Iran redux

By Christopher Harper

Joe Biden says he wants to re-establish the nuclear deal with Iran—a move that would almost assuredly embolden the rogue regime.

Earlier this month, the Iranian parliament threatened to expand production of nuclear material in direct violation of a deal, which the Obama Administration negotiated and from which the Trump Administration exited in 2018.

Keep in mind, the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, only slowed Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon rather than stopped it.

If passed into law, the new parliament motion means that Iran would undertake a series of steps if the remaining parties to the agreement don’t provide relief from sanctions.

The steps include stocking 120 kilograms of uranium enriched at over 20% purity and withdrawing from a voluntary protocol, allowing U.N. inspectors access to non-nuclear sites. One hundred and twenty kilograms of 20%-enriched uranium is roughly half the material needed to fuel one nuclear weapon.

But there’s more. Last week Iran executed dissident journalist Ruhollah Zam, who was sentenced to death for inciting anti-government protests in 2017.

The execution of Zam demonstrated Iranian authorities’ willingness to defy international opposition in its suppression of the country’s media and opposition activists and the reach of its intelligence services beyond the country’s borders.

Zam, who had been living in France since 2011, ran a popular news channel, which he used to share news and logistics involving unrest in Iran in 2017. amid efforts by government security forces to suppress it.

Three years ago, he traveled to Iraq, where he was captured by the Revolutionary Guard, Iran’s security force.

But there’s even more. Earlier this year, U.S. officials determined that Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran in 2007, had died in Iranian custody. Last week Iran released a retired U.S. Naval officer, Michael White, for medical treatment to the Swiss embassy. His release was conditioned on his remaining in Iran.

Moreover, the State Department has repeatedly called for the release of three people with dual citizenship of Iran and the United States held by the Tehran regime.

Is Iran really the type of government that the United States can trust to abide by an agreement? I don’t think so, and neither should Joe Biden and his team.

‘Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one’

By Christopher Harper

Sixty years ago, famed columnist A. J. Liebling wrote: “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

Liebling was describing the powerful media families: Sulzberger, Graham, Scripps, Chandler, and others.

Twenty years ago, it was hoped that the inexpensive transition to ones and zeroes would break the corporate hold on the press.

Instead, the media magnates of old have been pushed aside by the tech giants: Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others.

As a result, freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own a portal.

In a critical essay in the Wall Street Journal, journalist Alex Berenson writes: “Information has never been more plentiful or easier to distribute. Yet we are sliding into a new age of censorship and suppression.”

Berenson has been writing about the problems with lockdowns, mask-wearing, and other government policies that he argues are not based on science.

He’s not a conspiracy theorist. He’s a well-known writer who worked for The New York Times. But Amazon has suppressed his self-published articles that questioned the measures used to control COVID-19.

“Google-owned YouTube censors even more aggressively,” Berenson notes. “The company disclosed in October that it had pulled more than 200,000 videos about the epidemic—including one from Scott Atlas, a physician who was advising President Trump. Facebook has not only censored videos and attached warning labels or ‘fact checks’ to news articles but removed groups that oppose lockdowns and other restrictions.”

I can attest that one of my columns here ran afoul of the Facebook “fact-checkers,” and there was no way to remove the “fact check” other than by deleting the entire column.

Here is the way to end the censorship and control of the tech companies over content.

You may have heard that President Trump wants to eliminate what’s known as Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. On this subject, Trump and Joe Biden agree.

Originally, Section 230 was designed to help websites moderate online porn. But that’s not what’s happening now.

Section 230 guarantees that websites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube cannot be sued in U.S. courts because of what users post. The law states: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Alternatively, the tech giants cannot be sued for moderating the posts, which they do continually. Without the law’s liability protection, all of these U.S.-based platforms could be subject to massive lawsuits.

With the massive interference and editing of materials posted on the websites, however, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have become publishers and should be treated as such. 

But the considerable clout of the tech giants has stalled the elimination of the protection. Liebling should be rolling over in his grave.

Proof that the pandemic numbers don’t add up

By Christoper Harper

A new study shows that the pandemic may not have caused as many deaths as previously reported, but the research was quickly suppressed by Johns Hopkins, the source of the information.

The study, which was published by Dr. Genevieve Briand at Johns Hopkins University, noted that there were some significant errors in the reporting of COVID-related deaths.

See the initial study and subsequent disclaimer at https://www.jhunewsletter.com/article/2020/11/a-closer-look-at-u-s-deaths-due-to-covid-19

It is already well established that COVID-19 is most dangerous to those over the age of 65 and have preexisting conditions. There has been a mortality rate of 2.1 percent in the United States, with elderly individuals making up over half that number. 

However, according to the study, the number of deaths in the United States show no significant change and even mirror past trends of seasonal illness. 

According to the CDC’s data from the last six years, total deaths have remained relatively constant, and increases can be explained by various factors such as a larger population. The spikes in fatalities in 2020 are consistent with historical trends, only topping 2018 by 11,292 deaths. There have been more than 260,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the United States.

