It would seem that “the most important election of your life” was a tie.
It is hard not to laugh when political partisans make impassioned arguments about the cause du jour. And not just because the arguments are typically awful. When Democrats launch their next grandiose scheme for whatever it is they’ve just hatched up, they seem to have convinced themselves that it will actually work as advertised. For their part, Republicans will be in fierce opposition, haunted by the fear that somehow it might work.
As a result we have endless arguments that are mostly pointless about stuff that doesn’t matter much. On the other hand, things that actually do matter are studiously avoided because often they do not easily fit into a neat ideological box. So the combatants spend their afternoons dreaming up slogans that substitute for thought, after which they adopt and implement policies that are riotously out of kilter with reality.
Consider some recent examples. In Manhattan, police recebroke up an orgy attended by some 80 people. The event was sponsored by an operation named Caligula. The firm advertises itself as a private on premise swinger club. Among the reasons the event was raided was that—I am not making this up—the patrons apparently did not properly observe social distancing regulations.
And then we have the Governor of Oregon to consider. A side note: for the last 50 years radio stations have played Arlo Guthrie’s “Alices Restaurant” on Thanksgiving Day. All 18 minutes of it. Alice’s Restaurant is the talking blues song about…well here are some of the lyrics below.
“I was drafted and when I went to my induction physical they handed out papers and said , “Have you ever been arrested?” I raised my hand and told the Sergeant , “Yes” and he said, “What for?” and I told him, “Litterin” the Sergeant said,” I’ve seen that movie, ain’t gonna work here.” So I got sent into the Army.”
And in the true spirit of Alice’s Restaurant, the Governor has encouraged people to call the police on their neighbors if they see a possible violation. The violations carry a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail, $1,250 in fines or both.
So, back to Governor Kate Brown of Oregon. Last week the Governor instituted a new round of Covid restrictions that included a freeze on both indoor and outdoors gatherings, just in time for Thanksgiving. The indoor gatherings permit no more than 6 people from a maximum of 2 families. Thanksgiving Day dinners are no exception.
The Marion County Sheriff’s office is apparently hesitant to enforce the edict, noting that we cannot arrest our way out of the pandemic. It seems that the heel-clickers are the politicians, not the police. Defund the Politicos has a nice ring to it.
Finally. Perhaps one of the most absurd remarks made in recent days comes from…Donald J Trump. No surprise there. Any way, Mr. Trump who never takes responsibility for anything even mildly negative actually complained that it is his lawyers who are making him look bad.
The Wall Street Journal has published a story on student test performance in the wake of Covid inspired school shutdowns. According to the story, “American children started school this fall significantly behind expectations in math, and modestly behind in some grades in reading, according to one of the first reports on widely used tests since the coronavirus pandemic shut schools in March.”
It isn’t like student test scores were humming along just fine pre-pandemic. As the Journal reports “On an American test known as the Nation’s Report Card, only 34% of eighth-graders were proficient in math last year, meaning they showed competence in challenging subject matter, and 34% were proficient in reading.”
On the other hand, students in Catholic and other private schools had smaller average declines in math and exceeded expectations in reading. It is worth noting that many Catholic and otherwise private schools have remained open during the pandemic, and with minimal infection rates.
At the same time Black, Hispanic and low-income household students fell further behind the averages, although the change was not statistically significant given the already wide gap between those groups and the averages.
These fall-offs in performance are likely to be devastating, especially in minority and low-income areas that depend on public school systems. Consider: The education process is cumulative. Students are presented with increasingly challenging material, based on previous learning, as they progress through the grades. Which means that failing to learn 3rd grade material makes it increasingly difficult to learn 4th grade material and so on. To say nothing of social development.
Let’s confront the fact that only one-third of 8th grade students are proficient in reading or math to begin with. Add to that the knock-on effects of school closings (and distance learning) and it becomes obvious that in later years, the impact on students, especially minorities, is likely to be catastrophic.
So why is it that progressives have been especially adamant about closing down the schools and resorting to distance learning? Let’s think about (1) what the incentive structure of the public school system actually is versus (2) what it should be.
