stop caving to PETA’s pressure campaigns. Americans have helped the airlines — and now it is their turn to show that they want to help America by facilitating the transportation of medical research animals.
By Peter Roff • Issues & Insights
The opportunity exists for the Trump administration to do something now about Nigeria that would lead to real progress in the fight against religious persecution and repeated violations of the rule of law, would help to root out corruption, and deal a significant blow to the Boko Haram terror group.
The lever available to the U.S. government to do this is $300 million in stolen monies soon to come under U.S. control currently frozen in British and Crown of Jersey accounts at America’s request. Nigeria wants it back and, before America acts, the pressure it’s applying to President Muhammadu Buhari for reforms needs to be stepped up.
If successful, it would be a big win. U.S. authorities should be dubious about transferring monies back to Nigeria’s control considering there’s a good chance it would be passed back to back to ruling-party officials who were complicit in the original theft. More than that, considering the longstanding corruption in the government of Africa’s most populous nation and the disturbing pattern of human rights abuses committed by Buhari’s regime, it’s not clear the U.S. should turn the money over at all unless and until real reforms are adopted.
Look at the record. According to the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, over the past two years, thousands of Nigerian Christians have been murdered. The European Parliamentrecently blasted the government over ongoing human rights violations. Amnesty International issued a condemnation over the use of “security agents and (the) judiciary as a tool for persecuting people who voice dissenting opinions.” Innocent reform advocates like Grace Taiga, a retired civil servant and practicing Christian, and opposition Senator Shehu Sani have been targeted by the regime and journalists critical of it like Omoyele Sowore has been jailed.
These actions and others led the U.S. government to put Nigeria on a special watch list. Washington must now use its leverage to demand change. Instead, under a plan worked out with Buhari, America may soon green-light the release of these funds back to Nigeria where, in a defeat for the cause of justice, it ultimately may be disbursed to local projects run by contractors with a questionable and corrupt history in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Rather than allow this, the U.S. government must push Buhari to end his government’s blatant disregard for the rule of law, institute real anti-corruption efforts, and stop the ongoing attacks on Christians and other religious minorities by Boko Haram and other groups.
That the decision on the disposition of the funds in question rests with Attorney General William P. Barr rather than the U.S. State Department of State is comforting. Barr is someone for whom, criticism from the left notwithstanding, the rule of law matters. And he’s shown he can swing the hammer hard when he wants to.
Before deciding what to do, Barr should look at a similar case involving the Justice Department, which is refusing to hand over $100 million in stolen, laundered money it says can be traced back to Atiku Bagudu, the current governor of Nigeria’s Kebbi State and a prominent member of Buhari’s ruling APC party. In recent U.S. court filings, Nigeria asserted a 17-year-old deal could lead to the funds being given directly back to Bagudu. Another agreement, made by Buhari’s people in October 2018 would transfer a sizeable portion of an investment portfolio worth $155 million to Bagudu if it ever again came under Nigeria’s control.
Any agreement regarding the repatriation of these stolen assets must be carefully weighed against the escalating human rights violations and the corruption that persists throughout Nigeria. A detailed assessment is needed to determine whether the penalties allowed under the Global Magnitsky Act and Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act should be invoked to address the gross human rights violations spearheaded by President Buhari’s inner circle like those targeted at Christians and other religious minorities.
Attorney General Barr and the U.S. government have a powerful lever to use to move the Nigerians toward getting their act together. They should do so forthwith. The U.S. must uphold the rule of law to stop the persecution and send a signal to the Nigerian Government that human rights are essential and violations of such will be to the detriment of any strong government-to-government relationship.
The Jones Act Webinar is part of WJLA-TV’s Government Matters series on “Sea-Air-Space 2020 Virtual Edition.” It will include Frontiers of Freedom Senior Fellow, the Honorable Ernest Istook, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2007 and is currently teaching at Brigham Young University.
The Host will be Francis Rose. Topics will include: What is the Jones Act? Why is it both a commercial and national security issue? What are common misconceptions about the Jones Act? How does it work? How does China and its “One Belt, One Road” plan play into this issue?
If you are in the Washington DC metro area, you can watch the program on WJLA 24/7 News (formerly NewsChannel 8). If you are anywhere else you can watch it at FedInsider.com.
It will be broadcast on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time.
By Tristan Justice • The Federalist
Former Vice President Joe Biden continues his presidential campaign from Delaware in the era of the Wuhan coronavirus by conducting remote interviews from a home studio.
Biden however, whose candidacy has survived slip-ups seemingly every month on the trail still appears forgetful and frail from the comfort of his own home. While the pressures of on-the-ground campaigning are temporarily gone, the same Biden we’ve seen for much of the last year is not.
On Monday, Biden once again refreshed concerns about the Democratic frontrunner’s age and aptitude at 77 years old to win the White House in November, offering a nonsensical jumbled word salad on MSNBC with notes in his lap.
Here’s what Biden said:
Boy those very high numbers have to do at least several things. One, we have to depend on what the president’s going to do right now, and first of all he has to… tell… wait til the cases before anything happens. Look, the whole idea is, he’s got to get in place things that were shortages of.
Biden’s Monday clip comes just a week after Biden seemed to have thrown in the towel on being articulate as he has become the likely Democratic nominee.
During an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday, Biden trailed off and looked defeated after mixing up his words again prompting an awkward silence on air.
