The Pennsylvania chaos

By Christopher Harper

The presidential election in Pennsylvania, long considered one of the pivotal states in the process, is likely to be an unmitigated mess.

In a process created by Democrats, the election has the probability of being hampered by a new mail-in ballot procedure that may take three days to count after the election.

The hottest topic in my Democrat-controlled neighborhood is the number of people who haven’t gotten their mail-in ballots.

To demonstrate how cumbersome the process can be, Democrats, who are depending on this new initiative to get more of their supporters to vote or to obtain a greater ability to get fraudulent votes, have been flooding the airwaves with instructions on how to complete a mail-in ballot.

First, you need to get your ballot before today. Second, you have to mark the ballot carefully. Third, you place the ballot inside one envelope and then put that envelop inside a second envelope before signing and dating the outside.

Leave it to Democrats to devise such a disorganized system!

Even Democrat supporters warn that the complex process may result in as many as 100,000 votes may be ruled invalid.

Democrats appear to be the ones most likely to use the mail-in process, which may bode well for President Trump, who won the state by just over 44,000 votes in the last election.

But the process also could result in more fraudulent votes being counted. At least the courts ruled that people can only submit their own ballots—not those of others as the Democrats had wanted.

The process proved so cumbersome in the primary that several elections took days to determine what had happened.

In a letter to state legislative leaders, Philadelphia elections chief Lisa Deeley said that the new system might result in “electoral chaos” and a “significant post-election legal controversy, the likes of which we have not seen since Florida in 2000.”

Remember those hanging chads?

Earlier this month, the state’s election computers went off line for 40 hours.

County elections officials and voters have regularly complained about a variety of problems with the Pennsylvania Department of State’s voter services website and the state’s voter database, which officials use to process registrations and ballot applications.

At times this year, the system has slowed to a crawl or come to a complete halt, leaving election offices unable to register voters or process ballot requests.

Whatever the case, the Pennsylvania results might be decided in a courtroom rather than a ballot box.

President Trump had it right when he said that something bad is happening in Pennsylvania.

All the news that fits we print

By Christopher Harper

After nearly 50 years as a journalist and journalism educator, I can no longer stomach the mainstream media, which have become apologists and censors.

After the New York Post published an account that linked the younger Biden’s influence-peddling to his father, almost every major “news”organization ignored the startling revelations.

In the old days, when the media actually pursued news, every outlet would have been chasing the story to confirm what the Post had reported.

After ignoring the revelations on Hunter’s computer, the media posited some of the ridiculous claims that the Russians were engaged in a disinformation campaign.

It didn’t matter that the nation’s intelligence chief dismissed those claims. Instead, “news” organizations contacted their paid consultants to confirm, without any direct knowledge, that Russia had done Donald Trump’s bidding.

However, suppose you look at the facts. In that case, the link between Hunter’s questionable activities and his father’s position, the case against Joe Biden is far stronger than anything the Democrats have thrown against Trump.

In this era of the media, however, that doesn’t count because news organizations have been propagandists for Biden.

In one of the most pathetic examples, the Washington Post’s David Ignatius portrays Hunter as a victim rather than a perp. “This is smoke without a fire. Hunter Biden erred. His father has said so quietly but clearly. He should get on with the business of trying to put the country back together after Trump’s ruinous presidency,” Ignatius wrote.

When these “news” organizations tried to cover up the story, Facebook and Twitter went to work to censor it.

The Post’s Twitter account was shut down. Facebook stopped the sharing of the story. 

Glenn Reynolds, the founder of Instapundit, was surprised when USA Today rejected his weekly column.

Fortunately, he published it on his website in which he takes the “news” organizations and the tech giants to task. See https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/

“Had Facebook and Twitter approached this story neutrally, as they would have a decade ago, it would probably already be old news to a degree… Hunter’s pay-for-play efforts were already well known, if not in such detail — but instead, the story is still hot. More importantly, their heavy-handed action has brought home just how much power they wield and how crudely they’re willing to wield it. They shouldn’t be surprised at the consequences,” Reynolds wrote. “And while this heavy-handed censorship effort failed, there’s no reason to assume that other such efforts won’t work in the future. Not many stories are as hard to squash as a major newspaper’s front-page expose during a presidential election.”

I took one step to express my dissatisfaction. I canceled my subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post. I am no longer convinced that these organizations are interested in telling the truth. 

Their standards of “all the news that’s fit to print” for the Times and “democracy dies in darkness” for the Post seem hollow these days.

Selling fear

By Christopher Harper

When I walk our dogs each day, I don’t wear a mask outside because no studies show any reason to do so.

