Great America

Redskins and NFL Corporate Sponsors Offer Limp Response to BLM Threats

Until the now nameless D.C. team and management regenerate some testicular fortitude, they might call themselves the “Washington Foreskins.”

The Washington Redskins on Monday engaged in the world’s first self-guided corporate circumcision in the name of political correctness (along with cowardice rooted in fear of possible revenue loss). In the interim, until the now nameless team and management regenerate some testicular fortitude, they might call themselves the “Washington Foreskins.”

Meanwhile, logic would dictate that nothing short of a volcanic upheaval by the Native American community could have engendered this disintegration of the legacy of an 83-year-old franchise. Nope, not them, according to contemporaneous accounts. A shoulder shrug, maybe, but no Little Big Horn. 

It seems that NFL biggies (Is that you, Roger?) and corporate sponsors squeezed owner Dan Snyder and his organization, as their BLM-propelled “wokeness” forced the decision. 

One of those sponsors, apparently, was Fred Smith, FedEx founder, billionaire, and minority partner in the Foreskins franchise, who was cowed farthest by the Left and their Marxist-Leninist toadies and applied the most pressure on Snyder. 

Surrealistically, Fred Smith, a fire-breathing Vietnam combat Marine, was known in the aviation business as the ballsiest man on earth. The guy chained down his early FedEx planes to beat the repo men; and in 1975 or so, when things were really bad, Fred Smith bet his company on a blackjack game in Vegas and won $27 grand to make payroll and keep his boys flying. It seems that the badass of all badasses has, in his old age, suddenly gone limp, woke, or politically correct, whatever descriptor is most flaccid.

Had this been Fred Smith’s posture in 1975, the only FedEx logo today would be on an old airport doormat for UPS pilots to wipe their feet on.

Meanwhile, Dan “We’ll never change the name” Snyder left his big boy pants at home on Monday, not willing to lose all the rest of his marbles (financially speaking, of course) by playing Horatius at the Bridge.

And so, the Washington Foreskins prostrated themselves to “wokeness” caused by fear of BLM. Perhaps, in turn, the chaos generators of BLM should change their name, too, to reflect their skill set today: Burning Looting Mohels.

Great America

Bad U.S. Policies, Not Racism, Is What’s Hurting Black Families

Americans of good will strive to rise above our prejudices.

Human society is a complex phenomenon. To view it through a single lens is the worst sort of reductionism and rarely provides a true picture. Karl Marx and his followers looked at human action through the lens of class. Marxist analysis consistently has proven to be flawed.

The most recent lens for examining human action is race. It has become commonplace to claim that the United States is fundamentally unjust because of “systemic” racism. This is the charge advanced by Black Lives Matter and its antifa allies.

The source of the charge of systemic racism is “critical race theory” (CRT), a pernicious and reactionary philosophy holding that race is a social construct, enforced by those in power, specifically white men, which predetermines someone’s role and ability in society. There are two great flaws in CRT.

First it denigrates African Americans by stripping them of all agency. According to CRT, Blacks are simply inanimate objects, ciphers who are victims of forces over which they have no control. Nothing could be more demeaning to an entire group of American citizens, many of whom have risen to high status, than the claim that they are helpless victims of impersonal forces.

Second, CRT essentially absolves politicians of bad policy. The worst problems that African Americans face are most visible in urban centers, most of which are governed by progressive politicians, many of whom are African American themselves.

Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 advanced the political status of African Americans, much of the good was undone by the effects of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, a prominent victim of which was the Black family. For instance, as Thomas Sowell and others have observed, the percentage of Black children born out of wedlock before the Great Society legislation was less than 30 percent. Now it is 70 percent. Children of any color who are raised without fathers have much higher rates of crime, poverty and suicide.

It is easy to understand the rage of many African Americans. The promise of the Great Society never came to pass. But that failure is not due to “systemic racism,” but because of actual policies. Economists speak about the unintended consequences of human action. The unintended and dysfunctional consequences of the Great Society still afflict much of the African American community.

But the need to address real problems and their policy solutions has been hijacked by the fraudulent Black Lives Matter movement and its antifa allies. I for one subscribe to the sentiment that Black lives matter. But I reject the organization that has appropriated the name. Anyone who takes the time to check out the statements of its leaders will see that the goal is not to improve the lives of African Americans but to overthrow the “system.”

The BLM movement is a political action arm of CRT. Like CRT, it represents a species of Marxism, although a form associated with Antonio Gramsci, who held that the culture of capitalistic society had to be changed if socialist revolution were to be possible. The success of such a cultural change can be seen by how the young have embraced the idea that America is fundamentally racist to its core.

Those of us who truly believe that Black lives matter wonder why BLM engaged in an orgy of destruction that mostly harmed Black neighborhoods. We wonder why the movement does not address the dysfunctional policies that have wrecked the Black family and threaten the lives and livelihoods of African Americans.

Of course, racism exists. Racial prejudice, which is a different phenomenon, also exists. But Americans of good will strive to rise above our prejudices. We live in a country founded on principles that reject the concept of racial superiority. Living up to those principles is the best antidote to racial problems in this country.

This article originally appeared in Providence Journal.

Great America

Our Insidious New Normal

This kind of life cannot be allowed to last. Our liberty and livelihoods depend on it.

Four months into our national coronavirus hysteria, the media’s appetite for scare-graphs, doomsday headlines, and wild predictions of death and destruction continues unabated. The people themselves, however, are a different matter. Silently, across the country, everyday citizens are beginning to realize that the mask mandates, lockdowns, and school closures come at a profound cost.

On a recent cross-country relocation trip, I had the opportunity to speak  with dozens of strangers, friends, and family from all walks of life and hear their views of the current crisis. The vast majority of these people couldn’t name anyone they knew who had died from the illness. Most of them didn’t even know anyone who was hospitalized. 

But all of them knew of someone who has lost a job.

In Michigan, I struck up a conversation with a construction worker filling potholes I’ll call Bill. Bill is in his 50s and has been working for the city for decades. The state has already blown through its budget for the year and he’s not certain how they’re going to keep paying for road repairs. The city already took his time-in-service bonus and now he’s certain they’re freezing any other pay raises indefinitely. 

Bill has two adopted sons he and his wife took in when their neighbor committed suicide. The oldest is in kindergarten, but the family couldn’t afford to buy a computer camera for him to do his Zoom classes. Instead, the boy’s teacher sent the family assignments by mail.

In Kansas, my great-grandmother’s sisters, both in their 90s, live in the same nursing home. For more than a month, the two of them were barred from any external face-to-face contact. They could not even visit with one another.

In New York, a friend’s grandmother allegedly died of the coronavirus. She was in her 90s, had serious dementia, and lived in a nursing facility. She died alone. 

In San Diego, a hospitality worker I’ll call Rick told me he had been making really good money at the start of the year. 2020 was supposed to be record-breaking for his resort. When the lockdown hit, he was laid off without any severance pay despite nine years of service. The hotel later rehired him—at half his previous wages. He was supposed to take his girlfriend to Hawaii in April to propose. They were planning on starting a family this year, too. All of that is on hold as they search for more stable work. They aren’t alone. Some social scientists estimate that we will see 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births this year due to the lockdowns and economic uncertainty.

In California, an emergency room nurse told me that during the lockdown he watched as his emergency room saw admissions plummet by 50 percent while the cases they did treat increased in severity. In other words, patients were evidently so freaked out by the media circus that they refused to seek treatment for non-COVID-related conditions until far too late. He told of one man who had stroke symptoms for a week but was just too afraid to come in. The damage, if it had been caught early enough, would have been reversible. 

This nurse’s hospital is on a massive coronavirus testing push. Every patient, regardless of symptoms, has to be tested. The nurse told me of one elderly patient that was swabbed while in cardiac arrest and receiving CPR. The man passed away. He had serious underlying health problems, was having a heart attack, exhibited no respiratory symptoms, but the test came back positive. Cha-ching! A COVID-19 death.

In Arizona, a young college student told me he lost his summer job when Governor Doug Ducey locked down the state for a second time. The camp he worked for got a PPP loan, but they can’t pay it out because they’re not allowed to stay open. Will there be classes in the fall? Sports? Parties? No idea. Life is on pause. Aimlessness replaces activity.

Canceled sports seasons, weddings, and trips. Lost jobs, wages, and opportunities. Lonely deaths and Zoom funerals. Americans across the country are suffering from the draconian and interminable response to Coronavirus. And yet for millions, the virus exists only as a graph on the nightly news.

For them, the pandemic is an abstraction. The response is not.

So far, 135,000 Americans have died from COVID-19—allegedly. That is a minuscule portion of the total population: roughly .04 percent. What percentage of these actually had respiratory symptoms or died from other causes is unclear. What is clear is that America saw a short-lived and moderate spike in excess deaths in April. The normal average of 58,000 deaths per week in April jumped to 78,000 before rapidly restabilizing in mid-May. 

It isn’t clear that the lockdowns or mask mandates actually saved any lives. Sweden, which never locked down, followed a similar trajectory of excess deaths as the rest of the West. Perhaps nature is merely mocking our efforts. It would not be the first time.

Regardless, in a country where 3 million people die every year, 130,000 deaths is not an apocalypse. Would the average American have noticed a 4 percent change in overall mortality without media fanfare? Probably not. 

At present, the country is in limbo. When does all this end? When we have a vaccine? When there are zero deaths? If so, this “pandemic” could last for years

Already, elementary, high school, and college campuses across the country are refusing to fully reopen in the fall. Those that will are requiring draconian restrictions on the movement and behavior of their students. None of these policies are grounded in science. Few, if any, have been put to a vote. 

Everyday people suffer regardless. Our “new normal” is an abomination. It is fundamentally anti-social, inhuman, and imposed without our consent. It warehouses the elderly and enervates the young. It wrecks romance, instills fear, and alienates communities. This kind of life isn’t new and it isn’t normal. We had a name for it in the past: tyranny. It cannot be allowed to last. Our liberty and livelihoods depend on it. 

Great America

OK, Boomers: BLM Is Not Marxist, It’s Racist

If we can’t even correctly define our enemy, how can we defeat them?

If you listen carefully to how some conservatives, in particular, conservatives “of a certain age,” speak about Black Lives Matter, you’ll hear a lot of talk about how BLM is Marxist. At first glance, this is understandable, given that one of the founders of the movement referred to herself and her co-founders as “trained Marxists.”

And sure enough, a quick scan of the news will show that Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) referred to the BLM leadership as “trained Marxists,” as did Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.

Radio host Mark Levin called BLM “Marxist and violent surrogates” of the Democratic Party, while former talk show host Neal Boortz said, “Black Lives Matter has been hijacked by Marxist revolutionaries.” Rudy Giuliani has called BLM a “Marxist” organization, as has former police chief Bernard Kerik, who referred to BLM as a group that “uses black lives to promote their Marxist and communist agenda.”

I don’t mean to pick on these individuals in particular; many of them are good patriots and conservatives who have explicitly denounced BLM’s racial politics. But at the same time, we must be clear: Marxism doesn’t define the Black Lives Matter movement—anti-white racism does

It is understandable that some conservatives—in particular, older conservatives—are more comfortable speaking the language of anti-Marxism than anti-white racism. Marxism is a traditional enemy for all conservatives, while many conservatives, particularly older ones, have been relentlessly trained by our left-wing media to parrot the canard that any mention of the Left’s anti-white racism is a sign of “white identity politics” or even worse, “white nationalism.”

But there are two problems with accepting this dubious formulation.

Race, Not Class

First, BLM is fundamentally driven by racism and not Marxism. Second, the structural dynamics of BLM are diametrically opposed to a Marxist analysis of class struggle.

To understand why BLM’s racism is a much greater threat to America than its Marxism, we should remember that even among our miseducated American youth, there is precious little desire in the United States for actual Marxism.By a generous count, anything resembling a true Communist Party took far less than 1 percent in the 2016 presidential election. 

But while Marxism thankfully still has a very small market share in the United States, anti-white racism unfortunately has a significant and growing one. 

Black Lives Matter grew directly out of the dubious prosecution of George Zimmerman who was correctly acquitted by an actual jury that heard the evidence, despite his prior public “conviction” in a fake news media show trial. (In their rush to condemn him and play up the anti-white racial angle, the media also “convicted” Zimmerman of being white despite his being a Hispanic with Afro-Latino heritage.)

Black Lives Matter seeks to create the false impression there is a racist police war against African Americans and to further extend that analysis to a racial slander of white people, assigning them collective guilt they do not deserve. The America of 2020, less than four years removed from having an African American president, is a long way, both chronologically and culturally, from the dark days of slavery and Jim Crow. 

If Black America were a country, its per capita purchasing power parity income would rank approximately 30-40th richest in the world, ahead of many “well-off” European countries and far, far ahead of any country in Sub-Saharan Africa. While racism and discrimination certainly continue to exist in America among all races and groups, the America of 2020 is not a land of slavery but a land of limitless opportunity. 

That opportunity is precisely why tens of millions have migrated to America, including 10 percent of African Americans, who are immigrants from Africa or other parts of the African Diaspora

The Left and Black Lives Matter insist that America is a land of unstinting racism, even as tens of millions of immigrants of every background and color desperately have struggled to come here. And America continues to be the No. 1 desired destination for the one-third of Africans who would like to migrate. Indeed, one of the three founders of Black Lives Matter is the daughter of two Nigerian immigrants.

Ginning Up Fake Hate

A symbol of both America’s progress and pathology on race is perhaps best demonstrated by the hundreds of fake hate crimes we have seen over the past several years. African American scholar Wilfred Riley has documented hundreds of these incidents over the past decade and determined that more than two out of three were hoaxes. Just this week, a Black Lives Matter leader at Texas A&M was caught faking a hate crime against himself in an incident that went viral before being exposed. In America, the demand for minority-directed racism thankfully continues to exceed the supply.

