Weekend Read: How the Media Fueled the Lockdowns

Estimated Reading Time: 28 minutes

COVID-19 triggered lockdowns around the world never before seen. It isn’t the worst pandemic the world has seen, so why were government interventions so swift? There are really two reasons. One, broadband and laptops. Had there not been ways to continue working for the governments and remote learning to bridge education, we’d have not seen lockdowns beyond May 2020.

The second reason, tied to the first reason, is the media. The majority of the media coverage shamed any lockdown dissent and even drove it. Those that stood up to that, select states and even countries faced immense pressure from national and global media.

Within the United States, the role of the media within government policy is to critically analyze, to keep them honest. With COVID-19, open debate about risks and government interventions was shut down. For the first sixteen months of the pandemic, not only was the origination of COVID-19 not up for debate, it was suppressed and censored by major platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

As of June 2022 it’s considered more likely than not to have originated from the Wuhan lab, something even the WHO is now investigating. Reopen schools in 2020? The media put so much pressure to keep them closed that few politicians thought critically and acted to keep them open. Even with that, remote options were available and employed, fracturing education for a year and a half. In some states schools were closed for seventeen months.

A string of recent examples involve Dr. Deborah Birx. Along with Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx architected and drove the lockdowns in 2020. In 2022 Dr. Birx was on her book promotion media tour and repeatedly said we lost hundreds of thousands of lives due to poor federal actions (of which she was a part). How many interviewers pressed her for the math behind that? Zero. 

After 24 months into the pandemic, fifteen months of that with vaccines and 14/24 months under President Biden, the daily COVID-19 death counts were materially identical between both administrations.

Below is an excerpt from the book COVID-19: The Science vs. The Lockdowns on how the media drove the lockdowns, gaining plenty of voter support to where politicians faced better polling by continuing lockdowns rather than opening up.

Social media has become the primary news source for more Americans than any other medium. Imagine if COVID-19 struck in the 1980s before cable television. Primary news sources were 1) network news, 2) major newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post and 3) local newspapers.

Those mediums covered COVID-19 in 2020 as if it were a category five pandemic and drove opinion that schools and restaurants should be closed and everyone should be masked, perhaps even at home and in the car. They constantly reported that hospitals were lined up over capacity with sick, dying patients. However, we’d be looking around our communities not seeing much activity. We’d know it was out there, but we’d see hospitals were empty and few we knew were getting sick.

Remember, other than the four to six weeks when a community got hit, you wouldn’t know COVID-19 was a pandemic. Outside those surge periods, doctors would have assumed it was a weird or strong flu or something. The symptoms were similar to the flu, just worse if you were vulnerable enough to be hospitalized. If COVID-19 struck communities it was like a few-week hurricane, and it left a vacuum of emptiness in hospitals.

In my home town of Dallas, some well-intentioned college kids visited Parkland Hospital downtown to take care packages to frontline workers when we were in tight lockdown in April 2020. The nurse at receiving thanked them and laughed. She told them that they had no COVID-19 activity and with non-COVID-19 patients kept away, it was empty [Parkland did get a large wave in late 2020]. She walked them down darkened halls free of patients, nurses and doctors. Their voices echoed as they talked in the silence.

Nearly all major media outlets were absent any COVID-19 information suggesting the risk didn’t support the lockdowns. Fox News’ primetime shows often reported on it. Newsmax and One America News did too, but their viewership was relatively low, less than a half million viewers combined. That left 99% of America without a view from the mainstream media that maybe the lockdowns were not the best path.

Nearly all data to counter lockdowns originated with Twitter users. It largely began with Alex Berenson’s constant pouring of data to counter the models that triggered the lockdowns. Berenson began appearing on Fox News weekly in April 2020. Other Twitter users like The Ethical Skeptic (don’t laugh, he stays anonymous but the guy is a genius) and contributors to Rational Ground provided nearly all hardcore data.

If Twitter did not exist, it’s hard to imagine where data to support stopping lockdowns would have come from. Hold your thoughts on the mention of Fox News if you’re not a conservative. We need open thought and debate on something as huge as worldwide lockdowns. It was a sad state of journalism that Fox News was the only major media company to offer this, though by summer 2020 the Wall Street Journal did some quality analysis on the lockdowns. Most media outlets were very selective on their reporting on the lockdowns.

Where We Get The News

ABC’s World News Tonight leads network news with about nine million viewers nightly, followed by NBC Nightly News’s seven million viewers and CBS Evening News’s five million.  Fox News typically gets about three million viewers, followed by MSNBC’s 1.5 million and CNN’s one million viewers. It’s very fair to say that—and there may be some overlap—23 million television news watchers were getting pro-lockdown, closed school, and face mask support from all programming except Fox News primetime. Online news and media sites touch hundreds of millions viewers. Below is Statista’s breakdown of the most frequented online news sources based on unique monthly visitors:

News Source Monthly Visitors
Yahoo News 175 million
Google News 150 million
Huffington Post 110 million
CNN 95 million
The New York Times 70 million
Fox News 65 million
NBC News 63 million
The Washington Post 47 million
The Guardian 42 million
The Wall Street Journal 40 million
ABC News 36 million
USA Today 34 million
LA Times 33 million

The Atlantic self-reported that they received ninety million unique online visitors in March 2020.

There is obvious overlap of the same unique visitors to many of these news outlets. Within this breakdown, for a solid year into the pandemic, the only major news sources that were offering coverage against the lockdowns were Fox News and the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. The Guardian ran a few pieces on lockdown damage, mostly harm from school closings, as did the New York Times. While the Times pushed many lockdown measures, they did some excellent reporting on school closings. In general, there’s a ratio of 845 million to 105 million, or better than 88% coverage driving continued lockdowns, school closings, and face mask mandates.

Social Media

An enormous and growing source of news Americans receive is through Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Pew Research identified that 36% of U.S. adults get their news from Facebook; ninety million people of the 170 million Facebook users. About sixty million adults get news from YouTube and fifty million from Twitter. Now, most of the news on these social media platforms often originates from the news sources above. However, just like large news organizations demonstrated bias in what they reported, the social media platforms demonstrated bias in what they allowed to circulate.

Facebook

Facebook has become a primary news resource for hundreds of millions of Americans and others worldwide. They did some good too. Facebook created a vaccine finder tool used by millions to help them secure vaccines more efficiently. They also became the arbiter of COVID-19 news and what they called misinformation. Facebook removed sixteen million pieces of information that they deemed inappropriate even if they did not violate their rules, like comments and articles discouraging wearing masks or getting vaccines. They removed the Great Barrington Declaration page. Do a quick search and find the GBD and read through it – it’s short. It condemns the one-size-fits-all lockdown measures like closing schools and businesses, and rather stresses the importance of those measurably at risk to be protected, whether in a long-term care facility or at home.

Are those crazy concepts that should not be open for discussion? Kang-Xing Jin was a college friend of Mark Zuckerberg and took the lead on COVID-19 information and misinformation for Facebook. KX has no medical background, but then neither do I; that’s no showstopper to analyze data, risk, and consequence. The stickiness comes in when the giant tech companies that shape our lives can’t draw the line between misinformation and healthy debate and discussion.

Facebook pages, messages, and posted articles that promoted that kids had zero COVID-19 risk, that discouraged masks, and argued that no requirement should be made to wear masks were all at risk of censorship. They banned “misinformation” related to theories ranging from saying SARS-CoV-2 was man made to posting that it’s safer to get the disease rather than the vaccine.

As for the latter, based on VAERS (vaccine adverse event reporting system), that may have been true for those under thirty years old and was definitely true for kids eighteen and under. At a minimum, debating the risk and benefit of an emergency use authorization vaccine is legitimate. Another banned opinion is that COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the flu. As discussed, for those older it was markedly more dangerous. For babies, to at least college age it wasn’t more dangerous than the flu.

Facebook also banned anything stating that the vaccines kill or harm people. Based on the VAERS reporting, Facebook was flat-out wrong. Vaccines did, in very small but measurable cases, cause death. They caused more side effects than all other vaccines over the past couple of decades combined. They absolutely made millions sick. The J&J vaccine I took made me very sick for two days. Having said that, if you were fifty or over or at risk, taking it could make sense. For kids, the encouragement when they were at no risk was also a no-brainer; the vaccines should not have been pushed in 2021 or today. The data doesn’t support the vaccines for healthy kids under five, as the FDA is recommending approval.

YouTube

Very early on, YouTube took down videos that were critical of lockdowns or face mask mandates. YouTube took down a video interview with Dr. Jay Bhattacharya in the spring of 2020, as well as many others that discussed overcounting of COVID-19 deaths or lockdown harms. In March 2021 Florida Governor Ron DeSantis hosted a roundtable discussion with Dr. Scott Atlas and the Great Barrington Declaration doctors Jay Bhattacharya, Martin Kulldorff, and Sunetra Gupta. The triggering comment made was their condemnation of masking children. YouTube took down the video. Bhattacharya, who really is a gentleman, kindly made a comment that he’d love to debate the 24-year-old YouTube employee making that decision. YouTube responded to taking down the roundtable discussion with the following statement:

“We removed this video because it included content that contradicts the consensus of local and global health authorities regarding the efficacy of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We allow videos that otherwise violate our policies to remain on the platform if they contain sufficient educational, documentary, scientific, or artistic context. Our policies apply to everyone, and focus on content regardless of the speaker or channel.”

The problem was the consensus of local and global health authorities were not following the science. These were not public health officials, they were zero-COVID-19 officials.

Twitter

Nearly all original content and data in challenging school closings, hospital capacity, face mask efficacy, closed restaurants and the rest of lockdown measures can be traced back to Twitter. Organized media, a good 90% of it, was driving fear through on-screen graphics and reporting. Very rarely did media outlets contextualize that: 1) the models were wrong, 2) kids were at ~0 risk, 3) mask efficacy was very iffy based on pre-COVID-19 science and the data in the U.S., 4) closing businesses didn’t do anything measurable and 5) not fully reopening schools in the fall of 2020 was insane. The data and critical thinking on these topics originated on Twitter.

Twitter began censoring like crazy after the November 2020 election. Thousands of accounts were blocked, as were millions of tweets questioning mask efficacy, vaccine safety, and anything else not aligned with the CDC. Here’s what this means. The CDC director could tweet out something like “Hospitals are overflowing in California. Please do not leave your house except when necessary.” Someone could reply with “Hospitals are not overflowing; ICUs are only at capacity at 30% of hospitals and half the hospitals don’t have 20% COVID-19 occupancy.”  Bam! That tweet could be flagged or cause an account to be suspended.

Let’s suppose you think the social media companies should have suppressed lockdown criticisms. Go back to 2003. After the U.S. sent troops to Afghanistan, the U.S. decided to invade Iraq. The two justifications were an affiliation to al-Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction residing in Iraq. There was a near-unanimous consensus within Washington D.C. that it was the right move. “Experts” said it was the right move.

In that moment my dad and I sat around watching the news and shaking our heads. At his salty near-80 years of age and a veteran of Korea, he said, “Those bastards are going to send these kids to war and they’ll get killed and for what? Iraq is no threat to America and there’s no proof they were involved in 9-11.” He never again considered himself a Republican and never looked back.

The Iraq War was a huge event in American history. Nearly every politician supported it and there was universal media support. Sound a little like the lockdowns? A huge public policy based on sketchy risk and consequence data. Now imagine if media companies banned criticism of the war – eliminating any healthy debate on something history proved to be a disaster. History will not remember the lockdowns as a proportionate response. This isn’t about freedom of speech. It’s about healthy debate on policies that have enormous consequences.