If I encounter anyone along the way, many pull up their masks as though I pose a danger.

A few weeks ago, we were cutting a dead tree from our garden, and our neighbor came storming out of his house because we weren’t wearing masks.

I see these incidents as examples of the success of the Democrats’ approach to selling fear during the pandemic, resulting in many peoples’ minds turning into emotional mush.

This anxiety and fear have permeated many people’s thinking when we should be looking to the future. The lockdowns throughout the United States may be taking a more significant long-term toll than the disease itself.

New research has added to the growing body of evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a heavy mental health toll on people who are not directly impacted by the disease.

A new study of 12,000 workers and executives in 11 countries found that more than 80 percent of those surveyed complained about the pandemic’s negative effect on their mental health. Those surveyed said they suffered from sleep deprivation, poor physical health, reduced happiness at home, or isolation from friends.

A CDC survey found that thoughts of suicide had increased among several groups in the United States: those between ages 18-24 (25.5%), essential workers (21.7%), and minority racial/ethnic groups (18.6% Hispanic, 15.1% non-Hispanic Black).

The homicide rates in many cities have risen dramatically. In August, a Wall Street Journal analysis of crime statistics among the nation’s 50 largest cities found that reported homicides were up 24% so far this year, to 3,612. Last week, Philadelphia recorded 363 murder victims, which was more than all of last year with nearly three months left. This year the murder rate has exceeded the number from every year since 2008. If the trend continues, there will be 113 more murders in the city, bringing the total to 476, the highest since 1990 and the third highest on record.

I may be naive, but it seems that there is a relatively simple solution to many of these issues: tone down the rhetoric and get people interacting once again in a safe environment.

The emphasis on making people afraid of one another and locking them down is likely to have far more negative effects over the next few years than the pandemic.

The Democrats should think about what one of their most beloved presidents, Franklin Roosevelt, said, “[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself–nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Tommy’s meltdown

By Christopher Harper

“Our democracy is in terrible danger — more than since the Civil War, more than after Pearl Harbor, more than during the Cuban missile crisis, and more danger than during Watergate.”

It’s rare to see a meltdown like the one DaTimes’ Tommy Friedman had in his column, which included the sentence above.

Just think about it. Tommy, who supported that great leader Mike Bloomberg in the Democrat primaries, thinks President Trump is leading the country into a civil war. He’s responsible for worse conditions than Pearl Harbor, and his leadership has led the country into a potential nuclear war? Trump is worse than Nixon?

Tommy compares the United States with Lebanon during its civil war. Tommy’s office at United Press International was just across from mine at Newsweek in Beirut. I was there, too, and I don’t see any comparisons between a war that left more than 100,000 dead with what’s happening in the United States. 

Somehow Tommy transitions from the Lebanese civil war to social media and the problems they have created. I’m no fan of Facebook and Twitter and their leftist slant, but the hyperbole of comparing guerrillas with rocket-propelled grenades in Lebanon to trolls with hurtful words is a bit much.

The solution to all of America’s problems, Tommy opines, is Joe Biden. Seriously?

“The Democratic Party sorted through all the choices, and, led by older Black men and women in South Carolina, rejected the Democratic socialist candidate and said they wanted a moderate unifier named Joe Biden,” Tommy says.

What alternate universe is Tommy living in? South Carolina voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, and Democrats have virtually no power throughout the state except to vote in a meaningless primary every four years. 

What happened is that the Democrat power brokers knew that Bernie Sanders would lead to a massive election defeat. Hence, they backed a four-time loser in presidential primaries that they could control. 

Tommy’s meltdown continues in his description of Trump as “the most dishonest, dangerous, mean-spirited, divisive, and corrupt person to ever occupy the Oval Office.”

Seriously? Maybe Tommy forgot fellow journalist Warren Harding, who engaged in the most scandal-ridden presidency in history.

Maybe Franklin Pierce, who set the stage for the Civil War, or James Buchanan, who followed through on Pierce’s pro-slavery campaign? Maybe Andrew Johnson, the first president to be impeached? 

But Tommy chooses not to reflect on history; he’s on a ridiculous role. 

Tommy concludes: “So help register someone to vote for Joe Biden. Phone bank for Joe Biden. Talk to your neighbor about Joe Biden. Volunteer for Joe Biden. Drive someone to the polls to vote for Joe Biden.

“Do it as if your country’s democracy depends on it, because it does.”

DaTimes needs to put Tommy out to pasture like Americans have to do with Joe. 

The Biden money tree

By Christopher Harper

As DaTimes delves into the illicitly obtained tax returns of Donald Trump, the news organization has failed to analyze the finances of Joe Biden, who heralds himself as the “common man.”

