And About Those Norms…

We hear a lot about norms these days, and in particular, about how President Donald Trump’s typically juvenile behavior violates long standing norms and therefore harms democracy. There is something to this. Trump is, after all, boorish, a habitual liar and an all around disgrace. And that’s on a good day. For instance, Trump has recently taken to insinuating that Joe Scarborough may have been involved in the death of one of his staffers when he was a Congressman. The actual cause of death was an undiagnosed heart ailment; the woman died in Florida while Scarborough was in Washington.

That aside, no reasonable person should doubt that norms, manners and temperament are crucial elements for the institutions of civil society, the rule of law and  for freedom generally.  And here, Donald Trump’s behavior is destructive, and becoming more so.

So we are left to ponder a question: Why is it that there is so little interest from the defenders of norms in what is emerging as perhaps one of, if not the biggest political scandals in the history of the Republic? A scandal in which important norms were eviscerated and may well have involved Nixon style (or worse) criminal behavior by high level federal officials.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Obama Administration used federal law enforcement agencies to surreptitiously surveil members of the Trump campaign and the incoming administration. Obama officials submitted deliberately falsified documents to the FISA Court in a successful effort to obtain warrants to surveil Trump campaign and administration officials. Obama officials went on television to claim they had evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia even though under oath and in secret they admitted that they had no such evidence. 

In the matter of the Russia Collusion allegation, and then the Michael Flynn matter, it turns out that much, if not the entirety of the subsequent investigation was simply based on a pretext largely invented by Christopher Steele who was bought and paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign using the law firm Perkins Coie as a cutout. In the process not only did numerous Obama Administration political officials make requests to have Michael Flynn’s identity unmasked, his identity was quickly (and illegally) leaked to the press, most famously to David Ignatious of the Washington Post.  

The honor roll of Obama Administration officials who were suddenly interested in having Flynn’s name unmasked included: Susan Rice, Samantha Powers, James Comey, James Clapper, James Brennan, Treasury Secretary James Lew, then Chief-of-Staff Denis McDough and of course Joe Biden. For his part, Biden claimed he “knew nothing about these moves to investigate Flynn.” And then, ahem, his name showed up requesting that Flynn be unmasked on January 12, 2017. 

Not only did former Director of National Security (and admitted liar) James Clapper submit an unmasking request in the Flynn matter, so did two of his deputies, Micheal Dempsey and Stephanie L. Sullivan.  According to both Sally Yates and James Comey, James Clapper personally briefed President Obama on the Flynn-Kislyak calls as part of the Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB). But well before the unmasking requests were released to the public, Clapper testified behind closed doors under oath in the matter. He was asked (under oath) by Congressman Tom Rooney of Florida: “Did you ever brief President Obama on the Flynn-Kislyak phone calls?” Clapper had a one word answer: “No.” We know that was untrue.

The records also show that Samantha Powers made 260 unmasking requests during her tenure as U.N. Ambassador. She has testified that while most of these requests were made in her name, she herself did not make the them. According this version of events, someone else used her name in a national security matter, but she has no idea who it was. 

In all there were 39 Obama Administration officials who made 53 separate requests to unmask Flynn between election day (November 8, 2016) and inauguration day (January 17, 2017). Most of the requests took place between December 14 and 16, 2016, which was 2 weeks before Flynn’s December 29, 2016 call with  Russian Ambassador Kislyak, the predicate offered as justification for the Flynn investigation. 

In this sordid tale we should not omit the handiwork of John Brennan, Director of the CIA. Brennan claimed that “he [Trump] is wholly in the pocket of Putin”. On Meet the Press he told Chuck Todd “I called [Trump’s] behavior treasonous, which is to betray one’s trust and aid and abet the enemy, and I stand very much by that claim.” 

He is not standing by it now, at least from his perch at MSNBC. After special counsel Mueller “did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government” Brennan backtracked. He said “I don’t know if I received bad information, but I think I suspected there was more than there actually was”. 

