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Science and Public Policy

China’s Inhumane Covid Lockdowns Became A Wake-up Call For Some Chinese

The Chinese government has chosen to enforce its ‘Zero Covid’ policy with a degree of cruelty and zealousness the Chinese people haven’t experienced since the Cultural Revolution.

By Helen RaleighThe Federalist

china lockdown covid
TODAY/NBC NEWS

Reportedly responding to more infectious Covid-19 variants, the Chinese government has recently put 46 cities and 343 million residents under strict lockdowns. The ruthlessly enforced lockdown policies, empty shelves in grocery stores, and widespread food shortages have become a wake-up call for many. 

After the Chinese Communist Party brutally cracked down on the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989, it offered the Chinese people an unwritten grand bargain: exchanging their political freedom for economic growth. The last four decades of economic reforms have lifted China’s living standards.

“Many Chinese believe that the country’s recent economic achievements—large-scale poverty reduction, huge infrastructure investment, and development as a world-class tech innovator—have come about because of, not despite, China’s authoritarian form of government,” observe Rana Mitter and Elsbeth Johnson in Harvard Business Review. The party’s censorship, tight control of all aspects of Chinese society, and the rising nationalist movement have left little room for dissenting from this view. 

The CCP’s genocide in Xinjiang against the Uyghur Muslims and other minorities and the party’s crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement were stories that either received no coverage or distorted coverage in mainland China. Many mainlanders chose to believe the Chinese government’s rhetoric that these stories were manufactured by hostile Western forces who sought to destabilize China and stop the nation’s inevitable return to its rightful place as a dominant power in the world. 

The majority of Chinese supported Beijing’s “Zero Covid” policy between 2020 and 2021, which relied on mandatory vaccination, testing, quarantines, and border control to isolate the entire nation from the rest of the world for more than two years. They point to China’s low Covid case numbers and deaths (many outside of China found those numbers highly questionable), in contrast to high case numbers and fatalities in the West, as evidence that China’s political system is superior to Western democracy. 

Some in the West agreed. Early last year, New York Times China correspondent Li Yuan gleefully tweeted her piece, “In a Topsy-Turvy Pandemic World, China Offers Its Version of Freedom.” She claimed that “the pandemic has upended many perceptions, including ideas about freedom. Chinese don’t have freedom of speech, freedom of worship, or freedom from fear, but they have the freedom to move around and lead a normal day-to-day life,” thanks to the Chinese government’s aggressive response to the pandemic.

Cruelty in Shanghai

But the Chinese people and overseas cheerleaders of the CCP regime had a rude awakening this year thanks to the lockdown in Shanghai, a city of 26 million people known for their wealth and sophistication. The Chinese government has chosen to enforce its “Zero Covid” policy with a degree of cruelty and zealousness the Chinese people haven’t experienced since the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). 

For example, residents have been locked inside their apartments like animals, and some even have metal barriers and fences outside their homes. One foreigner in Shanghai told the BBC, “No one can get out, and I feel helpless.”

There’s widespread hunger because people are not allowed to go grocery shopping and the government-run food delivery has been meager. Guards in white protective gear beat residents who attempted to sneak out to buy some food or even tried to dig up herbs in the yard.

People with chronic illnesses or medical emergencies couldn’t get timely treatment. After a video showing a community worker in a white hazmat suit beating a corgi to death, pet owners have additional concerns. 

Chinese social media is full of posts of desperate Shanghai residents pleading for food, medical help, or someone to take care of their pets. Adults have been taken from their homes and forced to spend weeks in poorly run mass quarantine camps, and young children have been cruelly separated from their parents.

Losing Faith in Chinese Government

Some of the Communist regime’s overseas cheerleaders have changed their minds following the brutal Shanghai lockdowns. Yuan of The New York Times, who lectured Americans that the Chinese version of freedom is more preferable than the freedom in the United States, recently wrote, “China’s ‘Zero Covid’ Mess Proves Autocracy Hurts Everyone.”

More importantly, what happened in Shanghai has evoked the older generation’s memories of the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, and shattered younger generations’ confidence in the government. More and more Chinese people have shown they’re losing faith in the Chinese government’s policies and narratives.

Some chose to speak out. Zhong Hongjun, a professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, said the government’s actions are so “inhumane” that he regretted supporting the “Zero Covid” policy. 

Repression Sparks Protests

Some chose to protest. In one residential compound, residents clashed with health authorities and police in a desperate attempt to block the government from turning their housing complex into quarantine camps for Covid patients. Police arrested several protesters. 

Since speaking out and protesting in broad daylight are dangerous in an authoritarian regime, others chose more discrete ways to express their anger and frustration. A six-minute video titled “The Voice of April” went viral in China on April 22. It included voices of Shanghai residents complaining about food shortages and lacking medical care and revealing the human toll of the government’s Covid policies.

The video had millions of views, and Chinese netizens tried many creative ways to preserve and share it before the censors took it down, including saving copies on blockchains. Zeyi Yang, a writer for Technology Reviews, calls the Chinese netizens’ actions an example of “digital protesting.”

Drastically Eroding Trust in Government

There are other signs that more Chinese people are losing faith in the Chinese government after witnessing what has happened in Shanghai. China’s capital city Beijing is facing a Covid-19 outbreak. Worrying that Beijing would undergo a Shanghai-style lockdown, Beijing residents stocked up on food and wiped grocery stores clean, despite government officials’ repeated announcements of no food shortages. 

There are indications the lockdowns will result in an exodus of people and capital. An online survey revealed that about 85 percent of Shanghai’s expat residents were considering leaving China due to its lockdown policies. Shanghai-based immigration consultants reported that immigration inquiries from wealthy Shanghai residents have skyrocketed.

One consultant received more than 200 immigration inquiries in one day. He explained that “The authorities are making people sacrifice their basic needs to fight a disease that’s a bit more severe than seasonal flu. Our clients chose to vote with their feet.”

Since the Chinese government has put hundreds of millions of residents under lockdown, Shanghai residents’ torment has been repeated in many other parts of China, so many share Shanghai residents’ anger and frustration. Not surprisingly, more Chinese people have woken up from the government’s lies and cruelty. Beijing’s insistence on harsh “zero Covid” measures may become the regime’s undoing, as more and more Chinese have finally learned that their health, safety, and prosperity are not secure without political freedom. 


Florida Health Dept Slams Biden Admin for ‘Injecting Political Ideology Into the Health of Our Children’

Sunshine State challenges White House defense of trans hormone treatment for children

By Patrick HaufThe Washington Free Beacon

Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra / Getty Images

The Florida Department of Health slammed the Biden administration for promoting transgender treatments for minors, accusing the White House of “injecting political ideology into the health of our children.”

The Sunshine State on Wednesday released health guidelines that dispute the Department of Health and Human Services declaration last month that “gender-affirming” treatments, including puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and sex-reassignment surgery, are “crucial” for the well-being of transgender children. The Florida Department of Health says the latest medical research undermines the Biden administration’s claims about the practices, calling “into question the motives of the federal HHS.”

“The federal government’s medical establishment releasing guidance failing at the most basic level of academic rigor shows that this was never about health care,” Florida surgeon general Joseph Ladapo said in a statement Wednesday. “It was about injecting political ideology into the health of our children. Children experiencing gender dysphoria should be supported by family and seek counseling, not pushed into an irreversible decision before they reach 18.”

HHS did not respond to a request for comment.

Arkansas last year became the first state to ban hormone therapy for minors, but lawsuits from liberal legal groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have blocked the state from enforcing the legislation. Arizona and Alabama passed similar bans this year but also face legal challenges from the ACLU and LGBT advocacy groups.

The Florida legislature attempted to pass a ban on hormone treatment for minors this year but the bill has stalled. The Florida Department of Health guidance advises against hormone treatments for minors but does not enforce any restrictions on the hormone drugs, which are not approved by the FDA.

“Physicians may use guidance from different authoritative sources, including government entities and professional associations, in determining the best course of treatment for their patients,” Jeremy Redfern, the press secretary for the department, told the Washington Free Beacon.

The department noted that a 2015 paper published in the International Review of Psychiatry found 80 percent of people who seek transgender therapy lose their desire to identify as the opposite sex. A 2018 study in the American Academy of Pediatrics found that there is “low-quality” evidence in favor of transgender treatment for adolescents and that future research is needed to accurately assess the risks or benefits. Several other studies concluded there are no clear benefits of gender transitions for adolescents.

While the Biden administration has embraced hormone treatment for children—White House press secretary Jen Psaki called it “life-saving” during a press conference this month—other countries have moved to restrict the practice. The High Court in the United Kingdom ruled in 2020 that minors under the age of 16 need permission from a court to receive hormone treatment. France’s National Academy of Science in March warned medical professionals to exercise “great caution” in prescribing the treatments, citing the permanent health risks of hormone treatment and surgery.

To promote gender transitions for minors, the White House and HHS cited a study from an LGBT group funded by a hormone-drug manufacturer, the Free Beacon reported earlier this month.


Florida’s Parental Rights Law Has Turned Leftists Into a Sad, Frustrated Mess

Florida’s parental rights law has leftists up against a wall, and their methods for coping are getting stranger every day.

By Eddie ScarryThe Federalist

The perpetually miserable left has apparently reached the “acceptance” stage of grieving over Florida’s new parental rights law, but their funny hysteria is still the same.