Puzzle Pieces Connected

This is why the media bias supporting mask mandates, school closings, closed restaurants and the rest of the interventions was so devastating.

COVID-19 was unlike other controversial political issues like gun control or climate change. Everyone had the same starting point, and information was on a level playing field. In this one instance more than any other, we saw how enormous the power of the media is in influencing people’s opinions and the effect that had on policy. Media coverage out of the gate condemned any thinking that closed schools were a bad idea, that open schools were not a risk. The idea that face masks did not work was condemned, and even things like criticizing the closing of indoor dining. There was no open debate.

Media Coverage

It’s still hard to understand why most media outlets were so motivated to drive panic. Many said it was over the November 2020 election. If they could convince voters President Trump did a poor job handling the pandemic, they might vote for a change. There was something to that and it probably worked, but it continued far beyond the election. Two months after the election the CDC was promoting double masking. The first media break in the dike was a shift in February toward opening schools, and in-person learning did go up significantly in the spring of 2021, too little too late for the school year.

While Yahoo News and Google News were the largest online media sources, they were not material originators of content. You can trace media influences to the large outlets like the New York TimesWashington Post, and to a lesser degree the AtlanticFox NewsHuffington PostThe Guardian, and others. Their content then cascaded to larger mediums on Yahoo, Google, Facebook and Twitter.

The New York Times

The Times’ writers published thousands of articles on COVID-19 beginning in early 2020. The Times, and The Washington Post, set the narrative for news. They are foundational media sources because their writings cascade into other analyses from other writers, podcasts, and of course posts on Twitter. The Times drove enormous panic porn in 2020, energizing lockdown policies. Below are some examples.

Tom Friedman

Tom Friedman is a writer for the New York Times; he’s an A-lister. In 1989, Friedman wrote a very comprehensive and terrific book called From Beirut to Jerusalem. I read it as a college student and loved it, you should check it out even now. Friedman had nothing but disdain for President Trump.

As an opinion writer, it’s fine, healthy, and fair to offer his point of view. During the discussions of reopening the country, he made some reckless commentary about the president and the associated risks of reopening. In an April 18, 2020 column in the New York Times, the headline read “Trump Is Asking Us to Play Russian Roulette With Our Lives.”

In the piece, Friedman wrote:

‘LIBERATE MINNESOTA!’ ‘LIBERATE MICHIGAN!’ ‘LIBERATE VIRGINIA.’ With these three short tweets last week, President Trump attempted to kick off the post-lockdown phase of America’s coronavirus crisis. It should be called: ‘American Russian roulette: The Covid-19 version.’’ What Trump was saying with those tweets was: Everybody just go back to work. From now on, each of us individually, and our society collectively, is going to play Russian roulette. We’re going to bet that we can spin through our daily lives — work, shopping, school, travel — without the coronavirus landing on us. And if it does, we’ll also bet that it won’t kill us.

The flaws in Friedman’s argument are numerous. Russian roulette, strictly speaking, is when you load one bullet in a revolver, spin the chamber and pull the trigger, with a fully equal one in six chance of dying. There is a haunting scene depicting this in the classic film The Deer Hunter. Russian roulette gives everyone an equal probability of dying.

COVID-19 did not give everyone an equal probability of getting sick, much less dying. With the economy on fire, hospitalizations and deaths declining and knowing who was at risk, requiring vast testing and tracing was not a reasonable requirement for opening up the country. Washington Governor Jay Inslee required just that (on May 18, 2020) to open up Washington. Apoorva Mandavilli is a medical and science journalist for the New York Times. She was one of two primary writers for the Times on the pandemic. Mandavilli wrote hundreds of articles and opinion pieces for the Times and participated in many interviews on COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021. Her reporting erred on the side of pandemic pessimism and maintaining lockdowns throughout. Headlines of articles she wrote included:

  • Six Months of Coronavirus: Here’s Some of What We’ve Learned” on June 18, 2020. In this commentary, Mandavilli asserted two things that science and data wasn’t showing: that masks work and that natural infection does not result in achieving herd immunity. Herd immunity became a toxic thing to talk about in 2020, never mind that it is exactly how every historic pandemic ended. In June she also wrote that airborne transmission (versus through large droplets) isn’t a significant thing, something common sense showed couldn’t possibly be true knowing what we knew a few months into the pandemic.
  • Older Children Spread the Coronavirus Just as Much as Adults, Large Study Finds; The study of nearly 65,000 people in South Korea suggests that school reopenings will trigger more outbreaks” on July 18, 2020. Headlines like this drove media, politicians and parents alike to resist reopening schools. The assertion was patently false. By the time this was written, data showed older kids were not equal spreaders, and very few had become seriously ill from COVID-19. Summer camp data showed this as discussed earlier.
  • Children may carry high levels of the coronavirus, up to 100 times as much as adults, new Lurie Children’s Hospital study finds” on July 31, 2020. Not even sure what to say about this one, other than this was never happening.
  • C.D.C. Calls on Schools to Reopen, Downplaying Health Risks” on July 24, 2020 with Mandavilli contributing. The analysis suggested CDC Director Robert Redfield should not have said schools should reopen fully in the fall. The writers criticized President Trump for driving home that schools should reopen and said this line of thinking was putting kids and teachers at risk. That was false; data in the moment made this obvious.
  • A Parent’s Toughest Call: In-Person Schooling or Not?” on September 1, 2020. The takeaway was to not send kids back to school without elaborate precautions and interventions. The focus was on cases rather than illnesses to kids and teachers that could be at-risk. Illnesses would have been statistically zero for kids and over half the teachers.
  • The coronavirus mostly spares younger children. Teens aren’t so lucky” on September 29, 2020. No headline in the fall was more reckless, misleading or infuriating. Teens were incredibly lucky. Maybe it depends on how we define lucky.
  •  “The Price for Not Wearing Masks: Perhaps 130,000 Lives. The pandemic death toll could be lowered by next spring if more Americans wear masks, a new analysis finds” on October 23, 2020. The journalist took a shot at Dr. Scott Atlas, as well as the president, for saying masks don’t work. You saw earlier the data comparing heavily masked areas and less masked areas. That data was obvious by summer, and suggesting masks could have such an impact was taking the lead from “experts” without any independent analysis. The data showed otherwise.

There were many more articles like these that Mandavilli wrote. There were also many articles that she wrote that were fair to the data at hand with a balanced outlook. With a trickle of panic-inducing articles resisting herd immunity and keeping kids masked and out of school, it rippled into other media and policy makers. Mandavilli displayed many times on Twitter that she preferred the lockdown culture.

Why on earth so many politicians and media figures in influential roles feel the need to vent on Twitter is a bigger mystery than COVID-19 ever was. On Saturday, March 20, 2021, Madavilli, who lives in Brooklyn, tweeted this: “We were out of house today for six hours, probably half of them in the car, and I am utterly spent. Reentry is going to be brutal.” Perhaps there’s a different perspective of what “utterly spent” means to someone that lost their job and had to bridge a learning gap with their kids that were cratering behind. Elites that kept their jobs, had resources and got to work from home embraced the lockdowns.

Jeffrey Tucker leads the Brownstone Institute and wrote Liberty or Lockdown in the summer of 2020. He observed the media playbook that was true for over a year:

  • Attribute economic fallout not to the lockdowns but to the virus
  • Deliberately confuse readers about the difference between tests, cases and deaths
  • Never focus on the incredibly obvious demographics of COVID-19 deaths
  • Dismiss any alternative to lockdown as crazy, unscientific or cruel, while acting as if Dr. Fauci speaks for the entire scientific community
  • Above all, promote panic over calm

The Atlantic

The Atlantic is a left-leaning print and online publication that has been around since 1857. The online COVID Tracking Project (CTP) was run by the Atlantic and provided excellent data on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. It became the single best resource to get state-by-state data, and much of the data cited here is from there. The CTP did some excellent work. It would be easy to cite anti-lockdown reporting by the Hill or the Blaze, but we’re looking at what was impacting the thoughts of a wider group of Americans and politicians. The Atlantic did their share of reporting that supported lockdown mentality, but they also published some quality commentary on the damage of the lockdowns. If you’re a centrist or right-leaning and can get past the often-political commentaries, the Atlantic often produces some thoughtful work.

The Bad

The Atlantic published pieces with high politicization, such as “How Trump Closed the Schools,” suggesting the president’s mishandling resulted in the pandemic getting out of control, thus rendering schools unsafe to reopen. It was a major hit piece blasting the president when so many countries did worse than the U.S. with huge societal damage. Another one was “Why Republicans are Ignoring the Coronavirus.” Were they ignoring it or balancing risk and consequence policy? You can decide, but Republican-led states were less restricted, kept more kids in class and did no worse than Democrat-led states. That’s not as much fun to write about if you’re left-leaning though.

“Teachers Know Schools Aren’t Safe to Reopen” came out in August 2020. Maybe teachers all over the rest of the world were clueless compared to American teachers, but they fared no worse than those staying at home.

The Good

In August 2020 the dike broke and this strong opinion piece came out written by Chavi Karkowsky, a doctor and mom from New York, called “What We’ve Stolen From Our Kids. School provides so much more than an education.” It was a powerful and needed insight into the cost of closed schools. Seeing a major publication offer up a point of view like this felt like a real step forward. That same month the Atlantic published “We Flattened the Curve. Our Kids Belong in School.” The curve was destined to spike up seasonally in the fall, but they were right on kids belonging in school.

Other similar articles were sprinkled in throughout the rest of 2020. In January 2021 they published “The Truth About Kids, School and COVID-19.” Where the Atlantic gets some credit is that for being left-leaning, where for some reason liberals were mostly against reopening schools, the Atlantic not only demonstrated some actual journalism, they also influenced other liberal media.

Emily Oster is an economist and professor at Brown University. She is also a writer and contributor of several op-eds to the Atlantic. She wrote ““Schools aren’t Super-Spreaders: Fears from the summer appear to have been overblown,” “Parents Can’t Wait Around Forever, “The ‘Just Stay Home’ Message Will Backfire,” and the big controversial one: “Yes, You Can Vacation With Your Unvaccinated Kids.” Oster is not a conservative, embraced face masks, ran a school/COVID-19 database and is pretty darn level-headed. Check out some interviews with her on YouTube.

Her point was that unvaccinated kids are at about the same risk of getting sick or spreading COVID-19 as vaccinated adults, and that parents should get their kids out and normalize. She was right. Then she got blasted by people who knew much less than she does about  the science and data. Good for her for moving us forward, and for the Atlantic for publishing good content in support of open schools that went against the liberal dogma.

