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Constitutional and Political Freedom

What’s Biden Hidin’?

By Peter RoffNewsweek

Ever since being declared president-elect, Joe Biden has been playing it cool. He’s refused to engage with President Donald J. Trump’s allegation that the outcome of the election turned on voter fraud. He’s left that job to surrogates while he focuses on building his White House staff, making key appointments and projecting the image that his approach to the office will be a calm and moderate one.

Now we know why. Thanks to leaks coming out of an online meeting held Tuesday with leaders of left-wing African-American groups, he’s afraid that a premature announcement of his progressive intentions would cost the Democrats any chance they have of winning the January 5 Georgia runoff elections that will determine which party controls the United States Senate for the next two years.

Biden warned, according to The Intercept, that “civil rights leaders that [put] pressure on the incoming administration around police reform could hurt the party’s chances in the Georgia Senate runoffs, claiming that the Republicans’ ability to define that party as in favor of defunding the police is ‘how they beat the living hell out of us across the country.'”

The former vice president told those on the call he’d prefer to wait, urging that no one be inclined to “get too far ahead of ourselves,” an observation he later tempered by reminding those he was addressing that, wrote The Intercept, “his commitment to police reform was unwavering.

So he’s got a plan, he just doesn’t want anyone outside his immediate circle to know just yet what it is—least of all voters in Georgia who, one presumes, might be inclined to vote against candidates who favor federal interference in local policing that leaves them less safe.

Joe Biden
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks as he announces U.S. Army (retired) General Lloyd Austin as his choice to be Secretary of the Department of Defense at the Queen Theatre on December 09, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY

If that’s how things are inside Camp Biden, then the Democrats should be grateful the media and the public are still focused on Trump’s campaign to win in the courts and in the state legislatures what he was apparently denied by the voters. It’s a distraction that’s keeping anyone from asking what Biden might have up his sleeve that he can’t get through Congress unless Mitch McConnell is no longer the Senate majority leader.

Does Biden plan to offer a tax on carbon emissions that would drive up the price of gas at the pump and double or perhaps triple what Americans pay to heat and cool their homes? His national security team is committed to getting the U.S. back into the Paris climate accord—even though the United States has met, even exceeded the targets it set—while Janet Yellen, whom Biden wants as treasury secretary, is on record as favoring such levies.

What does Biden have planned that will satisfy the pro-abortion-rights activists and anti-gun people in his party’s coalition? He hasn’t said much, even about the things he’ll do on day one of his presidency. Is that because residents of Georgia, which is generally a conservative state, might react badly to his promised program, or because he doesn’t yet know—after almost 40 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president—what he’d like to do?

And more importantly, why is no one asking?

The stakes are clear. As Saul Anuzis, the former Michigan Republican Party chairman who now runs the conservative 60 Plus Association, told me, “Without Georgia, conservatives are at risk of losing everything they gained under Trump.” The list of things Biden has his eye on, as the former vice president said in Tuesday’s meeting, is long. He also faces the policies put in place over the last four years by executive orders which, he says, he’ll repeal.

That means a lot. “Conservatives shouldn’t underestimate the damage a politically motivated progressive left wing could do when the country is this polarized,” Anuzis said. “The outcome of the Georgia Senate races could determine the direction of this country for a generation to come.”

Team Biden knows this. It’s why it’s keeping quiet about so many things. But that strategy is dishonest. Biden has an agenda in mind, and he should be telling the American people what it is. Except he doesn’t want to be on the ballot on January 5 any more than he wanted to be on the ballot on November 3. He wanted the voters thinking only about whether they wanted four more years of Donald Trump.

One can argue he got his wish, that the presidential election was a referendum on the past four years rather than the next four. Biden wants voters thinking the same thing as they go to the polls in Georgia next month. But he can’t hide in his basement forever.


What the hell is going on?

By Larry Fedewa Ph.D.DrLarryOnline.com

Pardon us if we are a little confused regarding the current status of the 2020 election results. We have been saying all along that we are dedicated to following the rule of law. Now, however, we are watching all levels of the Judiciary —  who personify the law in the USA – rejecting what appears to many of us as highly suspicious behavior on the part of the vote counters. Some without even hearing the evidence of the plaintiff. These rejections are north of 60 cases, at all levels of the judiciary from Circuit courts to federal appellate courts.

What is going on? And where are the chief law enforcement organizations, the Justice Department and the FBI, who should be leading the investigations into allegations of monumental crimes of election fraud? Instead of leading the search for truth, they are nowhere to be found. Attorney General William Barr, thought to be a non-partisan pillar of integrity, ducks out of his responsibilities by saying that his department could find no crimes which would change the outcome of the election. This without citing any such investigatory efforts.

The only Judge showing enough true grit to hold the state officials to their oath of office is Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who is hot on the trail of the Pennsylvania mess. Of course, the end game of most of these lawsuits will be the actions of the Supreme Court as a whole when some of the current cases have traveled the gauntlet of judicial rejections in order to get standing for the high court to act.

So, here we are, days before the traditional certifications of the electoral college to begin, waiting to see what the Supreme Court will do. Will they accept the case(s)  and issue a decision as in the case of Gore v Bush in 2001, or will they also decline to exercise their duty? If they do accept the case(s), what will their verdict be?

The very vastness of the suspected corruption is a challenge which gives everyone pause. What is being alleged is a conspiracy which touches nearly every state in the Union. A pattern of ballot tampering which has eerie similarities in nearly every suspicious state, which in turn strongly suggests central planning. The remedy may mean declaring the entire election null and void! Then what? Another election? Extension of the present terms while the new election is organized. For the first time in American history?

Alternatively, the selective decertification of certain votes among the many cast in person and by mail? Who would enforce strict behavior of the recount and the responsibilities of the poll watchers?

There are other issues as well, particularly the widespread use of the Dominion software (some 34 state users) which has been roundly criticized as an instrument of ballot tampering. A prohibition against use in an American election could cause an upheaval in the many states which relied on this technology to operate their balloting.

The other factor is, if the Supreme Court does accept one or more cases, how will they vote? Will the Chief Justice retain his posture of going with the wind as he has in some notable previous cases? Or will he be guided by the Constitution? What will be the effect of the new Justices on the rest of the Court, if any?

Yes, these are exciting times we live in. But also very confusing.


Conservative Criticism of Fox Is Unfair and Unbalanced

By Peter RoffRealClear Politics

For some unexplainable reason, conservatives rush towards fratricide with the same kind of urgency that drives lemmings over the edge of the cliff. It’s what they do, even when it’s counterproductive and costly.

Conservatism was not made better off by the four-year campaign waged against Speaker Newt Gingrich by some House conservatives who considered him ideologically unreliable. It was not helped by John Boehner’s premature departure from Congress, brought about by the continual political headaches caused by House Republicans on his right flank who branded him an establishment sellout even after he forced President Obama to agree to nearly draconian spending cuts without giving up much in return.Recommended  

A small group of so-called purists on the right even crossed swords with Ronald Reagan, without whom modern conservatism would have emerged stillborn after the thumping Barry Goldwater received in 1964 from Lydon Johnson.

Since Reagan, the GOP has marketed itself as the party of ideas and open debate. His eight years in the White House transformed the world as well as the U.S. government. He created a revolution the results of which progressives are still trying to roll back. His policies led to the rebirth of the American economy and the national spirit; millions of new jobs and small businesses were created; and the Cold War concluded in a way many did not think possible. Many forget that when Whittaker Chambers broke with the Soviets, he thought he was leaving the winning side of the struggle to join with the losers.

In the light of what appears to be Donald Trump’s defeat in his bid for reelection, conservatives are now turning on Fox News, a channel where I once appeared with some frequency back in the 1990s, over its supposed ideological apostasy.

What nonsense. Fox was never an explicitly conservative organization but, as conceived by Rupert Murdoch and brought to life by Roger Ailes, it was successfully positioned as the counterpunch to the overtly liberal networks that dominated the media: CBS, ABC, NBC, and CNN.

