It’s okay to blame the Chinese government

Memo
To: Journalists
Re: China and Covid-19

Here are some suggestions about news coverage going forward:

The pandemic started in China because of inadequate sanitary conditions and a lack of law enforcement.

China’s government covered up the virus as it leaped across the world. If you are going to use Chernobyl as a simile, it’s China’s Chernobyl, not that of the United States.

China silenced doctors and dissidents who tried to publicize news of the virus.

Italy and Iran have high numbers of infections and deaths because both countries created strong relationships with China. The Black Plague started on the old Silk Road; the Wuhan virus started on the new Silk Road.

China has launched a massive disinformation campaign, including calling racist the use of the Wuhan virus. That hasn’t stopped DaTimes’ Paul Krugman from calling it the “Trump virus.”

China claimed it bought time for the rest of the world. No, it didn’t. It misled the world.

China expelled journalists from DaTimes, DaPost, and the Wall Street Journal. It was barely a blip on the radar screen because you were frightened China might do the same to your news organization.

The World Health Organization refused for months to declare a pandemic and instead thanked China for “making us safer.” The WHO has refused to allow Taiwan membership, due undoubtedly to Beijing’s influence over the WHO’s purse strings.

Here are some suggestions on what you should report on:

It is only since the outbreak of the pandemic that Americans have learned that China is the primary supplier of U.S. medicines. Eighty percent of America’s “active pharmaceutical ingredients” come from abroad, primarily from China (and India); 45% of the penicillin used in the country is Chinese made; and nearly 100% of the ibuprofen.

America’s broader economic dependence on China needs to be reduced. Materials such as rare earths, 80% of which come from China, should be produced at home when possible, while the U.S. military needs to limit its exposure to Chinese goods for everything from transistors to tire rubber.

Washington must ensure that China does not capture the global semiconductor chip-making industry, which is a priority for Beijing. To surrender a vital part of the digital economy would put America in a position of permanent dependence on China.

It’s time to stop pandering to China!

Higher ed: Not ready for prime time

By Christopher Harper

As most colleges and universities cancel in-person classes, many of these institutions are woefully unprepared to teach students online.

When a started teaching online in 2005, I had more than two months of training, and I still had questions. In the current transition, teachers are being asked to get ready, without significant help, in a week or less.

I’ve watched some of the training videos from my university and from national organizations, which are utter torture from bad audio to inane content.

I wanted to learn how to teach online. Many professors professors consider the teaching method as inferior. One colleague sent around a post that tried to convince people to fail in the changeover to online classes because it would give the administration more leverage to force people to do it in the future.

Since I have taught online courses for many years, I have often told my colleagues that the data don’t back up the contention that in-person classes are better.

The real problem is ego. Many professors have a captive audience classroom environment as the master or mistress of the universe, doling out precious bits of knowledge to the students.

It’s not surprising that a survey by Inside Higher Ed found that many professors think online classes do not meet the requirements for a successful learning experience.

Forty-four percent of those surveyed said they taught a course better than anyone else could do so online. Thirty-eight percent said it was possible that both experiences could be equal. Eighteen percent had no opinion.

The survey also found that the more prestigious the school, the greater the ego from its professors.

“The ratios change significantly by subgroup of faculty members. Community college instructors, for instance, are more likely to agree than disagree that online learning can achieve equivalent outcomes in the classes they teach by a 53 to 31 percent margin, while the ratio for private college baccalaureate professors is 15 percent agree to 72 percent disagree,” the survey found. See https://www.insidehighered.com/news/survey/professors-slow-steady-acceptance-online-learning-survey

Ironically, those who have taught online classes found the experience made them better teachers.

“When those instructors were asked how their online experience has most improved their teaching skills, 75 percent said they think more critically about ways to engage students with content,” the report found.

What’s interesting about the research is that colleges and universities often talk the talk of technology but often do not reward those who use it. That’s because most of the people making the decisions are former faculty members rather than professional managers.

Less than a quarter of those surveyed said their institutions reward teachers who do online courses in tenure and promotion cases. Also, those who teach online don’t make any more money.

Students generally applaud the availability of online courses because they provide greater flexibility in scheduling a balance between class and work. Also, students said the availability of online material makes it easier to study for exams. Although online platforms offer the ability to collaborate with other students, surveys find that individuals prefer to do such work in a face-to-face environment.

Although college administrators debate whether online courses cost less, I am convinced they do. The problem is that higher education still has to allocate funds for the administrative maze that colleges have created in recent years. As a result, it’s difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Whatever the case, a grand experiment is about to commence. I hope it ends well even though most colleges and universities aren’t prepared for the experiment.