The Great

Finally, the Atlantic published a very powerful piece that should be required reading for every person still embracing lockdowns and closed schools in 2021. Emma Green wrote “The Liberals Who Can’t Quit Lockdown. Progressive communities have been home to some of the fiercest battles over COVID-19 policies, and some liberal policy makers have left scientific evidence behind.” This was one of the strongest analyses in the first half of 2021, because it came from a left-leaning publication. Opinions that deviate from a traditional ideology carry more weight. Highlights from Green’s masterpiece:

  • “For many progressives, extreme vigilance was in part about opposing Donald Trump. Some of this reaction was born of deeply felt frustration with how he handled the pandemic. It could also be knee-jerk. “If he said, ‘Keep schools open,’ then, well, we’re going to do everything in our power to keep schools closed,” Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, told me.”
  • “Even as scientific knowledge of COVID-19 has increased, some progressives have continued to embrace policies and behaviors that aren’t supported by evidence, such as banning access to playgrounds, closing beaches, and refusing to reopen schools for in-person learning.”
  • “In Somerville [MA], a local leader appeared to describe parents who wanted a faster return to in-person instruction as “white parents” in a virtual public meeting; a community member accused the group of mothers advocating for schools to reopen of being motivated by white supremacy. “I spent four years fighting Trump because he was so anti-science,” Daniele Lantagne, a Somerville mom and engineering professor. “I spent the last year fighting people who I normally would agree with … desperately trying to inject science into school reopening, and completely failed.” [might be worth mentioning as a percentage, the kids of “white parents” were less affected by closed schools than those of black or Hispanic kids]

To support Green’s observation, even after the CDC stopped recommending face masks for those vaccinated on May 13, 2021, A-list media figures could not let go. MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski said, “If you want to follow the science,” you should follow my lead and “still wear the mask” despite being vaccinated when you’re around possibly unvaccinated people.  It’s not clear what science she was referencing.

Rachel Maddow is MSNBC’s highest-rated anchor and was reluctant to embrace the CDC recommendation. Her initial comment to CDC Director Walensky was “How sure are you because this was a really big change?” No such comment came from Maddow when kids were prevented from going to school in 2020. Maddow then shared, “I feel like I’m going to have to rewire myself so that when I see someone out in the world who’s not wearing a mask, I don’t instantly think, ‘You are a threat, or you are selfish or you are a COVID denier and you definitely haven’t been vaccinated. I mean, we’re going to have to rewire the way that we look at each other.”

The View host Whoopi Goldberg said on air, “What is it going to take you think for people to get comfortable following not just the science, but their [the CDC] own science, what is comfortable for them?” CNN’s chief political correspondent Dana Bash called the decision “very scary.” Time magazine said it was a “baffling, whiplash-inducing decision.” Politico called it “a bitter disappointment to unions and other safety advocates.” Newsweek warned of “deadly new variants” under the cover headline of “WINTER IS COMING.” CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, criticized the recommendation as well, saying the CDC “made a critical error here in surprising basically everyone with a very significant change. [Masking] is so effective and it’s not that hard to do in most situations — just to put a mask on.”

The COVID-19 Media in Summary

Were many of the pieces above cherry-picked? Was there actual balanced coverage by the networks? Did I selectively choose to pick on the TimesPostAtlantic, Twitter, and Facebook? And you may wonder why it matters, that the press has the freedom to write whatever they choose. They do have that freedom, and that should always be supported. Most people lack critical thinking, either in natural ability or laziness preventing exploration of thought and ideas. The media knows this and catered to it. It’s no different than advertising. If you advertise something enough, you will reach critical mass awareness and eventually adoption.

Why the media so unanimously covered the pandemic like Dirty Laundry is still a mystery. Much of it was political, to keep viewers and readers addicted to [fear] porn, and because the media knew so little about what was actually happening they reported what everyone else reported. In March 2020, Bruce Sacerdote, Ranjan Sehgal and Molly Cook authored “Why Is All COVID-19 News Bad News?” Sacerdote is an economics professor at Dartmouth College, and Sehgal (Dartmouth) and Cook (Brown University) are students. What a great experience for these two students to participate in such a groundbreaking study. They uncovered what we all knew anecdotally: media coverage in COVID-19 was heavily biased promoting depression, fear and polling that resulted in maintaining lockdown measures much longer than needed.

At a time when the data showed kids were at practically no risk from COVID-19 and school reopenings were no riskier to kids and teachers than remote learning and circulating in their off time, 86% of the American media reported negative news on school reopening. 54% of the media in other English-speaking countries reported negatively on schools reopening. When looking at all COVID-19 stories since the pandemic broke, the fifteen major media players were 25% more likely than their international counterparts to disseminate negative information. This shows the majority of the media worldwide did not understand what was going on, or chose to ignore it, though much worse in the United States.

The researchers analyzed 43,000 articles associated with “vaccines, increases and decreases in case counts, and reopenings (of businesses, schools, parks, restaurants, government facilities, etc.).” Below are trends they uncovered:

  • “Among the U.S. major media, 15,000 stories mention increases in caseloads while only 2,500 mention decreases, or a 6 to 1 ratio. During the period when caseloads were falling nationally (April 24-June 27, 2020), this ratio remained a relatively high 5.3 to 1.” [the period of analysis for their study was 2020; anecdotally their findings certainly continued through May 2021]
  • No bias or negative-outlook correlation between traditional “conservative” or “liberal” media.
  • U.S. media was 3-8 times more likely to promote social distancing or wearing face masks than their international counterparts.
  • U.S. counties that relied less on national news were more likely to reopen schools in 2020. This follows some logic because higher in-person learning occurred in less urban communities.
  • They concluded “that there is little evidence that the negativity of the national news media causes a reduction in school reopenings.” That seems hard to believe logically. If the media were pounding on 1) the psychological impact and learning deficiency associated with remote learning, and 2) the data from what we’ve previously reviewed on kids and COVID-19 risk, polling would have driven more reopening support, politicians would have yielded to the polls and teachers unions would’ve buckled.
  • “The U.S. Federal Communication Commission eliminated its fairness doctrine regulation in 1987. This regulation required broadcasters to provide adequate coverage of public issues and to fairly represent opposing views. In contrast, the U.K. and Canada still maintain such regulations. On the surface, the fairness doctrine would appear most relevant to partisan bias as opposed to negativity. It may be that profit-maximizing U.S. news providers realized that they should provide not only partisan news to serve their consumers’ tastes but also negative news which is in high demand.” That’s probably true. It’s definitely a sad state of journalism.

For the context of the media serving Dirty Laundry, consider this. There were a total of 2.6 million articles scrubbed. Of those, look at the weighting of some of the reporting in the first seven months of 2020:

  • 88,659 articles included a comment about “Trump and Masks,” “Trump and Hydroxychloroquine” or “Hydroxychloroquine”
  • 87,550 articles mentioned “Decreases” for the whole study period
  • 33,000 articles mentioned “Decreases” between April 24 – June 27, 2020
  • 325,550 articles mentioned “Increases” for the whole study period

More media articles chose to comment on President Trump and his COVID-19 comments versus the very positive news when COVID-19 cases/hospitalizations/deaths were decreasing. Four times more articles were written about COVID-19 activity increasing versus decreasing.

Within their study period, between March 15 and July 31, 2020, there were 138 days of measurable pandemic case and hospitalization data. Of those 138 days, 61 had decreasing hospitalization days. Four times more articles citing increases over decreases were published while 44% of the days had a decrease. Case and death trend data was far too loose to include in this daily breakdown for two reasons. One, cases were in large part a product of testing, particularly with rapidly growing seroprevalence in the country. Two, deaths began to include probables and up to half the deaths reported any given day were backdated. By the second quarter of 2021 well over half of the reported deaths were backdated as far as summer 2020.

The Polls

Politicians are driven by three things: their party; their ideology; polls. What people think is largely driven by their experiences, their beliefs and the knowledge they acquire. It’s not likely a plethora of articles for or against abortion will change a lot of minds; they’re much more likely to reinforce beliefs. If there were 300,000 articles in a given year for gun control, it’s still very unlikely that gun owners and Second Amendment supporters would change their minds. The issues have been too ingrained for too long. COVID-19 was very different. Everyone in the world started off on the same block in 2020. In this one instance more than any other for anyone alive during the pandemic, the media had the power to shape thought. Before the pandemic, Americans’ trust in the media was only 41%. That was lower than President Trump’s approval rating. In March 2020, this was the approval rating for several stakeholders during the pandemic:

Stakeholders Approve Disapprove
Your hospital 88% 10%
Your state government 82% 17%
Government Health Agencies 80% 17%
President Trump 60% 38%
Congress 59% 37%
The Media 44% 55%

In the summer of 2020, 1,000 citizens from several countries were polled on the pandemic. Below is the mean percentage that the sampling showed people thought the COVID-19 death tallies were after three months of the pandemic:

Country Population Percent that died from COVID-19 That Absolute Population Number Actual Number of COVID-19 deaths at the time
United States 9% 29,700,000 132,000
United Kingdom 7% 4,830,000 48,000
Sweden 6% 600,000 6,000
France 5% 3,300,000 33,000
Denmark 3% 174,000 580

Now, do an online search with date parameters of July 20 – August 30, 2020 and see how many news articles featured this polling result. It’s fewer than the number of your fingers. Mean percentages of respondents thought that 9% of Americans had died of COVID-19 in three months. That’s equivalent to everyone in Texas. Isn’t that alarming? Even if the polling result was 1%, that’s over three million COVID-19 deaths, about the number of people that die in the United States each year from all causes. That’s also 50% more pandemic lives lost than the Spanish Flu caused, adjusted for population.

If we had a virus that killed 9% (or even ½ %) of the population in three months, the lockdowns would not be like what we saw. Everyone would embrace the quarantining we saw in the movies Outbreak or Contagion. This type of general understanding of the pandemic, or lack of, is why we did not see protests throughout 2020 and 2021. One, liberals are more likely to protest than conservatives and liberals were generally much more supportive of lockdowns than conservatives. Two, most people regardless of politics don’t study data beyond headlines and  don’t understand the context of the COVID-19 risk.

Franklin Templeton Poll

In July 2020, Franklin Templeton published polling that showed the sad and disastrous perception Americans had of COVID-19 risk. As you view the following charts, consider there was very little coverage in the media from the CDC, and from state health agencies to level-set understanding of the pandemic. Ask yourself: if the media was giving a proper explanation of what was happening, if the CDC communicated factually what was happening, how could results like this occur?

share-covid-deaths-age

Respondents clearly did not know the extent how age-stratified COVID-19 deaths were skewed to the elderly. They surely would not have known that a third of all excess deaths were not caused by COVID-19 but rather the lockdowns.

fear-consequences-mortality-data

This poll result closely connects to what we saw earlier: the highest stress was associated with younger age groups. They were about as stressed with ~0 risk as older Americans that were at very measurable risk. Franklin Templeton commented on their findings, calling it “stunning.” Americans believed that people over 55 were about half the death victims, while it was actually 92%. They thought people under 45 years old were almost 30% of all deaths; they were less than 3%. They overestimated the risk to those under 24 by a factor of fifty. 

It’s not far off from the earlier poll where respondents on average thought 9% of Americans had died from COVID-19 after three months. Poll results like this should have driven Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, and Dr. Redfield and the CDC to shout from the rooftops to educate Americans on what was happening. It should have caused responsible journalists to do special fact-based segments on COVID-19 risk and the data we had. What we heard was the sound of silence.

Gallup Polls

Gallup conducted weekly polls on sentiment around the pandemic from the beginning in March 2020 well into 2021. Never fewer than 65% of respondents felt staying home was the appropriate thing to do from the beginning and for thirteen straight months.

Dates Better to Stay Home Live Normal Life What Was Happening
Mar 23-29, 2020 91% 9% COVID-19 first hit, Imperial College projection of 2.2 million lives lost
Jun 1-7, 2020 65% 35% Southern states were reopening, cases were decreasing
Jul 13-19, 2020 73% 27% Sunbelt states were peaking in COVID-19 activity
Sep 14-27, 2020 64% 36% Summer swell was over, low COVID-19 activity, most schools still closed
Dec 15, 2020 – Jan 3, 2021 69% 31% Peak COVID-19 hospitalizations; vaccines were rolling ou
Apr 19-25, 2021 55% 45% COVID-19 cases/hospitalizations/deaths had all hit one-year lows; vaccine supply outpaced demand

A majority of Americans did not support returning to normal life at any time since the pandemic began and into the spring of 2021. Polling after the CDC lifted indoor mask recommendations on May 14, 2021, for those vaccinated finally began to tilt the scale. COVID-19 hospitalizations began cratering in January 2021, and the pandemic by definition as we knew it was over by February. Had the media reported that, Americans would have felt more comfortable getting back to normal.