So while it is not true that America is oppressive to people of color, it is true that our minority population is growing rapidly. America is now just 60 percent white non-Hispanic and a majority of those under the age of 16 are now ethnic minorities. 

And while America’s white population is wealthier than the black population,  Asian-Americans—who constitute a much smaller percentage of the overall population—now earn far more money than whites. The sad and ugly truth that the “BLM is Marxist” crowd ignores is that Black Lives Matter is a movement about dispossession and disinheritance—dispossession of America’s cultural heritage through attacks on statues of American heroes such as Washington, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, and dispossession of material inheritance through unwarranted demands for financial reparations. 

In other words, it’s a shakedown operation based in hatred.

This overt call for dispossession and disinheritance makes the rapidly declining white majority uncomfortable—particularly older people who grew up in 1960s and 1970s America where 85 percent or more Americans were white and non-Hispanic. It’s much easier for them to talk about “Marxism,” than to face reality.

And that reality is that the Black Lives Matter’s reparations scam is just an updated version of the old Al Sharpton shakedown operations of the 1980s—but it is now part of a much larger and more powerful coalition that can make more onerous demands without the crudity and overtness that characterized the work of Sharpton or fellow race hustler Jesse Jackson. 

An Assault on America’s Heritage

We must confront Black Lives Matter and the threat it possesses to America’s culture, heritage, and the proposition that all men are created equal unashamedly—we cannot pretend it isn’t there by telling fairy tales about Marxists under the bed.

Given the actual nature and goals of BLM, perhaps it is unsurprising that Spiked (a magazine that grew out of Britain’s Revolutionary Communist Party, and the bankruptcy of its predecessor magazine, Living Marxism) has been the entity that most clearly has articulated the ways in which BLM is not a Marxist organization. 

In an article titled “There’s Nothing Marxist about Black Lives Matter,” Paddy Hannam notes that actual black Marxists have been marginalized by BLM for suggesting the problems it addresses are about class rather than race. 

The constant focus on “white privilege,” for instance, has come at the expense of any recognition that lots of poor white people suffer from deprivations, . . . Modern identity politics wrongly views society as a split between a white ruling class and a non-white mass proletariat. It refuses to engage with the reality that Marx identified—that workers can be equally exploited regardless of their origins, and that the key to progressive change lies in building bridges between hitherto distinct communities rather than in setting them apart. In this regard, Black Lives Matter clearly stands in opposition to Marxism.

Correctly calling BLM “more reactionary than revolutionary” Hannam notes that, “We have only to look at how quick multinational corporations have been to endorse the woke worldview to see how utterly un-radical it is.”

Black Lives Matter is not, in any meaningful historical sense, a Marxist group, and conservatives need to stop saying that it is. Indeed, it is a movement that is supported overwhelmingly by corporate America, one that just this week announced hundreds of millions of dollars of support from billionaire vulture capitalist George Soros.

It is a group of race-slanderers that seeks to dispossess millions of Americans of all backgrounds who value America’s heritage of their history, but is particularly keen to focus on white Americans as targets. It is run by a cynical rainbow coalition of “community activists” and corporate overlords who hope that the tiger they have unleashed eats them last, or even better, that it will be so sated by feeding on the desperation of America’s beleaguered middle class that it will not even bother to notice them.

We need to be clear on what Black Lives Matter is if we are going to win in our struggle against the group. They’re not Marxists, they’re racists.

If we can’t even correctly define our enemy, how can we defeat them?

Great America

The Long Step Back for Law and Order

Our politics is less defined by Left versus Right than it is by We the People versus the ruling class.

Troy Pine lay bleeding on the sidewalk outside the neon-lit Nara Lounge as sirens drew near. His assailant, Joel Francisco, had recently sprung from prison on the wings of a new crime reform bill. Now he was on the run for stabbing the 46-year-old carpenter.

Before his latest lockup, Francisco was an Almighty Latin Kings leader. He received life in prison for a drug offense in 2005. Francisco had also shot a man “execution style” for “disrespecting” his gang affiliation and pled no contest in 1997. Upon his arrest for the drug offense years later, he attempted to bribe officers with $200,000 for his release.

Had Francisco known a jailbreak bill was around the corner, he might have stayed the offer.

Within a few months of his early release in 2019, Francisco committed a series of probation violations and crimes, was charged in an alleged Latin King drug trafficking conspiracy and stabbed Pine on October 2, 2019.

Pine succumbed to his wounds on the night Francisco attacked him. “Some criminals deserve to spend their lives incarcerated,” said Commander Thomas Verdi, the Providence Police Department’s deputy chief. “Joel is one.”

Read the rest in Newsweek.

Great America

Life is Fragile, So Live It!

At a certain point in life, the consequences of our actions become more clear. Do we stop living to stay alive, or do we opt to fully engage in normal living knowing death is inevitable?

We are going to see Les’s oncologist today and again tomorrow, a place where the vulnerable go. We will have our temperatures checked at the door, will be asked a series of questions, and then instructed to use the provided hand sanitizer. For the past few years, it was common for us to wear a mask during cold and flu season whenever we needed to visit his oncologist, or if we’d go to any particularly germy places like Walmart. We tried to stay safe, but got sick anyway.

Les is nearing his 88th birthday, so it’s a daily prayer of gratitude when he opens his eyes to another day. Living with metastatic renal cell carcinoma for well over six years, he knows life is precious and death is inevitable. His goal is to enjoy every day as the gift it is. In fact, we are making plans to return for his 70th high school reunion to celebrate the long friendships he holds dear. Wuhan looms over us, but he has chosen to continue living a normal life without fear.

Life is fragile. On a windy day in June this year, a local man was in his yard when a tree limb fell on him and killed him. From an article about him, they wrote, “At 70 years, Larry lived his life to the fullest. His daughter asked him a few weeks ago what was left on his bucket list and he said nothing. ‘I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do’: God allowed him to complete his life here and now Larry is probably fixing up heaven to be an even better place.” One might be tempted to think this man’s death was a random accident. Was it? Or was it simply that his number was up? 

Yesterday, I was told by a dear friend that she is closing her business of many years because her clients are not coming back. Many are in the high-risk age group and afraid to go out. Or was it because “they” mandated she close her shop for two months, leaving her customers to do their own hair and nails? Whatever it was, Wuhan killed her livelihood. Thursday is my last appointment and I am saddened by this loss. It didn’t need to be this way. Another unnecessary casualty of bureaucratic decision-making. 

Yes, I lost my beloved sister two months ago—something I had anticipated might happen as she had had pneumonia before and this was the early diagnosis again. Was it COVID-19 as they said at the hospital, or was it pneumonia, which oftentimes takes the old and the sick? It is hard for us to know. For over two months, she was robbed of having her loved ones by her side. Cut off from the people who needed to hold her hand one more time, she died in a hospital isolation room, while family stood outside to watch her struggle for life. It was cruel. Stories like my sister’s are far too common these days, but no less devastating. 

What have we allowed “scientists” to do to us? 

At a certain point in life, the consequences of our actions become more clear. Do we stop living to stay alive, or do we opt to fully engage in normal living knowing death is inevitable? We have been divided in two with fear and clever-looking masks. I choose to breathe in life and to live without fear. I cannot and will not cede my life to arbitrary “mandates” and random testing from government hacks who seem to take pleasure in sucking the joys of living out of life. I’ll take my chances to feel normal again.

Great America

Criminal Justice Reform Involves Tough Tradeoffs

Odds are, some version of federal police reform will make it through the U.S. Congress next year, no matter who is in the White House. But police reform is only one aspect of a multifaceted challenge.

Overshadowed by the tragic and sustained violence of the past several weeks is the encouraging fact that a strong consensus is forming in America on the question of police and criminal justice reform. But any discussion of the ultimate legislative response to this stronger-than-ever consensus should acknowledge the complexities that must confront any search for solutions.

In December 2018, President Trump signed the First Step Act, a bipartisan bill that made incremental but nonetheless significant steps forward in criminal justice reform. A year after passage, an article published by NBC News praised this legislative accomplishment but wondered if the congressional consensus that produced it can hold together. Their concerns were prescient.

More than halfway through 2020, it is fair to say that the bipartisan alliance has been broken. George Floyd’s avoidable death in Minneapolis, and the unrest it unleashed, should have been a signal to Congress to work together. Instead, legislators did the opposite. Partisanship, exaggerated by the intensity of this presidential election season, has killed any chance of further reform this year.

It’s easy enough to assign blame for the failed legislation, but Democrats, who have more to lose politically if Trump signs a new law, appear to be the bigger culprits. After all, it was Democrats and the liberal media who recognized, with their support for the First Step Act, that it was important to make progress even if they couldn’t accomplish everything they wanted—mainly, the release of largely nonviolent offenders. That was then.

What the Republicans offered, rejected by Democrats, represented major changes in federal law and would have been signed by President Trump. Moreover, unlike the First Step Act, which only affected 130,000 federal prisoners and did nothing to address similar issues facing well over 1 million prisoners in state penitentiaries, the Republican bill would have impacted operations in every police department in America.

One of the Republican sponsors of the Senate bill, U.S. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, who is black, explained some of the reasons for what was in the bill, and what was omitted, in a surprisingly fair interview for Vox. He claimed that neither the GOP’s Senate bill nor the Democrats’ House bill actually banned chokeholds. “What both bills recognize is that you cannot change local law enforcement by executive fiat,” Scott said.“ “One of the reasons why in our bill, as well as in the House bill, [they] ban the chokehold on the federal level and not a local level is because we can’t.”

A rift of greater substance between the Senate GOP reform and the Democrats’ House reform, because it would have been enforceable on both the state and local level, concerned qualified immunity. On this, Scott said if police officers were held personally liable in civil court for actions they take on the job, “you’re going to end up in situations where fewer officers are patrolling some of the more challenging communities.” Instead, Scott favored lowering the barriers to institutional liability, making it easier to sue police departments and the cities that oversee them.

It is likely that by this time next year, some version of federal police reform will make it through the U.S. Congress, regardless of the outcome of the November election. But police reform is only one aspect of a multifaceted challenge.

Criminal justice in America, and the goals of law enforcement in general, require impossible balancing acts. Pleasing one constituency will enrage another. Protecting the rights of criminals diminishes the rights of victims. The definition of what constitutes a crime is often subjective. Two articles published by American Greatness in the past year bring into sharp relief the immensely challenging broader context in which to consider police reform and criminal justice reform.

Are Heavy Sentences the Only Way to Deter the Drug Epidemic?

The first of these articles makes the case for strong sentences as the only effective way to deter many types of major crimes. It was written by John Litle, a prosecutor operating in rural Ohio, ground zero for America’s worsening opioid epidemic. He describes how the price of drugs has plummeted in recent years, claiming that just four years ago, eight-ounces of methamphetamine would cost between $300 and $350, but today the price for that quantity of meth is down to $60.

Litle describes “industrially produced meth that makes it all the way to low-level distributors as ‘big as your thumb’ crystals, and uncut fentanyl so dangerous that cops don’t dare touch the drugs they confiscate.” He says these drugs, trafficked by cartels, “pour over the U.S. border with Mexico like a raging torrent.” The tragic results by now are known to all—more than 72,000 deaths from drug overdoses in 2017, and in 2018, a slightly lower but still staggering 68,000 deaths. Many times that many lives have been ruined and families shattered by drug addiction.

Here’s where Litle’s article becomes more than just a recitation of the problem. Much more, because the solution he proposes has been tried before, and it worked.

He recalls the largely successful effort by law enforcement, backed up by politicians and the courts, to defeat the crack cocaine epidemic in the 1990s. It worked not by treating crack addiction as a disease, and throwing money at treatment centers which, as he notes, in the best of cases only manage around a 15 percent rate of long-term recovery. Instead, Litle explains how we threw the book at dealers and traffickers. He writes:

We don’t have crack houses all over the place anymore because we took the people who ran the crack houses and we put them in prison for so long that not only would the crack crisis have passed before they got out of prison, but everyone else was forced to stand up and take note of their sentence. Economics is economics. If you ban a substance that has high demand, you must make the risk/reward calculus obvious and simple. The risk of apprehension multiplied by the likely punishment must exceed in value by orders of magnitude the anticipated reward. It must be sufficient to cause them to forego easy money. In the United States, we did that once, and we won the crack epidemic with a combination of punishment and economic opportunity. 

This is the real reason there were successes in the war against drugs. Making the punishment disproportionate to the crime created a deterrent. For every individual dealer or trafficker who received a harsh prison sentence, dozens if not hundreds of potential dealers and traffickers decided to find an alternative way to make a living, and hundreds if not thousands of vulnerable individuals did not succumb to drug addiction.

Litle’s argument is solid. It cuts to the heart of the question of how to set priorities in policing and sentencing. Do we want to continue to lose 70,000 citizens a year to drug overdose deaths, and condemn millions more to a life of drug dependency? 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2017 there were an estimated 774,000 methamphetamine users, 886,000 heroin users, over 1.4 million users of hallucinogens such as Ecstasy, and 2.2 million users of cocaine including about 473,000 users of crack cocaine. How many of these millions of Americans are leading lives of drug-induced homelessness, criminality, mental illness, and physical decline? What price are we willing to pay to stop it?

Should it be a crime to sell hard drugs, or not? If so, there is a tough reality we must confront: the only way to stop millions of people from buying these drugs is to punish the sellers so severely that the distribution systems dry up.

The effectiveness of sentencing disproportionate to the crime isn’t limited to drug enforcement. Where should it be applied? Theft? Violence? Today, the only place this disproportionality seems to be in vogue is with respect to “hate crimes,” descending all the way down to speech code violations. But what about all forms of violent crime? It is an unavoidable fact that harsh sentences for violent crimes deter violent crimes. Any criminal justice reform, or “restorative justice” schemes, need to understand the consequences of losing the deterrent value of harsh sentences.

