Last week, the Washington Post attacked Nikki Haley for not taking the Confederate flag down at the South Carolina State Capitol.
You will recall that after the tragic 2015 shooting in Charleston, SC, wherein Dylan Roof murdered congregants at the Emanuel AME Church, Nikki Haley led the charge to take down the Confederate flag. The attack was premised on Haley not doing it sooner and, in her first campaign, assuring South Carolinians she would not pursue the issue.
The Washington Post ignored that Republicans, on the campaign trail during Haley’s 2010 gubernatorial bid, accused her of being a whore and a transplant from India. Those were actual allegations against her by her own side. She won.
She won, in part, by assuring South Carolinians that they could take a chance on her and she would not be disruptive but was one of them. It worked. She won. The Post ignores all that context to say Haley could have, had she wanted, taken on the issue in 2010. They ignore that she might not have won if she proved to be a more disrupting force than she already was.
The context matters. The context of the race, the state, etc. matters. The Washington Post never did a story about how Barack Obama campaigned against gay marriage only to push it in office. They never did a story about how he could have pushed harder on the campaign trail in 2008. But they went there with Haley because she is a Republican and they hate her for it.
In Florida, last week, NBC News reporter Jonathan Allen vented that Ron DeSantis refused to take questions from the crowd at an event. In the same tweet, Allen noted that DeSantis instead chose to mingle and visit one-on-one with the audience. In other words, DeSantis answered questions from people, just not the way Allen wanted.
Today, Allen is at it again. He accuses DeSantis of embracing the Florida “swamp” that he claimed he’d transform. Instead, in his latest NBC News rant, Allen claims DeSantis did not reform the culture of politics in Florida but used it to his own advantage.
Allen and NBC News will not tell you that Jonathan Allen, their reporter, had been an employee of Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s political operation. He left Politico for the job but eventually went back to Politico where the progressive spin-meisters waved it all away and claimed it was no big deal. Notably, the man who waved it all away for Allen, is John Harris, Politico’s Editor, whose wife was the Executive Director of NARAL before working for a Democrat in Congress.
Nope, no bias at all.
Allen left Politico, went to NBC News, and no one bothers to tell us he worked for Flordia Democrat Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz before turning his pen against Ron DeSantis.
The press really is the enemy of the GOP more and more. They would not put up with these antics from Republicans. By the way, it is worth noting that CNN had Valerie Jarrett’s daughter on the payroll as an anchor, but she too, is at NBC now.
Perhaps it is more NBC News is the enemy. With MSNBC at least, it is becoming the network most likely to hire Democrat partisans and weaponize them against the right behind the veneer of claims of nonpartisanship.
The GOP would be wise to avoid giving NBC a debate or even dealing with NBC journalists at this point. The network is weaponized against them.
Category: US politics
The forest fires’ fault
Miranda Devine on the source of the Eastern Seaboard’s current bad air:
While New Yorkers have become inured to the pungent smell of cannabis smoke wafting through the streets, the Canadian wildfire smoke currently turning the sky orange is taking our tolerance to new levels.
By Wednesday we were registering the worse air pollution of any major city in the world and COVID mask maniacs were back in their element.
But don’t fall for the propaganda that climate change is to blame.
The situation in Canada is similar to that in Australia, where green ideology and chronic government underfunding mean that the forests currently ablaze have not been managed properly for years.
Instead of dead wood and undergrowth being removed regularly using low-intensity controlled or “prescribed” burns, forests have become overgrown tinderboxes. Fire trails that used to allow first responders easy access to the forest have closed over as vast tracts of land are locked away from humans. Logging and other commercial practices that used to self-interestedly tend to forest health have been phased out.
Back in 2016 when Parks Canada had planned just 12 prescribed burns for the year, Mark Heathcott, the agency’s retired fire management coordinator of 23 years, warned about the importance of the practice to prevent future wildfires.
In 2020, a paper in the journal Progress in Disaster Science warned: “Wildfire management agencies in Canada are at a tipping point. Presuppression and suppression costs are increasing but program budgets are not.”
Canadian indigenous groups also have complained that bureaucratic obstacles hinder their ability to perform the controlled burns they have used for centuries to reduce fuel load, flush out food and regenerate forests.
But in our enlightened era, pressure from green activists using illogical emotional arguments about wildlife habitats have caused governments to underfund and curtail the scientific use of prescribed burning to mitigate wildfire risk.
The ensuing incineration of forests and critters by super-hot runaway wildfires is infinitely worse for wildlife habitats.
But for climate alarmists, the assault on New Yorkers air quality is a positive outcome that they can spin to prove their case. They’re like the arsonist who sets fire to a building and then profits from the clean-up.
Nonpartisan ≠ nonideological
I am announcing a sectional baseball doubleheader with two local teams in the first game, with the winner possibly facing a parochial high school opponent for the right to go state.
Nevertheless, fair reporting is fair reporting, and the opposite is not.
Wisconsin Watch, a self-described “nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news outlet,” is a progressive outlet masquerading as a straight shooter. While this is a free country, the outlet’s reporting as if it is the last word on objective, incentive-free journalism is morally objectionable, as Watch’s priorities originate well outside the political center.
Part of the “Global Investigative Journalism Network,” sponsored by the left-leaning Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundations, among others, Wisconsin Watch also enjoys local donors such as the Joyce Foundation ($200,000), whose stated purpose is to effect “Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform” as well as fostering journalism that “shines a light on conditions we hope to change, policies we endorse, and success stories that present solutions to problems.” In other words, these are ideological nonprofits paying journalists they hope will write about pet interests under the guise of being “nonpartisan, nonprofit.” But for charity’s sake, let’s assume that there aren’t strings attached.
The vast majority of Wisconsin Watch reporter Phoebe Petrovic’s investigation into “anti-LGBTQ+” policies at Wisconsin private schools — Christian schools — relies upon left-wing advocacy groups for sourcing. You can read the whole thing here.
The report begins by interviewing Nat Werth, a controversial 2019 graduate of Sheboygan Lutheran — a Missouri-synod Lutheran school.