Obama’s failures during the 2009 pandemic

 By Christopher Harper

Just after announcing a national emergency to combat the N1H1 virus in 2009, President Obama went out for a round of golf. Later, he appointed Elmo, the Sesame Street character, as the national spokesperson on how to combat the virus. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/01/AR2009090103135.html

All told, nearly 13,000 died from the virus. But President Obama got nary a mention of criticism during the year-long battle against the virus.

Contrast the media coverage of the 2009 outbreak with the press attacks on President Trump. DaTimes went so far as to call COVID-19 “the Trumpvirus.” See https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/26/opinion/coronavirus-trump.html

After looking through the archives of DaTimes and DaPost, I found almost no serious analysis of what Obama did wrong in 2009.

In April 2009, the virus was a combination of bird, swine, and human flu viruses further combined with a Eurasian pig flu virus, leading to the term “swine flu.”

The Centers for Disease Control estimated the following illness and death rates from April 2009 to April 2010:

–CDC estimated that about 61 million people were infected.
–About 274,000 people ended up in the hospital.
–About 13,000 people died, mainly people over 65.

The leading suggestions from the Obama administration at the outset of the pandemic included washing hands and sneezing into one’s arm. 

An internal report, which was completed six months after the outbreak of the virus, suggested that the president appoint one official to coordinate the efforts. See https://www.medicalcountermeasures.gov/BARDA/documents/2009%20pcast-h1n1.pdf

Trump made his vice president the coordinator almost immediately, although he faced widespread criticism for the choice.

As the crisis worsened, Obama and his team ramped up the production of a vaccine. By October, an estimated 120 million doses were supposed to be available. Only 15 million hit hospitals, with people waiting in long lines to get the vaccine.

In one of the rare criticisms of the Obama effort, DaPost wrote: “The federal government’s unprecedented campaign to protect the nation against the swine flu pandemic has gotten off to a sputtering start, frustrating parents, pregnant women, and others anxious to get immunized against the new virus.” See https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/22/AR2009102204707.html

Compare the stumbling performance of the Obama team to the 2009 crisis with that of the Trump administration. Maybe the media should do the same, but that’s not going to happen because today’s journalists don’t let the facts stand in the way of a good story. 

The Socialist Republic of Philadelphia

By Christopher Harper

The Socialist Republic of Philadelphia, where I live, has launched two attacks in recent months—one against a neighborhood to force a safe injection site there and the other against the Catholic Church to force it to place foster children with same-sex couples.

In a city where you have to pay an extra tax on soda pop because it can cause people to gain weight, hypodermic needles were going to be free. But that’s how the Democrats run Philly, a place where you could toss a hand grenade in virtually any direction without injuring a Republican.

The idea of the safe-injection sites is to get heroin, fentanyl, and other drug use off of public streets and into medically supervised facilities. The organizers, a nonprofit called Safehouse, argued that the site would reduce overdose deaths, prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, limit drug-related crime, and offer addicts a range of social, legal, and housing services.

In February, a federal judge cleared the way for a site, which would be the first in the country, with the support of Mayor Jim Kenney.

Most observers had expected the site to be located in Kensington, a North Philadelphia neighborhood that has long been a haven for drug users. The organization, however, decided to open up in South Philadelphia near Broad Street, one of the major thoroughfares in the city.

But neighborhood residents got the nonprofit and its supporters to back down—at least for the time being.

City Councilman Mark Squilla, who initially supported the site, accused Safehouse directors of choosing a facility location under “the cloak of darkness” without consulting the council or residents.

U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain, who plans to appeal the court ruling, said: “We believe that Safehouse’s proposed activity threatens to institutionalize the scourge of illegal drug use—and all the problems that come with it—in Philadelphia neighborhoods.”

In another court battle, the City of Philadelphia wants to force a Catholic foster agency to place children with same-sex couples—a practice that violates church teachings. 

The case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, is the latest battle between the claims of same-sex couples and those who disagree on the grounds of religious beliefs. The case is broadly similar to that of a Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The court found in favor of the baker in that case. 

The city stopped placements with the agency, Catholic Social Services, after a 2018 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer described its policy against placing children with same-sex couples. The agency and several foster parents sued the city, saying the decision violated their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and free speech.

Nevertheless, a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled against the agency. The city was entitled to require compliance with its nondiscrimination policies, the court said.

The case is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is likely to hear arguments next fall.  