Within the last week, The Washington Post ran two articles offering the same idea for “queer” and transgender leftists who hate the legislation: sue teachers who acknowledge biological reality!

That’s a serious proposal from the Post’s Kate Cohen, who wrote on April 15, “What if we took these laws at their word and treated every lesson that endorsed any sexual orientation or gender schema as an actionable offense?”

Do tell!

“What if we filed a complaint every time a teacher instructed our children to use certain bathrooms solely on the basis of their gender identity?” she continued. “What if we called a lawyer when we discovered our children were learning that the ‘mommies on the bus’ said ‘shush, shush, shush’”?

Similarly, Cohen’s colleague Greg Sargent wrote Monday that “the law’s vagueness might end up handing opponents a hidden weapon against it.” That weapon, he said, is that the law allows parents to bring lawsuits “against references to heterosexuality or cisgenderism.”

Gay and transgender activist groups are already taking legal action against the law, claiming it’s discriminatory and in violation of the First Amendment. I have no idea how that will turn out, but I do know that Cohen and Sargent are either mentally slow or willfully ignorant.

The law in no way bans references by school personnel or students to gender, sex, or even sexual orientation. The children are, in fact, not regulated at all. What the law says — at least the part that has frustrated so many leftists — is that classroom “instruction” in grades kindergarten through three should exclude “sexual orientation or gender identity.”

A person would have to either be dumb or pretend to be dumb in order to not know what that means. And, contrary to what the left insists, biological differences between males and females exist, regardless of how anyone feels.

Instructing children to use the restroom corresponding with their biology isn’t a matter of orientation or identity. It’s a matter of science.

Likewise, acknowledging that women have babies or that mothers and fathers exist isn’t some type of weird theory. It’s reality.

True, some children are raised by two men or two women. A male teacher might be married to another man. Recognizing those truths is not under duress.

So, while a lawsuit brought against a teacher who says the word “mother” is possible — anyone can be sued for anything — the left should be prepared for a sane judge to laugh them out of court for bothering.

I get it. A lot of Floridian teachers are mad that they can no longer giddily talk with seven-year-olds about what it means to be “trans fem” or instill in children that “boy parts” and “girl parts” are irrelevant. (There’s a word for people who fancy chatting with kids about such things… I’ll think of it later.) But that’s not the same thing as identifying a pregnant woman, or recognizing aloud that Jane has two dads.

The law has them up against a wall, and their methods for coping are getting stranger every day.


Biden Administration Urged to End Support for Experiments on Animals

By Peter RoffAmerican Liberty

Biden Administration Urged to End Support for Experiments on Animals

The Biden administration is under attack over its continuing support for animal experimentation worldwide. Outrageously, given the current global political climate, that support includes funding for experiments on cats being conducted in Russian laboratories.

In a story first reported by The Washington Times, it was revealed that the U.S. National Institutes of Health – described on its website as the world’s largest biomedical research agency – is still underwriting medical experiments on cats at four facilities located in Russia despite global economic sanctions imposed following the unprovoked attack on Ukraine nearly a month ago.

As is often the case with research conducted on animals, the funding is being used ostensibly for scientific purposes. Nevertheless, say some Capitol Hill Republicans, the idea that any U.S. government dollars are going to Russia for any reason makes a mockery of the sanctions and raises real questions about how serious the White House is about forcing the Russian invaders back behind their borders.

“Our tax dollars should never be going to our foreign adversaries, especially as the U.S. puts crippling sanctions on the Kremlin,” Michigan GOP Rep. Lisa C. McClain told the paper.

McClain was one of a group of members of Congress who wrote the White House recently saying that cutting off the NIH grants should be “a bipartisan, common-sense position” and that the administration should take “swift and decisive action to block and further tax dollars from going to Russian research labs.”

This is not the first time the Biden administration has found itself being criticized for its refusal to end funding for experiments on animals. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine — a group that claims more than 17,000 doctors as members – held a protest at the White House in December 2021 during which its leaders called for the appointment of a new NIH director “who prioritizes human-relevant, nonanimal experimentation.”

“President Joe Biden has a momentous opportunity to positively transform health research,” Catharine E. Krebs, Ph.D., medical research specialist with the doctors’ group said in Lafayette Park. “The importance of this decision cannot be overstated; the lives of all Americans, and many, many animals, will be impacted.”

The NIH, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is currently without a full-time leader. Its acting director, Lawrence Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., took over after Dr. Francis Collins, a key policymaker during the COVID pandemic stepped down in December. President Biden has yet to nominate a successor to Collins – whom he recently tapped as his acting science advisor and acting co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology – and Tabak is believed to not have the clout or the desire to make the change in policy members of Congress like McClain are calling for without specific orders from the White House.

U.S. government funding of research on animals is often controversial. During the Trump administration, it was the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that came under fire over its use of beagles in experiments critics said were of dubious value. A study recently published by the White Coat Waste Project, a self-described “animal rights group,” placed the value of the funding sent to Russia’s state-run Pavlov Institute of Physiology at more than half a million dollars. The money was used, it said, to fund spinal cord research on cats, most of whom “did not survive long after the experiment was finished,” the paper said. In 2018, NIH is reported to have provided a similar grant to the Russian lab of more than $220,000 to fund a similar project.

In its materials, the physicians’ group maintains there is “increasing recognition among scientists that animal experiments do not produce the health solutions needed to prevent and protect against disease.” It also insists such experiments have a “dismal success rate” predicting whether the treatments being tested will be successful.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay white coats in the Russian government to torture and kill cats in wasteful treadmill experiments,” Mackie Burr, vice president of the White Coat Waste Project said in a release, adding that the “four Kremlin-run animal testing labs that NIH has authorized to receive our money” should be defunded as part of the sanctions imposed over Ukraine.

Whoever Biden appoints as the next NIH director will likely face congressional investigations looking into these and other agency activities. It is believed by many, for example, that NIH grants to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology may somehow have been involved in the development of the virus commonly known as COVID-19. The connection has not been proven to a certainty but at least one prominent member of Congress, Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul, has promised to hold hearings investigating what the Wuhan lab did with the money it received from the U.S. should the Republicans regain control of the U.S. Senate after the November 2022 elections.


The Weird Ideas and Shoddy Science Behind Free Government Crack Pipes

By Charles Fain LehmanThe Washington Free Beacon

Getty Images

The Biden administration last week was forced to vehemently deny it will fund the distribution of crack pipes, after the Washington Free Beacon‘s reporting uncovered plans for “safe smoking kits” included in a $30 million “harm reduction” grant. The denial surprised not only administration officials—who still seem unsure if they were ever going to distribute pipes—but also some advocates, who claimed the administration was letting “clickbait” and “racism” drive policy.

A bigger question has been lost in the dispute over the administration’s plan: Why did anyone think handing out government-funded crack pipes was a good idea in the first place? Why would HHS be funding “safe smoking kits” which, even if they don’t contain “stems,” do include other paraphernalia that facilitate the use of crack cocaine, meth, heroin, and other drugs?

Such methods are just one example of “harm reduction,” an approach to drug policy that has attracted attention in some big, blue cities; the “unprecedented” harm-reduction grant program is one of several signs that federal policymakers are similarly interested. Amid a historic wave of drug overdose deaths, it’s little surprise that policymakers are considering unorthodox ideas. But while some harm reduction ideas have merit, the label is often a cover for radical proposals backed by the shoddiest evidence, proposals that could do real harm.

In principle, “harm reduction” refers to practices that mitigate the harms of drug use without reducing use itself. Such approaches need not be controversial. HHS’s grant outline, for example, mentions funding disease-testing kits to help people who use drugs be informed about their HIV or hepatitis C status, and therefore hopefully reduce transmission. In the broader context of drug policy, harm reduction can operate alongside enforcement, treatment, and education to minimize the harms of illegal drugs.

But the term can also include policies pushed by more activist-minded “harm reductionists” who are concerned not just with particular policies, but with a wholesale critique of (their understanding of) American drug policy.

These activists tend to view the “drug war” and drug criminalization as more harmful than drug use. They argue that overdose deaths are driven by an “unsafe” supply of drugs, which is itself (they claim) a product of criminalization. Some—including Columbia University professor Carl Hart—insist that most drug use is not problematic, and that most problematic use is a product of social “stigma” rather than the intrinsically dangerous characteristics of drugs.

The distribution of “safe smoking kits” including “glass stems” is typical of the harm reductionist approach. As the Drug Policy Alliance, a major harm reduction group, describes it, such policies are meant to “meet people where they are at, and keep people free of diseases and alive so they have a chance of recovery and healing.” The group claims that distributing safe smoking kits is an “evidence-based” practice, rhetoric often deployed by harm reductionists to paint political opponents as “anti-science.”

In reality, the evidence on which safe smoking kits are based is paper-thin.

One common argument for crack-pipe distribution is that it reduces hepatitis C and HIV infection among users, by reducing pipe sharing and therefore hypothetical contact between drug users’ cut lips. This was HHS’s stated justification for funding safe smoking kits, for example.

But the evidence that pipe sharing is actually a disease risk is weak, relying on surveys of drug users that correlate sharing with infection while doing little to account for confounding variables. Notably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not seem to accept the “pipe spread” theory, counting needle sharing as a risk factor for HIV and hepatitis C, but not pipe sharing. One study claims to find an effect of Vancouver’s pipe distribution on users’ self-reported health, but there appears to be no actual trend in the data. Some evidence suggests that pipe sharing persists even when pipes are distributed, possibly because sharing is done as a social activity as much as out of necessity

A better-supported argument for distributing pipes is that users may switch from injecting to smoking, which can in turn reduce disease and other risks. The measured effects are not huge, though: One year after a safe smoking program was rolled out in Ottawa, 56 percent of users reported injecting at the same rate, while only 29 percent said they had started smoking more. Further, it’s hard to square that evidence with the harm reduction commitment to also distributing syringes, something HHS will also fund.

