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.

Great America

Shielding the Chief in Turbulent Times

An interview with Gary J. Byrne, author of Crisis of Character and Secrets of the Secret Service.

As many American cities endured protests, rioting, and looting in recent weeks, the White House was not immune from the phenomenon. In the recent violence, more than 50 U.S. Secret Service (USSS) personnel were injured. While known primarily for their dapperly dressed Personal Protective Detail agents, much of the agency is composed of Uniformed Division police officers. 

In the wake of these revelations, I discussed with former UD officer Gary Byrne, author of two books about his life in the Secret Service, the issues of police shootings, use of military equipment by civil authorities, and some of the challenges that he believes will emerge in the trials of the killers of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery that may dispel the prevailing anti-police media frenzy. 

Much of the rhetoric about “defunding the police” and the need to punish bad cops leaves out the fact that law enforcement is a profession where the personnel is trained to bring order where there is disorder. As a UD officer, Byrne was required to ensure that one of the most high stakes and stressful workplaces in the world, the Oval Office, was safe and secure for the president and his family. His experience as a USAF Security Forces police officer and air marshal presented him with many of the same challenges as those facing most police officers in other very dangerous environments.

Below is the video of our full conversation on these and other topics:

“This Is Not an Arrest”

The nuance surrounding police methods for arresting suspects has been lost amidst the wave of activism. Whereas during past flare-ups police shootings were the focus, the current one concerns hand-to-hand engagements. Asked about the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis after being detained by Officer Derek Chauvin, Byrne offered a take that has been ignored by the media. 

“The minute I saw that video, the first thing I said to myself is ‘they know each other, they have a relationship, this is not normal, this is not an arrest.’ I don’t care what the media tells you. I don’t care that they were in uniform.” 

Byrne made the cautious prediction that in court it may emerge that Chauvin and Floyd were both involved in a criminal enterprise together, and therefore the public hype around the case is likely only serving to obscure the truth behind it. He was also adamant that the technique of subduing a suspect using the knee as a fulcrum is common practice. 

Other commentators with law enforcement experience have objected to the new moves made to ban some types of chokeholds. Former Secret Service agent and NYPD officer Dan Bongino has contended that while the Floyd chokehold was a clear case of misconduct, other types such as the “blood chokehold” are not likely to be fatal and allow police to refrain from using more lethal means of subduing suspects. 

Officer Safety or Military Occupation?

One of the big objections that Black Lives Matter and other organizations pose to police departments is their use of surplus military hardware, what is commonly called the “militarization of the police.” Byrne has a different view of what’s happening. 

“When he was still president, [Barack] Obama made this comment about stopping the program between the [Department of Defense]  and law enforcement where the law enforcement in the United States could get surplus DOD equipment. I don’t want the police riding around the park with kids in armored personnel carriers, but when they have to go into Watts [in Los Angeles] to serve a search warrant in a drug house, yeah, I want them to be protected.”

During the height of the rioting in late May and early June, there were rumblings that the president would deploy active-duty military personnel to quell the disturbances. Byrne is more cautious about supporting this. 

“I don’t think they should use the military. I [would] let the Secret Service be the Secret Service,” he said.

Serve and Protect vs. Squawk and Project

From the time he was elected, Donald Trump has had an adversarial relationship with traditional media from cable news to newspapers like the New York Times and Boston Globe. Suddenly press briefings with White House press secretaries have gone from sedate chats under Barack Obama to frenzied shouting matches. 

I asked Byrne to compare the behavior of the White House Press Corps towards Trump with what he saw under previous administrations. The strongest memories he had were under the first president he served, George H. W. Bush, and he contrasted the eulogies paid to him after his death to how the media addressed him during his time in office. 

“That’s not how they treated him; they treated him like crap, they treated his wife like crap; they were always buffooning him . . . The full-court press was on against them because they were conservatives—what was a conservative at the time.” 

During the Clinton years, Byrne recalled how UPI reporter Trude Feldman sequestered herself within the press lobby’s cabling room after hours, which was against White House regulations. 

“You could guarantee that two days later there’d be a very favorable story out about Bill Clinton and that’s why they kind of kept her on,” he said. Feldman would later have her press pass suspended for looking through the contents of a Bush White House aide’s desk. This episode is particularly interesting given the current attempts by the White House Correspondents’ Association to suppress the access of One America News reporter Chanel Rion.

Murder Within Yards of the Law

In light of his own testimony during the Monica Lewinsky inquiries and the more recent Jeffrey Epstein saga, I asked Byrne if he had encountered sexual predators in the White House who are as yet unknown to the public. He said that he did not see anything else as egregious as those examples. 

He did say, however, that during his time at the White House there had been an evening when an officer patrolling West Executive Avenue (the closest street to the West Wing, since closed to the public) discovered a fresh murder victim in a car. “So he opened the door and the person fell out and they had two bullet holes in their head. He called it in and Metropolitan [Police] showed up, and a tow truck showed up and they just took the car.” 

Based on the timeframe that Byrne supplied and the location, this is consistent with the murder of Gregg Ingram (20) on October 26, 1992, who was suspected by others of being a drug informant. It occurred within 100 feet of three Secret Service posts. Perhaps it wouldn’t shock readers that given all of the other criminal behavior that has been committed over the years in the White House, Congress, and federal bureaus, it would be so easy for such a crime to happen under their noses.

. . . On Wheat, Hold the Mayo

Regarding workplace abuse and harassment, Byrne was witness to elected officials living according to a separate standard of laws and treatment of staff and employees. 

“I’d say, if you walked into the veterinarian that takes care of your dog and you saw him treating his employees like this—you take your dog somewhere else.” 

He invoked the infamous story, underreported by the media, of the alleged “Senator sandwich”—the drunken sexual assault by Ted Kennedy and Chris Dodd on waitress Carla Gavigno in 1985 at La Brasserie restaurant in Washington, D.C. Less known is that two years later, Kennedy was caught once again in flagrante delicto with a female date. 

This prompted me to ask him whether Vice President Al Gore, who had been alleged by three masseuses in 2010 to have solicited sexual favors, was simply more careful. But Byrne attributed Gore’s avoidance of consequences to luck. 

He recalled an account from a Delta Airlines flight attendant who told him during his Air Marshal service after learning he was in the Secret Service: “Al Gore was eating a ham sandwich and mustard spilled on his pants, you know on his zipper. And he got up, walked up to her, grabbed her hand, and said ‘hey wipe this off’ and started rubbing her hand on his genitals. I had no reason not to believe her.” 

While it is unfair to hold this alleged incident against Gore without much stronger verification, Byrne was overall fair to him, including recalling the former vice president’s family having a deep personal relationship with one of his former Secret Service colleagues, with his daughters attending and weeping at his funeral. 

Guardian or Messenger?

Given his own experience being questioned by Kenneth Starr’s investigators during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, I asked Byrne whether protective personnel like him should have a process for reporting sexual misconduct by their protectees. He was ambivalent about it. 

“The problem is, it’s never going to be used the ways you and I are discussing it and common sense would tell you it’s intended. It’s because, whoever an officer will [witness, he would] unlikely throw himself on a sword.” Were it not for White House employee Linda Tripp reporting the Kathleen Willey incident to Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff, President Clinton’s inappropriate relations with Lewinsky might never have been discovered. 

Tripp was also the source that leaked phone conversations with Lewinsky and the blue dress that incriminated Clinton. Had Clinton’s DNA not been on that dress, it is hard to say what might have happened to Lewinsky. 

Thanks to his post-Secret Service statements denouncing the Clinton family and his 2016 book Crisis of Character, the pro-Clinton watchdog Media Matters has published no less than 10 articles attacking Byrne and the book. Their attacks on Byrne, an Air Force veteran with no known career blemishes with either the Secret Service or Air Marshals, is an interesting contrast to their ferocious defense of anti-Trump “whistleblowers” like Lt. Colonel Alex Vindman and former  National Intelligence Director James Clapper. 

It should be remembered, however, that unlike the involvement of those characters in Trump’s impeachment, Byrne’s role in the Starr inquiry was compelled by a court order and not through deliberate leaking. Moreover, his book came over a decade after he was forced to testify, leading to his eventual departure from the Secret Service. 

Great America

Calling out the Head Cheerleader for Cop Killers

It is past time to throw down with the self-described communist and full professor, Joshua Clover of UC Davis.

