The left and free speech

By Christopher Harper

Many Americans say they do not talk about politics for fear it might cost them their jobs.

A Cato Institute poll found that 62% of those surveyed believe the current political climate prevents them from making their views public.

These fears cross partisan lines, but Republicans at 77% are by far the most likely to stay quiet.

Leftists stand out, however, as the only political group who feel they can say whatever they want to.

The survey also found that many people, particularly those on the left, think political contributions should affect someone’s employment. Nearly a third, or 31%, support firing a business executive who donates to Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. Support increases to 50% of leftist who support firing executives who personally donate to Trump.

Young Americans are also more likely than older Americans to support punishing people at work for personal donations to Trump. Forty-four percent of Americans under 30 support firing executives if they donate to Trump. That belief falls significantly, or 20%, among those over 55.

The analysts summed it up: “If people feel they cannot discuss these important policy matters, such views will not have an opportunity to be scrutinized, understood, or reformed.”

A recent email from Pearson Higher Ed, a major publisher of academic journals and books, underlined how leftists shout the loudest.

The publisher was pushing a variety of seminars on racism. “Systemic racism has created an unprecedented level of outrage across America and around the globe. People are looking for answers and information about how we got to this point and how to create a more equitable world,” the publisher postulated.

I’m almost certain many of my colleagues will pass along the seminars to their students. If I even questioned the foundation of these beliefs, I would be even more castigated by my colleagues. I just shut up and vote for Trump. Now I know I’m not alone.

The survey was designed and conducted by the Cato Institute in collaboration with YouGov. YouGov collected responses online July 1–6 from a national sample of 2,000 Americans 18 years of age and older. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 2.36 percentage points at a 95% level of confidence. See the full report at https://www.cato.org/publications/survey-reports/poll-62-americans-say-they-have-political-views-theyre-afraid-share

Three strikes, and I’m out

By Christopher Harper

Like most of my friends in the Boomer generation, I loved baseball as a kid.

My friends and I traded baseball cards. We’d oil our gloves during the winter months in anticipation of the spring.

If we weren’t practicing with a team, we’d hustle to the makeshift diamond our parents built in a nearby vacant lot.

I played second base. I didn’t quite have the arm of a shortstop. I usually batted second or third in the lineup because I was a good hitter.

When I was eight, I wrote a letter to the New York Yankees and got a bundle full of photos, autographs, and information about the team. When I visited San Francisco a few years later, my father bought me a baseball with all of the team’s autographs, including future Hall of Famers Juan Marichal, Willie Mays, and Willie McCovey.

My love affair with baseball was sealed in Yankee pinstripes and Giant orange and black!

As a journalist, I covered a wide range of sporting events, including afternoon games at Wrigley Field in Chicago and Harry Caray’s seventh-inning songfest. I wrote a profile of Rod Carew, who won six batting titles.

Later in life, I flew into Chicago from Beirut to see the White Sox in the 1983 playoffs. I enjoyed the Yankees of the 1990s when I lived there, and even took my 9-year-old daughter to a game. I relished the Phillies of 2008, where I now live, and their World Series win.

But those memories have become tainted by the politically correct version of baseball today. Baseball used to be a game I could attend with my friends and talk baseball, not politics.

Today I have two heroes left in the game. One is San Francisco Giants pitcher Sam Coonrod, the only player to stand rather than take a knee, telling reporters after the game that as a Christian he “can’t kneel before anything besides God.”

The other is Bryce Harper, who revealed a sports coat honoring the Phanatic and a pair of cleats that included feathers emblematic of the Phillies mascot. That was fun!

Whatever the case, I’ve watched my last baseball game until it becomes a game again rather than a political statement. I hope others feel the same way! Maybe Major League Baseball will get the message.

Covid, the campaign, and a conspiracy

By Christopher Harper

Philadelphia is a tough, in-your-face city that doesn’t have much time for nannies.

But Mayor Jim Kenney has become the city’s chief nanny who has determined that he’ll lock the place down until the end of February.

No fans at Phillies or Eagles games. No Thanksgiving Day parade. No Mummers’ Parade, a Philadelphia institution, on New Years Day. No conventions. No music concerts.

The edict comes as the number of Covid-19 cases has fallen dramatically.

He’s banned visitors from other states like California, Texas, and even Idaho, resulting in a huge financial blow to bars, hotels, and restaurants. So far, the city is expected to lose more than $700 million in tax dollars.

Of course, political demonstrations for “social justice” are exempt from the ban!

I’m not much for conspiracy theories, but the mayor’s unnecessary clampdown raises the specter that Philadelphia may be a test case to suppress voter turnout for Donald Trump.