The standard argument against the distribution of drug paraphernalia, and indeed many harm-reduction interventions, is “moral hazard,” the idea that if policy reduces the risks of a harmful practice, people will be more likely to engage in that practice. Even if pipe distribution reduces the average user’s risk of infection per use, for example, it might also lead him to smoke more, increasing the total number of infections overall.

Harm reductionists often dismiss “moral hazard” as a non-issue, but it can show up in even seemingly benign policies. Studies have found that expanding needle exchange programs may lead to an increase in opioid deaths, and that laws which make it easier to access the overdose-reversing drug naloxone in turn cause an increase in opioid-related ER visits, and no reduction in opioid-related deaths. The latter study, by economists Jennifer Doleac and Anita Mukherjee, attracted fierce criticism from harm reductionists when it debuted—criticism that was often more personal than “evidence-based.”

The aforementioned examples do not mean, of course, that pipe distribution necessarily increases drug use or OD deaths. But the evidence is not there to say that distribution works, either. That makes it alarming that states and localities have accepted it as standard practice, or that the Biden administration will fund safe smoking kits—in whatever form—without better research into their effects.

Indeed, policymakers are increasingly accepting harm reductionists’ favorite policies absent evidence against the risk of moral hazard. Major U.S. cities have recently opened so-called safe consumption sites, facilities where people can consume drugs under the supervision of medical staff with access to overdose-reversing medication. The evidence to support their efficacy is similarly weaksome sites saw increases in deaths and drug use in their immediate vicinity.

Nevertheless, the Biden Department of Justice indicated earlier this month that it was “evaluating” such sites “as part of an overall approach to harm reduction and public safety.” That would be a reversal of the Trump administration’s enforcement of the federal ban on drug consumption spaces, and another sign of sympathy for harm reduction from the White House.

Such a policy shift would be uncharted territory, at least for the United States. With drug overdose deaths pushing 100,000 a year, the experiment might be worth it. But it will more than likely cost more lives than it saves, a risk to which progressive leaders seem plainly blind.


China’s Covid Victory Over America Turns Out to Be Pyrrhic

The pandemic has revealed Americans to be tacit Social Darwinists, while trapping the Chinese in a vast Panopticon.

By Niall FergusonBloomberg

Zero tolerance.
Zero tolerance.Photographer: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Authoritarian regimes tend to boast about themselves and denigrate their rivals. President Xi Jinping’s China is no exception. “As the Covid-19 epidemic takes away hundreds of lives every day in the U.S.,” wrote Hu Xijin, the former editor-in-chief of the Global Times, on Jan. 14, “that country’s propaganda machinery is engaging in vicious smears against China’s dynamic zero-case policy of epidemic prevention … Think about it. More than 800,000 Americans died from Covid-19 in the U.S. Behind these numbers, how many sad and desperate stories are there?”

“The experience and facts of the past two years,” wrote Guo Yan in the Economic Daily five days later, “have shown that China’s general strategy of ‘foreign defense against imported [cases] and domestic defense against breakouts’ and the general policy of ‘dynamic clearing’ are the Covid prevention policies best suited to China’s own national conditions on top of being beneficial to the world … It is the inaction and chaotic actions of some policy makers that have caused the American people to fall into the epidemic crisis time and time again.”

Might the Chinese be right? As we reach the second anniversary of the Covid pandemic, perhaps the most surprising thing is how many Americans have lost their lives compared to how few have perished in China. How are we to explain this astonishing divergence?

The simple answer is that, despite being the source of the virus that caused the pandemic, the Chinese managed containment very successfully, while the U.S. bungled everything from testing to mask-wearing to quarantining.

Some people go even further, arguing (as does Chinese Communist Party propaganda) that the difference in death tolls illustrates the superiority of China’s political system over America’s corrupt and self-indulgent democracy. However, I have never bought this second argument. And I am no longer satisfied with the first.

We now have a U.S. death toll of between (depending on your source) 860,000 and 883,000 deaths due to Covid, the 20th-highest mortality relative to population globally. Actual mortality is running at 19% above the expected figure (compared with 5% in Canada). We are heading for a million deaths by May. According to the Economist, we may already be there.

True, in relative terms — deaths per million — U.S. mortality is not the worst in the world (it ranks 19th). In terms of excess mortality, too, the U.S. has fared better than a number of Latin American and Eastern European countries. The puzzle remains that on paper — according to the Global Health Index published in 2019 — the U.S. was better prepared for a pandemic than any other country.

Even more remarkable is how few Chinese the new coronavirus has killed: Fewer than 5,000, meaning a death rate three orders of magnitude smaller than the U.S. rate. Considering that the pandemic originated in Wuhan, this is an astonishing achievement. Of course, skepticism is always warranted where Chinese statistics are concerned. But even the Economist’s estimates, which suggest that there may have been significantly higher excess mortality in China, point to a far lower relative death toll than in the U.S.

Two things explain the remarkably high mortality the U.S. has suffered in this pandemic. First, the American public health bureaucracy failed utterly. Initially, when we knew very little except that it was contagious and dangerous, the relevant agencies were staggeringly complacent when they should have been frantically testing, tracing and isolating.Sponsored ContentWhy Decisions Made Now Will Steer the Net Zero TrajectoryUBS

Then, in March 2020, the official mind flipped from complacency to panic, partly on the basis of a paper by the British epidemiologist Neil Ferguson (no relation), who argued that we had to lock people in their homes until vaccines were available or 2.2 million Americans would die.

As it became clear that this approach would wreck the global economy, the public health officials resorted to improvisation, alternately tightening and loosening restrictions on economic and social life in a reactive and mostly ineffective way. Masks were at first dismissed as unnecessary, then became mandatory even in some outdoor locations, where they served no purpose.

When some skeptical scientists challenged the wisdom of lockdowns, the public health establishment was dismissive. The Great Barrington Declaration, published in October 2020 by Harvard’s Martin Kulldorff, Oxford’s Sunetra Gupta and Stanford’s Jay Bhattacharya, offered a persuasive critique of blanket pandemic lockdowns, arguing instead for “focused protection” of vulnerable groups such as the elderly or those with medical conditions.

“This proposal from the three fringe epidemiologists … seems to be getting a lot of attention,” Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, emailed Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases. “There needs to be a quick and devastating published take down of its premises … Is it underway?”

Now that we have vaccines with high efficacy and a variant that causes mild flu-like symptoms in most vaccinated people, the official mind remains wedded to its playbook — in the parts of the U.S. where most people are vaccinated, such as northern California, where I live. Educational institutions have reverted to remote learning (an oxymoron, as everyone knows); masks are ubiquitous, even outdoors; a host of petty regulations persist.

Meanwhile, in the states with significant numbers of unvaccinated and vulnerable people, almost no precautions are taken. Consequently, the intensive care units are filling up once again. I make this the fifth wave of Covid in the U.S., and already mortality relative to population is higher than in South Africa, Denmark and the U.K., where the omicron variant struck sooner.

Yet there is a second reason for the relatively high American mortality during the pandemic, which has to do with public attitudes and behavior. I have come to the conclusion, after observing my fellow Americans for two years that — whatever our public health officials may tell us, and whatever some of us may say — in practice and in aggregate we are a nation of Social Darwinists.

Social Darwinism is a contentious term, I know, but its history is illuminating. A century ago, the ideas that came to be summed up as Social Darwinism by historians such as Richard Hofstadter were not limited to a far-right lunatic fringe. They derived from the writings of some of the era’s pre-eminent proponents of social progress.

Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) was the English philosopher who did most to import ideas derived from Charles Darwin and other evolutionary theorists (notably Jean-Baptiste Lamarck) into the study of contemporary human societies. In works such as “First Principles” (1862), “Principles of Biology” (1864) and “The Man Versus the State” (1884), Spencer sought to discern universal laws of evolution.

One of his key contentions was that most social interventions by government were harmful, no matter how well-intentioned, because they interfered with the natural laws of evolution, which were the main driver of progress.

Some Social Darwinists went even further, arguing that infectious disease had a role to play in promoting the survival of the fittest. Franz Ignaz Pruner, a German physician, anthropologist and racial theorist, wrote “The Global Cholera Pandemic and Nature’s Police” (1851), based partly on his observations in Egypt. Wherever Europeans and Americans established colonies in the tropics, officials would periodically muse that the terrifyingly high mortality rates arising from disease — and of course from poor sanitation and malnutrition — must, like famines in India, be part of some providential design.

It was a relatively short step from Social Darwinism to eugenics — the theory popularized by Francis Galton, Karl Pearson and others that government should actively promote the reproduction of the “fit” and limit the reproduction of the “unfit.”

It is easy to forget today how influential such notions were a century ago, when they appealed almost as much to progressives as to proto-fascists. Chicago sociologist and reformer Charles Henderson opposed immigration of the “unfit,” proposed that the “feebleminded and degenerate” be banished to rural labor colonies and sterilized to “prevent their propagation of defects and thus the perpetuation of their misery in their offspring.”

