The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Why Are People Getting Seeds in the Mail from China?

A hand taking mail from a mailbox. (Image via Getty images)

On the menu today: Americans are receiving unsolicited, mysterious, and potentially dangerous seeds from China; Kamala Harris demonstrates she can’t read people; Google prepares for the long haul of the pandemic; and National Review kicks off a much-needed, dynamic new section.

Usually China Only Sows Metaphorical Seeds of Trouble

Merciful heavens, with someone in China sending unsolicited mysterious seeds to Americans that could well be some sort of invasive species, we really do need a Weed Agency.

State officials and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are investigating reports that hundreds of residents have received seeds in the mail they didn’t order.

Agricultural officials across the U.S. have launched probes after residents received unsolicited packages of seeds that appear to have mostly originated from China. Mike Strain, Louisiana’s commissioner of agriculture and forestry, which is investigating packages received in that state, said the USDA is also investigating the matter.

A USDA spokesperson said the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is aware that “people across the country have received unsolicited packages of seed from China in recent days.” The spokesperson said USDA is working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection and state agriculture departments to prevent the illegal entry of prohibited seeds and protect U.S. agriculture from invasive pests and noxious weeds.

Please be careful, people. This could be Audrey II for all we know, or the red weed from Mars, or Triffids. If it’s from China, you know they’re not sending us something as benevolent and likeable as Groot.

This could be some incompetent shipping clerk, or a different kind of scam: “According to the Better Business Bureau, foreign, third-party sellers use your address and Amazon information to generate a fake sale and positive review to boost their product ratings,” said Phil Wilson, director of the Plant Industry Division. “Seeds are just one of the items used in this scam, however, you could receive other inexpensive items such as rubber bands, plastic toys, or empty bags.”

This government and its economic leaders are not good global citizens. By late April, Chinese companies sent out ten million defective coronavirus tests, masks, and other personal protective equipment. They run concentration camps, suppress churches, make aggressive territorial claims to international waters, strengthen the Iranian regime, lied about the coronavirus when it mattered most, and effectively conquered Hong Kong. The rulers in Beijing are a “rogue state” in every sense of the word.

And yet, quite a few wealthy Americans — some of whom make an affluent living dribbling basketballs — wish to keep the American relationship with China intact, because this arrangement is financially good for them.

What has China ramping up its aggressiveness on so many fronts simultaneously?

It couldn’t be because the rulers in Beijing worried about the massive Three Gorges Dam breaking or collapsing, are they?

Apparently, Kamala Harris Can’t Read People

Imagine for a moment that you’re Kamala Harris. Your presidential bid rose quickly and then crashed like Icarus, but now a lot of people are calling you a strong contender to be Joe Biden’s running mate. Former Connecticut senator Chris “Waitress Sandwich” Dodd, a member of Biden’s vice-presidential search committee, asks you about how you attacked Biden in the first debate. Recall that Harris contended it was “hurtful to hear [Biden] talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their careers on segregation” and “opposed busing in America” and suggested Biden did not take racial discrimination “seriously.” Biden called her attack “a mischaracterization of my position across the board.” This is a longtime good friend of your party’s nominee, who will be advising said nominee on his running mate selection, asking directly about your straight-to-the-jugular attack.

If you were Harris, how would you respond?

Do you . . .

  1. Pledge you’ll attack Biden’s critics as aggressively as you attacked his record that night?
  2. Say it went too far, and you never should have suggested Biden accepted segregation or didn’t take discrimination seriously?
  3. Laugh it off as nothing out of the ordinary?

Harris chose No. 3.

When former Sen. Chris Dodd, a member of Joe Biden’s vice presidential search committee, recently asked Kamala Harris about her ambush on Biden in the first Democratic debate, Dodd was stunned by her response.

“She laughed and said, ‘that’s politics.’ She had no remorse,” Dodd told a longtime Biden supporter and donor, who relayed the exchange to Politico on condition of anonymity.

[Insert sound of game show buzzer indicating a wrong answer here.]

Karen Tumulty is displeased that this exchange might hurt Harris’s odds of being Biden’s running mate. “This reported anxiety about Harris, however, suggests a different standard for women as running mates. They are apparently supposed to be window-dressing — demure and apologetic.”

Let’s think this through here. What matters at that moment is not what Harris thinks of what she said on that debate that night. If Harris wants to be Biden’s running mate, what matters is what Dodd thinks of what she said at that debate that night. And if Dodd is asking about it, it’s probably not because he thought it was such a terrific moment in the evening. Whether or not Harris thinks she should feel remorse, she apparently didn’t realize or care that Dodd thought she should feel remorse — or at least fake feeling some remorse about what she said.

What do you think Dodd wanted to hear? Either answers 1 or 2, right?

What does it say about Kamala Harris that she either didn’t grasp this, or simply didn’t care about what Dodd thought of her answer?

Google Gets Ready for the Pandemic Long Haul

Yesterday, I noted that this pervasive sense that an alleviation from or a fix for the pandemic is just around the corner has partially exacerbated our problem. If medical experts had declared that a vaccine was years away, that grim news would have forced our society to figure out a way to live and function while the virus was still out there. But no one could reasonably expect Americans to stay home, out of work, out of school, away from family and friends, away from any large gathering of any kind, for years at a time. But if the solution is just a month or two away, leaders feel comfortable telling people who have put their lives on hold for five months just to wait a little longer.

The leaders at Google aren’t counting on life returning to normal in 2020 — or even early 2021. The company “will keep its employees home until at least next July, making the search-engine giant the first major U.S. corporation to formalize such an extended timetable in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Credit Alphabet chief executive Sundar Pichai for recognizing that right now, people are being asked to live in a limbo-like state — where they are expected to make commitments, but the forces that shape their lives can’t make commitments to them. Pichai “was swayed in part by sympathy for employees with families to plan for uncertain school years that may involve at-home instruction, depending on geography. It also frees staff to sign full-year leases elsewhere if they choose to move.”

If the pandemic alleviates or a vaccine gets distributed before July, terrific — Google can adjust its plans. But the company recognizes that preparing for the worst is not akin to hoping for the worst, or operating on the belief that optimism requires us to not take steps to be ready for gloomier scenarios.

ADDENDUM: Statists of all stripes are launching the most dangerous legislative and intellectual attacks on free markets in decades. With every sign that this attack is going to intensify in the years to come and few signs of an effective pushback, National Review is pleased to announce the formation of Capital Matters, a new section on NationalReview.com that will feature articles on business, finance, and economics. This new section will do for business and economic news what Bench Memos has done for coverage of the judiciary.

In the same spirit that led William F. Buckley Jr. to found National Review, National Review Institute is proud to collaborate on this new project to explain, defend, and celebrate capitalism. Through timely commentary from well-known financiers, economists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and other specialists, coupled with events, webinars, forums, and conference calls, the objective of this initiative is to change the terms of debate over our country’s economic future for the better. At the helm of this initiative is the newest fellow at NRI, Andrew Stuttaford, who had a long career in finance and has also been writing for National Review for decades, and Kevin Hassett, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

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