During the George Floyd riots, Weber State University criminal justice professor Scott Senjo posted tweets that displeased the school’s bosses. Senjo apologized, resigned, then rescinded his resignation. Weber State then placed him on leave and now announces that Senjo is “no longer employed at the school.”

North of the border, University of British Columbia board of governors chair Michael Korenberg “liked” tweets by Dinesh D’Souza, a tweet wishing Donald Trump a happy birthday, and a tweet critical of Black Lives Matter. The Antifa-affiliated “UBC Students Against Bigotry,” protested Korenberg’s “likes” and he duly resigned, issuing a groveling apology and a statement that he supports Black Lives Matter. 

In such a totalitarian environment, it might be instructive to focus on a university professor who made statements of utter depravity yet managed to keep his job with the full approval of the administration. This takes us to Davis, California, a short stretch down Interstate 80 from the state capital of Sacramento. 

On January 10, 2019, convicted criminal Kevin Limbaugh gunned down Natalie Corona, 22, a rising star in the Davis Police Department. The community hailed Corona as a hero who paid the ultimate price for her service. Thousands of people, including police officers from across the country, attended a memorial for the slain officer. 

Over at UC Davis, on the other hand, one professor openly supports the murder of police officers. 

That would be Joshua Clover, a full professor of English and comparative literature, whose publisher Verso Books describes him as a Communist. Born in Berkeley in 1962, Clover is an alumnus of the prestigious Boston University and the Iowa Writers Workshop. He once bagged an NEA grant as well as the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets.

Nick Irvin of The Aggie, the UC Davis student newspaper, heard that Clover supported the killing of police officers and began poking around in Clover’s Twitter account. Irvin found tweets such as this from November 27, 2014: “I am thankful that every living cop will one day be dead, some by their own hand, some by others, too many of old age.” And this from December 27, 2014: “I mean, it’s easier to shoot cops when their backs are turned, no?” And in a January 31, 2016 interview, Clover found, “People think that cops need to be reformed. They need to be killed.” 

Irvin contacted Clover to sound him out on Natalie Corona. The Communist prof replied, “I think we can all agree that the most effective way to end any violence against officers is the complete and immediate abolition of the police,” and he did not walk back any of his statements about wanting cops killed. Local media were soon all over the story.

The Sacramento Bee found that in 2015 Clover told the SF Weekly cops “need to be killed.” After Davis police weighed in on Clover’s “vile hatred,” the Bee sought a response from the campus Communist and critical theorist. “On the day that police have as much to fear from literature professors as Black kids do from police, I will definitely have a statement,” he said. 

 The UC Davis administration condemned Clover’s statements and found it “unconscionable that anyone would condone much less appear to advocate murder.” Clover was reported to be on “medical leave,” but at no point did UC Davis bosses take action against their cheerleader for cop killers.

 “We have not received a complaint of conduct that may be in violation of the Faculty Code of Conduct,” Provost Ralph Hexter, UC Davis’ chief academic and operating officer, told the Davis Enterprise. “If we received such a complaint, it would be reviewed in accordance with our policies.” In all likelihood, nobody brought a complaint against Clover, who remains a full professor. 

 Some police officer, perhaps a colleague of Natalie Corona, surely wants to call out this pampered, pasty-faced poltroon. In a climate of hatred for police, and calls for the defunding of police departments, any such officer would likely be fired. Police can’t be blamed for holding back, so this writer proposes a pay-per-view event with professor Clover and his own self. 

 That’s a terrific matchup, and as Michael Corleone might say, some cable outfit might like an event like that. ESPN is so starved for action they are showing old Eagles concerts from the Inglewood Forum. This writer will even offer free promotion.

 The campus Communist gets a chance to practice class struggle in real-time, and take affirmative action to maximize the contradictions. Clover can bring his thesis, I will present the antithesis, and we’ll see how the antithesis works out. As Bryan Brown told the gutless informer in “Breaker Morant,” “any time, mate.”

Great America

Fauci Is a Deep State Fraud

The pandemic’s guru, unfortunately, behaves as an ordinary creature of the Washington swamp.

I knew for sure that Anthony Fauci is a fraud after listening to him for about 10 seconds—as anyone who listens carefully would have known as well. President Trump had been charging the Chinese government with obscurancy and deception in its handling of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Fauci had dealt intimately with the Chinese on that matter. His National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Centers for Disease Control had partially financed the notorious Wuhan laboratory where Chinese scientists were researching the virus. Fauci knew a lot.

A reporter asked Fauci if he agreed with Trump that the Chinese have not been fully forthcoming about the scope of the pandemic. Fauci answered that although the Chinese had lacked candor in previous years, this time they had turned over “the sequence of the virus.” Spoken like a wily swamp reptile!

His words were factually correct. The Chinese had turned over all they knew about the virus’s “sequence”—namely, its genetic structure. But the reporter and the audience neither knew nor cared about that. They were interested in the Chinese government’s misrepresentations of the virus’s contagion, fatality rate, and so forth. That is what they had dissembled and lied about. 

Fauci’s answer artfully deceived the audience into believing the opposite of the truth. Thus did Fauci help plant a dagger between Trump’s shoulder blades and help his party—the Democrats and the deep state—extort the American people’s compliance to their agendas.

Deep State Doctor

Donald Trump’s decision to accredit Dr. Anthony Fauci as the COVID-19 pandemic’s guru is largely responsible for the extent of the panic that gripped America in the spring and now summer. Fauci is a bona fide graduate of medical school. Many attest to his earlier epidemiological brilliance. But none of the words by which he has helped inflict chaos on America have reflected either medical or epidemiological facts. Fauci has acted as, and has been, a politicized, partisan bureaucrat while pretending to be the disinterested authority of physicians and scientists. 

The pretense that COVID-19 is something like, and hence is to be treated like, the plague is the essence of the scam that the deep state and the Democratic Party are perpetrating on America. Anthony Fauci’s pseudo-medical, pseudo-scientific pretense is the foremost pillar of that lie.

Sowing and maintaining confusion about the severity of cases of  COVID-19 infections—indeed, about the very meaning of the word “case”—has been the heart of that lie. 

Understanding the truth begins with comparing the infection/fatality rate (IFR) of ordinary seasonal flu, 0.01 percent, with that of the bubonic plague or smallpox—around 30 percent—and then realizing that COVID-19’s IFR is roughly that of the flu.

Although Fauci was not the sole author of the confusion, he surely was most influential in spreading it. And it was a lie, because by January Fauci knew that, despite the Chinese government’s indications and media management to the contrary, COVID-19 was what we in the West have since learned from experience: deadly to the very old and otherwise compromised, but milder than most flu strains for just about everyone else. 

That knowledge notwithstanding, Fauci concurred with the mathematical modelers’ dire forecasts of frightful across-the-board mortality rates. He substantiated their (baseless) assumptions of an IFR around 5 percent for everyone by citing as a “case” any sick person who tested positive for the virus or who had a fever, cough, and other respiratory symptoms like those caused by the virus. He then agreed that all such persons who died should have their deaths attributed to the virus. 

In late March, Fauci convinced President Trump that a wave of such deadly “cases” would overwhelm America’s healthcare system unless Americans huddled at home. Trump agreed. (Remember, “15 Days to Slow the Spread?) Thereafter, the lockdowns took on a momentum of their own.

Mindless Momentum 

So mindless of reality was this momentum that it shoved aside the only medical fact that made any difference, namely, the vulnerability of old, fragile people. Hence, Fauci’s CDC, all keen to free up hospital space, advised state and local health systems to transfer all manner of patients into nursing homes and long-term care facilities. 

Thus did Fauci’s CDC become the efficient cause of the holocaust that killed perhaps 60,000 practically captive old folks.

By mid-April however, as the great wave simply was not happening, any number of independent studies were establishing COVID-19’s true, low IFR. Fauci retreated, no longer linking “cases” to deaths, he used the panic he had helped foment and the credit that Trump had naively given him, to finagle Trump into agreeing to a staged plan to end the lockdowns which, upon closer look, was really a plan for perpetuating them regardless of what happened.

The essence of this fraud is the pretense that all COVID-19 infections are “cases” requiring sequestration and quarantine, even if they involve persons to whom the virus poses no danger—i.e., nearly all Americans. To keep down the number of “cases” Fauci now preaches, Americans must be willing to accept any number of arbitrary restrictions, not least of which is superintendence by “contact tracers” empowered to allow or disallow anyone from ordinary employment and human contact.

