China in the Spotlight

Some have said those of us sounding the alarm on an increasingly despotic and imperialistic communist Chinese regime are “fear mongers”.   That our supporting data is stale and our perspective poorly informed.  That any relation of the modern day communist Chinese party to the socialist, nationalistic brutality of the Nazi party in Germany in the 1930’s is misguided alarmism.  That reducing the pressure on the military spending gas pedal will not signal appeasement or weakness, encouraging increasingly bolder imperialistic behavior by the Chinese; and the Russians.

Well, let’s add another well informed, articulate voice to the conversation.  George Will’s recent column (February 21, 2021) “Biden’s sturdy resistance to China” is full of recently dug-up nuggets and analogies to previous global security threats by a nation unafraid to commit genocide.  Missed opportunities of the past, to prevent considerable bloodshed during World War II, were enabled through appeasement.  Indifference, worse appeasement, will undoubtedly lead to a repeat of these undesirable outcomes.  The Biden Administration must not only remain firm but must increase the pressure on the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) to reverse its Uighurs policy and know that severe consequences await them if they continue to pursue their less than subtle escalating aggression toward their citizens in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, as well as toward the Republic of China in Taiwan and other neighboring nations.

In addition to the column from Mr. Will, two recent articles have been included on the accelerating Chinese military build-up.  The second article included in this post touches on PRC naval power.  No other nation has attempted to challenge the global preeminence of U.S. naval power since the Japanese Empire of the 1930s.  The Chinese navy has already achieved numerical superiority.  It is rapidly approaching technical and firepower parity.

The key to a successful invasion of Taiwan is naval strength combined with air power superiority.  China already has the world’s largest land force.   The third article speaks to China’s military pilot training program intended to create an air force capable of competing with U.S. military airpower.

Clearly China’s intent is to deter any potential interference with its imperialistic ambitions.  Not much different from Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimea.  It was over before most knew it was happening and no western nation would go to war with Russia over the Crimea. 

Despite significant sabre rattling from the U.S., and the absence of a NATO-like mutual defense pact, Taiwan could be annexed by the PRC in a three day military invasion according to some sources. Similar to Iraq’s lightning quick two day invasion of Kuwait.

How would this differ from the invasion of Kuwait in 1990?  As it did then, would the United Nations gather an international force to return the island to the control of the government of the Republic of China? 

With the invasion of Kuwait, the Iraqi government justified its invasion by claiming that Kuwait was a natural part of Iraq carved off as a result of British imperialism.  The PRC claims Taiwan has been part of China since ancient times.  During World War II, amid the Japanese invasion of China, the Republic of China (ROC) was an ally of the western forces that opposed the imperialism of the axis nations (the Empire of Japan, Nazi Germany, and fascist Italy).  The ROC, with the west’s help, expelled the Japanese invaders from the Chinese mainland during WWII.  Later the ROC, losing the fight for the mainland to Chinese communist forces led by Mao Zedong, fled to Taiwan.  One could argue that it is the PRC that should be expelled and the ROC returned to a rightful control of mainland China.

War with Iraq, a second rate military power in the 1980’s and 90’s, is one thing, war with a modern, massive and technically advanced Chinese communist military, with a substantial and modern nuclear capability, would be something completely different.  Would the world go to war over an invasion of Taiwan?  It appears nothing is being done about the PRC’s brutal crushing of political rights in Hong Kong.  It amounts to an obliteration of its promise for a “one country – two systems” political framework.  It had made precisely the same promise to the world for a peaceful prospective annexation of Taiwan.  Why would the world trust anything the PRC “promises”? 

Presenting Mr. Will’s latest missive on the topic as well as his impression of the early signals from the Biden Administration.

Beijing wasted no time in greeting the new U.S. administration with an escalation of China’s high-risk obnoxiousness.  On the fourth day of Joe Biden’s presidency Chinese fighter and bomber aircraft Beijing Beijing wasted no time greeting the new U.S. administration with an escalation of high-risk obnoxiousness.  On the fourth day of Joe Biden’s presidency, Chinese fighter and bomber aircraft simulated an attack on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier group as it sailed into the South China Sea.  The pugnacious 26th president for whom the carrier is named would have applauded several of the 46th president’s initial decisions regarding China.  Biden got Beijing’s attention by inviting Taiwan’s representative in Washington to attend the inauguration, the first such invitation since U.S.-China relations were normalized in 1979.

And Roosevelt, a naval power enthusiast, would have loved Biden’s sending of the carrier group.  Later this year a British will participate in exercises in the region with the U.S. Navy.  Allies matter.

Biden, who has promised “extreme competition” with China, has an appropriate secretary of state.  Antony Blinken’s first conversation, by telephone, with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, was so sandpapery that Yang, according to the Chinese foreign ministry, blustered to Blinken, “No one can stop the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.

Nations prickly about their need for rejuvenation (“Deutschland erwache!” – “Germany awake!” was a Nazi mantra) betray a truculent sense of inferiority.  China today has much to feel inferior about.

Blinken’s predecessor as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, formally designated as “genocide” Beijing’s treatment of more than 1 million Uighurs in concentration camps.  Pompeo there by made national policy of a judgment that candidate Biden voiced in August, and that Blinken affirmed during his confirmation hearing.

Blinken’s warning to Yang that Washington would hold Beijing “accountable for its abuses” occurred three days after a harrowing BBC report on gang rapes and torture (including electric prods inserted in vaginas and rectums) of Uighurs in rooms without surveillance cameras, as well as forced sterilizations, forceable implantation of IUDs, and denials of food to those who inaccurately memorized passages from books praising President Xi Jinping. 

China’s Goebbelsesque embassy says the minds of Uighur women are being “emancipated,” that Beijing’s measures are promoting “gender equality and reproductive health,” and are making Uighur women “more confident and independent,” and are “no longer baby making machines”.

The Convention on the Protection and the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide says the crime includes inflicting on a group “conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” and “imposing measures intended to prevent birth within the group”.  Signatory nations are committed to “imposing effective penalties”.

Those should begin with an immediate announcement of a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, whose current viciousness is comparable to that of Germany at the time of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

And there at least should be public shaming of U.S. corporations which, while ostentatiously woke at home, seem not to think Uighur matter.  Let us identify corporations that import goods made with forced Uighur labor or export to China goods (e.g. surveillance technologies) that could facilitate Beijing’s genocide.

Twenty percent of the world’s cotton comes from Xinjiang the region of the genocide: How many U.S. clothing brands are suing products of forced labor.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which this past year had 87 co-sponsors in the U.S. House and 33 in the U.S. Senate would create a statutory presumption that products from Xinjiang are produced by forced labor.  Which U.S. corporations will lobby against the bill?

While China screws down the lid of tyranny on Hong Kong – making schools instruments of political indoctrination; removing library books that “endanger national security” – Beijing continues to add to the (at least) 380 Uighur “reeducation camps”.

If U.S. transactions – diplomatic and commercial – with China are unaffected by the findings of genocide, this will, in the words of Eugene Kontorovich of Gorge Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School “make a joke out of genocide”.

Primo Levi, an Auschwitz survivor, said: “If it happened, therefore it can happen again”.  U.S. policy now insists that genocide is happening in a nation tightly woven into the fabric of world commerce.

China is crucial to globalization’s supply chain, but these chains are also crucial to China.  They can be instruments of political leverage for the United States and other signatories to the aforementioned convention who are committed to take measures to “prevent and punish” genocide.

Americas’ usual preference regarding foreign policy is to have as little of it as possible.  Presidents, however, do not have that luxury.  Biden is keeping his promise of sturdy resistance to China.  But, his difficult choices have just begun.

September 1,2020 Forbes.com

China Has the World’s Largest Navy. And It’s Getting Better, Pentagon Warns

Michael Peck

Contributor

Aerospace & Defense

I cover defense issues and military technology.

“The PRC [People’s Republic of China] has the largest navy in the world, with an overall battle force of approximately 350 ships and submarines including over 130 major surface combatants,” states the U.S. Department of Defense’s 2020 annual report to Congress on Chinese military power. “In comparison, the U.S. Navy’s battle force is approximately 293 ships as of early 2020.”

In itself, that statistic is somewhat misleading: While the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has more warships than the U.S. Navy, the American fleet is ahead in tonnage due to having larger warships, including 11 aircraft carriers that weigh in at 100,000 tons apiece.

But what happens when Chinese naval quantity is paired with technological quality? That prospect alarms Pentagon planners.