There was a potentially great segment on MSNBC in March 2021 where Chuck Todd was asking “experts” why Florida, with very few restrictions, had near-identical results to strictly locked down California. It was going great until they introduced an analysis by the LA Times that said had Florida locked down hard they would have saved 3,000 lives, and had California relaxed its restrictions they would have had 6,000 more deaths. The analysis was practically made up with no reasonable science and data behind it. Reporting like this was why America was not yet ready to move on.

On April 25, 2021, with the pandemic virtually over, the respondents were asked, “How long do you think the level of disruption occurring to travel, school, work and public events in the U.S. will continue?” 95% answered with either “a few more months,” “through 2021,” or “longer than that.” That did drop from 98% in February 2021. In April 2021 a majority of remote workers and a plurality of the rest of the workers said their preference was to work remotely, not because of fear of COVID-19 but because of preference. Read: many loved lockdowns if they had a job.

MIT Student Studies

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the premier math, science and engineering universities in the world. In 2021 they released two studies around social media and “COVID-19 Skeptics.” Students from MIT and Wellesley College reported on many people I know and followed. How they viewed analytical points of view that condemned strict lockdowns were emblematic of how the media failed to report balanced context and why Americans were reluctant to return to normal life.

The first study was called “Viral Visualizations: How Coronavirus Skeptics Use Orthodox Data Practices to Promote Unorthodox Science Online” (January 2021), and the second was “The Data Visualizations Behind COVID-19 Skepticism” (March 1, 2021). The first study looked at a half million tweets that used visualization of data to support removing nonpharmaceutical interventions governments around the world had instituted for over a year.

The students enveloped people on Twitter that they perceived as viewing the pandemic as exaggerated and believed schools should be reopened (which the CDC maintained as far back as August 2020) as “anti-maskers.” You should really check out the study from undoubtedly very bright students from one of the most elite universities in the world. The lack of impartial thought, the lack of a quest to learn and be open-minded, and mostly, the inability to analyze data without predisposition is disappointing. It’s indicative of prevailing college thought all over the country, but this one hit home.

As the study classified those using charts to illustrate their cases, they broke out the following categories:

  1. American politics and media
  2. American politics and right-wing media
  3. British news media
  4. Anti-mask network of Twitter users
  5. New York Times centric network
  6. WHO and health-related news organizations

The two classes of media are “media” and “right-wing media.” Does that mean there’s “impartial journalistic media” and then “conspiratorial right-wing media?” The bias is that there is normal media and crazy right-wing media and then anti-maskers tweeting about the harm of lockdown interventions. This is how over 80% of the media, the CDC, and most state health agencies portrayed the environment, which made it an Everest-climb to reach an open debate.

The Twitter anti-mask network was led by Alex Berenson, the Ethical Skeptic, and Rational Ground founder Justin Hart. This is consistent with my premise that nearly all original thought condemning lockdowns as an unscientific approach were sourced on Twitter. They asserted that “anti-maskers value unmediated access to information and privilege personal research and direct reading over ‘expert’ interpretations.”

Everyone should support unmediated access to information even if they disagree with “anti-maskers” on this one. You never know when you’ll be on the other side (see Iraq War).

They grouped the anti-maskers as representing that COVID-19 was no worse than the flu. Knowing most of the high-profile Twitter users mentioned, that is flat-out false. There is a gulf between thinking COVID-19 was no worse than the flu (it was much worse for those over 50 years old) and believing lockdowns didn’t work and were unscientific. It may be that students at elite universities and those in the elite media were too detached from middle to lower class Americans and were out of touch with the consequences of the lockdowns. It may also be that they saw it as a power grab. It may mean they just weren’t that bright.

Critics of “anti-maskers” feel that processing data around excess deaths was conspiratorial. Many excess deaths were from the lockdowns. They then batched the anti-maskers as politically conservative. The face of lockdown criticism was Alex Berenson, and Berenson spent more of his life left-leaning than right-leaning. David Zweig, who wrote dozens of pieces supporting open schools, is no right-winger.

The students then wrote that “anti-maskers” argued there was an outsized emphasis on deaths rather than cases. It was quite the opposite. Everyone following this knew that the case data was fantastically overreported, that there were many times more cases, as well as hundreds of thousands of false positives, and backdated dumping. In short, the margin of error of cases on any given day had a solid 50% margin of error, though it was directionally useful. Deaths too were unreliable for reasons discussed. The “anti-maskers” usually found COVID-19 hospitalizations as the best data point to measure what was happening, and that was the most reliable metric, not cases or deaths.

The Best Ad Campaign in History

The prolific critics of the lockdowns were apolitical before COVID-19. They were as critical of Republican leaders as Democrat leaders if they supported closed schools, closed restaurants or masks outdoors (probably masks indoors too). You have to give it to the media though. They ran the most effective advertising campaign in history. They accomplished something extraordinary and it should be studied in every advertising class forever.

  • The media was able to convince over 50% of the people under thirty that they were at serious risk of getting sick or dying from COVID-19.
  • They were able to trigger more anxiety in young people than any other age group.
  • They were able to convince people that putting face masks on two-year old’s made sense.
  • They convinced parents that keeping their kids out of school for a year and a half was a good thing.
  • They convinced people they should wear a face mask when alone in their car, walking their dog, or hiking up a mountain.
  • They convinced enough of the world that they could control the spread of the virus like a dam.

If you’re sick, you should listen to your doctor. If you climb a mountain you should listen to your guide. If you need to defend your country, you listen to your generals. But if a policy is suggested that has a balance of risk and consequence, something that happens consequentially by following one direction, stop and give it thought and research.

It’s healthy to question the media, politicians, healthcare experts, or military experts. They are people like you and me, no smarter. In some cases, more informed on their specialty, but that breeds myopia. Sometimes they can get so close to something that they can’t see it clearly. Sometimes they can see it but don’t want to.

Sometimes they have an agenda. History needs to remember the lockdowns as the most harmful, ineffective public policy America and the world had ever seen. Study the data for yourself next time and reconcile any one opinion you hear with another that gives an opposing view. And anytime we get passionate about a policy, we all need to be open-minded to the consequences of a policy, as if it may be a zero-sum game.

*****

This article was published by the Brownstone Institute and is reproduced with permission.

Michael Betrus is the author of COVID-19: Lockdowns on Trial and the upcoming COVID-19: The Science vs. The Lockdowns.

 

Arizona Extends School Choice to All K-12 Students

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

“This session, let’s expand school choice any way we can,” declared Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in his State of the State address on Jan. 10, “Let’s think big and find more ways to get kids into the school of their parent’s choice. Send me the bills, and I’ll sign them.”

The Arizona Legislature on Friday night answered Ducey’s call, passing a bill to expand eligibility for the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (also known as education savings accounts or ESAs) to all K-12 students.

Once signed into law, Arizona will reclaim its title as the state with the “most expansive ESA” policy in the nation.

Empowerment Scholarship Accounts empower families with the freedom and flexibility to customize their child’s education. Arizona families can currently use ESAs to pay for private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, homeschool curriculums, online courses, educational therapy, and more.

The ESAs are funded with 90% of the state portion of Arizona’s per-pupil funding, including the additional funds for students with special needs.

Currently, about a quarter of elementary and secondary students in Arizona are eligible for an ESA, including students with special needs, students assigned to low-performing district schools, the children of active-duty military personnel, and a few other categories of students.

The Arizona Senate passed HB 2853 on Friday night on a vote of 16 to 10. Earlier in the week, the Arizona House of Representatives passed it by a margin of 31 to 26.

In 2011, Arizona became the first state to enact an ESA policy. Originally, the ESAs were limited only to students with special needs, but state lawmakers have repeatedly expanded the policy over the past decade.

There are now more than 10,000 students benefiting from the ESA policy in Arizona and about 31,000 ESA students in 10 states nationwide.

Last year, West Virginia wrested the “most expansive ESA” title away from Arizona with the enactment of its Hope Scholarship policy, which provides ESAs to all students either switching out of a public school or entering kindergarten.

Once Ducey, a Republican, signs the ESA expansion into law, Arizona will regain its “most expansive ESA” distinction, because the accounts will be available to all students, regardless of what type of school they had been attending.

As a Goldwater Institute report demonstrated, the ESA policy especially benefits students from low-income families. The typical (non-special education) award of about $6,600 covers the median elementary private school tuition and about two-thirds of the median private high school tuition.

Although Arizona does not collect data about the income levels of participating families, the Goldwater Institute looked at data on the geographic distribution of participants and found that “ESA students come from school districts with above-average and below-average poverty rates at broadly equal rates and in virtually identical proportions as traditional public school students overall.”

Additionally, the report found that “the highest concentrations of ESA usage actually occur in the most severely economically disadvantaged communities in Arizona.” Eight out of the 10 districts with the highest share of ESA students statewide have higher-than-average rates of child poverty, and the top three have child poverty rates that are more than double the state average.

The ESAs are extremely popular. According to a Morning Consult survey, 66% of Arizonans and 75% of Arizona parents of K-12 students support the ESA policy.

Nevertheless, opponents of education choice claim that, recent polls notwithstanding, the voters revealed their opposition to a universal ESA policy when they voted by an almost two-to-one margin in 2018 against Prop 305, which also would have expanded Arizona’s ESAs to all students.

However, divining the will of the voters is not so simple. Unlike the current proposal, Prop 305 had a cap on the number of students who could participate. Since the state’s Voter Protection Act requires a supermajority of at least three-fourths of the legislature to make changes to a law passed by the voters on the ballot, even ESA proponents such as the American Federation for Children opposed the measure, as it would have rendered the current program—participation caps and all—essentially set in stone.

Other critics of the program have raised concerns about the quality of education that ESA children receive. “We will not know if students are using our tax dollars … to learn anything,” fretted Democratic state Rep. Kelli Butler.

Proponents of education choice counter that the accountability under the ESA policy is even higher than in traditional district schools. “Parents are the ultimate accountability, not government,” said House Majority Leader Ben Toma, a Republican, the sponsor of the ESA expansion bill. “They know what’s best for their children, and we should trust them to do the right thing.’’

Arizona lawmakers are right to trust families. Arizona has long been a pioneer in education choice—enacting nation’s first tax-credit scholarship policy in 1997, in addition to the first ESA—and the investment in education choice is paying off.

Despite doomsday predictions about the effects that education choice would have on student performance, Arizona has led the nation in gains on the National Assessment of Education Progress over the past two decades.

When families are empowered to choose the learning environment that works best for their children and that aligns with their values, everyone benefits.

Once again, Arizona is setting an example that other states should emulate.

*****

This article was published by The Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.

Killing Is Not OK

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

The recent Supreme Court decision to return abortion to the political realm, to be decided by the States and elected representatives, was a victory for the law and the Constitution. But this by no means supposes that those that hold human life to be valuable have won the argument. They will have to prevail in each of the 50 states and likely will fail in some, and win in others. For the Left, this has been a bruising experience. Although they have been losing in the court of public opinion for some time, the Left championed the idea that the way to advance their agenda was by non-democratic means, especially using unelected judges. Having failed that, they are getting hysterical and in some cases, their true motive and ideas are revealing themselves.