To grasp Fauci’s dishonesty—being anything but ignorant, he knows exactly what he is doing—we need not recall his self-contradictions regarding the wearing of masks or regarding the risks associated with Holy Communion versus sex with strangers. Let us only recall what this board-certified physician has said and done about the drug hydroxychloroquine.

This standard antimalarial drug’s usefulness against COVID-19 was discovered accidentally as physicians around the world found it useful for treating patients, especially in the disease’s early and mid-stages. President Trump praised it. 

The deep state howled. Fauci tried to backstab Trump by pointing out that the drug had not been specifically approved to treat COVID-19. Reporters refused to accept a backhanded put-down. When one asked whether he would take the drug were he infected with COVID-19, Fauci said yes, but qualified that he would do so only as part of an FDA study. Later, as the deep state’s campaign against “Trump’s drug” produced studies obviously biased against it, Fauci happily retreated to saying that the drug was now off the table. 

But by June, as major peer-reviewed studies confirmed hydroxychloroquine’s usefulness, Fauci remained silent. He was doing the best he could for his class. Not for us.

This is not how scientists behave. Much less is it how doctors behave who take seriously the Hippocratic Oath. Fauci, unfortunately, behaves as an ordinary creature of the Washington swamp.

Great America

Trump Tax Cases Highlight the Court as Servant of the Administrative State

The justices who think Congress is still about legislating, when it has been clear for 50 years that it serves to fund and reinforce the administrative state, do not see their own role in perpetuating it and in failing to end it. 

The president was not whining when he tweeted about the continuing “political prosecution” permitted by the two tax returns cases issued Wednesday by the Supreme Court. These two cases, although short-term wins for Trump, illustrate the role of the federal and state courts in the administrative state and reveal the burdens this conglomeration places on a reforming president. Let’s take the worst of the bad news first.

Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent in Trump v. Vance summarizes the problem with the New York County District Attorney’s subpoena of the president’s tax returns for a grand jury. 

The subpoena at issue here is unprecedented. Never before has a local prosecutor subpoenaed the records of a sitting President. The Court’s decision threatens to impair the functioning of the Presidency and provides no real protection against the use of the subpoena power by the Nation’s 2,300+ local prosecutors. Respect for the structure of Government created by the Constitution demands greater protection for an institution that is vital to the Nation’s safety and well-being.

Alito had previously lamented, in the DACA case, that “the Federal Judiciary, without holding that [the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program] cannot be rescinded, has prevented that from occurring during an entire Presidential term. Our constitutional system is not supposed to work that way.” 

Ominously, Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion presented a split on the court, with a concurrence on only the judgment by Justice Brett Kavanaugh (joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch) and Justices Clarence Thomas and Alito dissenting. 

Both Kavanaugh and Roberts noted the agreement of the dissenters on many points of the majority, but they miss the thrust of their objection: the subjectivity on so many fronts that invites a thousand pricks from the federal and state judiciaries. Thomas had questioned the legality of universal injunctions issued by federal district court judges in Trump v. Hawaii, the so-called Muslim travel ban case. 

Yet Roberts reassures that presidents have borne such burdens before (“two centuries of experience confirm that a properly tailored criminal subpoena will not normally hamper the performance of the President’s constitutional duties.”) To the contrary, Alito responds, with a list of horrors possibly resulting from a local prosecution: 

Could he be sent to Rikers Island or be required to post bail? Could the judge impose restrictions on his travel? If the President were scheduled to travel abroad—perhaps to attend a G–7 meeting—would he have to get judicial approval? If the President were charged with a complicated offense requiring a long trial, would he have to put his Presidential responsibilities aside for weeks on end while sitting in a Manhattan courtroom?

Finally, Alito demolishes Roberts’ use of Chief Justice John Marshall on the Aaron Burr trial to prove his point about state subpoenas. Instead, Alito notes,

The lesson we should take from Marshall’s jurisprudence is the lesson of McCulloch [v. Maryland]—the importance of preventing a State from undermining the lawful exercise of authority conferred by the Constitution on the Federal Government. There is considerable irony in the Court’s invocation of Marshall to defend a decision allowing a State’s prosecutorial power to run roughshod over the functioning of a branch of the Federal Government. 

So the Manhattan prosecutor will be permitted his subpoena to replay old episodes of “Law and Order,” if he can persuade the original court and any other courts of the appeal, including the Supreme Court. How the justices line up the next time is something on which to speculate. But such uncertainty does not respect the scope of “the executive power” of the office of the presidency. 

Trump v. Mazars: All Things to All Lawyers

The second case, Trump v. Mazars, concerns subpoenas by three committees of the House of Representatives, which argue they need President Trump’s tax returns going back to before his presidency for “legislative purposes.”

This 7-2 Roberts opinion seems somewhat more sympathetic to the Trump position than does the Vance opinion. He presents strong arguments (and weaknesses) of arguments for and against the House. “Congress has no enumerated constitutional power to conduct investigations or issue subpoenas, but we have held that each House has power ‘to secure needed information’ in order to legislate.” 

While dismissing the president’s “demonstrated, specific need” for subpoenaed papers requirement, the Chief Justice criticized the House for failing “to take adequate account of the significant separation of powers issues raised by congressional subpoenas for the President’s information. Congress and the President have an ongoing institutional relationship as the ‘opposite and rival’ political branches established by the Constitution.” Presenting a guide for House lawyers, he chides them for leaving essentially no limits on the congressional power to subpoena the president’s personal records. After all, “The President’s financial records could relate to economic reform, medical records to health reform, school transcripts to education reform, and so on. Indeed, at argument, the House was unable to identify any type of information that lacks some relation to potential legislation.” So Roberts tutors the lower house on Article II 101:

The interbranch conflict here does not vanish simply because the subpoenas seek personal papers or because the President sued in his personal capacity. The President is the only person who alone composes a branch of government. As a result, there is not always a clear line between his personal and official affairs. “The interest of the man” is often “connected with the constitutional rights of the place.” 

Roberts concludes with four points for the lower courts and the parties to consider when rearguing this case:

First, courts should carefully assess whether the asserted legislative purpose warrants the significant step of involving the President and his papers . . . . Second, to narrow the scope of possible conflict between the branches, courts should insist on a subpoena no broader than reasonably necessary to support Congress’s legislative objective . . . . Third, courts should be attentive to the nature of the evidence offered by Congress to establish that a subpoena advances a valid legislative purpose. The more detailed and substantial the evidence of Congress’s legislative purpose, the better . . . . Fourth, courts should be careful to assess the burdens imposed on the President by a subpoena . . . .

Perhaps the Chief Justice (fresh from presiding over the impeachment trial) is aware of the futility of teaching Congress anything about their fundamental duties, which they have been avoiding for over 50 years. But his test—will it be Roberts’ lemon?—got six votes from his colleagues.

The Thomas and Alito dissents illustrate the weaknesses of Roberts’ approach, anticipated in earlier court opinions. Alito finds that “legislative subpoenas for a President’s personal documents are inherently suspicious.” Thomas contends, “For nearly two centuries, until the 1970s, Congress never attempted to subpoena documents to investigate wrongdoing by the President outside the context of impeachment.” He concludes that “Congress’ legislative powers do not authorize it to engage in a nationwide inquisition with whatever resources it chooses to appropriate for itself. The majority’s solution—a nonexhaustive four-factor test of uncertain origin—is better than nothing.” Thus, for Congress to obtain private, nonofficial documents “it must proceed under the impeachment power,” not its ordinary legislative powers.

The justices who think Congress is still about legislating, when it has been clear for 50 years that it serves to fund and reinforce the administrative state, do not see their own role in perpetuating it and in failing to end it. They are now part of the administrative state.

Great America

A Spike in Cases or a Spike in the Heel?

If the NCAA follows the path that the Ivy League is taking, it will be one of the biggest rip-offs for student athletes in NCAA history.

Forget the spike in COVID-19 cases. With the announcement that the Ivy League will have no athletic season this coming fall, the worst fears of NCAA athletes are beginning to spike. We remember what they did last spring after the Ivies cancelled their spring sports season. Even now, some politicians are calling for the cancellation of NCAA fall sports.

As a collegiate athlete I feel compelled to explain why a cancellation of fall sports would be outrageous. The American public should get angry at this attempted manipulation.