As Spencer had made clear, it was a guiding principle of Social Darwinism that public-health legislation “defeats its own end” and “favours the multiplication of those worst fitted for existence, and, by consequence, hinders the multiplication of those best fitted for existence.”

In “Social Statics,” he used language echoed today by American libertarians:  

If … it is the duty of the state to protect the health of its subjects, it is its duty to see that all the conditions of health are fulfilled by them. Shall this duty be consistently discharged? If so, the legislature must enact a national dietary: prescribe so many meals a day for each individual; fix the quantities and qualities of food, both for men and women; state the proportion of fluids, when to be taken, and of what kind; specify the amount of exercise, and define its character; describe the clothing to be employed … and to enforce these regulations it must employ a sufficiency of duly-qualified officials, empowered to direct every one’s domestic arrangements.

Like many of today’s critics of the public-health agencies, Spencer argued that the medical profession and bureaucrats were actuated by self-interest rather than altruism and had an “unmistakable wish to establish an organized, tax-supported class, charged with the health of men’s bodies, as the clergy are charged with the health of their souls.” 

Reading “Social Statics” today, you see how completely Spencer lost the argument. As we enter the third year of the Covid pandemic, the public-health clergy have established themselves in precisely the kind of well-paid positions of power that Spencer foresaw, leaving a motley array of lockdown skeptics and anti-vaxxers to rehash his old arguments.

I have tended to steer clear of the lockdown skeptics and to heap opprobrium on the anti-vaxxers. But what we really see in both cases is a kind of revival of Social Darwinism that extends beyond the militant opponents of lockdowns and vaccines to include the many millions of Americans who over the past two years have simply flouted the pandemic rules. Ignoring the prescriptions of an intrusive nanny state, or complying with them so carelessly as to render them ineffective, they have tacitly given free rein to the principle of the survival of the fittest.

Compared with Western Europeans and especially with East Asians, Americans have a remarkably high tolerance of excess mortality, especially when it is heavily concentrated in politically underrepresented social groups. The same is true with respect to the relatively high death toll from firearms that Americans tolerate, not forgetting the staggering mortality caused by opioid overdoses in the past decade, which has no parallel in any developed country. 

Now contrast the American experience of the pandemic with the Chinese. If Americans resemble modern-day Social Darwinists, the People’s Republic is a utilitarian Panopticon worthy of the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s idealized penitentiary of the late-18th century, which relied on prisoners’ uncertainty about whether they were under observation to incentivize good behavior.

No country has more effectively used non-pharmaceutical restrictions on social and economic life to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 than China. True, these restrictions were widely imitated, as in New Zealand. But the reason they were more effective in China than elsewhere is precisely that the Communist Party’s system of surveillance creates what Bentham called “the sentiment of a sort of invisible omnipresence.”

And yet there turns out to be a catch, in the form of a new and much more infectious variant of the virus. In omicron, Xi Jinping’s Panopticon faces a new and ghastly challenge. Not only does the Chinese population have essentially no natural immunity from previous infections, thanks to the Zero-Covid strategy; the inferior Chinese-made vaccines also offer little protection against omicron. As a consequence, China must impose tighter restrictions than ever before.

Currently, over 20 million people are under some form of lockdown in half a dozen cities, notably Xian and Tianjin, because small numbers of people tested positive. Traditional Lunar New Year celebrations are being restricted. The Beijing Winter Olympics will take place with almost no foreign spectators. The volume of international flights to China has been reduced by more than 90%.

In some ways, China’s reversion to being a closed society is of a piece with Xi’s attempt to revive other aspects of Maoism: his reassertion of the Communist Party’s dominance over the private sector, his call for more egalitarian social outcomes, his intolerance of domestic dissent and ethnic minorities, his readiness to threaten war. But it is not at all clear how any of this helps the Chinese economy grow sufficiently fast to overtake that of the U.S.

By contrast, the American propensity to ignore (or at least honor mainly in the breach) the bureaucracy’s rules and regulations — combined with the opening of the fiscal and monetary floodgates — has meant that paradoxically, the public health disaster of the pandemic has been accompanied by an economic recovery so red-hot that U.S. inflation has jumped to a rate not seen since 1982.

In the eyes of today’s Western public health experts, none of this makes sense. Neil Ferguson gave an interview last year in which he described how he and his fellow scientific advisors to the British government realized that they might be able to copy the Chinese strategy for containing Covid. “People’s sense of what is possible in terms of control changed quite dramatically between January and March [2020],” he recalled. “They [i.e., the Chinese] claimed to have flattened the curve. I was sceptical at first. … But as the data accrued it became clear it was an effective policy.”

The question was: Could the West copy China’s lockdown?  “It’s a communist one-party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought,” said Ferguson. “And then Italy did it. And we realized we could.”

It continues to puzzle me that so many smart people were convinced that the People’s Republic of China should be the role model for a free society faced with a pandemic (as opposed to the East Asian democracies like South Korea and Taiwan that have contained the virus with minimal lockdowns). But that was the road we attempted to go down, inflicting immense economic disruption until we realized that it was unsustainable — that not even Ferguson (or, it turns out, the government he was advising) could adhere to a system of universal house arrest, much less don’t-tread-on-me Americans.

In the U.S. today, Covid has become as much a bureaucratic as a medical condition. Having had omicron in December, I and my family remain subject to a plethora of rules that make absolutely no sense, as we can neither catch nor transmit the virus again so soon after having been infected. I pointlessly wear a mask at meetings and on planes. I pointlessly submit to regular Covid tests. I pointlessly fill out online forms attesting to my children’s health.

Perhaps at some point this year a new variant — Pi, Rho, Sigma, take your pick — will emerge that I can catch and that will give me and others something more than a mild cold. But until that time comes, I shall feel a sense of individualist resentment — that I now realize is very American — about the whole dysfunctional edifice of rules and regulations. When (if?) they are finally swept away, I shall rejoice.

And, if the Chinese Panopticon finally loses control of Chinese virus in this, the third plague year, I’ll recall that, in the history of struggles between rival empires, the fitness that determines survival is seldom correlated with a state’s power over the individual — or its propensity to boast.


Media, CDC Quietly Admit 3 COVID Truths After 2 Years Of Lies. Did They Think We Wouldn’t Notice?

The COVID bureaucracy preaches lies, censors anyone who challenges the lies, and eventually admits the same truths they previously denounced.

By Elle ReynoldsThe Federalist

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky
GOOD MORNING AMERICA / YOUTUBE

The COVID bureaucracy has spent two years now preaching lies, censoring anyone who challenges the lies, and eventually coming around to admit the same truths they previously denounced.

In the case of masks and vaccines, the flip-flop was even more elaborate: They insisted masks didn’t work (when they were scarce) and that the vaccine was suspicious (under Trump), only to spin around and tout both. And now that neither works effectively against the omicron variant, the narrative is falling apart again.

Over the weekend, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky appeared on numerous news shows and bluntly admitted some big truths that critics of COVID mania have been saying all along. Another admission of hers from August resurfaced on social media, after months of the media memory-holing it.

It’s about time the COVID bureaucrats come clean — and Walensky’s comments don’t cover the half of it — but we’re old enough to remember what the same group of bullies was saying not too long ago.

1. The ‘Vaccine’ Doesn’t Prevent Transmission

“Our vaccines are working exceptionally well … but what they can’t do anymore is prevent transmission,” Walensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in August, in a clip that made the rounds anew over the weekend.

Link: https://twitter.com/Cernovich/status/1480369062588780546?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1480369062588780546%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fthefederalist.com%2F2022%2F01%2F10%2Fmedia-cdc-quietly-admit-3-covid-truths-after-2-years-of-lies-did-they-think-we-wouldnt-notice%2F

But that’s not the narrative we’ve been inundated with for the past year. USA Today ran a “fact-check” with the headline “Vaccines protect against contracting, spreading COVID-19” in November 2021, quoting health “experts” who insisted that getting the jab makes people “much less likely to be infected therefore much less likely to spread the virus.”

President Joe Biden went even further, claiming in July, “You’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.” In October, he said, “We’re making sure health care workers are vaccinated because if you seek care at a health care facility, you should have the certainty that the people providing that care are protected from COVID and cannot spread it to you.”

He continued to parrot the claim just last month, implying that vaccinated people couldn’t spread COVID when he asked, “How about making sure that you’re vaccinated so you do not spread the disease to anybody else?”

2. COVID Disproportionately Affects the Vulnerable

In a “Good Morning America” appearance, Walensky admitted that “the overwhelming number of deaths, over 75 percent, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities.” That’s what we’ve been saying all along: that response efforts should focus on protecting vulnerable populations (i.e., not sending COVID-positive patients into nursing homes) and maintaining normal activities for populations that are at low risk (i.e., not shutting down schools for semesters on end).

Link: https://twitter.com/ClayTravis/status/1480542490897887235?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1480542490897887235%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fthefederalist.com%2F2022%2F01%2F10%2Fmedia-cdc-quietly-admit-3-covid-truths-after-2-years-of-lies-did-they-think-we-wouldnt-notice%2F

But it was Walensky herself who confessed last February that the CDC’s guidelines for reopening schools were influenced by the vehemently anti-in-person-learning teachers unions, which Walensky admitted resulted in “direct changes to the guidance.” Emails uncovered in September further showed that the CDC had changed its school masking policy under pressure from the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union.