It was a needed, even necessary, addition to the nation’s information stream. The opinion side of the network leans heavily to the right but the newsgathering operation plays it mostly down the middle, remembering the need for balance because every story has at least two sides.

As a programming strategy, it works. The network is a financial and ratings juggernaut embraced by conservatives because Fox News gave their agenda and personalities a fair hearing. Now, because the network’s decision desk called Arizona — a state critical to Trump’s re-election prospects — for Joe Biden on election night, some so-called true believers are encouraging those of like mind to turn to other channels.

This is fratricidal and foolish. With Biden probably coming into the White House with a progressive to-do list that includes wiping out the gains made since the Reagan years, the plan to isolate Fox, one of the few places in the major media where conservative ideas can be discussed openly and without the anchors sniping at them, is silly, What other news outlet covers the deeds and misdeeds of national Democrats with the same enthusiasm that MSNBC, the New York Times, and the rest of the mainstream media go after the Republicans?

The liberal narrative has always been that Fox is the voice of the right. They’re still saying it, as David Brock’s Media Matters for America made clear in a recent email, saying:

As President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral vote margin and popular vote margin grew last weekend, President Donald Trump tweeted clips and quotes from Fox programs that were laced with misinformation and conspiracy theories about the election. Since that time Fox News propagandists have promoted a variety of conspiracy theories and baseless claims of voter fraud. Once again, Trump is amplifying the work of Fox to falsely claim that he won the election.

If the right turns its back on Fox, it would be an act of rank stupidity. The decision to put Arizona in the Biden camp did not, as some have claimed, affecting the voting in Nevada. It didn’t happen until the polls were closed and, anyway, it looks to have been the correct call – a potential recount and allegations of irregularity notwithstanding.  As far as the alleged betrayal of conservative interests goes, has any other news channel given the kind of attention to the still-unfolding Hunter Biden scandal it has? Tucker Carlson’s hour-long interview with Tony Bobulinski, the whistleblower providing the goods on Hunter Biden and the Biden family’s alleged international corruption, was seen by more people than any other interview in recent memory.

The Bobulinski revelations wouldn’t be covered by “60 Minutes” or Rachel Maddow or Anderson Cooper. If anything, they’d be covered up, just as the debilitating consequences of the Democratic lockdowns and the real objectives of Black Lives Matter and antifa have been. The Big Tech progressives who got Biden elected don’t want conservative opinions appearing anywhere any more than they want the truth about the left to be aired.  That’s what the cancel culture is about.

In a battle for all the marbles, conservatives can ill afford to limit their reach. Cutting off Fox in favor of small outlets – some of which I do appear on currently – is like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. The right needs to build its network, not cut it back. The perfect should not be the enemy of the good. If anything, conservatives should be looking to expand their reach and finding ways to defeat the progressives. Energy spent on fighting the movement’s allies is energy wasted.


Leaders Of Conservative Organizations Call For Biden To Release Bank Records

By Hank BerrienThe Daily Wire

Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden speaks during a drive in rally in Miramar, Florida on October 13, 2020. - Joe Biden headed for Florida to court elderly Americans who helped elect Donald Trump four years ago but appear to be swinging to the Democratic candidate for the White House this time around amid the coronavirus pandemic. Biden, at 77 the oldest Democratic nominee ever, is to "deliver his vision for older Americans" at an event in the city of Pembroke Pines, north of Miami, his campaign said.
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

A coalition of conservative leaders has written a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), pointing out that since he had stated the need for investigating criminal wrongdoing by public officials, he should ask for former Vice President Biden’s bank records.

In December 2019, Neal, who had been calling for President Trump to release his tax returns, released eight years of tax records, saying that the move came “in the spirit of transparency, as the chair of the committee with jurisdiction over taxes.”

George Landrith, president of Frontiers of Freedom, Richard Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government, Andrew Langer, president of the Institute for Liberty, Seton Motley, president of Less Government, Horace Cooper, Co-Chairman Project 21, Saul Anuzis, president of 60 Plus, and Dick Patten, president of the American Business Defense Council, began their letter stating:

“Your recent comments about the need to investigate criminal wrongdoing by public officials and the importance of transparency to American government have not gone unnoticed. As you know, allegations of just such wrongdoing and the lack of transparency have arisen over the last two months based on emails found on a personal computer belonging to Hunter Biden — the son of Vice President Joseph Biden — a computer whose authenticity has been established by the FBI.”

After delineating alleged acts by former Vice President Biden, the letter continues, “We hope that you would welcome the chance to assist Vice President Biden in laying to rest any allegations that he was using his office and official travel to influence foreign governments or entities to benefit his son’s businesses.  And to answer this question: Was any of that income received by Vice President Biden or other family members?”


Governors and Mayors Should Quit Making Quarantine Decrees

By JIM GERAGHTYNational Review

Considering the Supreme Court’s rejection of New York state’s restrictions on religious gatherings during the pandemic . . .

. . . and California governor Gavin Newsom’s dinner at The French Laundry, and the mayor of San Francisco dining in the very same restaurant the following nightand the Los Angeles County supervisor dining in a restaurant after voting to ban outdoor dining as well as indoor dining, and the mayor of Denver flying off to see family after telling residents to avoid unnecessary travelandNancy Pelosi visiting a hair salon in violation of local restrictionsand the mayor of San Jose breaking his own restrictions by attending a big Thanksgiving dinner with multiple households present, and the mayor of Washington, D.C., attending a Biden victory party in Delaware after barring all nonessential interstate travel, and [insert all subsequent examples of politicians violating their own quarantine restrictions here] . . .

. . . maybe it’s time for governors and mayors to get out of the lockdown-by-decree business and get back into the recommendation business. Americans have been through a terrible ordeal of a year, and they’re not going to just stay home behind closed doors with Christmas and Hanukkah and New Year’s coming up. Clearly, these sweeping restrictions are far too strict, because otherwise elected officials wouldn’t be breaking their own rules all over the place.

The first vaccinations in the U.S. will start in about two weeks. Until the vaccine is widely available, we’ve got another month or two (or three?) of frequent handwashing, social distancing, avoiding crowds, wearing masks when indoors, and maybe throw in taking some Vitamin D or other vitamins and supplements to keep our immune systems at tip-top shape. Americans aren’t going to stay away from restaurants or religious services entirely, so tell them to space the customers or worshippers out as much as they can and keep hand sanitizer plentiful and ubiquitous. Americans aren’t going to stay away from their elderly relatives entirely, so tell them to get tested before and try to minimize exposure until the gathering. Take the precautions that you can, where you can, when you can. This is not a perfect or risk-free system; perfect and risk-free systems don’t exist. As the Christmas carol goes:

Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow, 

Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow, 

So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

In short, mayors and governors, don’t ask your citizens to make any sacrifice that you’re not willing to make yourself.

Because if another bunch of fat-cat politicians try to decree that no one should get together for Christmas, and that everyone should stay out of restaurants and church and so on, the reaction from much of the public will be a metaphorical middle finger, and that reaction will be entirely deserved. Elected officials didn’t start this pandemic with a ton of trust and respect for their authority, and the worst among them have destroyed what was left in the past few weeks.


Conservative Groups Ask House Democrats to Demand Joe Biden’s Bank Records

A group of conservative activists and leaders is asking House Democrats who have pursued President Donald Trump’s tax returns to demand former Vice President Joe Biden’s bank records, given allegations of overseas business entanglements.

By JOEL B. POLLAKBreitbart

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, center, buys an ice-cream at a shop as he tours a Hutong alley with his granddaughter Finnegan Biden, right, and son Hunter Biden, left, in Beijing, China Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, Pool)
Andy Wong/AP Photo

The Hunter Biden laptop story in October revealed that Joe Biden had discussed his family’s foreign business entanglements, despite earlier denials, and that he explored a business venture with a Chinese company in which he was to have held 10% of equity.

