By Peter Roff • American Action News
The rapid spread of the COVID-19 delta variant has spooked people who thought the pandemic had ended. Policymakers have called the rise in new infections associated with the strain first encountered in India alarming even though the data suggest strongly the latest variant strain, while perhaps easier to contract, is far less lethal than the original.
Like the disease for which it is named, America’s COVID crisis continues to evolve. The end of the lockdowns in most states has people back to work, unmasked, and happy – even as some public health professionals are urging a renewed mandate to put them back on. All that, combined with the lack of clarity coming from groups like the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers means that no parent can be sure the schools run by the government will offer full-time, in-class instruction when and if they reopen in the fall.
All this could have been avoided if the rush to lockdowns had been slowed and while greater thought was given to a plan to segregate out and protect the most vulnerable populations which, it has been lost on some people, does not include K thru 12 school-age children. Given the difference in approach to containing COVID taken by the governors of red states compared to those who lead blue states, it is not surprising to learn Democrats are hoping that masks and vaccines not yet approved for children under the age of 18 will be mandated before schools are allowed to return to pre-COVID instruction.
According to a recent survey by Rasmussen reports, just over a third of all Americans said they believed children should have to be vaccinated for COVID before they can return to the classroom. Of those, more than half – 56 percent – were Democrats. Only 29 percent of Republicans agreed.
The data, Rasmussen reports said, showed a “strong correlation” between support for masking children and for forcing them to be vaccinated. “Among Americans who think schools should require children to wear masks to protect against the coronavirus, 68 percent also think schools should require children to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Among those who oppose schools requiring children to wear masks, 79 percent are also against schools requiring children to get the coronavirus vaccination.”
The split along party lines on the issues is clear. Majorities of Republicans (61 percent) and independents (52 percent) said they opposed a vaccine requirement. Likewise, on the issue of masks, 58 percent of Democrats said they thought masks should be required as part of the basic back-to-school outfit while only 27 percent of Republicans thought this would be a good idea. Almost two-thirds of GOPers – 60 percent – and as well as a plurality of independents, the polling firm reported, said they were opposed to the mandatory classroom masking in K thru 12 classrooms.
The pollster found white Americans “slightly more in favor of schools requiring children to get the COVID-19 vaccine than blacks or other minorities” while blacks were “more supportive” than whites or other minorities regarding a requirement children wear masks. And that upper-income Americans were more in favor of requiring children to get vaccinated, with 48 percent of those earning $200,000 a year or more “favoring mandatory vaccination” while just 36 percent of those earning less than $30,000 a year agreed.The survey of 1,000 U.S. American Adults was conducted on July 13-14, 2021. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.
By Peter Roff • American Action News
A federal appellate court’s decision to rehear a case in which a controversial provision of 1996’s Communications Decency Act protecting Big Tech firms from civil suits because they are “distributors of content” rather than “publishers” is giving people hope the recent wave of Internet censorship may soon end.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second said July 16 it would rehear the arguments “en banc” following a ruling by a three-judge panel that upheld a lower court’s decision in Dorman v Vimeo, in which it was argued the tech platform was insulated from liability after it terminated the video streaming feed of a group posting videos of individuals saying they’d abandoned homosexuality to pursue a Christian way of living.
Vimeo, the Epoch Times reported, argued successfully its terms of service agreement prohibited the streaming of materials promoting “conversion therapy,” a controversial technique legislators in several blue states are currently trying to ban, especially for children under the age of 18. Others including the plaintiff argue however that the tech firm’s action is censorship and is damaging in both the legal and common sense of the word.
Robert Tyler, general counsel for the Advocates for Faith & Freedom said the decision to have the appeal reargued in front of the entire court puts the immunity provision of Section 230 “in the crosshairs of judicial review.”
“Section 230 was not intended to give Big Tech the right to exclude persons from their platform just because the customer is black, Muslim, white, Christian, homosexual, or formerly homosexual. That is plain invidious discrimination,” Tyler said.
The case is important because the digital age has moved the public square from inside the local community to well out into cyberspace. Facebook and Twitter are now the host of the national conversation, fueled by information people gather by using search engines like Google. This is a new reality, leaving more than a few conservatives fearful their opinions and publications and websites are being censored by the “woke” individuals inside the Big tech companies that make decisions about search engine rankings and what can be seen.
The appellate court’s latest action suggests Section 230, which many of its critics believe is the legal justification for online censorship, may not long survive. It is rare for an entire appellate court to rehear a case just to reaffirm a three-judge panel’s decision. Even if it doesn’t, however, those who follow tech platforms and the laws that govern them say there is no guarantee the censoring of individual messages, the de-platforming of people like former President Donald J. Trump, or the termination of services would come to an end if this one part of the CDA is ruled unconstitutional.
Without Section 230 protection – or something like it – platforms and Internet service companies might someday be held responsible for what appears on screens and servers in much the same way the publishers of newspapers are responsible for what appears in print. Not that it would get anyone very far. The bar for proving damages in cases where libel or defamation are alleged was high even before the United States Supreme Court sent it into the stratosphere in its 1964’s Times v Sullivan decision.
Now, the standard of proof in such cases is so rigorous it is rarely met and, even if it is, the requirements involved in proving damage are so onerous as to hardly be a deterrent to sloppy reporting, deliberate maligning, and censorship.
Trump’s recently announced class-action suit against Big Tech CEOs over his de-platforming may be another matter. He contends his first amendment rights were violated following the disruption inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by these companies acting as agents of the federal government. If he can prove that to be the case, it invokes constitutional scrutiny and potentially tilts the outcome in Trump’s favor.
Ultimately, the court will probably rule in a way that protects the most speech for the most people. The first amendment is an American absolute, not necessarily applicable in all cases – the government can’t imprison me over what I tell my children – but we generally believe as a country that even private institutions should give the amendment due deference. If Big Tech can be shown to have failed in this regard, the consequences could be interesting.
By RUSSELL A. BERMAN • The Hill
Lebanon is facing a dangerous combination of accelerating crises — economic, political and societal. Although Lebanon is a small country, important issues for U.S. national interest and geo-strategy are at stake. Yet, currently, American Middle East foreign policy is devoted to the single obsession of the Iran negotiations, leaving little oxygen for other matters. This is a mistake. The Biden administration should develop a more nuanced engagement with the region and especially a robust response to Lebanon’s pending collapse.
The Lebanese currency has lost close to 90 percent of its value, pushing much of the country below the poverty line, with many families relying on remittances from relatives abroad. Yet even those lifelines cannot make up for the shortages in commodities: gasoline, medications and food are all in short supply. Add to this a crumbling infrastructure that can supply electricity for only a few hours every day.
Meanwhile, a political stalemate blocks the formation of an effective government that could institute reforms that might alleviate some of the problems. Instead, the political class, largely viewed as incorrigibly corrupt, is making no effort to meet the needs of the public. One bright light is the emergence of vibrant oppositional forces. But they remain fragmented, and elections will not take place until next year.
Leadership change may therefore be too far in the future to rescue the crumbling institutions that once enjoyed a strong international reputation, especially Lebanese universities and hospitals. Now the talented personnel on which those institutions depend are trying to leave for better paying jobs abroad. After the troubled decades of civil war and occupations, after the devastation of COVID-19 and the massive destruction of the explosion in the port of Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020, this already fragile country faces even greater disorder.