As Werth was preparing to graduate, he drafted a valedictory speech in which he planned to come out as gay and critique homophobic Biblical interpretations as archaic, mistranslated or misconstrued. Administrators canceled his remarks.
Sheboygan Lutheran is a private school that receives public funding through tuition vouchers, which currently subsidize nearly 40% of its students. Administrators ignored repeated requests by phone and email for an interview. When a reporter recently again asked Executive Director Paul Gnan for a comment in person, Gnan smiled and said: “Absolutely not.”
As I wrote two years ago, Werth attempted to make about himself what should have been a speech about the whole of his graduating class. The school administration was well within its rights to deny him the platform to make a selfish speech. But of course the whole thing turned into a circus.
Werth told Petrovic that “I’m not against school choice.” “It’s that everybody has human rights and that they should all be protected no matter what, especially the rights of kids who go to private and parochial (voucher) schools in Wisconsin,” he continued.
In other words, Christian schools should do what the government tells them to do, even if it’s against their deeply held beliefs about natural law and order.
Petrovic then turns to Suzanne Eckes, an education-law professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, for comment.
Suzanne Eckes, an education law professor at University of Madison-Wisconsin, argued that language casting gay or transgender identities or behavior as sinful, even without policies codifying the perspective, “has a discriminatory intent behind it.”
She also pointed out how some policies, although not explicit, could result in LGBTQ+ students being treated inconsistently from others. For example, some schools specifically ban all sexual contact outside of a straight, cisgender marriage.
Note: Sexual contact outside of a “straight, cisgender marriage” is a universal prohibition on student sexual contact because high-schoolers aren’t getting married, gay or straight.
For me, the most troubling bit of the piece is when Petrovic reports that Beverly Yahnke, a guest speaker hosted by Sheboygan Lutheran, seemingly joked about sibling abuse during her “Transgenderism and Sexualization in Our Schools” presentation in April (held outside of school hours and free to the public, which Petrovic fails to mention):
In a striking moment, she also argued that children should go through natural puberty, without blockers, “to discover what it feels like to be a man, to feel their shoulders broaden to take out their little sister and smack her against the wall.” When an audience member reacted in shock, Yahnke added: “In playful jest, of course.”
It’s worth noting that Yahnke had visited Sheboygan Lutheran before, in 2020, and delivered the same speech minus the roughhousing part. She instead riffed about beards, an admittedly safer play. But, hey, at 35 minutes into a presentation before the clergy of apathy — high-schoolers — I’m sympathetic to getting a rise out of the crowd. It also happens to be true that pubescent boys are ogres discovering new strength with underdeveloped brains, which is why we pit them against one another in whatever sport is in season. Off-the-cuff jokes rarely read well on paper.
Petrovic did not indicate if she reached out to Yahnke or her organization for comment.
Further citations include the Trevor Project (a queer-advocacy group) on bullying stats, the Southern Poverty Law Center (a left-wing smear outfit) on which doctors can be authorities on transgenderism, TransLash (a revolutionary transgender zine that has partnered with the National Education Association, a public-teachers’ union) on the insidiousness of right-wing voucher programs, and GSAFE (which organizes LGBT clubs at schools) on the extracurricular nature of Gay–Straight Alliances or Gender and Sexuality Alliances.
Wisconsin Watch isn’t nonpartisan in a way that a layman would understand the term. Rather, it’s nonpartisan because there isn’t a party far enough to the left to earn its support. The publication uses deceptive presentation to advocate for progressive policies while using whatever activist outlet is at hand to lobby for unmaking successful programs such as Wisconsin’s voucher system — a program that allow kids to attend excellent schools and focus on their studies instead of on intersectionalist priorities.
Sheboygan Lutheran was a bitter cross-town foe of my school, but, on this matter, they did nothing wrong and a whole lot right. The public should use Wisconsin Watch’s reporting as a lesson that there are elements of the Left that would rather see kids fail than see them learn outside of the progressive orthodoxy.
The debt ceiling winner is (not) …
It took a while, but the press has settled on a narrative in its quest to put a period on the monthslong debt-ceiling saga: Joe Biden won!
“President Biden this week accomplished what America elected him to do — govern from the center and make deals that solve problems,” the Washington Post’s David Ignatius opined, citing the progressive Left’s hostility toward the debt-ceiling deal the Biden White House hashed out with Speaker Kevin McCarthy as proof for his thesis.
The New York Times also deemed the deal a “win,” and praised the president’s magnanimity. By allowing McCarthy to “claim the win,” Times analyst Peter Baker wrote, Biden secured his Republican interlocutor’s “hard right” flank, warding off a threat to the speakership even as he absorbed blows from progressives.’
Having talked and cajoled Republicans out of their monomaniacal desire to destroy the American economy in pursuit of their own parochial political advantage, Vanity Fair’s Molly Jong-Fast declared, the “often underestimated” president emerged as “the big winner” in the standoff.
“Getting lawmakers to collectively step back from the financial cliff was as big a victory as any specific provision from the debt ceiling package,” Politico marveled. “And it would serve as a blueprint for the reelection campaign to come.” The deal is “a win for Biden on many levels,” USA Today’s reporters gushed. Biden achieved “total victory” and delivered a “remarkably one-sided win on the debt limit this week,” Washington Post opinion columnist Matt Bai wrote. Biden’s achievement outstripped “my wildest expectation of what he could possibly achieve in this negotiation,” MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell said. And so on.
It is a struggle to square these buoyant assessments of Biden’s transactional acumen with both the terms of the deal to which he consented and the implosion of the strategy the president pursued in the seven months it took to get there.
The president’s approach to the debt-ceiling standoff came into view even before the 2022 midterm elections, when Democrats had already resigned themselves to losing control of one or both chambers of Congress. “Republicans are determined to hold the economy hostage,” Biden said at a gathering of the Democratic National Committee in October 2022. He forecast an effort by Republicans to force the White House into consenting to reforms to America’s major entitlement programs or using the threat of default as leverage.
