BLM: America’s Homegrown Marxism

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

A new book exposes the ideological wellsprings of the Black Lives Matter movement.

BLM: The Making of a New Marxist Revolution, by Mike Gonzalez (Encounter Books, 2021), 234 pages.

A running joke on the climate-skeptic right depicts environmentalists as political watermelons—green on the outside, red on the inside. After the rampant rioting and looting of two summers ago that used George Floyd’s death as a pretext, it’s high time the culprits got their own fruit analogy. Per Mike Gonzalez’s latest book, BLM: The Making of a New Marxist Revolution (2021), the namesake group resembles a fig—black on the outside, red on the inside. For all its outward pretension of caring for the plight of black Americans, the movement’s inner drive has proven to be the overhaul of American society along Marxist lines.

Much like his prior bestseller The Plot to Change America (2020), Gonzalez’s book argues the simple point that today’s far-left social movements didn’t come out of anywhere—they’ve only been portrayed as such by a pliant media. For the lay observer, Black Lives Matter (BLM) may seem like a discrete response to the killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and George Floyd, one limited to advocating for the rooting out of racial inequities from policing and the criminal justice system. Gonzalez proves beyond doubt that this is not the case. BLM is but the latest iteration of a long effort, first undertaken by the Soviet Union, to whip up racial animus and urban unrest for the benefit of Marxist causes. “Behind the prison and police reform façade,” he writes, “lies a deep ideological commitment to abandoning our free-market and liberal democratic system and to remaking America along Marxist lines.” The reason this effort has fared far better than in the 1920s and 1960s is owed to the media’s refusal to cover these groups critically and to the state of ritualistic self-flagellation into which the liberal establishment has been cowed since the killing of George Floyd.

But BLM can’t be reduced to its interpretation of the Founding, lest we overlook the forward-looking elements of its ideology. Gonzalez proceeds to sketch a history of the links between communism and parts of the African American community beginning in the mid-19th century, when the Marxist objection to American capitalism wasn’t so much slavery as wage slavery—namely, industrial employment. As soon as it formed, the Soviet Union began its own efforts to convert black Americans to communism through figures from the so-called Harlem Renaissance of black letters, such as Lanston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois and Claude McKay. The Soviets’ ambition to destabilize America by setting up “a separate Negro state” from which to launch a revolution across the rest of the country, however, did not align with Marcus Garvey, the leader of the separatist, pan-Africanist wing of the black movement working towards a similar end. In fact, Garvey would remain a staunch anti-communist all his life. “Though black intellectuals may have fallen for the siren song of communism,” Gonzalez writes, “rank and file black Americans saw through Moscow’s actions and said no, thanks.”

But the mix of Marxism and racial identitarianism would come to a head in the 1960s, when “the core principle of the civil rights era—that discrimination on the basis of race was evil—was almost instantly reversed.” A new generation of black leaders including Malcolm X, Stokey Carmichael, Angela Davis, and Assata Shakur would break with the civil rights movement’s incrementalist methods and color-blind policies, instead deeming white Americans—and thus America at large—inherently evil. This, in Gonzalez’s telling, is precisely the generation that trained, groomed, and eventually passed the torch to today’s BLM leaders, people such as Opal Tometi, Patrice Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Melina Abdullah. “Even before they created the hashtag expression #BlackLivesMatter in 2013 that later became an empire of revolutionary organizations around the world,” Gonzalez writes, “they belonged or associated with an interlacing web of socialist groups that have been trying to overthrow the American system for decades.”

Since emerging as an online rallying cry in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death, BLM has been beefed up with considerable organizing muscle through the creation of the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) and BLM Global Network Foundation, “both radical, anti-capitalist organizations that seek a root-and-branch change of the way the U.S. is constituted.” In 2020, this network was further ramped up through the creation of a SuperPAC—meaning that BLM can fund candidates and lobby for bills—all thanks to the support of an interlocking web of philanthropic organizations—George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, Susan Rosenberg’s Thousand Currents, Drummond Pike’s Tides Foundation, and the Buffett family’s NoVo Foundation. Through its lobbying of Congress and its funding of soft-on-crime district attorney races, BLM has been able to pressure the FBI out of investigating violence committed by what it calls Black Identity Extremists (BIEs), and effectively lessen the punishment for the lawlessness that dovetails with BLM.

For depicting such a despairing phenomenon, the book ends on a remarkably hopeful note. Gonzalez hopes that the moral panic about the state of America’s race relations that so bedevils our elites can be stemmed and eventually rolled back through a combination of reasoned reforms making police departments more accountable, cold-headed books like his proving that the impression of a “carceral state” up against black Americans is an illusion, and the kind of civil courage on display in the grassroots effort to stop critical race theory continuing. Thirty years ago, America led the world’s defeat of communism. With enough facts and spine, its homegrown variant can be defeated again.