Prosecutorial Reform Is Indispensable 

The second article by Conrad Black, published here last month, titled “The Real Reform We Require,” carries a subtitle that says it all: “Never mind the police. The greatest failing of the American judicial system is the fact that prosecutors have practically unlimited power.”

A businessman and Trump supporter with personal experience with overzealous U.S. prosecutors in the early 2000s, Black claims, “the American legal system is despised by the entire civilized world, with good reason.” He goes on, “it is a conveyor belt to the country’s bloated and corrupt prison system and because of the gross inequality in the ability to make their arguments between the prosecution and the defense, and particularly the obscene corruption of the plea-bargain system, the United States has six to 12 times as many incarcerated people per capita as comparable prosperous democracies.”

Black makes several specific recommendations that bear repeating: 

Prosecutors who willfully withhold exculpatory evidence should be subject to severe penalties. Prosecutors should be stripped of their absolute immunity in cases of clear professional wrongdoing. Prosecutors should be denied the right to guarantee immunity from charges of perjury for those witnesses from whom they have extorted the perjury. The prohibition on the defense advising jurors of those arrangements should be lifted. The defense should speak last to the jury, as in other civilized countries, and not the prosecutors.

Black’s criticism of America’s prosecutorial system is a sobering expose of just how far the reality in America diverges from the ideal. It deserves a close reading. Equally sobering is the fact that much of what Black exposes as systemically corrupt is in some respects in conflict with what Litle describes as necessary to defeat organized drug cartels and deter major crimes.

George Floyd’s death, as Senator Tim Scott put it, has caused a “tectonic shift on the underlying issue of police brutality.” But beneath that underlying issue of police brutality are complex and intimately related issues of how we may realistically expect to deter crime, and how we reform not only the police but also the prosecutors.

Great America

COVID-19 and the Panic Narrative

Reason and perspective will be greater friends than panic in seeing us through this challenge.

Many Americans remain terrified of COVID-19. The narrative of panic advanced by much of the news media fuels that feeling. In recent days, the focus has been on skyrocketing numbers of people testing positive for the coronavirus.

But there are very promising signs that the virus is burning itself out. After spiking earlier this year, death totals have fallen steadily — for 11 straight weeks, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. While every death is sad, the curve reassuringly looks like charts of flu deaths in past years. Deadly viruses tend to strike hard, claim lives, and then mutate and weaken.

Getting accurate numbers of deaths from the coronavirus is, unfortunately, difficult. Hospitals are rewarded with taxpayer money for labeling any death a COVID-19 death if a patient happened to test positive for the virus. For example, if someone with Stage Four cancer dies after testing positive for COVID-19, he or she is said to have died from the virus, not the cancer. Or if someone sustains fatal injuries in a car accident, and is found to have had COVID-19, he or she is said to have died of the virus, not the crash.

‘A Huge Scandal’

Another strange new process is playing out with the numbers. Hospitals looking for additional taxpayer dollars are going back and attributing additional deaths to COVID-19. Though the deaths may have occurred months ago, they are added to today’s numbers by such media operations as the COVID Tracking Project.

Hence, these numbers might be used to advance a panic narrative of rising deaths to accompany the panic narrative of rising cases. That could fuel the argument that Southern states are “catching up” with the deadly Northeast, and must be locked down.

Other analysts, such as Twitter’s Kyle Lamb, have sought to calm fears by reassigning the new death numbers to the periods when the deaths actually occurred. Mr. Lamb’s work formed the basis of the chart above, created by Rhode Island epidemiologist and internist Andrew Bostom, who gave me scientific guidance on this piece.

“This is a huge scandal being ignored by the media,” Dr. Bostom says of adding supposed deaths from months earlier to inflate the latest statistics.

What We Now Know

The original lockdowns were supposedly designed to “flatten the curve” and prevent hospitals from being overrun, something that did not come close to happening. Initial projections of hospital use — even taking lockdowns into account — were wildly inflated.

Fortunately, though COVID-19 can be very nasty and deadly, months of experience have taught us it is not nearly as threatening as the anointed experts first assured us it would be. Treatments have also improved as clinicians have become more familiar with the disease.

Most notably, we now know, the virus does not affect the whole population equally. About 80 percent of deaths occur in 20 percent of the people. Those with challenged immunity systems, especially the old, are most at risk. It appears that over 90 percent of the populace shows minimal or no symptoms when infected. In my local state of Rhode Island, 80 percent of those who have died were nursing home residents.

It is even possible that, by shutting down schools, officials may have slowed the process of herd immunity that ultimately defeats viruses.

It is striking (and a great blessing) how little COVID-19 directly hurts children. Dr. Bostom notes that, over this year’s season, CDC data reveal the flu was five times deadlier to children aged 14 years old or younger than COVID-19. Children in school, it appears, would help build up society’s herd immunity to the virus in the safest manner possible.

While the media’s focus has been almost entirely on COVID-19 cases, few seem to be exploring the longtime impact of the novel social experiment of shutting down our society. How many small businesses, and the lives behind them, were destroyed? How much violence and despair have been fueled by preventing human beings — who are intensely social beings — from interacting? How badly have we damaged children, who need play and socialization to be happy and to grow? How many people will die because they could not seek medical attention for ailments, or feared to do so?

Those inclined to promote the panic narrative argue that the plummeting number of deaths is misleading. They warn that the rising numbers of confirmed cases will quickly lead to rising deaths. So far, thankfully, that has not happened. That may be because many of those testing positive of late are younger people, who very rarely die from the disease. In addition, the rising numbers of cases may reflect the rising number of tests administered.

Why the Panic?

Why would many in the news media prefer a panic narrative to a more encouraging one?

There are financial incentives for promoting fear, the most powerful human emotion. Panic drives all-important internet clicks (which mean advertising revenue).

Politics surely play into this as well. The mainstream media, which have dropped the cloak of objectivity that journalism once wore proudly, now overtly champion the Democratic Party. An aura of chaos and fear could be used to topple the incumbent party in the White House and the Senate.

If we can set politics aside, though, the science does not seem to support public terror and the need for new and damaging lockdowns. We should be careful, of course, and strive to protect the most vulnerable. But reason and perspective will be greater friends than panic in seeing us through this challenge.

This article originally appeared in EdAchorn.com

Great America

The Conspicuous Fatuousness of the Harper’s Letter

The “intellectual” signatories seem to learn nothing—not even from even the recent past.

The recent letter “on justice and open debate,” published in Harper’s magazine on July 7 and signed by some 150 self-nominated intellectuals, will stand as one of the conspicuous fatuities of this intense American election year.

The intellectuals begin with the portentous assertion that “Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial.” It is then explained that forces that have all long demanded “police reform and greater equality and inclusion across our society,” goals whose championship these signatories claim throughout for themselves, are now being threatened. They have “intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity.” 

Morons incapable of understanding a single sentence written by any of the signatories could heartily agree with that proposition, and a great many people who do not claim to be intellectual have been doing their best to express that concern for quite some time.

It is at this early point that the authors of the letter to Harper’s reject the one tactical option that could have made their message both rigorous and significantly influential. In all their handwringing alarmism, like drowning people who in their panic don’t realize that all they have to do is reach for the proffered life preserver, they instead engage in a pathetic sacrificial ritual, presumably designed to establish their bona fides with those who have become so “intensified” they now challenge the ability of the signatories to express themselves. 

Up to this early point I had tenaciously clung to a hope of something sensible, even though the identity of many of the signatories discouraged optimism. Instead of joining forces with the one faction in this fierce struggle for control of public opinion and government in the West, especially the United States, which could assure them a likely victory and effectively absolve them of their innumerable past offenses of precisely the character to which they now object, these ostensible intellectuals plunged headlong into the most primitive, barbarous, and ignorant of rituals. 

“The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The Democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.” Trump is thus an ally of those trying to destroy him—this aperçu is the kernel of the intellectuals’ letter.

Even now, as they see the apparent murder of an African-American by a white Minneapolis policeman transform itself into the destruction of statues of Christopher Columbus, Ulysses S. Grant, Frederick Douglass—and, it is threatened, Abraham Lincoln—as well as the defacing of monuments to Winston Churchill and the American sacrifices in World War II, this spontaneous gathering of intellectuals identifies the chief victim of the intolerance and bigotry that they denounce as the source of it

In fact, the authors are among the principal practitioners of precisely the execrable and even totalitarian habits that they rightly attack, and at the tactical level, their only effect will be to assist President Trump, whom they uniformly dislike, but who is now the world’s premier defender of the rights that they correctly identify as being endangered. 

They at least furnish Trump a confirmation of the dishonesty of his accusers. This letter underscores that the president’s most militant enemies are totalitarians, criminals, bigots, and in many cases, urban terrorists, as he has called them.

Most of the people I know among those who signed the Harper’s letter have gone to extremes of illiberalism in attacking the president. Some have accused him, without knowing him or much about him, of having no motive except self-enrichment, and of a long catalog of crimes and offenses from wife beating to treason.

There is plenty of room for criticism of Donald Trump as a public personality and it is perfectly legitimate to take issue with his policies. But in a letter that purports to uphold traditional liberal values—freedom of speech and of free debate—it is perverse to imagine that Trump is an enemy and that he poses a threat to democracy while addressing Black Lives Matter and Antifa as if they had some potential to rally to the cause and were really good chaps carried away in the righteous heat of events.

But that is just half the story; it is offensive and obtuse to claim that Trump is a threat to democracy; it is monstrous to hold him responsible for the conduct of the thugs and urban terrorists whose chief purpose is the destruction of the Trump presidency. Thus those modestly holding themselves out as our intellectual guides are in fact witless dupes and formerly usefully idiotic allies of the people they are now warning against. 

Their initial declaration of solidarity with the militants  they are allied with against Trump incites the question of how intelligent people in positions of some academic and journalistic influence can be so unutterably stupid. This is in the tradition of the pilgrimages of worshipful boot-licking of Lincoln Steffens, Bernard Shaw, Nancy Astor, and other intelligent but politically hopeless people in the 1930s to purr and grovel at the feet of Stalin in the midst of his great famine and his show trials.    

Added to all their posturing is the problem that a number of the signers of the Harper’s letter have heaped praise on despotic and totalitarian regimes of the last 75 years. To cite only the most egregious case, Noam Chomsky was the foremost apologist and idolatrous promoter in the Democratic West of North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh. And neither he nor many of his cosignatories have shrunk from trying to throttle those who differed with them with defamatory attacks. 

It is an elemental principle of the common law that those who seek equity should practice it. In this case, instead of setting themselves up as the party of a very few people, raising moralistic hands heavenwards and offering a plague on both houses—to Trump and to his enemies who produced the Russian canard and the spurious attempt at impeachment—the intellectuals should have declared their reservations about Trump but pitched in wholeheartedly with him in opposing those who would muzzle academics, boycott commentators, and press fraudulent allegations of collusion with a foreign power to rig an election. Many of them have much to atone for in the poor advice they have given the public in the past, and many appear to be disgruntled by their current lack of influence; they should have learned by now that when no one listens to them they have no influence. 

But instead of aggregating their legitimate concerns about the dictatorial tendencies of their former anti-Trump allies into a cautionary note that almost no one will pay any attention to, this was their chance to make a difference—to make an alliance with the chief wronged party of those whom they now oppose, and enable themselves to claim part of Trump’s victory when it comes, as Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz did with the victory of Ronald Reagan in 1980. They seem to learn nothing from even the recent past.

Great America

Welcome Barr’s Offensive Against Antifa, But It Won’t Stop ‘Cancel Culture’

In the near future, the leftists won’t need to riot in order to exert control over the American people.

If it seems as though rioting militants and statue-destroyers have been given the green light by blue state governors and big city mayors, prosecutors, and (shell-shocked) police chiefs to terrorize ordinary Americans, to deface and destroy public property, and to extort public officials into making further concessions to left-wing ideologues, that’s because they have.

Last week, however, the Trump Administration struck back. Attorney General Bill Barr announced that 150 extremists have been arrested for their roles in the recent unrest. Meanwhile, more than 500 investigations are ongoing that inevitably will lead to an even broader crackdown.

Finally, Antifa and other similarly violent and radical organizations are being treated as the font of domestic terrorism they are.

The problem, however, is that even if the Trump Administration succeeds in stifling the “armed wing” of the Democratic Party—for now—and thus restores order and calm to our streets, left-wing radicals will remain in a dominant position in most of our key institutions. 

Moreover, the Marxist firebrands who hold sway over many of our corporations, over every level of U.S. education, over our popular culture, over social media, and over the news media, will increasingly move to take off the gloves as they sense an opportunity to expunge conservatives and patriots from the public sphere, and even from private sector employment, once and for all.

Progressives have long possessed a louder, more robust voice than conservatives in debates over public policy and social-cultural values. If the proponents of “cancel culture” have their way, however, the now-timid voices on the Right may be silenced for good.

Consider the recent firing of a vice president at Michigan State University. His offense? Sharing on his blog an objective, scientific study that found no evidence of a racial disparity in the incidence of police shootings.

The administrator in question is not, in fact, a conservative. He is more accurately described as a liberal who accepts most of the “diversity and inclusion” dogmas of the dominant crypto-Marxist culture of academia.

He failed, however, to understand that there is only one perspective on police brutality and racism now welcome among progressives. The propagation of any other narrative, even if it is backed by unimpeachable data, is inadmissible.

As the fired administrator remarked, the consequences for “academic freedom and freedom of inquiry” will be dire. In effect, there is now a litmus test for all academic and scientific research: does it advance “the cause”—that is, the agenda of the Left? If not, it serves no purpose, at best, and it embodies “white supremacy,” at worst.