Let’s dump recycling

By Christopher Harper

As I pulled out my two garbage bins this week—one for trash and one for recyclables—I was stuck by how yet another fraud was created and perpetuated by the left.

Recycling may not be the biggest threat to the nation. Still, sorting metal, plastics, and other items costs millions of dollars and accomplishes little.

Fostered by the environmental movement in the 1970s, recycling used to make some sense. In Philadelphia, where I live, the city loses $9 million a year. If Philadelphia and other cities simply used available space for garbage dumps, schools could be built, taxes could be lowered, and funds shifted to better uses.

The Property and Environment Research Center has analyzed recycling in an attempt to educate people about the “myths” of rubbish. These myths include:

–The country is running out of space;
–Trash threatens people’s health and the ecosystem;
–Packaging is a serious problem; and
–Recycling saves resources.

The modern era of waste disposal and recycling can be traced to the spring of 1987 when a garbage barge named Mobro 4000 spent two months and 6,000 miles touring the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico looking for a home for its load.

The Mobro set off in March 1987 with 3,200 tons of New York trash, originally intended for a cheap landfill in Louisiana. Hoping to cut transportation costs, the company behind the Mobro’s
voyage attempted to interest Jones County, North Carolina, in accepting the trash. Before the deal could be finalized, local officials wondered if the entrepreneur’s haste signaled the presence of hazardous waste. North Carolina rejected the trash–as did others–including the original site.

The problem WASN’T a lack of space. New York simply wanted a cheaper place to send its garbage. The “problem” erroneously became that landfills were UNSAFE.

Since the voyage of the Mobro, new techniques have made landfills even safer.

Nevertheless, the United States turned to China to send recyclables. But China upended global recycling markets in 2017 when it stopped importing most plastic and paper because most cities co-mingled materials, including waste from computers. The decision sent prices of scrap plastic and recovered paper tumbling, creating a crisis for municipalities that had relied on such sales to subsidize curbside recycling.

Recycling has become more expensive than tossing items into the trash. In 2016, it cost New York City $18 a ton more to collect and process recyclables than to dispose of regular refuse. See https://ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/ten-years-after-assessing-progress-on-the-citys-solid-waste-management-plan-supplement-2017.pdf

Some efforts are growing to return to glass bottles to replace plastics, with deposit charges. That’s what we did before the recycling craze, and it worked.

Keep in mind that the left created the recycling mess in the first place—a system that costs the country millions of dollars. Just think what it will cost for their plans to combat “climate change” and whether any of their “green” ideas will actually work.

China, socialized medicine, and me

Hundreds of people wait to register to see a doctor in Guangzhou, China.

By Christopher Harper

If you want to see what socialized medicine looks like, China is a classic example—a system unable to meet the needs of many patients in normal times that crashes into chaos when a crisis occurs like a coronavirus.

During my travels throughout China over the past five years, I was able to see the system up close and personal. See https://datechguyblog.com/2018/06/05/healthcare-in-china/

While the wealthy can pay for the best care with foreign doctors, most people are relegated to overcrowded hospitals. In the countryside, residents must rely on village clinics or travel hundreds of miles to find the closest facility.

The country does not have a functioning primary care system. China has one general practitioner for roughly every 7,000 people, compared with the international standard of one for every 1,500 to 2,000 people, according to the World Health Organization.

Another major issue, particularly in a crisis like a coronavirus, is the system for handling patients at hospitals, which often is the place where most people go for treatment.

When I went to a hospital in Guangzhou, the third-largest city in China in the southern part of the country, I registered to see a doctor and waited for one hour to see a physician to diagnose a persistent cough.

I sat in a large waiting room to see the doctor—where you can get sick from some of the other 60 to 70 people with a variety of illnesses.

The doctor seemed competent during my five-minute visit, but I then had to go for tests, waiting for another two hours with 50 other people because the hospital closes for lunch from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

It took only a few minutes to get the results of an EKG, but the blood tests came after two hours.

I then saw another physician—in my case, another hour of waiting—before receiving three prescriptions to soothe my chest cough. It took another 30 minutes to have the prescription filled. Again, those waiting for prescriptions amounted to roughly 100 people.

By the time I was done, I’d been around hundreds of people, with a variety of diseases that I could have gotten, and they were exposed to my illness.

All I had was a chest cold and needed a prescription for some medicine. A visit, which would have taken me 15 to 30 minutes with my family doctor in the United States, took more than six hours in China.

But there’s more. At the time I was getting my chest cold diagnosed, hundreds of thousands of children were found to have been injected with faulty vaccines, amplifying the already existing frustration with the health care system.