Given the extent of the suffering, there is every reason to provide humanitarian assistance to Lebanon, as the United States is already doing. The U.S. also provides important training support to the Lebanese armed forces, although the scope of that mission has been shrinking. Otherwise, American engagement is quite limited. Washington should do more and put Lebanon higher on the list of foreign policy priorities for four reasons
1) Grand Strategy: Lebanon presents a clear case of the deleterious consequences of a pivot away from the region, given the reality of great power competition. If the U.S. does not provide leadership, it opens the door for other powers, notably Russia. Its naval repair facility in Tartus, Syria, is less than a 40-mile drive from the Lebanese port of Tripoli, which could be ripe for Moscow’s taking. Lebanon could become one more stepping-stone for Russia’s advance in the Middle East, unless the U.S. reasserts its role there.
2) Terrorism: The discrepancy between the degradation of living conditions in Lebanon and the immobility of the political class can lead to social unrest, a breeding ground for the sort of Islamist terrorism that has plagued the larger region. One should not discount the possibility of a resurgence of ISIS or intentional spillover effects from the Syrian civil war, which led to bombings in Beirut and Tripoli only eight years ago. The more such violence proliferates, the greater the chance that terror incubated in the region can spread beyond it, including to the U.S.
3) Refugees: Unless the Lebanese crises are addressed, the resulting social disorder is likely to produce a new wave of refugees, fleeing the ravages of a collapsed economy or, in a worst-case scenario, the resurgence of sectarian conflict. The Assad regime in Syria is not above provoking violence in Lebanon in order to achieve the sort of demographic reengineering it has undertaken at home, where it has forced targeted populations to flee, a cynical form of ethnic cleansing. The U.S. should be concerned about the destabilizing effects of renewed refugee flows into allies such as Jordan and Turkey, already hosting large refugee populations, or into the European Union, where the 2015 refugee wave continues to have disruptive political repercussions.
4) Iran: A collapse of the Lebanese state can only benefit Iran and its most anti-American political forces. Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, might see an opportunity to seize power directly or, more strategically, it might prefer to consolidate its control in its strongholds and let the rest of the country dissipate, precisely in order to demonstrate the weakness of western democracy. In either case, Tehran would win, unless the U.S. engages in strategic ways to address Lebanon’s dilemmas.
Arguments that it is in the U.S. national interest to engage more strongly in Lebanon run counter to current foreign policy predispositions in Washington. A prevailing orientation deprioritizes the Middle East in general in order to shift attention to the Indo-Pacific. But that viewpoint does not need to lead to a full-scale abandoning of the Middle East that hands the region over to America’s great power adversaries.
In addition, the Biden administration views the region primarily in terms of Iran and a renewed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Many Lebanese understand this and correctly fear that Hezbollah will benefit from a windfall when the U.S. lifts sanctions on Iran. There is no indication that the U.S. negotiation team is seriously demanding a termination of Iran’s regional destabilization campaigns, including its support for Hezbollah. Yet getting to a new deal with Tehran without such a constraint basically means appeasing Iran by trading away Lebanese sovereignty.
American national interest, including American values, requires a different path: Instead of misusing Lebanon as an accommodation to Tehran, the U.S. should make a stand in Lebanon, with policies designed to renew its democracy (and purge its corruption) and to protect its sovereignty by diminishing Hezbollah, as first steps toward pushing back against Iran’s broader expansionist ambitions.
Lebanon is a small country, but the current crisis has outsized geo-strategic implications for the U.S.
State Department in 2020 declared the group a 'propaganda' arm of CCP
By Alex Nester and Jack Beyrer • The Washington Free Beacon
Several American universities maintained relationships with China after shuttering their Confucius Institute chapters, shifting resources to affiliate K-12 programs and fostering sister relationships with Chinese schools.
Rather than fully cut ties with the Confucius Institute, many universities shifted their resources to affiliate programs aimed at K-12 classrooms. The Confucius Classrooms program offers an array of Chinese language and culture programs to elementary, middle, and high school students across the United States. Often linked to Confucius Institutes at nearby colleges, Confucius Classrooms are funded and run by the Hanban, a division of China’s Ministry of Education.
The shift reveals the extent to which the Chinese Communist Party is ingrained in American educational institutions. American security officials have recently warned about Beijing’s efforts to cultivate links with educational institutions in order to change American perceptions of the Communist regime.
Over a dozen universities closed their Confucius Institute chapters after the State Department declared the organization a Chinese propaganda arm. According to Rachelle Peterson, a China expert at the National Association of Scholars, the Communist regime was ready for the fallout.
“The Chinese government has developed a nuanced and sophisticated network of tools,” Peterson told the Washington Free Beacon. “In the case of Confucius Institutes, the Chinese Communist Party is aware that they are falling out of favor in the U.S., and they’re preparing alternative ways of engaging with the United States—many of which are equally problematic.”
Confucius Classrooms are just some of those “problematic” alternatives. The National Association of Scholars estimates that, at its height, there were upward of 500 Confucius Classrooms in operation—significantly more than the 41 active Confucius Institute chapters. And because most federal oversight is directed at higher education, China has been able to covertly entrench itself in the K-12 education space.
Rep. Chris Stewart (R., Utah) told the Free Beacon that he is concerned Confucius Classrooms operating in his district teach an inaccurate view of the Chinese Communist Party to children.
“The Confucius Classrooms are a little bit different and a little bit harder [than Confucius Institutes] because they’re not as obvious,” Stewart said. “The thing we’re trying to do now is to show that they’re not using it for intelligence access, computer access, or to propagandize adults, but they are using it to soften children.”
The Confucius Classrooms operating in Stewart’s district are just a few such outposts that grew out of shuttered Confucius Institute chapters across the country.
A consortium of Confucius Classrooms serving nearly 1,200 K-12 students in Ohio continues to operate more than a year after Miami University in Ohio announced it shuttered its Confucius Institute. In western Kentucky, a coalition of more than 30 staffers led by Simpson County public schools has taken up the mantle of the Western Kentucky University Confucius Institute, which closed in 2019.
When Michigan State University’s Confucius Institute closes this year, the school plans to transfer the program’s resources “to other areas within the university” so as to “benefit K-12 students and teachers who would not otherwise have these learning options available in their schools,” a spokeswoman told the Free Beacon.
In addition to shifting resources from universities to elementary and high school classrooms, China has found ways to maintain a foothold at universities that have closed their Confucius Institutes. Several universities have sought out partnerships with Chinese “sister schools” to replace their Confucius Institutes.
Middle Tennessee State University closed its Confucius Institute in August 2020, after receiving criticism from Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.). But the school continues to foster ties with sister universities in China. The University of Nebraska said it remains “deeply committed” to its connections with Chinese universities after its Confucius Institute closed in December 2020.
In a statement to the Free Beacon, Tufts University—which plans to close its Confucius Institute chapter in September—said the school will “focus on expanding and deepening” its ties with Beijing Normal University. Similarly, the College of William and Mary closed its Confucius Institute at the end of June, but will continue to offer China-related programs “through university-to-university agreements,” a spokeswoman told the Free Beacon.
In at least one case, China has continued to donate to a university in order to bolster ties. Peterson uncovered Education Department documents that show the University of Michigan received a $300,000 gift from China after the school closed its Confucius Institute in 2019.
“All the signs are that there are replacements for Confucius Institutes,” Peterson said. “Alternative forms of engagement are popping up—many in ways that are going to have the same problems as the Confucius Institutes.”
