James Earl Biden

With each passing day the magnitude of the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan is sinking in. In an attempt to reduce the domestic political damage, the Administration of James Earl Biden is furiously trying to reframe the discussion.  For instance, the Administration argues that President Biden had no choice but to do what he did because he was locked into President Trump’s ill-considered deal with the Taliban. Alternatively they argue that the U.S. would be required to re-commit thousands of troops to re-fight a war that had already achieved its stated objectives. 

Both of these assertions are lies. President Biden spent the first 7 months of his Administration overturning Trump Administration policies that he didn’t like, which was most of them.  The fact is that Biden agreed with Trump’s Neo-isolationist policy favoring an abrupt withdrawal. The shambolic nature of the execution of the policy is, of course, a disgrace and a stain on America. But the catastrophe is far greater than that, more about which later. 

The alternative argument, that the U.S. would have to re-commit thousands of troops to re-fight a civil war in which America had already achieved its objectives is, similarly, a lie. The overriding American objective was to prevent the Taliban, ISIS or other radical group, from re-establishing Afghanistan as a platform for launching more attacks on America as happened on 9/11/2001. The collapse of the Afghan government and take-over by the Taliban virtually guarantees that Afghanistan will once again become such a staging ground. 

Afghanistan is now a no-mans land with no one in control. Jihadist groups from all over the globe will now gravitate toward Afghanistan as a place to train foot soldiers, run financial operations, stock pile arms and work on developing weapons of mass destruction, including bio-weapons. If you think Covid-19 is bad news, just wait until jihadists are running bio-labs in Afghanistan with the aid of Pakistan’s ISI while the U.S. has limited intelligence capabilities on the ground.

This is more than a tactical retreat, notwithstanding the Biden Administration’s transparently meaningless claims about our “over-the-horizon” military capabilities. Those military capabilities require on the ground intelligence. Whom does the Biden Administration think is going to provide that intelligence now that the U.S. is in the process of abandoning Afghans and green card holders to their fate at the hands of the Taliban?

The defeat —and that it is what it is—of the U.S. in Afghanistan, is a strategic catastrophe of the first order. But it took the Biden Administration’s stunning incompetence mixed with a liberal dose of stupidity to elevate a strategic blunder into what may be an existential crisis.  After all, Biden and Co have effectively torpedoed NATO, a development that Vladimir Putin must find satisfying. 

And it isn’t just NATO. China has already started taunting Taiwan. The price for Biden’s pleas with Iran to re-join the nuclear deal just got a lot higher. Not to mention the U.S. position on the Korean Peninsula. Or the position of Israel.  Or India vis-a-vis Pakistan. Given the lack of U.S. resolve, the obvious question is who will trust the U.S. to keep its commitments in the future?

It is easy to see the organization of world politics moving toward a Euro bloc led by a Germany that is increasingly friendly with Russia; an Asian block dominated by China; an Arab bloc increasingly threatened by Iran and Iranian sponsored jihadist groups, and an English speaking group (America, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Note that all these groups would be armed with nuclear weapons. 

Moreover, such a world lacks a security guarantor. It is instead a world in which autocracies and authoritarians vie with democracies for influence. And it suggests the end of a rules based Liberal order with free trade and capital flows. In turn that suggests a reduction in economic growth and increasing power in the hands of dictators. 

It didn’t have to be like this and it doesn’t have to end like this. There is a remedy. It will require the West to recognize the failure of progressivism; the progressive embrace of nihilism and its refusal to defend Western Liberalism. Populism, socialism and identitarian politics will have to be recognized for what they are—a precursor to fascism. 

The West has a choice to make. It can robustly defend a Liberal civilization that promotes individual freedom, democracy and pluralism, using its economic, military and political power. Or it can refuse to defend itself and allow the ancient hatreds of pre-enlightenment civilizations to determine the course of history. It is entirely a matter of choice. 

JFB

Culture Wars

One of the things that makes the culture wars so vicious is that the attack on Western culture is a thinly disguised attack on Western civilization posing as progress. The “right side of history” and all that mindless propaganda. 