The PLAN is a far cry from its Cold War days, when it was a poor cousin to a massive ground army. China’s fixation to forcibly reunify Taiwan with the mainland, and its determination to replace the U.S. as the hegemon of the Western Pacific, had led Beijing to spend vast amounts of time and money to improve the quality of its navy.

China’s growing fleet of aircraft carriers has garnered the most attention. The PLAN has one decrepit ex-Soviet carrier, a newly commissioned carrier that is the first built in China, a third carrier under construction, and plans to build an additional four or more vessels. Fitted with advanced features like an electromagnetic launch system, a Chinese carrier fleet could provide air cover for an amphibious invasion of Taiwan, or even confront the U.S. Navy in the first carrier versus carriers battles since World War II.

But there’s a lot more to a navy than just carriers: watch U.S. carrier strike groups, and you’ll notice that the flattops are always surrounded by cruisers and destroyers for anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defense. China has been busily building a new generation of sophisticated, heavily armed cruiser, destroyers, and corvettes. For example, in December 2019, China launched the sixth Type 055 Renhai-class cruiser. The Renhai fields a large array of anti-ship cruise missiles and anti-aircraft missiles, “along with likely LACMs [land attack cruise missiles] and anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) when those become operational,” the Pentagon noted.

This raises the prospect of a U.S. fleet being overwhelmed by massed salvoes of anti-ship missiles, including deadly new hypersonic weapons that travel faster than Mach 5.

As with Russia’s navy, submarines are a key element of Chinese naval strength. The PLAN is expected to build more diesel-powered and nuclear-powered attack subs. China is also one of the few nations that possesses ICBM-armed nuclear ballistic missile submarines. In addition to its current four Type 094 subs armed with 12 JL-12 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) each, a new “boomer” submarine is on the way. “China’s next-generation Type 096 SSBN, which will likely begin construction in the early-2020s, will reportedly carry a new type of SLBM,” the report predicts. “The PLAN is expected to operate the Type 094 and Type 096 SSBNs concurrently and could have up to eight SSBNs by 2030.”

Particularly interesting is China’s growing ability to launch land-attack cruise missiles, a capability that the U.S. Navy has demonstrated with its Tomahawk missiles on more than one occasion. This would allow Chinese surface ships and submarines to strike key bases, such as Guam, in the Pacific and beyond.

“In the coming years, the PLAN will probably field LACMs on its newer cruisers and destroyers and developmental Type 093B nuclear attack submarines,” the Pentagon report noted. “The PLAN could also retrofit its older surface combatants and submarines with land-attack capabilities as well. The addition of land-attack capabilities to the PLAN’s surface combatants and submarines would provide the PLA with flexible long-range strike options. This would allow the PRC to hold land targets at risk beyond the Indo-Pacific region.”

In 2019, China launched its first Yushen-class large amphibious assault ship, which is not good news for Taiwan. The PLAN is also building a variety of support vessels, including oilers, intelligence collection ships and even China’s first polar icebreaker.

Of course, there is a lot more to a navy’s power than the number of ships or missiles. The U.S. Navy has more than a century of reliably operating in distant waters, including carrier flight operations, convoying merchant shipping, and conducting amphibious operations. For all its growing technological sophistication, China’s navy simply lacks experience in these matters.

But eventually it will gain that experience. Coupled with a huge battlefleet and advanced weapons, China’s navy may prove to be formidable foe.

EDITORS’ PICK |Feb 22, 2021

No More Nannies—The Chinese Air Force Is Finally Training Its Fighter Pilots to Match the Americans

David Axe

Forbes Staff

Aerospace & Defense

I write about ships, planes, tanks, drones, missiles and satellites.

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force is taking steps to erase a key advantage that the U.S. Air Force holds over the Chinese air arm—the quality of the American service’s fighter pilots.

The PLAAF’s training command has put in place a realistic new curriculum that, for the first time, encourages pilots to think and act independently in the most stressful situations. The changes could signal the end of the Chinese air force’s self-described “nanny-style” training system—and a new threat to America’s control of the air.

China’s “initial fighter pilot training program is poised to produce pilots who are better trained, and to do so at a higher rate, than before,” Derek Solen wrote in a new study for the U.S. Air Force’s China Aerospace Studies Institute.

The training reforms actually include three separate main efforts, according to Solen. The PLAAF is cutting the time it takes to produce a combat-ready fighter pilot from 10 years to just seven by streamlining its officer academies and flight schools.

More rigorous training with a strong emphasis on realism and pilot-independence is the third, and arguably most important, effort.

“Despite the years that the PLAAF has taken—and in some training brigades, still takes—to train pilot candidates for combat, for most of the 2010s, the training program still failed to do so because it was unrealistic and rote,” Solen wrote.

Training flights seem to have only been conducted in excellent weather conditions, and perhaps because this practice limited the number of days on which flights could be conducted, pilot candidates were rushed through multiple training sorties on the same day whether they had grasped the lessons of those flights or not.

When training flights were conducted, they were “played safe,” four or five G being the maximum G-force that fighter pilot candidates ever experienced throughout their training. Nighttime flight training was conducted, but [the Air Force Aviation University] training base and the flight academies would illuminate their runways with searchlights to make it easy for cadets and pilot candidates to find their airfields and land.

Flight instructors would immediately take the stick when pilot candidates faced a problem such as stalling, depriving their pupils of the opportunity to resolve the problem themselves. Even a lesson that would ultimately enhance the pilot candidates’ safety was avoided because of its immediate risk: pilot candidates were not even taught how to recover from a tailspin.

Around 2017, that began to change, Solen explained. Now the flight academies send student pilots into the air even during bad weather resulting in poor visibility. The practice of illuminating runways with spotlights during night training ended.

“Training flights were no longer being ‘played safe,’” Solen wrote. “Now pilot candidates began regularly experiencing six to seven G during training flights. Flight instructors began interfering in their pupils’ flights as little as possible—and they also began teaching them to recover from a tailspin. (The flight instructors first had to learn how to do so themselves.)”

In order to cultivate their independence, AFAU and the flight academies began requiring pilot candidates to prepare for each flight on their own and to devise their own flight plans after the flight instructors have informed them of the next training subject and by what principles the training will be conducted.

In order to cultivate their intuition, the flight academies stopped evaluating pilot candidates on how well they fly as measured by their flight instruments; flight instructors began encouraging pilot candidates to look outside their cockpits when they fly under visual flight rules.

The reforms could make a huge difference in wartime. Even the most junior pilots in a front-line squadron should be capable of winning—or at least surviving—an encounter with the U.S. Air Force’s own pilots.

“The PLAAF is poised to produce pilots who are much better prepared to conduct real-world missions as soon as they undertake their first assignments, and it is poised to do so at a higher rate than ever before,” Solen concluded.

Data Retention Dilemma

Regarding the editorial piece in the Richmond Times Dispatch adapted from The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star published 12/4/2020

Editorial: Expunge law-abiding Virginians’ tag numbers

“By subjecting Americans to surveillance without their knowledge or compliance and then storing the data for later use, the government has erected the ultimate suspect society. In such an environment, there is no such thing as ‘innocent until proven guilty.'”

John Whitehead, Rutherford Institute

Applying Mr. Whitehead’s quote to this topic is a significant overreach as are the positions asserted in the editorial piece referenced above regarding automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) data collection by law enforcement authorities.

The fact that data anonymously collected about a vehicle potentially associated with criminal activity, or owned or operated by a person wanted in connection with criminal activity, is just another valuable asset of criminal justice.  How is this different than DNA?  DNA evidence, often heralded as a breakthrough innovation in law enforcement and is frequently forcibly provided, is held in perpetuity.  In the referenced ALPR case, the data is destroyed after one year.  That means that that data collected one year ago is destroyed today and every day. 

Comparatively, far more in-depth information about where you and I go and what we do is collected second by second of every single minute of every single day by a myriad of applications on our personal devices.  Where we go, at what time, for how long, what we drive, what we purchase, who we associate with and even what we say, all is constantly collected.  Then it is analyzed for its usefulness in targeting us specifically with custom messages as well as setting macro-level marketing strategy.  All provided freely because we value the services provided by the applications that require it of us more than we do our privacy, and, because we are too lazy to read the Ts and Cs.  If anyone would take the time to read just one, and could comprehend its implications, would be outraged.  All of our very private information is retained forever and sold to all those willing to pay thus multiplying exponentially the number of places this data is held.  Now that should outrage and frighten everyone!