I am a cross country and track athlete. Here is what an ordinary day looks like for student-athletes like me: We are up and at the gym for lifting before 6 a.m. After that, we shower and go immediately to class. From class, we head to practice to run. We run every single day with the exception of our in-between season breaks for resting. In most cases we dedicate ourselves to this kind of discipline and rigor, not because of a scholarship, but because it is our passion. The competition and rigor of life as part of a team helps define who we are. It fills us with purpose and shapes our approach to everything we do. Most athletes, no matter the sport, pour their hearts and souls into their sports.

I used to think Americans understood that sports are a channel for competition and a way to train young people to find productive ways to work out their frustrations, stay healthy, learn cooperation, and just generally grow and develop. But now it seems we are so panicked over this coronavirus that we prefer to urge people, even the healthiest and strongest among us, to stay locked inside and wearing a mask.

This makes no sense, especially when one considers how important exercise is as a way to protect one’s health—both mental and physical. There have already been studies showing that those who get a good amount of vitamin D (especially out in the sun) and exercise face fewer risks from the disease than those who do not. So, for the life of me, I can not understand why we would insist on canceling sports.

Perhaps this has nothing to do with the coronavirus at all and more with control?

One of the Biggest Rip-Offs in NCAA History

In the weeks leading up to the Ivy League’s announcement, more news sources began to report growing numbers of coronavirus cases in young adults. This “spike” should have been taken in stride as something to be expected as we opened up and young people got back to their routines. Naturally, more of us are going to test positive now. But as we all know by now, testing positive and being sick, especially sick enough to be hospitalized, are different things. Since fewer people are dying now as the “spike” in cases is hitting, is it crazy to conclude that the disease is just not as dangerous to young people as we feared? And don’t we have a right to assess that risk for ourselves?

For some in politics and the media, the idea that young people are itching to get back to living their lives while we are still young seems to offend them. Those people are unhappy, it seems, so they want all of us to be unhappy, too. This is the only reason I can think of as to why such a fuss has been made about more young people testing positive.

Naturally, we were told to shove those fears aside during the recent month-long protest binge, but the Ivy League says you can not safely play your sport. Sorry—I call bullshit.

On top of that, at least at my university, not a single athlete has been asked how we feel about coming back to our sports. I get the feeling that most would say that we want to play, and this above all things frightens those responsible for making decisions. If they don’t ask, we can’t tell.

If the NCAA follows the path that the Ivy League is taking, it will be one of the biggest rip-offs for student-athletes in NCAA history. They will lose some students forever. There is going to be a real crisis of depression, many will lose scholarships, some will drop out with no chance of coming back, there will be lost years of eligibility and milestones, and sadly I even fear that some will take their own lives. We can’t get this time back. There is no pause button.

Unintended Consequences, Lasting Damage

You may think this sounds too intense. Many older adults would argue that there are harder things in life and this is just whining. Fine. There are harder things. But this is unnecessary.

Think back to when you were young, think back to some opportunities you may have had. You may even have been a collegiate athlete yourself. If not, think of something in this world that you couldn’t imagine taking on life without doing. Think of people you can’t imagine not surrounding yourself with and working together with. For athletes, that is our sports and our teams. For us right now they are as important to us as work and family are to you.

Reflect on that image of me getting up at the crack of dawn to put in the work, out of love for my sport. Runners like me push on whatever the weather and however we feel. If we fall, we get up and keep going. We bleed, we wipe it off, and keep pushing. Our legs feel weak, but we push on because we know that victory can be reached.

To you, NCAA, let me be clear. These same values that we athletes carry in our soul we will carry to you. If administrators calling these terrible shots think they can suppress us, they should be advised that we will push back. Do not think that you can manipulate our opinions. Keep fall sports. This decision you are making from your cushy office chair concerns the lives of thousands of students. You do not understand the lifetime of disappointment and damage you may be inflicting.

Someday I hope that the people making these decisions will understand and pay the consequences for the burdens they have placed on students and student-athletes. God willing my children will never have to live through the same pain.

Great America

Immediate Expensing Is a Long-Term Expense We Can’t Afford

There are much stronger alternatives to immediate expensing that will bring companies and innovation back to the United States and support small businesses in the wake of COVID-19.

As the country continues to battle the health and economic crises brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, leaders and policymakers in Washington are considering a number of tax-related measures to hasten recovery and stimulate the economy in the wake of this generational crisis.

One such proposal would expand full and immediate expensing ability to include structures. The popular thinking is that this measure would incentivize companies to invest in U.S. facilities, including and especially those companies that historically have opted to offshore much of their manufacturing.

While the proposal is well-intentioned, if enacted it would have far more negative consequences, and far fewer benefits, than many people realize.

It is important to remember that the tax reforms of the 1980s tried this approach, accelerating depreciation to 15 years for real estate in an attempt to stimulate the economy. While thoughtfully considered, this measure resulted in massive overbuilding and the use of real estate as a tax shelter, a dynamic that contributed significantly to the savings and loan/real estate crisis of that time.

As a result, the depreciation schedule for structures was eventually lengthened to better reflect the true useful life of a structure or real estate. While measures were put in place to try to prevent entities using the construction of buildings as a tax shelter, there are ways to get around the rules. Expanding immediate expensing to include structures today would incite the same unintended consequences the U.S. experienced in the 1980s.

Some economists continue to claim that immediate expensing of structures, to include manufacturing plants, office buildings, and commercial real estate, would contribute substantially to the growth of gross domestic product and encourage companies to return to the United States. These assumptions are flawed, however, as they do not account for the tax consequences and restrictions unique to real estate, which prevent immediate expensing for structures and buildings from yielding the same economic benefits that may result if applied to other capital expenditures.

These models also do not reflect the very real dynamics of a post-COVID-19 business environment. In the last few days, some of our country’s largest employers including Facebook and Twitter have offered their employees extended teleworking flexibility well after a phased reopening of America begins. COVID-19 has shown that through technology, a large number of employees are capable of being highly productive working from home, providing an opportunity for companies to shed tremendous office space costs from their books, and leaving uncertainty about the future need for office space in the United States. We cannot afford a situation where office buildings are built for tax benefit rather than market need.

Most economists’ models demonstrating GDP growth from the inclusion of real estate in full and immediate expensing do not factor in basic real estate tax rules, such as recapture taxes, passive loss, basis, at-risk limitation rules, or other market drivers, as well as company valuations and shareholder requirements. They also often rely on European data that fails to effectively reflect U.S. economic realities. As a result, many of these models overstate both the increased investment that would result from immediate expensing, as well as the extent to which immediate expensing would incentivize U.S. companies to re-shore production lines and facilities currently located overseas.

Also of great concern is the possibility that providing immediate expensing for structures will greatly increase the incentive to utilize debt financing, which many economists believe is already too attractive.

Take, for example, an investor purchasing a $10 million building with $8 million in debt financing and just $2 million in equity. Under immediate expensing, that investor would receive a $10 million tax write-off despite having only expended roughly $2 million. This is a dangerous tax loophole that could hinder the U.S. recovery from the economic fallout of COVID-19.

Finally, there is the cost. The most recent estimate conducted by the Tax Foundation found that providing full and immediate expensing for structures would cost the U.S. Treasury nearly $1 trillion over the next 10 years. While many agree that repairing the damage COVID-19 has wrought to our economy will require significant and innovative government support, there are better ways to stimulate growth and encourage U.S. companies to re-shore their innovation and manufacturing capabilities that do not carry the same unintended consequences.

There are much stronger alternatives to immediate expensing that will bring companies and innovation back to the United States and support small businesses in the wake of COVID-19.

Great America

The Real Cancel Culture

Freedom of speech becomes meaningless when you lose your job and have your entire family harassed by politically-protected activists for not bowing to Black Lives Matter.

A small Baptist university in Texas last week announced it had expelled one of its students over “hate speech.”

What was the hateful speech this student expressed? The student, Ashleigh Brock, made a TikTok video mocking the media’s double standard on interracial crime. Not only is the video accurate; it can only be offensive to those who deny obvious realities.


Even if you disagree with the message, it is hardly an offensive statement. But an internet mob thought it was and harassed the young student for expressing her First Amendment rights. 