As such, you can expect them to re-tool some of their arguments again. You know, the baby is not really alive, is not human, it is part of the mother, and therefore part of the control one wishes to have of one’s body.

But as mentioned previously, those arguments were failing for some time to convince the public and it is likely most states will place some kind of control on abortion, especially after science has indicated viability at a much younger age than previously thought.

So, not surprisingly, we will likely see some new arguments develop, that perhaps reveal more about the Left’s agenda, and their view of life generally.

A good example is the feminist writer, Sophie Lewis, writing for the reliably left-wing The Nation Magazine. We don’t read the Nation very often, but when we do, it is always a deeply disturbing experience. Here are a few choice excerpts:

“There is something infantilizing about denying the fact that embryos die when we scrape them out of the bodies of which they are a part. It sentimentalizes pregnant or potentially pregnant humans as fundamentally nonviolent creatures to imply that we can’t handle the truth about what we are up to when we opt out. And it patronizes abortion-getters to insist that we are only making a health care choice, rather than (also) extinguishing a future child. In my view, recognizing that gestating manufactures a proto-person requires acknowledging that abortion kills a proto-person. A baby is completely dependent on human care in order to stay alive, but its needs could be filled by any person—whereas a fetus, a proto-person, is ineluctably dependent on specific person.”

As we interpret this, she is being frank with her readers. Quit kidding yourself. You are not making just a “healthcare” choice, you are killing a baby, or in her words, ” a proto-person.” Further, the baby takes control of certain biological functions of the mother, and therefore, it is not really a part of the mother’s body but has a body of its own that feeds off the mother. In a sense, she disposes quickly of two arguments often repeated robotically by abortion enthusiasts that attempt to obscure what is really happening. In a strange way, we admire her candor, but then it takes a deadly turn.

“We humans do kill, when necessary: Victims of assault sometimes kill in self-defense, targets of persecution sometimes kill for justice—or just to reduce the number of their persecutors—and the colonized sometimes kill for liberation. Mothers living in unspeakable conditions (including chattel slavery) have been documented to kill their children as an act of mercy. Of course, these examples are instances of necessary violence, generated by the conditions for which we struggle to render extinct. When it comes to abortions, it seems possible that the conditions that necessitate them may never be wholly eliminated, even if vasectomies become generalized, and perfected ectogenetic technologies become universally accessible. As long as people are performing pregnancy on this earth, they must be free to change their minds about seeing it through. The adoption industry could be revolutionized and child welfare lavishly subsidized; regardless of the available supports, no one should be pregnant involuntarily. The science of medicine dictates that when foreign organisms inhabit the human body unwelcomely, we tend to eject them.”

In a way, there are passages here of considerable confusion. As long as we humans are “performing pregnancy” as opposed to just having protected sex. With the wide variety of ways to avoid pregnancy; self-control, and birth control, where is all this forced pregnancy coming from? Is a baby an invasive species, like fungus?

She seems to be suggesting that killing a baby is like killing for self-defense. It is like hand-to-hand fighting at the Chosin Reservoir.  It is “kill or be killed”.

Or maybe it is like defending the home against an unwanted home intruder. In this case, killing an unwanted intruder who has hijacked her body. There is no recognition of the possible consequences of sex and that she created the intruder herself by her actions.

Moreover, she forgets that humans also kill for domination of others, to take other people’s stuff, and sometimes, just for the thrill of it. This killing instinct is not a good thing about humans and it has taken us a long time to control these primal forces. It is part of what one would hope civilized society would do. But she seems to be drifting toward the idea that killing is not such a bad thing. After all, it is done all the time for a variety of reasons. In fact, the title of her essay is “Abortion Involves Killing-and that is OK.”

What is involuntary pregnancy? Most pregnancies are not the result of rape. A woman chooses to have sex with a man, has lots of choices about drugs and devices to avoid getting sperm and egg together, and has the choice to give up the baby if all that does not work. She surely can’t believe that the abortion issue is about the very rare occasion of forced insemination. It is about women having casual sex and being angered that by the laws of nature, they carry the consequence, the child. It is not fair that they can’t walk away as a man can. So in a sense, it is “involuntary” to be bound by the rules and regulations of nature? It is a rage against either God or Nature, take your pick.

Well, for the past 50 years, women could always choose abortion to get out of pregnancy but society is changing its mind about whether that is a good thing, either for the mother and certainly the baby. However, the coldness of her argument that follows, and the choice of the verbiage of “gestator” and “gestatee” are so clinical that we lose sight of the fact it is mother and baby. All mothers, of all species, defend their babies, except it would seem animals that have come through women’s study programs.

“But what’s the point of acknowledging this now, at a time when abortion rights are so imperiled? For one thing, it would seem hard to deny that the euphemistic, apologetic, placatory “pro-choice” strategy hasn’t worked out thus far. So, why not risk coming out for what we actually want, namely, abortion—a clearly documented public good? The pending Supreme Court leak thrusts us into a situation in which we have little left to lose. Rather than cleave in desperation to the rearguard missions of defending the rights (to privacy, rather than abortion) enshrined in Roe v. Wade, we could consider this moment a chance to reset the terms on which abortion is fought.”

“What would it mean to acknowledge that a death is involved in an abortion? Above all, it would allow for a fairer fight against the proponents of forced gestating. When “pro-life” forces agitate against feticide on the basis that it is killing, pro-abortion feminists should be able to acknowledge, without shame, that yes, of course it is. When we withdraw from gestating, we stop the life of the product of our gestational labor. And it’s a good thing we do, too, for otherwise the world would sag under the weight of forced life. It is a hard pill to swallow for a misogynist society, sentimentally attached to its ideology of patriarchal motherhood, but the truth is that gestators should get to decide which bodies to give form to. This choosing is our prerogative. A desire not to be pregnant is sufficient reason in and of itself to terminate a gestatee.”

The reader is urged to read her complete article so you can satisfy yourself that we are not cherry-picking passages here.  In the previous two paragraphs, she gets stronger and stronger suggesting that killing a baby is completely justified or “the world would sag under the weight of forced life.”

She says to abandon arguments that are not working like “it’s my body”, “its privacy”, or “it’s not real life.” No, say it straight up. It is killing for convenience and women should be proud of that position?

She obviously has never been a parent. She sees pregnancy as an unbearable burden. But having a baby is just the first step in a long commitment to other people. In non-academic terms, we call this having a family. Ideally, both husband and wife are joint partners in a project that continues through to grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

Those who have experienced this know it is a commitment that has great rewards and disappointments. It is part of the human condition.

She says basically in fancy language that if the mother is inconvenienced by pregnancy, you have a right to kill the baby. She adds we should acknowledge this without sentimentality. Killing is OK. However, most laws suggest lethal force can only be used to defend your life or another person’s life. Life is not ended with pregnancy so what are you defending against: Being inconvenienced, being distraught, being confused?

What if most of the inconvenience comes after birth? Do you still have that right to kill that which is bothering you?

My wife and I have three children.  Two wonderful girls who have become fabulous women. And we also have a son, profoundly autistic and developmentally challenged.  Oddly, we have learned a lot about life from him, even though some would view his life as a burden.

The Left has always had a thing for eugenics. The Left has always had a thing about abortion and the destruction of the nuclear family.

The problem is that once you justify killing a baby as a defense against inconvenience or extended responsibility, what do you do with all the handicapped folks that are not inconvenient for nine months, but can be inconvenient for life?

Not surprisingly, the logical conclusion has been in some societies to kill off the elderly, and kill off the handicapped.  That, however, was among primitive societies living on the edge of extinction. Have we reached a point in our highly educated and opulent society that we are ready to kill off the people that get in the way of having a life free of expense, emotional burden, and frustration?  Such a stress-free life could develop a new legal doctrine: your honor, I killed him because he got in the way of my narcissism.

We can think of only one advanced and wealthy society that thought it was OK to kill to make the race better and the world more convenient. I wonder if she has any sense of how close to sounding like a Nazi she comes.

The Slippery Slope of Red Flag Gun Laws

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

“No free man shall ever be barred from using arms to guard public liberty.” – Thomas Jefferson

 

The gun control debate began in the 1920s in Germany’s Weimar Republic. They mandated the registration of all firearms and the authority to confiscate them “if it was necessary for the public good.” They convinced gun owners these records would be confidential for the nation’s security.

The prime minister said these records would forever be protected from militant groups. Yet in 1933, when Adolf Hitler seized power, he used these “secret gun records” to identify, disarm, attack, and imprison opponents of the regime. It also enabled Hitler to murder 6 million defenseless Jews.

Weimar’s ill-conceived gun edict showed little insight and had one major flaw. Its most loquacious oversight was that Werner Best crafted it, a suspected conspirator and future Gestapo henchman.

“How fortunate it is for governments that the people they administer don’t think.” – Adolf Hitler

In 1938, Hitler signed The Gun Control Act to deprive Jews from owning guns. Since the Jews had registered their guns they were easily disarmed. With no weapons to fight back, they were sent to death camps and burned alive. Hitler relied on gun control to cleanse Germany with his Holocaust.

When France fell to the Nazis in 1940, it was a walk in the park for Hitler since it was illegal to own a gun in France and they couldn’t fight back. In reaction to this, days before Pearl Harbor in 1941, Congress not only affirmed our 2nd Amendment rights, it also outlawed federal gun registration.

Although America’s military might defends world liberty, gun ownership has been under attack for years. Gun control advocates say the U.S. should mimic the European nations that have strict gun control laws. But it was the well-trained army of U.S. gun owners that led to the allied victory in WWII.

In Germany, to purchase a gun, you must pass a government psychiatric evaluation. In Finland, to own a gun you must prove you’re a member of an approved gun club and pass a police review. In Italy, one must prove they need a gun and pass a criminal and mental background investigation.

In France, applicants must pass a mental health exam. In the UK and Japan, it is a felony to own a handgun. In Red China, anyone caught owning gun powder will be jailed. On the other hand, 75% of all citizens in Switzerland own guns. And they have the lowest gun-related crimes in the world.

Every nation with strict gun laws has been taken over by a tyrannical rogue leader; Adolf Hitler of Germany; Benito Mussolini of Italy; and Hirohito of Japan; or they’ve been invaded by one. But in the U.S. where it is a constitutional right to own and use guns, we are the defender of world freedom.

“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”– General George Patton

In America, the colonies demanded free speech, and gun ownership was protected before ratifying the Constitution. They demanded that those two amendments be added to the Constitution.

James Madison drafted and passed the Bill of Rights during the first U.S. Congress in NY in 1789.

In 1999, Connecticut passed the first “red flag law.” Today 18 states have followed. Red flag laws allow law enforcement, with a court order, to seize guns from anyone that a person considers a danger to themselves or others. Almost anyone can file a red flag request for almost any reason.

President Joe Biden has urged Congress to pass additional gun control laws including a red flag law. With a 224 to 202 vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi passed the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order last week. This allows courts to issue extreme risk orders that ban individuals deemed dangerous from buying or owning a gun. But for this to become law, the 2nd amendment must be amended.

This is the most dangerous attack on the 2nd amendment by the federal government in history.

Within the context of red flag laws, anyone may attempt to have someone’s firearms seized with the slightest suspicion that a gun owner may pose a danger to them or to themselves. Only after proving their “innocence” before a court can a law-abiding citizen possibly retrieve their property.