That common man and his wife made more than $30 million over the past two years through book deals and speeches, costing about $100,000 a pop.

What is appalling is all the information about the Biden family and its shenanigans that DaTimes fails to follow up on, preferring instead to continue its partisan attacks on Trump.

As I delved into the Biden family finances, I was surprised to find the most detailed account in POLITICO before it jumped on the Biden bandwagon. See https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/08/02/joe-biden-investigation-hunter-brother-hedge-fund-money-2020-campaign-227407

As the former vice president rolled out his tired speeches for another run, POLITICO analyzed the sleazy back story of how Biden’s family took advantage of his government positions.

That story is far more than Hunter’s recent antics in China and Ukraine. The story goes back to Biden’s first days in the Senate.

As POLITICO puts it in the 2019 investigation, “[V]entures, over nearly half a century, have regularly raised conflict-of-interest questions and brought the Biden family into potentially compromising associations. This investigation offers the most comprehensive account to date of the politically tinged business activities of Biden’s brother and son, and is the first time former associates of James and Hunter have alleged that the pair explicitly sought to make money off of Joe’s political connections.”

As Joe was entering the Senate in 1973, including a seat on the Banking Committee, his younger brother James operated Seasons Change night club with help from unusually generous bank loans.

From 2001 to 2008, Hunter worked as a Washington lobbyist for the banking industry—a period when Joe pushed a sweetheart deal on bankruptcies that benefited his son’s employer, MBNA.

James and Hunter take over Paradigm Global Advisors as Joe sat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Paradigm was the first of several such companies that James and Hunter used to expand into China, Ukraine, and elsewhere, riding on the coattails of Joe’s government position.

With his brother as vice president, James joined HillStone International, which in 2011, obtained a $1.5 billion deal to build houses in Iraq.

In 2013, Hunter traveled to Beijing with his father on official business. While there, he introduced his father to his Chinese business partner, Jonathan Li of Bohai Capital, with whom he had concluded a lucrative real estate deal.

In March 2014, Russia invaded Crimea’s Ukrainian peninsula, and Joe led the Obama Administration response. A month later, Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings gave Hunter Biden a lucrative board position worth $600,000 a year.

Perhaps DaTimes should expend the same amount of effort in unraveling the Biden family’s fortune as it did on Donald Trump.

Stupidity and the economy

By Christopher Harper

As the Ragin’ Cajun James Carville put it: It’s the economy, stupid!

Despite the whack-a-mole strategies put forward by Biden and his team, voters in crucial swing states say the economy is their top issue for this election.

Keep in mind, 2019 was a record-breaking year for the U.S. economy. Median income hit its highest level ever, and the poverty rate dropped to a 60-year low. The pre-coronavirus economy under President Trump was the strongest in decades. Hispanics, Blacks, Asians, and women all saw their incomes rise faster than the national average.

As a result, it’s also clear that Trump is the best choice to lead the post-pandemic comeback for the economy.

On the other hand, Biden has promised higher taxes and a massive amount in federal spending—a combination that’s likely to turn the economy into an absolute mess.

DaPost’s Henry Olsen is one of the few media types to call attention to the bad medicine for the economy that Biden has proposed. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/09/16/joe-bidens-agenda-is-frighteningly-expensive/

As Olsen noted, the Manhattan Institute estimated that Biden’s plans would cost more than $8 trillion over the next 10 years. Analysts from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School put the increase in federal spending a bit lower at $5.4 trillion over the next decade.  

Either figure means the federal government’s share of the economy would expand dangerously. Penn’s model implies that Biden’s plans would make federal spending roughly a quarter of gross domestic product by 2030, the highest figure outside of the post-recession budgets in 2009 and 2020 in more than 50 years. With local and state governments adding 15 percent to that slice of GDP, the public sector would account for 40 percent of the U.S. economy.

That’s as close to socialism as the nation has ever been.

Biden’s plan also doesn’t pay for itself even though it would significantly increase taxes. The competing analyses agree that Biden’s tax proposals would raise about $3.5 trillion in new revenue.

That’s a shortfall of somewhere between $2 to $4.5 trillion. Federal budget deficits are dangerously high and unsustainable, particularly after the outlays for the pandemic, and Biden would make the situation much worse. 

As Olsen notes, Biden’s proposals would be among the largest in decades—more than former Democratic nominees John F. Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton combined.

Not surprisingly, few Democrats and media types have pointed out the obvious: Biden’s plans would be an economic disaster.

Maybe it’s time to roll out Carville to preach to the choir.

The real Mideast deal

By Christopher Harper

Donald Trump has built the most effective strategy in the Middle East EVER.