*****

This article was published on November 13, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from The American Conservative.

Western Sheriffs Association Declares ‘no confidence’ in DHS Secretary Mayorkas

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Western States Sheriffs’ Association has issued a declaration of “no confidence” in Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the border crisis.

The association, which represents 17 states west of the Mississippi River, argues that illegal immigration is “not a new phenomenon” and has been occurring for decades. But what is new, they argue, is “a complete and total breakdown of efforts of the past several years.”

The letter is signed by Sheriff Leo Dutton of Lewis and Clark County, Montana, president of the association, and retired Sheriff James Pond, executive director of the association.

Of particular concern are the hundreds of thousands of people who entered the U.S. illegally from over 160 countries, some of whom are from special interest countries with terrorist ties, they argue, and that the director of Homeland Security tasked with protecting Americans isn’t fulfilling his oath to do so.

Mayorkas “was sworn into his position to follow the rule of law in securing our nation,” they said. But since his appointment “we have seen his policies enacted that are personal and political ideologies that continue to dismantle the security of our country and the enforcement efforts of the hardworking federal officers assigned to an extremely difficult task.

“America’s sheriffs have watched in disbelief as the southern border has turned into an invisible line in the sand,” they add. “Border patrol agents have been relegated to daycare supervisors at housing units and when they do attempt to act, they are scrutinized, placed on administrative leave, and investigated for political gain.”

They also point to “the impact of massive amounts of drugs being moved across interstate highways and small rural roads contributing to an historic fentanyl crisis in the U.S.”

More people have died in the U.S. from fentanyl overdoses than from COVID-19 in the last 20 months, they argue, because the drug being produced in Mexico is being brought across the southern border “at alarming and unacceptable levels.”

In his testimony before the U.S. Senate last week, Mayorkas gave himself an A grade “for effort” and insisted the southern border was under control, despite local law enforcement and Border Patrol agents being overrun by an unprecedented number of people pouring through after Mayorkas’ new policy directives made clear most foreign nationals entering illegally wouldn’t be deported or arrested for breaking the law or even for being in the country illegally.

“I put 100% into my work, and I’m incredibly proud to do so,” he said.

The association disagrees, arguing its membership “must emphatically state our position of having NO confidence in the ability of Secretary Mayorkas, and his leadership within the Department of Homeland Security, to affect any positive outcome ion this matter.”

The association has called on the Biden administration to “take appropriate steps to remove Secretary Mayorkas from his leadership position” and appoint a new leader to head the agency who “recognizes, respects and will enforce the rule of law for the safety and security of our nation.

“We demand a new leader who will work with our federal enforcement partners and the administration to restore security and safety on our nation’s southern border,” they write.

The Association has partnered with the Southwest Border Sheriffs Coalition and the Texas Border Sheriffs coalition to address crime resulting from illegal immigration. The association represents sheriffs from Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Neither the Biden administration nor DHS has issued a statement in response to the declaration.

Their vote of no confidence comes after the National Sheriff’s Association and the Arizona Sheriff’s Association publicly opposed Biden’s nominee for commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus.

*****

This article was published on November 20, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.

A Home Schooled High Schooler Debates the Woke Children

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Editors’ Note: The following is an essay by a 16-year-old home schooled young lady. The essay speaks for itself but we feel it important to emphasize that when young Americans are taught the foundational principles of our Republic without the leftist, ‘woke’ indoctrination so pervasive in our public school system, a responsible and educated young adult enters society ready to defend truth and reality. The Prickly Pear recently published a study from Harvard University examining the profiles of home schooled students. Ms. Fromm clearly reflects the findings in this study and we hope that many more like her follow into the dialogue of this nation and the battle to combat the woke assault on American society aided by the media, the educational system, our government, and our corporate leaders.

 

I attend a local university in Phoenix, Arizona as a homeschooled, dual enrollment high school student. Two weeks ago, my professor initiated a fiery discussion in Government class. My professor is conservative but encourages debate in the class and does not push his beliefs upon others. My class consists of 90 students if everyone is there, but usually there are only about 60. On that day we were discussing how certain demographics of people tend to vote. I say ‘tend’ because not every person in a certain demographic votes the same way.

I was the first person called upon. I was asked to explain why I thought Black/Latino Americans tend to vote liberal. However, I mostly focused on black Americans, explaining “I think black Americans tend to vote liberal because, statistically, over 70% of black children grow up in homes without a father present and as we just discussed, you tend to vote as your father does. Because fathers are frequently not present in the black home, mothers are working extremely long hours and are often out of the home. Therefore, many of these children are mostly raised by the education system and their programs. Because the education system is liberal, they tend to grow up and then vote liberal”. Nothing radical, just a 16-year old’s ideas expressed for discussion.