Biden brushed off calls from both Democratic lawmakers and members of his own administration to seek a legislative abolition of the debt ceiling altogether in the lame-duck session of Congress. Instead, administration officials insisted, the debt-ceiling debate would establish a politically beneficial contrast between his White House and the GOP. As one Biden adviser confessed, “the gun is in Republicans’ hands” and “there is little question as to who will get blamed” for a default.
This bravado masked a structural problem for Democrats, however, insofar as it was clear that there was no appetite among moderate Senate Democrats for pushing through a short-term debt-ceiling hike via reconciliation. So the matter would have to wait until 2023, and the Biden White House would count on the fractious House Republican conference to self-destruct when the chips were down.
By the time the 118th Congress was sworn in, Biden settled on his offer to the party in control of the chamber from which appropriations bills must originate: nothing at all. The president would deign to discuss only budgetary issues with House Republicans, but not the debt ceiling. “There should not be conditions around this,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted. “We should not be negotiating.” This strategy was endorsed by Democratic boosters in the media who convinced themselves that the GOP had rolled Barack Obama during debt-ceiling negotiations in 2011 (a conclusion with which no Republican agrees). But it was bad advice: The Biden White House refused to engage in substantive talks with Republicans well past the point at which its obstinacy became self-defeating.
“If the president doesn’t act,” Speaker McCarthy warned in late March, Republicans would force his hand. The House GOP would pass its own debt-ceiling hike on its terms, which would compel Democrats to respond. McCarthy gambled on his conference’s capacity to rally together around a deal, and the bet paid off. Still, Biden was unmoved by the debt-ceiling bill the GOP produced. He refused to budge, even as a growing number of prominent Senate and House Democrats urged him to abandon his recalcitrance and agree to negotiations.
Eventually, Biden buckled under pressure — not just from his own party but the voting public. By the end of May, poll after poll found that the public sided with the GOP’s position — that increasing the nation’s borrowing limit should be paired with spending cuts — while self-described Democrats were split on whether to endorse the Democratic Party’s pursuit of a no-strings debt-ceiling hike.
The deal to which Biden acquiesced reflects the leverage Democrats sacrificed during the months in which they committed themselves to mulishness. The American Enterprise Institute’s Michael R. Strain summarizes the details of the deal neatly:
$1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, tougher work requirements on certain safety-net programs, clawing back unspent Covid-relief money, measures to speed up environmental reviews for major projects, and no tax increases. Considering that Democrats control the Senate and the White House, this is all the more impressive.
Throughout it all, Democratic partisans toyed with ex machinas and elaborate Rube Goldberg devices purportedly designed to bypass the constitutional impediments to Joe Biden’s desired outcome. From repurposing the 14th Amendment so that it somehow authorized new debt rather than simply mandating the repayment of existing debt to just ignoring the debt ceiling altogether, Democrats considered all manner of non-options out of a desire to avoid facing the music. But in the end, Joe Biden caved.
In evaluating the fan fiction circulating this week about Biden’s supposed victory, the operative word is “fan.” These journalistic outlets are sacrificing their credibility by disregarding reality and substituting instead a preferred narrative of events in which Joe Biden emerges the hero. Indeed, the president has presided over a bipartisan achievement here, but he had to be dragged into it by House Republicans and the reality-based members of his own party.
The Biden White House is politically obligated to declare victory amid retreat, and it is best practice to retail that dubious narrative to reporters. But there’s no immutable law of the universe that compels reporters to accept the narrative at face value. That is a choice — a deeply regrettable one.
He who wants to be the next president
This is an actual Truth Social post from former president Donald Trump yesterday:
Have you heard that “Rob” DeSanctimonious wants to change his name, again. He is demanding that people call him DeeeSantis, rather than DaSantis. Actually, I like “Da” better, a nicer flow, so I am happy he is changing it. He gets very upset when people, including reporters, don’t pronounce it correctly. Therefore, he shouldn’t mind, DeSanctimonious?
These are apparently the sorts of thoughts that consume the mind of one of the four people most likely to take the oath of office on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2025. (The other three are Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Ron DeSantis. While some other figure could surprise us all by leaping to the Democratic or Republican presidential nomination, or even by mounting a competitive independent bid, right now, all other figures are extreme underdogs.)
By the way, the next evidence that DeSantis “gets very upset when people, including reporters, don’t pronounce it correctly,” will be the first evidence.
Trump, however, is not alone in spending time and energy contemplating the proper pronunciation of “DeSantis.” The New York Times ran a two-byline column, “Deh-Santis or Dee-Santis? Even He Has Been Inconsistent,” although they at least acknowledged that it is a “highly inconsequential matter.” Axios also believed that this topic was worth spending time, energy, reader attention, and some of humanity’s presumably finite supply of neurons on. (In Mike Allen’s newsletter today, the “How do you pronounce DeSantis’s name” section is above the section about the House passing the debt-ceiling deal. Smart brevity! All the news you need, if you have the attention span of an over-caffeinated ferret.)
The reality of “book bans”
Earlier in the week there was one of those stories that helps feed the ravenous maw of perpetual outrage. Ron DeSantis banned a poem by Amanda Gorman. Banned it!
Vox: The latest book ban target: Amanda Gorman’s poem from the Biden inauguration
Guardian: Amanda Gorman ‘gutted’ after Florida school bans Biden inauguration poem
Los Angeles Times: Amanda Gorman on her inauguration poem being banned at Miami school: ‘I am gutted’
Variety: Amanda Gorman’s Books Sky Rocket in Sales Despite Florida Book Ban
The Wrap: Amanda Gorman ‘Gutted’ by Ban of Inauguration Poetry Book From Florida School
Daily Mail: Miami elementary school BANS students from reading poem Amanda Gorman recited at Biden’s inauguration after parent complained it spread ‘hate messages’
ABC: Poet Amanda Gorman criticizes book ban effort in Florida targeting Biden’s inauguration poem
BookRiot: Inaugural poem by Amanda Gorman banned after single complaint
It turned out the poem wasn’t banned. It was removed from a shelf in a library “media center” for grade-schoolers and put on a shelf for middle-schoolers.