By David R. Henderson • Hoover Institution
In my recent Defining Ideas article titled “A Refresher Course on Free Trade,” I made the case for free trade. A large part of the economic case is that free trade makes people in the country that adopts it better off than if their government hadn’t adopted it. It makes imports cheaper, allows consumers to get a more varied range of goods, and causes labor and capital to be allocated to areas of the economy where they are most productive.
In the United States in recent years, there have been two main objections to free trade. The first is that when free or freer trade is introduced into a particular sector, producers in that sector, both owners of capital and laborers, will be worse off. Therefore, argue some of the people who make this point, either trade shouldn’t be liberalized or, at least, introduction of trade should be accompanied by government spending to compensate the losers. The second objection is that free trade benefits mainly the wealthy and does little for the workers who are living on the economic edge. The first objection is often true in the short run but almost always false in the long run; it also applies to any economic change whether that change is caused by international trade or purely domestic economic interactions; in short, the objection proves too much. The second objection is simply false.
Winners, Losers, and Compensation
In my earlier article, I pointed out that if the market for sugar were opened to unrestricted imports from other countries, the price of sugar in the United States would fall and US sugar producers would be hurt. That’s all true in the short run. In the long run, say ten years from now, it’s not clear that those who produce sugar now would be worse off then. Owners of capital would have had ten years in which to find alternate industries in which to invest and workers would have had ten years in which to find other jobs.
Still, ten years is a long time. Those who lose jobs can find others at lower wages but they might be employed at these lower wages for at least a few years before they build their skills and earn wages comparable to the ones they lost because of free trade. So one can understand why people who see the benefits of free trade want a government policy to subsidize the losers for a few years. Those who want such subsidies tend to focus on workers who lose their jobs but the same thinking would presumably apply to business owners, including shareholders, who suffer a wealth loss due to free trade.
There are a number of problems with such proposals, though. First, government is notoriously bad at targeting help to groups sorted by their particular circumstances. When politicians sense a gravy train coming, they tend to lobby their colleagues to include other groups and causes. We saw this with the initial Biden proposal for infrastructure. It included a large amount of money for activities that have never been considered to be infrastructure, activities like day care.
Second, there is nothing special about free trade. Indeed, in a large economy like that of the United States, most trade is not across borders but is between people within the US borders. In 2019, imports were about 14.6 percent of gross domestic product. That sounds high, and is high, but that number confirms that most trade in the United States is between and among people in the United States. When a new technology or even a new way of running a business helps consumers, it also destroys many businesses and hurts workers who lose their jobs or who must work at a lower pay to keep their jobs.
We don’t need to go back far to see such examples. When I taught in the business school at the University of Rochester in the late 1970s, some of my evening MBA students who worked at Kodak called it the “big yellow money machine.” Kodak was riding high on the technology that innovator George Eastman and his successors had created and perfected. But digital cameras in the 1980s and 1990s and, later, cell phones that got better and better at taking still shots and movies, virtually destroyed the market for Kodak’s product. It’s true that part of the causes was international trade in cell phones. But even without cell phones from other countries, US cell phone producers were plenty capable of competing Kodak into bankruptcy.
Few of those who advocate compensating those who lose due to expanded trade across borders advocate compensating those who lose due to increased trade within borders. I hasten to add that I’m glad that they don’t. But the principle is the same.
Are the Rich the Main Gainers from International Trade?
In early 2016, UCLA professor Mark Kleiman wrote:
But the bottom line is that all of the gains, not merely from trade but from economic growth, have been concentrated in the hands of a relative few.
I was surprised when I read that. Historically, the opposite has been the case. Before considering recent history, let us turn to the famous repeal of the British Corn Laws, which happened in June 1846. The Corn Laws disallowed the import of wheat (which the British called corn) unless the domestic price of wheat hit a very high level. In practice this meant that imports of wheat were effectively banned. Because lower-income people spent a much higher percent of their income on food than higher-income people did, repeal of the Corn Laws helped low-income people disproportionately. Those who lost were primarily rich owners of agricultural land who, after 1846, had to face competition from other countries.
In a recent discussion to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the repeal of the Corn Laws, British historian Steve Davies of the Institute of Economic Affairs in London put it well. The successful popular campaign to repeal the Corn Laws, he observed,
fixed in the minds of the British working class in particular, right up to the present day, the profound belief that free trade is good for the poor and the working man and woman and that protectionism is basically a conspiracy by the rich and special interests to screw over the working class.
Now let’s turn to recent history, which is quite consistent with the nineteenth-century British history.
Although trade may hurt various low-income people in their role as competing workers, it helps lower-income people, as consumers, proportionally more than high-income people. The reason is that the particular goods that are traded tend to be those that are a larger proportion of a lower-income household’s income. Think about who shops at Walmart and where Walmart buys many of the items it sells. Lower-income people are disproportionately represented among Walmart shoppers and many of the items, typically low-end, that Walmart sells are imported, especially from China. In an article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, UCLA economist Pablo D. Fajgelbaum and Columbia University economist Amit K. Khandelwal lay out the facts about the gains from trade.
In correspondence with me about their findings, Professor Khandelwal considered the gains that would be captured by various income groups if prices for imports fell by 5 percent. For food, people at the 10th percentile—those whose income is below that of 90 percent of the population—would have an annual gain of 0.39 percent of income. People in the 90th percentile and 99th percentile, by contrast, would gain zero. Similarly, a 5 percent price cut for manufactured goods would raise real income for people at the 10th percentile by 0.81 percent and for people at the 90th and 99th percentile by only 0.22 percent and 0.10 percent, respectively.
In many cases, moreover, those who lost their jobs due to the opening of trade had had substantially higher incomes than the lower-income people who made out big from trade. Consider the case of clothing. The US economy lost 650,000 apparel jobs between 1997 and 2007, which was the period during which Chinese imports increased so rapidly. Not all of those people found jobs at a pay as high as they earned before. That’s the downside. The upside is that, with the increase in international trade, clothing became much cheaper. In his book The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Northwestern University economist Robert J. Gordon reports that between 1980 and 2013, clothing prices fell by an annual average of 2.6 percent. Compounded over the period from 1997 to 2007, that’s a 24 percent drop. The actual drop is probably even more because the opening to China brought down clothing prices annually even more quickly than the average annual drop from 1980 to 2013.
For 2019, the latest data available, households in the bottom two quintiles, which is about 53 million households, spent an average of $1,032 per year on clothing. That’s out of an average after-tax income of $22,591. So they spent 4.6 percent of their income on clothing. Because clothing prices fell over that time, they would have bought more clothing at the lower price. So we will understate their gain if we assume that they were insensitive to price and bought the same amount of clothing that they would have at the higher pre-expanded-trade price. Even assuming no further drop in clothing prices after 2103, the 24 percent drop in price was important for a household with such limited means. The clothing they would have bought in 1997 would have cost an inflation-adjusted amount of $1,358. So the average family in the two bottom fifths of the income distribution saved $326 on clothing alone. Over 53 million households, that is a gain of about $17.3 billion. Assuming that the 650,000 people who lost their jobs lost as much as $10,000 each per year, which is probably an overestimate, their loss was $6.5 billion, which is less than 38 percent of the gain. Moreover, the average worker in a clothing factory in the United States, along with her or her family, almost certainly earned more than $22,591, the average income of the bottom two-fifths.