House Democrats have tried for years to obtain Trump’s tax returns, going to the Supreme Court in their effort to do so, though they have not had evidence of any crimes or conflicts of interest, but insisting on the need for transparency.

In a press release Tuesday, several conservative leaders released a letter they had sent to House Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), in which they argued Biden’s bank records were of equal public value:

Mr. Chairman,

Your recent comments about the need to investigate criminal wrongdoing by public officials and the importance of transparency to American government have not gone unnoticed.

As you know, allegations of just such wrongdoing and the lack of transparency have arisen over the last two months based on emails found on a personal computer belonging to Hunter Biden — the son of Vice President Joseph Biden — a computer whose authenticity has been established by the FBI.

As you also know, public record has established beyond doubt that vice President Biden repeatedly took his son on official trips to foreign nations and that soon after such trips his son’s companies we’re receiving millions in contracts from government related entities in those nations. Additionally, it is also public record that when one of those companies came under investigation for corrupt practices by a foreign government vice president Biden intervened and forced that government to shut down the corruption probe and fire the prosecutor by threatening to deny the country and its people US foreign aid. This, as you know, is indisputable since Vice President Biden openly boasted on camera about his effectiveness in getting the corruption prosecutor fired.

Now, however, graver questions have arisen about the suspect activities of the vice president and his son. Disclosure of the emails from Hunter Biden’s computer show him speaking openly about paying out money to the rest of the family including his father who was apparently referred to — and these are just two examples— as “the big guy” or someone entitled to his ten percent.

Already, of course, Vice President Biden has a serious credibility problem on this issue, having said flatly that he never discussed such business matters with his son. Evidence from the computer emails as well as testimony from one of his son’s former business colleagues who attended meetings with Vice President Biden show his emphatic denial is now one of the boldest falsehoods ever told an American public life.

In any case, we hope that you would welcome the chance to assist Vice President Biden in laying to rest any allegations that he was using his office and official travel to influence foreign governments or entities to benefit his son’s businesses. And to answer this question: Was any of that income received by Vice President Biden or other family members?

Thus, we hope that in view of your strong demand for transparency and disclosure you will endorse our suggestion that your committee ask for vice President Biden’s bank records and those of the rest of his family over the period of his vice presidency and immediately thereafter. In this way he can put to rest any allegations including concerns about how he acquired his extensive personal wealth and his large estate.

If members of the committee from both sides as well as their legal counsel could be permitted to examine the records and then report to the Congress this would do much to clear the air. Moreover, if you took this initiative as a member of the Democratic House leadership this would do much to show that your interest in full disclosure and investigating corruption extends to members of your own party.

As you know, when these allegations arose during the presidential campaign, media organizations – some of whom still claim they are serious news organizations – rushed to protect Vice President Joe Biden who was their chosen candidate by imposing a news blackout on this information.

But that won’t last now – the public is going to want to know the truth. This is your chance to serve the cause of integrity and transparency in public office as you’ve talked so much about the past few years.

The American people have a right to this information and we are hopeful that you and the Vice President will see the advantage of the full disclosure suggested by our proposal before demands for a special counsel become deafening.

The letter is co-signed by George Landrith, president of Frontiers of Freedom; Richard Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government; Andrew Langer, president of the Institute for Liberty; Seton Motley, president of Less Government; Horace Cooper, co-chairman of Project 21; Saul Anuzis, president of 60 Plus; and Dick Patten, president of the American Business Defense Council.

The president has completed all required financial disclosure forms, declining to release tax returns while under audit. A New York Times article this fall describing his tax returns confirmed he has been under audit by the IRS in a long-running dispute.


Natan Sharansky and the Meaning of Freedom

Life lessons from the dissident, politician, and activist

By Matthew ConntinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

Natan Sharansky
Natan Sharansky / Getty Images

Natan Sharansky has been a computer scientist, a chess player, a refusenik, a dissident, a political prisoner, a party leader, a government minister, a nonprofit executive, and a bestselling author. He never expected to be a school counselor.

But the coronavirus dashes expectations. In early March, when the virus began to appear in Jewish communities outside New York City, Sharansky found himself online, in an unaccustomed position. He began to share with students and parents whose schools were closed how he had coped during years in confinement.

“At first, it seemed absurd, even obscene,” Sharansky writes in his latest book, Never Alone, coauthored with the historian Gil Troy. “How could my experience of playing chess in my head in my punishment cell compare to being cooped up in gadget-filled homes wired to the internet—with computer chess—especially because this isolation is imposed to protect people, not break them?”

What Sharansky realized is that the costs of lockdowns do not depend on the reasons behind them. The sudden and seemingly arbitrary interruption of individual plans, movements, and relationships causes psychological harm. Sharansky recorded a brief YouTube video for the Jewish Agency—you can watch it here—offering his five tips for quarantine. Recognize the importance of your choices and behavior, Sharansky advised. Understand that some things are beyond your control. Keep laughing. Enjoy your hobbies. Consider yourself part of a larger cause.

“Surprisingly,” Sharansky writes, “this short clip went viral, reaching so many people all over the world within a few days that it made me wonder why even bother writing this book.” His reaction was another example of his droll and often self-deprecating wit. The video, however helpful it may be, does not match the power and wisdom of Never Alone. Part autobiography, part meditation on Jewish community, the book ties together the themes of Sharansky’s earlier work, from his prison memoir, Fear No Evil (1988), to his defense of cultural particularity, Defending Identity (2008). It is a moving story of emancipation and connection, of freedom and meaning.

Sharansky was born in 1948 in the Ukrainian city of Stalino. His given name was Anatoly. His parents were educated professionals who downplayed their Jewish identity. They did not want to risk political and social reprisal. “The only real Jewish experience I had was facing anti-Semitism,” he writes. The precocious youth spent his early years playing chess. He learned to navigate a Soviet system that maintained its rule through fear. He became captive to doublethink. He repeated official lies and myths not because it was the right thing to do, but because it was the safe thing to do.

Sharansky enrolled in the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. “I dived into the republic of science,” he writes. “This world seemed insulated from the doublethink I had mastered at home.” Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War prompted him to discover his heritage. “Realizing how little I knew about this country that so many people were now asking about made me hungry to learn more.”

Sharansky studied representations of Biblical scenes hanging from the walls of Moscow’s galleries. He came across a samizdat copy of Leon Uris’s Exodus, a potboiler historical fiction that describes Israel’s founding. “It drew me into Jewish history, and Israel’s history, through my Russian roots. It helped me see myself as part of the story.”

The following year the Soviet nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov wrote his “Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom.” Sakharov argued for freedom of inquiry. He demanded the protection of human rights. “Sakharov was warning that life in a dictatorship offers two choices: either you overcome your fear and stand for truth, or you remain a slave to fear, no matter how fancy your titles, no matter how big your dacha,” Sharansky writes. “Ultimately, I couldn’t escape myself or my conscience.”

Inspired by Sakharov, Sharansky applied for a visa to immigrate to Israel in 1973. He was rejected. He was unable to leave the Soviet Union. That made him a refusenik. “My life as a doublethinker, which I had consciously begun at age five the day Stalin died, was over. The professional world I had built for myself, my castle of science, collapsed instantly. Now, I could say what I thought, do what I said, and say what I did.”

The twin concerns of Sharansky’s life—identity and freedom—became fused. “Democracy—a free life in a free society—is essential because it satisfies a human yearning to choose one’s path, to pursue one’s goals,” he wrote in Defending Identity. “It broadens possibilities and provides opportunity for self-advancement. Identity, a life of commitment, is essential because it satisfies a human longing to become part of something bigger than oneself. It adds layers of meaning to our lives and deepens the human experience.” Freedom offers choice. Identity provides direction.