That’s it. One school. One library. Moved a book to a different shelf.
Now, it was dumb for the school to remove it based on a single complaint—or any complaint. But that’s one of the downsides of our ridiculous moment—normal people are so desperate to avoid getting in the crosshairs of controversy, they overreact to controversy that creates even more controversy. It’s the ballad of DeSantis versus Disney in miniature.
Still, the poem wasn’t banned. It changed shelves.
I have no doubt that if a precocious fourth grader asked the librarian to see the poem, it would have been made available. But hypothetically, let’s say that’s not the case. Let’s say the school actually pulled it. So what? I mean, I’m 100 percent with you if you think that would be a wrong decision by one librarian in one school in one neighborhood in one county in one state. But beyond “that would be the wrong decision,” what’s the big frickin’ deal? The kid could probably still find the poem. It just might take a little time or money. But that’s it.
I have no statistics handy, but I am absolutely confident that on any given day, at least 50 kids ask librarians for books that the library doesn’t have, or has loaned-out, or declines to give to kids for a bunch of reasons. “Timmy, I need a note from your mother saying it’s okay for you to read Tropic of Cancer.”
People lost their minds in part because this happened in Florida where American Orbánism is supposedly flourishing. But Americans have been wildly irrational about book-bans-that-aren’t-bans for decades. Whenever you look into it, it turns out that something like 98 percent of the cases are about libraries or schools being pressured by parents or school boards that object to some controversial book that’s not age appropriate.
Since the 1960s, the stories are literally never about bans on the sale of books, never mind the possession of them. That matters. That’s what countries that actually ban books do. See what happens if customs finds The Satanic Verses in your luggage at the Tehran airport.
Now, America used to ban books. Actually, states and cities used to ban books. The federal government, to my knowledge, has never actually banned books, though under the Comstock laws it did prohibit a bunch of “obscene” books from being mailed. (Another reason why UPS and FedEx are limitations on federal power! Down with government control of the means of communication!) The Confederacy did ban Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which is bad. But not anywhere near the top of any known “Things the Confederacy Did That Were Bad” list.
Boston, before its Puritanism evaporated, banned—I mean really banned—books for a very long time.
The real problem with all of this “banned” talk is that a bunch of institutions and the journalists who uncritically defer to them, are using the word “ban” wrong. Dictionary.com defines “ban” as “to prohibit, forbid, or bar; interdict.”
Here’s how PEN America—one of the worst culprits—defines a book ban: “where students’ access to books in school libraries and classrooms in the United States was restricted or diminished, for either limited or indefinite periods of time.” So if your school has a library book sale to clear out old titles and make room for new ones, you’re all mass book-banners.
Now, I’m not going to defend every decision made in every county or school library in Florida in response to the “Individual Freedom Act,” aka the “Stop Woke Act.” Pulling biographies of Hank Aaron strikes me as stupid.
But here’s the thing. If the restriction or diminishment of access to books in school libraries or classrooms is defined as “banning” you know who the worst book banners in America are? Librarians and school teachers. Every single day, teachers and librarians decide what books should be available to kids.
By this definition, the teacher who opts to include Uncle Tom’s Cabin but not To Kill a Mockingbird has banned To Kill a Mockingbird. The school librarian who refuses to keep The Protocols of the Elders of Zion on their shelves has banned that book. Heck, from what I can tell, all three of my books are banned in schools and libraries.
And that’s fine!
That’s what librarians and teachers are supposed to do! They are what we call in the digital age, “content moderators.” But because libraries are physical spaces, the content moderation is more tangible because there’s this thing called “limited shelf space.” You can’t carry all the books, so you pick and choose which you’ll keep and which you won’t. Librarians also get to decide which books they make more visible and which ones you need to ask for help to find. That’s not banning, that’s editing or curating or whatever. Museums do the same thing every damn day. The Met isn’t banning George W. Bush’s paintings, it’s just not interested in displaying them. Who gives a furry rat’s behind?
What PEN and the American Library Association really mean by “banning” is overruling their decisions—or the decisions of their members and allies. If a bunch of parents or school board officials complain about the inappropriateness of a book, the parents might be right or wrong, but that’s not “banning,” it’s democracy in action. Heck the politicians, starting with DeSantis, behind this push have one thing on their side the librarians and teachers don’t: the voters. At least for now. If they go too far, voters will elect different politicians and different decisions will be made. That’s democracy for you.
What the people screaming about book bans want you to believe is that any effort to second-guess or overrule the “expert” opinions of librarians, teachers, and educrats is fascism. Now, it could be fascism. There were a lot of book bans in fascist regimes, and fascism is fueled by a kind of populism that can look like democratic action you support for a while. But, come on. Moreover, the rush to remove “problematic” books is hardly just a right-wing thing. School boards have removed Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird from reading lists and syllabi because they find the language offensive or because To Kill a Mockingbird is a “white savior story.”
Now, I think getting rid of such books is a terrible idea. I also think it’s a big country and there’s nothing inherently wrong—and much that is inherently good—about parents and politicians taking an interest in what local schools and libraries do. I have zero problem saying the parents are sometimes wrong. The woman who complained about Amanda Gorman’s book apparently peddled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion on her Facebook page, so I’m extra comfortable questioning her judgment. But I also have zero problem saying the librarians are sometimes wrong too.
But what I can’t stand is the idea that any second-guessing of unelected functionaries is an Orwellian assault on free thought. I loathe the saying “Government is just another word for the things we do together.” But you know what? At the local level, public schools—i.e. government schools—should operate according to something close to the spirit of that idea. Parents and citizens are stakeholders, particularly in the education of their own children. We always hear about the need for more civic engagement and parental involvement, but don’t you dare complain about what’s on your kid’s curriculum.
Everyone should have to defend their decisions. And shrieking, “You’re a book banner!” if you lose an argument is nothing more than bullying, an attempt to shut down debate, not engage in it. That’s as illiberal as any attempt to influence what’s on library shelves.