In recent years, scandals have erupted over bribes to physicians from those who could afford to pay to move to the front of the line for critical treatments.

In my experience in China and elsewhere, socialized medicine may be adequate as long as there is no serious health threat.

Here’s what every voter should ask a Democrat candidate for president: Would you prefer socialized medicine fighting the coronavirus or the current system that exists in the United States? For me, the choice is pretty simple.

Wuhan: The city has plagued China’s leaders for a century

By Christopher Harper

For those who have studied the history of China, it is rather ironic to us that Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus, should once again stand at center stage.

Before the virus outbreak, Wuhan, a place unknown to most Westerners, has played a significant role in the demise of the Chinese monarchy in 1911 and later as a symbol of the flawed vision of Mao Zedong.

Often called the Chicago of China, Wuhan is the leading city of the central part of the country because of its railroads and riverway near the Yangtze River.

But Wuhan’s place in history began in 1911 when revolutionaries launched the opening of the attack against the Qing Dynasty, which had ruled China for 400 years.

Back then, many Western powers saw railway investments as part of the consolidation in their spheres of influence over China. Provincial governments, with permission from the Qing court, began to construct their own railways, obtaining huge loans from foreign countries that maintained financial control of the routes. This policy was met with stiff resistance, including massive strikes and protests. At one point, the military opened fire on protesters, leading to widespread dissatisfaction among the population.

On October 10, 1911, revolutionary forces within the military staged a mutiny in the Wuhan area and forced the Qing leaders out of government buildings and residences. Within two months, the country elected Sun Yat-sen as its leader and forced the young Qing emperor to abdicate the throne.

Fast forward to Mao and his dream for a huge hydroelectric dam. Wuhan, which sits near a critical part of the Yangtze River, became the site of the dam near an area known as the Three Gorges.

Mao started to promote the dam’s construction almost immediately after taking power in 1949. Although his ill-conceived economic plans stalled the building, the project was finally finished in 2008.

Although the dam provides 2 percent of China’s electricity, the project devastated the local economy, displaced 1.3 million people, and created numerous ecological problems from fish migration to landslides. Corrupt politicians lined their pockets with money intended to build the dam and help the local population.

During a trip along the Yangtze two years ago, I got to see the engineering feat and the consequences to the local population. The local economy is dependent on tourists—most of them Chinese–who travel along the river to see the dam and ignore its impact.

The coronavirus has put Wuhan on the international stage yet again. Not surprisingly, the government failed the recognize the impact of the disease on the population and limited public knowledge to help prevent the spread of the illness.

Although the ineptitude of President Xi is unlikely to result in the fall of the country’s current emperor, the coronavirus underlines the government’s failure to recognize the implications of its wrongheaded policies—much like the long-term impact of the Three Gorges Dam.

Kobe and the media mess

By Christopher Harper

The coverage of Kobe Bryant’s death underlines just how bad the media have become when covering relatively simple stories.

Here are some of the problems that happened:

–Bryant’s widow Vanessa got the news from TMZ.

–ABC News national correspondent Matt Gutman reported that all of the Bryants’ children were killed.

–The BBC aired footage of LeBron James, identifying him as Bryant.

–Vox and others got the number of people killed wrong.

–Many outlets identified the deceased daughter incorrectly.

–Esquire got the number of championships he won wrong—as well as the number of points he scored in his final game.

–DaTimes misidentified the team James was playing for in March 2018. He was still with the Cleveland Cavaliers rather than the LA Lakers.

As my boss at The Associated Press told me many years ago: Get it first, but it damned well better be right.

But then there’s the worst of all. DaPost’s emphasis on Bryant being charged with rape in 2003, which never went to trial but was settled out of court in a civil case.

Felicia Sonmez, a political reporter at DaPost, tweeted a link to a story from the Daily Beast about the Bryant rape case. After a tremendous negative response, Sonmez tweeted a second time. “Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality,” she wrote. “That folks are responding with rage & threats toward me… speaks volumes about the pressure people come under to stay silent in these cases.” 

Sonmez once accused a colleague from The Los Angeles Times of sexual harassment, and he lost his job.

DaPost’s Editor Marty Baron told her to take the tweets down, which she did, and the reporter was suspended for a minute and a half until her colleagues at DaPost and elsewhere backed her up.

The paper’s union wrote an open letter to Baron and Managing Editor Tracy Grant, accusing them of failing to protect Sonmez and noting that this isn’t the first time management “has sought to control how Felicia speaks on matters of sexual violence.” More than 300 staffers signed the letter.  

