A Sign of Hope in the Midst of Idiocy

It is unquestionably the case that we live in an era in which abject stupidity has risen to a high art form. However amid all the nonsense a sign of hope has emerged. That sign is in the recent surge in the sale of Dr. Seuss books. The #1 seller on Amazon is “The Cat in the Hat.” In fact the top 6 slots in the Amazon Best Sellers list are occupied by Dr. Seuss books.  

Why is this a cause for hope? It is because the American people en masse decided to go out and buy these books, currently under siege from the Social Justice Warriors, precisely because they are under siege. These buyers are not racist troglodytes celebrating white supremacy. They simply do not buy the argument that childrens’ books published decades ago that expressed then common sentiment should be cancelled for not measuring up to the tender sensibilities of today’s lefty activists. 

No, people want to buy Dr. Seuss books for their children. They refuse to be intimidated and they are not about to let the book burners get their way. That represents a glimmer of hope, however slim. But there remains a long, long way to go. 

Consider for instance the behavior of the bureaucrats in in ever-so-woke Loudon County in Northern Virginia.  County school administrators “… have instructed employees to disassociate Read Across America Day from Dr. Seuss’ birthday.” During “… the past couple of years… LCPS Public Information Officer Wayde Byard added that teachers dressing in Seussian garb for Read Across America Day — for instance, the Cat in the Hat’s iconic headpiece — is discouraged but “not prohibited.”

How encouraging. 

Then there is the National Education Association (NEA). The NEA partnered with Dr. Seuss Enterprises for over 20 years as part of a program to get kids to read. But then the Social Justice Warriors made an appearance and published a “study” entitled  “The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss’s Children’s Books.” 

And guess what? Dr. Seuss is now off the reading list. And not surprisingly, President Joe Biden, whose literary history includes several instances of plagiarism, one of which got him suspended from law school, conspicuously left Dr. Seuss books out of the White House message for Read Across America Day. 

But—and here is the good news—the campaign against Dr. Seuss seems to be failing, mostly because everyday people are revolting against the high-handed stupidity (there is no other word for it) of the Social Justice keyboard warriors. 

Unfortunately, the insanity of the era is not restricted to the juvenile behavior of affluent university students who want to be protected from the world of ideas. It also includes the bureaucrats who run various public agencies. For an example, let’s turn our attention to the World Health Organization (WHO) for a moment.  

The Director-General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, actually said that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused more “mass trauma” than World War II. When you think about it for a moment you realize it would take a great deal of effort to come up with something to match that for idiocy. 

World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history. Estimates are that as many as 70 to 85 million people died as a result of that conflict. That amounts to about 3% of the population of the world at that time. About 50 – 55 million of the deaths were directly caused by the war. Another 20 or 30 million were the result of disease or famine. 

Six million Jews were murdered in places like Auschwitz as part of the Nazi war effort, which had as one of its goals the extermination of Jews. Some would consider that a bit traumatizing. Which is not to omit the Polish Officer brigade murdered by the Soviets in Katyn Forest. Or the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Or the nuclear bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Or the siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) where  millions of Russian civilians were systematically starved to death by the German  Army. 

It takes a special kind of stupidity to claim that Covid -19 is more traumatic than World War II was. Just as it takes a special type of idiocy to try to cancel Dr. Seuss, or to rename Mr. Potato Head to just Potato Head in order to deny the existence of sex differences. 

Fortunately, the American people have responded by buying lots of Dr. Seuss books. And Hasbro has backed down and restored Mr. Potato Head’s rightful name. Perhaps this is the beginning of a return to sanity. There is always hope. 

JFB

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Saving the Rhinos–or Not

It is seldom remarked, although obviously true, that hostility to free markets (and freedom in general) is the driver of much of the environmental movement. That proposition is not restricted to the environmental project though. It also holds true for many fashionable causes shot through with lies that are gussied up as the search for justice. The New York Times 1619 project is a case in point.