There may be other objections to free trade but two objections fail. First, even though some people lose in the short run when trade is made freer, almost everyone gains in the long run. Second, those who gain disproportionately from free trade are lower-income people, not higher-income people.
In Biden's America, the action is outside the Beltway
By Matthew Continetti • The Washington Free Beacon
It took a few days away from the nation’s capital for me to appreciate how boring the place has become. Recently I returned from a trip to California and discovered that I hadn’t missed anything—no presidential scandal, no legislative logrolling, no surprise vacancies on the Supreme Court. Yes, the pace of events slows down in Washington every summer. Congress goes on recess and metro residents travel for vacation. But 2021 is different. This year, D.C.’s irrelevance is neither seasonal nor exceptional. It’s the norm.
Since Bill Clinton’s impeachment, the city has been the site of momentous events and world-defining debates. The fallout from the 2000 election, 9/11, the war on terrorism, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the surge, the financial crisis, the election of Barack Obama, Obamacare, the Tea Party, the debt ceiling, the response to the Arab Spring, the 2013 government shutdown—they all testified to the centrality of Washington.
Donald Trump’s descent on the escalator in 2015 intensified press coverage. His victory in 2016 upped the political stakes. The Trump presidency unfolded in spectacular, captivating fashion. It was a live-broadcast, four-year, nonfictional telenovela, complete with a climactic twist and a tragic ending. On occasion, the cast traveled to Singapore, Hanoi, Helsinki, and Mar-a-Lago. But the main set was the Oval Office.
Well, the show is over and the thrill is gone. It used to be that the federal city—and its chief executive—drove the national conversation. But President Biden purposely limits his exposure to remain as uncontroversial as possible. “Boring news cycle deals blow to partisan media,” read the headline of an article in Axios on June 29. The piece tracked a fall in web traffic, app user sessions, and social media engagement since President Trump left office. Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, tweeted out the story. “Sorry not sorry,” he wrote.
After 12 years of highly visible celebrity presidents, the current occupant of the White House is a 78-year-old who eschews social media, rarely gives one-on-one interviews, limits himself to about one public event a day, calls on pre-selected reporters at press conferences, often refers to notes, and returns home to Delaware most weekends. Joe Biden’s spending plans may be gargantuan and foolish, his decisions on the border and on Afghanistan may be impetuous and disastrous, and his offhand remarks may be puzzling and odd, but no one gets worked up about him personally. Last month Doug Rivers of the Hoover Institution observed that voters don’t consider Biden an ideologue. It doesn’t matter that Biden’s goals are more ambitious than Obama’s: Far greater numbers of voters said that Obama was “very liberal” than say the same of Biden today.
This low-key presidency combines with tight margins in Congress to diminish Washington’s importance. Unlike his two most recent predecessors, Biden is not an omnipresent figure. The 50-50 Senate blocks the progressive wish list from becoming law. The result is a devolution of controversy to the state, municipal, and local levels of government. Not in two decades covering politics, for example, have I seen state legislatures receive as much attention as they have in recent months.
Meanwhile, the big political news is Democrat Eric Adams’s victory in the New York City mayoral primary. What’s unique about Adams is that he ran the first New York campaign in decades with national implications. His triumph underscored the electorate’s concern with rising crime rates. It demonstrated that even Democratic primary voters in a majority-minority city oppose defunding law enforcement.
“According to recent data from the Democratic-oriented Navigator Research,” writes Ruy Teixeira in a recent issue of the Liberal Patriot newsletter, “more Americans overall, including among independents and Hispanics, now believe violent crime is a ‘major crisis’ than believe that about the coronavirus pandemic or any other area of concern.” This alarm over rising crime manifested itself locally before becoming apparent to officials in Washington, including Biden, who scrambled to announce a crime reduction plan in late June.
The most glaring sign of the Beltway’s detachment from national life has been the movement against critical race theory (CRT) in public schools. Like the Tea Party, this movement is spontaneous, self-organizing, and uncontrolled. Unlike the Tea Party, however, it is focused on a hyperlocal (yet super-important) issue: K-12 instruction. As of this writing, the anti-CRT movement fields candidates for school boards. Congress is an afterthought.
The national politicians who amplify the movement’s rhetoric are piggybacking on a grassroots phenomenon. And while the fight against CRT has implications for federal policy, it is not as though the right’s answer to far-left school boards is national curricular standards. On the contrary: The parental revolt over “woke” education bypasses Washington, transcends party lines, and has clearly defined and limited goals.
What’s fascinating about the anti-CRT campaign is that its most prominent antagonists are not elected officials. The Tea Party pitted rebels such as Jim DeMint, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz against the Republican establishment and Barack Obama. But the participants in this most recent iteration of the culture war are different. The anti-CRT spokesman Christopher Rufo of the Manhattan Institute is a documentarian and activist, and Bari Weiss and Andrew Sullivan are journalists. The most famous advocates of so-called antiracist education are Nikole Hannah-Jones, lead writer of the New York Times‘s 1619 Project, and Ibram X. Kendi of Boston University. Fights over CRT don’t take place in the halls of Congress, but on Morning Joe.
Maybe political entrepreneurs in the coming months will appropriate and elevate the issues of voter ID, crime, and anti-American pedagogy into national campaigns. Maybe the anti-CRT movement will follow the Tea Party and use the 2022 election to springboard into the Beltway. Maybe the next president will impress himself or herself into the national consciousness in the manner of an Obama or a Trump. Or maybe the next president will be Trump.
For now, though, Joe Biden is president. Congress is deadlocked. Both the left and right are more interested in values than in entitlements. The media track the states, the cities, the schools. Why? Because the real action is happening in places like Atlanta, Tallahassee, Austin, Phoenix, New York City, and Loudoun County. Not in Washington, D.C.
Kamala Harris can’t fix her office, much less the border
By Matthew Continetti • The Washington Free Beacon
President Joe Biden has a problem, and her name is Kamala Harris. The vice president has become a comic figure in today’s Washington—a politician given to missteps and unforced errors who inspires neither loyalty nor trust within her inner circle. She might have been Biden’s safest pick for running mate. But now she’s a liability for both the president and the Democratic Party.
It’s not just that Harris is unpopular. Her unique combination of falsity and incompetence generates negative press and endangers her dreams of succeeding Biden. For Harris, the month of June has been an extended replay of highlights from Veep, the HBO comedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a clueless and floundering politician on the make. Only Harris isn’t laughing.
Her favorability among registered voters is 7 points underwater in the latest Economist/YouGov survey. Biden’s approval, by contrast, is split even: 48 percent approve, and 48 percent disapprove. More worrisome for Harris is her “very unfavorable” rating. It’s at 40 percent. That’s 3 points higher than Biden’s number—and just 3 points short of Nancy Pelosi’s.
The reason for Harris’s unpopularity is no mystery. It’s her performance. She has a problem following through. She’s fine when working from a script, but she stumbles whenever she must improvise. The classic example came early in the 2020 campaign. Harris attacked Biden during a primary debate for opposing school busing in the 1970s. The moment went viral—and then evaporated. Harris couldn’t rebut Biden’s arguments against Medicare for All. She couldn’t withstand Tulsi Gabbard’s criticism of her record as California’s state attorney general. She didn’t make it past the first week of December 2019.