DaPost retreated and reinstated Sonmez. In a statement, it said that following a “review,” it had concluded that Sonmez’s tweets were “ill-timed,” but “not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy.” Sonmez was reinstated. In a statement of her own, Sonmez said she and her colleagues deserve to hear directly from Baron.

What’s clear is DaPost and others did a dreadful job of covering a rather simple story of a helicopter crash and ramped it up into an ill-timed examination of woke values. It used to be that a reporter wasn’t supposed to be part of the story. Unfortunately, that long-held ethical value has died, too. 

A Comrade Bernie crib sheet

By Christopher Harper

As Comrade Bernie lurches to the top of the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, I think it’s essential to keep a primer handy about his stands on the issues so we can pass it along to those who think he would be a good president.

–College should be free.
–All college debt should be canceled.
–Felons should be allowed to vote after they serve their time and even while in prison.
–Fracking should be banned.
–Abortion should be legal.
–Medical care should be free.
–End existing immigration policies for the most part.
–Institute higher taxes.

City Journal has dubbed Comrade Bernie “The Unaffordable Candidate.” Here is an estimate of what the news organization determined his plans would cost:

“All told, Sanders’s current plans would cost as much as $97.5 trillion over the next decade, and total government spending at all levels would surge to as high as 70 percent of gross domestic product. Approximately half of the American workforce would be employed by the government….

“The $97.5 trillion price tag is made up mostly of the costs of Sanders’s three most ambitious proposals. Sanders concedes that his Medicare For All plan would increase federal spending by ‘somewhere between $30 and $40 trillion over a 10-year period.’ He pledges to spend $16.3 trillion on his climate plan. And his proposal to guarantee all Americans a full-time government job paying $15 an hour, with full benefits, is estimated to cost $30.1 trillion. The final $11.1 trillion includes $3 trillion to forgive all student loans and guarantee free public-college tuition—plus $1.8 trillion to expand Social Security, $2.5 trillion on housing, $1.6 trillion on paid family leave, $1 trillion on infrastructure, $800 billion on general K-12 education spending, and an additional $400 billion on higher public school teacher salaries.”

I don’t underestimate Comrade Bernie because his followers—many of whom are my students—are as nutty as he is, which means they are committed to the cause. 

It’s somewhat ironic that Comrade Bernie is the Democrat leading the polls, particularly after Hillary Clinton launched a broadside attack against him, and Obama is apparently ready to do the same. 

China’s economic troubles

By Christopher Harper

As business and political leaders descend on Davos, Switzerland, for the four-day World Economic Summit, Chinese President Xi faces a variety of problems.

Although the press has questioned the gains made by the United States in the first round of a trade deal with China, it’s clear that President Trump made significant inroads.

Under the deal, China agreed to buy an additional $200 billion in American goods over the next two years. The agreement protects U.S. intellectual property, addresses technology transfers, and ends currency manipulation by the Chinese.

It would be premature to applaud the deal UNTIL the Chinese meet these goals, but these steps are the most significant in the history of trade between the two countries.

Noted Chinese expert and author Michael Pillsbury dismissed the attacks on the deal, calling it a “historic agreement.”

He criticized the Democrats. “They said all the things that President Trump said today, but they couldn’t get it done. They didn’t have a strategy on how to bring the Chinese leadership around. Now I’m afraid they’re a little bitter and even embarrassed. Their own ideas have been implemented by Donald Trump, and they can’t stand it.”

Although the deal may help Xi and the economy, the Chinese president faces other financial issues. 

As The Wall Street Journal notes, Xi’s domestic economic policies have stumbled. “He has appeared to choose political reliability over profits and efficiency as he throws his support behind government-owned businesses in the form of subsidies, financing, licenses, and pressure on competitors. Bankruptcies are running higher than ever in China among private companies, which suddenly have less scope to expand,” James T. Areddy writes from Shanghai.

During my travels throughout China during the past five years, I have noticed a growing disparity between the growing middle and upper classes in the cities and the crushing poverty of the countryside, particularly in minority areas. It’s true that the countryside has made gains in the past 20 years, but these are far less dramatic than among the urban elites. 

Furthermore, the much-touted Belt and Road Initiative has hit some significant resistance aboard. One of the features of the initiative was to provide jobs to the Chinese building sector, which faced fewer projects inside the country. Now the international building program faces growing concerns that the developing countries where projects are centered will see mounting debt to finance the programs. That means fewer jobs for Chinese workers outside the country. 

President Xi isn’t likely to face any serious challenges from inside the Communist Party. Still, the international community will note how his once-gleaming economic acumen has lost much of its luster.