We can think of culture as a common way that people think about things together with the institutions that pass along knowledge from generation to generation. The current era of nihilism does not do that; instead it seeks to substitute feelings for reason. It is part of the tradition of German romanticism that ushered in the totalitarianism that so ravaged the 20th century. 

The arguments then, as they are now, are utopian, often if not always incorporating racial dogmas. They are deterministic and depend on the fanaticism of true believers. Religious belief was, and is, the great enemy of the utopians. “Religion” Marx famously said “is the opiate of the masses”. 

Always and everywhere, utopians attack the basic institutions of the societies they mean to replace. Chief among those institutions are the traditional nuclear family, individual autonomy, free markets, religious institutions, property rights and the rule of law. 

One of the chief weapons of utopians is the unwillingness of elites to establish limits. And so utopians continually push the limits until those limits collapse. Anyone who doubts this should read Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”. 

More than anything, the re-making of society in the collectivist vision depends on decadence. One definition of decadence is the “act or process of falling into an inferior condition or state; moral degeneration; turpitude; unrestrained or excessive self-indulgence.” This decadence is a block to the inter-generational transmission of knowledge. And it eases the way for a societal take-over by radicals. See for instance the collapse of the Weimar Republic by the Nazis, Czarist Russia by the Bolsheviks, Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini. 

From a societal standpoint, cultural transmission is accomplished by stories and symbols. What stories are told, what symbols are presented and how those symbols are interpreted dominate culture formation. Those who occupy the commanding heights of a nation’s political-economy have a powerful voice in determining both which stories are told and symbolic interpretation.  That is one reason why university professors, journalists, writers and artists are so important to a vibrant society. 

It is (or should be) beyond obvious that the cultural assumptions of Western elites are at best incoherent and at worst hostile to classical western Liberalism. Similarly it is obvious that there is a self-serving refusal to define cultural limits, and that high culture collapsed long ago under the onslaught of the development of mass man and relativism. As a result, the cultural transmission belt has been severely damaged. 

But don’t take my word for it. Try an experiment. Watch the 3 short YouTube segments referenced below. (The third is a separate You Tube link.) Each represents a sliver of popular culture. The first two are songs from the early 1960s. The first is a clip of Shelly Fabare performing “Johnny Angel” on the Donna Reed show. The second is a clip of the Shirelles. They ask the timeless question “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” as they perform the classic Carole King song.

The third video brings us into modern pop culture. It is a clip of the wildly popular Cardi B. It premiered June 11, 2021. Entitled “Megan Thee Stallion – Thot Shit [Official Video]” it has already garnered almost 19 million views, including 657 thousand “likes”. 

After watching these 3 videos ask yourself this question. Which cultural vision do you prefer and what do the videos represent? The first two or the one represented by Cardi B? And before dismissing the Cardi B video as an anomaly take a look again at the number of views and “likes”. Also note her single “Up” debuted at Number One on the Rolling Stone Top 100 earlier this year. 

So ask yourself again, which is your preferred cultural message and messenger, and why?

Shelley Fabares — Johnny Angel (1962)
The Shirelles 1960 — Will You Love Me Tomorrow?

The third video, that of Cardi B can only be seen by directly going to You Tube. The URL is this address: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KynkMn5Hv3Q

JFB

The Voting Rights Scam

Where to begin? Let’s start with President Joe Biden’s over-the-top rhetoric about Republican resistance to H.R.1, the constitutionally dubious “For the People” Act the House passed that among other things nationalizes elections. Its dubious constitutionality partly owes to Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution which reads:

“The Times, Places and Manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of choosing Senators.” 

The Bill is such a constitutional nightmare—and an assault on free speech and federalism—that both the ACLU and the Institute for Free Speech have objected to it. Their respective briefs can be found here and here

Let’s move beyond the constitutional objections and think about what the allegedly moderate Joe Biden actually said in his quest to get H.R.1. enacted into law. Among other things, he said that recent laws either passed or being considered in state legislatures (e.g., Georgia, Florida and Texas being prime examples) are the most “significant threat to our Democracy since the Civil War”. 