The fact is that the nation’s public primary and secondary schools are run for the benefit of their adult employees. Not surprisingly, all the incentives point in that direction. The incentives ought to be structured to benefit the students. But students are the last concern of the public schools. The evidence for this is straightforward. If the schools were concerned with providing students with a decent education, two-thirds of 8th graders would not be less than proficient in reading and math. And it would be possible to fire incompetent teachers. But it isn’t.
The root of the problem is that the school system is funded by third party payers. That payer is government, mostly local, and those governments are heavily influenced by (the mostly progressive) Teachers Unions. Their mission is to protect the interests of their members. The interests of the students are very far down the list of priorities.
The public schools system is a monopoly, and like any monopoly it acts ruthlessly to defend its monopoly position. That helps to explain why the Unions have been so intent on closing the schools, with the pandemic being a convenient excuse. This despite virtually no evidence that the pandemic presents more than a vanishingly small risk to either students or teachers.
Note that the Unions have attempted to get governors to decree that all schools in their respective states close, not just public schools. Since public schools and their teachers are being funded anyway, an order to close all schools would financially squeeze private schools that depend on tuition for survival. That is the point of the exercise—to put competitors out of business. Mercifully, after some initial successes, universal closure orders have been batted down.
Some, but not all, Catholic and private schools have opened for in-person instruction. Those schools have had minimal levels of Covid infections. Charlie Baker, Governor of Massachusetts pointed out in late October that open parochial schools in the state with 28,000 students and 4,000 employees have been operating safely in-person since mid August. They have had “only a handful of cases”.
You would think that the education establishment would be shamed by all this, but you would be wrong. They continue to press on, spouting all kinds of cant about Social Justice, while crushing opportunity for kids, especially the most vulnerable. And now to make matters worse, among those up for consideration for Education Secretary is none other than Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.
The iron-fisted Weingarten, who has been a relentless advocate for the union monopoly she oversees, is a friend of the bureaucratic command-and-control model of governance that has served teachers so well and students so poorly. Then again, it is the model that President elect Biden has always been comfortable with. And like Biden, Weingarten has been caught plagiarizing material, so they also share that in common.
Progressives routinely pat themselves on the back, claiming to represent the interest of minorities. One of the most important ways that the interests of minorities can be advanced is through educational opportunity—real, not faux educational opportunity. Don’t bet on it though, the command-and-control model looks to be firmly back in the saddle.
The manual recount in Georgia is over, and Joe Biden won the state by a slim margin of 12,000 votes. In Michigan, the margin was 146,000 votes. The margin of the Biden victory in Arizona was 11,000 votes. In Pennsylvania the margin was about 80,000 votes including provisional ballots. But even if 100% of the provisional ballots cast in favor of Biden (51,889) were tossed aside, it still wouldn’t affect the outcome.
Biden won and Trump lost, fair and square. But Trump and his team of lawyers refuse to acknowledge the obvious. So perhaps Republicans ought to follow the lead of Senators Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse and push back against the detestable Trumpian effort to snatch the election away from the rightful victor. Trump’s efforts reflect more than his typical narcissism; they are part and parcel of the ongoing and deliberate sabotage of the public trust in our institutions for purely partisan reasons.
And before the fingers start pointing, let’s be clear—this is not an entirely new phenomenon. Both Democrats and Republicans have done this. Hillary Clinton and her minions spent the better part of 4 years pretending that they were robbed of a rightful victory in 2016, with no evidence, as CNN likes to say about Trump. The New York Times 1619 project explicitly argued that the foundational purpose of the U.S. was the imposition and maintenance of race-based slavery, the effects of which are with us today in the form of institutionalized oppression and systemic racism.
It is worth listening to what Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse has said on the subject of the public trust, especially with respect to Trump and his lawyers’ post electoral behavior. (Not that it has varied much from his pre-electoral behavior).
Here is how Sasse is quoted in Politico.“Wild press conferences erode public trust. So no, obviously Rudy and his buddies should not pressure electors to ignore their certification obligations under the statute. We are a nation of laws, not tweets,” Sasse said.