Where is the outrage about these invasions of privacy?  These forever collections of very private information are vastly more threatening than the information collected by a police vehicle we may never encounter or who we serendipitously pass on a rare occasion.    In fact, the data collected by applications is far more likely to directly expose us to criminal activity from identity theft to sexual predators.  Law enforcement authorities do not care about where you and I go.  The ALPR data potentially collected about us will likely never be accessed and will be destroyed in 12 months.

Law enforcement has an incredibly difficult role in society balancing effective crime fighting with crime prevention all while strictly adhering to the law in protecting citizens constitutional rights.  ALPR is an innovative crime fighting aid where only vehicles associated with criminal activity or criminals are affected.  To deny these dedicated professionals an extremely targeted and effective crime fighting tool would only serve to discourage further innovation while giving criminals a free hand to victimize us.

Hope, Love and Forgiveness – the Narrative for Rebuilding our Republic

Excerpts from Richmond attorney and author Frank B. Atkinson’s most recent book is a poignant recalibration of what it will take to bring us more together as a nation.  Mr. Atkinson’s context in this excerpt is largely from founding father, Constitutional author and fourth President of the United States James Madison.  Regardless of your political affiliations, given a thoughtful review to the end, this is ten minutes of worthy reading.

For too long, our learned elites have been building themselves up by tearing our institutions and ideals down. In the process, they have raised smug non-belief to an art form while generating precious little new for us to admire. They have rarely given … only taken away.

Now, when we can see the fruits of this fragmentation in the collapse of our communities and the degeneration of our discourse and the endangerment of our democracy, we all must reckon with the reality. And in this reckoning, it would be a really great thing if those who have long been the biggest beneficiaries of the liberal order — those in the academy, in the media, in business, and in government — would become part of the solution instead of the problem.

Having looked into the abyss that is the antithesis of ordered liberty and principled republicanism — having gotten a glimpse of individualism that tends toward narcissism, and diversity that tends toward relativism, and populism that tends toward authoritarianism — having seen the malignancies of nativism and socialism begin to spread anew — maybe it is time to say that America, land of the free and the home of the brave, is not such a bad idea after all.

Maybe it is time to say that ours is a republic worth keeping, with values worth teaching.

Maybe it is time to say that we have amplified well enough our differences. Now let us celebrate the bright tapestry that has been woven from our wonderfully diverse threads. Let us celebrate the ties of freedom and love that bind us. E Pluribus Unum — out of many, one.

This is the challenge of our time for all of our leaders, the duly elected and the self-appointed, on college and corporate campuses, in the fourth estate, in the corridors of power and politics, in whatever positions of influence we may find ourselves. To paraphrase JFK: Ask not what you can criticize about your country; ask what you can do to improve it.

Third, as we renew the American narrative and labor to build up rather than tear down, let us rediscover the brilliant insights of [our Constitution’s chief architect, James] Madison, and put them to work, as he did, in intensely practical and productive ways.

If Madison could stare human nature, the most intractable of all problems, in the face and not wring his hands … if he instead could take the landscape as he found it, roll up his sleeves, and build on it … then surely we can do better in our time than sit around like lumps lamenting today’s dysfunction and division.

If he were here today, I imagine the man from Montpelier [VA] would have some very pointed things to say.

I think he would begin by reminding us that we don’t have it so bad. At least, there are no bayonets at our bellies, no hangman’s noose or firing squad awaiting us for defying the king. So we really have no excuse for sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves.

Second, he’d remind us that human beings are not born with an understanding of republican principles and practice. Good citizenship is a learned behavior — the product of education and the cultivation of civic habits, including informed and respectful contention, collaboration, and compromise. If we want to be a virtuous self-governing community that exhibits these habits, we must work at instilling them.

Next, Madison would remind us that the American system is predicated on the competition of ideas, so if you do not agree with the agenda of the political factions on the far Right or far Left, then you should join or form your own faction and engage in the great contest.

Don’t be bullied by the decibels and deceits, the self-worship of passion over reason. Use the tools of your times to outsmart and outwork your opponents.

He’d be too modest to cite his own example — outworking and outsmarting the mesmerizing Patrick Henry to win a great victory for the Constitution [in the ratification debates] — but there is a lesson there for us all.

Finally, Madison would challenge each of us to get to work in our personal spheres of influence and opportunity, helping our neighbor and our community flourish in freedom.

Here, after all, was a comfortable young man from the backwoods of Virginia who sensibly could have left the deep thought and hard work to more established figures. Instead, he closeted himself in his little library with all the collected wisdom he could lay his hands on and went about the process of preparing a plan.

Somewhere along the way he gained the insight that good governance is about achieving balance, a healthy tension that not only forestalls excess but fosters reasoned deliberation and productive compromise. He made the pursuit of that balance his life’s work, and, in so doing, he offered a prescription for ours.

Madison’s particular project was balancing the shifting excesses and exigencies of federal and state power — vital work that continues today. As with any such dynamic arrangement, times change, and so do the demands. There was a time not so long ago, for example, when strong federal power was needed to right the civil wrongs in the states where essential liberties and equal justice were denied.

In our day, the balance of national and local power has tilted heavily in favor of Washington, D.C., and the massive bureaucratic and regulatory state ensconced there, producing a distance and detachment that threaten to undermine personal and community responsibility. Our political discourse suffers, too, because civility and self-restraint arise from personal relationships — from friendships, and caring, engaged communities. And these essential elements of republican life are eroded when decisions are made in remote and unaccountable chambers and when debates occur in angry anonymity over the Internet.

If we mean to restore a vibrant republicanism, we must get engaged in the work that is within our reach. For most of us, that means working for the improvement of our neighborhoods and communities, our workplaces, and the people right around us. And because some of the solutions will be public rather than private, we must insist on the return of government decisions to a level within our productive influence.

The theoretical word for it is “federalism,” but the point is simply this: the Madisonian vision of balance today requires that we bring freedom home.

So we must renew the American narrative, resolve to build up rather than tear down, and exercise our freedom practically and productively in the manner of Madison. But there is one other thing we must do to keep and renew our Republic.

In “The Irony of American History,” Reinhold Niebuhr wrote these words:

“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.”

This forgiveness is why, in the American story — indeed, the human story — Freedom and Love are inseparable.

We cannot live in Freedom without making choices. We cannot make choices without committing errors. We cannot overcome our errors without forgiveness. And we cannot find forgiveness without Love.

This is the astonishing freedom story written by the divine Author … the amazing reconciliation modeled by the divine Mediator … the incredible love poured into every human heart by the divine Spirit.

We will never transcend these truths, no matter how much pride and presumption our modern minds bring to the business of self-government. And, try as we might, we will not keep this Republic if we do not affirm these truths for ourselves, practice them in our dealings with others, and pass them along to those who will follow us.

Editor’s note: Richmond attorney Frank B. Atkinson’s latest book, “The Lion’s Den: A Story of American Renewal,” tackles the subject of our ailing democracy and how best to get the patient on the road to recovery. The prescription comes through the voice of Atkinson’s main character, an exemplary political figure in a fictional contemporary Virginia. With the real-life election season largely behind us and our politics as polarized as ever, we thought now would be a good time to share Atkinson’s practical insights.”The Lion’s Den: A Story of American Renewal,” a political novel, was published in partnership with the University of Virginia Center for Politics and was recently reviewed in The Times-Dispatch by RTD columnist Jeff E. Schapiro. The following excerpt is the second in a two-part series. The first part was published on Jan. 1.

A Few 2020 Bits

Electoral College

I do not hear anything.  Where is the thunderous outcry of advocates for removing the constitutionally powered Electoral College and replacing it with a straight plebiscite?  Once again, as demonstrated during each presidential election cycle, the systems has worked as designed.

In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama received 69,456,897 votes, giving him 365 electoral votes. In the 2012 presidential election, President Obama won 65,899,660 votes, and 332 electoral votes.

In 2016 President Trump received 62,984,825 compared to his opponent’s 65,853,516.  Trump received 304 electoral votes compared to his opponent’s 227.  This was not a failure of the system, it was entirely due to the blunders of President Trump’s opponent.

In 2020 Trump actually received more votes than President Obama’s two presidential elections or his 2016 opponent by nine million and 6 million votes respectively with 74,111,116 votes!  Clearly a record, and he lost.   Because a record number of votes cast for President Trump only earned him 232 electoral votes.   The reason for this is President-Elect Biden had 81,009,468 votes (an even larger record) cast for him but more importantly they earned him 306 electoral votes; far less than President Obama earned in both his presidential elections but more than President Trump.