I could go on with example after example, but the point is clear. Political operatives, law enforcement and intelligence officers in the Obama Administration conducted surreptitious surveillance on opposing Party’s presidential campaign and candidate. On national TV, they went so far as to fan flames about a non-existent Trump-Russia conspiracy, using “evidence” that they knew to be phony and manufactured by the Clinton campaign. We know this because Obama Administration officials have admitted to as much.

Evelyn Farkas, an Obama Administration Defense Department appointee, claimed on MSNBC that she was afraid that Trump administration officials might destroy evidence of the alleged collusion “if they found out how we knew what we knew about Trump’s staff dealing with Russians”. 

But when questioned under oath behind closed doors by Rep. Gowdy of South Carolina, Farkas sang a different tune. 

So, would someone please remind me again on how these norms are supposed to work. 

DEFCON 2

The grand pooh-bahs of the DNC are about to break into full panic mode. 

When Nancy Pelosi pointed her impeachment gun at President Donald Trump she shot former Vice President Joe Biden in the heart. Unforced errors like that one, combined with a disgruntled primary electorate has put Bernie Sanders (D. Rolling Stone) in a strong position to capture the Democratic presidential nomination. And he is not even a Democrat. 

Sanders supporters (better described as a fan base) comprises somewhere between 25% to 30% of the Democratic primary electorate. Moreover they are intensely loyal and consider themselves part of a movement. Attendees do not go to Sanders rallies to be convinced; they are already convinced. That is why a Sanders rally has the look and feel of a religious revival meeting. 

The Sanders base is an odd mix of resentment and misplaced idealism. It includes blue-collar working class voters, students and young college educated voters. They are overwhelmingly white. 

Sanders working class supporters, like Trump’s, firmly believe that they have been screwed over by “elites”. His young supporters, especially students and recent college graduates are enamored by his championing “democratic socialism” largely because (1) they have no idea what socialism really is, democratic or otherwise, and (2) they would like to have their college loans forgiven. 

But the Sanders loyalist base does not include include older voters, especially those over age 65 who have displayed a good deal of hostility to the Sanders movement. Not only are these voters old enough to remember the cold war, they understand what socialism really is. They grew up reading George Orwell’s 1984; they remember Britain’s winter of discontent; they saw the depredations of Castro, Mao and Pol Pot; they saw the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, waited on gas lines and saw the Berlin Wall crumble. They did not grow up with trigger warnings or win participation trophies. Which is to say, they actually grew up. 

These factors suggest that Sanders has a strong floor of support at around 25% to 30% of the Democratic primary electorate. It also suggests that his support has a rather low ceiling that will be hard to break through. With the Democratic field splintered, a loyal support base of 25% to 30% may be enough for Sanders to win a plurality of pledged delegates to the Milwaukee convention and then the nomination. 

That’s why the DNC is headed for full fledged panic. The main mission of political parties is to win elections. That requires assembling coalitions and getting them to the polls on election day. Here, the Democrats have a structural problem that is in many ways reminiscent of the one faced by Republicans in 2016.  The nominally Republican nominee (Trump) wasn’t really a Republican, but he was able to win the nomination because his hard core of support held firm while the conventional candidates split the remaining (majority) of the vote. He was only able to win the general election (again with a minority of the vote) because (1) the distribution of the votes favored him in the electoral college by the barest of margins and (2) the Democrats succeeded in nominating the worst possible candidate (Hillary Clinton) who ran a terrible campaign and in so doing managed to unify Republicans against her. 

Now consider two possibilities. First, Bernie Sanders gets the Democratic nomination; or second, somebody else does. Under either scenario it is difficult to see how the Democratic nominee unifies the party to win the general election. 

Let’s suppose that Bernie Sanders gets the nomination. Remember, his core supporters tend to be younger, many are students or already have college degrees; they are friendly to the idea of “democratic socialism”. In addition, a lot are blue collar workers without college degrees. And they tend to be Caucasian, although that could change. The problem that the Democratic nominee faces, whether or not it is Sanders, is that the constituencies that make up the Democratic Party are at war with each other. 