He went on “When Trump campaign lawyers have stood before courts under oath, they have repeatedly refused to actually allege grand fraud — because there are legal consequences for lying to judges,” Sasse said. “President Trump lost Michigan by more than 100,000 votes, and the campaign and its allies have lost in or withdrawn from all five lawsuits in Michigan for being unable to produce any evidence.”
It is absolutely clear to anyone who is rational that Biden won and Trump lost, full stop. The margins of Biden’s victory in the contested states simply overwhelm the possibility of any conceivable attempt to win by fraud. The people who insist that Trump actually won are simply delusional. And that is being kind.
We should not overlook the fact, and it is a fact, that Trump’s cheerleaders are engaged in a deliberate attack on American institutions that have been the mainstay of our liberties. It is, for instance, hard to believe that the leaders of the effort, people like Rudy Giulliani and Sydney Powell, actually believe the nonsense they have been trying to sell. If they really believed what they claimed about fraud, they presumably would have made the claim in court. But they didn’t. That’s because, as Ben Sasse pointed out, lawyers face consequences for lying to judges.
But not for lying to the gullible. It’s the old bit—if you don’t know who the mark is in a card game—then you’re the mark. (For a discussion of the particulars, Jim Geraghty has a terrific article in National Review that demolishes the contention that the election was stolen by Biden & Co.)
A backdrop to all this is that Republican officeholders, with a few notable exceptions, are terrified of their voter base. As a result, many have refused to say out loud what they know to be true. In so doing they have created a remarkable profile in cowardice. And if they continue down this road the result may very well be calamitous for the Republican Party. And rightly so. Perhaps we will get an inkling of what the electorate thinks about all this on January 5 in Georgia.
It is now mid November. Apparently though, no one has gotten around to telling President Trump that the presidential election is over and done with and that he lost. While no one disputes his right to seek legal remedies for election irregularities, no one who has mastered third grade arithmetic thinks that there is even a remote chance that the outcome will change. The election is over. Biden won and Trump lost. It is as simple as that.
Or ought to be. But it isn’t because Trump is busy resisting the outcome and claiming fraud. It is possible that Trump actually believes that the election was “stolen” despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary. He has never lacked a ready supply of self pity. More likely, he is setting things up for some other purpose, like a future run, a TV show or to ward off a future prosecution.
Trump’s post election behavior, which includes the unwarranted and vindictive firing of Defense Secretary Esper, perfectly demonstrates why he should never have been elected president in the first place. Regardless, despite all the hysteria, at noon on January 20, 2021 Joe Biden will take the oath of office and Donald Trump will no longer be president. Period. Because that’s what Section 1 of the 20th amendment to the Constitution says. “The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January…”
At that point all powers of the presidency will be vested in the person of Joe Biden. Whereupon Donald Trump can go pound sand and it won’t make the slightest difference to the functioning of the government.
Perhaps fans of the “living Constitution” ought to think about that for a moment. Namely, that the Constitution actually means what the text clearly says it means. We could start with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania which took it upon itself to rewrite Pennsylvania’s election laws on the fly despite the fact that the text clearly leaves that task to the legislature.
In any event, the election is finally over. Now the intra-party bloodletting can begin in earnest. Meanwhile, in Washington it is a truism that personnel is policy. So we need to watch and see who emerges in the jockeying for position in the new administration. Bernie Sanders (Socialist, VT) is said to be campaigning hard to be Secretary of Labor. Let’s see if the supposedly moderate Mr. Biden gives the thumbs up for that.
President elect Biden has made no secret of his admiration for Dr. Anthony Fauci, currently head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NAID). Just the other day Dr. Fauci was speaking at the Washington National Cathedral along with other pandemic experts. Here is what he had to say as reported by CNBC.
“I was talking with my U.K. colleagues who are saying the U.K. is similar to where we are now, because each of our countries have that independent spirit,” he said on stage. “I can understand that, but now is the time to do what you’re told.”
So now it appears that the true spirit of rule by experts is upon us. Get used to it, as Dr. Fauci might say.