Having covered the Middle East for many years as a reporter, I’ve never seen such successes. The administration has convinced the first Arab state in decades, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, to recognize Israel. Another predominantly Muslim country, Kosovo, has established diplomatic relations with Israel.

Although Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for opening a dialogue with Muslim countries, he and Joe Biden frittered away eight years of watching the Middle East devolve into a region dominated by Sunni and Shia extremists.

Civil war raged in Libya and Syria. The Islamic State reared its ugly head in Iraq and Syria. Then the 2015 Iran nuclear deal compounded the problems.

Known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the agreement was intended to delay Iran’s development of an atomic bomb. Instead, the lifting of economic sanctions emboldened Iran to expand its reach to solidify a Shia alliance that stretched through Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Terrorists launched operations across Europe, leaving hundreds dead.

That’s the landscape that Trump and his administration inherited.

Trump scuttled the nuclear deal with Iran. After that, a military coalition cut the Islamic State down to size. Although remnants of ISIS continue to exist, its leadership was left either dead or in disarray, with little income and land from which to launch terrorist attacks.

After that success, Trump and his team turned their attention toward the peace process that resulted in the agreements between Arabs and Israelis.

That process continues this week in Qatar as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross are meeting with officials from Qatar to sign agreements on cultural and economic cooperation.

Qatar has had ongoing disputes with its Arab neighbors, particularly Saudi Arabia. This week’s agreements are seen as a way toward settling those arguments and perhaps bringing both countries toward official recognition of Israel. Simultaneously, the first face-to-face talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban began in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

The naysayers point to the lack of any new agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The Israel-Palestinian-first strategy has left the Middle East without any significant movement on peace and a spate of violence since the Oslo accords of 1993.

Trump’s new approach to the Middle East has created an environment in which the Palestinian leadership, who almost always miss an opportunity to gain more recognition of their rights, may start negotiating as they see their Arab backers make peace with Israel.

Absence of malice?

By Christopher Harper

After repeated examples of lousy journalism under cover of anonymous sources, it’s time to remove them from the reporter’s toolbox.

Here are some examples of false stories that came to you, the reader or viewer, as a result of anonymous sources:

The New York Times and Judith Miller’s allegations that Saddam Hussein had vast caches of weapons of mass destruction

–The Rolling Stone “investigation” of rape on college campuses

–A New York Times story claiming that federal prosecutors were seeking a criminal investigation against Hillary Clinton for her private email accounts

–A CNN story that Congress was investigating a Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials

–A Washington Post story that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electrical grid

–An MSNBC report that Russian billionaires with ties to Vladimir Putin had co-signed a bank loan for President Trump

In these and many other cases, the prime motivation to use anonymous sources is because the reporter wanted the allegations to be true.

I worked in Washington, where I found the default is usually to promise anonymity because it usually serves the reporter and the source. At the end of the daily news cycle, it doesn’t matter whether the story was true. What counted was the number of eyeballs attracted to the story!

In a discussion on the recent Atlantic claims about Trump and the military, some of my former colleagues in journalism offered Watergate as the underlying justification for anonymous sources.

That was almost 50 years ago! For every good example of what has happened because of anonymous sources, how many bad examples have happened? It took me only a few minutes to recall the fake stories I listed at the top. Give me a few hours, and I’d come up with a basketful.

Oh, how about Dan Rather and Memogate? Maybe Little Jimmy and Janet Cook?

Moreover, news organizations rarely follow their guidelines on the use of anonymous sources. In most ethical codes, a reporter should ONLY use an unnamed source as a last resort. A senior editor usually has to approve the use, and a second source must corroborate the information.

I’ve served as an expert witness in half a dozen lawsuits where reporters and editors didn’t come close to following these guidelines and libeled innocent people.

I recommend that journalists watch Absence of Malice, the 1981 film that analyzes how the use of anonymous sources results in the death of one woman, the disgrace of local and federal prosecutors, and the end of a journalist’s career.

And I didn’t even have to mention the growing disbelief of the public toward journalists as a result of anonymous sources and other miscues.

The presidents and the press

By Christopher Harper

President Trump probably wouldn’t rank in the top five opponents of the media among U.S. presidents.

That’s the verdict of The New York Times in a review of a recent book, “The Presidents vs. the Press: The Endless Battle Between the White House and the Media — From the Founding Fathers to Fake News” by Harold Holzer. 

Yes, that assessment appeared in DaTimes, albeit from Jack Shafer, the media analyst of Politico.

The book’s author is no fan of President Trump. Holzer worked for U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. 