The video below, produced by John Stossel, makes the point well. The campaign to save the Rhinos is more about shutting down free markets than saving Rhinos. Like virtually all of these campaigns the emphasis is on controlling demand. That is a prospect doomed to failure when the underlying service or commodity is valuable. For instance, 50 years of drug war failure, not to mention the prohibition experiment, provides convincing evidence of that.

On the other hand, the quest for renewable energy attacks the issue of climate change (at least in part) from the supply side. It is unfortunate that many renewable proponents continue to attack the use of fossil fuels and to try to shut down their use. But the fact that a substitute is being proposed provides a glimmer of hope that rationality will ultimately prevail.

Please take a look at the short video below.

John Stossel on Saving the Rhinos

JFB

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Senator Mitch McConnell Excoriates Donald Trump

In the aftermath of the Senate vote that acquitted former President Trump in his second impeachment trial, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gave a speech on the Senate floor in which he explained his vote to acquit. His rationale was procedural; he argued that the Senate lacked jurisdiction to convict because Trump is a now a private citizen and no longer President. If the Senate has the power to impeach a private citizen, which would then allow the Senate to bar that private citizen from ever holding public office in the future, the impeachment power has no limits.

That, it seems to me, is both a close call and a perfectly reasonable position.

We should also note that McConnell pointed out that the matter does not stop here. Trump is still answerable for his actions in both the criminal and civil courts.

Most important is what McConnell said about the substance of the matter. He said what is obviously true, but needed to be said by the ranking elected Republican. In fact, it should have been repeated by all the Republicans. He said that there is no question that Trump provoked the mob into a foreseeable response. In addition, Trump was both practically and morally responsible for the result, which was the storming of the capitol building on January 6.

Senator McConnell’s speech is presented in its entirety in the YouTube video below.

Senate Minority Leader McConnell.

JFB

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St. Andrew Gets Caught or Why Did it Take so Long?

Back on January 28, 2021, Letitia James, New York State Attorney General released a blistering report documenting the Cuomo administration’s undercount of nursing home deaths as a result of Covid-19. Recall that Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a directive requiring nursing homes to admit Covid infected patients into their facilities. 

Now it turns out that a top aid to the governor, one Melissa DeRosa, admitted in a conference call with Democratic lawmakers that the Cuomo administration deliberately covered up the real numbers. They did so, she confessed, to spare the Governor political accountability. It turns out the reported numbers were off by at least 50%. 

Chris Cillizza, in a piece for CNN describes this as a “stunning admission.” He goes on to write: “This is only the latest bit of evidence that suggests the Cuomo administration may not have dealt as effectively with the coronavirus pandemic as was initially believed.”

Perhaps we should begin by asking a few questions, like for instance: Who, exactly was “stunned” by the substance of the admission and why?  It was perfectly obvious to roughly everyone but the adoring press corp / fan club that the Cuomo administration has long been a combination of mendacity and incompetence. 

Then there is Andrew Cuomo himself, Man of Science. Just 2 weeks ago the NY Times reported that over the last 6 months, 9 top level health officials in NY State resigned—because of the Governor’s behavior in handling the pandemic. Those resignations included the deputy commissioner for public health in NY, the director of the bureau for communicable disease control, the medical director for epidemiology and the state epidemiologist. 

The Times quoted Mr. Cuomo as follows. “When I say ‘experts’ in air quotes, it sounds like I’m saying I don’t really trust the experts,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said of pandemic policies. “Because I don’t.” Saint Andrew sounds positively Trumpian here, and not for the first time.  

To that, add Cillizza’s risible assertion (passive voice naturally) that Cuomo may not have been as effective as previously believed. Which begs the question, (again excepting the rubes in the press corp) who thought that Cuomo was effective in the first place?

And now just as day follows night, we have the predictable feigned outrage and calls for Cuomo’s resignation. Again the obvious question: Why? This is what the supposedly enlightened electorate voted for. Is there anybody even dimly aware of how  progressive politics actually works in practice who is truly surprised by any of this? 