Every four years, right on schedule, we are told that “This election is the most important of your life.” And of course, it isn’t. Just like the one we are in the process of finishing wasn’t. Not by a long shot. The probable result is best described as a much needed victory for gridlock.
As of this writing it appears that the Republicans will keep their Senate majority, the Democrats will lose a few House seats and Vice President Biden may prevail with a small edge in the race for 270 Electoral College votes. But none of this is certain, and the final result will probably leave the losing side firmly convinced that “We wuz robbed.”
Whether that sentiment is justified remains to be seen. But it is important to note that the distrust is both widespread and long standing. Part of the problem is extreme polarization. That polarization has been stoked by the major parties which increasingly resort to emotional appeals rather than facts or logic.
Moreover, in addition to being an affront to the first amendment, campaign finance “reform” has left the major parties and their candidates dependent on large outside donors who increasingly influence Party agendas. Think Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg and Sheldon Addison. That hasn’t helped any either.
More importantly, the problem of distrust can be laid squarely at the feet of progressives who have spent the last 50 years or so attacking our governing institutions. In this they have been aided and abetted by (1) the mainstream press which is increasingly populated by woke “reporters” and (2) the public education system which has produced indoctrination factories but little learning.
When we are told on a daily basis that the U.S. is “systemically racist”; that the U.S. is “structurally racist”; that the police are in the business of hunting down black men to shoot; that the real founding of the U.S. was 1619 when African slaves were first brought to Jamestown, and that school curricula are being introduced based on that lie, why would anyone be surprised by public distrust of our governing and culture shaping institutions?
Why would anyone take the NY Times, MSNBC or CNN seriously when their reporters insist on discussing peaceful demonstrations while anyone can see the buildings behind them are on fire? Why would anyone trust the Washington Post with its slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness” on its front page while it refuses to cover the Hunter Biden scandal, without doubt an important story.
Why would anyone believe the rhetoric of big city mayors and civil rights organizations when it is clear that they are bought and paid for by the Teachers Unions. Those big city public schools have failed minority children for generations and yet big city Mayors and civil rights organizations like the NAACP have long fought school choice and charter schools even though the evidence is crystal clear that they produce superior outcomes.
It is clear to anyone with eyes to see that what we have is a massive failure of government and governance. The failure is long standing and reaches into almost every area of American life. The affluent can afford this because it doesn’t affect them. But the average citizen can’t afford to pay $25,000 — to $50,000 a year to send their kids to private prep schools. Nor can the average citizen afford to pay for private security guards while activists insist on “defunding the police.”
Elites can afford to move to their summer houses in the Hamptons while calling for lock-downs while they work from home and ride out the Covid-19 virus. But the people who work in grocery stores, drive trucks and deliver their packages can’t afford to be locked-down. Nor can minority children afford to fall further back by being forced to resort to Zoom classes for grammar school.
When all is said and done, the election results represent a repudiation of the progressive elite. There will be no Green New Deal, Court Packing, defunding of police, elimination of the Senate’s legislative filibuster, Medicare for all, guaranteed outcomes, or dismantling of capitalism. That is all to the good.
Now the two political parties will have a few years to re-think where they are and where they would like to go. If the Democrats get the joke (always a doubtful prospect) they will head back toward their roots, put identity politics to rest where it belongs and begin to develop a framework for policy based on equality of opportunity rather than outcome. Don’t hold your breath.
The Republicans on the other hand are still going to be saddled with Trump partisans, with or without Trump. They are going to have to adapt conservatism (actually classical liberalism) to reform and strengthen, not eliminate, critical public institutions. They could start by ending the bureaucratic command-and-control mentality of federal agencies. Voluntary action and devolution of power to local institutions should be the preferred route. Whether they will head in this direction is anybody’s guess.
All in all the election results can be seen as gift allowing us to step back from the brink. If the two parties have any sense at all, they will develop sensible policy frameworks, engage in spirited substantive debate, defend free speech against cancel culture, rein in the bureaucracy, go back to enacting laws and policies and stop the virtue signaling.
That’s a tall order. We don’t have a lot of time to waste.