Speaking of “whiteness,” the city of Seattle recently subjected its white employees to a bizarre form of training designed to help them “examine [their] complicity in the system of white supremacy.” City workers were encouraged to “[undo] your own whiteness” and to accept that social justice requires them to give up “physical safety,” “expectations or presumptions of emotional safety,” “the certainty of your job,” and “control over other people and over the land.” They were further reminded that even seemingly innocuous concepts such as “individualism,” “silence,” “intellectualization,” “comfort,” and “objectivity” are pillars of white domination.

Journalist Christopher Rufo, who exposed Seattle’s misguided attempt at the racial deprogramming of its white employees, says it best: “This is exactly the kind of thought-policing they want to implement everywhere . . . The new cultural revolution is being fought via corporate HR, city diversity training, and public school curriculums. When you find something like this in your community, expose it, criticize it, mock it, and reject it.” 

In Seattle’s case, there has been public pushback to the shaming of whites, but in all too many companies and institutions a training session like this would be just another day at the office.

Remember, academics and public employees have far more protection from coercive employers, and from outright dismissal, than do most American workers. If even they feel intimidated in the present climate,  what chance do the rest of us have of preserving our right to free speech and our freedom of conscience?

Conservatives had better wake up soon. They need, in the words of Rufo, to “expose” and “reject” the Left’s reverse racism and thought control while they still can.

Otherwise, in the near future, the leftists won’t need to riot in order to exert control over the American people. They will simply tell us to jump through whatever “anti-racist” hoops they choose, and, if we know what’s good for us, we’ll ask meekly, “How high?”

Great America

The ‘Fun Police’ State

Here’s what to expect if the progressive Left and its army of snitches continue to have power.

Once upon a time, America’s unofficial motto was: “It’s a free county.” Americans largely agreed that all could and should do what they wanted, assuming they weren’t hurting anyone else. You like vacations, someone else likes being a homebody. You like rock, he likes rap, and she likes country. If you wanted to smoke, ride a motorcycle, or move across the country to find yourself, that was up to you. It was understood and widely accepted that a foundational part of our system was wide-ranging freedom. And the corollary to that freedom was a strong, mutual commitment to “live and let live.”

No more. So much of the piling on that takes place today on social media involves confrontations between ordinary people going about their lives and aggressive, pestering interlopers with very rigid ideas about how others should live. 

One of the chief characteristics of these busybodies is an instinctual revulsion at the sight of other people having fun. 

What’s Important in Life?

One might think fun, enjoyment, and recreation are merely optional; the icing on the cake of the real stuff of life. This is wrong. Laughter, music, discussion, literature, falling in love, beauty, and pursuing things simply for their own sake are more real and more human than many of the supposed important things.

What we think of as important—utilitarian concerns like paying bills, politics, or safety—are the instrumental things that we need in order to live real life. When we are liberated from the realm of necessity—food, shelter, and safety—we are at our most human. As the late Father James V. Schall wrote, “[A]t peace, we should be about ritual, about what is done that need not be done, about what is beautiful that need not be, about what exists that need not exist at all. The activity is what we should be about.” 

People who confuse instrumental goods with the essence of life are the boring sorts who love to tell you about their important promotion or how they just bought a Rolex. They mistake mere activity for living.

A more extreme variant of these ordinary kinds of bores are the “fun police.” They follow and conform, aggressively harassing those who do not. They take their directions from experts deemed acceptable by the authorities. The ideology of progressivism allows these mediocre conformists to imagine themselves as daring iconoclasts. Doing what is praised, rewarded, and respectable is the essence of their life. It really bugs them that others aren’t on board with the program. 

Consider the various judgy stories about people congregating in outdoor parks, going to the beach, or generally having a good time over Memorial Day. There is almost no evidence the coronavirus is transmitted outdoors. Being outside, in the sun, and around others is good for people. But, instead, we have Kafkaesque insanity.

Of course, the changes over the last few months are not all bad. Some new joys have emerged. I see a lot more people walking and exercising and getting to know their neighbors. Children are insulated from the relentless propaganda of the public schools. But life is not the same, and we all know it. We can’t see our friends and family. We can’t travel. California banned singing in Church. This is not a “new normal.” It sucks. 

The Culture of Mutual Surveillance

While shutdowns proved to be especially hateful, mask propaganda is now strong and aggressive—the latest ersatz and intrusive recommendation of the public health community. Maybe there is something to it, but as recently as 2019 the WHO concluded there is no significant evidence masks do any good, and some that they do harm. While masking is marginally better than the shutdowns, it is an intrusive thing to impose on the healthy, especially if they have to deal with security guards and crazy customers enforcing mandatory masking orders. 

Even after all of these measures, coronavirus is still here, to greater or lesser degree. It is quite an illusion to think we understand it or can control it. Nature is full of mysteries. A few months ago, masks were deemed a selfish expression of indifference to frontline health workers. But masking is the official ideology now, and, like recycling, a way to put oneself on the side of the managerial class.

Everyone is deputized now to police the lives of others. The masks are a visible symbol of adoption or resistance to the official view. Surely it’s not a concern for safety that gets someone to run up on someone without a mask and actually beat them. Slightly less physical—but more creepy—is the recent trend of confronting and recording people in the hopes of publicizing their bad behavior and exposing them to penury and public shame. 

This is something new in American life: the emergence of a “culture of mutual surveillance.” 

It is not new to the world, however. It existed to some extent in the days of the Puritans and, even now, in austere and self-selected religious communities. It reemerged in our universities, which are the hotbed of progressive politics and weaponized victim culture. Most visibly, policing one’s neighbors is an important and universal part of ideological states, including the most prominent and memory-holed example, the Soviet Union.

Berkeley professor and Soviet émigré Yuri Slezkine wrote about this aspect of the Communist regime in his epic account of the early days of the Soviet Union, The House of Government. He makes a persuasive case that Soviet Communism was best understood as a new religion, with the rituals, demands, and policing of fellow congregants common to fundamentalist sects. “Within the Party, discipline was maintained by means of regular ‘check-ups’ or purges by special committees and constant mutual surveillance by rank and file members . . . ‘Lenin used to teach us that every Party member should be a Checka agent—that is, that he should watch and inform.’”

Not As Clever As They Think

Modern progressivism is barely distinct from the Soviet Union in its goals and tactics, complete with the hostility to traditional religion and symbols of the past. It is an aggressive and intrusive belief system that demands not mere conformity to the rules, but transformation of the spirit. It is also fragile and demanding, so backsliding and heresies are recurring obstacles. Everyone’s private behavior must be monitored and policed lest social contagion emerge. The Soviets used to make heroes of the children who ratted out their parents. A similar phenomenon has emerged in recent times

Young and rootless people are the voluntary spies and soldiers of the progressive regime. The pandemic supercharged progressivism to allow otherwise-powerless people devoid of influence to feel that they are taking part in something powerful and true. This includes the young rabble of Antifa or the aggressive cat ladies with their smartphones. 

These are all people lacking the capacity to form a community among those with whom they disagree. Genuine tolerance is an intrinsic part of more traditional forms of social life: neighborhoods, churches, and families. With the atomization of modern life—broken or nonexistent families, a crisis of faith, and an explosion of loneliness—man still searches for meaning. Aggressive ideological politics provides it. The coronavirus crisis simply amplified the managerial ideology that prioritizes being “on the cutting edge” and “doing the work,” the “struggle” and “being part of history.” As President Obama said heretically, “I am confident we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth.” 

The fun police are not as clever as they think. They would have scolded someone for wearing a mask three months ago as readily as they scold the absence of one today. If an actual scientific paper showed these masks did little good—or even affirmative harm—that would not shake their faith. It’s not a scientific spirit but a religious one at work. For them, the old joys of life—laughing, singing, time with friends, barbeques, falling in love—are all deemed superfluous, frivolous, and anti-social . . . sins. 

There have probably always been small-souled and envious people like this, the kind who get annoyed at neighbors having a get-together or kids playing in the park. But when this psychology is joined to a utopian ideology, the relentless and murderous ethos of the Cheka reemerges. This is not merely an expression of personality, but the loss of personality into the cause of all-consuming politics, which seeks nothing less than “heaven on earth.” 

The Soviet Union is a warning from history, just as the last few months are a prelude to what comes next. If the progressive Left and its army of snitches continue to have power, we will be guaranteed Hell on Earth instead.

Great America

Defund the NBA!

Hypocritical players and cowardly, avaricious, Chinese-communist-sympathizing management. Maybe it’s time for new legislation to curb the unbridled political power of the NBA, to include taxation as with any other business.

There are about 450 players in the NBA, many of them multi-millionaires.

The one and only function of these wealthy, towering behemoths is to prance about a wooden floor bouncing a ball and throwing it into a hoop, while sometimes flying through the air for their adoring fans. 

They are millionaires because legislation long ago made their organization, the National Basketball Association, a kind of legal monopoly. And then came television. And then came social media. Billions of dollars rolled in.

Now many of these spheroid-lobbing giants have used a combination of strong-arm tactics and boo-hoo guilt trips to turn the NBA into a gigantic ad agency, piously selling a vaguely defined “social justice” with BLM murals on playing surfaces and slogans on their jerseys.

The tears they cry may be reptilian, as the conduct of many of the NBA players in the real world trumpets their hypocrisy. Worse, the NBA compounds their hypocrisy by minimizing its players’ peccadillos in order to keep the profits rolling in. The word “corrupt” comes to mind.

As has been reported elsewhere, some NBA jocks have criminal records but continue to play. Some of these would-be social justice warriors are wife and girlfriend beaters, but the NBA monopoly keeps them on the court.

Some recent criminal activity includes assault with a dangerous weapon, marijuana possession, escape, and resisting arrest.     

A goodly chunk of the millionaire NBA lobbers also have problems with fatherhood

And some of those who do get married wind up in hellacious, mind-boggling divorces characterized by the intrigues of a latin coup d’etat and settlements on the scale of a small nation’s GNP. 

One wonders if is this the content of character that should be the benchmark of the NBA. If not, why does the NBA tolerate it? 

Could it be that the NBA, now the self-appointed (self-anointed?) guide to “social justice,” only preens on moral questions that don’t get in the way of its maniacal corporate avarice? 

Why does the “pious” NBA force paying fans to endure its non-peer-reviewed parti pris sloganeering, while simultaneously ignoring the lack of moral fiber or criminality of some of its players?

And now for some real hypocrisy: NBA management. 

Amidst the BLM-induced uproar over “injustice” and “oppression” which NBA management has wholeheartedly embraced, the self-same NBA management poltroons have slithered away from Communist China. 

Remember the various bits of legislation that have given the NBA a kind of legal monopoly? Well, when nobody was looking or concerned, since 1992, the slimy NBA wriggled its way into China (Pure profit! Look at all those billions of future fans!). Some sources say the total has reached $5 billion. 

So a few months ago, when the NBA made noises about oppression in Hong Kong, the Chinese government immediately punched back at the NBA. And the spineless, profit-above-all NBA management, bereft of any testicular fortitude, simply caved-in and shut up

This kind of blatant, mind-numbing hypocrisy screams for new legislation to curb the unbridled political power of the NBA, to include taxation as with any other business. 

Moreover, it seems that basketball fans may wish to reconsider viewing or buying products promoted by the NBA, simply because of its two-faced and wholly cynical behavior.

Perhaps what is needed is a large street mural located in front of NBA Headquarters at 645 5th Avenue in Manhattan reading, in big yellow letters: DEFUND THE NBA! 

Of course, that bloviating-wangdoodle-and-quixotic-self-styled-hero-of-the-oppressed Mayor Bill de Blasio, would certainly be delighted to have such an anti-oppression tourist attraction—after all, he just helped paint the BLM mural a block away at 725 5th Avenue.

Great America

Set Yourselves Free, Conservatives

Or die waiting for a narrative to save you.

I remember exactly where I was the moment I stopped believing in Conservatism, Inc. I was watching Romney lose, badly, on election night 2012. Up until that point, it seemed logical that the problems of the world could be addressed by the head of a national political party. A great leader could change minds and inspire souls, and in so doing Americans could repair broken social and political institutions that had been functioning poorly or simply not at all—for decades. At the time, I believed we just needed the right candidate to win. Then the other side would stop ruining everything.

In that strange age when you’re too young to have a real job and steady career but suddenly old enough to experience the early-marriage avalanche of bills and mortgages and kids, Romney’s defeat meant that Conservatism, Inc. wasn’t going to solve my problems any time soon. As I let myself despair that nothing would be fixed, that nothing could possibly be fixed, at least for another four long years, the ridiculousness of this mindset became apparent.

Being a conservative means being acutely, painfully aware of broken family structures, communities, institutions and government while simultaneously being completely ignorant as to how any of these problems will ever be solved. Conservatives can recite by chapter and verse the legislative, judicial, and executive actions that wrecked the country. We know ruin was conceived by Woodrow Wilson, baptized by Franklin Roosevelt, accelerated by Lyndon Johnson, and glamorized by Barack Obama. For over 60 years, conservatism has been a movement in need of a time machine—to go back and prevent the country from being destroyed by people who died fifty years before any of us was even born.

On election night 2012, it was suddenly clear to me how little of the Grand Conservative Narrative of “maybe next time” had anything to do with my actual life. The GOP had lost presidential elections before, but this one was more devastating for two reasons: one, because Barack Obama and the Democrats had finally unveiled—and mobilized—the deeply leftist intentions behind a lot of liberal talking points; two, because the people running Conservatism, Inc., didn’t seem to mind losing all that much. They were resigned to it. I, on the other hand, had a five-year-old and no decent elementary school. I was out of time. I had been waiting for the Grand Narrative to come sailing in, win a national election, and solve all of my big-government problems for me.