Apparently, many of the students thought what I said was radical. Two young black women and a young white woman disagreed with me and became extremely frustrated because I was not going along with their ideologies. One of the young black women claimed that I had a better chance of getting into college and getting a job solely because I am white. However, when I brought up Affirmative Action, she had nothing to say about it. Also, keep in mind she says I have a better chance of getting into college while we are sitting in the same class at the same university. Another claim she made was that “they” were oppressing black people and the black community needs “something”. When I asked her who “they” were or what the “something” is, she had no idea and could not answer my questions. With each question I asked she became more frustrated. I was calm and respectful throughout this heated exchange.

After my questions, which received no adequate responses, the young white woman said that until recently black people had been discriminated against through redlining and such. My professor then stopped her, asking her if, by saying recently, she meant about 60 years ago. She said “of course” – as if she hadn’t been trying to trick me. The word recently implies within 2-3 years ago, not 60! To her point, I said I understood and acknowledged that there was racism. I was about to go on when about 20-25 of the students in the class yelled at me, saying “THERE STILL IS!”.

This is the same type of thinking currently happening in university administrations country-wide. Over 75% of universities have already implemented black-only dorms and over 75 universities offer black-only graduation ceremonies. Excuse me? This is segregation! Yet, students at these schools think this is perfectly normal. They think this is good. These social justice warriors are missing the racism and segregation in front of their own eyes! In fact, they’re embracing it! Also, on many streaming services they have black power sections filled with movies featuring black actors. For some reason, promoting certain movies based upon the color of the leading actor’s skin, instead of the content of the movie itself, is great. This is racism, but it must be okay because it is for black people, not against them. Remember, racism can go both for and against white people. Sesame Street explicitly announced in one of their episodes that your skin tone defines you and makes you who you are. This is completely and utterly wrong. As an eloquent African-American father stated in August at a Colorado Springs school board meeting rejecting the teaching of Critical Race Theory, “Let racism die the death it deserves.”

White people and the American nation are not inherently racist. I do not care what color your skin is, I care whether you are a good person. The amount of melanin someone has in their skin means absolutely nothing to the vast majority of Americans. Yet, today’s media is purposely trying to paint white Americans as evil. The issues of race and racism are centerstage in the media, but look around. America is a melting pot of people from all corners of the world looking past their differences to celebrate liberty and make better lives for themselves and their families. The media and elite want people to think white people are evil as a way to divide the nation. If they have us aiming at each other, we will never notice them taking over our God-given natural rights.

How does one 16-year-old make 25 liberals angry enough to yell at her? Destroy their ideologies. Logical questions to their statements made them angry enough to yell at me. When a simple question is asked the answer is obvious, but they do not want to acknowledge the answer because they do not agree with it. They had absolutely no examples of racist white people and the so-called oppressive system. Yet, examples such as Affirmative Action highlight a system that promotes minorities. Not knowing who “they” are or what “something” is challenges liberal ideologies. Remember, precise language is extremely important when writing and debating if you want to get your point across.

As I was leaving class one of my classmates, a young black woman, stopped to talk to me. She informed me she agreed with my statements and thanked me for standing up for her community. Although I had left class frustrated as to how the discussion had ended, this young woman encouraged me. She helped show me that, even though I was frustrated, these types of discussions are not a lost cause.

The moral of the story is that liberals cannot handle someone simply asking why they believe a certain way. White people are not inherently racist. Yes, I’m sure there are racist people, but they come from all different races and are a minority. And for those who say white people are racist, what race freed the slaves over 150 years ago, and what nation was one of the earliest in the world to abolish slavery? White American men fought, were drafted, and put their lives on the line to free men and women of another race because they knew slavery was inherently evil. They had never met the people they were fighting for, yet 360,000 union soldiers died to free them. These men and their families paid the ultimate price to free their brothers and sisters of another race. We are equal.

The Chinese Communist Who Understands America

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

There is a book about America whose author’s identity is as important to Washington, DC as the insights contained in its pages: America Against America, written by Wang Huning in 1989.

Few American intellectuals or politicians know of Wang Huning, notwithstanding that Wang is in charge of China’s propaganda and education, sitting on the fifth seat in the 19th Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. Few, therefore, know that Wang has been the center of conversation among overseas Chinese dissidents who colloquially refer to Xi Jinping’s second term as the “Xi-Wang regime”; or that Wang is the brain behind Xi Jinping (2012-) and perhaps also his predecessors Jiang Zemin (1989–2002) and Hu Jintao (2002–12).