Consider the left-wing obsession with race, class and gender. Older Democrats were inspired by the rhetoric of Dr. Martin Luther King who spoke of the content of man’s character as opposed to the color of his skin. Try that one now with fans of intersectionality with its elaborate rules for considering the proper pecking order for victimology. Elizabeth Warren, one of the most vocal proponents of identity politics, an outgrowth of intersectionality, promised that her choices for Education Secretary would be vetted by a “trans person”.  How do you think that will fly with middle class, midwestern families? 

Now consider all the free stuff that the party is promising to deliver. Start with forgiveness of college loans. It’s easy enough to see why college students with loans (most of them) are in favor of this. But when you look at the underlying numbers a different story emerges. That story has to do with the size and distribution of loan balances. The mean loan balance is about $32,000, which is not all that burdensome considering the difference between lifetime earnings potential of degree holders versus non degree holders. More importantly the median loan balance is only about $13,000. The wide difference between the mean and median is explained by a relatively small number of students who owe very large balances ($100,000 – $200,000). But those balances are often due to large loans taken out to finance expensive graduate and professional eduction at top institutions, like for instance, Harvard Law School. 

Which begs the question: Why is a bus driver supposed to be taxed in order to facilitate the  graduate education of somebody else’s kids at the nation’s elite universities? There is no good answer to that question.

Then there is the race question. The Democratic Party has long been home to a majority of non-white voters. In the past liberal Democrats looked for ways to expand opportunities for minority citizens. That was before the days of intersectionality which necessarily demands a constant search for victims and oppressors. The problem is that (1) the Democratic Party is home to both the alleged victims and their alleged oppressors, and (2) the gradations of victimhood and oppression are constantly changing  depending on the latest woke fashion. After all, it is reasonably difficult to form a coalition comprised of “victims” and “oppressors” when there is no such thing as shared interests. There is only identity, and that is not transferable. Any attempt to coalesce around common goals and values simply leads to cries of “co-option” and false consciousness. Similarly, attempts to integrate new customs and styles results in complaints of cultural appropriation.

The Democratic majority has little use for all this; they are grown-ups. But the party is being driven by left-wing radicals who have a very strong grip on maybe 25% of the Party’s primary voters. Further, there is a philosophical problem with modern liberalism that makes the Party’s electoral situation rather dire. The fundamental problem is that modern liberalism has no limiting principle. Whatever a “moderate” Democrat proposes, Bernie Sanders, the Squad and the rest of the progressive caucus can just do them one better and push further to the left. So we have the spectacle of moving from reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions to fundamentally restructuring the entire U.S. economy via the Green New Deal. Whereas the Democratic Party of yesterday vowed to keep abortion “safe, legal and rare” the new Democratic Party supports subsidizing abortion on demand at any time for any reason. Instead of financial aid for college students, let’s just forgive all accumulated debt and make college “free”. And while we are at it, why not increase social security benefits, even though the program is already insolvent? 

So here we are. Serious contenders for the Party’s nomination, with the possible exception of Senator Amy Klobuchar, are fundamentally unserious people. And the Party’s leaders are virtually powerless to stop the suicide march to a brokered convention in Milwaukee and an electoral disaster in November. And Bernie Sanders, the likely Presidential nominee leading the parade toward the cliff is not even a Democrat. 

And the really final results from Iowa will be in any day now. 

Nice going, guys. 

JFB

The March for Life

Thousands, probably tens of thousands, came from all over the country to bear witness to the continuing atrocity of the U.S. abortion regime. They were mostly young and mostly female. Their presence and the message they carried spoke truth to the lie that is routinely propagated by the abortion industry. Which is to pretend that abortion is something other than what it really is: the deliberate killing of defenseless human beings. 