Last August, when Biden asked her to join the Democratic ticket, Harris took the Hippocratic Oath of running mates: first, do no harm. She lived up to the pledge. She followed the Biden strategy of letting President Donald Trump hog the stage and self-destruct. She made no great mistakes during her debate with Vice President Mike Pence. And she barely made a sound during the presidential transition. The biggest flap concerning Harris was over a Vogue cover shoot that annoyed her Very Online fan base.
It was Biden who set Harris up for a fall. By May, the surge in illegal crossings at the southern border had become impossible to ignore. Biden said the vice president would lead the administration’s response. This was a gargantuan and impossible task. After all, Biden’s reversal of Trump’s immigration policies is behind the increase in illegal immigration. And there’s no way Harris would contradict her boss, even if she wanted to.
Harris immediately distanced herself from her assignment. She recast her mandate as a diplomatic effort to address the “root causes” of migration. (The root cause is simple: America is a better place to live than the Northern Triangle of Central America.) Her evasion was transparent—and Republicans began criticizing her for refusing to visit the border. But the Harris team doubled down, scheduling a trip to Guatemala and Mexico in early June. It was a disaster.
Harris meant to strike a tough tone during her visit to Guatemala City. “Do not come,” she told potential migrants. But her message was undercut: first by Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei, who blamed Biden’s “lukewarm” rhetoric for the rise in migration, and then by NBC News anchor Lester Holt, who asked Harris why she was several thousand miles away from the border. A flustered Harris laughed awkwardly and tried to dodge before blurting out, “And I haven’t been to Europe!” Louis-Dreyfus couldn’t have delivered the line any better.
Harris’s inane reply amplified Republican charges that she was avoiding the real issue. By the time she returned from her trip, it was obvious that Harris would visit the border sooner rather than later. The question was when. On June 25, less than a week before Trump was scheduled to visit Texas, Harris hurriedly went to El Paso. The Democratic bastion is far from the Rio Grande valley that has been the busiest site of illegal activity. But Harris managed to get through her day trip without incident. The fallout didn’t arrive until later.
The voyage to El Paso illustrated another Harris vulnerability: She’s a terrible manager. Leaks and infighting bedeviled her short-lived presidential campaign. Working for her is hazardous to your health. Or at least that’s what an anonymous source told Politico on June 30. The blockbuster story, carrying three bylines and based on interviews with 22 “current and former vice-presidential aides, administration officials, and associates of Harris and Biden,” left no doubt that Harris runs a dysfunctional operation. “It’s not a place where people feel supported but a place where people feel treated like s—,” said a “person with direct knowledge of how Harris’s office is run.” Imagine what they say on the office Slack channel.
Biden adviser Anita Dunn told Politico that the situation was “not anywhere near what you are describing.” Perhaps it’s worse. One of Harris’s former Senate aides said, “The boss’s expectations won’t always be predictable.” Not exactly what you want in a leader. Politico says Harris “excels when those around her project calm and order, creating a sense of confidence and certainty.” Unfortunately, confidence and certainty are precisely those qualities that go missing in the ad hoc, improvisational, contingent, and situational world of global politics.
More interviews and stories like these and Harris will soon be living the politician’s worst nightmare: becoming a punchline. A cynic might say that Biden purposely handed Harris the toughest assignments to redirect negative public sentiment away from the Oval Office and to displace the frustrations and embarrassments he experienced during eight years as Barack Obama’s vice president. Democratic strategists worry that Harris exhibits none of Biden’s strengths, such as they are, while shouldering all his weaknesses. That doesn’t bode well if Biden opts not to run in 2024.
Then again, in the third season of Veep, the fictional president steps down. Louis-Dreyfus’s character becomes president. Think Harris is funny now? The joke might be on us.
By Peter Roff • American Action News
Big Tech is not fighting fair in its push back against former President Donald J. Trump’s campaign to prevent it from censoring conservative opinions and opinion leaders, the American Conservative Union said, citing the recent suspension of its network on YouTube, an internet platform used for video sharing as a prime example of its misconduct.
The ACU, which is the primary sponsor of the Conservative Political Action Conference called the recent removal by YouTube of a recent episode of its “America UnCanceled” posted on its CPAC NOW page censorship.
“YouTube censored CPAC because we stood with former President Donald Trump on his lawsuit against Big Tech,” ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp said in a release, calling the action “another example of Big Tech censoring content with which they disagree in order to promote the political positions they favor.”
The episode in question included coverage of the former president’s attempt to mount a class action suit against tech platforms including Google, YouTube’s parent company. The ACU is a party to the suit, which is being brought on the former president’s behalf by the America First Policy Institute, a group he formed shortly after he left office.
Trump spoke Sunday in Dallas, Texas to the most recent CPAC gathering. That speech also could not be seen on the CPAC NOW YouTube page due to a one-week ban on posting the platform imposed on the organization when it removed the program, the ACU said.
When imposing the ban, the ACU said YouTube cited “medical misinformation” related to COVID-19 conveyed by the program as the reason for it but did not state specifically what the so-called misinformation was. In a statement, the group said it believed Trump’s reference to the possible therapeutic value of hydroxychloroquine as documented in what the ACU described as “sound medical research conducted by the Smith Center for Infectious Diseases & Urban Health and Saint Barnabas Medical Center” may have prompted the internet platform to take the action it did.
The use of hydroxychloroquine to prevent or treat the novel coronavirus, which Trump often promoted while president, is controversial in many political, editorial, and medical circles.
“It is clear that YouTube censored CPAC because we stood with former President Donald Trump on his lawsuit against Big Tech,” said ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp. “This is yet another example of Big Tech censoring content with which they disagree in order to promote the political positions they favor.”
In his remarks to the Dallas confab, Trump called the way Big Tech handles free speech issues, particularly expressions of opinion that conflict with the values of the founders of the major tech platforms “unlawful,” “unconstitutional” and “completely un-American.”
Trump used the speech to continue as well his crusade for an audit of the 2020 presidential election results which, he maintains, was tainted by fraudulent ballots. “The truth was covered up, and it had a giant impact on the election,” he said. “This must never happen to another party’s presidential candidate again. We are the laughingstock of the world.”
By Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi • Frontiers of Freedom
On July 5, 2021, Nathan Law, a pro-democracy activist and politician of Hong Kong, published a Letter to Orban from his London exile in Politico. In his Letter’s opening paragraph, Mr. Law states that “It’s difficult to imagine how somebody who battled against the brutal repression of a communist party at a young age could later become a staunch supporter of another.” Then, he continues thus: “Since assuming power in 2010, your growing intimacy with the Chinese government has made it difficult for the EU to put pressure on Beijing when it comes to human rights violations. Hungary was the first EU country to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2012, paving the way for Beijing to export its authoritarian model to the world. And in the years since, your country has served as China’s biggest defender in the EU.”
Nathan Law is absolutely correct. The second son of an unskilled laborer who became the Communist party secretary at the local gravel mine, Viktor Orban used his personal hatred toward his cruel father to rebel against the Soviet occupation and the resulting one-party dictatorship. Having entered public life on June 16, 1989, the day of the symbolic reburial of Imre Nagy the failed leader of the 1956 Revolution, Viktor Orban called at Budapest’s Heroes’ Square for free elections and the removal of the Soviet military from Hungarian soil.