Speaking of shutting down debate …
I spend a lot of time lamenting the growing tide of illiberalism on the right. And I’ll continue. But I get a lot of attaboys from progressives who seem to think illiberalism is a uniquely right-wing thing. It’s not. If you think that schools and libraries should be allowed to teach whatever they want, to have exclusive arbitrary power to exclude the books they don’t like but then say, “Don’t you dare try to exclude the books they like,” you are on the illiberal side of the argument—because you don’t think there should be an argument. Liberalism, like democracy, is all about cultivating a high tolerance for disagreement and debate.
Which brings me to this horrifying story by James Fishback published by our friends at The Free Press.
Apparently, competitive high school debate is becoming, in meaningful respects, a debate-free zone. Judges promulgate “paradigms” which lay out what they’re looking for from the debaters. It’s supposed to be stuff like “provide evidence to support your position” or “emphasize clarity.” But here’s one such paradigm from Lila Lavender, the 2019 national debate champion:
Before anything else, including being a debate judge, I am a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist. … I cannot check the revolutionary proletarian science at the door when I’m judging. … I will no longer evaluate and thus never vote for rightest capitalist-imperialist positions/arguments. … Examples of arguments of this nature are as follows: fascism good, capitalism good, imperialist war good, neoliberalism good, defenses of US or otherwise bourgeois nationalism, Zionism or normalizing Israel, colonialism good, US white fascist policing good, etc.
Now, not all judges are self-declared Marxist-Leninist-Maoists (excuse me while I take a moment to keep my eyes from rolling out of their sockets), and not all of them are even this avowedly illiberal, according to Fishback. But a lot are. And you know what? One is too many. I’m not saying this just because Lavender’s paradigm is so incandescently absurd.
Though I should dwell here to say that calling yourself a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist may not be as disqualifying as calling yourself German National Socialist, but it’s close enough. By body count alone, the ideologies are at best a wash, with the Marxist-Leninist-Maoists ahead on points.
Remember that big debate I had with Sarah Isgur about Nazis marching in Skokie? Her position is basically that the law should be viewpoint neutral when it comes to speech. This debate story isn’t a question of constitutional rights, of course. The National Speech & Debate Association can have any rules it wants—because they’re content moderators!
But when it comes to the spirit of liberalism in general and free speech in particular, declaring yourself a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist is substantively no different than declaring yourself a Nazi. It’s certainly an open declaration against liberalism properly understood. And illiberal debate societies aren’t really a thing.
This is my problem with viewpoint neutrality. I think grown-ups, by which I mean citizens in a free society, can make judgments about what ideas are beyond the pale. It may get thorny as a matter of constitutional law, but a liberal institution—and a debating society is perhaps the ne plus ultra of liberal institutions—should be able to say, “Get that garbage out of here.”
Anyway, other judges say that using the word “illegal” in connection with “immigrants” will immediately result in a loss. Another says, “If you are white, don’t run arguments with impacts that primarily affect POC [people of color]. These arguments should belong to the communities they affect.”
I don’t care if you think the idea that marshaling arguments using logic and facts is inherently illegitimate if you’re the wrong skin color is racist. The fact is it’s illiberal.
(Also, is it okay to apply this rule to, say, billionaires? I mean proposing laws to abolish billionaires—a trendy leftwing idea—don’t primarily affect the people arguing for the proposition.)
I’m not an absolutist about such things. I’m the guy who’s just explained—again—that I’m comfortable with libraries and even debating societies discriminating against certain viewpoints.
My problem is two-fold. First, the discrimination is one-way. Open and flagrantly illiberal ideas and arguments of a leftwing bent are indulged and celebrated. Facts that are inconvenient to privileged narratives are scorned and demonized while arguments like “capitalism can reduce poverty”—an incontestable fact, by the way—are preemptively delegitimized. Not only is this illiberal, it’s cowardly. But it’s cowardice in the name of maintaining power.
Second, because there is this one-way bias, the actual liberals—yes left-leaning, but still fundamentally liberal—are stuck in an environment where all of the incentives are to demonize the illiberalism of the other side while refusing to confront the ever increasing illiberalism in their own ranks. This not only fuels the demonization of anyone who doesn’t toe the party line, it invites an inevitable backlash and not just from alt right poltroons.
You want to know why DeSantis and his crew are going full Gramsci about retaking institutions and using governmental power to take back the culture? It’s because liberal institutions—universities, libraries, debating societies—are too illiberal in one direction. How many college admissions people share the same attitude as these judges?
It’s a rhetorical question.
The real cause of the debt crisis
For all of the posturing over the debt ceiling, it’s easy to forget that a statutory limit to federal borrowing isn’t the real issue; the real problem is that the federal government habitually spends more money than it brings in. The fact that the feds are currently collecting less tax revenue than anticipated demonstrates that spending is the one component that government officials can, but rarely attempt to, control. Raising the debt ceiling, again, just kicks the can down the road towards disaster. The real trick is to cut expenditures, which politicians hate to do because largesse from Uncle Sugar is an effective way to court constituents and buy votes.
“The debt limit—commonly called the debt ceiling—is the maximum amount of debt that the Department of the Treasury can issue to the public or to other federal agencies,” the Congressional Budget Office helpfully explains. “The Congressional Budget Office projects that if the debt limit remains unchanged, there is a significant risk that at some point in the first two weeks of June, the government will no longer be able to pay all of its obligations…. If the debt limit is not raised or suspended before the Treasury’s cash and extraordinary measures are exhausted, the government will have to delay making payments for some activities, default on its debt obligations, or both.” …
“The deadline to raise the nation’s debt ceiling is closer than previously thought because tax receipts in April fell below projections,” the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Wharton Budget Model noted this month. “PWBM estimates that receipts are running $150 billion below government projections for fiscal year 2023, most likely due to a decline in capital gains income and weakening corporate profit margins.”