Early on the marchers began to assemble on the national mall near the Washington Monument carrying placards identifying where they came from and their message. One sign read “I’m from the Pro-Life Generation”. Another read “It’s a Child, not a Choice”. Other signs had slogans like “Women Deserve better than Abortion” and “Pro-Women, Pro-Health, Pro-Life”, and “I Vote Pro-Life First”. They were slogans, but they were slogans that spoke truth. They are truths that bear repeating over and over because language matters in framing the debate.

Washington DC, USA — March 24, 2020. A Park Police Officer directs traffic at the annual March for Life in Washington, DC.
Washington DC, USA — March 24, 2020. Pro LIfe Marchers on the Mall for the annual March for Life.

The abortion industry rarely talks about abortion, at least in public, preferring to rely on euphemisms that mischaracterize what is really going on. They like to refer to “reproductive health” as if aborting an unborn child has anything at all to do with a woman’s health. The truth of the matter is that when it comes to abortion, what is at issue is the meaning of the term “medically indicated”. The term “medically indicated” has been used to refer to situations in which the unborn child has Down’s Syndrome, which is hardly a threat to a mother’s life or health. But there may be cases in which an unborn child is threatened by a medical treatment given to the mother, for instance, some cancer treatments. But the point is to treat the mother, not to kill the child, which could happen as a result of the treatment. And in any case it is an unborn child, not a mere clump of cells as the abortion industry would have it. 

Partly because of the work of Pro-Life groups, rates of abortion in the United States have been falling rapidly. According to the Guttmacher Institute 862,329 abortions were performed in 2017, down 7% from the 926,190 abortions performed in 2014. The abortion rate for women aged 15-44 in 2017 was 13.5%, the lowest rate observed in the United States since abortion was legalized in 1973 by Roe v. Wade. In that year the rate was 16.3%.

Washington DC, USA — March 24, 2020. Young women gather with placards for the annual March for Life rally in Washington, DC.

But while overall abortion rates have declined, abortion has become increasingly concentrated among poor women. According to the Guttmacher Institute poor women had an abortion rate of 36.6 per 1,000  women of reproductive age, and accounted 49% of patients in 2014. (See this link). It is hard to look at those statistics without thinking of Ruth Bader Ginsburg who in 1980 let the veil slip on this particular subject when she said:

“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. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding of abortion.” (See this link to the Ethics and Public Policy Center).

All of which points to the underlying problem, which is that the current culture regards some people as not being fully human and therefore worthy of legal protections. Which is why unborn babies are routinely referred to with clinical terminology. They are fetuses, not people. Unborn children with Down’s Syndrome are terminated, not killed. After all, they are imperfect and inconvenient. As if we all are not imperfect and flawed. 

Washington DC, USA — March 24, 2020. A woman stands in the street holding a sign protesting abortion at the annual March for life rally in Washington, DC.

The Pro-Life movement has been extraordinarily successful in changing the terms of the debate so as to focus it on the fact that the these are children, as yet to be born, but children nonetheless. In so doing the Pro-Life movement has accepted the long hard work of changing the culture so that over time it will embrace life and dignity each and every individual person as a unique and uniquely valuable human being. Let this work continue. 

Washington DC, USA — March 24, 2020. People walk past the Department of Commerce Building as they head for the annual March for Life Rally in Washington, DC.

JFB

Art and Culture

Politics is downstream from culture in that politics is shaped by culture. Famous writers like George Orwell (1984), Arthur Koestler (Darkness at Noon) and Mario Vargas Llosa (The War of the End of the World) have ruminated on this and warned of the dangers of fanaticism, ideology and detachment from reality.

Unfortunately, lots of artists, and certainly many important ones, have had long term love love affairs with various forms of collectivism. Unbeknownst to the public at large, these artists and writers have had a powerful influence on shaping the culture in which we now live. They include everyone from pop stars to serious philosophers. These would include a wide variety of players ranging from the unserious (e.g., James Cameron, Madonna, Sean Penn, Woody Guthrie) to serious writers and thinkers (e.g, Jean-Paul Sartre, Isaac Brodsky, John Steinbeck).