This is the system working as designed.  Trump received nearly nine million more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016 and lost.  The difference is President-Elect Biden won critical mid-tier states that he was absolutely required to pay attention to because our system shares the power effectively among all states.  If the presidential election were a pure plebiscite, then only the states with the largest populations would garner any candidate attention.  Mid-tier and smaller states would not be heard and carry little weight post-election with the Office of the President of the United States.

President Trump’s 2016 opponent lost because insufficient attention was paid to the critical mid-tier states, period.  Their support was assumed, their blue color voters were offended, and Trump wooed them effectively.  While garnering more votes, she failed to offer all these critical states the attention they are due from a presidential candidate.  Thus, only 227 electoral votes were earned, the lowest total in 20 years and President Trump won an election virtually no one believed he would win.  These are simple lessons Presidents Obama, Trump and President-Elect Biden all understood intrinsically.  Critical lessons driven by an Electoral College system brilliantly designed by our founding fathers to ensure fairness and a voice to all citizens in all states.

2016 was, however, an aberration in a macro-political trend largely because of the blunders by President Trump’s 2016 opponent.  The 2020 election returned us to the trend line supported by demographic data and President-Elect Biden made no major blunders to turn away constituents that should be his.  The demographic data supports growing political strength in the number of the liberally minded, especially for overtly Socialist leaning politicians.  This may be a permanent change in the American political landscape but minimally for a generation.  As but a single example, it is widely reported that the majority of the Millennial generation prefer Socialism.  It is preferred until they actually have it.  Ask the majority of the citizens of China, Russia and North Korea if they’d rather live in the United States where democratic, free-market capitalism has produced the greatest standard of living for the most people in the history of the planet, or their country where many, many millions are desperately poor and starving.

2000 Electoral Map – Electoral Vote Map

2000 usa electoral map results – Bing

2020 usa electoral map results – Bing

2016 electoral college results – Bing

1How many votes did Barack Obama receive? – Answers

Gaslighting

The term originates in the systematic psychological manipulation of a victim by her husband in Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 stage play Gas Light, and the film adaptations released in 1940 and 1944. In the story, the husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes. The play’s title alludes to how the abusive husband slowly dims the gas lights in their home, while pretending nothing has changed, in an effort to make his wife doubt her own perceptions. The wife repeatedly asks her husband to confirm her perceptions about the dimming lights, but in defiance of reality, he keeps insisting that the lights are the same and instead it is she who is going insane.

Today we are living in a perpetual state of gaslighting. The reality that we are being told by the media is at complete odds with what we are seeing with our own two eyes. And when we question the false reality that we are being presented, or we claim that what we see is that actual reality, we are vilified as racist or bigots or just plain crazy. You’re not racist. You’re not crazy. You’re being gaslighted.

New York State has twice as many deaths from Covid-19 than any other state, and New York has accounted for one fifth of all Covid-19 deaths, but we are told that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has handled the pandemic better than any other governor. But, if we support policies of Governors whose states had only a fraction of the infections and deaths as New York, we are called anti-science and want people to die. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

We see mobs of people looting stores, smashing windows, setting cars on fire and burning down buildings, but we are told that these demonstrations are peaceful protests.  And, when we call this destruction of our cities riots, we are called racists. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

We see that the major problem destroying many inner-cities is crime; murder, gang violence, drug dealing, drive-by shootings, armed robbery, but we are told that it is not crime, but the police that are the problem in the inner-cities. We are told we must defund the police and remove law enforcement from crime-riddled cities to make them safer. But, if we advocate for more policing in cities overrun by crime, we are accused of being white supremacists and racists. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

The United States of America accepts more immigrants than any other country in the world. The vast majority of the immigrants are “people of color”, and these immigrants are enjoying freedom and economic opportunity not available to them in their country of origin.  But we are told that the United States is the most racist and oppressive country on the planet, and if we disagree, we are called racist and xenophobic. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

Capitalist countries are the most prosperous countries in the world.  The standard of living is the highest in capitalist countries. We see more poor people move up the economic ladder to the middle and even the wealthy class through their effort and ability in capitalist countries than any other economic system in the world.  But we are told capitalism is an oppressive system designed to keep people down. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

Communist countries killed over 100 million people in the 20th century. Communist countries strip their citizens of basic human rights, dictate every aspect of their lives, treat their citizens as slaves, and drive their economies into the ground.  But we are told that Communism is the fairest, most equitable, freest, and most prosperous economic system in the world. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

The most egregious example of gaslighting is the concept of “white fragility”. You spend your life trying to be a good person, trying to treat people fairly and with respect. You disavow racism and bigotry in all its forms. You judge people solely on the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. You don’t discriminate based on race or ethnicity. But you are told you are a racist, not because of something you did or said, but solely because of the color of your skin. You know instinctively that charging someone with racism because of their skin color is itself racist. You know that you are not racist, so you defend yourself and your character, but you are told that your defense of yourself is proof of your racism. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

Gaslighting has become one of the most pervasive and destructive tactics in American politics. It is the exact opposite of what our political system was meant to be. It deals in lies and psychological coercion, and not the truth and intellectual discourse. If you ever ask yourself if you’re crazy, you are not. Crazy people aren’t sane enough to ask themselves if they’re crazy. So, trust yourself, believe what’s in your heart. Trust your eyes over what you are told. Never listen to the people who tell you that you are crazy, because you are not, you’re being gaslighted.

Sophocles said: “What people believe prevails over the truth.” And that’s what the media are trying to exploit.

Think through what you are being told. Don’t listen with a deaf ear or see with a blind eye. Question everything — even things from people who you think you can trust. Question why you are being told whatever, by whoever. Question their motives. Question who benefits. Question if there is a hidden agenda behind the propaganda. Question, Question, Question. Then do your own research and use some of your own critical thinking skills to get to the truth.

Sadly, 95% of the masses don’t even know that they are being gaslighted. At least now you do.1

Gaslighting – Wikipedia

1Some of the content of this section is copied from an anonymous source.

Covid-19

Vaccines with remarkably high efficacy levels were injected into healthcare workers and first responders in the U.K. this week December 6, 2020.  In Virginia, nearly a half million doses will begin to be provided to these same professionals by the end of this month.  This, after only approximately ten months from the commencement of the outbreak in the United States.   This is an example of how important it is to have political leaders, and especially a president, who have real-world, commercial enterprise leadership experience.  Life-long politicians, who are intimately comfortable with government bureaucracy and interminable delay would have said okay to a path that traditionally takes three years to produce fully tested vaccines.  Their only weapon would be shutting down the country and destroying our economy.  How many more would have died?  Would the economy not completely collapse no matter how much money was printed out of thin air? 

The American system of a capitalistic, market-driven economy produces strong and demanding commercial enterprise leaders who, when engaged in governmental leadership roles, understand how to squeeze the most from commercial healthcare organizations.  These commercially trained leaders when combined with, yes, a profit-driven, private commercial healthcare system that is alone in the world in its capability of these amazing feats of producing highly effective vaccines in the hundreds of millions of doses in a remarkable ten months, producing something no other nation could dream of accomplishing and saving hundreds of thousands of lives around the world; not to mention saving the world economy from total collapse.

Honoring the Second Amendment Constitutional Right

The NRA reported1 that studies indicate that firearms are used more than 2 million times a year for personal protection, and that the presence of a firearm, without a shot being fired, prevents crimes in many instances.  {To be clear} shootings usually can only be justified where crime constitutes an immediate, imminent threat to life, limb, or, in some {rare} cases, property.  It can only leave one to muse about how many crimes, including murder, attempted murder and manslaughter, could have been prevented had the victim be able to produce a firearm.  

It is estimated that 600,000 people go missing in the U.S. each year.  Unfortunately, many of these missing person cases go unsolved because of a late response by law enforcement or poor coordination between law enforcement agencies.  (This most clearly argues against the assertion that we have too many sworn officers or that police agencies should be “defunded”.)  How many of those that “go missing” (likely murdered and disposed of or sold into human trafficking) would be saved if they could produce a firearm?  Certainly not all of them, as many of these cases involve children, but how many, possibly 50,000, perhaps 10,000 abductions, could be prevented?   Even if it was 1,000, how much is each one of these lives worth?