A study by the RAND Corporation on states with red flag laws found that there is zero conclusive evidence that red flag laws prevent acts of gun violence. In fact, a report by CNN shows homicides across the U.S. have risen an alarming 6.2% since Biden was elected and after the George Floyd protests, riots and looting.

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley

According to NBC, Illinois passed its red flag law in 2018, and gun crimes and homicides escalated throughout the state. In 2021, in the city of Chicago, there were 797 homicides and 3,561 shooting incidents despite Illinois’ extremely tough gun laws. Obviously, “red flag” gun control doesn’t work.

Some states allow medical professionals, school officials, and coworkers also to petition the courts. Other states only allow law enforcement and relatives to petition the courts to have guns removed from anyone they wish. In red flag states, you are guilty until proven innocent to get your guns back.

“You’re guilty until proven innocent. Perception is reality, that’s the way that it is.” – Chris Webber

The powers of the federal government are clearly defined and enumerated in the Constitution and disarming citizens is not one. In fact, the 2nd Amendment forbids the government from doing so. It specifically designates that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall never be infringed.”

James Hanstein wrote, “Our past are our lessons learned.” Our constitutional rights are not just a source of patriotic pride but the lifeblood of democracy. Our founders knew that the right of citizens to bear arms was essential to preserving their liberty. The 2nd Amendment ensures that. We need to remind our Congressmen that it was Hitler’s genocide of the Jews that led to the 2nd Great War.

The Senate has now passed the onus of “gun control” on to the states. They expand background checks, and fund school safety programs. They will also incentivize states to pass more red flag laws. Since states have almost “innumerable powers” they will pressure each state to pass stricter gun laws.

All government is local, and all liberty is too. The rubber meets the road in every state legislature. Politicians are addicted to money and easily swayed by federal gratuities. But what happens in our states ends up in DC. As states trade our gun rights for abusive “red flag laws,” citizens that do not challenge them don’t covet their freedom. They will be crying and moaning when progressives win their campaign to repeal the 2nd amendment.

“To preserve liberty, it is essential the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, how to use them.” – Richard Henry Lee

*****

This article was published by The Center Square and is reproduced with permission.

Climate Realism On The Rise?

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

As a climate and energy realist, in my heart of hearts, I dream of the day when the public recognizes climate change will not bring on an end to the world as we know it, or even a long-term net decline for human civilization. That’s what the data and the best science show, despite the claims of corporate media, alarmist activists, heads of corporations, and politicians who profit in terms of money and power by spinning the climate change end-of-the-world fairy tale. Sadly, the public rarely gets to hear this truth.

A few notable instances of the very unalarming facts about climate change getting through on a large scale in the past few years are the release of several bestselling books by prominent liberals advocating what they consider to be reasonable climate policies: Michael Shellenberger’s Apocalypse Never, Steven Koonin’s Unsettled, and Bjorn Lomborg’s False Alarm. Sticking strictly to climate science, not policy, Heartland’s own Climate at a Glance for Teachers and Students has also sold well on Amazon. However, despite the success of these publications among the literati and the reading public, I’d be surprised if these books combined sold more than a million copies in the United States, which has a population of more than 330 million people, or a few million copies among the eight billion people worldwide. Sadly, I suspect more people are exposed to false climate alarm stories in the mainstream media every day in the United States than have been reached by all these books in the past two years since the first one’s release.

Still, hope springs eternal and climate realists keep on plugging away, trying to breach the nearly impregnable wall of climate change disinformation erected by powerful corporate, media, and political elites. Every so often, the realists score a direct hit, making the climate/energy realist case so powerfully that even the mainstream media and elite journals take notice. This occurred recently when The New York Times Magazine (NYTM) published an interview with eminent scientist Vaclav Smil, Ph.D., discussing his book How the World Really Works: The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We’re Going.” (You can’t get more mainstream and yet elitist than the NYTM.) Another direct-realist hit on the edifice of climate alarm came with the publication of the article “Russia’s War Is the End of Climate Policy as We Know It,” in the journal Foreign Affairs, by Ted Nordhaus.

Both Smil and Nordhaus have far more confidence than I that human activities are causing potentially dangerous climate change. Although I disagree to some extent with their assessment of the dangers of climate change, their “realpolitik” analyses of the infeasibility of the net-zero energy transition in the 2030-2050 timeline are powerful and accurate.

Despite continual cajoling by the NYTM interviewer, who basically framed the same question again and again and again, pleading for Smil to concede climate change is such an imminent disaster world leaders must forcibly decarbonize our energy systems nearly immediately, Smil refused to rise to the bait. His consistent answer, based on his assessment of the world’s energy needs and the material requirements necessary to meet net-zero in the short term, was that this goal is physically and politically impossible. Smil also made clear that the threat posed by climate change does not justify such a dramatic forced transition.

For Smil, the four pillars of modern civilization are cement, steel, plastics, and ammonia, each of which requires huge amounts of fossil fuels to produce. Therefore, he concludes, those calling for rapid decarbonization to combat global warming are dangerously foolish. “I’m looking at the world as it is,” Smil, told the NTYM interviewer, continuing,

The most important thing to understand is the scale. … [A]ccording to COP26, we should reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent by 2030 as compared with 2010 levels. This is undoable because there are just eight years left, and emissions are still rising. People don’t appreciate the magnitude of the task and are setting up artificial deadlines which are unrealistic. …

What’s the point of setting goals which cannot be achieved? People call it aspirational. I call it delusional.

I’m all for goals but for strict realism in setting them.

For Smil, radical actions to cut carbon dioxide emissions steeply and immediately are neither justified by the problem—because other problems are at least as dire as climate change, and they require fossil fuels to solve—nor are they possible, even if they were justified. It’s a matter of both physics and realpolitik, the latter meaning an honest assessment of the fact that people around the world do and will continue to want to better their lives by their own understanding of what constitutes a better life.

Smil’s assessment coincides with that of Ted Nordhaus, the cofounder (with the above-mentioned Michael Shellenberger) and executive director of the Breakthrough Institute, and a co-author of An Ecomodernist Manifesto. Nordhaus’s article in Foreign Policy is a realist shot across the bow explaining how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is opening eyes to the basic energy truth that fossil fuels are still vital to the world:

[T]he headlong rush across Western Europe to replace Russian oil, gas, and coal with alternative sources of these fuels has made a mockery of the net-zero emissions pledges made by the major European economies just three months before the invasion at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. Instead, questions of energy security have returned with a vengeance as countries already struggling with energy shortages and price spikes now face a fossil fuel superpower gone rogue in Eastern Europe.

In the decades following the end of the Cold War, global stability and easy access to energy led many of us to forget the degree to which abundant energy is existential for modern societies. Growing concern about climate change and the push for renewable fuels also led many to underestimate just how dependent societies still are on fossil fuels. But access to oil, gas, and coal still determines the fate of nations. Two decades of worrying about carbon-fueled catastrophes—and trillions of dollars spent globally on transitioning to renewable power—haven’t changed that basic existential fact. …

Given the scant effect international climate efforts have had on emissions over the past three decades, a turn back toward energy realpolitik—and away from the utopian schemes that have come to define climate advocacy and policymaking worldwide—could actually accelerate the shift to a lower-carbon global economy in the coming decades. …

The capacity to adapt to rising temperatures and extreme weather events rose significantly … as evidenced by the continued decline in weather-related deaths. But this was not due to any U.N.-led efforts to fund climate adaptation, which never materialized. What made people all over the world more resilient to climate extremes was better infrastructure and safer housing—the product of economic growth powered by cheap fossil fuels.

The geopolitical, technological, and economic competition that characterized the Cold War had more success in reducing the carbon intensity of the global economy than climate policy efforts have had since.

Nordhaus goes on to explain:

The world’s renewable energy economy is deeply entangled with geopolitically problematic supply chains. Huge parts of the world’s supplies of silicon, lithium, and rare-earth minerals rely on China, where solar panels are produced by Uyghur slave labor in concentration camps. The idea that the crisis might be resolved by choosing Western dependence on Chinese solar panels and batteries over Western dependence on Russian oil and gas reveals just how unserious the environmental movement’s pretensions to justice, human rights, and democracy really are.

For Nordhaus and Smil alike, the appropriate response to climate change is to acknowledge the reality of the importance of fossil fuels to continued economic prosperity for the present, while delivering better options through the market—which responds to price signals through efficiency gains and technological innovation—far faster and more effectively than government-mandated energy shifts. Smil states,

at the same time we are constantly transitioning and innovating. We went from coal to oil to natural gas, and then as we were moving into natural gas we moved into nuclear electricity, and we started building lots of large hydro, and they do not emit any carbon dioxide directly. So we’ve been transitioning to lower-carbon sources or noncarbon sources for decades. Moreover, we’ve been making our burning of carbon much more efficient. We are constantly transitioning to more efficient, more effective and less environmentally harmful things.

Nordhaus notes the Russian war is increasingly making it clear to countries that climate change is not “the main event,” energy security is, and the latter can be achieved while improving economic conditions in the poorest countries and respecting human rights:

But climate and energy policies, especially in the West, may shift significantly from subsidizing demand (for things like solar panels and electric vehicles) to deregulating supply (of things like nuclear power plants and high-voltage transmission lines). A shift of this sort—away from subsidizing specific green technologies favored by activists and lobbyists and toward enabling the broader technological, regulatory, and infrastructural basis for the energy transition—would put clean energy policies on much firmer economic footing. And it would better align climate objectives with energy security imperatives.

People around the world face many problems. Climate change is only one among many, and as Nordhaus and Smil point out, it is probably not the most pressing.

Nordhaus and Smil provide clear-eyed assessments of the physical, economic, and political limits of the energy transition demanded by climate alarmists on the timetable they have laid out. These analysts’ acknowledgments of the benefits fossil fuels have delivered, and the inequities and harms that would result from an attempt to go net-zero by 2030 or even 2050, are a refreshing appraisal from scholars whom alarmists cannot in any way smear as “climate deniers.”

In my heart of hearts (foolish though it may be), I still hold out hope this truth can get through the daily background noise of climate alarm.

*****

This article was published by the Heartland Institute and is reproduced with permission.

The ‘ESG’ Scam Rates Slave-Using Chinese Firms Higher Than Clean American Energy Producers

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

A firm in China that uses slave labor has a better ESG score than an American firm that pays landowners who freely sell their mineral rights.

 

Expecting publicly traded companies to do more than simply return shareholder value — their fiduciary responsibility — is a fairly new development in Western capitalism. The idea that corporate leadership and shareholders should explicitly care about environmental, social, and corporate governance (known as ESG) issues beyond how they might affect the bottom line has been around for only about 30 years.

But now, ESG investing has become a big driver in steering capital to corporations deemed to be good stewards of subjective principles. By 2025, financial management firms that claim to invest with ESG principles are projected to account for $50 trillion of a total global value of $140.5 trillion — more than a third of managed investments.

But is ESG investing trustworthy? Does it really do what it claims to do?

MSCI is one of the world’s largest investment support services firms, with $2.1 billion in revenue. It offers an ESG rating service. I noticed that my Charles Schwab account recently started to display MSCI’s ESG ratings alongside that of the more traditional rating services — services focused on a company’s profitability.

Comparing U.S. and Chinese Companies’ Ratings

Curious, I looked into the rating of a firm I own some stock in Texas-based Brigham Minerals (NYSE: MNRL). Brigham looks for land that could produce oil and gas, and owns mineral and royalty interests in 7,909 oil wells and 688 natural gas wells in West Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, and North Dakota. MSCI rates Brigham Minerals as a B, the sixth lowest of seven ratings that range from AAA to CCC, labeling it a “laggard” in the industry with an overall score of 2 out of 10.