As a result, art has too often simply become a propaganda tool that totalitarians are only too happy to use. Large works of sculpture celebrating “Socialist Realism” are still featured in Tiananmen Square, for instance. Interestingly enough, one art form that has not been seriously compromised (yet anyway) is the art of the stand-up comic.

Dictators (and for that matter social justice warriors, AKA totalitarians in waiting) are fearful of comedy for the obvious reason that their power is diminished when they are the subject of jokes and are easily made to look like fools. Not to put too fine point in it, there are not a lot of easy laughs emanating from North Korea or Cuba. That said it is worth considering that people like Jerry Seinfeld have indicated they are not interested in doing shows on “woke” campuses.

With that in mind, it is worth watching th short video clip by John Stossel below.

John Stossel TV

JFB

Christopher Hitchens on Reparations

Christopher Hitches was a writer and polemicist with extraordinary talents who, in December of 2011, died much too early at age 62. An iconoclast throughout his adult life, Hitchens eventually drifted away from the left — early on he was a Trotskyist — to something vaguely resembling the sensibilities of classical Liberalism. But he would probably object to that characterization.

Christopher Hitchens

He was, like his hero George Orwell, a man of the left. He was a public intellectual who maintained an abiding distrust of the market; he was fearless in the pursuit of truth, and was a brilliant writer and speaker. He had over 30 books to his name as well as countless articles in journals like The Nation, The Atlantic and Vanity Fair, to name a few.

He is probably best known for what has become known as “Hitchens razor”, so named after his quip that “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”.

In 2001, when he was writing for The Nation, he participated in a debate on reparations in which he represented the “pro” side in favor of paying them. He was, as always, a force to be reckoned with. Here below is a You Tube video of his presentation in that debate.

JFB

Progressive Anti-Semitism: The Triumph of Evil?

Representative Omar
Photo by Johnathan Ernst / Reuters

Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is at it again. The latest uproar was sparked by her use of a standard anti-semitic slur in which she complained about the supposed “dual loyalty” of American Jews. Previously, she alleged that American supporters of Israel were bought off. “It’s all about the Benjamins” she said. Representative Rashida Tlaib has said much the same thing. 

 

Nor to be out done, Alexandria Ortega-Cortez has been communing with Jeremy Corbyn, Britain’s labor leader. Corbyn, who makes Bernie Sanders look like a moderate, has long been associated with anti-Semitic groups. Among his more odious associations was membership in a facebook group called “Palestine Live” that trafficked in Holocaust denial; charges that the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. were the work of Israel; conspiracy theories about the Rothschild family and Jews controlling the banks.  Britain’s “Telegraph” reports that Corbyn has “…hosted, promoted and vigorously defended vicious anti-Semites and racists.” Not to put too fine a point on it, he has received funding for trips to the Mid-East from Hamas, the terror group. For her part, Corbyn’s fellow traveling friend Alexandria Ortega-Cortez continues to insist that she is just showing solidarity with the Palestinian people. 

At this stage of the game, why don’t we just call this what it is—anti-Semitism—and stop inventing euphemisms to pretend it’s something else. 

There are a couple of reasons (actually excuses) offered for this, so let’s consider some of the more common ones. 

First, denial, denial denial. The argument is that anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism. But nobody this side of sanity says that Israel is, or should be immune from criticism. That is just knocking down a straw man. The fact is anti-Semites use anti-Zionism as slightly veiled code for anti-Semitism. That this is the case should be obvious when you consider that the various critiques lobbed in Israel’s direction never seem to apply to Hamas, Iran or “Palestine”. Note that Palestine is in quotes because it is not, and never has been, a nation-state, despite all the propaganda. 

Second, the Democratic Leadership has to soft-pedal its concern with the anti-Semitic remarks routinely made by back-benchers for the sake of party unity. That was a pretty nauseating argument back when when the Southern Democratic Party of Jim Crow had to be accommodated for the sake of party unity. It’s hard to understand why it’s OK now—unless you agree with the back-benchers. And therein lies the rub.