And it was the coalition of power-hungry lockdown advocates and fawning media who put disgraced former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a pedestal, despite his decision to force COVID-positive patients into nursing homes, causing thousands of unnecessary deaths among the most vulnerable.

This coalition also worked with the CDC to push months of lockdowns, business closures, mask mandates, travel restrictions, and now vaccine mandates on Americans, despite the fact that the average healthy American is at low risk of dying from COVID.

3. Deaths from and with COVID Aren’t the Same Thing

“How many of the 836,000 deaths in the U.S. linked to COVID are from COVID or how many are with COVID?” Fox News’s Bret Baier asked Walensky on Sunday. “Those data will be forthcoming,” Walensky promised, acknowledging the distinction Baier pointed out.

Link: https://twitter.com/RNCResearch/status/1480188113276260363?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1480188113276260363%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fthefederalist.com%2F2022%2F01%2F10%2Fmedia-cdc-quietly-admit-3-covid-truths-after-2-years-of-lies-did-they-think-we-wouldnt-notice%2F

But a bureaucracy that was intent on maximizing COVID panic (and death counts) to undermine Trump and stir the popularity of tyrannical policies wasn’t so keen on admitting this distinction in the past.

In Washington state, for example, a May 2020 report found that the state’s health department was “overreporting COVID-19 cases by up to 13 percent by counting anyone who ‘tests positive for COVID-19 and subsequently dies’ as a coronavirus death.” A subsequent investigation found that Washington health officials appeared to be doing it again in December of the same year.

In Colorado, gunshot victims were also counted among COVID death tallies if the victims had “tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 30 days.” And local authorities in Florida counted a man who died in a motorcycle crash as a COVID victim in July 2020. But that didn’t stop media outlets and bureaucrats like Dr. Anthony Fauci from using inflated death tolls to stoke fear and panic as justification for more restrictions and mandates.

What COVID factoid — that anti-lockdowners have been insisting all along — will Walensky and the CDC admit next? Who knows.

But it’s safe to say there won’t be any apologies or honest acknowledgments of error. There weren’t with masks, the ineffectiveness of lockdowns, vaccines, the lab leak theory, or schools, after all. Instead, you can expect them to use half-truths and flat-out lies to try convincing you they’ve never been wrong — all evidence to the contrary.


Does President Biden Know What’s Going On in His Own Administration?

By Jim GeraghtyNational Review

President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C., December 21, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The 10-page plan, which Vanity Fair has obtained, would enable the U.S. to finally do what many other countries had already done: Put rapid at-home COVID-19 testing into the hands of average citizens, allowing them to screen themselves in real time and thereby help reduce transmission. The plan called for an estimated 732 million tests per month, a number that would require a major ramp-up of manufacturing capacity. It also recommended, right on the first page, a nationwide “Testing Surge to Prevent Holiday COVID Surge.”

The antigen tests at the center of the plan can detect the virus when patients are at their most contagious.

Three days after the meeting, on October 25, the COVID-19 testing experts—who hailed from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Rockefeller Foundation, the COVID Collaborative, and several other organizations—received a back channel communication from a White House official. Their big, bold idea for free home tests for all Americans to avoid a holiday surge, they were told, was dead. That day, the administration instead announced an initiative to move rapid home tests more swiftly through the FDA’s regulatory approval process.

The rapid-test push, in particular, seems to have bumped up against the peculiar challenges of fighting COVID-19 in the 21st-century United States. Difficulties include a regulatory gauntlet intent on vetting devices for exquisite sensitivity, rather than public-health utility; a medical fiefdom in which doctors tend to view patient test results as theirs alone to convey; and a policy suspicion, however inchoate, that too many rapid tests might somehow signal to wary Americans that they could test their way through the pandemic and skip vaccinations altogether. “It’s undeniable that [the administration] took a vaccine-only approach,” said Dr. Michael Mina, a vocal advocate for rapid testing who attended the October White House meeting. The U.S. government “didn’t support the notion of testing as a proper mitigation tool.”

President Biden, before departing on Marine Force One, Monday:

Q    President Biden, why did your administration reject the holiday testing surge in October?  Does the buck stop with you there — rejecting the surge?

THE PRESIDENT:  We didn’t reject it.

We’re left with the same feeling after President Biden insisted no military adviser recommended to him to keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, after U.S. Central Command General Frank McKenzie and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley told Congress under oath they had recommended that action. Or Biden’s claim that he himself had predicted that the Afghan government would collapse by the end of the year. Or Biden’s claim that his late son Beau served in the U.S. Navy in landlocked Afghanistan, or his claim to have been opposed to the war in Afghanistan from the beginning. Or the number of times Biden stated that vaccinated individuals cannot spread Covid-19, or that “you’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.”

Sure, maybe Biden is just lying when he says his administration didn’t reject a holiday testing surge. But what if the president genuinely doesn’t remember what he’s been told in briefings, conversations, and decisions?

Or in the case of the rejection of the massive expansion of testing, was this decision made without Joe Biden’s involvement?


As His Presidency Founders, Biden Scapegoats The Unvaccinated

Amid rising inflation, an ongoing border crisis, and a stalled legislative agenda, Biden is looking for someone to blame.

By John Daniel DavidsonThe Federalist

GAGE SKIDMORE

few days after the 2020 presidential election, President-elect Joe Biden pledged to be “a president who seeks not to divide but to unify,” a theme he’d campaigned on. “Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end here and now,” he said in his victory speech. “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again.”

So much for all that. As Biden’s first year in office comes to a close, he has proven to be one of the most divisive presidents in generations, surpassing even Donald Trump in his vindictiveness and willingness to demonize Americans who disagree with him — even if it means lying about COVID-19.

Consider the events of the past few days. Following a White House briefing last Thursday on the spread of the omicron variant, Biden said, “We are looking at a winter of severe illness and death for the unvaccinated — for themselves, their families, and the hospitals they’ll soon overwhelm.”

The next day, White House COVID response coordinator Jeff Zients repeated this line, saying, “We are intent on not letting omicron disrupt work and school for the vaccinated. You’ve done the right thing, and we will get through this,” he said. “For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.”

So that’s the official administration line: opened schools and businesses for the vaccinated and “severe illness and death” for the unvaccinated, who will overwhelm hospitals with the omicron variant and, by implication, bear responsibility for the pandemic from here on out.

It’s one of the most bizarre and appalling statements from a presidential administration in American history, breathtaking in its dishonest scapegoating and shocking in its callous disregard for the millions of Americans who have decided, for reasons of their own, not to get the Covid shots.

Bullying these people will not persuade them, and neither will lying about the omicron variant. There’s no evidence right now that omicron is going to bring “severe illness and death,” or that it’s even going to cause a surge in hospitalizations. The evidence so far suggests just the opposite.

In South Africa, where omicron first emerged last month, hospitalization rates have fallen by 91 percent amid the current wave. Just 1.7 percent of all Covid patients were admitted to a hospital in the second week of the omicron surge, compared to 19 percent in the same week of the delta surge, according to South African health officials.

What’s more, the omicron variant appears to be milder than earlier strains of Covid-19. “We are really seeing very small increases in the number of deaths,” said Michelle Groome, head of health surveillance for South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases. Others have also noted a decoupling of new Covid cases and deaths in South Africa, whereas in past surges they have been closely aligned.

More evidence of this decoupling comes from the United Kingdom, where Covid deaths haven’t surged along with a rising case count from omicron. Indeed, there is no data anywhere to suggest that the omicron variant is anywhere near as deadly as previous strains of the virus, or that it causes more severe illness. The data so far show just the opposite.

Indeed, if omicron is a more contagious but also a milder strain (as we would expect with a mutating virus in a pandemic), then it makes sense that cases would surge but severe illness and death would not.

Here in the United States, that appears to be what we’re seeing so far: a surge of new cases but a slight decrease in hospitalizations. So instead of freaking out about omicron, prognosticating death and doom for the unvaccinated, maybe it’s time to do what some states, like Florida and Texas, have been doing all along: work to protect the most vulnerable and prevent deaths, ensure hospitals don’t get overwhelmed, and keep schools and businesses open.

In other words, manage the pandemic, which at this point is looking increasingly endemic. (Even The Atlantic has at last come around to this way of thinking — except for science writer Ed Yong, who bizarrely canceled his own birthday party over omicron. Sad!) 

Scapegoating The Unvaccinated 

So much for Biden’s dishonesty about what a winter surge of the omicron variant will bring to the United States. What about his callousness and contempt for unvaccinated Americas?

It’s hard to imagine a message more calculated to divide the country than what Biden’s White House has put out, essentially diving Americans into an ingroup of vaccinated and an outgroup of unvaccinated, then blaming the entire pandemic on the outgroup — including whatever happens this winter. 

The only possible explanation for such messaging is that Biden feels his presidency is in chaos and his legislative agenda has stalled out. If that’s the case, he’s not wrong. Over the weekend, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, announced he won’t support Biden’s Build Back Better legislation, a massive entitlement expansion that would cost some $5 trillion over the next decade. It was the signature piece of Biden’s agenda, and now it’s dead.

On the border, illegal immigration is still surging at historic levels, with the promise of another surge and an ever-deepening crisis this coming spring. Biden has done his best to ignore the crisis, even as a growing number of Americans say they disapprove of his handling of the border.

The economy is struggling, inflation remains high, and Biden’s popularity is sinking to dangerous lows just a year into his presidency. So his last resort, it seems, is to scapegoat the unvaccinated.