I previously wrote about ESG investing’s blind spot for China three years ago in Fox Business, pointing out that investment firms playing in the ESG space were also bullish on China — a nation with terrible air and water pollution (the “E”), horrendous human rights abuses (the “S”), rampant corruption, opaque accounting standards, and rule of law only at the forbearance of the Chinese Communist Party (the “G”).

Not expecting the financial industry to have changed for the better, I looked up three China-based energy companies and compared them to Brigham Minerals. They were Xinyi Solar Holdings (OTC: XISHY), China Resources Gas Group (OTC: CGASY), and China Coal Energy Company (OTC: CCOZF). All three beat the American energy company in their overall rating.

Buying Into CCP-controlled Enterprises

Now, it’s important for investors to understand that you really can’t own shares in a Chinese corporation. When you buy shares in a corporation based in China, you’re really buying American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) that represent shares issued by companies in the People’s Republic of China. As such, your ownership rights are more theoretical than real and are subject to the whims of the Chinese Communist Party.

Further, many Chinese firms that have ADRs traded in the United States are themselves subsidiaries of state-owned enterprises — meaning that if you buy these ADRs, you are directly investing in an entity fully controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

As an example, China Coal Energy is 58.36 percent owned by China National Coal Group, a state-owned enterprise. China Coal Energy owns 12 coal mines, 13 coal-processing plants, five coking plants, four coal mining equipment manufacturing plants, and two mine design institutes. They’re really into coal.

That makes sense, as coal is China’s largest source of energy — with the PRC having on the order of five times the size of the U.S. coal powerplant fleet in operation or in construction. MSCI rates China Coal Energy as “BB” — one step better than Brigham Minerals, with an environmental rating of 4.7 of 10 compared to Brigham’s 0.8, a social rating of 4.2 compared to Brigham’s 3.5, and a governance rating of 2.2 compared to 6.4 for the American firm. Overall, China Coal rates 3.1 out of 10 compared to 2 for Brigham.

China Resources Gas Group mostly invests in natural gas pipelines. It’s a subsidiary of China Resources Holdings Company, a state-owned company. The company got its start in Hong Kong as Liow and Company in 1938. Its purpose was to raise funds and purchase supplies for the People’s Liberation Army, then fighting the Nationalists in the Chinese Civil War — and, occasionally, the Japanese as they pressed their attacks into China.

By the 1960s, due to grain shortages caused by Maoist policies, the firm was used to import vast amounts of “capitalist grain” to stave off mass starvation. MSCI generously rates China Resources Gas as an “A” — the third-best of seven grades, with better grades than Brigham in both the environment, 7.7 to 0.8, and social, 7.6 to 3.5. Only in governance does China Resources Gas fall short, earning an “average” rating of 4.6 to Brigham’s 6.4. China Resources Gas nets an overall rating of 6.3 to Brigham’s 2.

Xinyi Solar Holdings should be problematic for MSCI — after all, China’s solar power industry, a global juggernaut, is a heavy user of materials produced by slave labor in Xinjiang, a Muslim-majority region formerly known as Turkestan where the Chinese communist government has been engaged in a grinding genocide. MSCI even has a corporate statement against “modern slavery” on its website, claiming that the firm “is committed to protecting human rights globally… Specifically, the Firm strongly opposes slavery and human trafficking and will not knowingly support or conduct business with any organization involved in such activities.”

This is at odds with MSCI’s ESG rating of Xinyi Solar — an “A” — with scores of 8.1 for environment (heavy metal pollution aside, apparently), 5.6 for social, and 2.6 for governance. Overall, Xinyi scores a 6.1 of 10 compared to 2 for the Texas firm.

That a firm in China that relies on slave labor for key portions of its supply chain has a better social score than an American firm that pays landowners who freely sell them their mineral rights betrays an upside-down ethic where freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength. Of course, that hasn’t stopped 174 institutional owners from investing in Xinyi Solar, among the largest being JP Morgan, Invesco, and Vanguard.

Counter to ESG Goals

This leads to one last, odd ESG story. Texas lawmakers, concerned about how banks and financial institutions aggressively implementing ESG investing rules were beginning to starve Texas’s energy industry of capital, passed a law in 2021 to address the problem. Senate Bill 13 prohibited Texas’s pension and investment funds (worth about $300 billion) from investing in “financial companies that boycott certain energy companies.”

But figuring out what companies those might be turned out to be a somewhat complicated process. So, the Texas state comptroller, charged with implementing the new law, turned to… MSCI. The problem was that MSCI is guilty of pushing ESG to the detriment of domestic energy produced in Texas, forcing Texas to modify its contract with MSCI to avoid violating the new law.

Ben M. “Bud” Brigham, founder and executive chairman of Brigham Minerals and other energy companies, has been an ESG skeptic for years. He tells me that “companies innovating in free markets strive to create value for their owners which benefit all the legitimate stakeholders. This is empirically validated in America, where we enjoy unprecedented levels of clean air and clean water compared to other major economies. In contrast, ESG investing — a relatively subjective exercise — often represents the influence of illegitimate stakeholders, and therefore ends up being irresponsible, destructive, and counter to its stated goals.”

So, here’s the bottom line from the self-righteous global elites: Chinese-government-owned coal, fine; Chinese slave-provisioned solar power, good; Chinese state-owned natural gas, better; American domestic natural gas and oil, terrible.

*****

This article was published by The Federalist and is reproduced with permission.

SCOTUS: The Second Amendment is NOT a Second Class Right

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

For the third time in the last fourteen years, the Supreme Court has strongly held that the Second Amendment “is not a second-class right,” as Justice Thomas re-affirmed for the 6-3 majority in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. This decision was released the same day that the Senate passed the bipartisan “red flag” legislation, now law, that provided a person’s firearms may be temporarily confiscated without due process.

Thomas emphasizes and bases his opinion for the Court on the two well-known and recent Second-Amendment decisions. In DC v. Heller (2008), the Court ruled in a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Scalia that a District of Columbia law was unconstitutional. The law completely prohibited the possession of a handgun in the home—“where the defense of self, family, and property is most acute,” said Scalia—and required other firearms in the home to be unloaded and disassembled.

The Court ruled in Heller against probably the oldest argument supporting gun restrictions, namely, that because it begins with “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State,” the Second Amendment allowed firearm possession only for state militias and men when in service of militias. However, the Heller majority concluded that the Amendment secured an “individual right . . . unconnected with service in a militia.” In Bruen, Thomas, citing Heller, said that the “Second Amendment’s plain text covers an individual’s conduct.” Only four members of the current Court were members of the Court for the Heller decision.

In McDonald v. Chicago (2010), the Court in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Alito went beyond Heller and ruled that the right “to keep and bear arms” is a “fundamental” and “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” (citing the Glucksberg 1997 case), and that the Second Amendment was incorporated against and applied to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment. Since the District of Columbia is not a state, incorporation was not an issue in Heller. Five members of the McDonald Court are still on the Court.

So, with recent and definitive rulings, even though by narrow margins, that the Second Amendment is an “individual” and “fundamental and deeply rooted” American right concerned with the defense of “self and family,” what did the state of New York try to do? In 2017, that state enacted a law requiring a hearing for a license to possess a firearm in the home before a judge or law-enforcement officer to show proof of “good moral character,” no criminal or mental illness history, and the absence of any “good cause” for denial (how was one to prove that negative?). To carry a concealed handgun in public, the law required the applicant to affirmatively prove that “proper cause exists” for such a license.

Such a requirement is so stiff that, as Justice Thomas noted in his opinion, a New York state court had ruled that “living or working in an area noted for criminal activity does not suffice” for a concealed carry permit. And other New York courts have ruled that the “proper cause” must concern a “particular threat” to the safety of that particular person, a “special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community.”

As it had already done in both Heller and McDonald, the Court in Bruen reviewed at length the entire history of public firearm regulation in the states both before and since the ratification of the Second Amendment. The Court reviewed laws and customs of medieval and early modern English history, the American colonies and early American history, pre-and post-Civil War history, and late 19th and early-20th century history. Thomas observed that there have been occasional and limited restrictions on the right to bear arms, but “None of these restrictions imposed a substantial burden on public carry analogous to that imposed by New York’s restrictive licensing regime.”

It is this objective and comparative review of “the Anglo-American history of public carry,” together with the plain text of the Second Amendment that is definitive, Thomas concludes. “We reiterate that the standard for applying the Second Amendment is as follows: When the Second Amendment’s plain text covers an individual’s conduct, the Constitution presumptively protects that conduct. The government must then justify its regulation by demonstrating that it is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

In addition, Thomas points out that to “bear arms” is something a person does in public and therefore is a public right. No one “bears” but instead only possesses their firearms in the privacy of their homes. American citizens can bear concealed firearms in public.

The Court’s Bruen opinion is its latest, strong affirmation of the full constitutional status of a routinely disparaged or ignored constitutional right, showing that all constitutional rights are equal.

The five-opinion, 135-page decision also features a direct confrontation between Justice Alito in concurrence and Justice Breyer in dissent. Breyer begins his dissenting opinion with eight pages of an extra-legal and extended op-ed with sources cited about the contemporary need for firearms regulation. He begins with “Since the start of this year (2022), there have 277 reported mass shootings—an average of more than one per day.” To this, Alito retorts that a mass shooter will not be deterred by a law forbidding carrying “a handgun outside the home.” He also adds that the New York “law at issue in this case” did not stop the mass shooter in Buffalo, New York.

Breyer repeatedly emphasizes the use of guns in suicide. Alito replies again that the New York law preventing carrying handguns in public has nothing to do with suicide carried out in private. The same goes for the use of guns in domestic disputes. It has nothing to do with the case at hand. Back and forth it goes, with Alito arguing” that “our country’s high level of gun violence,” is itself a reason “that cause(s) law-abiding citizens to feel the need to carry a gun for self-defense,” and citing a source on his own: “According to survey data, defensive firearm use occurs up to 2.5 million times per year.”

In his final words at the end of his opinion, Justice Thomas sets out a right equal to all other constitutional rights:

The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not “a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.” McDonald, 561 U. S., at 780 (plurality opinion). We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.

New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment in that it prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

The Court’s Bruen opinion is its latest, strong affirmation of the full constitutional status of a routinely disparaged or ignored constitutional right, showing that all constitutional rights are equal.

*****

This article was published in Law & Liberty and is reproduced with permission.

“Cultural Appropriation”, WokeSpeak and Other Left-Wing Canards

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

In George Orwell’s classic novel “1984,” the inhabitants of Oceania are encouraged by the Party to transition to Newspeak, a language designed to make modes of speaking, writing, and thought opposed to Party rule not merely difficult but outright impossible.  For example, passages from the Declaration of Independence could not be translated into Newspeak in accordance with their original meaning but instead would be translatable as “crimespeak.”

Like Big Brother and the Party in “1984,” the New Left in the United States today is endeavoring to transform the English language into new forms that fit New Left ideologies.  In addition to furthering the New Left’s ideology, the use of terms having the New Left’s seal of approval serves as (1) a form of virtue-signaling, and (2) a showing of obedience to the Marxist totalitarians who make up the New Left (analogous to a wilderness hiker who during the Plandemic is dutifully wearing his or her obedience mask even though no other human being is within one-half of a mile).  This seems to be especially the case in the leftist-infested world of academia.  Conversely, any failure to use New Left-approved language opens up the user to losing his or her job to the depraved woke fanatics who make up Cancel Culture.