If Philly succeeds in its lockdown, other locales may use the edict as a model for the 2020 presidential election.

That would mean no Trump rallies. A push for an expansion of mail-in ballots. A likelihood that Trump, who carried the key electoral votes in Pennsylvania in 2016, will be hard pressed to do it again.

Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,292 votes out of more than 6,000,000 cast, the narrowest margin in a presidential election for the state in 176 years and the first Republican since George H. W. Bush won the state in 1988.

In Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton won more than 80 percent of the heavily Democrat city. But Trump got more than 100,000 votes here.

Just think about how the mayor and the other Democrat nanny, Gov. Tom Wolf, can suppress Trump voters. Wolf has limited outdoor gatherings to less than 250 people, making political rallies almost impossible. 

It’s disgusting how the Democrats are using the pandemic as a means to tip the balance in the 2020 presidential election.

Don’t know much about history

By Christopher Harper

After I assigned two readings about the end of World War II, I received a question from one student: Why did the United States want to invade Japan?

The readings included John Hersey’s Hiroshima and Paul Fussell’s Thank God for the Atom Bomb!

The latter recounts how Fussell was part of the army ready to invade Japan. Estimates of allied casualties stood at roughly one million before the atomic bombs were used.

I explained to the student the history of Japanese involvement in the war and how Japan refused to surrender in the closing days of World War II.

I couldn’t really fault the student because his public school teachers have turned courses on American history into a social justice warrior screed about the nation’s misdeeds.

Now these failures in public education have created massive misunderstanding of the history of this country and some of its key leaders.

Take, for example, the recent desecration of the statues of Frederick Douglass and Ulysses S. Grant.

If anyone represented the values of Black Americans, Douglass did.

Douglass, who was born into slavery in Maryland in 1818, escaped and became the leading abolitionist in his day. In 1847, Douglass started The North Star, an abolitionist newspaper in Rochester, New York.

In Rochester, in 1852, Douglass delivered an address that eventually became known as “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” One biographer called it “perhaps the greatest antislavery oration ever given.”

It was on the anniversary of this speech that protesters toppled his statue in Rochester, a gross lack of understanding of Douglass’s role in Black Americans’ struggle.

A few days later, rioters in San Francisco defaced and damaged a statue of Grant, a committed abolitionist. 

Author Ron Chernow has recently written an excellent account of Grant’s role in fighting for abolitionist causes. The History Channel recently turned Chernow’s book into a three-part series for television.

As a general, Grant defeated the Confederacy and insisted that the opposing army treat Black soldiers the same as whites. As president, Grant fought the Ku Klux Klan and endorsed Black voting rights.

His sin, according to the protestors? He kept one of his wife’s family slaves as an aide for a year before giving him freedom. 

All of the recent acts to cancel the culture of the United States reminded of Spanish philosopher George Santayana’s famous warning: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

I would add that those who do not know history—as well as those who failed to teach history properly—should also be condemned.

The gentleman journalist

By Christopher Harper

Hugh Downs stood far above the self-absorbed bloviators who pawn themselves off today as journalists.

For nearly a decade, I worked with Hugh for ABC’s 20/20. He was the consummate gentleman and Renaissance man who treated everyone with respect.

Hugh referred to himself as “a champion dilettante,” who dabbled in music, art, and science. His 1986 memoir, “On Camera: My 10,000 Hours on Television,” was no idle boast: For years, he held the Guinness record for most hours on commercial network television until Regis Philbin eventually passed him.

Hugh was born and grew up in Ohio. His father worked as a salesman who struggled to make ends meet during the Depression. Hugh had to drop out of college to support the family as a radio announcer in Lima, Ohio.

In 1940, after serving in the Army, he joined the staff of WMAQ, the NBC radio station in Chicago. Later in the decade, he made the transition to television, working on “Kukla, Fran, and Ollie,” a popular puppet show.
Eventually, he would appear on “The Tonight Show,” “The Today Show,” “Concentration,” “20/20,” and others.

At the beginning of his career, Hugh said he suffered from stage fright. He recalled those days in “On Camera,” his memoir:

“At the end of a piece of music, when I was supposed to say something, my knees would shake uncontrollably. My pulse and respiration went up. Fortunately, the fear never showed in my delivery, but it did in my hands. If I had to hold copy, the paper would rattle. As a defense, I learned to lay copy out flat on the desk, or, if standing, to grab my lapels along with the copy, so the paper didn’t move with my hands.”