One of the problems with DIY Science is that an awful lot of people use terms of art incorrectly. The term “herd immunity” is one such term. It refers to a point of steady state equilibrium. In essence, a sufficient proportion of the population has been infected and retains sufficient immunity such that it shields most of the rest of the population from infection.
This does not mean that the virus is eradicated. Nor does it imply stasis. People who got infected can and probably will be infected again. That is the pattern of other corona viruses, for instance, the flu. But the body’s defenses build up and the virus weakens over time, consequently reducing the severity of subsequent infections, until such time as the immune system weakens with age. That is why the sensible course of action is to take steps to develop effective therapeutics and protect vulnerable populations, particularly the elderly.
That said, there should be no illusion that COVID-19 is going to be eradicated. The only virus in the world that has been successfully eradicated is smallpox. All the rest are still with us and contained by the use of vaccines, proper sanitation (like clean water) and other public health measures. Parenthetically, it should be noted that vaccines, which are often only 50% effective, are but one tool in the arsenal whose function is to contain the virus and treat patients. Eradication is not likely to be in the cards.
It is important to consider another factor, namely that the infection estimates that are published daily in the U.S. are very likely incorrect, perhaps by an order of magnitude. Various studies have shown that actual infections far outnumber confirmed infections, possibly by as much as 6 to 24 times the amount. See for instance, this article in Reason Magazine and this column by Holman W. Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal.
It is unfortunate that coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic has verged on the hysterical. Why is an interesting question. It is clear that many journalists writing about the virus have no understanding of science. They do not understand the distinction between a data point and a sample; nor do they understand the basics of research design or statistical methodology. Nor have many read, much less understood, the research papers they cite.
But it is vitally important to understand the nature of the virus and the policy implications for dealing with it. That means understanding the costs, benefits and trade-offs needed to contain and treat it. The authors of the Great Barrington Declaration have provided a framework for doing just that. Below is an interview with Oxford Professor Sunetra Gupta, one of the authors of the Declaration. It is well worth watching.
Back in 1989 the film critic and social commentator Michael Medved conducted a wide ranging interview of actor Leonard Nimoy; the interview focused primarily on arts and culture. Although he is most famous for playing the Vulcan Mr. Spock on Star Trek, Nimoy was also a published poet, a professional photographer, a successful stage, film and TV actor and film director. He lived long and prospered, slipping the surly bonds of earth in 2015.
The video below, recorded at Hillsdale College, is of the 1989 interview and subsequent Q &A in which he mused about life, the arts and culture. It is a long video (1:47) and worth every minute.
We are once again faced with the question of whether it is worth voting in the Presidential race and if so, for whom. Before considering any particular candidate, let’s have a look at the question of why vote at all.
Unfortunately, it seems that an awful lot of Americans have been stricken with the superstition that their vote matters in determining the outcome. This belief has taken hold largely for two reasons: (1) the innumeracy of the public which is in large part due to the sheer incompetence of mathematics education in the public schools; and (2) the interest of the two major political parties in propagating the myth.
So if your vote doesn’t matter, why bother to vote at all? The reason is straightforward. Your vote does matter—it just doesn’t matter in any meaningful sense in determining the outcome. Your vote represents your policy preferences. And that matters a lot—or at least, it should.
So let’s take a look at the choices on offer, which can be roughly categorized as (1) re-elect President Trump; (2) replace him with former Vice-President Biden, or (3) somebody else.
A question for Trump fans. Does anybody seriously think that Donald J Trump is suitable as president? It is beyond obvious that he is profoundly ignorant, mendacious and irredeemably narcissistic. He has coarsened an already coarse culture. He has no idea how government is supposed to work; nor does he care. Most of the good things that he has done (and there are some) represent standard Republican orthodoxy. Any Republican president would have done the same.
The policy initiatives that are uniquely Trump’s (like the trade war) represent zero-sum thinking. That approach to the world is the anti-thesis of liberalism, properly understood, and is based on the misconceptions that the Democratic Party has been enthusiastically marketing to the ignoratti for decades. After all, the I-win-you-lose mentality of zero-sum thinking is what is behind the nonsensical wailing about trade deficits. It is the thinly disguised foundation of the neo-Marxist grievance industries, cancel culture and odes to intersectionality.