Right after Xi assumed office, I noticed something out of the ordinary in China’s political landscape. Almost overnight, the catchy phrase “Chinese Dream,” a rip-off of the term “American Dream,” flooded television, newspapers, the internet, and campuses. Though I cringed to see Xi fumbling through his first formal speech on the Chinese Dream, the way the propaganda apparatus marketed the insipid and seemingly exotic concept made me suspect that some people within that opaque power center must understand Western democracy in general and America in particular.

It is worth noting that though it is Wang’s most famous book, copies are no longer available on Amazon or China’s counterparts such as Taobao, JD.com, or Dangdang. No official English translation is offered. Indeed, the book is as mysterious as its author. One can, however, find an electronic scanned pdf version online.

Democracy in America

In August 1988, Wang—then a professor of international politics at Fudan University, one of the top ten universities in China—embarked on a six-month visit to the U.S. under the auspices of the American Political Science Association. Wang visited 30-plus cities, some 20 universities, and dozens of governmental organizations. He conversed with numerous Americans and foreigners alike. In substantive ways, Wang’s 1988 visit is reminiscent of Tocqueville’s travels in America a century and a half earlier.

Like Tocqueville, Wang’s trip culminated in a book that offers a panoramic view of America, as “a history, a culture, a nation, and a set of systems.” The America Wang depicted is meant to be nothing like the “dogmatic stereotypes” that its partisan antagonists or adherents in China used to peddle. To better understand socialism, we ought to better understand capitalism, notes Wang. America is his case study that allows him to explore “China’s path to power and prosperity.” But Wang also understands that the American polity is a unique product of what he calls “historical-socio-cultural” dynamics.

America fascinated—but did not tempt or intimidate—the young professor (then 33 years old) who spent his teenage years reading foreign literary classics while others (such as Xi) were “sent down to the countryside” during the Cultural Revolution. Wang had been an immensely prolific writer whose work ranged from political theory to political economy and political culture.

America Against America is a very apt title, as it conveys Wang’s overarching impression of a country that he calls “the America phenomenon.” As with “the China phenomenon,” it stands out in the 20th century. To the dispassionate and perceptive academic, America is a paradox, defined by its conflicts and contradictions.

One revealing example that piques Wang’s interest is the eternal tension—or even conflict—between freedom and equality, the two pillars of the American creed. Wang notes freedom is an “elastic” concept, subject to “various interpretations and usages,” driven by “different interests,” whereas equality is “more bounded.” Equality of conditions, when intertwined with freedom, will essentially lead to inequality in outcomes. What the Western (democratic) system guarantees can only be political equality, not economic or social.

The mainstream value, Wang concluded, was freedom. Wang writes, “in an age when individualism prevails, the value of equality can hardly dominate.” This statement runs contrary to the real 21st-century America where advocacy of equality has transmogrified over the past two decades into the demand for equity. This transformation happened in a society where atomized individuals were aggressively severing their bonds to traditions, cultural inheritance, family, and now even biology.

Though Wang did not fully grasp the relations among individualism, liberalism, freedom, and equality, his worry about individualism, which reached a climax in the last chapter entitled The Undercurrents of Crisis, was prescient in another way.

Imprinted with Confucian filial piety, Wang completely objects to the American familial mode which in his view is too individualistic, too contractual, too loose, and extremely lacking in “ren qing wei” (I find it almost impossible to fully translate this Chinese phrase which indicates a personal touch that transcends, or ought to transcend, private boundary).  Consequently, Wang notes, family is no longer the cell of American society, “the real cell is the individual.” This means that the American family has lost its societal function of educating the youth, supporting the elder, and ameliorating interpersonal conflicts. The government, therefore, had to take on the role of the nanny.

Wang sees perverted nihilistic individualism as the biggest threat to America because it dissolves the traditional Western value system, and when the value system collapses, Western democracy inevitably dies as well, says Wang.

An erudite academic, Wang’s field trip in America was accompanied and complemented by his broad reading of Western political thinkers from antiquity to modernity such as Aristotle, Augustine, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Hobbes, Locke, Tocqueville, Hegel, Marx, and contemporary writers such as Herbert Marcuse, Henry S. Commager, Samuel P. Huntington, Allan Bloom, Sidney Verba, Theodore Lowi, Robert Dahl, and many others. Little wonder why he was able to penetrate through superficial manifestations and into the essence of the American mind.

American political theorists, political scientists, and policymakers ought to read the book and then ask themselves this question—does anybody in Washington D.C. understand China as deeply and comprehensively?

American Traditions

Freshly off the plane, Wang wrote, “There are two kinds of visitors to America. One is concerned with how to enjoy America, and the other wonders what has made America.”

Wang is obviously among the latter. He interviewed many people for that question. Among many diverse answers such as abundant resources, encouragement of competition, innovative spirit, the Puritan work ethic, and others, Wang found one answer “most abstract and yet most valuable:” “tradition.” Wang thinks it is the time-honored cultural bequest that is fundamental to the development and stability of a society.