In 1978, Hugh received a call from Roone Arledge, the president of ABC News, asking him to take over the newsmagazine “20/20.” Its debut just a week earlier had been a disaster. Hugh was the sole host until 1984, when his former “Today” colleague Barbara Walters became his co-host. He remained with the program until retiring in 1999.
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In addition to his television work, Hugh was a composer. He wrote a prelude that was performed by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Hugh was an amateur guitarist and played for Andrés Segovia. He said he was pleased that Segovia did not leave the room.

Hugh also was a science buff and an adventurer. He piloted a 65-foot ketch across the Pacific and traveled to the South Pole.

During my time at “20/20,” I worked with Hugh on a project to create coral reefs near Miami. We had a great deal of fun, including the opportunity to blow up an old ship to start a reef.

But I truly appreciated Hugh’s fame when he was able to get a reservation for our team at Joe’s Stone Crabs in South Beach, where people lined up for hours to get inside in the usually first-come, first-serve restaurant.

Hugh died at the age of 99. I know he probably wanted to reach 100, but somehow 2020 seems more appropriate.

Defund and depose the Democrat dimwits

By Christopher Harper

As Philadelphia slouches toward its new normal, city residents face myriad issues from police protection to garbage removal to exploding fireworks on a continuing basis to downed trees to….

You get the drift. Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Chief Danielle Outlaw—no kidding—apologized to demonstrators who were tear-gassed while blocking an interstate highway. 

The police have suspended the use of tear gas and pepper spray except when an officer faced an imminent threat of death! 

At least the police union got it right. “We’re apologizing to protestors? Protestors?” said FOP Lodge President John McNesby. “To the officers out there, the message is be careful. Call us if you need us. No one has your back.”

Although the city did not fire or furlough any workers, garbage pickup has generally been one or two days late. Recycling has been changed to once every two weeks. 

That’s unlikely to change, given an allegedly huge hole in the city budget. I know that my city income tax and real estate taxes didn’t decline during the pandemic. The tax on soda and other drinks goes on unabated. 

But the city did use its “forward-looking approach” to an urban environment by eliminating laws against using fireworks in Philadelphia. 

Since the first of the year, the city has had nearly 1,000 complaints about excessive noise from fireworks, but no prosecutions. With fewer police wanting to get into any confrontations over enforcing laws, it’s unlikely that the boom of summer evenings will dissipate anytime soon. 

In Kensington, a poor neighborhood in North Philly, veterans with PTSD have complained vociferously about the nightly barrages of fireworks. See https://billypenn.com/2020/06/23/its-the-first-year-fireworks-are-legal-in-philly-and-cops-have-gotten-nearly-1000-complaints/

Then there is the massive number of trees downed a month ago during a severe storm. Dozens litter my neighborhood in Northwest Philly. Residents pushed the branches aside, but the downed trunks require cranes and chainsaws. Some people got so tired of the junk on the sidewalks they paid thousands of dollars to cut up the trees that are technically on city property. 

It would be nice to consider a home outside of Philly, but the Democrat creeps in the suburbs have created significant increases in real estate taxes. 

So I’ll just have to sit back and watch the Democrats destroy what remains of a once-proud place.

One final note: At least I was able to get a haircut this week!

Covid-19: What the media and the Democrats don’t want you to realize

By Christopher Harper

After the media and the Democrats trashed the response of the Trump administration’s actions toward the pandemic, few analysts have circled back to assess the success of the federal government.

Overall, the administration did quite well in facing the most horrific disease outbreak in a century.

The only way to accurately assess the overall effectiveness is to compare apples to apples, or death rates to 100,000 people. To wit, the United States did better than Belgium, France, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and about the same as the Netherlands and Ireland. Germany and South Korea did better.

The cancellation of flights from China held down the infection rate; the cancellation of flights from Europe could have come earlier.

The patchwork of shutdowns and social distancing across almost every U.S. state has succeeded in stopping the exponential spread of the virus; the subsequent government subsidies have helped the economy.

Remember the ventilator shortage? It never materialized. Now the United States has a considerable surplus after mobilizing production by the likes of General Motors.

Remember the hospital bed shortage? On March 18, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a dire warning. Within 45 days, New York City would need 110,000 hospital beds to treat those suffering from Covid-19, and it only had 53,000 available. In the end, New York hit a peak for hospitalizations on April 12 at 18,825–well below the worst-case scenario.

Across the nation, the healthcare system became strained in some states, such as New Jersey, Maryland, and Massachusetts, but it held up to the increased demand.

The problem is New York and other states was the inadequate oversight of nursing homes and long-health facilities, where about 40 percent of the 120,000 victims died.