Never mind that many of the unvaccinated have already gotten and recovered from Covid, and have foregone the shot because they have natural immunity (a reality that never seems to factor into the Biden administration’s pandemic policies or messaging). Never mind that some people, having seen over the course of nearly two years that Covid is not as dangerous as the media and political elites have made it out to be and that Covid treatment has vastly improved, have assessed their risk and decided not to get the shots.

Never mind any of that. For Biden, blaming the unvaccinated is a way to deflect from the manifest failures of his administration on almost every other important issue.

These are not the actions of a great “unifier,” or even a marginally competent leader. After his inauguration, Biden embraced comparisons to Democratic presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, who enacted titanic government welfare programs amid great changes in American society.

But more apt comparisons, at this point, would be to inept 19th-century presidents like Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, one-termers whose blundering tenures were marked by chaos, division, and dangerous incompetence.


It’s time for FDA guidance based in sound science

By George LandrithBizPac Review

It is hard to believe that Spring 2020 was almost two years ago. The empty grocery store shelves and panic buying of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and canned foods feels like both a lifetime ago and also just yesterday. Many actions of that season have had reverberating effects – namely, the panic buying and unparalleled demand for those products. 

Hand sanitizer, something that we were told we needed to stay safe and healthy, flew off the shelves faster than major manufacturers could produce it. This led the Trump administration to relax certain regulations and issue emergency guidance to allow producers to ramp up production and help meet the record demand. This was a reasonable approach at the time, as we had severe shortages of hand sanitizer and many stores had none to sell; however, it also led to lax practices in refilling, distributing and labeling hand sanitizers, and even dangerous and harmful products ending up in the hands of Americans. Now that we are almost on the other side of the pandemic, and businesses have their doors back open, the FDA needs to issue guidance on bulk distribution of hand sanitizer, to protect American citizens who are still relying on hand sanitizer for some measure of safety. 0:00 / 48:556 seconds…

Just this month, hand sanitizer manufacturer ArtNaturals had to recall hand sanitizer due to high amounts of “benzene, acetaldehyde and acetal contaminants,” and these are products that are being used on college campuses and in businesses.

Terrifyingly, benzene is linked to blood cancers, including leukemia, and is considered a high-risk carcinogen, and it is being given to Americans, unbeknownst to them. Many businesses purchased hand sanitizer in bulk — in gallon jugs — and then used it to refill existing branded hand sanitizer dispensers. The branded hand sanitizer was effective and safe, but in many instances the bulk sanitizer used to refill the branded dispensers was neither safe, nor effective. 

The businesses who did this were not guilty of bad intent. But the effect was nonetheless harmful to the public, as they thought they were protecting themselves and reducing risk to themselves and others when, in fact, they were doing nothing to combat the virus, and even making themselves more at risk for other, more dangerous diseases like cancer. 

As Americans are back out in the world and our economy begins to ramp back up, both students and consumers need to know that the hand sanitizer they are using at businesses they visit is effective and won’t put them at risk for other diseases. Ads by 

Hopefully, we are overcoming the pandemic, and the crisis will soon be in our past. But hand sanitizer isn’t merely useful in combatting COVID-19. The common cold and the flu can be combatted with effective hand hygiene that includes reliable hand sanitizer. The flu season is coming and having access to safe and effective hand sanitizer is important, even if the risk of COVID-19 is decreasing. 

Studies have shown that to effectively kill germs and viruses, the alcohol content needs to be at least 60 percent. Generally, more is better. Some have said that it shouldn’t be less than 70 percent. But there can be no doubt or disagreement that hand sanitizer should not contain known carcinogens at such high levels that their use is actually harmful and exposes people to an increased risk of cancer. 

So, the FDA was correct to withdraw the emergency guidance and return to the previous and well-established standards, but the FDA now also must make sure that schools, retailers, restaurants, healthcare facilities, and other frontline businesses are providing safe and effective products, that includes advising against the practice of topping off refillable dispensers with dangerous, mislabeled and ineffective products. 

Current science suggests that COVID-19, like the flu, will not be completely eradicated. Thus, we will have to mitigate their impact and harm. U.S. business owners have been through so much, and they fought to stay open, with the hope that they will have the necessary tools to keep their patrons safe. One effective way is through proper hand hygiene, which clearly includes having access to effective and safe hand sanitizer. 


Medical Experts, Parents Deeply Divided over Masking in Schools as Delta Surges

By Ryan MillsNational Review

Students wearing protective masks attend classes on the first day of school at Barbara Goleman Senior High School in Miami, Fla., August 23, 2021. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

In the late spring, as coronavirus cases in the U.S. were trending way down and vaccination rates were trending up, Dr. Lucy McBride and three of her colleagues authored an optimistic Washington Post op-ed with a clear and straightforward message: “It’s time for children to finally get back to normal life.”

The risk to children was too low to justify burdensome restrictions over the summer. And when school begins, kids should return “without masks and regardless of their vaccination status,” the four doctors wrote. “Even small steps toward normality can have a large impact on a child.”

After more than a year of confusion, fear, death, school closures, and mask mandates, here, finally, was a group of respected doctors, writing in one of the nation’s most respected newspapers, that the time had come for kids to get back to just being kids, no masks required.

Fast-forward three months: The highly contagious Delta variant is surging, particularly in hot Southern states and in states with low vaccination rates. Intensive-care units are overflowing, and COVID-19-associated hospitalizations of kids and teenagers are at an all-time high. Virus-related deaths are rising again.

And with the change in conditions, McBride’s messaging has changed along with it.

“Right now, with Delta running roughshod through the country, I think it’s appropriate for unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors in areas where transmission is high,” McBride, a Harvard-trained physician and practicing Washington, D.C., internist, told National Review. “I would want to mask my unvaccinated child in a state like Mississippi or Florida at this moment.”

This latest coronavirus surge began in the weeks before schools reopened in many states, leading to statehouse fights and heated school-board debates over mask mandates and parental freedom.

In Florida, the school boards in at least five counties have voted to defy governor Ron DeSantis’s order, which empowers parents to decide if they want their kids to be masked in school. In Hillsborough County, more than 10,000 students and 300 school staff members were quarantined last week. Earlier in the month, before classes resumed, three unvaccinated Broward County teachers died in a 24-hour span. DeSantis has questioned the effectiveness of mask mandates in schools, saying, “There’s not much science behind it.”

In Mississippi, 13-year-old Mkayla Robinson died of coronavirus complications in mid-August after attending eighth grade for a week at a school where masks weren’t required. It’s unclear if the teen contracted the virus at school. Her mother told a local TV station that Mkayla was a healthy kid with no pre-existing illnesses. Mkayla’s death came on the heels of 16-year-old Jenna Lyn Jeansonne’s death in the state in late July.

Some Mississippi schools already have reverted to virtual learning because of COVID outbreaks. Only 36 percent of eligible Mississippians are vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in the country.

The Delta surge has left parents confused, and it has scrambled the way many of them are thinking about how they should protect their families.

The Delta surge also has led to a renewed debate in the medical community about just how effective a COVID-19 mitigation effort masks really are for kids, with some doctors saying there isn’t enough science to back universal mandates in schools, and arguing that for some kids the masks may do more harm than good. Other medical professionals argue that the protection that masks provide — however small — far outweighs their downsides.

“People have very strongly held opinions on masks and children with very little information,” Dr. Marty Makary, a surgeon and professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told National Review. The effectiveness of masks on children has been woefully understudied, so most of what we know about the benefits for kids is extrapolated from adults, Makary said.

In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for schools, recommending that all adults and children wear makes indoors. The CDC reports that multi-layered cloth masks can block up to 80 percent of respiratory droplets. A recent Duke University study found that widespread mask use in schools can effectively prevent COVID transmission.

But a New York Times Magazine article published on Friday noted that a groundbreaking CDC study published in May found no statistically significant benefit from requiring students to wear masks. The Times article also criticized the Duke study for not using a comparison group of unmasked students, making it impossible to isolate the effects of masks. A National Institutes of Health review last year found that cloth masks have limited efficacy in preventing viral infections, depending on the materials used, the number of layers, and how the mask fits.

Many European countries, including the U.K., France, Switzerland, and all of Scandinavia, have exempted children from wearing masks in classrooms, with no evidence of more outbreaks in those schools compared with U.S. schools where masks were required last year, the Times reports.


Makary recently co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed that ran under the headline “The Case Against Masks for Children.” But Makary said the headline is not exactly representative of his position. He is not an opponent of masks for children generally. He’s been an advocate of most people wearing masks since the beginning of the pandemic. As a surgeon, he wears a mask.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox

“Masks reduce transmission, and I believe even the very flimsy, low-value cloth masks do something for kids,” he said. “I would say that wearing them in an area of an active outbreak is a good idea, even though the benefit may be minimal.”

But children are not homogenous. Some live with adults who are vaccinated, some don’t. Some live in communities where major outbreaks are occurring, some don’t.

Makary’s concern is for kids who legitimately struggle with masks: kids with physical and cognitive disabilities, kids with myopia whose glasses get fogged when they’re masked, kids with severe acne, kids with anxiety and depression from wearing masks, kids with hearing impairments or issues with phonetic development. He worries that covering the faces of children, particularly young kids and children with disabilities, could lead to developmental delays.

In some cases, the risk-to-benefit ratio falls on the side of a child not wearing a mask, he said.

In terms of effective mitigation measures to protect kids from the virus, masks are pretty far down on the list, behind vaccinating adults and teens, ventilation, social distancing, podding kids in school, and hygiene, Makary said.