Doing It Right Means Doing It Ourselves

The day I gave up on Conservatism, Inc. was the day I became an actual small-government conservative. Ours is a political philosophy predicated on the principle of subsidiarity, which means that government functions best closest to the governed. State and federal governments should take up only those functions which the local governments are unable to perform. Unlike libertarians, we believe that government is by nature a good thing, a natural thing, and that justice and liberty occur when each level of government does everything it is capable of doing well, and no more. The most basic distinction between progressives and conservatives is that the former believe that a national, centralized government is the instrument by which society’s strengths are dispensed and its problems solved. Small-government conservatives believe that the government closest to the citizen is more accountable, effective, and just regarding almost everything the citizen needs.  Part of being a complete person, after all, involves self-rule, legislating, and building one’s own community with one’s neighbors.

It is absurd to wait for a national leader or a national party to come along and “solve” things as intimate and complex as local housing, broken homes and marriages, and substandard schooling. The Left’s long march through the institutions, fueled by the idea that top-down fixes are not just possible but morally necessary, has laid waste to much of what once made this country great. How could the solution to the damage they caused be an equally nationalized and centralized countermarch?

We know the administrative state must be undone, but there has never been a workable plan; only ceaseless dismay about its size, persistence, and ills. Right now, millions of people depend on the welfare state, the social safety net, and the various programs built by the New Deal, the Great Society, the Civil Rights Movement, and Obamacare. How does the Right plan to wean society off of those federal programs? How does the Right plan to teach people to self-govern again, when so many of us are used to the most important decisions in our lives being made for us thousands of miles away, by people totally unaccountable to us? How does the Right plan to arrive at a society of self-governing citizens capable of maintaining healthy families, businesses, towns, cities, and states without federal meddling and subsidy? Privatize social security?

Until we can answer questions like these, we are a narrative, not a movement. We are not serious about where we are going.

Americans may someday vote to move the burden of caring for seniors, the ill, the poor, and the infirm from federal to state government, or from state government to local governments. But they will never vote to simply remove government programs, slash the safety net, and let vulnerable citizens fall where they may. Nor should they. Isn’t it obvious that we have to rebuild our hollowed-out communities, bolster our states, and fortify our society such that it is competent to take over from the bloated, inefficient, and unjust federal regime before we ask America to vote to dismantle it?

We have to start at home. Here in my county, my family and friends don’t see ourselves as opposed to or fearful of the larger community, but rather as its defenders, cheerleaders, servants, and faithful sons and daughters. In the years since the 2012 election my husband and I pooled our resources with a small group of friends to build a one-room schoolhouse and hire a good teacher for our kids. Some of our friends homeschool. Others send their kids to a local Christian school. Most still plan to send our kids to the local public high school, where we anticipate becoming frequent visitors to the superintendent’s office and school board meetings. Several have slowly remodeled old, inexpensive run-down houses. Many own land, large gardens, and farm animals. We have reinvigorated the local Catholic parish and regularly have over 50 children under 10 at Sunday mass. (When my husband and I first moved to town there were fewer than five). We have allied with the local protestant churches, and stand together with over a hundred Christian families united in a common mission of providing a decent childhood for our children and a high quality of life for our community.

In 2015 a devastating wildfire tore through our county and destroyed a huge portion of the housing stock. We volunteered and helped each other through it, organizing people with cattle and horse trailers to rescue livestock and pets from areas under evacuation, a posse of locals to stand guard at various subdivisions when looting and crimes of opportunity threatened our homes in the middle of the fire chaos, and orchestrated a huge staging area for fire fighters, police, and relief efforts at the country fairgrounds, complete with free meals. After weeks of raining ash and destruction, the community spontaneously organized a parade for the fire crews that had come to save our community from all over California, lining their daily route out to the terrible blaze. Kids waved homemade signs supporting and thanking the firefighters, a beleaguered and embattled community emerged united and strengthened, and more than a few grown men cried at the sight of it. To this day, I can say I have never witnessed anything more beautiful.

After the fire, the county supervisors voted to allow large commercial marijuana farms to cultivate the burned land. Almost overnight crime and traffic accidents skyrocketed. Again, dozens of young families volunteered, attended county supervisor meetings, organized a counter-movement, recalled supervisors, and worked to save our community.

When the coronavirus lockdown came, we donated extra money to our churches to keep them afloat, helped each other navigate changed schooling and work options, and for the most part slept peacefully at night in the knowledge that a huge army of friends and allies stood between us and financial ruin, hunger, and spiritual despair.

Donald Trump vs. Conservatism, Inc.

A lot of people—especially in the press—misunderstand support for President Trump as some sort of national fascist movement. The reality is that the GOP jumped the shark with Mitt Romney in 2012, and at that point a lot of conservatives like me gave up on the idea of an elevated “national conversation” that would change hearts and minds en masse. Yes, there is a need for conservative writers with a national audience to rally the troops, and to bat ideas back and forth. There is great need for organizations like the Pacific Legal Foundation to help protect ordinary people from big government encroachment, and for places like the Homeschool Legal Defense Association and the various school choice initiatives that work tirelessly to defend schooling options for people who live in districts with abysmal public schools. But these institutions are the exception to the rule. What is needed at the national level is cultivation; a preparing and defending of the ground such that local platoons of citizens can sow and reap the harvest. To the extent that we have lost this understanding, we have allied with progressivism.

This is understandably hard for career practitioners of Conservatism, Inc. to hear, but it’s the truth. The national conservative movement does very little for the average person while simultaneously laying waste to obscene amounts of our charitable donations and manpower. Wasted resources enervate the cause, but far greater damage is inflicted upon the soul of conservatism by the misdirection Conservatism, Inc. forces by ceaselessly redirecting the everyman’s gaze away from his neighbors toward national troubles and national ruin, national initiatives and national scandal. Reform will not happen nationally. Reading articles and posting on Facebook is not political action. It’s not going to work to have a well-paid team of intellectuals and advocates shout into the ether about this country’s lost promise and eternally-threatened constitutional republic.

We can’t afford to wait for the entire country to get its act together. We have children to raise now. Schools to build now. Communities to strengthen now. We want to live well now.

I think it’s fair to say Trump wasn’t most voters’ first pick, but as the 2016 primaries went on, it became evident to a lot of us that Trump was the best option we had. Not for grand narratives and national unity, but for the disunity, chaos, confusion, and stalemate that he unfailingly brings to the enemies of small government and local institutions. I don’t trust Trump to do anything other than keep the other side busy while I continue to build, and run interference for me with the people who want to make it illegal to be a religious small-government conservative. That’s all. That’s the grand bargain that rose up to replace the Grand Narrative—not just for me, but for millions and millions of citizens.

I suspect this is why the endless, scolding op-eds from Conservatism, Inc. about Trump fall mostly upon deaf ears. Trump voters don’t expect anything grand or noble from him, other than to maybe bring clarity to the situation with the media and the Left. He exposes the other side for what it is. He’s not a builder. But he is useful. Because while he distracts, the real conservative movement is happening quietly, in every town and city and state in the union. The war for self-government is being fought by an army of anonymous citizens who are slowly building back up the essential secondary institutions that centralization has destroyed.

We need you.

If you don’t live in a place that has enough room for you to roll up your sleeves and help build good schools, strong communities, friendships, local governance, and a fully human way of life, then move to somewhere that does have room.

Start building somewhere, commit to a certain place, and begin to live a full life now. An added benefit is that you will be building right alongside a lot of liberals, and you will enjoy it, and enjoy them, because for once you will have the opportunity to fight on the same side. Both liberals and conservatives agree that an asphalt plant should not be built three blocks from a school, and both agree that the local government should preserve green spaces and care for the environment of your city.

You will make not just real enemies, but real friends too. And when you are 80, you will be able to look back on your life and point to real, concrete things that are better because of you. Things that would not have otherwise existed had you not been there, in that place. You no longer need wait for the Grand Narrative to convince the country to be conservative in order to fully participate in a successful legacy. You can begin now.

This article originally appeared in American Mind.

Great America

Life on the American River

For the sake of one presidential election, America’s elite institutions are fomenting racial strife and pandering to radicals. But life on the river defies their narratives.

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces, of people going by,
I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do, they’re really saying, I love you…

—Louis Armstrong, “What a Wonderful World” 

The American River runs through the heart of Sacramento, from the bedroom communities in the eastern foothills all the way into downtown. There is a wide expanse of parkland along both banks. Down on the river these days the sun doesn’t set till after 8 p.m., and on weekdays after work, and after the heat of the day starts to recede, people gather.

Some sit on the bank in beach chairs, enjoying the breeze that’s cooled as it passes over the water. Others fish for striped bass and the shad that run this time of year. 

On the footbridge that connects the neighborhoods of Rancho Cordova on the south bank to those of Fair Oaks on the north bank, hundreds of people cross, passing fishermen casting their lines. There are cyclists, people walking their dogs, families, couples. The people are of every color imaginable: white, black, brown, Asian. And nobody notices. Nobody thinks anything of it.

On these weeks near to the solstice, the daylight lingers. The sun drifts north as it slowly sets, prolonging the day. From the south bank, the sun hangs directly over a bend in the river, reflecting off the water. It turns the swimmers downstream into silhouettes, their identities extinguished in the glare. Only their common humanity is visible as they stand in the water, their legs chilled by snowmelt from the High Sierra, their torsos baking in the sauna of a Sacramento summer.

A short distance downstream, set back from the north bank, on a compound guarded around the clock by sheriffs and state police, is the mansion where Gavin Newsom lives with his family. But nobody enjoying these fine evenings on the river thinks about politics. They’re enjoying life. To be part of this, it wouldn’t take but five minutes for Gavin and his family to summon the bodyguards, pile into their armored SUV, and come down to the shore. 

Don’t hold your breath.

This is unfortunate. This is a missed opportunity. It’s a teachable moment Gavin Newsom will never experience. Because if California’s posh leader bothered to mingle with real people for a change, instead of the professional hatemongers who pass themselves off as spokespersons for “the people,” he wouldn’t see colors. He wouldn’t see group identities. He wouldn’t see warring factions of privileged and oppressed. He would see hundreds of Californians, Americans, united by simple pleasures amidst profound beauty.

Gavin Newsom isn’t the only member of America’s elite to ignore the resilient unity that still lives in the hearts of most Americans. A typical example of the media’s current fixation is ABC’s “Nightly News,” where for the past several months, whenever they weren’t hyping COVID-19 as the plague of the century, they were hyping something far more preposterous—that America is a systemically racist nation. 

Day after day, stories that shouldn’t even make local news are reported as if they’re events of national significance. The theme is always the same: a white person does something offensive or harmful to a black person. There is never any context. There are never any stories of blacks offending or harming whites, or other blacks. It’s a constant drumbeat: whites are racists, unworthy of anything they possess, living on land they stole, in a nation built on the backs of black slave labor.

There’s plenty of evidence to refute this nonsense, and it’s obvious as well why the networks are gripped by this obsession; they’re terrified that blacks will vote for Trump. So they’re willing to lie, misrepresent, selectively emphasize, and grossly distort events in order to foment racial resentment and hatred. 

In a bitter irony, “ABC Nightly News” always ends its 30-minute newscast with a “feel good” story. Somebody helping a stranger. Somebody triumphing over adversity. An act of courage, a gesture of kindness. Ironic, because this brief feature invariably follows 25 minutes of absolute trash, scientifically formulated to anger and terrify viewers. And by design, the Pavlovian repetition dulls the bullshit receptors of all who watch.

Back on the banks of the American River, thankfully, people aren’t watching television. An inordinate percentage of the people on the water aren’t even staring at their phones. 

Take a walk on the footbridge. Listen. 

A white man asks a black man “what did you catch?” Smiling, he answers “got some bass.” An Asian woman compliments a Hispanic couple on their beautiful German Shepherd. The dog pulls on its leash, attempting a friendly leap onto its admirer. Two men of indeterminate ethnic origins toss a Frisbee back and forth in the distance. A watchful mother’s child pedals her first bike, nearly wobbling into strangers who carefully step aside. The sounds of laughter rise above the murmur of conversations and the rush of water under the pylons.

This is the America that Gavin Newsom doesn’t see, and ABC’s David Muir chooses to ignore. This is the America that endures, and will endure, long after the separatists and provocateurs are gone.

For the sake of one presidential election, America’s elite institutions, all of them, are fomenting racial strife and pandering to radicals. They are unwilling to put police violence into any realistic, fact-based perspective. Instead of encouraging activism to build on previous reforms, they are fueling violent rioting and succumbing to ridiculous demands. It is a shocking dereliction of civic responsibility and a devastating rejection of our shared national identity.

Where are the leaders who will remind us that Christopher Columbus was a brave visionary, who defied the scientific wisdom of his time to prove, in a voyage that required unimaginable bravery, that the world was round? Who will step up and remind us that Father Junipero Serra was a man who lived a life of humility and compassion? Why can’t Gavin Newsom find the courage to say these things?

Instead, he sits in his fortified mansion, insulated from and in denial of the positive aspects of our history and the harmonious essence of our society today. And within sight of the same sycamores and cottonwoods, along the same riparian corridor that nurtures hawks, deer, jackrabbits, and mountain lions, this harmonious human society is on abundant display.

Gavin Newsom needs to get out a little more. There are fine evenings to be had on the American River.

Great America

What’s Keeping the Silent Majority Silent?

It is not only for the good of the country that we must initiate real conversations again but also for our own sanity.

As riots have rocked major American cities and fears of another COVID outbreak stall efforts to reopen the country, Americans understandably are anxious about the future. To make matters worse, their leaders either have refused to act or have exploited these crises for political and economic gain.

If anything is to be done, it falls on individuals to do it themselves. Sadly, individuals today lack any kind of confidence to do or say anything. 

It may be that a silent majority of Americans disagrees with the prevailing leftist narratives bombarding them. Relatively few of them, however—excluding the  usual pundits—will ever tell anyone they disagree with anything. One can only hope that this silent majority will soon make its move and correct the country’s downward course.  