That would make it a greater threat than Woodrow Wilson’s habit of tossing political opponents in jail. Or Watergate. Or World War II. Or the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. Or the Kill List that shows up on the President’s desk every day. Or the NSA’s domestic spying habits. Or the use of the IRS as political enforcer. Or the phony FISA warrants proffered by the FBI during the various investigations of Donald Trump. Or FDR’s Court Packing scheme. 

To continue, Biden went on to say that the bills that H.R.1. is meant to counteract represents 21st century Jim Crow; are “subversion and suppression” and a sure sign of of an emerging autocracy. 

So let’s step back for a minute and consider what the misnamed “For the People Act” actually proposes to do to “protect our democracy”. David Harsani of National Review points out: “the For the People Act would force states to count mail-in votes that arrive up to ten days after Election Day; compel them to legalize ballot harvesting; ban them from having voter-ID laws; empower bureaucrats to redraw congressional districts; require states to allow felons to vote; undermine free-speech rights by imposing a new array of burdens on civic groups, unions, and nonprofit organizations; force states to count ballots cast by voters who are in the wrong precincts; prohibit election officials from reviewing eligibility of voters; and bar officials from removing ineligible voters from the rolls. See article here

Since most of the requirements specified in the 800 page H.R.1. are new, it’s hard to understand why Democrats who got elected without the new requirements are all of a sudden decrying those very same election laws. And not to out too fine a point on it, even after the supposedly authoritarian Republican laws got enacted, the voting systems of Florida and Texas have far more liberal rules for voting than does, for instance, Delaware—the state that spent 50 years or so electing Joe Biden to he Senate. That’s where he made friends with such notable defenders of minority rights as Herman Talmadge and Strom Thurmond among others. So it’s hard to see where Mr. Biden’s principled objection lies.

It should be pretty obvious where the Democrats are headed here. They are setting the stage to challenge the legitimacy of the 2022 and 2024 elections—if they lose. It is a cardinal rule, held dear by by the Democratic Party leadership, that the definition of a legitimate election is one in which they win. After all, they challenged the legitimacy of the Presidential elections of 2000, 2004 and 2016. Not to mention that Stacey Abrams has yet to concede the Georgia gubernatorial race of 2018. 

The assault on the constitutional order being orchestrated by the Democratic Party leadership is pernicious. In its stealth the Act stands in contrast to Donald J Trump’s final frontal assault on the rule of law, culminating on January 6, 2021. And it is a disgrace that only a tiny segment of elected Republicans are willing to acknowledge the blindingly obvious fact that Donald Trump tried to overturn an election by the use of force.

On the other hand, the progressive assault, in which the whole of the Democratic Party leadership is complicit, is but a piece of a longer term project targeted at the institutions of a free society, most particularly the first amendment. At root that makes the political question rather stark. Do you wish to vote for a bunch of cowards who are terrified of their base? Or do you wish to goose-step your way into a future run by the latest bunch of predictably certain-to-fail utopian saviors whose authoritarian tendencies reveal themselves daily?

Or you can adopt a sensible approach and support classical liberals independent of their of party status. 

JFB

Helplessly Hoping Progressives

The absurdity of progressive politics is now on full display. Let us consider just two of the many inherently contradictory initiatives championed by the Biden-Schumer-Pelosi axis. What these initiatives share is the preposterous notion that a huge centralized bureaucracy is not only capable of achieving progressive’s stated goals, but that the goals are worthy in themselves. Neither is true.

First, there is climate change, or in the overwrought language of progressives, the climate “emergency”. (Pretty much everything that progressives favor is pitched as a way to address some “emergency” that requires governmental action.) President Biden & Co are in the business of restricting, with an eye to eventually eliminating, the use of fossil fuels as an energy source. Some examples: the Biden Administration has expansively interpreted its regulatory authority to restrict fracking; President Biden revoked a key permit for the Keystone pipeline thus shutting down the project; and the Biden Administration has strong-armed the Fed into incorporating climate change risk into its regulatory mandate.

At the same time, as the Wall Street Journal points out, Mr Biden is pleading with OPEC to reach a deal to raise production quotas so that gas prices don’t rise further. So we have the spectacle of the U.S. President promulgating regulations designed to reduce domestic production of fossil fuels while imploring OPEC to produce more. 