Perhaps more important, the spike in recorded COVID-19 deaths seen in 2020 has coincided with a proportional decrease in death from other diseases. 

According to a graph in the study, deaths labeled under COVID-19 increased while deaths labeled under other causes decreased. It is important to note that this sample only applies to the month of April as the author noted these were the weeks with the highest reported deaths until recently. 

In the week ending April 18, for example, the number of people who died of heart disease, cancer, respiratory illness, and other diseases dropped by 2,540. The number of COVID deaths increased by 2,561. A similar trend occurred the next week, with a decrease of deaths from various illnesses other than COVID by 1,605, while the number of COVID cases increased by 1,651. 

Furthermore, Briand’s research noted that the number of deaths has remained relatively constant through all age groups. COVID death statistics seem to mirror the normal distribution of death among various age groups, lending credence to the contention that many fatalities were recategorized as COVID deaths. 

“All of this points to no evidence that COVID-19 created any excess deaths. Total death numbers are not above normal death numbers. We found no evidence to the contrary,” Briand maintained.

Although the study only analyzed the month of April when COVID was at one of its highest levels, the data seem to support the argument that the pandemic may have been overblown.

Now that the COVID scare has put Joe Biden into the White House, it wouldn’t be surprising if there somehow was a recalculation that Joe came to the rescue. There wouldn’t be a need to scare people!

Let’s get real about JFK

By Christopher Harper

In a yearly ritual on November 22, baby boomers recall when and where they heard about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Unfortunately, few of us reflect on how Kennedy, while tragically struck down as a young man, was a lousy president and an even worse man.

Many consider JFK one of the best presidents in the history of the United States.

But even a cursory view of his life and times demonstrates how his legacy became hugely inflated after his death in 1963.

For example, many consider Kennedy responsible for civil rights laws when his successor, Lyndon Johnson, was the man who made that happen.

Moreover, as a senator, JFK voted against President Eisenhower’s civil rights legislation to appease racist Democrats in the South. In collusion with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Kennedy ordered wiretaps on Martin Luther King Jr.

In international affairs, he approved the assassination of the leader of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, as long as the United States had “plausible deniability.” In Cuba, he launched an attack to overthrow Fidel Castro, known as the Bag of Pigs invasion, which failed because JFK failed to approve air cover. In Vietnam, he expanded the U.S. presence and endorsed a coup that ultimately resulted in the assassination of the president, Ngo Dinh Diem.

During his presidency, JFK engaged in various extramarital affairs, including Marilyn Monroe and Judith Campbell, who also dated Mafia boss Sam Giancana and posed an incredible security risk because of her ties to the Mob.

Sure, JFK did some things right. He stared down the Russians during the Cuban missile crisis. He rejiggered the tax code—changes that would rankle his fellow Democrats because it actually made it easier on the wealthy. I’ll even give him credit for encouraging American scientists to launch probes into space.

A longtime friend who covered JFK admitted to me that the reporters knew about the affairs and the political shenanigans. But the media saw JFK as the Great White Hope to bring the United States into a new era.

I don’t want to speak ill of the dead. But I think Americans, particularly baby boomers, should analyze JFK’s legacy in a much more rational way.

The pandemic hit to higher education

By Christopher Harper

Higher education is facing a severe crisis of confidence and money.

That’s not bad news. Colleges have become overpriced with tangled bureaucracies that often don’t prepare students for the real world.

I hope that higher education will face the stark economic outlook because the pandemic will force colleges and universities to strip away the fat that has become rampant. 

Overall, the number of undergraduates shrank by 4% in the fall, while first-year student counts fell by 16.1%, according to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The tally includes 9.2 million students, from more than half of schools that report data to the Clearinghouse.

Enrollment declined the most at community colleges, off 9.4% overall and 22.7% for first-year students. Enrollment at four-year public colleges and universities fell by 1.4% overall and 13.7% for first-year undergraduates. At private, nonprofit colleges, those declines were 2% and 11.8%, respectively.

The falloff in first-year students may reverberate through the entire undergraduate population for the next few years as students seek alternatives to the high cost of education, such as apprentice and training programs. 

But there’s more. New international students enrolled at U.S. universities online or in person fell by 43%, according to a survey of more than 700 schools. That’s the largest decrease recorded by the Institute of International Education, which has been publishing data on international enrollment since 1954.

International students pay full costs to most institutions, making these individuals crucial to the bottom line. 

The pandemic has forced universities large and small to make deep and possibly lasting cuts to close widening budget shortfalls. By one estimate, the pandemic has cost colleges at least $120 billion, with even Harvard University, despite its $41.9 billion endowment, reporting a $10 million deficit that has prompted belt-tightening.

Even before the pandemic, colleges and universities grappled with years of shrinking state support, declining enrollment, and student concerns with skyrocketing tuition and burdensome debt. 

Throughout the country, colleges and universities have cut back support staff and even tenured faculty members. For example, here in Pennsylvania, the 14 campuses in Pennsylvania’s higher education system have lost roughly a fifth of their enrollment over the past decade. As a result of the declines, including the one during the pandemic, Pennsylvania plans to cut about 200 full-time faculty out of 5,000 systemwide. 