Government officials can’t make the American people be more prosperous than economic conditions allow (though the state is good at worsening those conditions so that jobs and profits evaporate). Even if individuals and businesses are scrupulously honest about reporting income and paying taxes (and there’s always a gap when people think government claims too much), that means there are no guarantees when it comes to collecting revenue. To balance the books, politicians can hope the tax system will yield more, but they only control spending. And they will do almost anything to avoid cutting spending.
People aren’t blind to politicians’ failings. “Gallup finds between 34% and 38% of U.S. adults expressing a ‘great deal’ or ‘fair amount’ of confidence in President Joe Biden, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and congressional leaders in both major parties to do or recommend the right thing for the economy,” the polling firm announced May 9.
Fortunately, there are some online tools that let Americans try their hand at making the tough spending (and tax) decisions the political class would like to ignore.
First up is The Washington Post‘s budget game. As these online tools go, it’s a blunt instrument that allows little choice for guiding tax-and-spending policy over the next decade. While I was able to substantially cut the projected debt, every possible set of permitted choices leaves tens of trillions of dollars in red ink in 2033. The Post‘s preferred message seems to be that balancing the books is too hard, so we need to raise the debt ceiling.
Federal Balancing Act 2023, from the Bipartisan Policy Center, allows a lot more room for detailed choices by users. You can control spending across Education, Health Care, Defense, and other sectors, and raise or lower taxes on corporations, individuals of different income levels, gasoline, and the like.
By slashing military spending, getting the federal government out of education, raising the retirement age, and eliminating whole areas of spending, I was able to run a budget surplus starting in 2023 and move the federal government 163.2 percent of the way towards a sustainable budget.
Hmmm. Looks like I have some room for tax cuts.
The Debt Fixer tool from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget also encourages users to “make the hard budget choices to stabilize debt at 98% of the economy by 2033 by identifying $8.1 trillion of deficit reduction and bring it down to 60% by 2050.” You can even save your choices as a PDF to revisit the issue later.
Again, by focusing on cuts and reducing or eliminating areas of federal activity, I reduced debt as a percentage of GDP to 83 percent by 2033 and 30 percent by 2050.
All of these tools are imperfect. They limit options in ways that can be frustrating—it would be handy to be able to gut certain agencies, or even whole departments. They also make assumptions about costs and benefits that are at best arguable.
Biden voters voted for this too
The interesting thing about the Green New Deal,” admitted Saikat Chakrabarti, the former chief of staff to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, “is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.” It was, in fact, “a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.” He wasn’t kidding.
The Green New Deal’s literature called for mobilizing “every aspect of American society” to eliminate greenhouse-gas emissions from “every sector of the economy.” It called for upgrades and retrofits to “every building in America,” “charging stations everywhere,” the shuttering of “every” fossil-fuel or nuclear power plant, the forced obsolescence of “every combustion-engine vehicle.” Its architects’ ambitions knew no limits. And while the Green New Deal may be dead, the universalism to which its advocates adhered is very much alive.
Armed with unchecked self-confidence and possessed of an abiding faith in the idea that you must be coerced into altruism, the activists seem to be coming for almost everything you own. In the process, they are waging a crusade against convenience, an assault on comparative advantage, and a war on things that work.
Securing the fossil-fuel-free future that President Joe Biden imagines for us sometime in the 2030s will not be a pain-free proposition — at least that appears to be the conceit of the more radical wing of the environmentalist Left. The scale of the challenge, as they see it, demands sacrifice from us all. One of their most controversial moves is to give up natural-gas-powered appliances, your gas kitchen range foremost among them.
The relentless lobbying of local governments to forbid natural-gas hookups in new buildings had already succeeded in a number of municipalities when the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sought public comment earlier this year on a proposal to impose a ban nationwide. By then, California had announced its own ban, to begin in the next decade, on the sale of new natural-gas-powered appliances, and New York State was set to follow suit.
The logic of this proscription was twofold. First, it was justified by dubious research, one example of which suggested that cooking with gas in an “airtight” room sealed by “clear plastic sheets” can cause adverse health effects over the long term. It is, indeed, best to avoid preparing meals in a level-four biocontainment facility. Other studies purporting to prove that gas-stove pollution increases the risk of childhood asthma screened out contradictory findings or, as the American Gas Association later observed, “conducted no measurements or tests based on real-life appliance usage.” Ultimately, Rocky Mountain Institute manager Brady Seals admitted to the Washington Examiner that his organization’s highly publicized summary of past studies, which concluded that gas stoves were responsible for a 12.7 percent increase in asthma among kids, “does not assume or estimate a causal relationship.” The second, more honest rationale concerned a general desire to rid the world of the roughly 13 percent of U.S.-produced heat-trapping emissions that residential and commercial structures contribute. Of course, your own preference plays no role in the bureaucrats’ deliberations. “Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” CPSC commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. warned.
Since they hoped to conserve the status quo, those who objected to this sweeping proposal were summarily dismissed as blinkered promoters of philosophical conservatism. The pro-gas-stove dissidents were accused of either succumbing to a right-wing fever dream or nefariously contriving what Axios called “a new culture war.” But the environmentalists failed to account for one reason people do not wish to replace their gas range with an electric one: The first appliance does things the second cannot.
Or what if you value, you know, value? In most American states, natural-gas appliances cost between 10 and 30 percent less to operate on a regular basis than electric alternatives. What if you can’t afford to switch to the induction ranges — which can cost 60 percent more than gas stovetops — proposed by many anti-gas activists?
The offhand rejection of these arguments set the stage for a real pushback from the public. A cacophonous outcry during the commission’s open-inquiry period drowned out the activists and scuttled its initiative — at least on the national scale. But the effort to relegate natural-gas-powered appliances to history’s ash heap persists in places such as New York, where Governor Kathy Hochul’s spokeswoman bragged that the ban on new natural-gas hookups would “not have any loopholes.” And, she added, “there will not be any option for municipalities to opt out.”
A policy that bans natural-gas hookups in new residential construction suggests that more appliances than just gas stoves have found themselves in the bureaucrats’ crosshairs. Gas furnaces and gas water heaters, too, would become things of the past if the meddlers had their way. Indeed, that is the plan in some of America’s bluest states.