One area does stand out where Mr. Trump has actually achieved some good. That is the Middle East. He appears to have succeeded in peacemaking where countless others have failed. Whether this success is due to his rather unique brand of diplomacy or a change in the correlation of forces, only time will tell. But it happened on his watch.
We have already had 4 years of Mr. Trump in the White House. We have more than enough evidence to see whether he has shed the ways of a recalcitrant adolescent and has miraculously developed into a mature adult. Unfortunately, he hasn’t; he remains like a petulant child unsuited for the responsibilities of the office.
And now for another question; this one for Biden partisans. Does anybody seriously think that Joe Biden would be a suitable president? He is a human gaffe machine; a bumbling old fool on his third presidential run. He is a man driven by a relentless ambition to become president but without an identifiable, much less compelling, raison d’être.
Who, this side of sanity, really believes that the Hunter Biden e-mails printed by the New work Post lack authenticity? The Biden campaign hasn’t denied their authenticity. Nor has it denied the various pay-to-play schemes detailed in them. Moreover multiple sources, including one of Hunter Biden’s partners, have vouched for them. The schemes may or may not have been illegal. But they provide evidence of corruption, rumors of which have long plagued the Biden clan. Moreover, for the umpteenth time they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Joe Biden is a world class liar.
The issue of Hunter Biden’s e-mails goes way beyond Joe Biden’s corruption and his suitability, or lack thereof, for the presidency. It goes to the state of America’s institutions and their politicization. The mainstream press, for instance, has studiously avoided reporting the story. NPR’s managing editor of news, Terence Samuel, went so far as to say:
“We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions,” Samuel said of its refusal to cover the Hunter Biden laptop story. “And quite frankly, that’s where we ended up, this was … a politically driven event, and we decided to treat it that way.”
Add to that the fact that Facebook, Twitter and Google have blocked access to the story in whole or in part, and it is clear that they, in conjunction with mainstream news organizations, are running interference for the Biden campaign. That is a level of institutional degradation that is likely to be far more damaging in the long run to the republic than the corruption of the Biden clan.
So what is the intelligent citizen to do? The answer should be obvious. Vote for somebody else. That’s where Ben Sasse, and a little political philosophy, come in.
First and foremost we need to recognize that politics has become way too important in American life. Partisans will immediately point to the other side and shout “It’s their fault”, which simply proves the point. Passions have overwhelmed reason. Each side, brimming with self-righteousness, is convinced of its own moral and intellectual superiority.
Maybe we should understand what being president entails, or at least is supposed to entail. The president is the country’s chief administrative officer. His principal duties, given by Article II of the Constitution are (1) to see that the laws are faithfully executed and (2) serve as Commander in Chief and oversee foreign policy.
He is not your friend, your confessor, your advisor; nor does he feel your pain. He does not “create jobs” high paying or otherwise. His is not going to solve your problems. He does not “run the country”. The country can run itself just fine, thank you very much.
The president does, however, represent the American people as a whole, both within the country and to the larger world. In that capacity he acts, or should act, as a (and not the only) leader of American civic culture dedicated to the proposition that certain Truths are self-evident. Namely, that All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, and that governments are created to secure those rights.
Securing these unalienable rights is the most important of presidential missions. Moreover, it is a mission that mostly depends on our civic culture. And so the president should seek to bolster and strengthen that civic culture, based on the values expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
This is a mission for which Senator Ben Sasse (R. NE) is particularly well-suited. With his BA in government from Harvard and PhD in history from Yale; his experience as Senator, and as an official in HHS; and with his tenure as President of Midland University, Senator Sasse has both the experience, temperament and intellect needed to do the job, and do it well. That’s why I have cast my early vote for him as a write-in.
But don’t take my word for it. Watch Senator Sasse on the video below concerning politics, civics and culture. Then ask yourself if he would be a better president than the major party candidates. I think the answer is self-evident.