Although the federal government sets standards for these facilities that receive Medicare, state and local governments are responsible for overseeing the quality of care. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and others failed miserably, while Florida and a few others did not.

Multiple vaccines for the coronavirus have begun clinical trials on humans. According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 100 possible vaccines in various stages of development around the world.

Earlier predictions argued it could be more than a year and a half before a vaccine was proven effective and ready to use. Now one is expected some time in the beginning of next year.

“From a vaccine development, we are doing incredibly well in that we’ve got a large number of entities trying to develop the vaccine,” says Gerard Anderson, a professor of health policy at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. Meanwhile, the antiviral drug Remdesivir has been found to shorten the average hospital stays of coronavirus patients.

Remember that study that argued hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, was dangerous? It turns out the data were false, and the study was withdrawn from a prominent medical journal.

Some shortages of personal protective equipment, or PPEs, occurred during the initial outbreak. That shortage was caused, in part, by virus-related disruptions in the supply chain from manufacturers in China, Anderson says.

Again, the United States now has a vast surplus. As of June 12, the government and industry had delivered more than 140 million N95 masks, 600 million surgical and procedural masks, 20 million eye and face shields, 265 million gowns and coveralls, and 14 billion gloves.

The Centers for Disease Control bungled test kits after the initial outbreak—part of the reason why Trump bypassed the organization. Again, the country now has a vast stockpile of testing kits and is performing roughly 500,000 examinations a day, with more than 20 million done in total.

But the media and the Democrats have shifted away from the positive steps the Trump administration made during the pandemic to the issue of racism. It’s the whack-a-mole strategy they’ve played from Russiagate to Racegate.

Media madness

By Christopher Harper

The protests over the death of George Floyd may have a profound impact on the way the media cover stories.

During the past few days, the editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer was pushed out because of a headline.

The head of the editorial page of The New York Times was axed over a column by a conservative senator.

The editor of Bon Appétit was ousted after a Halloween photo surfaced of him masquerading as a black pimp. 

The incoming dean of the School of Journalism at Arizona State University, one of the best-known producers of media talent, lost her job because she tweeted that good cops existed. 

Even the editor of The Los Angeles Times argued that the terms “riot” and “looting” were racist after consultations with African-American members of his staff.

For me, the last one is a real head-scratcher. I’ve been trying to come up with alternatives to the two words. Civil disturbance instead of riot? Redistribution of wealth instead of looting? The Times editor didn’t provide any guidance.

What is clear, however, is a fundamental change in reporting about race in America. Point-of-view analysis and perspective will replace neutrality. 

That’s not necessarily a bad development. I have often written about how bias exists in almost every news story these days. By dropping any guise of objectivity, fairness, and balance, the reporters will demonstrate their bias. That makes it easier for readers and viewers to determine whether they believe the reporter’s “truth.” 

Instead, I submit that accuracy and transparency may be more applicable to guiding journalism. Accuracy becomes an issue of debating facts. That isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s a conversation rather than a shouting match. 

Transparency is much more difficult because it forces journalists to provide more information about their belief systems and bias. While reporter like others to be transparent, that doesn’t necessarily mean that journalists want to tell everything about themselves.

Moreover, transparency means that the media should provide the public with access to the entirety of an interview rather than a short quotation or soundbite. Also, all of the photos and videos should be included in all reports so the readers and viewers can determine what, if anything, was taken out of context. 

Having spent many years choosing quotations and editing video, I know that what’s left out may be just as important or perhaps more important than what’s left in. 

I hope that the complaints will create a better environment for the public to see what goes on behind the closed doors of media outlets. I am, however, skeptical that journalists want to change the way they go about their business, particularly when it comes to allowing the public to look over their shoulders.

The creation of media bias

By Christopher Harper

While taking an online course created by the University of Texas and the Knight Foundation, I hoped to learn more about reporting on the Covid-19 crisis.

Instead, I got an informative look at the creation and propagation of media bias throughout the world.

Had the class involved only a few students, the result would have been a small group of individuals subjected to an anti-Trump bias. Instead, nearly 10,000 people from countries throughout the world received examples of how NOT to report.

The instructor, science reporter Maryn McKenna, barely cloaked her bias throughout the four-week class.

In the first week, the class got the bias of writer Sonia Shah.

“[W]hat really surprised me about the way this pandemic is unfolding is the huge political failure in the United States. I think that really was not expected. You know, I think we’ve all been kind of confused about the U.S. response and, you know, the political moment we’re in where we have all of these right-wing populist leaders around the world,” she opined.

That would run counter to recent studies that found the U.S. lockdown may have saved 60 million Americans from contracting the disease.