1NRA published “American Rifleman” magazine, December 2020 issue, page 10

China – A Clear and Present Danger

As a follow up to other posts this year a small piece in the Richmond Times Dispatch Nation and World Briefs section on December 12, 2020.  Further evidenced that the PRC represents a far greater threat to freedom and peace than any other nation since Nazi Germany and its Axis partners Japan and Italy (Italy only in so much in their alliance with two true world powers in Germany and Japan).  The PRC will strip Hong Kong citizens of their freedoms by crushing the democracy movement right before the world’s eyes just as the brutal Nazi fascist regime did in Germany in the 1930s.  The Nazis began by arresting those who disagreed with their ideology and imprisoning them in “work” (concentration) camps.  Then using their brutal, murderous, totalitarian fascist methods to control all of Germany, then to virtually all of Europe and nearly the world.   It is not a stretch to shine this same light of freedom loving countries upon the brutal, murderous, totalitarian fascist methods and actions of the People’s Republic of China.

Tycoon in Hong Kong Charged under New Law

HONG KONG – Jimmy Lai, a media tycoon and longtime backer of Hong Kong’s struggle for democracy, could face life in prison after he was charged Friday with “collusion with a foreign country” under Beijing’s new national security law.

Earlier this week in Beijing, authorities leveled another apparent blow against Western media outlets with the detention of a Bloomberg News employee held on suspicion of endangering national security.

Lai, who was arrested by investigators in August, is the fourth and highest profile person charged under the new law, which seeks to eradicate dissent on Hong Kong by curtailing constitutional rights, including free speech.

The Beginning of the End of American Capitalism and Free Enterprise

The Rubicon has been crossed.  Trump, as desperately flawed as he was as president, will be the last Republican president, ever.  Even with his coarse personality and “unpresidential” ways, Trump will be the last person to hold the office to embrace American style capitalism and free enterprise so dearly.  The forces supporting our system of government and  a free enterprise, market-driven economy, that produced the greatest standard of living for the greatest number of people the world has ever witnessed, gave it everything they had in a desperate attempt to hold off the inevitable for four more years.  A mighty effort it was, but doomed to failure. The forces presented by overwhelming demographic trends are on an irresistible march toward the panacea called Socialism.

President Joe Biden will quickly begin to support the ideals of the socialist left and systematically dismantle virtually everything that was done to create the best economy in the last fifty years.  The only temporary “handbrake”, that will only slow the descent into what Senator Sanders euphemistically calls “democratic socialism”, is the slim majority Republicans managed to hold in the United States Senate.  The final result is yet to be determined however.  That last flickering light of market-driven capitalism and free enterprise will be consumed by the darkness of a government-controlled economy in fewer than ten years.

The wisest among the democrats will be careful not to call the desired state “Socialism”.  The term “equity or equality in outcomes” will be the battle cry.  That allowing free markets to determine outcomes is inherently unfair so government must step in to take control of certain market functions.  And, that increased wealth transfer is the only path to social justice.

A major next step will be the introduction of a “government option” in healthcare markets.  This will eventually lead to the crowding out of private healthcare insurance and the creation of a National Healthcare Service that will ensure mediocre healthcare for all, well, with the exception of the wealthy.  Their financing of the democrat candidates (Biden’s nearly one billion dollar campaign war chest compared to Trump’s just over 500 million as an example) will make certain that healthcare for the elites (including members of Congress and the Administration) will remain available.  This is the case in the U.K.  Home of the vaulted NHS has, yes you guessed it, private health services for the wealthy.  This while NHS patrons wait months for a simple doctor appointment and months to years for elective surgery like hip replacements (as if they were “elective”).  Even in the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China there are thousands of billionaires.  Only there, the government decides who they will be while the number of those living in poverty remains in the hundreds of millions.

Why is this blue wave a virtual certainty?  Demographic trends are the key to the democrat’s future political dominance.  Virginia is a state on the vanguard of this blue wave.  Virginia was a state that was reliably republican in presidential elections.  The state legislature vastly conservative for 60 years, even when democrats gained control of one of either the State Senate or the House of Delegates, the Governorship was held by a republican and those Virginia democrats would be considered very conservative by todays standards.  They would be unwelcome in today’s Democrat party.

In the last ten years large metropolitan areas of the State of Virginia, aside from northern Virginia which always had some balance politically, have steadily moved to the left.  In 2016 perennially republican Chesterfield county, a Richmond suburban enclave, voted for a democrat for governor for the first time since 1961.  Chesterfield’s population has exploded from 100,000 in 1970 to 353,000 in 2019.  Huge increases among Blacks, Hispanics and Asian races have tilted the county toward the democrat coalition.    Chesterfield is among 10 urban and suburban Virginia localities with populations between 200,000 and 1 million on which democrats have increasingly relied for statewide races since 20012.  If a democrat candidate carries all of them, there are not enough votes in the remaining 123 counties and cities for an opponent to catch up.2  Since 2019 democrats have held all state-wide government positions (Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General) as well as a majority in the State Senate and the House of Delegates.  The republicans will never gain control over any of them ever again.  As John Watkins, the former republican State Senator from Chesterfield, recently stated, “The demographics are changing…There are a lot of young people there with very different views on government.”2  Republicans are stuck, outnumbered and isolated.  Chesterfield is a microcosm of the GOP’s biggest problem [nationally}.2  Pete Stith, a retired deputy county manager…said the county’s political transformation has been coming for years.  “I’ve been saying the old people are dying off and the young people are moving in.”2

This is not a southern or regional phenomenon; it is occurring nationally.  Georgia is one of eight states where more than half the eligible voters under 40 are nonwhite.  Florida, the most important swing state, is another.  This is the first year when a majority of eligible voters in Texas are nonwhite1.  So, this trend is unmistakable and will be increasingly more reliable for liberal democrats and even avowed Socialist candidates for the foreseeable future.

1Some Statistics to Enliven Election Night – George Will’s column November 1,2020 – Washington Post Writers Group

2”Virginia Politics have Intruded on Virginia’s Never Never Land” Richmond Times Dispatch column by Jeff Schapiro 11/8/2020 jschapiro@TimesDispatch.com

The Notion of White Privilege

It is doubtful many could successfully argue that white privilege does not exist in the western world.  Historically, at its most basic level, in the western world, the vast majority of those with economic power have been white.   Certainly not limited to these, but the power could be demonstrated in various measures as in hiring, mortgage/rental or investment opportunities, government services, among other situations.  For example, if the choice is between a white candidate and a black, brown, or Asian  candidate, all other attributes being equal, the white person in the position of power, unless motivated to contribute to increased diversity, would likely select the white candidate. 

The reasons for this would be many.  From an objective point of view, education levels, prior work performance, personal achievements, credit rating and financial resources, among other hard measures, could collectively be stronger for a white candidate.  From a subjective perspective, deep in our DNA-driven ethos, tribal instincts have been powerful drivers of behavior for millions of years6.  Some may describe this aspect of decision-making by those with power as racial bias. Yet again, deep in the part of us formed during primitive periods in man’s history, that strongly influenced the shaping of early man’s instincts, difficult to achieve feelings of safety most often came while among one’s tribe.  Even those of the same race yet different regional tribe would not provide the same sense of safety for early man.  This, during a time when man basically lived among the elements with near constant exposure to predators, weather, competing tribes and other existential dangers.  For those in a position of power, regardless of race, these deep-seated instincts must be dealt with minimally at a subconscious level.

In recent decades, strong forces in society and the marketplace have led to massive change.  Since the 1960s and 70s everything from professional training to legislative action has mitigated a great deal of this instinctual decision making.   This instinctual bias continues to exist but is largely suppressed by the many measures put in place.  The most powerful force for bias suppression is evident in how the workplace has changed.  The major source of change has been the globalization of the workforce.  This has suppressed bias in large part because many of those with the power are no longer just white men. 

Education globally has improved, and many have come to this country with skills and credentials that have been meet with a welcoming American economy hungry for more skilled professionals.  American capitalism’s sustained and robust economic growth has driven an endless demand for a larger skilled workforce.  This system has consistently rewarded innovation making the United States the perennial leader in technology.  The massive growth in the use of technology has fueled a significant portion of this demand for highly educated and skilled foreign workers but these demands are present in many industries and service organizations like medical services, transportation, and energy production.   

During this same period, women have shed the previous views of their primary usefulness, mainly through education and training, to become a remarkable force both as individual contributors and in leadership.  Women have contributed with increasing might across a wide spectrum in the post war period to present day.