From there on, his journey in the discombobulated terrain of Hungarian politics has been marked by self-induced narcissistic turns in opposition, through leading between 1998 and 2002 an utterly inexperienced as well as woefully incompetent government that failed miserably within four years, to reestablishing the one-party dictatorship of the pre-1990 Hungary in its barely disguised oppression and all-encompassing corruption in his second reincarnation as Prime Minister. As proof of his sickening egomania, Viktor Orban has repeatedly claimed that his 1989 speech was the reason for the Soviet Union to remove its military from Hungary. Notwithstanding Viktor Orban’s laughable as well as baseless assertion, the decision about the retreat of the Soviet military was made years before his speech and the actual withdrawal of several military units was already ongoing or partially completed.
Viktor Orban’s destructive transformation of Hungary from a developing democratic state to a neo-Communist fiefdom has come with a heavy price. Viktor Orban has become politically a fatally wounded non-entity and personally a persona non grata within the European Union. His Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto has only exacerbated Viktor Orban’s international misery. Having proved himself more as a pompous amateur, Mr. Szijjarto has made Hungary with his grossly undiplomatic statements about President Biden and the Democrat Party in the United States of America unwelcome too. As a result, the Viktor Orban-led Hungary has become a pariah in Washington, D.C. as well as in Brussels.
Thus, Viktor Orban’s epiphany from a young firebrand against Communist oppression to an egomaniacal monster has had its roots in his primitive communist upbringing and the related worshipping of power and money by persons who only knew hardships and destitutions in their miserable youth. Naturally, so-called scholars like Dorit Gerva are talking and writing about “Orbanism” as a new ideology. They are all badly mistaken. For Viktor Orban ideology has always meant an interchangeable and disposable semi-intellectual garbage whose sole purpose has been to conceal his insatiable appetite for power and money. Moreover, for people with Viktor Orban’s mentality, countries or individuals do not count as supreme political and humanistic values. Consequently, for Viktor Orban democracy with its glorification of individual rights and its protection of personal freedoms is meaningless platitudes that must be continuously attacked and decisively rejected. For these reasons, the combination of his ostracism by the leaders of NATO and the European Union and his personal inclination toward authoritarianism, moving closer to China has been an obvious solution.
Domestically, Viktor Orban and his propaganda machine has tried to sell his “Eastern Opening” as hugely beneficial for Hungary. However, the facts have belied his promises of large investments, preferential loans and new markets concerning China, Russia and many other Asian countries. Specifically, Hungary’s exports to China in 2020 were $2.04 billion. On the other hand, Hungary’s imports from China in 2020 have reached $8.72 billion. This means a trade deficit of more than $6 billion. Thus, while being up in arms against any foreign interference in domestic affairs, Viktor Orban is quietly and surreptitiously turning Hungary into an economic “Canton” of the People’s Republic of China.
The Chinese-built Budapest-Belgrade railway’s Hungarian section, a highly ballyhood accomplishment of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, is costing about $3 billion. Of this amount, 85 percent is financed with Chinese loans, with interest between $500 and $800 million. This means that the entire project’s cost around $3.7 billion. Thus, this railway project is wholly financed by the Hungarian taxpayers. Again, the project is much more beneficial to China than for Hungary. First, the new railway does not connect Hungarian towns. Second, tourism from the Balkan region has never been significant. Third, the railway is constructed mostly by Chinese companies. Fourth, the railway is designed to carry freight more than passengers. Fifth, the strategic penetration of the European Union’s infrastructure markets will become much easier for Chinese state-owned companies. Notwithstanding these negative aspects, the railway is being built and the entire project with all the documents connected to the bilateral deal were declared a national strategic matter, and thus top secret.
Similarly, fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Viktor Orban has never criticized China. On the contrary, he and his cabinet members have only had the kindest words for Beijing’s efforts to fight the pandemic and its willingness to supply Hungary and the rest of the world with vaccines, masks as well as badly needed medical equipment. Accordingly, the Hungarian government bought at the beginning of 2021 five million doses of Chinese Sinopharm vaccines for $36 (30 Euros) each. In comparison, the European Union paid only 15,50 Euros per dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. For a dose of AstraZeneca, the European Union paid $2.15, according to Belgium’s budget secretary.
Even more suspicious is the way the Hungarian government acquired the five million medically absolutely useless doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccines. The intermediary company from which the Hungarian government purchased the vaccines was an offshore company with a registered capital of $10,700 (9,000 Euros). The net value of the bilateral contract was $179 million (150 million Euros). Such arrangements clearly raise red flags for anti-corruption watchdogs, as The New York Times article on March 12, 2021, rightly stipulated.
The Chinese vaccine was aggressively promoted by Viktor Orban himself. Claiming that he got the Sinopharm vaccine, he encouraged Hungarians of all ages to do the same. Yet, while promoting and using the vaccine, it lacked full approval even by the competent Hungarian authorities until January 2021. Adding insult to injury, the European Union and the American FDA have never approved the Sinopharm vaccine for use on humans. To prove the uselessness of the Sinopharm vaccines, Hungarians who were vaccinated with Sinopharm have never developed antibodies in their bodies.
The background story of the Shanghai-based Fudan University is equally strange, or more precisely, typical Orbanesque. This story has started with the forced expulsion of the George Soros-established Central European University from Budapest, Hungary. This University was accredited in both the United States of America and Hungary. In addition, it ranked in quality way above any indigenous school of higher education. The ensuing saga of the very personal feud between George Soros and Viktor Orban has been portrayed and analyzed exhaustively by the media in Hungary as well as across Europe and the United States.
To summarize it, the Central European University rejected government control. The University’s argument was that in a democracy institutions of higher education must be independent of political influence. Moreover, the President of the Central European University Michael Ignatieff argued that the Orban government destroyed the independence and the high quality of Hungarian university education by politically as well as professionally crushing their independence, while simultaneously liquidating the free-thinking intelligentsia. Yet, utilizing his artificially created two-thirds majority in the unicameral Parliament, Viktor Orban’s party adapted a law that made the functioning of the Central European University in Hungary impossible. The Central European University departed to Vienna, Austria, leaving Viktor Orban and his battered educational system enjoying in their miserable isolation their pyrrhic victory.
This self-congratulatory gloating about the triumph of Viktor Orban’s “illiberal democracy” over the “Leftist liberalism of George Soros” has culminated in the Hungarian government’s sudden announcement about rolling out the red carpet for the Shanghai-based Fudan University. Preemptively declaring that the Chinese university’s mission would be strictly educational, the ensuing nation-wide protest against the “Trojan Horse” of Communist influence and potential spying expressed the real opinions as well as the anti-Chinese feelings of the Hungarian people.
Clearly, the pivoting towards China, defined vaingloriously by Viktor Orban as “Eastern Opening,” is extremely unpopular among all Hungarians. Adding fuel to the already existing popular discontent is the cost and the size of the Fudan University project. Planned to spread over twenty six acres, with an additional forty acres accounting for the surrounding park, and estimated to cost a whopping $1.687 billion, it would exceed the total cost the Hungarian government spends on the annual operation of its over two dozen state-run public universities. No wonder that the suspicion of another gigantic government corruption has again raised its ugly head throughout the country and beyond.