In the second week, the class read one of the instructor’s articles in The New Republic, an avowedly leftist publication, entitled “The Plague Years: How the rise of right-wing nationalism is jeopardizing the world’s health.” 

“Nationalism, xenophobia, the new right-wing populism in Europe and the United States, are raising our risk,” said Ronald Klain, who was the White House Ebola response coordinator for President Barack Obama, told her. 

The article is a classic example of confirmation bias, where she sought out sources to confirm her beliefs.

In the third week, the instructor blamed President Trump and Fox News for saying hydroxychloroquine might help people to recover from Covid-19. Her criticism was based on a study that has been subsequently found to have had numerous errors. See https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/04/health/coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine.html

McKenna also highlighted an obvious piece of propaganda from a student from China:

“China’s President Xi Jinping…pledged to make any potential vaccine developed by China a ‘global public good’ once it was put into use. This move would be China’s contribution to achieving accessibility and affordability of a vaccine in developing countries as well.”

Moreover, the instructor makes a particular point to forecast that it would take 10 to 15 years to discover a vaccine.

Then the coup de grace in the final week. In rapid succession, the instructor interviewed the head of the CDC under Obama, who criticized the current U.S. policies. But, ahem, she failed to ask him about Obama’s and his failures during the H1N1 pandemic.

Then, you can’t make this stuff up, came fiction writer Annalee Newitz.

“We’re seeing our political institutions become more unstable. We’re seeing environmental problems exacerbated as regulations over environmental waste. We’re seeing more problems around climate change because environmental regulations are being relaxed during these difficult times. … We’re facing starvation in California, even though we have plenty of food, but lots of people are now undernourished and malnourished and aren’t able to eat,” Newitz told the instructor, who didn’t question this nonsense.

Famine?

I repeatedly tried to contact the instructor, who apparently ignored my emails.

One of the organizers, University of Texas professor Rosental Alves, responded to my complaints.  

Alves said: “This is the only complaint I have received from anyone among the nearly 9,000 people registered in this MOOC. It’s also the first time I’ve received a political bias complaint since I started our distance learning program for journalists 17 years ago. I will look into it.” 

I’ve heard nothing more.

I declined my certificate of completion of the class on reporting about Covid-19. Instead, I might ask for a certificate in watching media bias unfold to nearly 10,000 people, who, unlike me, may have limited backgrounds in assessing how the media can suborn the truth and propagate the false. 

Social distancing, masks, and other myths of ‘science’

By Christopher Harper

The world economy is set to undergo a significant and perhaps unnecessary restructuring based on new standards, such as social distancing, that have little or contradictory scientific underpinning.

For example, take the six-foot rule. Because the virus can travel on liquid droplets breathed or coughed out by infected people, health authorities recommend staying away from crowds and maintaining physical separation from others. That’s why restaurants, bars, and other locales where people mingle closely have faced such economically devastating restrictions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifically recommends the six-foot buffer.

But it’s difficult to find where the six-foot rule actually comes from. The basic outline comes from a 1930s study and a more recent one after SARS. But the studies do not specify four feet, six feet, or 20 feet. In fact, the World Health Organization recommended until recently that three feet were enough.

More important, these studies did not look at the use of masks together with social distancing. Therefore, masks might eliminate the need for social distancing for the most part.

Think about all the money being spent and the money lost for restaurants, bars, sporting events, places of worship, and other venues where people gather.

Moreover, there are no specific guidelines for interior versus exterior locations. WHO recently recommended, for example, that masks should ONLY be used INDOORS when helping or being exposed to someone with Covid-19.

Remember that it wasn’t too long ago that nearly all scientists said masks were unnecessary? Remember when the scientists told us that 2.2 million people would die in the United States alone?

It’s been a difficult time, but we know a lot more about who’s in grave danger from Covid-19, and social distancing and masks may do little for these groups.

It is evident from the mounting statistics about the pandemic that older people, minorities, and a few other groups, particularly with underlying conditions, such as diabetes, must be the focus in the coming weeks of the pandemic before a vaccine.

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities became breeding grounds for the virus, amounting to more than half the deaths in my home state of Pennsylvania.

A Wall Street Journal tally of state data from around the U.S. shows more than 42,000 Covid-19-associated deaths in long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted-living sites, along with more than 200,000 cases. This tally probably undercounts the full impact of the outbreak because of incomplete information from some states.

That’s nearly half of all deaths in the United States.

Perhaps it’s time to take a harder look at the economic and social changes being planned as a result of the unverified “science” before creating unnecessary burdens and costs that will transform the way we live and work.