Americans like to think that they have a right to free speech, but they also fear that exercising this right will put them in danger. These days, those who express unpopular opinions may face the mob or lose their jobs. Enumerating the many instances of conservatives facing severe repercussions for making even reasonable remarks about today’s controversies, John Loftus gravely concludes in The Federalist, “polite conversation cannot exist while powerful cultural forces erode the bedrock upon which this country was founded: the Constitution and the rights enshrined therein.”

Leftists who insist that speech is violence may have a point, since a person’s speech really can harm him if it opposes the dominant narrative. This leaves two options to most people: they can stay silent or—since silence is now also violence—they can repeat whatever the mainstream media outlets tell them.

We Need to Resume Talking Face-to-Face Again, But How?

In practical terms, limiting free speech has minimized face-to-face conversation, while maximizing social media conversation. People have fewer real conversations with those around them and instead have opted for the echo chambers of Twitter and Facebook. Not only has this resulted in bad ideas taking hold, it has also alienated people from one another. Therefore, if people hope to save the culture and the politics downstream of it, they will have to work to get people physically talking to one another again. 

As any good conversationalist knows, getting people to talk requires giving them something to talk about. First, start with something safe (one of the FORD topics: family, occupation, recreation, dreams) and then, depending on the context, the group could discuss something more controversial (one of the PEAR topics: politics, economics, abortion, religion). If a person starts a conversation with a stranger, it may be advisable to start with small talk like the weather or popular entertainment. 

Unfortunately, as issues become more politicized, nothing is safe to talk about and opportunities for small talk fade. If someone asks a person about his wife and kids, the company he works for, his last fishing trip, or his dream to visit Paris—all of it exposes him to accusations of privilege, bigotry, and ignorance. And with sports and Hollywood going woke, even these topics become dangerous avenues for conversation. All that leaves is the weather, but the Left has ruined this subject as well. 

Because of this, no one really knows anyone, conversation is tedious, and friendship is near impossible. Consequently, an increasing number of people must flock to social media to share ideas with others. In response, social media companies do all they can to make their platforms easy and addictive. Sure, sharing memes with like-minded strangers in cyberspace is hollow and mostly pointless, but who has time to worry about that when it gains so many likes and followers?

Besides turning sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube into monopolies, this habit has completely changed the way most people interact with reality—that is, most people now have very little contact with reality, material or spiritual. In such a world, all ideas become valid, all behavior becomes acceptable, and those with power and influence start to determine truth for everyone. While there is still the illusion of free speech online, it is actually a very restricted realm where the loudest, least restrained tribe can bully rivals and dictate the terms of discussion—or what little there is of it. 

Fixing Social Media Won’t Fix the Problem

Free-speech advocates think things would change were the owners of these platforms to play fair and stop censoring certain views, but in reality this would do little to liberate speech. The algorithms that make these sites so popular will steer users to their particular niche and keep them from engaging in any serious debate. And while cancel culture certainly makes things worse, allowing companies the power to cancel in the first place is where the problem starts. 

This suggests that the real solution to the dangers faced by those wanting to speak their minds on important issues can only be found offline. People need to stop outsourcing all-important conversations to the internet and recover authentic connections with others. They may find that they are not alone, and what’s more, that conversation with a real person can be pleasant and fulfilling.

True, the awkward moments may come, and one will meet resistance, but these present opportunities to learn about the other side and shore up one’s own arguments. That said, it’s entirely possible that someone may feel so bothered (or “triggered”) by conversation that they will react aggressively or completely avoid talking in the future. This is why successfully assessing how safe a topic might be requires practice and maturity.

Courage Is Found Among Neighbors, Not Online 

Having real conversations with real people also requires courage. People are afraid of one another and will lash out in unexpected ways. This will often happen even among friends who share the same opinions. 

It wasn’t Black Lives Matters (BLM) activists who fired Timothy Gordon, a Catholic writer and beloved teacher at a Catholic school in California, who criticized BLM; it was his employer who feared being associated with him. 

Gordon rightly called out this cowardice: “The so-called ‘right wing,’ if such a chimera even exists in the 21st century, is peopled by an irresolute mob of henpecked, handwringing, risk-averse, complacent, self-serving, heartless schoolmarms, who would have to be literally gang-pressed into a fight (and who would flee the moment it came down to it).”

A movement or church composed of such cowards would quickly disintegrate. They end up becoming anonymous members of a collective, not mutually supportive neighbors in a community. Sure, they may not loot stores and deface statues, but they don’t seem to protect these things either. They may not espouse extreme ideologies, but they don’t seem to speak up for the ideas in which they do believe. Worst of all, no one seems to be happy.  

Despite all the recent calls to action from conservative writers, nothing will happen until the silent majority begins talking to one another again. Nothing can replace the true empowerment that comes from real contact with a person. Otherwise, the more people isolate themselves out of fear, the more the destructive leftist narrative gains power over those around them. 

It is not only for the good of the country that we must initiate real conversations again, but also for our own sanity. Americans worried about the fate of their country need finally to break their silence and let their actual voices be heard. 

Great America

Fear and Loathing on the Lawn

There are many ways we are working to fix our nation. But that project is doomed to fail if we don’t also work on fixing our neighborhoods.

One thing I love about my neighbors is that my association with them is premised on shared immediate interests rather than the abstract self-interests that permeate contemporary identity politics. I’ve never had a sign endorsing a political candidate on my lawn. I’ve never had a political bumper sticker on my car. In my mind, the political struggle is irrelevant to my relationship with my neighbors. 

Sadly, however, it seems that more and more of my Houston neighbors think the political issues animating the national discourse are germane to daily life and interaction in our tiny corner of the city.

In a nation of hundreds of millions of people spread over millions of square miles, the neighborhood is the foundation of civic life in America. On the national level, the relationship that we share with our fellow citizens is mostly an abstraction: gaining a full sense of “We the People” is uniquely difficult in a diverse society of 350 million of them. 

And yet, our republic calls upon us to consider the needs of all Americans in our political processes—even people we will never meet and those with whom we can expect to have little in common. How does one stay committed to that responsibility when the collective no longer seems to recognize any shared interests, values, or experiences?

Good Neighboring

I believe that the answer lies in good neighboring. 

Our neighborhoods are the concrete reality that serve as the model for interaction in the abstract space of the larger society. Unlike the voices that I engage with in the public sphere, I occupy physical space with my neighbors. As a result of our proximity, we share many interests. Everyone works to keep our neighborhood attractive because the value of each home is dependent on the condition of the ones around it. We keep an eye out for children from other families because we know they are friends with our children—and we know that the risks and dangers faced by their children also confront our own. I look out for my neighbor’s property not only because he is my friend, but because I anticipate reciprocation.

Yard signs for political candidates have a long history in the suburbs, but the past few years have brought with them political signs that do little more than disparage the general political outlook of others. Whereas yard signs used to pop up only in the month or two before an election, walking around the neighborhood is now a political experience year-round. 

It started in earnest after Trump’s election, with signs reading, “All are welcome” or “Hate has no home here” (often written in various languages with the English translation in smaller type near the bottom) became common. 

These signs would come and go—relegated to the garage, then virtuously hauled back out whenever Chuck Todd found something new to be especially furious about. I imagine that the homeowners with the signs view them as an expression of tolerance and friendship, but they are also an implicit smear—a smear, I suspect their owners intended. 

In saying that hate has no home in their house, they suggest that it does have a home in some of their neighbors’ houses. In saying “all are welcome” in their homes, they suggest that not everyone is welcome in the homes of others. In short, they accuse their neighbors of being bad people. 

But what does a “welcoming” home consist of? What are the “signs of hate” (pun intended)? 

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests and riots, a sign that I had seen a few times before suddenly multiplied like mushrooms in the spring:

As a number of other commentators have demonstrated, such signs are clear expressions of the residents’ disdain for their political opponents. In most cases, these opponents are their neighbors. Thus, we see what makes a home “welcoming” or “hateful”: if you agree with the worldview of the progressive Left and the homeowner, you are a virtuous person. If you don’t, you’re obviously a terrible neighbor. 

The sign above is an implicit statement of hatred couched and (barely) concealed in a rhetoric of benevolence and inclusion. Further, the placard willfully misrepresents the beliefs of the homeowner’s opponents. From the top of the sign to its bottom, its claims are disingenuous responses to straw men. I will take them one by one.

Black Lives Matter

In saying that in their house “Black Lives Matter,” these sign bearers imply that those lives don’t matter to my family and other neighbors. But black lives do matter to my family and our friends. We were deeply dismayed by the unnecessary deaths of black people like Arbery and Floyd. Nevertheless, we do have major reservations about the stated goals, assertions, and hypocrisies of the organization called Black Lives Matter. 

In the uncompromising minds of those who placed the sign, however, our reservations are prima facie evidence that “hate” “has a home” at my house. The proposition on the sign allows for no gray area, no debate, no middle ground. You accede to the claim or you’re a racist. This stifles any neighborly dialogue. In presenting me with those two choices, the homeowners effectively have said they don’t want to talk to me.

Women’s Rights Are Human Rights

Honestly, I’m not even sure what this one means. It advances a claim with which virtually no one would disagree. Any rational person would agree that women are humans, and as such, they have the same rights as any other human. Of course, the proposition is actually a litmus test for the reader’s position on the mythical gender pay gap or women’s “right” to have an abortion. 

But again, the sloganeering disallows any nuanced discussion. What about those who believe that a fetus is also a human, and as such, has the rights (including the right to life) that any other human would have? What about people who suggest that the “pay gap” between men and women is attributable to factors that have nothing to do with discrimination? These are conversations the homeowner is simply unwilling to have. He’s right, and I’m wrong (and thus, a bad, “unwelcoming,” “hateful” neighbor).

No Human Is Illegal

This one is simply ludicrous. Obviously (right?), the mere existence of any person is not illegal. When I hear someone say “no human is illegal,” I always ask “Are any drivers illegal?” The answer, clearly, is of course. When an unlicensed person is ticketed for being an illegal driver, we aren’t saying their existence is illegal—we’re saying their driving is. The same goes for an illegal purchaser (perhaps in the case of the underaged) of alcohol. With the phrase “illegal immigrant,” we are not saying the person is illegal, we are saying that he or she illegally undertook some action—in this case, immigration. 

This is not a complex idea, and the owner of the sign either pretends he cannot understand this distinction or assumes I am too stupid to see this rhetorical sleight of hand. Either way, he is not being very neighborly.

Science Is Real

Somehow, this one is even more ludicrous than the last. There is actually no one saying that science isn’t real. The fact that the homeowner apparently thinks his unwelcoming, hateful neighbors believe this demonstrates his total failure in trying to get to know them. Yes, science is “real.” It is one tool among others for understanding the world. But it is a necessarily limited tool and one that has often been factually wrong. Further, history shows many times that “science” has been factually correct, and morally wrong

The people that the homeowner intends to provoke have no doubts about the reality of science—instead, they are (rightly) concerned with the agenda-driven aims that determine which scientific projects are pursued and funded, which scientific findings are offered to the public, and which ones are not. The residents attempt to belittle their neighbors—by pretending the reality of science is at issue, they assume the posture of a knowledgeable parent over a recalcitrant, ignorant child. Like you, I don’t appreciate my neighbors calling me stupid—especially when they do so accusing me of holding beliefs that I don’t actually hold.

Love Is Love

I can only assume this is a commentary on LGBT issues. But I have never encountered anyone who has argued that committed same-sex or intersex couples don’t love each other. The slogan is a tautological over-simplification of the complex legal issues underlying the LGBT agenda so as to avoid any actual dialogue with their unwelcoming, hateful neighbors. 

There was never any question about the authenticity of love, it was about what sorts of relationships will be formally recognized and endorsed by the state, and which sorts of rights and obligations extend from those endorsements. The family with the sign in the yard has those questions solved. No good faith disagreement is possible. They clearly have no choice left but to shame you as you pass on your bicycle.

Kindness Is Everything

I won’t dwell on something this insipid. Generosity isn’t “everything.” Pity isn’t “everything.” Nothing is “everything.” 

That much is clear, even to the homeowner: if “kindness” was “everything,” what kind of jackass would put a sign in their yard that denigrates the values of his neighbors?

The Fate of the Neighborhood as the Fate of the Nation

If I can’t count on the guy five doors down to recognize that our mutual interests transcend our voting tendencies, what hope do I have that my fellow citizens around the country will do so? The prospects are pretty poor. The past few months have shown that the people and institutions driving the national unrest only recognize shared interests based on pre-existing ideological commitments. Their signs drive this point home, telling me up front that our interaction must be entirely on their terms. Anything short of that simply means we can’t be friends. Their yard signs tell me they don’t want me as a neighbor. 

It is important to note that while I do see the occasional signs endorsing Trump or other conservative candidates, I have yet to see any signs that belittle left-leaning members of our community for their political perspectives in a general way (though they do exist). 

This is a testament to the conservative commitment to the local. How we treat our neighbors is the template for how we treat our fellow countrymen. Remaining dedicated to the neighborly treatment of our neighbors (especially those who disagree with us and make us objects of their mockery) will help us to retain the moral high ground as the battle over the future of America intensifies. Further, it reminds our children that the imperative to love our neighbors supersedes politics.

So, what to do with neighbors bent on dividing the community with such signs? 

Ignore them? To do so would only intensify our isolation. Kick down their signs? No, that’s what they want—it would validate their belief that every street is full of haters and bigots. Explain to them that their signs are off-putting and demonstrate how they misrepresent their opponents’ positions? No: dedication to the leftist worldview has much more in common with religious fervor than rational belief, so you aren’t going to change their minds. 

All you can do is help them change their mind about you by showing that you are a welcoming, loving person despite your difference of opinion. In short, the hope for a neighborly community (and, by extension, a healthy civic life) lies in calling our opponents to live up to their own rigid values of tolerance and diversity. There are many ways we are working to fix our nation. But that project is doomed to fail if we don’t also work on fixing our neighborhoods. If you haven’t already done so, introduce yourself to the guy with the sign.