New York State and New Jersey with its similarly progressive policies have been far and away the leaders in the Covid death count from the very beginning. And all the while the press deflected and focused on the supposed horror show in Florida where the designated villain, Governor Ron DeSantis did not shut everything down, Cuomo style. 

Consider the numbers. New Jersey (pop 8.9 million) the fatality-rate leader as of February 12, has a death rate of 251 per 100,000. New York (second place, pop 19.4 million) has a death rate of 231 per 100,000. Florida (pop 21.5 million) is #25 with a death rate of 132 per million, about 57% of New York’s. Now consider that the median age of Florida (state rank #5) is 42.2 and New York’s (state rank #22) median age is 39. And consider that over 20% of Florida’s population is over 65, and a clear picture begins to emerge about where policy successes and failures lie. 

It would be bad enough if this episode could be described as just that. A singular bad episode. But that is, unfortunately, not the case. A similar story can be told about the public schools, especially in the deep blue states, which are owned and operated by the teachers unions. Which in turn own the Democratic Party. 

Before this is all over, the public schools in the big cities, virtually all of which are controlled by Democratic machine politics, will have been mostly closed to in-class instruction for the better part of 2 years thanks to the teachers unions. Upper middle class parents will continue to abandon the public schools in droves and send their kids to private and parochial schools where they will actually learn. The rest will fall further behind.  

The management of big city police departments tells a similar story. Since the Black Lives Matter protests (and riots) over the summer, progressive politicians have, for the most part, supported various versions of the “defund the police” drive.  All of which has been accompanied by soaring murder rates especially in inner cities as the police back off. 

To accompany this we have the spectacle of all-white residents in well-to-do neighborhoods decorating their houses with BLM flags, knowing full well they will be protected by the police in the unlikely event they are needed. And we have upper middle class white college kids screaming “racist” at minority police officers before heading back to their fully protected dorms. 

Progressives will, of course, deflect. They will launch into a typically mindless diatribe about the “structural racism” that is really to blame. All of which is hard to take seriously since it is progressives and liberals (now virtually indistinguishable) who have been running the show for decades in the big cities where the problems are manifest. Are they implicitly confessing that liberals and progressives are irredeemably racist?

Which is not to deny that we have structural problems that should be dealt with. The root of the structural problem is…Progressivism, with its contempt for individualism and individual rights; its command-and-control authoritarianism, its preference for bureaucratic control over civil society, its baked in corruption and its inevitable adoption of cancel culture. 

That is the structural problem that must be dealt with first. The rest comes later. 

JFB

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Trump Impeachment Redux

Lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin (D. MD) led off the proceedings with a video montage that included some footage of Donald Trump’s incendiary speech and the subsequent attack on the capitol by an enraged mob. The video, shown below, is devastatingly effective. It really says all you need to know. The rest is sophistry.

Attack on the Capitol

JFB

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Ben Sassse

The Nebraska Republican Party is set to censure Senator Ben Sasse. Again. The charge is that he has not, and will not, bend his knee to Donald Trump in the upcoming impeachment trial. Like Liz Cheney, Sasse has stuck to his guns.

If the Republican Party is ever going to reclaim the mantle of Lincoln and once again become a governing party it is going to need leaders like Sasse and Cheney. The alternative is the road to hell. It is a road shared by Trump fans as well as pretty much the entirety of the Democratic Party. They just don’t realize they share the same underlying collectivist assumptions about the role of government and the use of government power. But they do.

Ben Sasse recorded a short video statement for the Nebraska Republican Party that can be seen below. It is a statement of civic responsibility that, if people paid attention to it, could (and ought to) go a long way toward getting U.S. politics back on the road to reason.

JFB

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GameStop: Please Stop the Nonsense

The recent surge in the stock price of GameStop has all the usual suspects commenting on “The Greater Meaning of it All”.  As usual, very few of these recently minted experts know what they are talking about. Among the more mindless analyses being tossed about is a populist “narrative” that claims that Everyman has risen up to squeeze short selling Wall Street hedge funds. These hedge funds, it is alleged, have been stealing from the common man in a rigged game for years. 