It would be a while before Sharansky could enjoy his own freedom. By 1975, he was working with Sakharov. The next year he formed the Moscow Helsinki Group to pressure the Soviets to live up to the commitments they had made in basket three of the Helsinki Accords. The KGB arrested him in 1977. “I spent the next nine years in prison and labor camp,” he wrote in Fear No Evil, “mainly on a special disciplinary regime, including more than 400 days in punishment cells, and more than 200 days on hunger strikes.”

In prison he played chess games in his head. “I always won.” He would tease the guards with anti-Soviet jokes. He was not afraid. What could they do—put him in jail? He communicated with his fellow inmates through morse code. They would drain the toilets and speak to one another through pipes. He read Soviet propaganda esoterically, between the lines. He figured out what was actually going on by determining what the authorities had omitted.

Sharansky was in prison when he heard that President Ronald Reagan had called the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire.” The year was 1983. Reagan had uttered the famous—and controversial—words in a speech to the National Association of Evangelicals. “It was one of the most important, freedom-affirming declarations, and we all instantly knew it,” Sharansky said in a 2004 interview. “For us, that was the moment that really marked the end for them, and the beginning for us. The lie had been exposed and could never, ever be untold now. This was the end of Lenin’s ‘Great October Bolshevik Revolution’ and the beginning of a new revolution, a freedom revolution—Reagan’s Revolution.”

Sharansky and his wife Avital had been apart since her immigration to Israel the day after they married in 1974. Throughout his imprisonment she worked tirelessly on his behalf, and on behalf of other refuseniks and dissidents. She found an ally in Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Benjamin Netanyahu. She met with Reagan, who began asking Soviet leaders to release Sharansky. Gorbachev freed him on February 11, 1986. He was reunited with Avital in Frankfurt Airport. They flew to Israel. “‘It was just one long day,’ Avital sighed later that night, in our new home in Jerusalem. ‘I arrived in Israel in the morning. You arrived in the evening. It was just one very, very long day in between.’”

He became Natan. He entered Israeli politics. He helped resettle one million immigrants from the former Soviet Union. He opposed the Oslo peace accords. He resigned from Ariel Sharon’s government over the policy of unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. His work as an activist was devoted to building what Reagan had described as “the infrastructure of democracy.” Sharansky distinguished between free societies and fear societies. “The structural elements that enable democratic societies to respect human rights—independent courts, the rule of law, a free press, a freely elected government, meaningful opposition parties, not to mention human rights organizations—were all glaringly absent in fear societies,” he wrote in The Case for Democracy (2004).

Sharansky’s career resists summary. It offers lessons in courage, freedom, justice, belonging, and hope. What makes his example especially relevant is his insistence that freedom and identity, liberty and tribe, are not just compatible but codependent. “To have a full, interesting, meaningful life,” he writes in Never Alone, “you have to figure out how to be connected enough to defend your freedom and free enough to protect your identity.” The same puzzle confronts nations. “Benefiting from the best of liberalism and the best of nationalism, together we can champion the joint mission to belong and to be free as both central to human happiness.”

Governments establish the conditions of liberty. But identity must come from below. The most positive and enduring sources of identity are not found in politics. They are located in civil society. The institutions of family, faith, and community tell us who we are, what we want, where we should turn.

People are antecedent to government. And they must remain so, if democracy is to survive. This is the unforgettable teaching of Natan Sharansky, hero and champion of freedom.


Biden Education Lead: Chinese Communist Party Has Done ‘Magical Work’

By Chrissy ClarkThe Washington Free Beacon

Chinese students in Beijing, China / Getty Images

Joe Biden’s education transition team lead has a long history of praising China’s school system—a system the Chinese Communist Party designed to indoctrinate students.

Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University professor and the president of the California State Board of Education, has praised the Chinese Communist Party’s education system for its “magical work” in establishing a strong teacher-government presence in student life. In her 2017 book Empowered Educators: How High-Performing Systems Shape Teaching Quality Around the World, she explained the centrality of the teacher to Chinese students’ lives.

“Teachers in China are revered as elders, role models, and those whom parents entrust to shape the future of their children,” Darling-Hammond wrote. “In the Tao traditions of ritual, the phrase ‘heaven-earth-sovereign-parent-teacher’ is repeated and becomes ingrained in how people see themselves holistically governed and supported.”

The Stanford educator failed to mention that any other teacher-student “relationship” could result in imprisonment. The Chinese government continually cracks down on “Western values” in the classroom by sending state-sponsored inspectors to monitor teachers—particularly in higher education—for “improper” remarks. Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has said that China’s schools and teachers must “serve the Communist Party in its management of the country.”

Not serving it can carry steep consequences. In July, for example, Chinese professor Xu Zhangrun was placed under house arrest after he criticized Xi’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. He was subsequently fired from his teaching position at Tsinghua University—one of China’s most elite institutions—after he spoke out against Xi’s removal of presidential term limits.

In her book, Darling-Hammond also praised China for dramatically increasing spending on education. But that money has been unevenly distributed, resulting in persistent inequalities. Sixty percent of rural students drop out by the time they reach high school, and of the remaining 40 percent, only a small fraction take college entrance exams.

Similar disparities apply to teachers—yet in a 2011 Washington Post article, Darling-Hammond lauded China for boosting spending on teachers’ professional development. She also took a “detailed statement” from the Chinese minister of education at face value, in which he claimed that China had allocated “billions of yuen” to improving teachers’ “working … and living conditions.”

Such omissions appear in Darling-Hammond’s Twitter feed as well. In 2018, she tweetedthat the United States had 71 times as many school shootings as China, but declined to note that Chinese crime statistics are notoriously inaccurate. She also ignored the numerous stabbings that plague Chinese schools. In October 2018, a woman stabbed 14 children in a kindergarten class. In April 2018, nine students were murdered at a middle school.

Darling-Hammond has spent nearly her entire life entrenched in Ivy League institutions, beginning at Yale University in 1969. In 2008, she served as the lead for Barack Obama’s education transition team. Darling-Hammond had been under consideration to be Biden’s secretary of education but claimed she was “not interested” in the position, citing her desire to continue working with California governor Gavin Newsom.

The Biden team did not respond to requests for comment.


Coalition Letter to Chairman Neal Demanding Investigation of Biden’s Financial Records


<< CLICK HERE TO SEE FRONTIERS OF FREEDOM’S PRESS RELEASE >>


The Hon. Richard Neal
U.S. House of Representatives
2309 Rayburn H.O.B.
Washington, DC. 20515 

Dr. Mr. Chairman,

Your recent comments about the need to investigate criminal wrongdoing by public officials and the importance of transparency to American government have not gone unnoticed. 

As you know, allegations of just such wrongdoing and the lack of transparency have arisen over the last two months based on emails found on a personal computer belonging to Hunter Biden — the son of Vice President Joseph Biden — a computer whose authenticity has been established by the FBI. 

As you also know, public record has established beyond doubt that vice President Biden repeatedly took his son on official trips to foreign nations and that soon after such trips his son’s companies we’re receiving millions in contracts from government related entities in those nations.  Additionally, it is also public record that when one of those companies came under investigation for corrupt practices by a foreign government vice president Biden intervened and forced that government to shut down the corruption probe and fire the prosecutor by threatening to deny the country and its people US foreign aid. This, as you know, is indisputable since Vice President Biden openly boasted on camera about his effectiveness in getting the corruption prosecutor fired.

Now, however, graver questions have arisen about the suspect activities of the vice president and his son.  Disclosure of the emails from Hunter Biden’s computer show him speaking openly about paying out money to the rest of the family including his father who was apparently referred to — and these are just two examples— as “the big guy” or someone entitled to his ten percent.

Already, of course, Vice President Biden has a serious credibility problem on this issue, having said flatly that he never discussed such business matters with his son.  Evidence from the computer emails as well as testimony from one of his son’s former business colleagues who attended meetings with Vice President Biden show his emphatic denial is now one of the boldest falsehoods ever told an American public life.