John Adams signed sedition acts into law and used them against his critics in the media. George Washington even supported Adams’ anti-media tendencies. In his post-presidential years, Adams lamented that people read only Federalist or Republican newspapers—not both—leaving them with a one-sided view of the government in power. Sounds like a prelude to Fox and MSNBC.

Abraham Lincoln, arguably the best president in the nation’s history, imprisoned editors during the Civil War, banned newspapers from using the mail, and even confiscated printing presses. “Altogether, nearly 200 papers would face federally initiated subjugation during the Civil War,” Holzer writes. 

The Roosevelts enjoyed some of the best press among the presidents. But even they took aim at recalcitrant reporters. Theodore Roosevelt rebuked investigative journalists as “muckrakers,” or those who could only look down into the muck. He also filed a libel suit against Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, which finally was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

During World War II, Franklin Roosevelt ordered massive censorship of news organizations, including a government Office of the Censor. His administration also penalized any news organization that reported about his paralysis or his ill health in his final years.

President Woodrow Wilson imposed censorship during World War I in a heavy-handed manner, and his Espionage Act still stands as a repressive law against whistleblowers. 

The battle between President Richard Nixon and his press critics is well documented here—as it has been elsewhere. 

Although Holzer batters Trump for his attacks on the press, the author doesn’t hold back on Barack Obama. Holzer recalls the analysis of former Washington Post managing editor Leonard Downie Jr. that Obama’s “war on leaks and other efforts to control information” were the worst Washington had seen since Nixon.

All told, the book analyzes the 18 of the 45 presidents, with many nuggets about the various administrations.

For example, one journalist confides that the press was as much responsible for the New Deal as was FDR because of the glowing media coverage. That sounds about right!

Moreover, the press ignored JFK’s extra-marital affairs because journalists didn’t think the private doings affected public business. That, of course, ignored at least one affair that straddled a mistress and the Mob. One reporter referred to the president as the “swashbuckler in chief.”

Despite JFK’s tryst with the media, he targeted some enemies, including Henry Luce of Time and David Halberstam of DaTimes.

Although I’ve never been a fan of Lyndon Johnson, the saddest tales come from his administration. LBJ had a massive mandate from the voters in 1964–more than 61 percent–and an excellent rapport with the press. He managed to lose both public and the media’s support by misleading them about the war in Vietnam in what became known as the government’s credibility gap.

DaTruth and DaTimes

By Christopher Harper

Against the backdrop of the investigations into Russia and Ukraine, the New York Times failed to mention one of the most egregious failures about the region propagated by the news organization itself.

Fortunately, a recently released motion picture, Mr. Jones, provides the details of how DaTimes manipulated the American public about the Soviet Union and the Ukraine famine, which resulted in the deaths of millions of people.

The film, directed by Agnieszka Holland, recounts the story of Moscow bureau chief Walter Duranty, a chief propagandist for Josef Stalin, and how Welsh journalist Gareth Jones tried to unmask the gross falsehoods created by the then-venerated Times scribe.

Duranty, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Soviet Union in 1931, dismissed Jones’ first-hand accounts of the famine, known as the Holomodor.

Here are some excerpts from Duranty’s reports:

–New York Times, November 15, 1931: “There is no famine or actual starvation, nor is there likely to be.”

–New York Times, August 23, 1933: “Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda.”

–New York Times, December 9, 1932: “Enemies and foreign critics can say what they please. Weaklings and despondents at home may groan under the burden, but the youth and strength of the Russian people is essentially at one with the Kremlin’s program, believes it worthwhile and supports it, however hard be the sledding.”

–New York Times, May 14, 1933: “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.”

At the time, Duranty was so influential that his reporting is credited for convincing FDR to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.

Although Jones and others provided extensive evidence to refute Duranty’s reporting, it wasn’t until 2003 that the Pulitzer Board and DaTimes itself finally sought outside analysis of the work.

The Pulitzer “Board determined that Mr. Duranty’s 1931 work, measured by today’s standards for foreign reporting, falls seriously short…. However, the Board concluded that there was not clear and convincing evidence of deliberate deception, the relevant standard in this case….The famine of 1932-1933 was horrific and has not received the international attention it deserves. By its decision, the Board in no way wishes to diminish the gravity of that loss. The Board extends its sympathy to Ukrainians and others in the United States and throughout the world who still mourn the suffering and deaths brought on by Josef Stalin.”

Ironically, DaTimes’ review of Mr. Jones only references Duranty in passing. At least that’s more than what DaTimes said during the recent debate over Russia and Ukraine. 

H/T to my wife Elizabeth for suggesting we watch the film! See the trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=15&v=wtWSyFNT9qY&feature=emb_logo