So, if you believe that white privilege remains a societal presence in the western world, how did it become this erroneously perceived omnipresent source of repression?  Clearly some believe that family wealth is the primary source of this supposed unfair advantage.  There is no doubt that family wealth is a source of this so-called privilege.   Does anyone believe that hundreds of years ago these families were able to wrangle a leprechaun and be led to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?  Or that this accumulated wealth was some sort of divine gift?  The truth, as usual, is complicated.   To seek the truth, we must go back in history. 

Still a significant factor in the modern world, land was the primary source of wealth for centuries.  Those who were able to possess and retain large tracts of land, especially land that was suitable for agricultural purposes, were able to at first, through hard work and good fortune, provide for their families.  As agricultural endeavors became efficient enough to produce bounties beyond the mere life sustaining levels, these surpluses became marketable commodities.  Village then regional markets formed.  Bartering eventually yielded to the flexibility of precious metals and currency.  More hard work and intelligent use of resources led to the accumulation of wealth in various forms; land, a workforce, precious metals, currency and then leverage in the form of available collateralized credit.  This wealth creation led to the emergence of markets and marketplaces to serve the demands of those with various needs and wants; including those markets designed to attract disposable wealth. 

Villages, towns, and eventually cities, saw the development of many services such as banking, merchants, transportation, among others.  All these ventures, in their own way, led to success and the accumulation of wealth for those who worked hard and acted intelligently.  Later, as transportation systems improved, industries were created to mass produce products for an ever increasing first regional then global marketplace.  None of this would have occurred if not for the available, investible wealth, created through hard work and intelligent risk taking, that financed all of these transformational forces.   

Another important factor was the increasing population aided by improved health conditions, medical science, education, and a growing market for workers of all varieties.  These available workers were a vital resource especially as the industrial revolution took hold.  Many of these human resources who worked hard to support their families also wisely identified entrepreneurial opportunities to create new business ventures that led to additional capital formation and wealth creation.

This notion of privilege manifested in wealth was not some divine gift bestowed serendipitously upon white people, it is the result of centuries of hard work and intelligent use of resources.  Could this have occurred first in Africa, Southern Asia, South America?  It could have, but it did not.  These advances in the human condition largely originated from Great Britain, western Europe and eventually America as Britons and Europeans migrated there.   These largely private endeavors were eventually supported by governments who created a legal framework to encourage and regulate free enterprise.  What eventually became the United States, with its vast resources, growing population and, most importantly, system supportive of capitalistic enterprise, would soon lead the world in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), education, military power and a truly free democratic republic.  

From the beginning, America was about freedom and bravery. Discovered as a wilderness, turning America into a global powerhouse took brave, rugged individuals willing to risk everything, including their lives, to turn the wilderness into the greatest economy and system of government in history.   This world-leading economic performance, combined with the individual freedoms promised by its constitution, created the greatest standard of living, for all Americans, the world has ever witnessed.  Over its 246-year history, many millions from all over the world have immigrated to the United States to earn a chance at the “American Dream”.  Millions from third world countries continue today to pore into the United States both legally and illegally seeking this dream.

Some would argue that the success of America was almost entirely dependent on the economic benefit of slavery.  Clearly the early success of southern plantations was heavily dependent on the use of slave labor.  Southern plantations were a significant portion of the economy in the early American south but in no way represented a dominant part of the American economy.

Of the 10.7 million black slaves who survived extraction and the journey from the African continent, records indicate only 388,000 came to North America1.  Their population increased substantially as the slave population in America prodigiously produced children and large families of nine, ten plus offspring in many cases.  In 1800 the American population was 5.3 million including 893,483 slaves or 16.8% of the population according to the 1800 U.S. census2.

Slavery in any form is an abomination.  Plain and simple slavery was and is the worst kind of egregious human behavior.  Slavery in the United states began many decades before the war for independence against Great Britain.  In fact, many of the slavers, both slave merchants and purchasers, were British citizens who brought millions of slaves to its many colonies around the world as well as Britain itself.  Many, many more than those who were brought to the U.S. against their will. 

Slavery of different races and religious sects had occurred for thousands of years.  Fortunately, slavery at any meaningful scale has been eradicated globally.  This is largely due to the evolution of thought about the right of all of humanity to equal treatment before the law and the inability of slavers to hide this most egregious behavior.   

Many of the descendants of African slaves in the United States, those that have not been able to lift themselves up through education and entrepreneurship, have been perennially living below the so-called “poverty line”.  Many more have been able to lift themselves and their families out of poverty into the middle class and beyond.   

In the past sixty years attempts have been made to lift-up those remaining in poverty.  These attempts have totaled an estimated 20-25 trillion dollars5 in federal, state, and local government wealth transfer programs since the mid-1960s.  These programs funded direct financial aid, SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Aid Program better known as food stamps), educational funding programs, housing programs, medical care (AKA Medicaid), among others.  This does not include hundreds of billions in charitable contributions made to privately run anti-poverty assistance programs.

During this 2020 pandemic even just three trillion dollars of federal government aid managed to help lift a U.S economy in free fall.  The entire GDP for the United States in its most recent measure is approximately 20 trillion.  How is it that more than the entire GDP in wealth transfer program spending could not more permanently lift-up a significantly larger portion of those in poverty who in 2017, of all races, numbered 38 million3 or approximately 12% of the United States population?  The estimated black population in the U.S. is 44 million5 or approximately 13% of the U.S. population. The number of blacks living in poverty in 2019 is 16.3%4 of all blacks in the United States.  That rate is down from nearly 30% in 19904.  The simple math yields that just over 7 million blacks in the U.S. live in poverty.   Although the poverty rate has declined measurably over the past few years, why have all these wealth transfer and charity-based programs failed to make more measurable, sustainable progress for all Americans living in poverty?  If 7 million blacks live in poverty, then where is the white privilege for the other 31 million non-blacks who live in poverty in this country?

So, should something be done about white privilege?  This question supposes that there is a mandate for action.  That white privilege is inherently unfair and unjust.  It is not.  Regardless of your position on this question, much has been done to address it, both fiscally and legislatively, over many decades with measurable success.  With programmatic support and through personal will, acting on one’s own behalf, black families have been lifted up through hard work and education.  Wealth transfer programs have reduced poverty.  Some say not nearly enough has been done and slavery reparations must be provided.  Others would argue that many trillions in wealth transfer programs have succeeded to a measurable degree and that these programs represent a monumental amount of reparation.  Some, regardless of how much has been done, will argue for more. 

There are new notions of how to address what is described as a “permanent underclass”.  An example of what be done would be the government provision of a reasonable “living wage’.  A “wage” implies that a work product of some sort of marketable value is being produced in exchange for the “wage”.  In this case there may not be a work requirement to receive direct payments, or those in low paying jobs would have their compensation supplemented to reach the predetermined amount. A better description may be a living income for those essentially left behind by an economy reliant on technology that eliminates the demand, and therefore commercial value, of unskilled or low skilled labor.  That commercial enterprises employing technology that eliminates the requirement for unskilled or low skilled labor should fund these “living incomes” in an attempt at fairness.  Clearly more must be done to improve education in impoverished areas of this country. How can we expect those in poverty to lift themselves up if a quality education is not available to them?  These massively important questions must be addressed in the near term.

Finally, more questions have been raised here than answers. To reiterate a point, the so-called “white privilege” freely bandied about today is not the result of some unearned right gifted to white Americans.  Yes, some benefited from the transfer of family wealth.  Yet all of that family wealth was at one point derived from hard work, risk taking, and blood freely given to earn these benefits passed on by ancestors who sacrificed a great deal to have the privilege of passing these benefits on to their descendants.  They earned that right. Can anyone see blatant unfairness in this?  Many in generations living today (Greatest, Boomer and Millennial) have also toiled mightily to have their children have a life better than theirs.  They are also the ones whose blood was spilled and lives sacrificed in the millions to win wars against tyranny to preserve the American way of life so desired the world over.  To view these sacrifices and the resultant rewards as unfair is equally unjust.