“We have never, never, never, failed to respond to a crisis as a people, and I tell you what, I’m so darn proud. Those poor people who have…” Biden said before realizing what he actually said. “Anyway…”
Last week, Biden was also caught coughing while denying he had any symptoms of the Wuhan virus.
At one point on CNN, Jake Tapper directed Biden to cough into his arm as advised by public health officials.
“You know, you’re supposed to cough into your elbow… I learned that actually covering your White House,” Tapper said.
“Fortunately I’m alone in my home, but that’s okay,” Biden said.
In the last Democratic debate between Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who remains the final major competitor in the race, Biden also opened up with a cough to answer a question about the Wuhan virus.
So what is going on with Joe Biden?
By Dr. Larry Fedewa • DrLarryOnline.com
As we ponder our suddenly isolated lives, we begin searching for some benefits which may come from it all – besides, of course, the major value if we escape catching a very unpleasant disease. Some things are happening which can easily become a trend. The most obvious is the notable increase in online shopping. This was already a trend, but it may be significantly accelerated by this crisis, as a whole new population tries shopping online for the first time. The same is true of home delivery, which is a major requirement of home shopping. What is happening now, however, is the sudden spread of delivery services for restaurants and grocery stores, which started, to be sure, before this pandemic was even thought of. Nevertheless, we are seeing a major up-tick in food delivery services.
The same can be said of distance education. Never in a hundred years would public schools have participated in the development and internet delivery of K-12 schooling on a voluntary basis. The “shelter-in-place” along with the closing of so many schools has forced their hand. Once they have experience with teacher-assisted home schooling, however, they may take steps in that direction, certainly urged on by parents, especially in rural and inner city areas. It reminds us of the grand ideas of the early pioneers of educational TV who had the same idea. While they had limited success with classroom based television, it was not enough to impact the roles and structure of the school. It will be interesting to see whether this crisis ends up affecting real changes.
Working from home is a similar example. Futurist Alvin Toffler wrote in his 1970 book, Future Shock, that the time would come when electronically-enabled communication would lead to work-from-home employment on such a scale that it would eventually lead to solving the problems of overpopulation in the major cities. People would have the preference of living wherever they wished, which, he predicted, would often be smaller towns, cities, and farms – and that was before the internet! In the fifty years since, the technology has appeared and so has work-from-home, though not to the extent of lessening the population of cities. Perhaps the combination of the “green movement” and the pandemic will move Toffler’s vision along toward fulfillment.
Speaking of overpopulation of cities, what is the major complaint of city-dwellers? In most of urban America, the most frequent complaint is the traffic and the difficulty of getting from place to place. One effect of this concentration of commerce is the continually escalating cost of housing. The costs of housing gradually displace workers from housing altogether and causes the homeless problems that are found in many large cities. Certainly, Toffler’s solution would alleviate the problems as well as decrease CO2 emissions that the climate movement is so worried about. A lot of people are experiencing work-from-home for the first time, as are managers and business owners. There may be some changes made.
Needles to say, the cost of living in many US areas acts as a constant pressure affecting many social trends. For example, the high cost of living necessitates many families’ need to have two wage earners in any family, especially those with children. Parents who might prefer staying home to be firsthand observers of their children’s growing up do not have that choice. Non-farmer fathers had to give up that privilege centuries ago, mothers for the past 50 years or so. An employment situation which radically reduced the need to work in an office or factory would allow employees to choose places to live with substantially lower cost of living and therefore offer more personal choices of lifestyle and how to spend their time.
One impact of a work-from-home economy would involve a wider use of the technologies which already exist, which in turn would spur an even greater round of innovation and discovery. Home productivity might even divert some of our greatest talent away from t=weapons and into education, medicine and other peaceful pursuits. Free time also is a great stimulant to creativity. Wouldn’t it be great to spend our commuter time on something more productive, maybe even fun?
Then there is the whole idea of community. So much of people’s lives today is spent in self-imposed isolation. For example, it is now an American custom for adult children to “leave the nest”, frequently to live alone, some for the rest of their lives. Gone are the times when large families lived under one roof for a large portion of their lives. Traditionally, Americans have viewed separation from parents as a need for personal freedom — from domineering parents, usually. But “it ain’t necessarily so”, as the song says. In other cultures, multi-generational households have survived and thrived. Loneliness, the scourge of modern times, is one problem they didn’t have. How many of the “Lone Killer” headlines have we seen in recent years?
Already, the “shelter-in-place” requirement is opening people to re-discover neighbors. Stories are beginning to surface of new relationships and alliances forming among friends, family and strangers. If, as a matter of course, we had more leisure time, perhaps we could spend some of it closer to home and come to appreciate the opportunities which surround us. In our current lifestyle, what is the most precious thing we have? That we never have enough of? The answer many people give to this question is “time”. We have been taught to work hard and long. “The last one to leave” the office or the shop is looked upon with admiration. Maybe that would and should change as we move more and more into a digital age.
It is true that technology has revolutionized communications. But perhaps the next wave will concentrate more on meaningful technologies for person-to-person interaction. Those technologies already exist – the videophone, Zoom and Skype and others – but to date they have not truly penetrated the consumer market. That may change.
In fact, this current forced quasi-imprisonment may contribute to a lot of changes – some perhaps of major benefit to us all!