In Belmont Massachusetts, Wang observed approvingly what he called America’s “political DNA”—the township self-rule. For Wang, this institution was not only the origin of American governance but still was vibrant when he visited the United States. However, one can argue that Wang failed to recognize that state centralization had by then usurped the rule of the towns.

American localism is exceptional, notes Wang, who says “for any polity to function well, local government must be grounded in its particular history and ideas, and meet the local needs.” By contrast, “uniformity leads to minute adaptability.” Wang continues to note that Belmont township preserves America’s political DNA because what we now call the American experiment is built upon such townships. And the American War of Independence was precisely to preserve its self-rule.

Wang concludes, “political customs” and “political traditions” sometimes are more powerful than laws because “laws are written on paper whereas the former are engraved in hearts and minds.” Hence, Wang argues that it is Americans’ sacralization, as he calls it, of the Constitution that makes it transcend those pieces of yellowed papers to be vibrant and everlasting.

Sacralization is a unique feature that Wang identifies in America’s “colorful national character.” Wang writes, “The American nation does not have a disposition for mystification or deification, but it has a special nature that I call ‘sacralization.’” Wang noticed that Americans tended to sacralize certain qualities or phenomena they saw in politicians, athletes, businessmen, film stars, singers, technology innovators, as well as football games, national ceremonies, the military, and the space shuttle.

“It is of a cultic nature, but it is not a religious cult,” Wang writes, “pragmatic Americans find it hard to worship abstract, legendary, and invisible objects, but they can worship success, bravery, adventure, and wisdom in their own surroundings.” This sacralization of a spirit for Wang is what Rousseau means by “civil religion.” Wang’s following words are particularly illuminating: “The process of sacralization has a fundamental social function, which is to maintain and transmit the core values of society . . . It is here that people’s sentiments, ideas, beliefs, pursuits come into some kind of agreement . . . In such an individualistic, self-centered society, sacralization is the best mechanism for spreading core values.”

Wang did not overlook the religious side of the American mind, though. In a section called God on Earth, Wang discussed another paradox about America. Varied religious organizations and vivacious religious activities play a cohesive role in public life. They are what he called “Soft Administration.” Wang noticed that religion both maintained social order and promoted freedom of society. He concluded that what made religion work in America was its secularization, separation from politics, and non-superstitious nature.

For Wang, core values are fundamental to political stability and social cohesion. Little wonder why the 24-word “Core Socialist Values” have been at the forefront of Chinese propaganda since the 18th National Congress of the CCP (2012).

It seems that stability and cohesion preoccupy the mind of the then political theorist and now politician. That is why he attentively observed and meticulously documented America from the American creed to the gap between ideas and institutions; from neo-conservatism to modern liberalism; from market economy to all-encompassing commodification; from party politics to grass-roots movements; from religion to philanthropy; from political science to public policy and administration; from crime to alienation.

America Against America is a rare candid book about America because Wang wanted to understand the rival of socialism. It is almost impossible to speculate how Wang Huning, the “Emperor’s Teacher,” would advise Xi on how to deal with America, especially given the extreme opaqueness of the CCP regime. But it is alarming that at the center of the regime, a communist understands both America’s strengths and weaknesses. As the author of The Art of War Sun Tzu (544–496 BC) famously says, “If you know both the enemy and yourself, you will fight a hundred battles without danger of defeat.”

American political theorists, political scientists, and policymakers ought to read the book and then ask themselves this question—does anybody in Washington D.C. understand China as deeply and comprehensively?

*****

This article was published on November 15, 2021, and is reproduced with permission at Law & Liberty, a part of the Liberty Fund Network.

New Harvard Study: Homeschoolers Turn Out Happy, Well-Adjusted, and Engaged

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Homeschooled children fared better than children who attended public schools in many categories.

Researchers at Harvard University just released findings from their new study showing positive outcomes for homeschooled students. Writing in The Wall Street Journal  last week, Brendan Case and Ying Chen of the Harvard Human Flourishing Program concluded that public school students “were less forgiving and less apt to volunteer or attend religious services than their home-schooled peers.”

The scholars analyzed data of over 12,000 children of nurses who participated in surveys between 1999 and 2010 and found that homeschooled children were about one-third more likely to engage in volunteerism and have higher levels of forgiveness in early adulthood than those children who attended public schools. Homeschooled children were also more likely to attend religious services in adulthood than children educated in public schools, which the researchers noted is correlated with “lower risks of alcohol and drug abuse, depression and suicide.

The new findings offer a stark contrast to the portrayal of homeschoolers by Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Bartholet, who notoriously called for a “presumptive ban” on homeschooling last year—just before the US homeschool population ballooned to more than 11 percent of the overall school-age population, or more than five million students, in the wake of the coronavirus response.