But wait—it gets better. Who are the chief beneficiaries of this schizophrenic policy choice? Well, how about Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia. And to boot it is a slap in the face to our longstanding ally Canada. 

Most astoundingly, the Biden Administration has adopted a policy stance designed to limit domestic production of fossil fuels by restricting permits and raising regulatory costs while at the same time hoping against hope that retail gas prices will stay the same or decline. The self-evident absurdity of this apparently lies beyond the reach of progressives. 

Second, there is  critical race theory (CRT), which has been around for 35 years or so. It was developed in elite American Law schools in the 1980s and 90s, but has just recently become a topic of public controversy.  While much of the discussion has been reduced to dueling bumper sticker slogans, the behavior of the progressive vanguard has been remarkable for its display of cognitive dissonance. 

The progressive obfuscation relies on a pretty familiar tactic. Quite simply it claims that opponents of CRT don’t understand what it is and are cherry picking a few over-the-top incidents to mischaracterize CRT in particular and progressivism in general. Students of the game will instantly recognize this ruse, perfected by Noam Chomsky, as the “Real Socialism has never been tried gambit”. Except that of course it has been tried— many times and the result has always and everywhere been misery for the people who were its supposed beneficiaries.

 So what is Critical Race Theory?  CRT is essentially a warmed over version of the Marxist class war dialectic (circa 1848) that argues that history is a series of clashes between the haves (oppressors) and have-nots (oppressed) that will eventually lead to a workers paradise where all are equal. Just substitute race, class, gender, sexuality for class and voila—we now have CRT. 

Riotously enough, Randi Weingarten (head of the American Federation of Teachers and cheerleader for President Biden and his faux scholar wife Dr. Jill Biden, Ed.D.) insisted the other day that “…Critical Race Theory is not taught in elementary schools or high schools. It’s a method of examination taught in law school and college that helps analyze whether systemic racism exists”. 

The problem is that if Weingarten’s claim were true, then it’s pretty hard to explain why, for instance, the Fairfax County Public School system felt compelled to put the following statement on its website.

“To achieve educational equity, FCPS is analyzing and addressing the beliefs and policies that inform what is taught in schools. The school division is beginning the process by revising the existing Controversial Issues Policy (Policy 3280.3) and developing a new Anti-Racism, Anti-Bias Education Curriculum Policy.”

Especially when the existing policy adopted in 1996 and last reviewed in March 2014, is perfectly reasonable. It specifically states:

III. PHILOSOPHY The preparation for effective citizenship includes the study of issues that are controversial. The study of controversial issues shall create an atmosphere in which knowledge can be freely imparted and the critical thinking of students can be developed through research and classroom discussion, within the guidelines of the Program of Studies. 

IV. PROCEDURES Such studies shall be carried out in an atmosphere of freedom from bias, prejudice, or coercion. 

It is also difficult to explain why Fairfax County paid CRT theorist Ibram Kendi a $20,000 fee for a 1 hour “conversation”. Or why Fairfax County spent $24,000 for books by Kendi promoting critical race theory and “anti-racism”, and making them required reading for K – 12 students. Or why Kendi’s virtual talk came amid Fairfax County’s “Virginia’s Racial Truth and Reconciliation Week” or why such a County sponsored propaganda week was necessary in the first place. 

Deep blue Fairfax County is hardly an outlier; neighboring Loudon County’s school board is in the middle of a dispute over its handling of these issues as well. In fact, these disputes are breaking out all over the country. 

In any event, no sooner had Weingarten spoken to deceptively assure us that CRT was not being taught in the public schools, the National Education Association (NEA) wiped its website clean of the following statements. 

“We oppose attempts to ban critical race theory and/or The 1619 Project.” 

Before it tried—unsuccessfully— to hide the evidence, the NEA also proposed to push a study that “critiques empire, white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society.”

In addition, the NEA voted to conduct opposition research on groups that oppose integrating CRT into academic frameworks. 

Needless to say, once parents began to find out about all this, they began to revolt. There are school board fights breaking out in deep blue districts as well as traditionally conservative ones. Perhaps because so many children were subjected to what we euphemistically call “at home learning” via Zoom, parents who had been unaware of what was going on in their children’s schools began to take notice. 