To top this monstrous political and financial ploy, the construction of the campus is carried out exclusively by Chinese banks and Chinese companies, involving only Chinese workers. More specifically, the Hungarian government agreed that the Chinese only involvement also means that the job must be done by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), the world’s largest construction company. Again, bribery and corruption suspicions are justified by the tarnished reputation of the Chinese company that has been involved across the globe in numerous scandals and foul plays. To prove this point, the Chinese company’s financing offer that would cover all expenses only amounts to $1.06 billion. The difference between the published figure of $1.687 billion by the Hungarian government and the Chinese estimate speaks for itself. Even more glaring is the Chinese financing proposal of $1,81 billion that is supposed to cover only 80% of the construction costs. This unprecedented and unjustified overfinancing of the Fudan University project potentially could be another proof of the long-suspected high-level corruption in state-funded construction business deals.
The secrecy surrounding the Fudan University project thickens by its legal construct. While in the case of the Budapest-Belgrade railway reconstruction an international agreement was executed, the relevant contracts of the Fudan University deal were designed to exclude public procurements and open biddings even in the management of the campus. The obvious sleaziness of these arrangements was crowned by the establishment of a consortium of two Chinese and a single Hungarian company, in which the latter is wholly owned by Viktor Orban’s childhood friend and straw man, Lorinc Meszaros.
Finally, leaked documents suggest that the Fudan University deal was in the offing for years but assiduously kept away from the Hungarian and the European public. During his 2019 visit to Hungary, the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi spoke of the Budapest campus of the Fudan University as a done deal, negotiated carefully for some time before. Designating it a “priority project,” he emphasized the strategic importance of the Fudan University’s presence in the geographic middle of the European continent for Beijing. Like in the case of the Budapest-Belgrade railway project, the Hungarian government classified the Fudan University deal as a “national security” matter. The expropriation and even usurpation of great construction projects affecting the entire country by a single yes-men party, namely the FIDESZ, are another proof that Hungary is not a democracy. Even more unsettling is the state of democracy in Hungary when the one-party legislature and executive do not govern by consensus but political improvisation and greed.
Demonstrations against the establishment of the Fudan University have been held across Hungary. The Mayor of Budapest Gergely Karacsony and the opposition called for a nationwide referendum and already proceeded to rename streets around the planned campus “Dalai Lama Street,” “Free Hong Kong Road,” etc. The Chinese regime that regularly launches vigorous protests against “interference in Chinese internal affairs” has gone ballistic over the free expression of “anti-Chinese” sentiments in Hungary. Global Times, one of the many subservient mouthpieces of the Chinese Communist Party, called in an editorial Gergely Karacsony “an enemy of China.” The Press Secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Budapest released a statement voicing his outrage thus: “As a diplomat of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Hungary, I have been working in Hungary for nearly a decade and witnessed the deepening friendship between the Chinese and the Hungarian peoples. Recently, Hungary has gradually overcome the COVID-19, and people’s daily life is beginning to return to normal. People on the streets are full of joy and laughter again. As someone who works and lives in Budapest, I am also delighted by this.” Clearly, such an idyllic description of the general mood in a country is more reminiscent of the Chinese propaganda lies concerning their own country than the reality in Hungary.
Referring again to the Mayor of Budapest, his long winded nonsense continued with the following hypocritical sentence: “In broad daylight, it is unseemly to criticize the internal affairs of another country.” However, in the same breath he goes on wadding into the internal affairs of Hungary: “The Mayor’s speech was a serious interference in China’s internal affairs and a deliberate attempt to undermine the friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation between the two nation, which is incompatible with the trend of the era of mutually beneficial cooperation. We firmly protest, resolutely oppose and strongly condemn it.”
To better understand the real Chinese strategic intentions, one should not search farther than the recent spring visit of the Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe to Budapest. Praising Hungary as a “good brother” and “partner,” Wei stated that China is ready to strengthen cooperation with Hungary in various fields. He grew agitated about the sanction imposed by the United States of America and the European Union against his country for the treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, calling them lies and false accusations made by the West. Then, turning to the President of Hungary, Janos Ader, he thanked him for Hungary’s firm support of China on Xinjiang and other issues concerning China’s core interests. Janos Ader, on his part, praised China’s vaccine support, claiming that this support has brought hope to Hungary’s fight against the pandemic. He also called for a “comprehensive strategic partnership” and the strengthening of cooperation in the economy, trade, tourism and military matters.
In line with these essentially anti-NATO and anti-European Union declarations and actions by Chinese grandees, leading Hungarian politicians have given a slew of irresponsible and derogatory statements about both organizations, in which they have claimed to be loyal members. Just very recently, exactly on July 11, 2021, the Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament Laszlo Kover said on Radio Kossuth that, if a referendum would be held today about Hungary’s joining the European Union, he would definitely vote against it. And on July 8, 2021, in another interview that he gave to Mandiner, he opined that Hungary will stay a member of the European Union until it collapses.
Viktor Orban’s dislike for the European Union has been well documented throughout the last nine years as Prime Minister. Equating any criticism of his government and the Hungarian Parliament that he rules through Laszlo Kover as a condemnation of the Hungarian nation, he has repeatedly insinuated that leaving the organization could be an option. On September 25, 2020, Reuters reported that he praised Britain’s decision to leave the European Union as a “brave one” and demonstration of “greatness” that Hungary should not follow. However, signaling his real feelings, he went on to criticize Brussels for its treatment of Great Britain and opined that the 2016 referendum was an act to safeguard the “good reputation” of the British people: “Brexit is a brave decision of the British people about their own lives…we consider it as evidence of the greatness of the British.”
After years of cutthroat hostility with the overwhelming majority of the European Union’s other member states Hungary’s new legislation that couples pedophilia and anti-LGBT behaviors is the newest bone of contention. Without descending into the dirty swamp of Hungarian politics, it suffices to state that the values that the Viktor Orban-led government has espoused for the last nine years and the values that the European Union views as compatible with Western civilization have been distinctly different in most of the cases. While Brussels defends values in general, the Orban government protects its parochial and thus narrow political and financial interests. For this reason, an ultimate rupture could occur at any time in the future.
Where does all this leave the Orban regime and Hungary? It leaves both in an ever widening vacuum full of lies, deceptions, existential corruption, moral depravity and hopelessness concerning the future of the individual as well as the Hungarian nation. It leaves Hungary hovering between Europe and Asia. It leaves Hungary in a state of permanent paralysis politically, economically, financially, culturally, morally and existentially. It leaves Hungary with a government that prioritizes the interests of the privileged one percent to the detriment of ninety nine percent of the nation. It leaves Hungary with a government that is despotic and inimical to the country’s real interests. Finally and tragically, it leaves Hungary in a state of utter despondency.
Historically, whenever Hungary has turned away from the West and has attempted to seek its future in the East, stagnation and even backsliding were the results. Today, when confronted with the uncomfortable facts of his “Eastern Opening,” Viktor Orban’s and his party’s responses rest on two parts. First, they try to conceal, deny and obfuscate. Second, when such brazenly authoritarian and shamefully immoral political campaigns fail, they attack with ruthless aggression the motives of their domestic as well as foreign critics.
Clearly, the worldwide criticism of Hungary has reached a dangerous stage. Led by Hungary’s incompetent foreign minister, its diplomats call such criticism a shameless plot to slander the country and thwart its progress. The government controlled media spew ad hominem falsehoods at scholars who analyze Hungarian government statements and documents, as well as open-source materials, describing them as CIA agents or anti-Hungarian fanatics. Regrettably, such fallacious assertions have had an impact domestically. It has not been very difficult to meet Hungarians from every walk of life who treat even the mildest criticism of their country as a hostile attack directed against them personally.