Brock’s school, Hardin Simmons University, capitulated to the mob and pretended the student’s statement was un-Christian. “HSU became aware late this evening of a deeply disappointing and unacceptable social media post by one of our students. The message shared by this student is not reflective of the Christian values of our institution,” the official school Twitter account posted.

Hardin Simmons University president Eric Bruntmeyer said the young student was expelled for failing to uphold Christian values. “As citizens, we have certain rights of freedom of speech in public forums, like many of the social media platforms. However, within the HSU community, that right is always linked with a responsibility as Christians, as well as an inherent responsibility in the consequences of our words and our actions,” he said in a video statement.

If Brock had been expelled for making a pro-LGBT TikTok, her cause would be celebrated by every mainstream media outlet. Had Hardin Simmons expelled her for speech contrary to a Christian worldview but in line with Leftist ideology, the school would have been roundly condemned for suppressing free speech. But since her view angered Black Lives Matter activists, few sympathize with her plight.

Brock’s story is an all-too-common phenomenon in our country. An average American posts an opinion on social media or offends activists in real life, and the left-wing mob proceeds to ruin that person’s life over it. The recent unrest has produced several cases of this “cancel culture.”

Leftists doxxed and harassed a Methodist University student last weekend for the crime of waving a Trump flag at a Black Lives Matter demonstration. The angry internet posters demanded that the school expel the student, and urged people to harass her family.


Jaden McNeil, a conservative student at Kansas State University, faced expulsion demands, family doxxing, and death threats over a tweet where he joked about George Floyd’s sobriety. Kansas State’s football team threatened to boycott the upcoming season if McNeil was not expelled for his joke. The public university probably realized it couldn’t expel McNeil and so instead issued a new racial justice policy to assuage the mob. The school made no attempts to rebuke the intense harassment and violent threats against the conservative student. Students insist that they are “totally scared” to return to Kansas State because of the tweet. Seriously

Two incoming students withdrew from Missouri State University last month after being harassed for allegedly insensitive racial comments. One student mocked the phrase “black girl magic” in a Facebook exchange, the other one made light of George Floyd’s death. The school publicly stated it wished it could rescind the offers to the two students, but said it legally couldn’t do so. The mob achieved what it wanted anyway: a campus free of these two offenders.

A Vermont principal was suspended from his job for sharing a conservative anti-Black Lives Matter video on his private Facebook page. Left-wing activists found the post and launched a harassment campaign against the school to get him fired. The Northeastern York school district apologized for the harm caused by the video shared on the principal’s private page and scheduled a board hearing on whether he would keep his job. 

A nurse in Burlington, North Carolina, lost her job last week after she called Black Lives Matter “a political trick to upset a group of people to riot and terrorize” on her Facebook page. The president of the North Carolina affiliate of the American College of Nurse-Midwives promises to make sure the state’s nursing board never allows someone like this to have a nursing job again.

A Catholic priest was suspended from pastoral duties after criticizing Black Lives Matter and Antifa in a public statement. Protesters have demanded more changes in the wake of this statement. 

A California man was fired last month for appearing to make the “OK” hand sign while passing by a Black Lives Matter demonstration. The Hispanic man said he was just cracking his knuckles, but the gas and electric company he worked for believed the activists’ claim he made a “white power” gesture. 

A restaurant in Lynchburg, Virginia, was destroyed by rioters last month after the owner posted an image mocking Governor Ralph Northam’s blackface photo. The restaurant owner apologized to the rioters for the pain he caused. No arrests were made in connection to the property damage.

These are just a few examples of what is now a common feature of American life. You can log on social media every day and encounter viral posts about how some offender to progressive orthodoxy needs to be punished. These ordinary Americans face permanent damage to their reputations and job prospects just for expressing their opinions in posts on their own private social media pages. Meanwhile, rioters can get away with millions in property damage and raze statues to the ground without facing any consequences. 

This is the real “cancel culture” and we all have to live with it. Many liberals say cancel culture doesn’t exist because they focus only on celebrity cases. Or they immediately contradict themselves and say these normal Americans deserve the pain they suffered. Conservatives are somewhat responsible for this flippant attitude. Too many in conservative media spend their energy defending Hollywood liberals who only suffer criticism or one lost opportunity. The conservatives cry “cancel culture” whenever someone with power and wealth gets called out by the woke, yet too often they ignore the more serious cases of cancel culture affecting ordinary people.

Comedian Kevin Hart facing criticism for past jokes is not as bad as a random college student getting expelled and receiving death threats for saying the media overreacts to white-on-black murders. Hart kept his job and got to move on with this life. Ashleigh Brock doesn’t have that luxury. Her Google history calls her a despicable racist and colleges may deny her on the basis of her past expulsion. Her life will require a lot of work and time to get back on track—and it’s all because she shared her opinion. In America?

Cancel culture is not some frivolous right-wing meme. It’s real and it harms real people. Like a less-lethal Stasi, it ensures people stay silent and comply with whatever those with power impose on us. Freedom of speech becomes meaningless when you lose your job and have your entire family harassed by politically-protected activists for not bowing to Black Lives Matter.

Land of the free? Not so much anymore.

Great America

When America’s Cyberwarfare Capabilities Are Used Against Us

American taxpayers invest huge sums to develop the world’s leading capabilities in the field of cyberwarfare. Are we to believe that there should be no regulation for sophisticated intelligence techniques and cyberwarfare capabilities?

Shadowy American military and intelligence contractors going rogue—using sophisticated spying technologies and techniques honed over years of government service for personal gain—is the stuff of James Bond films.

What stops those with these crucial national security skills from selling them to the highest bidder, providing foreign states these capabilities, and even targeting Americans?

That nightmare scenario is already a reality, according to an explosive legal complaint by venture capitalist Elliott Broidy and reported by the Washington Free Beacon.

Broidy, former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, alleges in a lawsuit filed last month that veteran CIA, NSA, and U.S. military members—acting as hackers-for-hire—were employed by the government of Qatar to target Americans and others around the world. The group of former intelligence operatives was marketed by a company called Global Risk Advisors (GRA), whose CEO Kevin Chalker is a former CIA case officer. 

According to the complaint, the group barely concealed its hacking capabilities in marketing materials, offering “penetration testing”—which refers to hacking into a network to identify its security weaknesses on its website. The company also published a promotional video in which the firm admits to having “advanced techniques to penetrate target networks,” including custom spear-phishing campaigns. 

Qatar allegedly paid GRA upwards of $100 million in consulting contracts, mostly for illegal activities. Their work allegedly began in the wake of Qatar’s World Cup bid, which was mired in controversy about the country’s slave-like labor practices for building World Cup infrastructure and by a bribery scandal now under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. According to the complaint, GRA “outlined their ability to employ intelligence community skills and covert action campaigns” to be used against Qatar’s critics in the World Cup debate. It goes on to say that following a successful deployment against various FIFA officials, Qatar turned to GRA to carry out a range of operations targeting prominent American critics.

Ali al-Thawadi, a Qatari official who is the chief of staff to the Qatari Emir’s brother, allegedly was GRA’s primary contact, receiving regular briefings in which the American contractors delivered sensitive information about American citizens acquired through computer hacking, as well as physical and electronic surveillance efforts, “the information GRA brought to [al-Thawdi] included highly personal, non-public information on American citizens.”

According to the complaint: 

Mr. Chalker and GRA identified and proposed multiple national security enhancements and surveillance work, including “Project Deviant,” in which GRA would train Qatari officers in defensive counter-intelligence and offensive intelligence collection tactics, including advanced, sophisticated skills that trained former U.S. intelligence and military operatives are typically barred from sharing or conferring unto foreign governments.

Qatar has spent billions to convince Americans it is a U.S. ally despite its close ties to Iran, its role as one of the largest funders of global jihadist terror, and its support for anti-American Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet almost inexplicably, Qatar remains highly favored by many of America’s senior military and intelligence leaders.

If it is true that highly trained American former service members and intelligence personnel are sharing our country’s sensitive capabilities with a foreign government like Qatar, there is cause for genuine concern about the country’s national security.

American taxpayers invest huge sums to develop the world’s leading capabilities in the field of cyberwarfare. Defense materials and services, even for relatively common items like rifles and shotguns—or training in their usage—are strictly regulated by International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Are we to believe that there should be no similar regulation for sophisticated intelligence techniques and cyberwarfare capabilities?