As an example of what now may be properly termed “WokeSpeak,” consider the recent substitution of “enslaved people” for the English term that has been used for centuries, namely, “slaves.”  I can recall being taught that one should never use two words where one word will do.  Substituting “enslaved people” for “slaves” obviously violates this basic rule.  We might also ask what “enslaved people “ are being distinguished from.  Enslaved porcupines?  Enslaved e coli  ?

The truth of the matter is that WokeSpeak requires the use of “enslaved people” and prohibits the use of the more straightforward term “slaves” because “enslaved people” emphasize victimhood — “these poor people have been enslaved!”  Victimhood is a key part of the New Left’s false narrative; it is something the New Left wants to broadcast in order to advance its Manichaean vision of a world consisting of the oppressed and the oppressors.  The New Left’s intent is to create a country where all the “oppressed” classes vote the New Left into political power and are joined by those who normally would be in the oppressor category (classic examples being straight white males in general and white male corporate CEOs in particular) except for the fact that they are willing to grovel to the New Left and to apologize and beg forgiveness for being white.  This process is starting early in life.  Consider the case of third- and fourth-grade school children who are expected to apologize to their teacher and the rest of the class for being part of an “oppressor” class by reason of their skin color.  Elsewhere, we have the drumbeat for “reparations,” where those who never owned slaves are expected to pay money to those who never were slaves (but retain their membership in the “oppressed class” because some of their distant ancestors happened to be slaves).

In addition to substituting WokeSpeak for ordinary English usage to further its sinister objective of destroying America, the New Left — taking a page from Cancel Culture — prefers that certain English words not be used at all.  This has been going on for some time.  A short person is actually “vertically challenged.”  A fat person is “horizontally challenged.”  One of the more recent examples of word-holing involves the use of the word “chief.”  The use of this seemingly innocuous word is allegedly verboten because it is “cultural appropriation” and therefore a mortal insult to American Indians.

Now, one might ask, do American Indians actually object to the use of the term “chief”?  Apparently, no surveys have yet been conducted on this topic.  However, the Washington Post conducted a survey in 2016 on the much more loaded term “redskin” (as in the football team formerly named the “Washington Redskins).  It turns out that of the  504 American Indians surveyed, only about one of ten found the term “redskin” offensive.

For the New Left, though, the reality is that the views of real live American Indians on this subject count for little.  What really counts are the views of the little Hitlers and little Stalins who make up today’s New Left — such views hinging almost entirely on whether banning the use of the term “chief” or “redskin” will whip up the enthusiasm of their voter base.  If the “oppressed class” can be enlarged — even though many of those classified as “oppressed” do not actually see themselves as “oppressed”- so much the better.

On the topic of cultural appropriation, notice the howls from the New Left when a person who is not an American Indian plays an American Indian in a Hollywood movie or TV show.  Contrast this with modern Shakespearean plays where King Lear or Hamlet is played by a non-white person.  Where is all that criticism about “cultural appropriation” then?  There is none.  Crickets.  It simply doesn’t fit the narrative.

Another crusade of the New Left in the language sphere is to change the meaning of the word “woman.”  (Really — I am not making this up!)  The new preferred term for those who are born female is “pregnant people.”  The New Left is concerned that use of the word “woman” in accordance with its historic, traditional meaning has negative implications for transgender women.  According to the New Left, “women” includes not only those born females but also those who are born male who chooses to “identify” as female.  If you were wondering during the Ketanji Brown Jackson Supreme Court nominee hearings why Judge Jackson was unable to define the term “woman” (“I’m not a biologist”, or something along those lines), you can readily see that she understood the risks of adhering to common sense, defining the term in a sensible manner and thereby mortally offending the Woke Left.  We can pass over the obvious fact that “pregnant people” fails spectacularly as a substitute for “women”:  people who are born female and who are not currently pregnant are by definition not “pregnant people”; people who are born female and have passed the age of menopause cannot be “pregnant people.”  But none of this matters to the New Left.  For a political class that believes mathematics is racist, it should not come as a surprise that they are more than willing to trash common sense and logic if it enables them to create new opportunities for virtue-signaling and a show of obedience by their acolytes.  Expect the term “pregnant people” to appear in print far more often, first in academic journals and articles, and then filtering down to internet postings and old-fashioned (but newly Marxist) newspapers.

How should we respond to the New Left’s attempt to jam WokeSpeak down the throats of the American public?  The best response, I would suggest, is satire and comedy.  Let’s make WokeSpeak as big a farce as political correctness has proven to be.  Even the most ardent Marxist of the New Left now hesitates to substitute the term “vertically challenged” for “short.”  A small victory for common sense.  The pen and the internet video are mightier than the sword — see the “Libs of Tiktok.”

With an Actual Ruling, Let’s Discuss Abortion

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

I wrote a column for the Los Angeles Times 22 years ago defining my position on abortion.  They ran it because I am pro-choice, but I expressed limitations on how advanced the pregnancy is and was in favor of no government funding.  I favor parental notice.  Not much has changed since then and I still hold 80% of Americans agree with that position.

I expressed that abortion should be pretty much limited to the first trimester.  The idea of trimesters did not even exist until Justice Harry Blackmun made it up in Roe V. Wade. In 1973 we had medical standards that were much different than today.  Are we to believe that the science surrounding abortion and a fetus in the womb has not evolved?

It has as well as the diseases that would cause many mothers to abort their unborn child. Since that time, it has become scientifically clearer that late-term abortions rarely if ever are justified and that the babies are viable. “Rare” is not the estimated 10,000 late-term abortions currently performed every year. I have since written that for many on the Left, there are three issues about which they are concerned – abortion, abortion, and abortion.  Little has changed.

I also expressed that the argument that exists today was created because the Left does what it normally does.  “We won; the government should pay.”  That irked the people who are pro-life.  Not only are they against abortion, but now they were being forced to underwrite the cost. The Left always wants to spend OPM (other people’s money). 

It has become quite clear to anyone following this situation that Roe v. Wade resolved nothing in the country regarding abortion.  Many of us who are pro-choice have come to understand it was a terrible ruling with no basis in law or history and that the issue should be returned to the elected representatives in the states in accordance with our Constitution.  Now the U.S. Supreme Court has apparently agreed.

The hysteria that happened because of a leaked draft – written nearly three months previously — would have been the exact same hysteria that happened when the actual decision was handed down.  This means the leaker either thought they could possibly influence the Justices to change their votes, or they thought at worst there would be two moments of hysteria.

I read many of the commentaries across the spectrum and noted that not one commentary from the Left saw anything wrong with the leaker’s action.  In fact, there were columns about how the GOP wanted to go after the leaker as if there were something illegitimate in doing so.  This is another shining example of the Left believing that any action is fine when you have “righteousness” on your side.  The sanctity of our Constitution and a branch of government is minuscule when you are armed with your righteousness.

There is a very limited group of people that could have done this leak.  The fact the DOJ and FBI have not found the leaker shows that they are not attempting to do such and how broken our Justice System has become.  Just like their lack of prosecuting anyone for the violence against the facilities that encourage birth over abortion.  Don’t be shocked if we see more violence in the coming days and nothing is done about it.  It will be branded “righteous” violence.

The most fabulous take on the leak was from the deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Post.  Ruth Marcus stated, “One theory — my leading theory — is that the leak came from the conservative side, possibly from a clerk for a conservative justice concerned that the seeming majority, ready to do away with the constitutional right to abortion, might be unraveling.” You must have a fantabulous imagination to dream up that one.

This does not have to do with women’s health.  This has everything to do with one thing – abortion.  In a prior column, I analyzed the materials of Planned Parenthood and the misleading information they provide about medical services such as pap smears.  They don’t really address alternatives to abortion.  At this time, they should more accurately rename themselves as Planned Non-Parenthood.

The most hilarious observation was supposed all the additional things next up for termination on the right-wing agenda.  The best is the one where the court would end inter-racial marriage.  Other than you would have to terminate millions upon millions of marriages in America, the great melting pot, they probably think the charge will be led by Justice Clarence Thomas, you know the black guy married to a white woman.  Gosh, these people can get hysterical in a flash.

Currently, various states are establishing their policies.  The Left has drawn a dark view of the states that haven’t yet touched the law.  They purported that states with abortion bans after fifteen weeks somehow ban abortion as if abortions are not allowed at all in those states. I read and heard people who otherwise could care less about the “flyover states” suddenly waxing poetic about the women of Alabama.  Who believes that they now care about them? Let’s see how this entire thing shakes out which will take a few years.

Legislators will now have to listen to the people of their state and legislate what their voters want on this issue.  Governors will have to decide whether to sign the bills and then enforce the law.  That is how this country works.  If all the howling people honestly believe most Americans are in favor of abortion, they should welcome this process. 

Amazon has already announced it will pay $4,000 for an employee to transit to another state for the procedure.  Other companies may do similar measures.  Maybe all these people who believe unfettered abortions are critical will have to pony up some money of their own.    That would be novel.

Repealing Roe V. Wade merely returns abortion policy to the states and to democratic debate where it properly belongs. Nothing else.

*****

This article was published in Flash Report and is reproduced with permission from the author.

 

 

Fallout for Tucson: The Perfect Storm of the Supreme Court Decision

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At a minimum, it will lead to boycotts against my home state of Arizona and hometown of Tucson.

 

You aren’t interested in my opinion of the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling or whether I’m pro-life or pro-choice. Likewise, I’m not interested in telling you.

But both of us should be interested in the fact that the decision will add turbulence to the existing perfect storm of a deeply divided polity, high inflation, unsustainable deficits, underfunded entitlements, a looming energy crisis, a broken border policy, skyrocketing drug addictions and deaths, global supply shortages, heightened geopolitical tensions, and an ossified central government that has become too big, bumbling and bureaucratic to do much about any of these problems.

At a minimum, the decision will lead to counterproductive boycotts.

I’m referring to companies being pressured by angry pro-choice employees and customers not to hold conferences or establish headquarters or major facilities in states that enact additional restrictions on abortion. Similar pressure will be put on sports leagues not to hold championship games in those states.

After all, politics now permeates the workplace and the sports field. 

Some rich companies have already decided to pay the travel costs of employees if they want to travel from a restrictive state to a less-restrictive state for an abortion.  It is not known if companies will try to cover this under a tax-deductible employee benefit plan. Should they try, and should the IRS permit the tax deduction, it would mean that pro-life taxpayers would be subsidizing the travel costs.  

If, as expected, my home state of Arizona were to enact a more restrictive abortion law, any resulting boycotts could hurt my hometown of Tucson. That would be ironic and particularly painful.

The pain would come from the fact that Tucson, which has a significant tourism industry, is a poor city with a poverty rate twice the national average. Boycotts would hurt it more than they would hurt wealthier cities.

The irony would come from the fact that Tucson is predominately Democrat and left-liberal, the very same political party/class that undoubtedly would lead a boycott effort. In that sense, the activists would be hurting their own people economically.

Complicating the politics is the fact that Latinos comprise 43% of the Tucson population. Most of them are Catholic and thus opposed to abortion, at least to the extent that they follow Church dogma. They also tend to be poorer than the general population.

It will be interesting to see how all of this shakes out politically. Even before the Supreme Court’s decision, the Tucson city council, at the urging of Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, had passed a resolution saying that the city will not make arrests at abortion clinics, even if abortion were to be declared illegal.

Three outcomes are certain: Abortion will be in the local and national news for years to come, will continue to be a fault line in American politics and will add turbulence to the perfect storm.