It is unfortunate that in their zeal to stop indoctrination from replacing education, conservative politicians have adopted the same top-down one-size-fits-all approach favored by liberals and progressives. There is a far better solution to the specific problem of indoctrination in the public schools that applies to the disastrous performance of public schools in general. That solution is: competition.

In general, charter schools, school voucher programs, private and parochial schools do a much better job of educating students than do the public schools, especially in less affluent areas. These alternatives are a threat to the ideology factories (AKA monopoly public schools) that are owned and operated by the teachers unions. Instead of trying to legislate curricula, legislators ought to aggressively push to open the field to competition and parental choice. That would solve two problems. 

JFB

Indicting The Trump Organization

In the matter of the indictment of both the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg, the Wall Street Journal reports that Mr. Weisselberg is charged with illegally avoiding taxes on $1.76 million he allegedly received in benefits over 15 years. These untaxed benefits included the use of a company car and apartment. 

It is entirely possible that prosecutors brought low level charges against Mr. Weisselberg in order to pressure him to cooperate with the investigation of Mr. Trump. If he cooperates he gets some sort of immunity deal; if not, the threat of more serious charges hangs over his head. In any event prosecutor Carey Dunne said in court that “It’s not about politics”. 

Except that it obviously is.

If the whole affair were not about politics serious indictments would have been handed down a long time ago. Remember that the indictment charges that the tax evasion scheme—more akin to a parking ticket—has been going on since at least 2005.  Add to that the fact that Weisselberg has been working for Trump for 50 years. And we are to believe that prosecutors suddenly discovered that the Trump organization committed the unspeakable crime of not paying withholding taxes on a company car and apartment? 

Consider. Somehow or other those very same prosecutors, along with their friends in the press, managed to turn a blind eye to the financial machinations of the Clinton Foundation. Nor could the press get very interested in the ongoing Hunter Biden saga, even though Hunter Biden admitted that he was (and is) under investigation by the prosecutor’s office in Delaware. For that matter, most of the press (we don’t know about the DOJ) remains remarkably incurious about the extent to which Hunter Biden’s finances were mixed  in with his father’s when he needed extra cash to pay Russian hookers. See story here. 

In addition, there are technical issues here that strongly suggest this exercise is political. First, it is clear that the prosecutors are squeezing Mr. Weisselberg to turn on Mr. Trump. That implies that they can’t make a case solely with the documents. The fact that they need a star witness suggests a weak case.

Second, the charges that are being so enthusiastically reported in the press are federal offenses. So why is the case being prosecuted in state court? New York is barred from prosecuting if federal authorities bring charges on the same facts. Moreover, it is far easier to prosecute a case in federal court. The most likely explanation is that the feds are not interested because they don’t think much of the case. 

Third, it would be much easier to make a federal conspiracy case against the Trump Organization than go the state route. Again, why is NY State leading the charge? Probably because NY Attorney General Letitia James thinks she has a shot at Andrew Cuomo and this case would be the way to capitalize on that. (For more on the technical aspects, see this story.)

There is another question that must be asked. Why is it that after a summer of rioting, arson and looting, not to mention a surge in murders, the state decided to expend its resources on what is sure to be a political spectacle rather than the pursuit of serious wrongdoing?  (Note: not for a minute do I doubt that Weisselberg  and the Trump Organization are guilty of the charges). 

To answer the question: There are two reasons why these charges are being pursued. The first is tribal hatred, pure and simple. New York City is a seething cauldron of Trump hatred and anything that hurts Trump is good. Second, as the policy prescriptions of the national Democratic Party become more widely known, and the public begins to recoil, the first order of business is to change the subject. And what better way than to gin up some Trump hatred in the belly of the beast?

I have little doubt that Donald J Trump and his ilk have played fast and loose with the rules, and maybe committed crimes, for decades.  Just like the Clintons. But this action by NY State reeks of selective prosecution. It represents the continuing and  disgraceful politicization of the justice system. In the end,  perverting the justice system to seek revenge on political enemies is what you expect from a banana republic, not a liberal democracy. And a prosecutor who does that is far more dangerous than a loser like Donald J Trump. 