If all it takes is a few hundred million dollars to acquire some of the most important capabilities of the U.S. defense and intelligence agencies, what is to stop others from getting into the market? Organized crime, drug cartels, terrorist groups, and a range of other hostile governments could easily pony up the cash and do unimaginable damage. 

It is a time for our law enforcement, national security agencies, and legislators to get serious about this growing problem. America’s citizens—and their interests—hang in the balance. 

Great America

Five Myths Leftists Push About Donald Trump and Conservatives

A primer on the Left’s most self-soothing and tiresome fables.

The head of the Republican Party at this moment is President Donald Trump, and conservatives generally agree with him on most of his policy positions. Although conservatives may wish at times to rearrange some of his sentences, especially on Twitter, they recognize that the Left is fully committed to slandering the president and, by extension, them. Here are five of the most common ways they do this. 

Myth 1: Trump is a racist

When you ask a leftist why they think Donald Trump is racist, they usually cite two things. One of them is from his “inflammatory” announcement speech at Trump Tower in 2015, when he said: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime.

But what’s actually going on at the border?

Human trafficking remains a real and deadly problem. Women and children trying to get across our southern border are raped, sometimes sold into sex or labor slavery, and some are left to die in the desert. Can we call the criminals who gain from this practice “good people”? 

The Rio Grande Valley in Texas saw 2.9 million pounds of drugs seized between 2012 and 2015 and there were 3.9 million pounds seized in Arizona as it crossed our southern border during the same time frame. The people trafficking those drugs aren’t of sweet and sunny dispositions, and some may even call them “bad people.” 

In 2015, Barack Obama’s DEA reported that Mexican gangs “remain [the] greatest criminal drug threat to the United States.” I would bet in a pinch that Obama would probably admit that he wouldn’t want to walk into a dark alley and meet up with a Mexican gang member running drugs.

The next thing the leftist will say is “Charlottesville!” to try to make you forget about Mexican gangs. “Charlottesville” is supposed to indicate to “woke” folks that our president is no better than a KKK member, an Archie Bunker type whose hatred for any color other than pasty-white is absolute. When the city government of Charlottesville, Virginia voted in 2017 to remove a statue of Robert E Lee, it inspired protesters and counter-protesters—each side was largely peaceful, but there were a few idiots in the crowd, and one committed the heinous crime of running over a protester, killing her and injuring others.

President Trump commented on this, noting there were good people on both sides. There were. Here are the president’s actual words: “Excuse me, they didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group—excuse me, excuse me, I saw the same pictures you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.” 

And then, crucially, he followed up with: “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and white nationalists because they should be condemned totally.”

So, he actually condemned white nationalists and neo-Nazis, but that’s not what the mainstream media reported. The Daily Caller documented at least five times the New York Times misquoted the president following Charlottesville. John Lott, Jr., writing for The Hill, described how ABC and NBC got Charlottesville wrong, and how most mainstream media is too quick to believe negative stories and quotes taken out of context coming from our president.

It doesn’t matter that he has employed thousands of Americans of all races. It doesn’t matter if “Rev. Jesse Jackson once praised [him] for being a “friend” who embraced “the under-served communities.” It doesn’t matter if he sheltered a minority pop star whose family members were found murdered in 2008. It doesn’t matter if he’s given more money to Historically Black Colleges and Universities than any other president or signed into law the First Step Act and created Opportunity Zones to help inner-city and mainly minority communities. He is a racist because Democrats say he is.

Myth 2: Donald Trump is a fascist

In order to understand this argument, you have to know what an actual fascist is. 

Merriam-Webster defines fascism as “a political philosophy, movement, or regime . . . that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”

When the rule of law is applied equally, a leader cannot be described as a dictator. When has the rule of law not been applied equally under President Trump’s direction? A Medium blog post attempted to build a case against the president as an “American dictator.” The author has a problem with the president’s decree that he would build a wall with no debate, no haggling or negotiation, no consideration of alternatives.” As with most complaints emanating from the Left, it would have been funny if not for the maddening lack of historical reference or understanding of executive orders. Protecting the American people is job number one for any president. Porous borders allowing both good and bad people to sneak through do not protect the American people.

Americans are welcoming. We want immigrants to come here in good faith. That message really gets lost in all the back and forth bickering between political parties. We want to know who you are, where you came from, if you have a criminal past, and whether you will follow all our laws. Simple. Why is this an argument?

Secondly, back in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan passed an amnesty bill that granted amnesty to nearly 3 million illegal immigrants granting them legal status in the country. The law was supposed to have teeth. Employers were supposed to follow strict laws regarding hiring practices for immigrants and the borders were supposed to have been secured. During negotiations in Congress, the bill was stripped of those requirements, and a watered-down version was passed. Americans who were promised a more secure America were duped, and the poorest communities suffered the most as underpaid migrants continued to take their jobs and suppress their wages.

Most other arguments advancing the notion that Trump is a fascist are garbled word salad amounting to “I hate Trump! He makes me sad!” Other strained arguments amount to complaints about the Constitution, specifically the electoral college. The Left believes that Trump is illegitimate because he lost the popular vote but was nevertheless elected by the electoral college. The electoral college, leftists insist, is “undemocratic,” and that’s one of the things that make conservatives fascists.

To this, we should say “hooey!” I also say, “Damn right, it’s not democratic, since unfettered democracy is nothing but mob rule.” We are not a democracy, thank God. We are a representative republic.

Myth 3: Conservatives are anti-woman

Feminists believe conservatives are anti-woman mostly because of our stance on abortion. They say “hands off my body” and “my body; my choice.” Except it’s not solely their bodies we are concerned with. It’s other peoples’ bodies, namely the bodies of their innocent children. Between 1973 and the end of 2017, there have been 60,069,971 abortions in America. Headlines read, “tens of millions of girls have been killed in sex-selection abortion.” and “Planned Parenthood Claims ‘Black Lives Matter,’ But Kills 247 Black Babies in Abortion Every Day.” Slightly less than half of these aborted babies are female. What about their bodies? What about their rights?

Conservatives also believe that women should be able to compete against biological women in sports. Feminists have fought to provide girls with equal athletic opportunitiesand won that right in 1972’s Title IX Gender Equity in Education. Rather than continue to stand with women in these sports, however, the Left has decided that the new feminism promotes the inclusion of biological men in women’s sports. Actual feminists and athletes speaking out against women competing against biological males get canceled in the outrage culture we find ourselves in. As biological females get their heads cracked by biological males in the ring, are robbed of scholarship slots, and denied their rightful place on the podium, leftist “feminists” need to check their privilege.

Myth 4: Conservatives don’t care about poor people

Democrats have been running nearly every troubled inner city for decades, and in some cases, over a century (Washington, D.C. and Newark, NJ). If Democrats have the answers to these inner city struggles, they have been keeping them to themselves. Everything the Left has done to try to help the urban poor has doomed its constituents.

So, what will actually help the poor? Jobs, opportunity, and stable family structure. The Left has no idea (or interest) in job creation in these failing cities. How about kicking Democrat leaders to the curb and trying something new, like a Republican government?

Myth 5: Conservatives are tyrannical, and the Left is “liberal”

If the Left were truly liberal, there wouldn’t be a “cancel culture.” Liberal basically means to live and let live. The word liberal comes from “liberty” which means freedom, and “liberate,” which means to make free. When free speech becomes sometimes-free-if-we-like-what-you-say, the “liberal” Left becomes the tyrannical Left.

People who won’t let you talk on campus because they don’t like your ideas aren’t liberals. People who decide what the “correct” term has to be to describe something aren’t liberals. People who want to keep you out of a certain place because of the color of your skin could hardly be called liberals. People who censor ideas dissimilar to their own on social media aren’t liberals. These people are fascist leftists.

Even as leftists bill themselves as promoters of tolerance, they prove almost daily they are tolerant of no one with a different opinion or who wishes to live in a different way than they deem correct. They are fascists because they don’t allow others to disagree. Actual liberals give the government some power in order to protect the rights of the individual. Fascist leftists demand that the government punish those who don’t go along with their arbitrary rules.

Liberal (or libertarian-leaning) conservatives may not agree with what you are saying, but we will fight for your right to say it.

Great America

A Tale of Two Progressives

There’s a certain poetic justice in Princeton’s canceling of Woodrow Wilson, who was—irony of ironies—the granddaddy of today’s left-wing cancel culture.