1https://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/how-many-slaves-landed-in-the-us/

1https://www.theroot.com/slavery-by-the-numbers-1790874492

2https://www.bing.com/search?q=american+population+in+1800&cvid=9e1a460dfd334b63946a58b69dec7b69&pglt=43&FORM=ANNTA1&PC=ACTS

3https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2019/demo/p60-266.html

4https://www.statista.com/statistics/205059/percentage-of-poor-black-families–in-the-us/

5https://www.bing.com/search?q=black+us+population+2020&form=ANNTH1&refig=17c9eda9d3944ec9bacab1cb29d8bab2&sp=6&qs=AS&pq=black+us+population&sk=AS5&sc=8-19&cvid=17c9eda9d3944ec9bacab1cb29d8bab2

5https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2015/05/no_progress_since_the_war_on_poverty_began_half_a_century_ago.html

6https://www.history.com/news/prehistoric-ages-timeline#section_1

Congresswoman Spanberger Revealed – A Letter to the Editor that the Richmond Times Dispatch would not Publish

In 2018 Abigail Spanberger’s television ads were not too dissimilar from those being broadcast today.  No mention of her party affiliation.  Her ads attempt to portray her, as they did in 2018, as a moderate who wishes to be perceived as a candidate that represents all constituents in her district.  In fact in 2018, she stated she will represent all the constituents including the 49.6% who did not vote for her.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I welcome her constituents to examine her voting record as a freshman congresswoman.  In fact, her voting record reveals her voting performance as aligning with the Democrat Caucus the vast majority of the time.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a devoted Socialist, voted with President Trump more often than she did.  In the 79 votes tracked by a feature of The New York Times online and renamed FiveThirtyEight: Nate Silver’s Political Calculus, Congresswoman Spanberger voted with the President 7 times; less than 10%.   Of the 26 votes tracked by the American Conservative Union in 2019 Congresswoman Spanberger voted in favor of the ACU position 3 times or 11.5%.  This is no way can be perceived as the position of a politically balanced moderate who claims to represent all constituents.

Clearly Congresswoman Spanberger’s intent is to deceive.  First in her 2018 campaign ads that did not reveal her party affiliation and pledged to represent all of her constituents.  Now her current set of ads claims she is working with Republicans and Democrats when her voting record demonstrates her performance thus far is anything but balanced with virtually no attempt to be bipartisan.

To all the voters of the 7th Virginia congressional district, I ask is this the sort of less than honest person you wish to represent you?

Curt Rasmussen

Glen Allen, VA

Center of the City No More

Decades ago, newcomers to the Richmond area from the northern states faced an unexpected challenge, abundant friendliness!  Walking anywhere but especially through the streets of downtown, strangers passing by seemed to go out of their way to make eye contact and say good morning or simply hello.   For those from the “cold shoulder” north this was a bit of a shock. But once one made the adjustment, realizing there was nothing to fear, this new reality was something to look forward to as you went about your business in town.  Friendliness seemed to abound from virtually everyone, even those with whom you had the most incidental contact. 

In recent years, the friendly encounters have significantly diminished.  As the community has grown, including many relocating from the “frigid” north, the impulse to resist this wonderful part of southern culture also grew.  A contributing factor is certainly the outward signs of growing political polarization emanating from society in the form of mere distrust to short-fused anger. Regardless, many locals persist in their effusive friendliness, only to be increasingly ignored thus impacting their motivation somewhat.  Friendly encounters do still happen, especially if you make a pronounced effort to appear interested in an exchange of pleasantries.

City from Shockoe Bottom

Also in recent times, the popularity of many new restaurants (driven by a widely held perception of quality cuisine and good service) has brought the city national attention as a “foodie town”.  This accompanied an equally widely held perception of the city as friendly place to visit with a rich history and reasonable cost.

The very beginning of this upward trend appeared to emanate from the area near city center called Shockoe Bottom.  Shockoe Bottom’s trendy restaurants, pubs, cigar bars and night clubs, with the accompanying surge in equally trendy microbreweries and distilleries, became a night life destination in town.  This led to younger generations seeing downtown as a place to work, play and live.  Until…every week there appeared to be a Shockoe Bottom late night shooting, causing many to scratch Shockoe Bottom off their list of nightlife destinations. 

But certainly, there are other parts of the city with surging urbanism, among them Scott’s Addition, Manchester, those adjacent to VCU and even the resurgence of the area known as “the Fan”.  These areas, among others, bristle with new restaurants and night life opportunity. The combination of the Shockoe Bottom crime issues and the surge of areas more in the periphery of the city, gives the appearance as though these new areas of interest with restaurants, new residential options, and innovative places to locate a business, are moving away from the city center.   As if the centrifugal forces of violence and decay were hurtling these new options outward. 

Not in the “burbs” of course but it appears efforts to specifically revitalized downtown have continued to fail.  Since the city’s attempted downtown Marketplace fiasco in the late eighties, efforts over the past thirty years to bring new interest in visiting downtown has been a roller coaster ride. Combine these previous failures with current issues of the decline of the area surrounding the coliseum, and the decline of coliseum itself, along with the failed attempt to locate a new minor league baseball park in Shockoe Bottom, leaves one with little hope. Add to the mix the Shockoe Bottom violence and the dilapidated condition of the city roads and infrastructure, all are contributing to the perception of incompetent city government who get some things right and too many things wrong.

The only glue holding downtown together is the presence of Virginia state government.  But state government’s effect is largely one of weekday, daylight hours.  Another indicator of downtown decay was the recent pull out of a major, premium, Shockoe-located restaurant in the form of Morton’s Steakhouse, illustrating a trend that is not positive for the city center as a nighttime destination.

Now, as BLM protesters, unfortunately associated with rioting, arson, and looting, take possession of the city center after dark, any desire by those who came into the city for dining and entertainment may be gone for good.   As a further consequence, the outward reputation of the community as a safe place to live, work and raise a family is now significantly tarnished. 

Regardless of how you view what has happened and why, this violence is proverbial “poison in the water” for this city.  Will Fortune 1000 businesses locate here?  Will the ones that are here find a reason to move?  Will the conversion of old downtown office buildings into apartment towers continue?  Will developers, who could have brought the means for conversion of derelict areas of downtown real estate into vibrant, attractive destinations, bring new proposals to city government?  This appears now much less likely.

And this is not just poison for the city proper but for the entire metro-area.  Fear is growing that these sorts of disturbances will find their way to the surrounding counties.  These counties make up more than two thirds of the metro-area population.  Prospective buyers, developers and businesses may look elsewhere to bring their buying power and jobs.  Fewer jobs, fewer residents lead to a smaller tax base and spiraling decline that has very painfully affected many other communities.

How sad that this could be the beginning of a period of decline for this community.  With the ocean and the mountains less than two hours away, not to mention the James River running right through town, Williamsburg less than an hour away, and the nation’s capital just two hours to the north, Richmond is well positioned as an attractive location for business and family.  If you also consider the relatively low cost of living, quality schools (with the exception of many schools in the city proper) and the temperate climate, it aggregates to an extremely attractive picture.  But that is not what the world is seeing and hearing about this community today.  They are seeing lawlessness, rioting, arson, looting, three police chiefs in less than 30 days, as well as inept, ineffective city and state leadership.

For all of those who love this community for many of the previously mentioned attributes, this is the first time many have spoken openly about leaving it.  Is this the beginning of the end of a great resurgent period for this community?

A Soul-less Nation

This is not about religion.  It is about the aspects of society that are a reflection of principals found in religious belief systems.  These values represent expectations one human being has of another in their behavior toward one another in society.  Although others would attempt to make it exceedingly more complicated than that, it is truly that simple.

Over the centuries one faith group or another would go in and out of favor with the populous of a particular country or region.  The fundamental reality is that the doctrines of major faith groups, be it Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Judaism, Buddhism, et al, have attempted to guide us in life to be the best versions of ourselves.  Worthy principals such as kindness, charity, and love for others.  Truly the essence of what it could mean to be human.  Humans who endeavor to bring these principles to every interaction do so with the expectation that their kindness, charity and love will be returned in equal measure.

It is unfortunate but, people being what they are, some have attempted to use faith as a means to control a set population.  Beyond that unfortunately common transgression, these same “faith leaders” have used faith as a shield to divert the attention of the faithful away from their actions that are clearly counter to faith teachings. Purposely less clear, their actions are intended to pervert the trust placed in them.  Most often the intent is for personal gain, be it of the flesh or a material gain.  As humans we are flawed.  Some are weak and easily led to their detriment, as well as to the detriment of those around them. 

Regardless, the good that has come from religion of nearly all varieties is the result of actions taken by the many, the faithful, in carrying out the principles of kindness, charity and love.  In Christianity, representing the largest numbers around the world of practicing faithful, the basic principals in the teachings of Jesus Christ and others have led many to realize the good in themselves and others. These principals have led to the creation of communities around the world where these same principals guide peoples and even governments to institutionalize these principals in the form of law (our Bill of Rights). 