There are pros and cons to both gas and electric heating units. Despite the slower recovery times (e.g., how long it takes for your shower to get hot and stay hot) and higher average costs of electric heating, some consumers may prefer it. Others may not. But individual preference should play no role here, according to the green activists, because climate-friendly alternatives are more ethical.
And it’s not just about how you cook your food or stay warm. Radicals who resent how you live your life behind closed doors are coming for your air conditioner, too. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published a proposed rule designed to prohibit hydrofluoro-carbons (HFCs) with significant global-warming potential (GWP) over 100 years in new air-conditioning and refrigeration systems. This alphabet soup of initialisms complicates much of the literature on the initiative, perhaps by design. Put simply, the rule increases the cost of refrigerants, and those costs are passed on to the consumer. Even the anticipation of that increase has already made it more expensive to install new climate-control units. Here, too, society’s green engineers have a ready alternative for apprehensive consumers: heat pumps.
Anybody but (anybody but) Trump
“I am drunk on Schadenfreude … There is nothing better, not in this world or the next.” Those were not the words of Donald J Trump on Wednesday night, reviewing the shambles of Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign launch on Twitter. They were Jonathan V Last’s — of the “Never Trump” site, The Bulwark.
He wasn’t alone. The MSM chorus dedicated to obliterating the only currently viable alternative to Trump as the GOP nominee was close to deafening. “DeSantis’s Big Moment Goes Awry With a Twitter Meltdown,” crowed the NYT. The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser exulted that DeSantis was “an out-of-his-depth forty-four-year-old who was going to get eaten alive.” Bulwark mucky-muck Charlie Sykes mused, “Surely there have been worse clusterfucked campaign launches than the one we saw last night, but so far, no one can remember any of them.”
Sykes also called DeSantis “Meatball” (a Trump insult) and “Florida Beta Man.” Bill Kristol wryly noted how the name DeSantis could generate lots of puns along the lines of “DeSaster,” or “DeBacle.” He also praised Trump as the “Alpha” of the primary race. JVL referred to Ron’s “Tiny-D Energy.” The Lincoln Project summed up the mood by directly speaking to DeSantis: “We’re sure going to love watching you crash and burn.”
And, to be fair, they weren’t wrong on the launch. Using Twitter for it was bizarre — horrid visuals, useless optics, on a platform loved by very online elites but alien to the vast majority of normie Americans DeSantis needs to reach. And although I once had some small hopes for Elon Musk’s Twitter, I sure don’t now. His platform is a shit-show, in all meanings of that word, and so was the DeSantis event. A shrewd pol would have kept Musk far away. Yet DeSantis effectively made his own announcement a hostage to the tech tyrant’s amour propre. Sad!
And if DeSantis wants to be the anti-woke candidate, he has to do better than telling us that DEI and SEL and ESG are just as bad as CRT. That’s an insane amount of insidery jargon. He has to do more than simply repeating the word “woke.” He has to appeal beyond the GOP base to the moderates and independents who still believe in individual freedom, merit, colorblind racial policy, personal responsibility and letting kids grow up shielded from progressive fanatics.
DeSantis has to engage the majority who are fine with trans adults but don’t believe young children can consent to sex changes and who think sports are sex-segregated for a good reason; those who support non-discrimination laws but don’t believe in hiring people because of their race and sex; those who want their kids taught the basics of math and reading — not that America is a white supremacist country and must be dismantled; those who oppose police abuse but not the police themselves; those who supported a short-term lockdown but not open-ended social death.
And DeSantis has to remind people, as Peggy Noonan puts it today, that “his calling card [is] that in a time of true national crisis — a historic pandemic, the sharp rise of woke ideology — he provided strong leadership under which his state thrived.”
Is DeSantis capable of this? Judging from Wednesday night, no. Perhaps this was because he’s in a primary campaign and thinks a narrow, online, wingnut focus is the safest bet. But key to his primary bid is his ability to convince Republican voters that he can reach beyond the Trump base in ways that Trump cannot. So far: not happening.
Does that mean his campaign is over before it’s begun? I don’t know, but I doubt it. There’s a long way to go. He has raised a lot of money. He retains a couple of strong cards: against Trump, he’s fresh, and against Biden, he’s young. Those advantages will continue to matter. He has a strong record in Florida — on Covid (not as brutal a shutdown), the economy (two percent unemployment), immigration (mandatory E-Verify!) and the fight against successor ideology. He built a 20-point majority in his state, which has to count for something. And I find myself rooting for him against Trump not out of any affection or much admiration, but simply because I believe Biden is a lot weaker than many Democrats seem to think, and because my primary goal is preventing a second Trump term. I fear that Biden is fast becoming the Yuri Andropov of the Democratic Party — and can’t actually beat Trump next time.
I also believe that the rapid corrosion of the core beliefs that sustain liberal democracy is the deepest underlying crisis we face. Wokeness is incompatible with a free society as we know it; it is in fact designed to destroy it, and replace it with identity-based collectivism. Biden will accelerate this, we now know. And Trump’s record in ensuring the cultural dominance and legitimacy of the far left is clear.
So why are so many center-right Never Trumpers celebrating what appears to be a major positive development for Trump? David Frum finally felt the need to explain why he and others are so keen to clear the way for Trump’s return:
What kind of alternative would DeSantis be? We did not want Trump’s abuse of power for selfish advantage replicated by a president who differed from Trump only by arriving at the office on time instead of watching television until 11 a.m.
Seriously? Trump attempted a coup; he committed obstruction of justice; he was impeached twice; he abused the separation of powers; he has vowed to pardon criminals who support him; he is utterly irrational; he lies with staggering abandon; he vows to execute drug dealers without a trial; he supports war crimes; he has enriched himself at the public trough. DeSantis has done and said nothing like any of this; he has governed aggressively within the bounds of his constitutional limits but he is not a sociopath and not a wannabe dictator-for-life. The notion that there is no difference between him and Trump except punctuality makes a mockery of everything Frum has written about Trump in the past.