Great America

Lessons from the Radicalization of Russia

Radicals never succeed without the complicity—active or passive—of moderate elites.

The riots, civil unrest, and mass psychological breakdown currently affecting America have me thinking about Russia. No, not because I think that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s super-duper secret Spetsnaz units have incited the violence—as America’s blue-check brigade briefly asserted before deciding that the looting was righteous. Rather, I see parallels between the type of despair that gripped Russia in the 1990s and the despair that is really behind much of the civil unrest in America today.

Excuses for rioting and looting were followed by calls to “defund” or “abolish” the police. Partly, this is a cynical ploy. The people who actually have power in the movement don’t believe in the anarchist fantasies where all cops are replaced by social workers. What they want, instead, is much more simple: to defang the last American institution not yet controlled by the Left, and replace it with commissars more aligned with their ideology. The comfortable people at the top of the wokeocracy still want the law enforced, at least in their own neighborhoods.

Still, it was profoundly demoralizing to see so many hitherto reasonable people embrace this absurd notion, or reject the idea that police should shut down rioting and looting (nevermind protests that are a public health menace at a time of global pandemic). 

Beyond the looting and rioting, what truly indicated a total breakdown of order was the fact that law enforcement itself, no doubt under political pressure, seemed so reluctant in the face of the challenge.. Moreover, our elites seemed to positively relish the chaos and lawlessness that engulfed American cities. 

Much of contemporary American progressivism seems, to this Frenchman, to be a species of extreme provincialism. We don’t have to imagine what it’s like when the authority of the state collapses. It has happened before. 

Hence my thoughts about Russia. We are all at least vaguely aware of the collapse that country endured during the 1990s. But fewer realize the true extent of Russia’s near-total societal disintegration. 

Russian Despair at the End of the 20th Century

We know the outlines: as the government collapsed in a nation brutalized by several generations of nihilistic, totalitarian rule, healthy institutions were unable to take root. The government flailed in incompetence as mobsters ruled the streets and political hacks plundered the nation’s industrial base and natural resources to build private wealth. 

But it can be hard for people who didn’t see the country in those years to understand the scale of the human devastation on the ground. It wasn’t simply that businessmen had to pay protection money to the mob, or that people were unemployed. There was something even more devastating at work.

Just a few statistics illustrate the total social collapse. Between 1990 and 1994, excess male mortality rates rose 53 percent, 27 percent for females. Between 1992 and 1998, “excess deaths” (a term we are now all sadly familiar with because of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning the number of deaths above the normal yearly average) in Russia topped 3 million. By contrast, the number of excess deaths during World War I was just 1.7 million. 

The health care system had failed. Hospitals, already unequipped in Soviet times, were now utterly bereft, and Russia saw outbreaks of diseases hitherto forgotten, like diphtheria, typhus, cholera, and typhoid. Even tuberculosis, a disease that had been eradicated in almost every country during the 20th century, returned with hundreds of thousands of cases. 

The return of nearly extinct diseases was part of the story, but much of the excess mortality was due to unprecedented rates of alcoholism, as well as a scourge new for the Russians, drug abuse, which became rampant amidst the despair. Mob-controlled Russia had become the key transit point for opium and heroin grown in Southeast Asia for sale in Europe. 

“Heavy drinking and crime contributed to a spectacular rise in violent and accidental deaths—the single fastest-growing ‘cause of death’ category. Between 1992 and 1997, 229,000 Russians committed suicide, 159,000 died of poisoning while consuming cheap vodka, 67,000 drowned (usually the result of drunkenness), and 169,000 were murdered,” writes Paul Klebnikov in The Godfather of the Kremlin.

During that decade, Klebnikov also demonstrates, several million Russian women were forced into prostitution. Several million. Let that sink in. 

Social despair and the breakdown of order always affects the weakest first, and who in society is weaker than children? Abortion had been the default mode of birth control in the Soviet Union, but in immediate post-Soviet Russia, the number of abortions skyrocketed. During the 1990s, state-funded abortions rose to 3 million per year, nearly three times the number of live births. And yet, in 1997 113,000 children were abandoned, roughly equal to 9 percent of the total number of new births. Take a moment to ponder the scale of the societal devastation and human despair that causes statistics like these.

What does any of this have to do with the protests in America? 

Only this: this kind of societal destruction is normally associated with wars, genocides, and totalitarian oppression. And yet, the collapse of Russia shows there can be another cause for such things: the collapse of the authority of the state.

Protests occasionally happen in any healthy country, and as a Frenchman, I am certainly aware that sundry thugs and activists occasionally use peaceful protests to cause mischief or simply loot, and that this need not cause the Republic to fall. But that is not what America has witnessed. 

Not only was this mob violence unseen in decades, but America also witnessed the authority of the state bowing to the mob. In many places, the looting was allowed to run its course, destroying many livelihoods and even taking lives, while leaving business owners and residents to their own devices to defend their lives and property. In many cities, looters were released without charges, sometimes those few who were charged were released even without bail. 

This can only happen in a country that has forgotten the abyss beneath the edge on which civilization always rests. Americans can vehemently disagree with each other politically, but the basic building blocks of any life worth living rest on law and order. And this order is fragile. We take it for granted, but it can collapse overnight. History has shown it repeatedly. Recently, we’ve gotten a glimpse of what government failure looks like.

The petit-bourgeois activists who encourage lawlessness talk about privilege, but they should check their own privilege: the privilege of living in a civilization. Of having a bed, a roof, and the internet. Of not having to fear typhus or tuberculosis. Of not being driven to such desperation that they turn to prostitution or feel like they have to abandon their own children to the streets. 

19th-Century Russian Radical Chic Spawns Real Revolution 

Which brings me to another piece of Russian history evoked by these recent events. And no, it’s not the Russian Revolution, but the decades that led up to it. 

Russia’s contributions to world culture, from ballet and music to literature and poetry, are immense—a fact made all the more impressive when you consider that when France and England were fighting for domination of Europe, and Italy was producing Michelangelo, the barely-literate Slavs were still under the Mongol yoke. 

Pushkin, Russia’s national poet, turned Russian into a literary language in the 19th century. Russian had so few words for abstract concepts that Pushkin essentially invented them, and published his earlier poems with footnotes and French translations of those words, since French was the language of the Russian aristocracy. (Most 19th-century Russian writers learned French as a second language.)

In Russia, the 19th century was a period not just of great cultural ferment, but also political and intellectual upheaval. Russia’s key role in the defeat of Napoleon had facilitated its sudden rise as a great power. But while Russian elites were justly proud of their nation’s accomplishments, they were also self-consciously aware of the much greater advancement of the cultures of the West. The question of how, and to what extent, Russia should modernize, without losing its national identity, occupied all of intellectual Russia during the 19th century, especially during the reign of Czar Alexander II who, after abolishing indentured servitude in 1861, raised the expectations of the intelligentsia that he would prove a great modernizer. 

While most would-be reformers were moderates, who were mainly interested in becoming more like Western Europe’s constitutional monarchies, there were quite a few radicals as well. Perhaps there is something in the Russian soul that lends itself to radicalism. A key event on Russia’s ride of ever-increasing civil unrest was the so-called “Mad Summer” of 1874. 

It began when a group of radical students, believing in a form of agrarian socialism, fanned out to the countryside to exhort peasants to rise up against their masters. They discovered something a Frenchman could have told them: that the actual people in whose name revolutions are instigated have little interest in ideological revolution. The peasants they tried to organize listened politely to their incomprehensible radical speeches and promptly alerted the authorities. Russian peasants on the whole had an unfavorable view of overeducated city dwellers. One agitator reported that a peasant woman “took fright at the sight of all my books and denounced me to the constable.” The whole sad affair could make for a great comedy. 

But as the czar’s police services investigated the events, they found out something else: the young radicals had gotten a lot of help from quarters that were not radical at all. In his masterful cultural history of Russia, Natasha’s Dance, the British historian Orlando Figes lists some examples: “the wife of a colonel in the Gendarmes had passed on secret information to her son; a rich landowner and magistrate had hidden one of the leading revolutionaries; a professor had introduced a propagandist to his students; and the families of several state councillors had given warm approval to their children’s revolutionary activities.”

These high-born personages, all of whom had very personal stakes in the regime and who disagreed with the revolutionaries’ goals, nonetheless admired their youth, their enthusiasm, and their idealism, and thus provided them with material support. 

A typical example was the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev, who advocated moderate reforms and criticized the radicals, and yet mixed about in their salons and gave money to radical writers in exile in Europe. “Their course is so false and impractical that it cannot fail to lead them to complete fiasco,” he wrote to a friend, but added, “these young people are mostly good and honest.” The whole thing would be understandable and, again, more than a little bit amusing, if we did not know how the movie ended in October 1917. 

The moderate czar calculated that a big, public trial of the radicals would show the state’s determination to exercise self-defense while following with lenient punishments for these hotheaded youths would calm things down. It backfired. The radicals interpreted the mild sentences as weakness and turned violent. Several activists who had been pardoned by the czar were later involved in a plot to assassinate him. 

Lesson: Hold the Petit-Bourgeois Accountable Before It’s Too Late

What is the lesson for today? That radicals never succeed without the complicity—active or passive—of moderate elites. 

Most of the petit-bourgeois at the New York Times and at the communications departments of big corporations are yet sane enough to know that “abolishing the police” and firing people for the most minute imagined deviations from woke dogma is nonsense. But they go along anyway. They admire the radicals’ fire and energy. Perhaps they envy it. So they go along. 

The key word here, as with the riots themselves, is complacency. 

The mother who passed on classified information to her radical son probably could not imagine that one day Russia would be ruled by Bolsheviks and that people like her would be sent to gulags. She was probably a nice woman who loved her son. But revolutions can and do happen. And the Bolshevik revolution never would have happened if it hadn’t been for the weakness and complacency of moderates like her who saw revolutionaries as wayward, well-intentioned children. Because of their complacency, they failed to remember that the alternative to the self-defense of the state is chaos and mass violence. 

For decades, young Russian radicals played with fire, and for most of that time, it was primarily comical. (Dostoevsky, though himself a bit of a radical, nevertheless produced some of the most biting, funny satire in history when writing about these people.) But it became extremely serious, extremely fast. And by that time it was too late.

Great America

The Base Doesn’t Trust D.C. Conservatives Anymore

Conservatism, Inc. needs a gut check—and soon.

The need to reconstitute and reinvigorate the movement that has become establishment conservatism is a well-worn theme these days. Though nearly everyone recognizes the need, agreement about the way forward is nowhere in sight. In the run up to November, however, there is an increased urgency to find answers to the question of what the conservative movement, and the institutional Republican leaders who claim to be conservatives, have given to their voters sufficient to motivate them to come out again in November?

Too often the base has faced serial disappointment, a direct reflection of the failure of GOP and conservative leaders to adhere to the promises and processes put in place to avoid this disenchantment. More to the point, this disenchantment was precisely what D.C. Republicans swore up and down would never again occur if we just voted for enough of them. 

Well, it didn’t happen that way.

There is war in the streets. Statues are being toppled, individuals harassed, violent crime is surging, and the responses from congressional Republicans ring hollow: attempts at police reform (filibustered by Senate Democrats) and efforts to replace Columbus Day with Juneteenth. Well-meaning efforts, perhaps, but demonstrably weak and, practically speaking, displaying all the leadership qualities of a flailing pre-teen.

The conservative movement’s response to this inaction, meanwhile, has been limp op-eds, hashtag campaigns, and pointless beard stroking. “Leading conservative voices” are busy tagging white working-class Trump voters as racists. The White House, outside of a great speech and a welcome (if delayed) effort to charge individuals engaged in wanton destruction, seems otherwise intent on avoiding the culture war.

The Supreme Court, for which conservatives have fought mightily to secure a majority, has handed down a decidedly mixed bag of decisions this month. Two wins, one for religious schools and an exemption for religious employers from Obamacare’s birth control mandate, were offset by three big blows: the Court’s absurd argument pushing back against the Trump administration’s efforts to unroll President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a kick in the teeth to the pro-life movement in June Medical v. Russo, and Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch authoring an opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County, whose ripple effects will fundamentally transform how traditional conservatives are allowed to engage with society.

As Democrats sought to capitalize on their Supreme Court wins by enforcing the Equality Act, congressional Republicans did their best impression of dead plants. Only three Senate Republicans could be found to come to the floor and defend the way of life for millions of well-intended and sincere people of faith. The “representative” in representative government is apparently now viewed as merely a suggestion.

Of course, after two years of unified Republican control of the House, Senate, and the White House, in the first half of the Trump administration, Congressional Republicans only had corporate tax cuts, more war in Yemen, and a legal industrial hemp sector to show for it. So perhaps there should be no surprise over their limp reaction to today’s events.

This is all happening against the backdrop of an aggressive “woke” corporate culture working to make anything that’s not a progressive point of view socially unacceptable. From social media, to the financial industry, to Hollywood, even to sports commentary, the corporations that now act as the gatekeepers for access to American culture are systematically enforcing a code of Wokeness on their forums, platforms, and business models—ostracizing anyone who thinks otherwise.

Republicans in Congress have very little to say about it besides shrugging about how we can’t interfere with “private companies” like Google. As if Google was just another mainstreet mom and pop and not a corporate hegemon now controlling 90 percent of how the world sees the information they search for, rendering it more powerful and resourceful than some small countries.

Even President Trump, whose election represented a backlash against the corporatism of both institutional and establishment Democrats and Republicans, is struggling to focus on the issues that carried him to the White House.

While Joe Biden gave a speech this week touting the benefits of an America First economic plan—Trump’s signature issue—it was revealed that the White House has benched a Buy America executive order “amid objections from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.” Trump’s administration has always hosted tension between populist economic interests and a neoliberal influence. Lately, the latter appears to be winning.