In any case, we hope that you would welcome the chance to assist Vice President Biden in laying to rest any allegations that he was using his office and official travel to influence foreign governments or entities to benefit his son’s businesses.  And to answer this question: Was any of that income received by Vice President Biden or other family members? 

Thus, we hope that in view of your strong demand for transparency and disclosure you will endorse our suggestion that your committee ask for vice President Biden’s bank records and those of the rest of his family over the period of his vice presidency and immediately thereafter. In this way he can put to rest any allegations including concerns about how he acquired his extensive personal wealth and his large estate. 

If members of the committee from both sides as well as their legal counsel could be permitted to examine the records and then report to the Congress this would do much to clear the air.  Moreover, if you took this initiative as a member of the Democratic House leadership this would do much to show that your interest in full disclosure and investigating corruption extends to members of your own party.

As you know, when these allegations arose during the presidential campaign, media organizations – some of whom still claim they are serious news organizations – rushed to protect Vice President Joe Biden who was their chosen candidate by imposing a news blackout on this information.

But that won’t last now – the public is going to want to know the truth.  This is your chance to serve the cause of integrity and transparency in public office as you’ve talked so much about the past few years.

The American people have a right to this information and we are hopeful that you and the Vice President will see the advantage of the full disclosure suggested by our proposal before demands for a special counsel become deafening. 

Sincerely,


George Landrith
President
Frontiers of Freedom  

Richard Manning
President
Americans for Limited Government

Andrew Langer
President
Institute for Liberty 

Seton Motley
President
Less Government

Horace Cooper
Co-Chairman
Project 21

Saul Anuzis
President
60 Plus 

Dick Patten
President
American Business Defense Council 


cc:     Rep. Kevin Brady
             Rep. Lloyd Doggett
             Rep. Devin Nunes
             Rep. Bill Pascrell
             Rep. Mike Kelly
             Rep. Mike Thompson
             Rep. Adrian Smith
             Rep. John Larson
             Rep. Tom Reed
             Rep. Earl Blumenauer
             Rep. Vern Buchanan
             Rep. Danny Davis
             Rep. Jackie Walorski 



<< CLICK HERE TO SEE FRONTIERS OF FREEDOM’S PRESS RELEASE >>



Press Release: Coalition Letter to Chairman Neal Demanding Investigation of Biden’s Financial Records


TURNING TABLES ON HOUSE DEMOCRATS WHO SEEK TRUMP TAX RETURNS, CONSERVATIVE LEADERS WANT WAYS AND MEANS CHAIRMAN TO ASK BIDEN FOR BANK RECORDS TO SETTLE QUESTIONS ABOUT 10% PAYMENTS AND “BIG GUY” REFERENCES ON HUNTER BIDEN’S LAPTOP

CHANCE FOR BIDEN TO LAY TO REST CONCERNS about his “extensive personal wealth and large estates” before demands for special counsel investigation are likely to become “deafening.”

LETTER ASKS:  DID BIDEN AS VICE PRESIDENT USE HIS “OFFICE AND OFFICIAL TRAVEL TO INFLUENCE FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS OR ENTITIES TO BENEFIT HIS SON’S BUSINESSES? AND DID ANY OF THAT INCOME FROM HIS SON GET PAID TO HIMSELF OR OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS?”

THE PUBLIC WILL NO LONGER ACCEPT A “NEWS BLACKOUT” ON LAPTOP EVIDENCE IMPOSED BY MEDIA FOR THEIR “CHOSEN CANDIDATE” IN 2020 ELECTION.

“ONE OF THE BOLDEST FALSEHOODS EVER TOLD IN AMERICAN PUBLIC LIFE” SAYS LETTER ABOUT BIDEN’S EMPHATIC DENIAL OF DISCUSSION OF BUSINESS MATTERS WITH SON, citing evidence from laptop emails and testimony from Hunter Biden business colleague who attended meetings with Joe Biden present. 

IN ADDITION TO CHINA AND MOSCOW PAYMENTS TO HUNTER BIDEN, BIDEN FAMILY BANK RECORDS MAY SHED LIGHT ON JOE BIDEN’S INTERVENTION IN UKRAINE TO SHUT DOWN CORRUPTION PROBE INTO SON’S COMPANY BY DENYING US FOREIGN AID TO GOVERNMENT AND UKRAINIAN PEOPLE .

It is “indisputable” that Biden misused foreign aid since he “openly boasted on camera about his effectiveness in getting the corruption prosecutor fired.”

Letter says Ways and Means Committee Chairman and House Democrats now have a chance “to show that your interest in full disclosure and investigating corruption extends to members of your own party.”

Washington DC –  A coalition of conservative leaders are demanding that House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal and other House Democrats who have been trying to obtain President Trump’s tax returns to ask Vice President Biden for bank records during the period of his Vice Presidency and immediately thereafter. The group says such records could help lay to rest concerns that he used his office and official travel for personal benefit and explain emails by his son referring to payments to Biden and other members of the family. 

One of the signers of the letter, George Landrith, President of Frontiers of Freedom, said “We think Chairman Neal and Vice President Biden should welcome the chance to clear the air. Our letter speaks for itself and we hope Members of Congress join in our demand for a full and honest review.”

 The signers of the letter include:

George Landrith – President, Frontiers of Freedom
Richard Manning – President, Americans for Limited Government
Andrew Langer – President, Institute for Liberty
Seton Motley – President, Less Government
Horace Cooper – Co-Chairman, Project 21
Saul Anuzis – President, 60 Plus
Dick Patten – President – American Business Defense Council 

For more info contact: Ruth Holmberg via e-mail or 703-246-0110, ext. 1306. 


<< CLICK HERE TO READ THE COALITION LETTER
REFERENCED IN THIS PRESS RELEASE >>


#   #   #



President Trump Is Right to Push Back Against China’s Expansionism

By Ernest IstookKOH AM Newstalk

President Trump Is Right to Push Back Against China’s Expansionism

President Trump is making a post-election push of his MAGA agenda.

An executive order of Nov. 12 cuts off American investments in Chinese “military-controlled” companies, banning them from American stock and investment markets, and from being held in pension fund portfolios, effective in January.

Americans have subsequently been told to divest themselves within a year of their holdings in those stocks and securities as well.

In the wake of this executive order and to little surprise, prices quickly plunged in China and Hong Kong’s stock market.

The ban is a follow-up to this summer’s Pentagon report that listed 31 major Chinese companies doing business in the United States while assisting the Chinese military — which controls those corporations. Congress ordered the list — which is heavy with companies involved in electronics, space and aviation, communications, construction and shipbuilding — to be compiled.

The Defense Department additionally determined that each company “supports the modernization goals of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by ensuring its access to advanced technologies and expertise acquired and developed by even those PRC companies, universities, and research programs that appear to be civilian entities.”

Trump’s executive order is a blow to two major initiatives of China’s Communist Party:

1. Its “Made in China 2025” strategic plan to expand the manufacturing sector of the PRC (People’s Republic of China), and

2. Its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) plan to control global trade and transportation infrastructure

The Belt and Road Initiative, with a presence in over 100 countries, involves $1.3-trillion dollars spent by China to build or buy control of the transportation and logistics facilities that are critical to global trade.

That dollar figure comes from Australian conglomerate BHP, which says the BRI is seven times larger than the Marshall Plan funded by America to rebuild Europe after World War 2.

As Forbes puts it, China has been on a “seaport shopping spree” buying control of major port facilities worldwide. Furthermore, another Department of Defense report says the BRI is “leveraging civilian construction for military purposes; and . . . logistics . . . for military purposes.”

A new assessment by the Center for Strategic and International Studies notes that China’s state funding is building over a third of the world’s ocean-going merchant ships, producing 96 percent of the world’s shipping containers, and controlling the largest port and logistics company in the world, all to serve as “the maritime supply arm of the People’s Liberation Army.”