JFB

John Stossel Demolishes Popularly Believed Myths about Capitalism

It is sad but true that most people believe that free markets represent a zero sum game. Winners only win to the extent that other people lose. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. In a free market, entrepreneurs win by creating new goods and services, thereby making society richer. Moreover, entrepreneurs typically retain only a fraction–around 2%–of the added value they create.

In the video below, John Stossel discusses these and other widely believed myths about capitalism.

John Stossel debunks myths about capitalism

JFB

Progressive Good Crime

Coinciding with the Biden Administration’s push for higher taxes on wealthy individuals and a greatly expanded IRS, ProPublica published documents that purport to show private tax information of several high profile billionaires including Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg and others. 

Leaking these documents is, of course, illegal. And just like the Lois Lerner episode, no one will be punished for committing this crime. That’s because in the progressive mind this is Good Crime. Chances are, the perpetrators will never be revealed. 

ProPublica has said that it doesn’t know the source of the documents. Fat chance of that, by the way. If ProPublica doesn’t know its source, there is be no way they could have authenticated the documents or determined their accuracy. But they printed the documents anyway, undoubtedly because it furthers the story—fiction really—that the rich don’t pay their “fair share”. 

Among other stunning revelations, the documents, if accurate, show that (1) wealthy individuals (like everybody else) didn’t pay income taxes when their reportable income was zero; (2) wealthy individuals (like everyone else) didn’t pay capital gains taxes in years when they didn’t realize any capital gains by selling assets, and (3) wealthy individuals used plenty of lawyers and accountants to make sure that they legally minimized their tax bills. Which is to say that the behavior of these individuals was both legal, proper and rational. 

On the other hand, amid all the faux indignation, it should be noted that the documents that were leaked were leaked illegally. In so doing the leakers (1) violated the privacy of those whose documents were leaked and (2) demonstrated for the umpteenth time the gross incompetence of the IRS when it comes to guarding citizen privacy. More likely it is worse; the IRS simply followed the orders of its political masters to weaponize the agency, as in the recent case of Lois Lerner. Which is not to leave out Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson. 

As to the substance of the matter: Congress is supposed to determine tax policy. For some reason or other all those lefties wailing about “saving our democracy” don’t seem to think much of our democratic processes.  If they did they wouldn’t be cheering on the clearly illegal leaking of documents designed to gin up outrage against success while running around the legislative process. 

As it turns out, progressives are at least half-right when they assert that the rich do not pay their fair share of the tax burden. The rich pay far too much. It is the middle class that is undertaxed. 

Consider the following statistics, using the latest available data. In 2017 the top 50% of taxpayers paid 97% of all federal income taxes. They bottom 50% paid the remaining 3%. The top 1% paid 38.5% of individual income taxes; the bottom 90% paid only 29.9%. The top 5% paid 59%; the top 10% paid 70%. As these numbers make clear, the tax income burden is shouldered by the wealthy, not by the middle class. These data are available in greater detail here

The middle class, as it turns out, is by far the greater net beneficiary of federal largesse. Lower income Americans on balance receive net cash benefits from the government. That is offset by the junky schools they have to put up with and inadequate police protection in poor neighborhoods. All the cash payments do is create a permanent dependent class. This is the vote buying operation that is the hallmark of progressive politics (tax, spend and vote). It remains firmly in place, and has so since the days when it was instituted by FDR. 

If progressives were truly interested in tax fairness, which they manifestly are not, they would specify ahead of time what tax shares would constitute fairness for the different deciles of the income distribution. But of course they never do that. Moreover, there is a simple way to ensure that everybody pays the same tax rate. The tax code could be amended so that everyone earning $25,000 per year or more would be required to pay 17% of their income in tax. No exemptions, no deductions. Period.

The mere hint of a flat tax where everybody pays the same rate would have progressives screaming bloody murder along with tax lawyers, accountants and lobbyists. I should say other lobbyists. The reason is simple. Progressives are not interested in either tax fairness or tax efficiency. What they are really interested in is command-and-control of the nation’s economy. Progressives want to use the police power of the federal government to commandeer private resources so that they can regulate and transform America into a little socialist utopia. No matter how long they have to goose-step their way toward the goal.  

JFB