Democracy, the fairest form of government, is in itself rooted in Judeo-Christian principals of treating others as you would wish to be treated.   The notion that all people are created equal has led to laws intended to enforce these principals.  Not enforced upon those who would naturally carry them out in daily life but, more importantly, upon those who chose to violate these principles.   The most egregious of violators face removal from society so as to protect those who wish to live in a society where these principles are the defacto standard for human conduct.

The United States, a democracy by design based on these same Judeo-Christian principals, has been a shining light of human conduct for centuries.  Not a perfect example.  Perfection is not possible where humans are central.  Yet the principles, and the laws that reflect them, are intended to “form a more perfect union”.   

With certain religions, God is the final judge of how we conducted our lives.  The words of a Christian God are enshrined in the Bible.  And, in Christianity, it is the word of God, through his son and prophet, that define this notion of perfect human conduct.  This notion is what has led us to “in God we trust”.  It is the embodiment of the bond between God and we imperfect humans.  That, should we strive for and succeed in living by these principals, then a more perfect union will be the result.  The American Constitution echoes a Christian God’s words and principals as the means to create this more perfect union.

For atheists, who maintain that what they do in life has no consequences after death, there is no hell or purgatory…or a heaven for that matter.  Thus, they exclaim “don’t judge me” with your puritanical views when exposed to my conduct you find reprehensible.  “As long as it isn’t illegal, I should be able to do what I wish.”

The same logic applies to countries with only an atheist guiding light.  The Peoples Republic of China and The Russian Federation are the two largest examples.  And let us not forget Nazi Germany whose only “religion” was Aryan superiority.  During the fascist Nazi era, “inferior beings” were shipped off to concentration camps never to be seen or heard from again.  China’s present-day concentration camps (housing Muslims instead of Jews, gypsies, et al) represent the same sort of bigotry and arrogance while daring the world to attempt to do something about it. 

Similar to the conduct of atheist nations, there are countries where leaders have perverted a religion, steeped in peaceful principals (Islam as an example), into a bludgeon to oppress the people.  Their perversion of religion provides a ready excuse to hate and murder those who choose a different belief system.  The Islamic Republic of Iran the most prominent of the examples.  Their behavior on the world stage is inexcusable.

So why do so many around the world see Christianity as the problem?  It is difficult to be a daily consumer of any sort of media outlet and not experience someone complaining about Christianity.  One example is a recent experience with a bit of dialogue in a British television show (Last Tango in Halifax) where a character exclaimed that Christians are the problem in the U.K.   So how then are Christians “the problem”?   The Church of England, or the Anglican Church, may have been a bit slow with gender and LGBT issues (yet light years ahead of the Catholics).  But women and gay Vickers are ordained frequently without inappropriate distinction.  Jesus spoke, through the Disciples and the Bible, of universal love unguided by station in life, gender, race, proclivities and especially love for those deemed sinners.  Where in any of that lies “the problem”.

Yes, the Crusades were Christians behaving badly in the name of Christ…a thousand years ago!  Since then attempts to spread Christianity have largely been benign, mainly in the form of missionary work attempting to blend Christianity with work to improve the lives of those who would willingly listen.  Regardless of these worthy efforts, the number of people calling themselves Christians around the world is in decline.

The clear, modern-day trend among younger generations, X-generation, Millennials, is a rapid movement away from religion.  And, depending on their influences, possibly their parents or parent, possibly a schoolteacher or professor, possibly a school mate or a co-worker, their education or exposure to acceptable human conduct can vary widely; or be non-existent.  Say what you wish about the failings of religion, the teachings about acceptable human conduct are crystal clear.

These trends are a cause for concern and point toward an eventual soul-less nation.  If you are willing to equate having a soul with a natural inclination to treat other human beings as you would wish to be treated, then there must be a worrisome void in a soul-less state.  The manifestations of a soul of an individual have been equated to compassion and love for others, the ability to discern right from wrong, exhibiting respect for the rights of others and a general understanding of what it means to a good person.  Connecting with one’s soul is likely not something that comes natively through mere existence.   A good person is highly likely shaped by external influences.

This anti-religion trend has been both subtle and more overt.  Not going to church, or temple, or mosque, or some other place of religious gathering and congregation is not something typically newsworthy.  Demanding that the word “God” be removed from our currency for example garners media attention.  Yet “God”, regardless of which religion you subscribe to, is woven into the very fabric of this nation.  “God” is mentioned at least four times in our Declaration of Independence.  Judeo-Christian principals are highly evident in our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and common law.  It is that religious training, regarding the values and principals of acceptable human conduct, that shaped our nation.  These teachings, held on high by the nation’s founding fathers, are the basis for the laws of our land.  They are the essence of the pursuit of a more perfect union characterized by liberty and justice for all.

So, will these trends lead us away as a society from the education of the young about acceptable human conduct?  It is fair to assume that it is not likely to occur for a generation or two as the lingering effects of previous generations (the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers) live on.  But as the “light” of religion is slowly extinguished, how will these teachings take place?  Certainly not in the schools as any connection to religion in public education has been banished.   Where else then?

Despite the complaints about religion’s attempted “interference” in the lives of some; much good, tremendous good, is done by creating community and the charitable efforts of those communities.  Are we trending toward a soul-less nation, in fact a soul-less world?  It clearly appears we are.

Photo Voter ID is Not Discriminatory

If you do not already possess another form of photo identification (and most folks do), and you really want to vote, you can troop on down to DMV and ask for a photo ID.  In Virginia, below are the many acceptable forms of voter photo ID.

Acceptable forms of valid identification:

  • Virginia driver’s license
  • Virginia DMV-issued photo ID
  • United States passport
  • Employer-issued photo ID
  • Student photo ID issued by a school, college, or university located in Virginia
  • Other U.S. or Virginia government-issued photo ID
  • Tribal enrollment or other tribal photo ID
  • Virginia Voter Photo ID card

If you don’t have any of the above forms of identification, you can simply go to your nearest voter registration office to get a free Voter Photo ID, even on Election Day!  You will be required to complete a Virginia Voter Photo Identification Card Application (English | Español), have your photo taken and to sign a digital signature pad. The Virginia Voter Photo ID card is valid for voting purposes only.

If you don’t have a minimum one of the above, where have you been and or why not?  A very reasonable guess is 99.9% of likely voters have at least one of the above listed forms of photo ID. If you do not, and you want to vote, simply take your favorite form of transportation down to the nearest DMV office, or a voter registration office and apply for a FREE photo ID.

Here is a list of a few things you cannot do in Virginia without a Photo ID

  • Enter a state government building including the capital
  • Cannot purchase tobacco or alcoholic beverages
  • Cannot board a commercial airliner
  • Cannot cash a check at most banks
  • Cannot visit a doctor or hospital

What is the process for obtaining a DMV-issued Photo ID in Virginia?

What do you need to get a state photo ID in Virginia? You must present certain documentation, and pay a very small fee, to obtain each type of VA ID issued by the DMV. The documents needed for state ID are used by the DMV to verify your age, identity, Virginia address and legal presence in the United States. The most commonly used documents are listed in each category below:

  1. Adult Applicants:
  • One proof of identity and legal presence (U.S. citizens):
    • A driver’s license or ID issued in VA or another state
    • A U.S. birth certificate
    • A U.S. passport or passport card
    • A Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization
  • One proof of identity and legal presence (non-U.S. citizens):
    • An unexpired foreign passport with an unexpired U.S. visa and an I-94 or entry stamp
    • An unexpired Employment Authorization document (I-766) and a USCIS form I-797 displaying applicant’s name
    • An unexpired Permanent Resident card
  • One proof of Social Security number (SSN):
    • A Social Security card
    • A W-2 IRS tax form
    • An employer-issued payroll check stub showing the full SSN
  • Two proofs of Virginia residency:
    • A mortgage statement or lease agreement
    • A U.S. Postal Service change of address confirmation form
    • A utility bill less than 60 days old
    • Official correspondence from a federal, state, or local government agency
    • A billing statement printed with the applicant’s name and current address

Obviously non-US citizens are not eligible to vote and, regardless, there is a nominal cost for a DMV-issued photo ID. If you truly do not have any of the forms previously mentioned, and cannot afford a very reasonable DMV ID fee, then go to the voter registration office nearest you and obtain one there for free.

This is not asking too much to preserve the integrity of our voting system and is by no means discriminatory. Anyone…..anyone, regardless of race, creed color, religion, anyone, anyone who otherwise qualifies to vote in federal, state or local elections can, with reasonable effort, obtain a qualifying voter photo ID, and should be required to do so.