The evidence suggests that a substantial portion of the Progressive base does harbor anti-Semitic biases, which are being exploited by the die-hard anti-Semites who mean to move the agenda forward. The technique is well-worn. Step one is to throw out some outrageous comment, and then walk it back—kind of—with a non-apology apology. The speaker didn’t realize the implications of what she was saying, the remark was taken out of context etc. etc. Slowly but surely the outrageous gets normalized.  Donald Trump isn’t the only one who plays this game. 

Once we start down this road, the small exception becomes the rule, sometimes with amazing rapidity.  For example: Remember when abortion was going to be “safe, legal and rare” ? So where are we now? In some states, we have abortion on demand, up to the moment of birth, and sometimes after. Which is to say, infanticide. Remember when welfare was supposed to be “a helping hand, not a handout”? Alexandria Ortega-Cortez wants to subsidize people who say they don’t want to work. Remember “Don’t ask, don’t tell”? Now we have a court mandated liberty right to same-sex marriage. And just today, the Democratic House voted to support state and local governments whose policies support voting in federal elections by illegal aliens. The list goes on. 

So we must ask: why is it that a freshman backbencher is treated with kid gloves while she continues to broadcast vile and vicious slurs? For the credulous, for lefty ideologues, for believers in identity politics, and for intersectionality naifs, Omar speaks with moral authority. Truthfulness does not matter; what matters is “her truth”.  Because she is a woman of color and a Muslim she is to accorded deference, even when, especially when, she goes on the attack. Because she has achieved—and achieved is the right word—victim status. In the minds of progressives, that status lends her credence as a voice representing the oppressed as they confront their oppressors. In that category, Jews and the state of Israel, are at the top of the list.  

And let us pay special attention to her status as a Muslim. Why is it that being a Muslim gives her special credibility? It is precisely because Omar is Muslim in name only. How long would she be in the Democratic caucus if she opposed abortion rights, as does Islam. How about if she opposed the LGBT agenda? Last I checked gays were being tossed off roofs in Saudi Arabia simply because they are (or were) gay. Her self-identification as Muslim works as a political symbol of oppression. It has little or nothing to do with the particulars of the Islamic faith. (In fairness, the same might be said of prominent Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, assisted suicide and same sex marriage.)  Religious identification most likely serves a political purpose. As long as politicians are busy undermining traditional religious values they are just fine with the social justice warriors. 

Which, in part, is why Speaker Pelosi and the House Democratic Leadership are so easily cowed by Omar, Ortega-Cortez and Tlaib. They are afraid that Omar and Co will bring the social justice warriors down on their heads. The leadership needs the votes of the hard left of the caucus to accomplish anything, especially the ultimate goal of taking down Donald Trump. So with that goal in mind, given the political dynamics, the Democratic leadership will accommodate their caucus radicals and anti-Semites. Speaker Pelosi, for instance, has already asserted (against a mountain of evidence to the contrary) that Omar’s “dual loyalty” charge was “not intentionally anti-Semitic”. 

Not only that, the House leadership watered down a resolution condemning Omar’s remarks to a general (and meaningless) resolution against a long list of the usual “isms” thereby allowing Omar to achieve a legislative victory of sorts, even though she started off as the focus of the atrocious behavior. The most charitable thing you can say about the Democratic House leadership is that they themselves are not anti-Semites; they are merely cowards. “Some of my best friends…”.

Which brings to mind Edmund Burke, who said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. 

He was right then. It is still true today. Speaker Pelosi, take note.

JFB

In Her Own Words

Formerly known as Sandy the Barmaid, now known as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, we have a representative who is positively Trumpian in her grandiosity and ignorance. After she secured all of 15,847 votes to win her Congressional seat, she reportedly said she was going to Washington to be “inaugurated” and to “sign bills”. 

Now, incredibly enough, she has decided to weigh in on the morality of child bearing. See below.