The result is that China builds about 1,200 merchant ships a year, while the United States only builds eight.

With regards to combat ships, an October report from the Congressional Research Service warns Congress that China’s fast-growing navy is now “a major challenge to the U.S. Navy . . . in the Western Pacific — the first such challenge the U.S. Navy has faced since the end of the Cold War.”

Since 90% of global trade travels by ship, China is developing a chokehold that it could apply to threaten the economies of every nation, including the United States, in order to enforce its Communist will.

Sadly, there are some who want to invite China to expand its grip on America by repealing the Jones Act a, law prevents any vessel from conducting internal trade within American waters unless it’s American-built, American-owned and American-crewed.

This applies to cargoes carried on our waterways, along the intercoastal canals, and between American ports.

It would require a major U.S. commitment to reverse the trend of Chinese dominance of global trade. But keeping the Jones Act prevents China from accelerating the trend by taking control over our internal waters. Homeland security would be at risk if any foreign power infiltrated into the American economy in that way.

Keeping the Jones Act by itself will not remedy the problem of China’s militant expansionism. Cutting off U.S. funds from China’s commercial/military complex may help.

However, to develop real solutions, a first step is that the American people must be better-informed about what China is doing.


No Fair Trial For Big Tech

By David R. HendersonHoover Institution

How do you make a case against capitalism while appearing to defend consumers’ rights and values? You make a movie called The Social Dilemma.

The movie is cleverly done. It purports to oppose manipulation by Big Tech of social media users, calling out advertisers who manipulate people for profit. At the same time, the movie engages in its own manipulation. How does it do so? To quote Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “let me count the ways.”

State the credentials only of the people on your side

Throughout the ninety-four-minute movie, various commentators argue that social media have done great harm. In every case but one, the commentators criticize social media, warning us of its many harms. The movie states quite prominently, without exception, the credentials for all the negative commentators, and the credentials are impressive. The main commentator throughout is Tristan Harris, identified as a former design ethicist at Google and also as president of the Center for Humane Technology. Another commentator is Sandy Parakilas, identified as a former platform operations manager at Facebook and a former product manager at Uber. Yet another is Justin Rosenstein, whom the movie identifies as a major player at Google and then Facebook. A fourth is Shoshana Zuboff, an emeritus professor at Harvard Business School and author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. That’s not a complete list.

In the whole movie, only one person expresses skepticism about the idea that manipulation by social media is sui generis. He expresses this view at a panel in which he challenges the aforementioned Tristan Harris. This skeptic points out that newspapers and print media also played on people’s addictions and ability to be influenced. He notes that when television came along, it did so as well, but in different ways. This, according to the skeptic, is just the next thing.

Here’s what’s most interesting about this skeptic. Only because I’m an economist do I know who he is. “That’s Kevin Murphy,” I said to my wife, who was watching the movie with me. Who’s Kevin Murphy? You wouldn’t know from watching the movie. You had to pay close attention even to know it was Kevin Murphy. I had to pause and rewind and only then did I notice that he had a name card in front of him. Probably not one viewer in fifty notices that, and probably not one viewer in a thousand knows who he is. So let me tell you. Kevin M. Murphy is a star economist at the University of Chicago. He won the John Bates Clark Medal in 1997, given in those days only once every two years to the most outstanding American economist under age forty. He’s the only business school professor ever to win a MacArthur genius award. But the movie tells you none of that.

That’s how the movie deals with controversy: allow only one person to challenge the narrative and don’t even tell the viewer who he is. The basic narrative is that Facebook, Google, and other social media manipulate us. But when it comes to manipulation, those media have nothing on the makers of The Social Dilemma.

Hint at the problem without ever showing the problem

The bad actors in the movie’s narrative are advertisers and the wealthy social media firms. At one point in the movie, Parakilas states, “It’s not like they’re [the social media companies] trying to benefit us. Right? We’re just zombies and they want us to look at more ads so they can make more money.” What’s the problem with that? You might think in a standard-length movie, the critics would try to say why. Here’s the amazing thing: they don’t.

So let’s fill in the missing reasoning. Think about why companies would pay social media firms to advertise. It’s to get people to buy their products. If advertising on social media were seen as completely ineffective, companies would pay precisely zero for advertising. The fact that they keep paying and that social media companies get rich by selling advertising, month in, month out, means that advertising is effective.

Wouldn’t you want the critics in the movie to then point to how advertising manipulates our tastes for products, causing us to buy things we don’t “really” want? Amazingly, they don’t.

The closest the movie comes to making a case is near the end of the movie, when Rosenstein states:

Corporations are using powerful artificial intelligence to outsmart us and figure out how to pull our attention to what they want us to look at, rather than the things that are most consistent with our goals and our values and our lives.

But why would they do that? Isn’t it easier to sell us things that are consistent with our goals, our values, and our lives?

The critics point out numerous times that the companies are continuously refining their algorithms to learn more and more about you. They imply that that’s bad without ever saying why. There’s an old saying whose origin is unknown that goes as follows: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

I think we can all agree that waste is bad. So isn’t it good rather than bad that advertisers and social media are continually honing their tools to put in front of your eyes items that you really have a high probability of buying? They aren’t there yet. Sometimes when I Google an item I’m thinking of buying, within what seems to be minutes an ad for that item shows up on my Facebook page. It’s almost always mildly annoying, either because the advertised item is a brand I don’t want or because I was just exploring and have decided that I don’t want that item at all. Which means that not half, but perhaps 90 percent, of that advertising was wasted on me.

Some people find it creepy that advertisers know so much about us. I don’t, although I understand the feeling. But think back to how advertisers tried to reach us before social media existed. Imagine that you live in a Jewish household. Which kind of advertising by mail would you dislike more: mailers premised on the assumption that you’re Jewish or mailers premised on the assumption that your household is Muslim, Catholic, or Buddhist?

Make up history

In one segment of the movie, Harris contrasts social media with previous innovations, claiming that no one objected to bicycles on the grounds that those who used them would spend less time with their families. Neither he nor the movie presents any evidence for his claim. But here’s what I found with just a little search (on Google, by the way) about early attitudes toward the bicycle. In a 2001 book titled The Ride to Modernity: The Bicycle in Canada, 1869–1900, author Glen Norcliffe quotes an essay by Heather Watts on early cycling in Nova Scotia. Watts writes:

At a time when higher education, women’s suffrage, and the movement for dress reform were all topics of heated discussion, the bicycle became one more liberating influence on the restricted lifestyle of Victorian women. . . . This element of freedom and independence greatly appealed to women. They were no longer left at home, but could go on outings with their women friends or accompany their young man on an equal basis. Once tasted, the new freedom was hard to abandon.

If bicycling was a liberating force for women, and if women were able to ride with their women friends, is there much doubt about whether some critics at the time claimed that bicycling women would spend less time with their families?

Play up the downside of social media with little attention to the upside

I do think the movie scored a direct hit on a huge downside of social media: the purported effects on people between the ages of ten and nineteen. It presented some disturbing data about the effects on young girls, especially those ages ten to fourteen, of media such as Instagram that encourage them to compare their faces and bodies with what seem to be regarded as ideal body types. Here are two shocking statistics about what has happened since 2011, when Facebook and other social media had become widespread: the number of girls aged ten to fourteen per 100,000 who are admitted to hospitals for cutting themselves or harming themselves in other ways has risen 189 percent, and the number of girls aged ten to fourteen per 100,000 who have committed suicide has risen 151 percent. 

One critic, Jonathan Haidt, a psychology professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, gives a straightforward solution: set an age below which your child is not allowed to use social media and limit your child’s use of such media. To say it’s straightforward is not to say it’s easy. It’s probably hard, but parenting is hard.

To their credit, the critics do mention some upsides to social media. Harris says you can get on your smartphone and have a car show up quickly. Critic Tim Kendall, identified as the former president of Pinterest, notes that social media have helped people find long-lost relatives and organ donors. That’s pretty big.