One option to cut additional costs is to learn from the mistakes of moving online earlier this year. Most faculty members have resisted the notion of teaching online, which ultimately can save both students and universities a lot of money. Moreover, higher education could attract more older students who are working full time. 

Although I have a great deal of respect for some administrative staff in higher education, the number of people has grown significantly in recent years. 

In my college at Temple University, I used to know the first names of almost every staff member who worked there. Now there are so many vice deans, assistant deans, and assistant chairs that I know fewer than half of the administrative staff. 

I hope the pandemic has provided an opportunity for higher education to think about the waste that has accrued and to rethink colleges’ and universities’ missions throughout the country.

The Keystone State is the key

By Christopher Harper

The investigation of voter fraud in Pennsylvania is essential in determining who actually won the presidential election.

As I wrote recently, the voting process in Pennsylvania is a mess. https://datechguyblog.com/2020/10/27/the-pennsylvania-chaos/

The Democrats used a variety of ways to stop Trump from winning the state.

For example, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, declared Biden the winner of the Keystone State BEFORE votes had been counted.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which is also dominated by Democrats, extended the deadline for counting mail-in ballots. Votes couldn’t be challenged even if signatures didn’t look right.

In Philadelphia, the city held back votes on election night in an act reminiscent of the 1960 election in Chicago when Mayor Richard J. Daley held back votes–many from people long dead–that helped JFK win the presidential race.

Vote counters in Philly kept poll watchers out of the buildings and erected screens to keep outsiders from seeing what was going.

Although the city had introduced a high-tech computer system to count votes, it took FOUR days to wrangle enough ballots to put Biden in the lead.

The critical battle will occur in the Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar, a case joined by 10 attorneys general and the Trump campaign.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled before the election that mail-in ballots received within three days after the official vote would be counted. The ruling overturned a state statute that required the ballots to be received by election day.

What’s the importance of the decision? On election night, Trump was leading by several hundred thousand votes.

Within three days, Biden was ahead.

How many of those Biden votes came in AFTER it looked Trump was going to win?

So far, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to get involved by a tie vote BEFORE Justice Amy Coney Barret was confirmed.

Last Friday, Pennsylvania Republicans renewed their request in a slightly different form. They sought an injunction to require the country board to segregate the late-arriving ballots and not count them.

Justice Samuel Alito, who handles emergency applications from the geographic area that includes Pennsylvania, issued a ruling to force the segregation of late ballots. He wanted the full court to decide whether to count the votes.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Republican appeal to allow greater access to vote counting in Philadelphia. Again, that case may end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

With a Biden margin of roughly 50,000 votes out of nearly seven million cast, it’s time to slow down the victory parade of the Democrats to see what actually happened in Pennsylvania.

Why I’m Voting for Donald Trump

By Christopher Harper

The economy under Donald Trump has been a marvel. Despite the pandemic, my wallet is fuller than ever before. That’s why I’m among a significant majority of Americans who think I’m better off than I was four years ago.

My wife and I just refinanced our house at the lowest rate we’ve ever had in 40 years of home owning and lowered our monthly costs by $400 a month on a shorter term.

My retirement account has improved dramatically over the past four years, making it possible for us to live well.

After many years of reporting about the Middle East, I am far more hopeful than ever. The defeat of the Islamic State has made the region far safer. The disengagement from the Iran nuclear deal has hobbled that country and its plans for the region. The peace agreements between Arab states and Israel are the most encouraging signs since the Camp David accords 40 years ago.

Early on, the president tried to engage China, but he realized that the Beijing government represents the most severe threat to the United States and the world. As a result, he has used the bully pulpit and executive orders to awaken people to the issues.

After nearly 50 years as a journalist and a journalism educator, I realize that my craft has fallen on bad times. The media have become sellers of falsehoods rather than beacons of truth. I applaud the president for calling out those in the media who are more interested in dividing us than uniting us.

President Trump would surely have won in a landslide had the pandemic not intervened. As a senior citizen, I was worried about how COVID-19 might affect my wife and me. Fortunately, the disease has not seriously affected most of the people we know.

As COVID-19 has become the centerpiece of the Democrat and media attack against the president, I thought they might have some better solutions. I was stunned at the recent onslaught of campaign ads by the Democrats that focused on masks, Obamacare, and shutdowns. If that’s the best that Joe Biden and his team can come up with, I’m glad they didn’t run health policy over the last year.

Although I didn’t vote for President Obama and Vice President Biden, I hoped that a black president might usher in better race relations. In fact, the opposite happened. As Obama and Biden fanned the flames of racial unrest in places like Ferguson, Missouri, I realized that things were going to get worse before they got better. As a result, I blame Obama and Biden for the division in the country.

Finally, I am grateful that President Trump has been able to return the U.S. Supreme Court to a better balance than I’ve seen in my lifetime.

I have never felt better about the righteousness of my vote.

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.”