Among those making variations of this charge are: Ted Cruz, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), Elizabeth Warren and Bob Frank. That these four are in rough agreement ought to be the first sign that something is seriously amiss. Consider for a moment the backgrounds of those who are busy defending Everyman against wicked elites. For instance Ted Cruz is a product of Princeton (BA in public policy 1992) and Harvard Law (magna cum laude 1995). Elizabeth Warren worked as a Law Professor both at the University of Pennsylvania and at Harvard Law School before becoming a Senator from Massachusetts. Hardly downtrodden. 

AOC, who does not have the same pedigree, made a point of noting that the “solution” to the non-problem of GameStop is to tax the rich. Her reasoning being that taxing the rich is pretty much the solution every problem, real and imagined. Then there is the commentary of Robert Frank, a journalist at CNBC. His contention is that the Reddit inspired run up in GameStop is “calling attention to” the vast inequality of stock ownership in the United States. It has to be seen to be believed.

The interesting thing is that Frank has spent an awful lot of time writing books and columns about the horrors of inequality of outcomes, but apparently sees no relationship between savings, investment, risk-taking and financial reward. 

Frank seems to be bothered by the fact that the upper 1% owns the lion’s share of financial assets. Well of course they do. That same 1% is the cohort that is an important source for risk-taking, innovation, investment and, not to put too fine a point on it, bearing an outsized share of the tax burden. The upper 1%, for instance, pays about 45% of all income taxes. 

The population up and down the (ever changing) income scale makes choices about how to allocate its funds between consumption now, investment and deferred consumption. Nobody needs Bob Frank shouting audibles from the sidelines. 

But let’s look a little further. Why would anyone who has the slightest clue of how the stock market works lament the fact that most retail investors are not involved in the GameStop fiasco? The undeniable fact is that a bunch of amateurs bought the stock not because it is a fundamentally good investment; they bought it because they thought they would profit from an old fashioned short squeeze. And a small minority will profit. But the vast majority of retail traders are now in the process of getting their clocks cleaned. And rightly so. They are in way over their heads.  

As of this writing, GameStop is down 113 points or 50% from yesterday’s close, after yesterday’s 40% drop. All of which means that the stock market is doing what it’s supposed to do. 

Despite all the anguished cries from the ignorati, the stock market is not broken. It is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. In the process it is separating fools from their cash. That is hardly a novel occurrence. 

JFB

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Disparate Impact and the Progressive Con

In their single minded drive to transform America into a collectivist polity, Democrats routinely brandish disparate impact studies. The claim is that differential outcomes “prove” that America is rotten to the core; that it is irredeemably racist; that America is structurally racist, and that systemic racism is the defining feature of American life. Needless to say the terms are left undefined. Details.

There are some who argue that moderates in the Democratic Party do not really believe these things and that they will tone down the progressive wing of the party. To which I say, where are these “moderates” hiding? Something like 95% of the Democratic caucus favors abortion on demand up to and including the moment of birth, as well as taxpayer funding of same. 

Which brings up an interesting question. How do progressives view the disparate impact of abortions with respect to race? Here it is important to note that progressives now speak in terms of “equity” which refers to outcomes, rather equality which refers to opportunity. 

First, the facts. Black women are far more likely to obtain abortions than white women. In any given year, adjusted for population size, black women are 5 to 6 times more likely to abort than white women. Even adjusting for income differentials, black women are still more likely to abort than white women. In some areas, like New York City, it is so extreme that more black babies are aborted than are born alive. 

So what do progressives have to say about this? Well the response is very interesting, to say the least. The usual arguments are rolled out.  Black women have less access to health care, which by implication means that killing babies in the womb is somehow related to health care. Then there is the argument that black women have lower incomes, black women are subject to racism, etc. See for instance, Atlantic Magazine.

These arguments reveal a lot more than than their proponents may care to admit. Consider the underlying question: if the differential in abortion rates reflects racial discrimination, systemic racism and a lack of racial “equity”, in which direction does the discrimination run? 