In their Journal Op-Ed, Case and Chen challenged their colleague.

“The picture of the home-schooled student that emerges from the data doesn’t resemble the socially awkward and ignorant stereotype to which Ms. Bartholet and others appeal. Rather, home-schooled children generally develop into well-adjusted, responsible and socially engaged young adults,” they wrote.

The Harvard researchers also discovered that homeschooled students were less likely to attend college than their public school peers. Some media outlets latched onto this finding in their headlines, while ignoring the Harvard scholars’ speculation that this could be due to a variety of factors. Homeschoolers could be choosing alternatives to college as a pathway to adulthood, and college admissions practices may create barriers for homeschooled students.

I reached out to Case and Chen for additional comments on their study’s findings, including how they think the homeschooling data and outcomes might have changed since 2010, when their data set ended.

“We are also glad to see that some colleges, including some top-tier colleges, have become more flexible in their admission policies for homeschoolers over the past years,” Chen responded.

Indeed, more colleges and universities have implemented clearer guidelines and policies for homeschooled students in recent years, and many are now eager to attract homeschooled applicants. In 2015, Business Insider noted that homeschooling is the “new path to Harvard,” and in 2018 the university profiled several of its homeschooled students.

The researchers also suspect that the well-being gap between homeschoolers and public school students has widened over the past decade, with homeschoolers faring even better.

“For instance, social media apps have come to smartphones over the past few years, leading to their widespread adoption by teenagers and even younger children,” Chen told me this week. “Some prior studies suggested that such increasing smartphone use may have contributed to the recent huge spikes in adolescent depression, anxiety, and school loneliness. Cyberbullying, sexting and ‘phubbing’ have also become more common in children’s daily lives, especially in school settings. We might expect that these issues may be less common among homeschoolers than their public school peers.”

As more families experimented with homeschooling last year, and many of them decided to continue this fall, the new Harvard data should help them to feel confident about their education choice. In terms of human flourishing, homeschoolers are doing well—perhaps even better than their schooled peers.

“Many parents opted to try homeschooling during the COVID pandemic,” said Chen. “Hopefully, the public awareness about homeschooling and the related practices and support for homeschoolers will be improved in the long run.

*****

This article was published on November 17, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from FEE, Foundation for Economic Education.

Study: Arizona School-Choice Measures Saved Taxpayers $1.2B

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program has saved taxpayers more than $1 billion and as much as $3.2 billion, according to a national study on school-choice programs.

EdChoice, a nonprofit that advocates for parental choice in where they send their kids to be students, estimated in its new study that educational choice programs have generated between $12.4 billion and $27.7 billion in taxpayer savings from 2011 up to the fiscal year 2018. That averages to $7,500 for each student who participated in such a program.

Arizona is a pioneer of school-choice programs. It is home to the nation’s first educational savings account, a program allowing parents to redirect a portion of funding meant for a public school district and use it to send their child to a school of their preference. Originally passed in 2011, Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account initially was directed toward students with special needs but was expanded to make nearly a quarter of the state’s K-12 students eligible.

“Arizona’s school choice programs have provided taxpayers with at least $1.2 billion in cumulative net fiscal benefits, likely more. These fiscal benefits are bonus, however. Bottom line is that they have helped countless families and children make their lives better by enabling them to find and access the best educational setting that works for them.”

Critics of Arizona’s ESA program and others like it say they siphon taxpayer funds from public school systems by not only removing parental contributions to the districts but state and federal disbursements that are often calculated by total enrollment.

Nationally, EdChoice estimates similar programs have saved taxpayers up to $7,500 for each student that participated. The report estimates school choice programs enroll 2% of the nation’s K-12 students but receive only 1% of public K-12 funding.

*****

This article was published on November 17, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.

Why a Red Star Is Just as Offensive as a Swastika

Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

The reasons can be found in the book Gulag and in the book Tunnel 29. 

Gulag, by Anne Applebaum, Anchor Books, New York, paperback edition, 2004, 677 pages

Tunnel 29, by Helena Merriman, Public Affairs, New York, hardback edition, 2021, 318 pages

Reviews by Craig J. Cantoni

Bernie Sanders is an avowed socialist and is alleged to have communist sympathies. Yet when he speaks on college campuses, he isn’t vilified, shunned, canceled, and called a dangerous extremist. No doubt, that would be true even if he were to wear a communist red star or a hammer and sickle. But if he were to wear a swastika, he’d be booed off the stage or worse.

The author of Gulag, a Pulitzer Prize-winning book, mentions in the Introduction about experiencing a similar double standard in the treatment of the evils of communism and the evils of Nazism. Hardly a fascist or supremacist, she is a graduate of Yale and, at the time of the book’s publication, was a columnist and member of the editorial board of the Washington Post.