Yet, facts are stubborn things. Since his election victory in 2010, Viktor Orban has governed Hungary as an elected despot. The safeguards of democracy have been eliminated gradually. With his “Eastern Opening,” Viktor Orban is preparing to tear up all pretence of democracy and develop his “illiberal democracy” into a full fledged dictatorship. The obvious question is why? The answer is almost self-evident. Viktor Orban and his associates fear defeat in the upcoming elections in the spring of 2022. As Nathan Law stated, Viktor Orban and his FIDESZ party has betrayed its democratic past for a semi-Feudal and arch-Communist regime, combined with nepotism and dynastic pretensions. While capturing total control over the legislative, judicial and executive branches as well as vertically the local councils, he has courted the rural population with monies that the European Union has given to Hungary. Simultaneously, the pliant media are selling in unison Viktor Orban’s “illiberal democracy” as identical with the desires of the whole nation.
To add political insult to existential injury, the declared election alliance of the thus far fragmented opposition parties might not be enough to stop another triumph at the ballot boxes for Viktor Orban and his FIDESZ party. While the 2018 elections were laden with irregularities, suspicions are rife throughout the country that the upcoming poll might be fraught with more shenanigans. As in the past, the most contentious issue will be the voting rights of Hungarians living abroad without registered Hungarian addresses, mainly in the neighboring states of Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania and Serbia. The emotional manipulation, financial bribery, voting by mail without proper verification, practically ensures that the overwhelming majority of these ethnic Hungarians, estimated to be close to ninety percent, will cast their ballots for FIDESZ. To illustrate the shocking political nature of courting the ethnic Hungarian votes, the Fuggetlen Nemzet (Independent Nation) revealed that ethnic Hungarians with barely any elementary school education claimed to have been directors of large Ukrainian companies with outlandishly high salaries, collect huge retirement pays from the Hungarian Pension Disbursement Office.
Such an electoral system clearly distorts the will of all Hungarians who live within the international borders of Hungary. Leaders of the opposition parties and foreign observers have claimed in 2018 that the voting laws installed by FIDESZ enabled electoral fraud through uncontrollable manipulation of the mail-in ballots. Hungarian humor has it that being buried in one of the neighboring states as a Hungarian guarantees the dead person’s resurrection and a second life in Hungary proper through elections.
In stark contrast to this extremely liberal treatment of ethnic Hungarians, Hungarians who live in Hungary proper but work or live abroad with real Hungarian residency must be registered on the electoral roll a maximum of fifteen days before election day. Moreover, on election day they must go to a Hungarian consulate or embassy to cast their votes in person. Registration has been slow and laden with bureaucratic obstructions. Consulates and embassies have posed additional hurdles to Hungarians suspected of not voting for Viktor Orban’s party. The nefarious political intent is clear. Those Hungarians who live outside the country are alleged of not always agreeing with the domestic situation. Thus, they must be prevented from voting by dictatorial bureaucratic fiat. Those who have been bribed by the Hungarian government abroad must cast their votes without any bureaucratic difficulties, because they are presumed to be loyal to Viktor Orban and his regime. This is ethnic discrimination by voting, plain and simple.
In these and similar manners, Hungary’s march away from Western values and democracy toward Socialism/Communism with Chinese characteristics is in full swing. As for the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, creating enemies and demonizing opponents have been the order of political culture for Viktor Orban and his FIDESZ party. Meanwhile, Hungary proper has been torn by deep hatred, unbridgeable divisions and the danger of civil war. Moreover, the country lacks a large middle class and is divided into the miniscule group of the very rich and the vast majority of destitute survivors as well as hopeless Have-nots.
Yet, the greatest threat to Hungary’s future is the fatalistic complacency of its people. To overcome this deadly cultural disease, the Hungarian people must take back their past, present and future. In doing so, they should be able to rely on the active and decisive assistance of all the member states of NATO and the European Union. Conversely, the latter should start to take democracy as well as political, economic and cultural morality seriously – meaning that they must enforce the values of both alliances more rigorously. Otherwise, NATO and the European Union will cease to be multilateral bodies of free nations. Even worse, they will continue to nurture internal enemies within their ranks that ultimately will destroy both alliances. Clearly, it is high time to put a stop to the destructive madness of the current Hungarian government by calling it to full account. In closing, Hungary must be made to understand that membership in both organizations comes with rights and obligations that are inextricably linked. Joining both organizations was voluntary. No one forced the competent Hungarian government to join. However, once Hungary joined, it must fulfill its obligations fully. Claiming that Hungary has only rights but only selective obligations is unrealistic. Comparing Washington, D.C. and Brussels to the Kremlin of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, is wrong and self-defeating. Such comparison is simply idiotic. Yet, Hungarian politicians, with Viktor Orban in the lead, have played the victimhood card often and shamelessly in the last eleven years. Enough is enough. Either the Hungarian government will start to play fairly or it must be asked to leave both organizations. The future effectiveness and unity of NATO and the European Union are at stake. Time is of the essence. Before the Orbanesque cancer could metastasize, it must be stopped peremptorily.
By Peter Roff • American Action News
An overwhelming number of Americans likely to vote in the November 2022 election said they were troubled to one degree or another by the problem of “fake news,” a survey released Friday said, likely prompting them to view the information they are getting from traditional media outlets with a degree of distrust.
The poll conducted by the firm Rasmussen Reports found a vast majority of the 1,000 likely voters questioned – 83 percent – called “fake news” was a serious problem. A clear majority – 55 percent – defined it as “very serious.”
“Only 37 percent of voters say they trust the political news they’re getting, while 43 percent say they don’t trust political news,” the polling firm reported, calling it a “slight improvement” since April 2021 when a similar survey found only 33 percent of respondents said they “trusted political news.” That same poll had 54 percent of those participating saying they thought “most reporters, when they write or talk about President Joe Biden, are trying to help the president pass his agenda.”
Distrust of media, the poll showed, is widespread across all demographic categories, with 54 percent of whites, 56 percent of black voters, and 60 percent described as “other minorities” believing “fake news” is a “very serious problem in the media.”
Alarming as those numbers might be, even more shocking – but perhaps not unsurprising – is the number of respondents in agreement with the characterization of the media as “truly the enemy of the people,” an accusation made by former President Donald J. Trump that was widely criticized even by some journalists who are not considered members of the media elite.
The Rasmussen Reports survey found a majority of those surveyed – 58 percent — saying they agreed “at least somewhat” with Trump’s description including 56 percent of whites, 63 percent of blacks, and 60 percent of other minorities considered likely to vote in the next election.
“As might be expected, Republicans are more likely to agree with Trump’s description,” the firm said of its findings while cautioning that “37 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of voters not affiliated with either major party also at least somewhat agree.”
The poll finds members of the GOP also more likely to identify “fake news” as a problem but, incredibly, 74 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of unaffiliated voters also thought it was “at least a somewhat serious problem in the media.”
The numbers concerning Democrats and independents are surprising considering that, as Rasmussen Reports found, it’s President Joe Biden’s strongest supporters who “have more trust” in the media than those who are not satisfied with the direction his presidency is taking.
“Among voters who strongly approve of Biden’s job performance as president, 72 percent trust the political news they’re getting,” Rasmussen Reports said. “By contrast, among voters who strongly disapprove of Biden’s performance, 74 percent don’t trust the political news they’re getting.”