 


JFB

Another Day, Another Hoax

The hoax perpetrated by Jussie Smollet, an actor in the TV series Empire, provides a window into the widening chasm between reality and the mainstream media. Consider: Smollet claimed he was walking home from a Subway sandwich shop at 2:30 AM. This stroll allegedly took place in Chicago’s on one of its coldest days on record. Smollett went on to allege that two MAGA hat wearing thugs appeared out of the blue and attacked him, threw bleach over him, put a noose around his neck and called him various racial and sexual slurs. 

Somehow or other  Smollet managed to escape and made his way home, after which he reported the crime to the Chicago police. 

To believe that this actually happened you have to believe that a couple of MAGA hat wearing thugs just so happened to be roaming around Chicago at 2:30 in the morning in the bitter cold, armed with a noose and bleach, on the lookout for a target. And as luck would have it, when they saw Smollet they recognized him and proceeded to attack. Alternatively, the thugs had to have been stalking Smollet, noose and bleach in hand, at which point they chose to attack him in view of street cameras. Anyway you look at it, the story is wildly implausible. 

Most of the media fell for it immediately, hook, line and sinker. Why?

Before addressing the why of it, let’s reflect on a salient point made by Jonah Goldberg of National Review online. Goldberg notes that Jews in Nazi Germany did not stage phony hate crimes; neither did American blacks in the Jim Crow South. The reason is (or ought to be) obvious: there were actual crimes directed against them all the time. They didn’t have to be invented. The Final Solution would eventually be launched in Germany, drenched as it was in decades of anti-Semitism that permeated the culture. 

In the Jim Crow south of the United States, scores of American blacks were lynched by mobs. Wikipedia reports that, according to the Tuskegee Institute, 4,743 people were lynched between 1882 and 1968 in the United States, including 3,446 African Americans and 1,297 whites. More than 73 percent of lynchings in the post-Civil War period occurred in the Southern states.[12] According to the Equal Justice Initiative, 4,084 African-Americans were lynched between 1877 and 1950 in the South.[13]

Which brings us to the Jussie Smollet episode. There are a couple of reasons for the wall-wall-to-wall  coverage of it. The first is that in 21st Century America,  an attack of the sort that Smollet described is exceedingly rare. In the United States,  a nation of 330 million people, there were about 1,038 hate crimes reported in 2017. To put that in perspective, there were about 1.28 million violent crimes including 17,000 murders in 2017. Smollett faked it precisely because the chance of a real attack like the one alleged is quite small. 

Another reason for the wall-to-wall coverage is that the episode played into the prejudices of the media. It is an article of faith among the good and great that, with the possible exception of the residents of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the American people are basically a bunch of bigoted yahoos. The deplorables, as Hillary Clinton put it, who cling to their religion (Obama), who live in flyover country. Jussie Smollet’s hoax played right into that mindset, so the major media outlets had a story that seemed to confirm their worldview of a racist, homophobic, oppressive America. 

Except in the end it didn’t. Like the case of the Covington Catholic kids, the alleged victim was actually the aggressor.  Similarly, the media breathlessly reported every preposterous charge against Bret Kavanaugh but declined to mention how his accuser’s story kept changing. And somehow or other the #Me Too movement, and Democratic politicians seem to have caught laryngitis when it comes to discussing Justin Fairfax, Virginia’s Lt. Governor who is credibly accused by two different women of sexual assault. Not to put too fine a point on media credulousness, of all people, Al Sharpton, publicist of the Tawana Brawley hoax has weighed in on the Jussie Smollett case. Now of course he is furiously backtracking. 

There will inevitably be some idiot in a MAGA hat that fakes his own assault only to blame it on some newscaster or liberal politician. Asininity is not the province of any one side. Perhaps eventually the mainstream press will start acting like professionals for a change and treat these stories with the skepticism they deserve.  But I’m not holding my breath. 