She had walked along a bridge in Prague where vendors were selling Soviet and communist memorabilia. People were eagerly examining and buying the items, like faithful Catholics treasuring artifacts from the early Church. Fascist memorabilia were not on display, evidently because of a prevailing belief that Nazism was evil but communism was not.

The book continues from that point to explain the reasons for the double standard and to detail the atrocities committed in the name of communism in the Soviet Gulag.

I recently reread the book because of the madness occurring on American college campuses and throughout society in the name of social justice—a madness that has led to an affection for socialism among American youth and to leftist apologists once again rewriting history about communism. My review of the book follows in the next section.

A more recent book on the evils of communism is Tunnel 29. If you prefer a history that reads like a suspense novel, it doesn’t get more thrilling than the book’s harrowing non-fiction account of East Germans risking their lives to escape to West Germany by climbing over or tunneling under the Berlin Wall. The author lives in England and has been a producer and reporter for the BBC.

The Berlin Wall could be a metaphor for the growing ideological divide in America. On the east side of the wall was everything that today’s progressive left-wing wants: free medical care, free child care, free education, subsidized housing, economic security, no class distinctions, and no income inequality. On the west side of the wall was a classical liberal democracy and a free-market economy, where there was hard work, economic insecurity, and unequal outcomes.

The wall was built by East Germany to keep its citizens from fleeing their progressive paradise for West Germany. There’s a lesson in this for America, but it’s not a lesson that is taught in K-16 classrooms.

Let’s take a closer look at Gulag and then Tunnel 29.

Gulag

Surveys say that about 36% of millennials have favorable views of socialism. This is from a generation that can’t do without a Peloton, iPhone, Starbucks, Subaru, Grub Hub, Trader Joe’s, and Nike shoes.

The survey results show how easy it is to convince people, including college-educated ones—or especially college-educated ones—to embrace injustice if the injustice is framed as social justice, equality, and equity. The Introduction of Gulag says that such framing is one of the reasons why the repression, terror, mass murder, and mass starvation of communism are seen as lesser evils than the evils of fascism.

Another reason is the culpability of past and present leftist intellectuals, academics, and reporters in ignoring the evils of communism, due to being in sync with the underlying tenets of Marxism. Their feeble excuse for looking the other way was, and continues to be, that Stalinism was an aberration and not a reflection of the true nature of communism. Actually, from the very start of the Bolshevik Revolution, before Stalin came to power, Lenin was a proponent of concentration camps. Also, of course, Stalin was not the dictator of other communist countries where mass incarceration and murder also took place, such as China under Mao, Cambodia under Pol Pot, and North Korea under the Kim dynasty.

Still, another reason for communism being seen as less evil than the National Socialism of the Third Reich is the belief that communism’s travesties were committed for reasons of class and economics, not for reasons of race or ethnicity—as if being imprisoned, tortured, and killed for the former reasons is somehow better than being imprisoned, tortured and killed for the latter reasons. In any event, it’s a myth that disfavored races/ethnicities weren’t subjected to mass arrests in the Soviet Union. In fact, Poles, Balts, Chechens, Tartars, and eventually Jews were targeted for arrest.

It’s true that Soviet concentration camps were different from Nazi concentration camps because they were not established as death camps per se. But regardless, widespread and gruesome deaths were the outcome in the Soviet camps, as detailed in Gulag. You need a strong stomach to read about the ways in which inmates were tortured and killed.

Fascism deserves to be hated. But in their hatred of fascism, today’s socialists conveniently forget that National Socialism was a mix of nationalism and socialism, not a mix of nationalism and capitalism. The Third Reich didn’t own the means of production, but as Hitler explained, it didn’t need to, because he controlled the industrialists. A debate for another day is whether the United States has free-market capitalism, or crony capitalism, or mercantilism, or fascism, or some combination of these.

A common thread weaves through fascism, communism, slavery, colonialism, and other forms of subjugation throughout history and the world: The victims were dehumanized, categorized, stereotyped, and blamed for socioeconomic problems that weren’t their doing. Such rhetoric in the Soviet Union was a precursor to the evils that followed. To quote from Gulag:

From the late 1930s, as the wave of arrests began to expand, Stalin took this rhetoric to greater extremes, denouncing the “enemies of the people” as vermin, like pollution, as “poisonous weeds.” He also spoke of his opponents as “filth” which had to be “subjected to ongoing purification—just as Nazi propaganda would associate Jews with images of vermin, of parasites, of infectious disease.