I don’t remember the specifics of what I was told in school about Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States (1901-09), and Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president (1913-21), but I remember what I came away with—namely, the vague notion that while both men were leading lights of the turn-of-the-century “Progressive Era,” they were two very different figures.

Roosevelt, I was led to understand, was something of a bumptious macho clown who called the White House a “bully pulpit” and who charged up San Juan Hill on horseback during the Spanish-American War. By contrast, Wilson was a gentleman and a scholar—and a lover of peace—who crafted the Treaty of Versailles, invented the League of Nations, and was president of Princeton before he became president of the United States. 

Years went by before I learned the truth: namely, that Roosevelt was a brilliant polymath who fought corruption, broke up dangerous corporate monopolies of the sort now represented by Google and Amazon, won the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War, built the Panama Canal, and wrote dozens of books on subjects ranging from travel and nature to politics and naval history. A passionate lover of the environment and believer in conservation, he established the National Park Service and authorized the creation of several National Parks. 

Woodrow Wilson, too, wrote several books, but by no means so many as TR. All of them were about politics and government, reflecting the fact that he was less of a “man in full” (as TR was) than a policy wonk avant la lettre. A strong believer in expanding the power of the state—he would have liked to toss out the Constitution (which he considered “antiquated”) and institute a parliamentary system—Wilson was the father of modern big-government liberalism, later manifested in FDR’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. 

Notoriously, Wilson oversaw the passage of the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, under which a staggering number of citizens were arrested for questioning his policies, and more than a thousand, including labor leader and Socialist politician Eugene V. Debs, were sent to prison. (Debs’s 10-year sentence, for criticizing the U.S. entry into World War I, was commuted by Wilson’s Republican successor, Warren G. Harding.)

The Realm of Race

But perhaps the major difference between TR and Wilson was in the realm of race. 

Roosevelt, for his time, was remarkably enlightened on the topic. In 1901, he famously invited Booker T. Washington and his family to dinner at the White House, the first time a sitting president had ever broken bread with black guests. When he first thought of extending the invitation, he hesitated, knowing that he’d get flak for it, but he was at once so ashamed of his own hesitation that he lost no time in arranging the dinner. The event caused immense controversy that resonated for years, but it also marked a huge leap forward toward racial equality. 

By contrast, the Virginia-born Wilson was a hard-bitten racist, more virulent in his contempt for blacks than many other Southern whites of his time. While helming Princeton, he kept its student body white, even as other Ivy League colleges were beginning to admit blacks. As president of the United States, he hosted a screening of “Birth of a Nation, a film that celebrated the Ku Klux Klan, and he undid the integration of government offices.

Yet, as I say, as a schoolboy I was presented with a glowing picture of Wilson, the Democrat, and a not-so-glowing picture of TR, the Republican. The reason is clear: even back then, the people who wrote the history textbooks were overwhelmingly New Deal and Great Society Democrats for whom Wilson was the real Founding Father.

This tradition of Wilson worship, not only in school textbooks but in the culture generally, started early on. One prominent example is the Technicolor biopic “Wilson” (1944), which was a “personal crusade” for 20th Century Fox honcho—and ardent Wilson fan—Darryl F. Zanuck; the most expensive Hollywood movie of its time, its blatant hagiography led it to become a box office flop. 

As recently as 2013, another worshiper at Wilson’s altar, A. Scott Berg, published a biography of Wilson so ludicrously uncritical that each chapter began with a Biblical quotation. “Berg apparently wants us to view Wilson as Jesus, reviled and beaten by the Roman soldiers,” wrote one reviewer. “Does he want us to think that Wilson was the divine Christ?” On the subject of Wilson’s profound racism, Berg was totally in denial, arguing (inanely) that Wilson, by supporting segregation, sought to “promote racial progress . . . by shocking the social system as little as possible.” 

Princeton’s Choice

Five years ago, the New York Times felt obliged to cover a fresh rash of Wilson criticism. 

“Wilson’s record on race has long been debated among historians,” wrote Jennifer Schuessler. “But in the past two weeks, the topic has burst into broader view, thanks to student protesters at Princeton who have demanded, among other things, that the former president’s name be removed from its prestigious Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.” 

In fact, it’s long been obvious that Wilson’s record on race was deplorable; if historians have ignored, denied, or relativized that record, it’s because their political views incline them to view Wilson with admiration. 

“Going to the mat for Wilson should not be hard,” Rutgers historian David Greenberg told Schuessler. “If your standards are liberal progressive values in general, Wilson deserves to be celebrated.”

Many historians, Schuessler went on to note, were asking “whether Wilson’s racism constitutes a blot on his record or an integral feature of the progressive tradition he helped to found.” The answer is that racism was indeed a key element of the progressivism of a century ago. Progressives were famously big on eugenics. And as historian Nathan Connolly told Schuessler, “Jim Crow segregation was itself a Progressive Era reform.” 

Of course, thanks to the current leftist campaign to cancel pretty much all of American history, the movement to remove Wilson’s name from the school at Princeton has now succeeded—along with the campaign to take down the famous statue of Teddy Roosevelt from outside the American Museum of Natural History in New York. 

Was it a good idea for Princeton to cave in this fashion? On June 30, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat argued that even though “many of Wilson’s legacies were disastrous, including an imperial understanding of the presidency that’s deformed our constitutional structure ever since, the messianic style in American foreign policy that gave us Vietnam and Iraq, and a solidification of Jim Crow under a scientific-racist guise,” it’s wrong to rip his name off the Wilson School, given that he introduced “the idealistic, interventionist worldview” that informs the school’s policy ideas. 

Fair enough. Still, there’s a certain poetic justice in Princeton’s canceling of Wilson, who, after all, not only gave us Wilsonian foreign policy but also, by outdoing his White House predecessors in his attempts to crush dissent, was—irony of ironies—the granddaddy of today’s left-wing cancel culture. In any case, Wilson would hardly be the first politician ever to be hoisted by his own petard. At least he’s been dead for nearly a century and therefore, unlike Robespierre, isn’t a candidate to be beheaded by his own guillotine. 

Great America

If You Want Diversity, Make Homeschooling Permanent

Veteran homeschoolers know what America really looks like.

Suddenly all of America is homeschooling. I could never have imagined it. The whole homeschooling community now

“looks like America.” What most people fail to understand, however, is that the homeschooling community always did. 

On a beautiful June morning when my one and only child graduated from high school, I was struck yet again by the lunacy of left-wing mythology. Homeschooling, leftists assure us, is the domain of white, right-wing, Christian fundamentalists whose only concern is that their children not learn about evolution. 

My son graduated from the California Virtual Academy, an online school in 2017. Long before the rest of the country joined in, CAVA students were studying at home on computers. They communicated with their teachers and fellow students through online discussions. 

On graduation day there were about 200 students gathered in the auditorium. According to the shallow principles of the Left, it was a graduating class that “looked like America.” That is to say, by the Left’s skin-deep standards, this was a diverse group, with a large representation of black and Hispanic students. 

The young lady who, beautifully, sang the national anthem was black. The young man who delivered the class prayer was Hispanic. The young man who delivered the valedictory address was Jewish. In all the ways in which leftists value diversity—genitalia, skin color, and lack of Christianity—the CAVA class of 2017 was certainly diverse. I admit, despite knowing better, I was impressed by how well this homeschooled class fulfilled the Left’s ideas of diversity. 

But that is counting diversity in leftist terms. Let’s look at diversity in terms that have less to do with melanin and more to do with meaning and substance. Let us examine true diversity—diversity of thought.

Through online groups, sports classes, and group outings, I’ve gotten to know a lot of homeschooling families. There is no such thing as a typical homeschooler. Of course there are the devout Christians—believers in a young earth, disbelievers in evolution. But there are also hippies who worry about the “militarization” of public schools. 

There are the academic homeschoolers, concerned with the lack of academic excellence in public schools. These parents teach their kids with only the most arcane methods such as diagramming sentences and memorizing multiplication tables. And believe it or not, a whole group of homeschoolers exists that thinks public schools are too academically rigorous, and homeschool to keep their kids from being pushed too hard. 

From Left to Right and all points in between, a homeschool group will provide far more diversity of thought than you will find at any Washington, D.C. cocktail party or CNN talk show. The only rule is: you don’t tell me how to educate my child; I won’t tell you how to educate your child.