“So, we have had this massive culture war over maybe what’s the sixth mitigation step, which has a small impact if any, and has not been formally studied,” he said.

Most kids who contract COVID-19 manifest with mild symptoms, and often no symptoms at all. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been fewer than 500 deaths involving children under 18, out of more than 600,000 total deaths nationwide, according to CDC data. For the week of July 31, the rate of hospitalization with COVID of children five to 17 was 0.5 per 100,000, according to the Wall Street Journal. A study of children and young people in England found kids generally have a lower risk of death or serious outcome from COVID than even vaccinated 30-year-olds. But children are making up a growing share of serious COVID cases now.

“A percentage of a larger number is a larger number,” said Dr. Charlotte Hobbs, a pediatric disease specialist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and an advocate for universal masking in schools. There are concerns for kids besides just death from COVID, she said.

As of July 30, the CDC reported that more than 4,400 children in the U.S. have contracted post-COVID Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, a potentially lethal condition that causes parts of the body — including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, and eyes — to become inflamed. And Hobbs noted the long-term effects of COVID still are not well understood, though a large British study published this month found that only about 4.4 percent of infected kids had symptoms for longer than 28 days, with the most common symptoms being fatigue, headaches, and loss of smell. Less than 2 percent had any symptoms after 56 days.

Because kids under 12 aren’t eligible for a vaccine, adults need to do everything they can to protect them, including getting vaccinated and supporting masks in schools, she said.

Some people who got vaccinated earlier in the year and thought they could put away their masks for good are having second thoughts amid the Delta-variant surge.

Jeff Navarro, 68, who has twin 16-year-old sons in high school in Amory, Miss., was looking forward to life without masks, after he, his wife, and his kids all got vaccinated. But as an older parent, Delta has him worried, and he supports the mask mandate his school district imposed.

“I’ve learned at 68 years old that no one is bulletproof,” he said. “I take it seriously. I follow the science. I certainly do not understand it enough to dispute it; therefore, I have to accept it.”

Sean Kruer, a father of two young children in Huntsville, Ala., has been a strong supporter of a school mask mandate in his community. He and his wife had serious discussions about pulling their kids out of school if there was no masking requirement.

“From a public-health policy perspective, universal mask mandates absolutely make sense,” Kruer said. “So, as much as I understand that it would be nice if things had continued the way that it looked like they might in May, that’s not the reality. And continuing as if it were and being petulant about it isn’t helping anybody.”

Melissa Bernhardt, the mother of a high-school student and an elementary-school student in Jacksonville, Fla., said she questions the science around masks. She’s not against people wearing masks, she said, but she doesn’t believe they should be forced on all kids.

She described one of her sons as particularly high energy, but she said he became lethargic and fatigued during school last year. She believes it’s because he had to wear a mask.

Bernhardt’s kids attend private school because she thought they wouldn’t impose a mask requirement. But, she said, she was wrong.

“The private schools really disappointed me,” she said. “They have committees with doctors, and all the doctors that are on the committees are not only pro-mask, they’re pro-vaccine.”

Bernhardt declined to discuss her vaccination status, but she said she feels protected because she contracted COVID early in the pandemic and has antibodies.

Hobbs said that even though kids don’t frequently get as sick from COVID as adults, “they can and they do, and we’ve had kids who have died. . . . Any pediatric death in my mind is one too many, especially when we know that this is preventable. We have a vaccine for those who are eligible, and we know that masking works.”

McBride, the D.C. internist, said parents need to know that there is an off-ramp down the road. She believes the CDC and other public-health agencies need to offer clear metrics about when schools can start rolling back mitigation efforts, including mask mandates.

“After all, COVID-19 isn’t going away. It’s going to be an endemic virus, and we know that there are enormous downsides (of pandemic restrictions, particularly) for kids,” she said. “We can’t mask indefinitely, nor should we.”

Hobbs said it’s too soon to say when that off-ramp will arrive. No one predicted the emergence of the hyper-transmissible Delta variant six months ago, and no one knows what variants will emerge in the future amid a backdrop of unvaccinated populations. Only 51 percent of Americans of all ages are fully vaccinated, including people not eligible for the vaccine.

“Until we basically have all of those eligible to get vaccinated vaccinated, it is most likely that we will not see the end of this anytime soon,” she said. “In the absence of people getting vaccinated and doing what they can to mitigate the spread of the virus, which itself will lead to continued emergence of new variants, then I don’t know what the end of this road will be.”

Parents are entitled to worry about the virus, McBride said. “It’s how we survive,” she said. “But we also have to acknowledge that worry can take on a life of its own and cause its own problems. I think it’s a very hard time for everyone.”

Now more than ever, she said, it’s important for people to have a trusted pediatrician or family doctor to help them take public-health advice and make nuanced personal health decisions.

“There’s no way the CDC can possibly speak to every individual,” she said.

The mask debate, she said, has become divisive and political. McBride agrees with Hobbs and Makary that the most important thing adults can do at the moment to protect kids is to trust the science, listen to their doctors, and get vaccinated.

“What we really need to be doing,” McBride said, “is getting dose one into people who are unvaccinated.”


Instead of Tightening Government’s Grip on Healthcare, Give Americans a Personal Option

By Tom PriceReal Clear Policy

As America begins to put the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview, the lesson from this once-in-a-generation crisis couldn’t be clearer: We need less, not more, central planning in our lives.

For example, a study earlier this year by health economist Casey Mulligan revealed that economic lockdowns mandated by government were counterproductive, given the significant steps workplaces took to prevent the virus from spreading.

The same is true with health care. By now, most folks know the story of how Operation Warp Speed — the previous administration’s unprecedented plan to trim bureaucracy from the vaccine development process — resulted in the creation of multiple safe and effective vaccines in record time. But an equally important storyline is how states took a sledgehammer to their own bureaucracies to expand access to care for those in need.

Thirty-eight states increased the availably of telehealth in response to the pandemic. Another 24 states waived certificate-of-need laws, which require hospitals to receive a permission slip from the government before they can open or add new facilities.

COVID-19 is forcing a long-overdue transformation of how health care is delivered in our country. As University of Michigan professor Rashid Bashur recently put it, “the genie’s out of the bottle.”

And yet, President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and others in Congress are remarkably missing this point. Even though their big government approach to health care hasn’t increased access to affordable care, they claim the solution is to double down on this failed path. The far left is pushing Biden to adopt even more radical ideas, like putting government in complete control of health care.

Instead of an even more centralized system, let’s give voters what they deserve — a personal option that keeps what they like about their health care, fixes what they don’t like, and puts people, not bureaucrats, in control of their care.

More affordability

One important improvement would be to expand tax-free health savings accounts. HSAs save people at least 15 percent each time they make a health care purchase. Yet, given the current constraints, only one in 10 Americans are eligible for an HSA at any given time. By expanding eligibility, more Americans would be able to save for health care costs. For those with less income, Congress could directly fund their accounts.

Increased access

There is strong bipartisan support for expanding the use of telehealth, which has the ability to level the playing field in terms of location and access. While it has seen an uptick during the COVID-19 pandemic, this technology is still not available to all, especially in underserved rural and urban communities. There is bipartisan support for giving more Americans access to virtual care. Lawmakers should waste no time getting it done.

Greater control

While short-term coverage is, by definition, not a long-term solution, it is a viable option for people and families, especially when the policy holder is between jobs. In some states, short-term plans cost up to 80 percent less than traditional health insurance plans. While opponents feared short-term plans would drive up prices on the ACA exchanges, the only states where premiums have gone up are in the five that prohibit short-term plans.

More choices

For far too long, the Food and Drug Administration has taken its time in approving drugs and medical devices that were approved in other advanced countries, such as Japan and in the EU. In addition, the FDA won’t allow the sharing of valid scientific information about promising experimental or “off-label” uses of already approved drugs and devices. Changing these processes could save many lives and result in cost savings.

All of this builds on reforms proposed last year in Healthcare For You, and these ideas resonate strongly with Americans. A recent poll by Public Option Strategies shows that voters prefer a personal option to the “public option” or “Medicare for All” by nearly 40 points. Among independents, the poll found that a personal option outperformed “Medicare for All” by 60 points and the “public option” by more than 35 points

The point is, there are smarter, more effective, and more popular ways to reduce costs and give people more options than simply expanding government’s grip over the system.

For years, opponents of government-run health care have made this argument but haven’t sold the public on a compelling enough alternative. That alternative has arrived. 

It’s time to deliver a health care system that works for everyone. It’s time for a personal option. 


Is the Media to Blame for the New COVID Surge? A New Poll Says “Maybe”

By Peter RoffAmerican Action News

https://www.vperemen.com via Wikimedia Commons

Just when we thought it was safe, COVID is back. The delta variant is sweeping through the unvaccinated portion of the population, sending people to the hospital at an alarming rate. Government experts are once again talking openly about the need for masking protocols and the possibility of additional lockdowns just as the U.S. economy is starting to get back on its feet. 

It’s clear America never really understood the disease, how it moved through the population, and why so many people died from it. It’s true the government’s response through two administrations have been uneven, sometimes swinging widely from one extreme to the other on important questions but the real blame for the public’s lack of comprehension of the dangers we face lies those to whom we look to explain what is going and why.