Should policy be directed at achieving equal outcomes? If so, how? Should white women receive incentives to increase the abortion take-up rate to achieve parity with black women? Which is to say, should the policy goal be to quintuple the white abortion rate?  Or should black women be discouraged from having abortions? That would imply a policy goal of reducing the black abortion rate by about 80%. Or maybe we should adopt Margaret Sanger’s solution and require people to obtain a permit before being allowed to reproduce. You know, so we have “the right kind” of people. More about which later. 

Now keep in mind that these questions are predicated by applying the disparate impact standard. And according to this standard, policies that are facially neutral need to be evaluated in terms of their consequences. Otherwise hidden biases may slip through. Welcome to Postmodernism.

So let us continue with the analysis. It is clear that the progressive case for disparate impact analysis rests on the assumption that disparate outcomes are ipso facto unacceptable.  Not only that, it assumes that there is such a thing as a “correct” distribution of outcomes; that we know what the correct distribution is, and that we know how to achieve it. We can see how nonsensical this is by an analogy. To wit: tall people are unfairly overrepresented in the NBA.

There is a much deeper problem than the nonsensical disparate impact methodology, which by the way, is a measure of correlation, not causation. The problem is that to apply the methodology requires identifying the correct outcome. Which in turn requires making the judgement that one outcome is desirable and the others undesirable. By this standard, it is not enough to say that people have a free choice in the matter. Equality of opportunity does not count—equality of outcome is the driver, just as it is with respect to income, housing, education and so on. Further, progressives have to consider abortion in non-neutral terms. Which means that, in the progressive world view, abortion is considered a social good. 

That gets us right into John C. Calhoun territory. In seeking to preserve slavery before the Civil War, the South argued that slavery was “a necessary evil”. That calls to mind Bill Clinton’s formulation of keeping abortion “safe, legal and rare”. But as the debate over slavery heated up, the South switched its tune, led by John C. Calhoun. Slavery was, according to Calhoun “a positive good”. 

John C. Calhoun

He went on to say “Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually… It came to us in a low, degraded, and savage condition, and in the course of a few generations it has grown up under the fostering care of our institutions.”

That is territory that the abortion rights movement shares with both the alt.right and John C Calhoun of the old South. They argue that unborn fetuses are mere “clumps of cells” certainly not rights bearing human beings worthy of dignity and respect. But I can hear the progressive argument now—human fetuses are “potential” human beings, not actual ones. A distinction without a difference. There is no difference in the fact of DNA in the unborn and the born. We are all headed for our potential.  And we are all going to die. But there is a big difference between a natural death and being killed. 

That aside, today we have a celebration of abortion with the #Shout Your Abortion movement. In fact, Ilyse Hogue of NARAL did just that at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. (See video below). That celebratory posture is also analogous with the territory John C Calhoun occupied vis-a-vis slavery. 

Consider for instance the devastating impact of abortion on the black community. Michael Novak, the Harvard philosophy professor, back in 2002 calculated that the black population would be at least 36% larger were it not for abortion. The black population in the U.S. is now in decline relative to other minorities. 

And that’s just fine with plenty of abortion rights activists, among them the white supremacist Richard Spencer. As he put it, “the people who are having abortions are generally very often black or Hispanic or from very poor circumstances.” White women will avail themselves “when you have a situation like Down Syndrome” which in his view is just fine.

Margaret Sanger

Not to be forgotten is Margaret Sanger, the eugenicist Founder of Planned Parenthood who dreamt up “The Negro Project” specifically designed to restrict black reproduction because, after all, they were “inferior”. And lest we assume that was just in the past and has no relevance today, we should consider the words of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the subject. 

In an interview with Sunday New York Times Magazine writer Emily Bazelon, Ginsburg said: 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” She then went on to say: “It makes no sense as a national policy to promote birth only among poor people”.

“Populations we have too many of.” Think about that for a minute. And let’s not pretend that she didn’t mean every word of it.

Somewhere John C. Calhoun is smiling.

JFB

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