I have never seen so much intellectual diversity in my life as when among those in the homeschooling community. You can teach your child the earth is 5,000 years old or you can teach your child we only have 10 years to save the planet. You can even teach your child the lost art of cursive writing. Your child, your choice. 

Great America

Big Philanthropy and the Battle Against ‘Systemic Racism’

The millennialist mindset of Big Philanthropy and its fellow travelers leaves one susceptible to any world-saving scheme that comes down the pike.

Who would have thought the Gates Foundation would endorse tearing down statues of Christopher Columbus, Ulysses S. Grant, George Washington, and other dead white men?

Sure, you won’t find “mob violence,” “vandalism,” or “destruction of public property” in any grant applications, but the paroxysms of rage racking our country and the desire to rip racism from America by root and branch is the end-product of Big Philanthropy’s governing ideology.

To understand why, you have to know the difference between charity and philanthropy.

When a charity sees a hungry widow and her toddler daughter, it buys food and gives it to them. Save-a-Soul Mission would offer a sermon with the soup but that was pretty much the end of it.

When a philanthropy sees a hungry widow and child, it pays 1,800 overeducated, post-graduate credentialed, deracinated, privileged children of the elites to study crop yields, food distribution patterns, income inequality, demographic trends, and to design and implement a comprehensive 600-page program using the most sophisticated computer models to predict what will absolutely, certainly, definitively eliminate poverty. In the meantime, it will place the widow’s child with foster parents of better means and provide a micro loan to develop the mother’s entrepreneurial superpower.

Where charity seeks to feed the hungry, scientific philanthropy seeks to eliminate the causes of hunger. The charitable impulse says if you save one person you have saved the world. The philanthropic impulse says system-wide change will be the salvation of humanity.

Asked why it hadn’t given to the homeless camped in front of its $500 million headquarters, a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spokesperson said, “We’re trying to move upstream to a systems-level to either prevent family homelessness before it happens or to end it as soon as possible after it happens.”

This impulse “to identify an underlying cause” has become a reflex among our governing classes. This explains why some look at a nine-minute video and see incontrovertible evidence of “systemic racism”—something that requires the wholesale transformation of society—rather than evidence of one incident of wrongdoing. There must be something “upstream” of the horrific spectacle that needs to be fixed at the “systems-level.”

We saw the upstream tropism at work when the Obama State Department declared “we need to go after the root causes that lead people to join” ISIS, “whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs” or poor governance. “We cannot kill our way out of this war,” they believed, as if only an unsophisticated simpleton would consider winning a war by killing the enemy.

Big Philanthropy and Big Government: Partners in Technocracy

Big Philanthropy’s rise coincided with the rise of the Progressives and the mindset of scientific philanthropy has much in common with Progressive ideology. They share a belief that technology, centralization, and rationalism can be deployed by specially trained technocrats to guide the world to perfection. Sociologist James C. Scott describes it as, “a supreme self-confidence about . . . increasing control over nature (including human nature) commensurate with scientific understanding.”

Big Philanthropy works in partnership with Big Government. The nonprofit sector provides a proving ground for programs the state then brings to scale. Government is the biggest nonprofit of them all.

The Progressives’ and philanthropy’s belief in technocratic solutions—the notion that the principles of efficient industrial engineering can be applied to society—gave rise to numerous social engineering experiments.

To save children of indigent Catholics from poverty, reformers would remove children from their parents and send them to be raised by Protestant families in the Midwest. The child-saving zealots moved on from Catholic families to the native inhabitants of the United States, Canada, and Australia. It was hubris and condescension, not racism, that drove them.

Those earlier reformers’ readiness to tear apart families has an analog in today’s Maoist activists who announce their intent to “disrupt” the nuclear family. We can’t let something as backward and primal as human instincts get in the way of a new and improved social order.

Against Busybody-ism

The millennialist mindset of Big Philanthropy and its fellow travelers leaves one susceptible to any world-saving scheme that comes down the pike, whether it be socialism, eugenics (another favorite of the early Progressives and philanthropists), prohibition or one-world-ism.

Eliminating systemic racism, including the elimination of the American nation and the nuclear family as we know it, is the latest in a long line of irrational projects Americans have signed on to in the name of scientific and technological rationality.  

But it makes sense that liberal reformers would see America is irredeemably flawed, though not for the reasons they say. It has nothing to do with racism, be it systemic, entrenched, unconscious or otherwise.

The political philosophy governing America is Leave-me-alone-ism, and that, at its root, is antithetical to busybody reformers who want to get in everyone’s business with grandiose schemes to remake the world.

Great America

Useful Idiots in Jockstraps

If the NBA and NFL are now acting as ad agencies for political organizations, shouldn’t the IRS review the tax breaks that allow them to operate as monopolies?

Two enormous businesses, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Football League (NFL), reap astronomical profits as the byproduct of legislation that effectively has given them legal monopoly status. The leagues, in turn, rake in more profits when large corporations pay huge sums for skyboxes and other perks, and then write it all off as business expenses with the IRS.

That’s all fine and dandy when the leagues do what they do best: Make small groups of large, sweaty, millionaire “college graduates” 

(some resembling a hulking bipedal refrigerator with tattoos)move around a defined space with a ball.

These extremely rich, intellectual titans, who play children’s games for tens of millions of dollars, and whose products are illuminated numbers on scoreboards—totals that would not challenge the counting ability of a 7-year-old—are now dictating social justice slogans to hundreds of millions of their ticket-purchasing fans, fee-paying cable and social media users, as well as to the taxpayers who subsidize their arenas.

Here are a few of their chosen slogans: “Black Lives Matter,” “Say Their Names,” “Vote,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “Justice,” “Peace,” “Equality,” “Freedom,” “Enough,” “Power to the People,” “Justice Now,” “Say Her Name,” “Sí Se Puede” (Yes We Can), “Liberation,” “See Us,” “Hear Us,” “Respect Us,” “Love Us,” “Listen,” “Listen to Us,” “Stand Up,” “Ally,” “Anti-Racist,” “I Am A Man,” “Speak Up,” “How Many More,” “Group Economics,” “Education Reform,” and “Mentor.”

Here’s my question: As a viewer, why should I be subjected to a deluge of unpaid political commercials, when all I really want to do is watch these “intellectually astute” millionaire athletes dramatically move a ball around so that I might be entertained . . . or perhaps even given a chance to wager a bit.

Given that the aforementioned messages are tied to the expressly leftist sloganeering currently in vogue, one might ask: If the Left can get free political advertising, why can’t other groups have the same opportunities? Like pedophiles: “Not Too Young For Me!” or zoophiles: “Baa! Not Sheepish Anymore!”

And then there is the implicit holier-than-thou attitude of the various players who will be shilling for the Left. 

To disclose the millionaire-player hypocrisy involved, shouldn’t the NBA and the NFL be required to release the police records of all its jocks? Or the birth records of children whose ballplayer fathers have not accepted parental responsibility? Or the records of prescribed drugs needed by those athletes to continue playing? Or the divorce records revealing domestic abuse? After all, wouldn’t a dogfight organizer, a felonious assault perpetrator, or a wife-beater look ridiculous with the words “Say Her Name!” or “Justice Now!” or “Enough!” on the back of his shirt?

Add to this the lunacy that many of the 2,146 (450 NBA players/1,696 NFL players) millionaire geniuseswho with stern faces and closed fist salutes take a knee against “oppression” and “slavery”are completely oblivious to the fact that their league uniforms, sneakers, shoes, and promotional trinkets are made in China by 21st-century child slave laborers. 

Yup, geniuses. 

And then there is the blatant hypocrisy of the Marxist-Leninist Black Lives Matter folks: Given the horrendous slaughter of black lives by black gangs, a hard statistic which goes completely unacknowledged by the Marxist-Leninist BLM, wouldn’t it be fair (and within First Amendment rights we all share) to add the simple coda: “Black Lives Matter—only if it’s convenient for the Marxist BLM lie.”

Thus, a Marxist-Leninist propaganda slogan becomes a clear and accurate statement of fact.

Dear ole Tovarich Vladimir Ilyich must have been clairvoyant in predicting the behavior of the NBA and NFL; after all, it was Lenin who, upon seeing Western communist sympathizers, coined the term “useful idiots.”

If the NBA and NFL are now acting as advertising agencies for political organizations, shouldn’t the IRS and state and local taxation agencies review the tax breaks which allow them to operate as monopolies? How about now?