In short, conservatism as both a way of life and a political movement is in crisis. And there has been none of the self-reflection, humility, or behavioral changes that should accompany the obvious failures that have led us to this point. Instead, we get furious justifications, condescending dismissals, navel-gazing about the economic theories of comparative advantage. Or worse, blanket apathy.

After years of our conservative institutions and leaders telling us “they have it in hand,” the last month has unmasked their claim as mistaken at best, and willfully exaggerated, at worst. Apathy and self-righteous justifications will be met by apathy and disgust by the voters in November. The only thing that can begin to bring this movement back to relevance is an intellectually humble reevaluation of how D.C. conservatism lost its ability to create a clear and coherent way forward for those who seek its leadership. But there is precious little time for the ship to begin righting itself. That work must begin in earnest—and begin immediately.

D.C.’s conservative movement needs a gut check, and they need one fast.

Great America

Trump’s Rushmore Speech Exposes Howard Zinn’s ‘Web of Lies’

To “protect our nation’s children,” as the president said, we must remove Zinn’s lying history from classrooms.

On July 4, with Mount Rushmore behind him, President Trump rightfully connected radicals toppling statues and even threatening Mount Rushmore to the fact that “against every law of society and nature, our children are taught in school to hate their own country and to believe that the men and women who built it weren’t heroes but villains.”

“The radical view of American history,” the president went on to say, “is a web of lies—all perspective is removed, every virtue is obscured, every motive is twisted, every fact distorted, and every flaw is magnified until the history is purged and the record is disfigured beyond all belief.”

When I heard those words, I almost expected the president to mention Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, which is a text widely used in the nation’s schools. 

Zinn does remove perspective, obscure virtues, twist motives, and distort facts. As I discovered in writing Debunking Howard Zinn, he goes even further—plagiarizing disreputable sources, quoting deceptively in order to give the opposite meaning to the original, using innuendo and leading questions, and employing bombastic self-glorifying rhetoric in an attempt to demolish legitimate and accomplished historians.

Zinn, however, sold his book as a corrective to the presumably “triumphalist” narrative of American history that was said to glorify military, political, and business leaders. As Zinn explained, he preferred “to tell the story . . . from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees,”—in other words, from the perspective of victims.

But that was a lie. Zinn was writing American history from the viewpoint of a Communist. Zinn was almost certainly a member of the CPUSA in the 1940s and 1950s. Like other Communists, he gave up official membership in order to infiltrate higher education, first as a professor at Spelman College and then at Boston University. And Zinn’s history follows the same Marxist outline as the one written by CPUSA chairman William Z. Foster.

In fact, Zinn denigrated patriotic working class and middle class Americans. To Zinn, abolitionists, white and black, did not help our country realize the ideals inscribed in the Declaration of Independence. Rather, they were helpless victims of “The System,” a form of government set up to ensure that wealthy elites maintain power, forever oppressing people of color, workers, and immigrants. 

Zinn’s presentation of the four presidents carved into Mount Rushmore certainly would inspire radicals to want to destroy it. To Zinn, George Washington was merely a member of the Federalist Party—the “new elite,” “the richest man in America,” and a land speculator after the Revolution. And for Zinn, the United States of America has no right to exist; he called this nation a “pretense.” So why even acknowledge George Washington as a general and president?

President Trump, on the contrary and in keeping with the true history of events, pointed out that “George Washington represented the strength, grace, and dignity of the American people.” He built the Continental Army “from a small force of citizen farmers” and “through eight long years”—at Valley Forge, crossing the Delaware River—led the patriots to “ultimate triumph.” Admirably, “After forcing the surrender of the most powerful empire on the planet at Yorktown, General Washington did not claim power, but simply returned to Mount Vernon as a private citizen. When called, he presided over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and was unanimously elected our first President.” King George called him “the greatest man of the age.” 

None of that is in Zinn’s book.

What about our third president? According to Zinn, Thomas Jefferson was nothing but a slave owner infected by a “long culture of race prejudice.” Jefferson did write all “All men are created equal,” but Zinn insists he left out women, whose education, he said, should be limited to “ornaments.” Jefferson thought the Louisiana Purchase and Indian removal necessary for “development of the modern capitalist economy.” In other words, Jefferson was a racist, sexist slave-owning capitalist who defended Indian removal.

President Trump, in contrast, lauded “the great Thomas Jefferson” who “authored one of the greatest treasures of human history, the Declaration of Independence,” as well as Virginia’s constitution, and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and served as first secretary of state, then vice president, and president, when he “ordered American warriors to crush the Barbary pirates,” “doubled the size of our nation with the Louisiana Purchase,” and sent Lewis and Clark on their expedition west. Zinn says nothing about the accomplishments of this “ardent defender of liberty,” an architect, inventor, diplomat, scholar, and “founder of one of the world’s great universities.” 

Students once learned that Abraham Lincoln was the Great Emancipator. Not with Zinn’s book, where it is claimed that Lincoln freed the slaves only for “personal political advantage,” and that he “initiated hostilities” in the Civil War and “could not see blacks as equals.” Zinn’s jaundiced presentation of Lincoln describes him as someone who “combined perfectly the needs of business, the political ambitions of the new Republican party, and the rhetoric of humanitarianism.” 

President Trump rightfully pointed to the first Republican president’s humble origins as “a self-taught country lawyer who grew up in a log cabin,” who went on to lead “the country through the darkest hours of American history, giving every ounce of strength that he had to ensure that government of the people, by the people, and for the people did not perish from this Earth.” “He issued the Emancipation Proclamation” and “led the passage of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery for all time.” These efforts “cost him his life”—a fact that is true but unacknowledged by Zinn.

Zinn’s portrait of Theodore Roosevelt is one of a war-mongering, racist capitalist. Yet TR invited Booker T. Washington (a man wrongly slandered by Zinn to have urged “passivity”) to visit with him in the White House. TR is maligned as a “war monger” for having once written to a “friend” about welcoming war. Roosevelt, Zinn insists, was “contemptuous” of certain nations and races, and desired expansion, for “manliness and heroism” and for lucrative trade with China. He persecuted the Socialist Party and the IWW, snubbed Mother Jones and child protestors, made only gestures of trust-busting and reform, and as president “watched Negroes being lynched” and “observed murderous riots against blacks.”

President Trump said Theodore Roosevelt “exemplified the unbridled confidence of our national culture and identity.” He recounted Roosevelt’s days as a lieutenant colonel during the Spanish-American War, as the corruption-fighting police commissioner of New York City, then governor of New York. He was then vice president, and at 42 years old, the youngest-ever president of the United States, when he “sent our great new naval fleet around the globe to announce America’s arrival as a world power.” He also “gave us many of our national parks, including the Grand Canyon,” oversaw the construction of the Panama Canal, and was “the only person ever awarded both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Congressional Medal of Honor.” But for Zinn, there is nothing admirable in Roosevelt, certainly not “the bold, beautiful, and untamed spirit” that our president invoked.

In contrast to Trump’s invocation of the principle enunciated in our Declaration of Independence, “that governments exist to protect the safety and happiness of their own people,” ensuring God-given rights as “equal opportunity, equal justice, and equal treatment,” Zinn presents the Marxist principle of equality. Zinn does this with questions: “if some people had greater wealth and influence; if they had the land, the money, the newspapers, the church, the educational system—how could voting, however broad, cut into such power?” This comes after he condemns the founders for failing to include “small farmers, workers, women, Negroes, [and] Indians” in setting up the government and granting the right to vote! So the Civil Rights movement changed nothing because the vote means nothing. For Zinn, America remains the most racist place in the world. 

In fact, America in Zinn’s view is fascist. World War II was “waged by a government whose chief beneficiary . . . was a wealthy elite,” an “alliance between big business and the government” going back “to the very first proposals of Alexander Hamilton after the Revolutionary War.” We were no better than the Nazis; in fact, “the essential elements of fascism” were “absorbed into [our] already poisoned bones.” 

President Trump honored General George Patton and the Tuskegee Airmen for fighting fascism. 

He also said, “We must demand that our children are taught once again to see America as did Reverend Martin Luther King when he said that the Founders had signed ‘a promissory note’ to every future generation. Dr. King saw that the mission of justice required us to fully embrace our founding ideals.” 

But like Abraham Lincoln, King was assassinated for his convictions. King, who never served in the military or held public office, has been honored with multiple monuments, including one next to the National Mall in Washington, and a holiday. 

Was King perfect? Of course not. Neither were the men depicted on Mount Rushmore. But we honor them for their leadership, and for their ideals, which unify us. 

President Trump put his finger on the motivations of those seeking “to erase our heritage.” They “want Americans to forget our pride and our great dignity, so that we can no longer understand ourselves or America’s destiny. . . . they seek to dissolve the bonds of love and loyalty that we feel for our country, and that we feel for each other. Their goal is not a better America, their goal is the end of America.” This is exactly what Communist Howard Zinn wanted. 

To “protect our nation’s children,” as Trump said, we must remove Zinn’s book of lies from classrooms.

Great America

How to Break Up the FBI

No wonder the calls to “defund the police” never mention the FBI. The mob knows a friend when it sees one.

In the 1991 hit movie “Silence of the Lambs,” Clarice Starling (Jody Foster) follows her investigative instincts to a serial killer’s house to save a kidnap victim. With no back-up and overmatched by an adversary with tactical night vision, she overcomes her terror to hunt Buffalo Bill alone in total darkness.

In 2019, on the other hand, the real FBI swarmed the modest residential home of an unarmed and cooperative Roger Stone with more manpower and firepower than what was dispatched to kill Osama bin Laden. 

It’s a perfect juxtaposition to illustrate what the FBI has become, a mythical law enforcement agency that uses its real power for political ends.

In reality, the FBI doesn’t actually catch very many serial killers. Of the top-five most infamous serial killers in the United States, the FBI played little or no role in the cases, largely solved by state and local police work. The FBI bungled the Atlanta Olympics bombing investigation and the 2001 anthrax attack investigation. It failed to act on tips that could have prevented the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Parkland school shooting, the Orlando nightclub shooting, and even the Kennedy assassination

Speaking of Boston, the FBI’s multi-decade partnering with organized crime kingpin Whitey Bulger was particularly disgraceful. And as I’ve written before, the FBI maintains a massive illegal domestic spying program that almost never leads to an actual crime being solved. Where the FBI has caught “terrorists,” they’re often dimwitted patsies the FBI tricked into agreeing to plots the FBI concocted for elaborate sting operations. 

Like the massive police apparatus in a crime-ridden third world country, the FBI seems less about preventing crime than it is about maintaining power. If the business of the FBI is protecting and preserving the Constitution, it has operated at a significant loss for some time.

As bad as the FBI is at fighting crime, it’s really good at intimidating its constitutional masters. It’s always been this way. 

Recall Harry Truman’s assessment in 1945:“We want no Gestapo or Secret Police. F.B.I. is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex life scandles [sic] and plain blackmail when they should be catching criminals.” Truman added: “Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him.” 

More recently, Senator Chuck Schumer warned President Trump that if he took on the intelligence community, “they have six ways to Sunday” of getting back at Trump and that he was being really dumb by insulting them. 

But let’s imagine a world in which the FBI has not amassed so much power that it has become an untouchable branch of government. Let us entertain the fantasy that somebody in Washington, D.C. might stand up to the authoritarian juggernaut the FBI has become. What can be done?

Dissolving the FBI completely would do more good than harm, from a constitutional perspective. If the FBI applied more than a token effort to the drug cartels or Chinese espionage, then “reform” might be plausible. But it doesn’t and all past efforts to induce them to do that have failed. 

The FBI lies to courts to get search warrants and nobody is punished. You’re not supposed to do that, according to existing FBI policy. But instead of punishing the liars, Director Christopher Wray tinkers with training and procedures. Wray has had almost four years to reform the FBI and it’s only gotten worse.

To fix things, the FBI should be dismantled into smaller, more regionally based units. The jurisdictions should be redundant and overlapping because that’s how dirty cops get caught. 

FBI corruption in the Whitey Bulger case came to light due to outside law enforcement agencies asking why their joint-FBI investigations of Bulger always seemed to evaporate at the last minute. The Washington field office should be closed. That’s the office, remember, that surrendered to the rampaging Antifa mobs. It’s rotten with political corruption. 

The Hoover building should also be closed to the FBI. The FBI should be split into three or more agencies with headquarters located in real communities within the United States. I suggest one office in El Paso to combat the drug cartels, one in Portland, Oregon to counter the rising domestic terrorist threat of Antifa, and one in Chicago to counter public corruption. Actually, let’s make it two in Chicago. Unless there are rival offices snitching on one another, the FBI has proven itself susceptible to petty corruption

The Hoover building should be turned over to the Justice Department’s office of inspector general. That office should be given dedicated law enforcement agents and a dedicated prosecutor who won’t decline all of its referrals to protect political allies. The DOJ-OIG stands virtually alone in resisting the full politicization of the FBI into a leftist enforcer and guardian of the administrative state. 

Further, the successor agencies should constantly rotate their agents and attorneys every three years. The military does that to prevent senior officers from building empires of troops more loyal to their commanding officer than to the system itself. The Russian collusion hoax would not have been possible without a network of longstanding relationships that allowed the perpetrators to operate in confidence that nobody would blow the whistle. They’re getting way too chummy over there in the Hoover building. Too many dirty FBI agents are willing to play ball with political operations. 

None of this is likely to happen in the current climate in which the FBI eagerly auditions for a role with the neo-Maoist revolution that will unleash its true instincts on America. As an example, the FBI deployed a whopping 15 agents to investigate a garage door pull in a garage at the Talladega Superspeedway. But it can never seem to find the resources to safeguard private and federal property from the woke mob. 

While the FBI failed to prevent the election of Donald Trump, it did succeed in leading a resistance to the peaceful transfer of power. No wonder the calls to “defund the police” never mention the FBI. The mob knows a friend when it sees one.