He continues: “We did not want more strenuous disdain for allies — Ukraine today, who knows who else tomorrow?” Did I miss DeSantis’ vowing to get rid of NATO, like Trump? And what does “disdain for allies” mean? Yes, DeSantis is not a neoconservative in the Frum mode. But who on earth is anymore? And compared to Kim Jong Un’s pen-pal who has vowed to end the Ukraine war in 24 hours, and who personally trashed almost every democratic leader in the West? Please. Frum again:
We did not want a more systematic and shrewd exploitation of tensions in American society, more deft manipulation of resentments along lines of race, faith, sex, region, and educational attainment.
How, I wonder, would David describe the imposition of critical race, queer and gender theory in public high school curricula? The enforcement of systemic race and sex discrimination across the entire federal government and much of corporate America? The creation of sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants? The introduction of sex changes for children before puberty — and mandatory pronoun choice in pre-K? Or the enabling of mass fraudulent migration? These culture war initiatives are apparently not “deft manipulation of resentments.” But opposing them is. Heads the far left wins. Tails the right loses.
David French tries to make a similar argument for rejecting DeSantis:
I believe we can walk and chew gum at the same time, opposing Trump while upholding a vision of state power that limits its ability to “reward friends and punish enemies” so that all Americans enjoy the same rights to speak, regardless of their view of the government.
How Frum puts it: “Never Trump Republicans want a free trade, free market economics conservative.” But unless Ronald Reagan returns from the dead, or we magically get transported back to 1987, this isn’t anything close to a realistic option. French — someone who knows much better — even equates a state legislature setting public school curricula with a violation of free speech — and ignores every free speech challenge from the left. Then there is the specious argument that since DeSantis is not beating Trump right now, he cannot beat Trump ever. But that’s absurdly premature — a piece of rationalization, not analysis.
With Frum and French and many alleged Never Trumpers, it seems, they’d rather risk a second Trump term than compromise an iota of their defunct neocon vision of what conservatism should be. That has zero practical relevance for today’s Republican Party, and suggests they’ve learned absolutely nothing from how Trump came to dominate the American right, and how best to counter him. Putting up another Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio isn’t going to cut it. Which is to say: I love both Davids, but, on this topic, they are not serious people.
And so Trump’s chances of returning just increased dramatically this week. And the “resistance” is near drunk with joy. Tells you something, no? And nothing hopeful.
If Trump is the nominee, Joe Biden or some other Democrat will be president after the 2024 election. Period. At this point I don’t know if I would vote for DeSantis or Tim Scott or Nikki Haley, but either of those three would be a better GOP nominee than Trump.
The every-other-year failure of democracy
The news doesn’t quit, of course. Why, since early last week, Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan was arrested and Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro had his home raided by police, all while Peru juggles the extradition of former president Alejandro Toledo and the detention of more-recent former president Pedro Castillo.
And . . . if none of these events created so much as a blip in the continental United States, that’s probably because these scandals are no more extraordinary than our own. Gone are the days when, say, the arrest or exile of a former Pakistani leader (more or less protocol on that slice of the subcontinent) might have aroused some morbid curiosity in foreign dysfunction. Developing-nation political chaos is starting to look uncomfortably familiar to the American voter.
Okay, it’s not quite so bad as Pakistan. But Jim Geraghty, surveying the 2024 landscape, describes a sorry sight:
We have one guy who is the likely nominee on the Republican side who is fundamentally and indisputably unfit for public office, and who a majority of Americans thinks should be charged with crimes, including trying to steal an election.
We have another guy who is definitely the nominee for the other party who a majority of Americans thinks does not have all the marbles to be president anymore.
Concerns about President Biden’s fitness extend well beyond his dotage. Republicans on the House Oversight Committee this week released evidence about Biden family dealings that are alarming, and cannot be easily explained away. From NR’s news report:
The Biden family and its business associates created a complicated web of more than 20 companies, according to bank records obtained by the House Oversight Committee — a system GOP lawmakers say was meant to conceal money received from foreign nationals.
Sixteen of the companies were limited liability companies formed during Joe Biden’s tenure as vice president, the committee said in a press conference on Wednesday. The Biden family, their business associates, and their companies received more than $10 million from foreign nationals and their related companies, the records show. These payments occurred both while Biden was in office as vice president and after his time in office ended.
Expect this story to snowball. Also hanging over the Biden presidency is Delaware U.S. attorney David Weiss’s investigation involving Hunter Biden. Andrew McCarthy writes that President Biden, by publicly declaring his son’s innocence, has already interfered in the probe — this, amid whistleblower allegations that the FBI “has supposedly been sitting on evidence that implicates the president in a bribery scheme.”
Meanwhile, Donald Trump.
He was impeached twice, you may recall. On Tuesday, he was also found liable for battery and defamation in journalist E. Jean Carroll’s civil suit. Put another way, by NR’s editorial: “For the first time in history, a candidate will seek the presidency having been found civilly liable for sexual abuse.” (And so, we simply must nominate him.)
Add it to Trump’s distinguished pile of legal woes: Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s questionable case relating to Stormy Daniels (in which Trump was arrested), the DOJ special-counsel investigation covering classified-document handling and January 6, and another stop-the-steal-ish probe in Georgia. Coinciding with these developments, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago was raided last year, followed by searches of several Biden properties, both in connection with the handling of classified files.
So yeah, Jair Bolsonaro and his problems are boring by comparison — to George Santos alone.
None of this is to say America is trending banana republic, or becoming “third-world,” as Trump repeated at this week’s CNN town hall. Our economy, for one, continues to be an unstoppable and innovative force for good that defies the popular pessimism. But when it comes to our politics, to adapt an admonition: We’re not electing our best.
That includes Wisconsin, which is being governed poorly by a lifelong education bureaucrat, who was chosen by voters the second time (assuming no Milwaukee or Dane county voter fraud) over one of the worst candidates to have won a GOP primary in the state party’s history.