But there are many more upsides. I can find some half-forgotten poem from high school when I remember only one sentence. That happened just last month with this poem. We can check a fact, we can follow friends, not just family, with whom we had lost touch, and we can compare airfares and make airline reservations in minutes, without either the use of a travel agent or even a phone call. I’ve just scratched the surface.

Discuss the upside as if it’s the downside

Critic Bailey Richardson, an early team member of Instagram, says that when the Internet first started, it was a weird, wacky place with lots of creativity. She recognizes that creative things still happen on the Internet, but now, she says, it feels like a “giant mall.”

That’s bad? Some people whom I’m close to have restricted diets because of various ailments. For them, shopping online has been wonderful. One person in particular needs to keep gluten out of her diet. And she is able to find appealing, tasteful, gluten-free items online much more easily than if she had to shop in her semi-urban, semi-rural part of the country. Imagine if she lived in, say, rural Nevada. Shopping online could be a godsend.

Attack wealth when it’s not that of your allies

At many points in the movie, the critics point out disdainfully how wealthy the social media companies are. That raises two questions. First, is there some chance they got that way by making things we want more available? Answer: yes. Second, how wealthy are these critics? Answer: very. Critic and investor Roger McNamee, for example, is a billionaire. Justin Rosenstein’s net worth is $150 million. The other critics are multimillionaires. Honestly earned wealth is not a mark against the wealthy, whether the wealthy be social media critics or social media firms.

Lay out your real agenda, with no evidence, at the end

Near the end of the movie, probably many viewers are hooked. Then we get to what seems to be the agenda of the critics and the movie makers: to end, or highly regulate, free markets.

Zuboff states, “These markets undermine democracy and undermine freedom and they should be outlawed.” The movie director possibly forgot to insert a sentence or two telling us which markets Zuboff is referring to. Whatever markets she wants to end, that would be a major hit on capitalism.

Rosenstein complains that social media corporations go unregulated “as if somehow magically each corporation acting in its selfish interest is going to produce the best result.” One gets the idea that he’s never read Adam Smith, who indeed did arguein The Wealth of Nations that “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest.”

Rosenstein also says mining the earth and pulling oil out of the ground are bad for humans. He claims as evidence of a warped, for-profit system that trees and whales are worth more dead than alive. And then he jumps the shark, or maybe I should say the whale, by saying “we’re the tree; we’re the whale.” How exactly social media companies kill us and how exactly they gain from dead consumers he leaves as an exercise for the viewer.

Coda

Various friends told me that The Social Dilemma would upset me. It did. As noted, I found the facts about young girls very disturbing. The biggest upset, though, is that a bunch of critics and a movie director manipulate viewers into not knowing that there is another side to this debate, understate the benefits of social media, and use the movie as a vehicle for a rant against capitalism. Other than that, the movie was great. 


Nancy Pelosi Snuck $350M for 50 Richest Zip Codes into COVID Relief Bill, Analysis Reveals

The Democrats included huge cash handouts for wealthy constituents in predominantly liberal areas in their emergency response package.

By Brad PolumboFoundation for Economic Education

Custom Image By FEE | CC 2.0 Via WikiCommons, Pixabay

At some point, when the election chaos is finally settled, Congress will likely turn to passing another COVID-19 stimulus/relief bill. (Despite the last one being plagued by rampant fraud and dysfunction). One starting point for negotiations will be the “HEROES Act,” a $2.2 trillion bill the House passed in October on a party-line vote by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats.

One of the most significant aspects of the HEROES Act is that it allocates nearly $700 billion in federal money for state, local, and tribal governments. 

Proponents say this gives localities the funds they need to pay emergency responders and fund programs necessary to protect their communities. Critics point out that much of this money is used to “bail out” blue states that were already mismanaging their budgets and running up large unfunded pension programs before the pandemic.

Indeed, the left-leaning Brookings Institution has projected that “state and local government revenues will decline $155 billion in 2020, $167 billion in 2021, and $145 billion in 2022.” Simple math shows us that the CARES Act gives states and localities hundreds of billions more in federal money than they are actually projected to lose due to pandemic-related decreases in revenue.

This alone should be a red flag. Yet a new analysis also reveals that Pelosi and her fellow “progressives” snuck millions of dollars in cash for some of the nation’s wealthiest zip codes into their emergency COVID-19 package.

Watchdogs from OpenTheBooks.com inspected the fine print of the HEROES Act and found that it allocates $350 million to the 50 richest communities in America. The average annual income in these areas ranged from $262,988 to $525,324.

“It’s unclear why such wealthy neighborhoods need so much money to weather the storm,” Adam Andrzejewski of OpenTheBooks.com wrote.“Should American taxpayers from lower-income areas be subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich and famous?

Some might reasonably look at a figure like $350 million and conclude that, in the context of a $2.2 trillion bill, it is a relatively small amount of money. But we mustn’t forget that this figure is only looking at a tiny sample size. It is not all the money this bill allocates to wealthy zip codes, just a snapshot.

We can extrapolate from this figure that the HEROES Act would dole out many hundreds of millions if not billions more to other wealthy towns and cities. 

It’s not even the only provision of the bill that can be fairly characterized as a handout for the rich. The package also includes items such as student debt relief, which further burdens cash-strapped taxpayers yet only helps a relatively well-educated and well-off subset of society.

But wait: Aren’t Democrats supposed to be the progressive party fighting for the working class? That’s certainly what their rhetoric would suggest. Yet the Democrats included cash handouts for wealthy constituents in predominantly liberal areas such as Wellesley, Mass., Malibu, California, and Old Greenwich, Conn. in their emergency response package nonetheless. 

This offers another painful reminder that government officials—no matter their professed partisan or ideological principles—will always and inevitably end up wielding their power in a manner prone to favoritism and clientelism

“There is no such thing as a just and fair method of exercising the tremendous power that interventionism puts into the hands of the legislature and the executive,” Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote. “In many fields of the administration of interventionist measures, favoritism simply cannot be avoided.”

Humans are fallible beings—and power corrupts. This is why, from tax loopholes to crony regulations to spending bills, sweeping government interventions will always end up skewing in favor of powerful constituencies. However, when power is left to the individual level rather than government, that decentralization helps limit abuses.

It’s not a matter of electing the right people. Fundamentally, progressive and conservative government officials alike face the same incentive structures. 

The only way to really prevent the abuse of government power and expenditure of taxpayer resources in favor of the well-off and well-connected is to limit the scope of the government itself. 


Progressives Smashed, GOP Surges in Down-Ballot Races

By Peter RoffNewsweek

If news writers had any integrity, the headlines following the 2020 election would have read like the one on this column. Instead, the media gods who helped put Joe Biden over the top expound on why Donald Trump‘s protests are without merit and just another example of Republican sore-loserism.

The former vice president’s apparent margin of victory is not all that large. At the time this was written it was about 6 million votes out of about 150 million cast. That works out to about 4 percent and could, depending on recounts, slip lower.

In the states that appear to be making the difference—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin—Biden’s lead is extremely narrow, much as Trump’s was when he defeated former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton to win the White House in the first place. It’s hard to argue the man most of the media anointed the new American chief executive before all the votes were cast has a mandate to do much of anything.

Nonetheless, if he eventually becomes president, the calls for him to act swiftly and decisively will be frequent, loud, and—from his point of view—problematic. In the Thursday, November 19 edition of The Wall Street Journal author and political cartoonist Ted Rall argues forcefully that, without the support of progressives who held their nose and voted for him anyway, Biden wouldn’t be going back to Washington and instead would be headed back to Delaware.

Progressives who would have preferred Vermont senator Bernie Sanders may have pushed Biden past Trump in the popular vote and in the states that will determine the outcome in the electoral college, but on almost every other measure they were defeated. By a small majority, the nation indicated it may not want four more years of Trump, but it’s clearly repudiated the progressive agenda.