The surge in the number of people testing possible for the delta variant is once again dominating the national conversation as is the number of those people who end up hospitalized. Left out of the conversation is how this same variant appears to be considerably less lethal than the iteration of the disease believed by many to have originated in Wuhan, China. 

You might think “More People Infected Yet Far Fewer Are Dying” would be a welcome headline. Most of us have yet to see it or anything like it. Whether that’s by design or another clue that the reporters and the experts who they interview about COVID aren’t as up to speed on what’s going on as they appear to be is something that itself probably needs to be investigated. Misinformation has been a problem throughout America’s COVID crisis and has led people to make all sorts of unwise decisions – the worst of which is probably the decision not to take the vaccine when there’s no valid medical or religious reason for abstaining. 

As bad as that is, the push to have everyone take the vaccine regardless of the possible consequences does a near equal disservice to the American public. The failure of the “talking heads” to address various concerns people may have about the various vaccines while cheerleading for everyone to get vaccinated doesn’t help get people over their fears, real or imagined. 

The root cause for all this is the public’s distrust of the media, which has been growing by leaps and bounds on both sides of the ideological aisle for more than a decade. Reporters promoting an agenda inside their reporting have shaken the average news consumer’s confidence they can be trusted to a significant degree. And when the coverage turns to “life and death” issues like the pandemic, that mistrust can produce fatal results. 

A poll released Monday by Rasmussen Reports suggests it is the media rather than policymakers who are responsible for the COVID confusion. “Only 42 percent of Americans rate the media’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic excellent or good, and many have concerns about the accuracy of reporting on vaccine safety,” the pollster said. In a time of true crisis, a number that low should have news executives and network heads hanging their heads in shame.

Polls are not definitive but the trends they reflect tell us a great deal. According to Rasmussen Reports, the latest numbers are down from where they were in December 2020, when fully half the country said the coverage of the pandemic was “excellent or good.”

At the same time, the lack of confidence in COVID reporting may also be responsible for the spread of misinformation about the vaccine and the virus. “The number of Americans who think the media are exaggerating the COVID-19 threat has increased since December,” the polling firm reported, with the numbers now “dead even – 44 percent believe the media are exaggerating the coronavirus threat and the same percentage don’t think so.”

The poll found the distrust of the media to be generalized. “Among those who think the media are exaggerating the COVID-19 threat,” the polling firm found, “59 percent also don’t believe the media are accurately reporting about vaccine safety. By comparison, among those who don’t believe the media have exaggerated the coronavirus threat, 67 percent think the media are reporting accurately about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.”

The fact younger Americans are choosing to reject the vaccine, something policymakers say is a significant factor in the way the number of confirmed cases of COVID-Delta has spiked over recent weeks, also appears correlated to attitudes about the media. In the poll, 48 percent of those under age 40 said they believed “the COVID-19 threat is exaggerated by the media,” while just 34 percent of those aged 65 and older said it was. Additionally, 38 percent of those participating in the survey said they thought “the media aren’t reporting accurately about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines,” which probably explains a lot about why so many Americans have chosen not to be vaccinated.

The survey of 1,000 U.S. American Adults was conducted on July 21-22, 2021, by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence. 


Democrats Want Kids Masked, Vaccinated Before Returning to School

By Peter RoffAmerican 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.


How to Make China Pay

Engage Taiwan, boycott the 2022 Olympics, and impose a carbon tariff

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping / Getty Images

The debate over the origins of the coronavirus—did it come from a wet market in Wuhan or from the virology lab nearby—has exposed the bias of media and technology companies and the potential danger of so-called gain of function research. But it also has led to something of an intellectual cul-de-sac. Barring a high-level defection from the Chinese Communist Party, we are unlikely ever to learn the answer. And even if we did have conclusive evidence one way or another, we still would have to decide what to do about it. The real question isn’t whether the pandemic is China’s fault. It’s whether China will pay a price for the catastrophic damage it caused the world.

Wherever the virus came from, we know that the Chinese government lied about it for weeks. Dr. Ai Fen shared information about a novel coronavirus with her colleagues on December 30, 2019. The next day, as Lawrence Wright recounts in The Plague Year, China removed social media posts that mentioned “unknown Wuhan pneumonia” or “Wuhan Seafood Market.” Dr. Li Wenliang, who warned the public that the virus could be transmitted from human to human, was arrested and forced to deliver a televised confession. He died of COVID-19 on February 6, 2020.

Beijing prevaricated for a month while the deadly pandemic spread. China did not allow the World Health Organization to visit Wuhan until January 20, 2020. The same day, one of China’s top doctors finally admitted the obvious: COVID-19 is a communicable disease. By the time the Communist leadership took action, it was too late. On January 21, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed the first case of coronavirus in America. China did not quarantine Wuhan until January 22. “By that time,” according to Wright, “nearly half the population of Wuhan had already left the city for Chinese New Year.”

The dishonesty and incompetence of the Chinese Communist Party turned a national crisis into a global one. A March 2020 study estimated that cases might have been reduced by anywhere from 66 percent to 95 percent if Chinese authorities had acted earlier. Why was Beijing slow to move? Because bureaucratic collectivist societies such as Communist China are especially prone to delays and coverups as underlings attempt to avoid punishment from above. The same powers of draconian coercion that China used to lock down its population inspired fear among the midlevel and regional officials who allowed the virus to leave China in the first place. The problem wasn’t scientific. It was political. And punishment is deserved.

What to do? Writing in the Washington Post, Mike Pompeo and Scooter Libby call on the “leading democracies” to “act together,” leveraging “their great economic power” to “persuade China to curb its dangerous viral research activities, cooperate with the investigation of the coronavirus’s origins, and, over time, pay some measure of the pandemic’s damages to other nations.” It’s a worthy strategy with a potentially fatal flaw: The other democracies might put economics ahead of accountability.

Another proposal in Congress would strip China of its sovereign immunity and make it liable for damages in U.S. courts. That plan would also leave American foreign policy dependent on outside actors—in this case, judges. And millions of potential claimants attempting to seize Chinese assets in the United States could make for a mess.

China never will volunteer to open its labs. Nor will it compensate either nations or individuals for the havoc it unleashed. Costs must be imposed that Beijing cannot avoid.

I have three suggestions. Each is more controversial than the last. But all of them would ensure that China paid some price for its lax hygiene and sanitation standards, loosey-goosey research protocols, and reckless attitude toward human freedom and human life.

Engage Taiwan. To its credit, the Biden administration has continued the stepped-up engagement with Taiwan that began under President Trump. In April, Biden sent an unofficial delegation to the island that included his close friend Chris Dodd. Most recently, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai raised the prospect of new trade talks in a conversation with her Taiwanese counterpart. This pattern of contacts bothers mainland China to no end.

Keep it up. But also do more to train and equip Taiwanese military forces, as my American Enterprise Institute colleagues Gary Schmitt and Michael Mazza suggested last year in The Dispatch. Taiwan is a reminder that Chinese people can be free and that open societies can deal effectively with pandemics. The very existence of Chinese democracy in Taiwan is a threat to the legitimacy of Communist rule in the mainland. It’s an obstacle to Beijing’s ambitions in the Pacific. Taiwan’s defense is imperative.

Boycott the Olympics. One day before he left office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Chinese Communist Party “has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uighurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.” Here, too, the Biden administration has not deviated from its predecessor’s course. The United States openly accuses its arch-rival of crimes against humanity. This is a pretty big deal, is it not?

Well, start acting like it. Why the participation of U.S. officials in the Beijing Olympics next year is even up for debate is a mystery. The White House has said that it is not exploring a boycott. That needs to change. On June 7 a bipartisan resolution was introduced in Congress demanding that the International Olympic Committee explore other venues. A declaration that no U.S. government personnel will participate because of China’s actions at home and abroad would embarrass Beijing. It would encourage other democracies to do the same. China deserves neither the honor of nor the revenue from the participation of U.S. officials. Let the athletes compete. But cheer them on from home.

Impose a carbon tariff. President Biden has also maintained the tariffs that President Trump levied against Chinese goods. Economist Irwin Stelzer of the Hudson Institute has a better plan. He would replace these tariffs with a border tax on the carbon content of Chinese exports. The strategy has appeal for environmentalists and China hawks alike. Everyone knows that China is the world’s largest emitter. Everyone knows that China’s promise of greenhouse gas reduction is worthless. Beijing won’t do anything that jeopardizes the economic growth on which it bases its claim to rule.

“In effect,” writes Stelzer, “by selling us ‘dirty’ products, China is adding to the competitive advantage it has from selling us stuff made by slave and other laborers paid wages with which we cannot decently compete, around $2 per hour in Beijing.” The EU already is at work on what it calls a “Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism” on Chinese exports. By pushing for a carbon tariff of its own, the Biden administration would please not only hawks and greens, but also the European allies whose opinion it values so highly.

The problem with a “carbon border adjustment mechanism,” of course, is that the process of calculating a good’s carbon content might turn out to be overly complicated, bureaucratic, and subject to politicization. I’m not in the habit of taking economic advice from Brussels. But these problems must be weighed against the justice and potential benefits of such a tax. And the additional cost could be rebated to low-income U.S. consumers along the lines that Senator Tom Cotton proposed in a slightly different context in 2019.

In the end, whether or not the United States adopts a tax on Chinese carbon is less important than moving the debate from the pandemic’s origins to the pandemic’s endgame. The despotic regime whose malign indifference killed so many and cost so much cannot be allowed to pretend that nothing happened. We can hold China responsible. And we can make China pay.


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