JFB

 

The Progressive Governor Northam

Ralph Northam was elected governor of Virginia in 2017. During the campaign Northam routinely denounced his Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie, accusing him of being a racist. Now an incendiary photo of two men has surfaced from Northam’s medical school yearbook. In the now infamous photo one man is in KKK garb, the other is in blackface. At first Northam said he was one of the two men pictured; now on second thought, he says he is not in the photo.

The Governor is obviously concocting a story designed to save his hide in the face of a mob of social justice warriors and Republican opportunists. Does anybody seriously believe that the photo just so happened to surface now? That it hasn’t been sitting in a pile of oppo research waiting for an opportune time? Regardless, the Governor’s credibility is, shall we say, a bit suspect.

Pretty much the entire Virginia Democratic establishment as well as the declared candidates for the Democratic 2020 Presidential nomination have called upon Northam to resign his office, with some taking pains to say that they don’t believe that Northam is a racist. But they want him to resign anyway. Obviously this is simply a political calculation; it has nothing to do with conviction.

Speaking of racism, somehow or other the high priests of Progressivism seem to have caught laryngitis when it comes to addressing vicious left wing anti-semitism. It is put on routine display by Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Llhan Abdullah Omar (D-MN). Then there is the only slightly more subtle anti-semitism of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Keith Ellison, now Minnesota’s Attorney General. And of course, hanging out with Louis Farrakhan is just fine. Not to mention Jeremy Corbyn.

In fairness it should be noted that Cortez’s (AOC for groupies) displays of unintelligibility on the matter of Israel, anti-semitism and the BDS movement may not be thinly veiled anti-semitism. It may instead be attributable to profound ignorance, a common phenomenon among socialists.

Back to the Governor and the infamous photo, taken when he was all of 24 years old. Let’s face it—it’s pretty ugly. Actually it is fair to say the behavior it represents is reprehensible. Having said that, let us remember that Northam was elected Governor of Virginia in November of 2017. And the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia provides a mechanism for removing the Governor and Executive Officers from their posts. It’s called impeachment. On the other hand there is no constitutional provision for removal from office by Twitter rage.

If the political establishment wants to remove the Governor from office they should examine the language of Article IV Section 17 of the Virginia Constitution and see if they can make a legal case. That is a highly doubtful proposition.

There is a reason why we elect politicians at particular times for specific terms, with enumerated powers. We don’t elect Kings. We have institutionalized a separation of powers among the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches. These mechanisms are designed to limit and dilute the powers of office holders so as to enshrine the rule of law. And protect us from mob rule.

What is particularly fascinating about this episode is that it lays bare the moral bankruptcy of the 100 year old progressive movement, both with respect to racism and the protection of individual rights. It isn’t as if Northam is the only exemplar of this. Just today, Brent Staples of the editorial board of the New York Times has a long article showing how the suffragettes read women of color out of the movement. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has on more than one occasion opined that protecting abortion rights is important for restricting births of those who were (and I am paraphrasing) “not the right kind of people”. See this article.

Planned Parenthood had its beginnings as a way for Margaret Sanger to pursue her interest in promoting eugenics under cover of family planning. Woodrow Wilson was arguably the most racist President the United States has ever had, with the possible exception of Andrew Jackson. Justice Hugo Black was a member of the KKK for a while. So was Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV). Historically speaking in the first half of the 20th century, the Klan and Southern Democrats were allied.

And now, (almost) lost in the uproar over the photo is Northam’s support for an abortion rights bill in the Virginia legislature that would permit the killing of infants in utero up until the moment of birth. It would also allow a mother, in consultation with a few doctors, to decide to leave a newborn to die. You heard that right. The proposed bill (mercifully tabled) would make infanticide legal. And the governor supported it. And he explicitly confirmed that it would allow abortion up until the moment of birth as well as the passive killing of newborns. See this article.

Not a single Progressive on the national scene has had anything bad to say about that—or for that matter, a similar bill that just passed the New York State Legislature and cheered on by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

But they are pretty upset about a 35 year old photo of a 24 year old acting like an idiot.

Really.

Think about that the next time a Progressive politician claims the moral high ground.

Or attempts to.

 

JFB