Joe Biden
Joe Biden speaks virtually with the National Governors Association’s executive committee during a meeting in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 19, 2020.JIM WATSON/AFP/GETTY

The GOP may have lost seats in the U.S. Senate but it’s most likely maintained control. The outcome hangs on two runoffs in Georgia—both of which the Republicans are favored to win—unless an audit of the votes pushes incumbent GOP senator David Perdue back up over 50 percent of the vote, where he was for most of election night. Right now, he’s at 49.71 percent, and the 0.3 percent he needs to avoid a runoff might be overcome just by the uncounted votes being discovered across the state.

The Republicans were also projected to lose seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Instead, they won all the top targeted races, lost no incumbents seeking reelection, and gained enough seats not only to get above 200—a crucial barrier in the battle for the majority—but to put Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s ability to control events on the floor in doubt. Enough moderate Democrats are saying privately (and thanks to some propitious leaks, publicly) that they’re not willing to walk the plank for her and the “The Squad” is in for a rough going.

Looking around the country, the Republicans picked up one governorship in 2020 (Montana) and the New Hampshire state legislature. This gives the GOP the prized “trifecta” in each state which, when added to the dozens they already had, means that while Washington is gridlocked the GOP can use states to pass the reforms they’ll take national the next time they have the White House.

At the same time the Democrats, who enlisted the substantial fundraising support of former president Barack Obama and former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder in an attempt to flip legislative chambers to Democratic control, failed everywhere they tried. They may have spent tens of millions or more in pursuit of this goal with nothing to show for it. Contrary to late predictions, the GOP held on to state legislatures in Texas and Arizona comfortably when the battle for control was expected to be a close-run thing. And they held the legislatures in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and enough other key states that predictions are already being made that, based solely on the upcoming reapportionment of U.S. House seats among the states, the Republicans are headed to a decade-long majority. No wonder Mrs. Pelosi is saying this is her last term as speaker.

Even at the lawmaking level, progressivism was crushed. Voters in California, who went for Biden over Trump by about two to one, rejected an effort to repeal the 1996 Proposition 209 that prohibits the state from considering race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in public employment, education and contracting. At the same, in progressive Colorado, voters said “Yes” to a cut in the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.55 percent. In Illinois, voters rejected a measure to establish a graduated income tax and in Montana voters limited the ability of local governments to interfere with issuing of “concealed carry” firearms permits.

If there’s one takeaway from the 2020 election, it’s that, despite the aggressive support it received from donors, elected officials, candidates for office and the mainstream media, progressivism is on the decline. Heck, Joe “I am the Democratic Party” Biden even rejected it while debating Donald Trump. The course is set and if the new president—whoever it is—is smart enough to follow it then the sailing should be smooth. If not, it’s stormy weather ahead.


The Democratic Party’s San Francisco Problem

By Lee OhanianThe Hoover Institution

Progressive Democrats have dominated San Francisco’s city government for the last 20 years, a time during which homelessness, drug abuse, the cost of living, and the city budget have skyrocketed. San Francisco is becoming an increasingly obvious problem for the national Democratic party, with vice president-elect Kamala Harris, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Dianne Feinstein all from the Bay Area.

As a succession of city governments have tacitly tolerated drug abuse and the crimes that go with that, a de facto thriving drug-based economy tragically plays out in the open on city streets every day. The city spends a small fortune each year collecting millions of used hypodermic needles from city streets and pays city workers about $185,000 annually to clean up feces from the sidewalks.

This is why $8 million in campaign money was poured into local elections earlier this month to convince San Francisco voters to replace progressive Democrats with more moderate Democrats on the city’s Board of Supervisors, and to vote down a number of local tax initiatives that would make San Francisco even more expensive and less desirable as a business location than it presently is.

The party strongly backed more moderate candidates with the view that San Francisco could make progress if a moderate majority board was elected who would in turn work productively with San Francisco mayor London Breed, who has a much better understanding of the city’s problems than the current board.

The party’s investment in bringing about more responsible governance and policies didn’t work. It wasn’t even close. The most progressive Board of Supervisors candidates won, which means that the board’s majority remains highly progressive, and thus likely will continue to block many housing proposals. Why? Because most developments would gentrify neighborhoods by replacing very old, low-density housing with new, high-density housing. And for progressives, gentrification is not an option.

Blocking new development means constraining supply, which in turn means San Francisco housing costs remain ridiculously high. How high? How about $1.1 million for about 1,000 square feet in the city’s Mission District, San Francisco’s highest crime neighborhood? For comparison, a similarly sized home in in a low-crime Atlanta neighborhood is yours for $174,900. In rapidly growing Denver, a similar home costs about $250,000.

The blocked housing developments in San Francisco would be so valuable that those residents who might be displaced could be substantially compensated. The devil is always in the details, but the status quo of keeping the economic pie much smaller than it could be is never the solution. 

For decades, San Francisco’s politicians have blocked new housing to prevent highly aid tech and finance workers from moving in and changing old-school neighborhoods. Yes, the 1950s-era Italian American diner serving spaghetti with red sauce and sausage, as delicious as it is, would be gone, and would be replaced by a higher-priced restaurant with a menu tailored to serve new residents. But times and people change, and so will neighborhoods.

It is grossly expensive to prevent new development, because new development helps everyone by expanding the city’s housing stock. Build it, no matter what it is, and supply expands. As more housing opportunities open, people move, freeing up existing homes for others to move into. California grew from about 7 million people in 1940 to about 20 million by 1970, but home prices, adjusted for inflation, did not skyrocket, because new construction kept up with demand. Prices did not enter the stratosphere until local government began to block development.

Local progressives have drawn a line in the sand: no new housing unless it is new housing that they personally find acceptable. Meanwhile, about 17,000 homeless people live in the streets, according to the National Homeless Information Project, roughly twice as many as the official count. And there are now more drug users within the city than there are high school students.

San Francisco’s failure to effectively govern is a growing problem for the national Democratic party, and for reasons that go beyond the human tragedies that unfold every day in plain view, and which remind everyone that the Democrats own this.

Former San Francisco mayor and old-school Democratic politician Willie Brown knows this as well as anyone. Brown recently was interviewed and argued very candidly that the Democratic party has lost its way, and that it provides little of interest to voters outside of Sunday morning political talk shows. He openly worries about the fate of San Francisco and his party, a political party that is increasingly being dominated by wealthy elites and one that is moving far from the ideas that he represented.

Brown knows that San Francisco and, more broadly, California have run the experiment of very liberal governance, and that experiment has clearly failed. He also knows that California voters made a right turn two weeks ago by voting down tax increases and the restoration of affirmative action, and by voting to restore the right of gig workers to work as independent contractors by passing Proposition 22. By passing this proposition, voters told elite Democratic lawmakers they didn’t approve of the legislature stealing economic freedom and making it illegal for many to work as independent contractors. 

California’s failure to effectively govern is a teaching moment for the rest of the Democratic party. The progressive agenda failed in California, and it will fail nationally. Without the perfect foil of Trump to hide behind, Democrats must now deliver without the benefit of simply saying that they are working 24/7 to fight against everything Trump. 

Willie Brown and other old-school Democrats know that if Biden and Harris are to succeed, the party must move against its progressive wing that includes Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar, all of whom favor policies that would sharply reduce economic freedom, economic growth, and our quality of life.

The national Democratic party has plenty of problems to address. The global pandemic remains. China is China. Iran is Iran. Russia is Russia. And 70 million voters remain skeptical that the party even knows they exist. What has happened in San Francisco scares the national party, because they understand San Francisco’s fate can happen anywhere if the old guard can’t find a way to take control of the party and implement moderate policies.

It is good that the national party is worried about what has happened in San Francisco. Sadly, San Francisco’s plight will continue for the time being. But we can hope that its lessons will help promote better national policies in the Biden-Harris administration.


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