The “woke” movement in the United States has shades of such demonization. Those placed in the ill-defined and elastic category of “white” are seen as the product of privilege and the beneficiaries of institutional racism. They’re also seen as stumbling blocks to the woke utopia of social justice, diversity, and inclusion—just as aristocrats, industrialists and the bourgeoisie were seen as stumbling blocks to the attainment of a proletariat paradise of Bolshevism. Likewise, wokes see themselves as morally superior to non-wokes.

Perceived enemies of wokes aren’t sent to concentration camps, as were enemies of the state under communism; but they can be canceled, vilified, ostracized, and have their careers ended for not adhering to the party line. Also, they and their children often have to endure reeducation in the form of critical race theory, which is taught in corporate and government seminars and in K-12 classrooms.

Such humiliation was common but much more severe in the Soviet Union. To quote again from the book:   “Before their actual arrest in Stalin’s Soviet Union, ‘enemies’ were also routinely humiliated in public meetings, fired from their jobs, expelled from the Communist Party, divorced by their disgusted spouses, and denounced by their angry children.”

China’s Cultural Revolution employed the same tactics.

Communists also “ate” their own, which should serve as a warning to today’s wokes. After the Bolshevik Revolution, the winning faction of Marxists proceeded to exile, imprison or shoot their former comrades in the losing faction for having a different interpretation of Marxism. A similar dogmatic mindset can be seen in the way that Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attack their fellow progressives for not being radical enough.

Incidentally, speaking of AOC, she recently said that a woman of color like herself can’t depend on being protected by her peers in Congress. This was in reaction to Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar’s juvenile and unacceptable animation of himself as a cartoon character using a sword to attack a cartoon image of her.

Woman of color? AOC is whiter than this Italian writer and has immensely greater political power and privilege. She and others of her ilk want Americans to see themselves through their actual or imagined epidermis and then are surprised by the backlash.

As another warning to wokes, George Orwell experienced firsthand how communists turn on each other. His book, Homage to Catalonia, describes his disillusionment in fighting with the communists against fascist Franco in the Spanish Civil War. The communists had split into two opposing factions:  those dedicated to the Soviet Union’s worldwide communism movement and those just interested in defeating Franco. The Communist International undermined the locals. 

Gulag concludes with estimates of the number of prisoners and deaths in the Soviet Union. There were an estimated 28 million prisoners between 1930 and 1948, in a country that had a population of 170 million in 1939. Some historians have tried to calculate how many of them died, but archival data are not reliable. It’s also difficult to calculate how many Russians died in total as a result of the Red Terror, the Civil War, the famines stemming from collectivization, the mass deportations, the mass executions, the concentration camps and mass murders of Stalin’s reign, the camps of the 1920s, and the camps of the 1960s through the 1980s. The Black Book of Communism gives a figure of 20 million.

Whatever the number, communism, like fascism, is not something to be celebrated or endorsed, especially by those who espouse social justice.

Tunnel 91

This book is a much easier read than Gulag but is also an indictment of communism. It is largely based on interviews with an 80-year-old German who ended up East Berlin as a kid after his family became refugees at the end of World War II. He would go on to escape to West Berlin, where in 1961, he would watch the construction of the Berlin Wall, which would separate him from his family in East Berlin. Later, he would lead two efforts to dig a tunnel from West Berlin to East Berlin so that his family and friends, as well as the family and friends of the other diggers, could escape to the West.

It is a thrilling story of grit, determination, and courage.

Not only was it dangerous work, but if the diggers were discovered by the East German police, they could be imprisoned, tortured, or shot. The same for their families in East Germany. There was a high probability of being discovered, because the East German Stasi had thousands of spies in both East and West Berlin, including in government agencies in West Berlin.

In fact, hundreds of East Germans were caught trying to escape over the wall, under the wall, or, using forged papers, through checkpoints between the East and West. It speaks to their desire for freedom that they were willing to risk being shot or spending years in solitary confinement in a dreadful East German prison.

Stasi files, which were opened after the fall of the Soviet Union, document the surveillance, repression, and brutalities employed to keep East Germans from attempting to escape. There was a thick file on virtually every family. 

A takeaway from the book is the same as the takeaway from Gulag: Communism, like fascism, is not something to be celebrated or endorsed, especially by those who espouse social justice.

A Concluding Personal Note

Many decades ago, when I was in eighth grade, the nuns at my parochial school showed a film of the Nazi death camps being liberated, complete with footage of the stacks of bodies, the piles of hair and eyeglasses, the half-burned corpses in the ovens, and the emaciated prisoners with blank stares who had somehow stayed alive.

Wondering how humans could be so cruel to other humans, I bought the 900-page book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, when it came out in paperwork. That led me to a lifetime of reading history, literature, and moral philosophy in trying to find the answer.

For the first two decades of my intellectual journey, I almost never ran across a book (or movie) that told the story of the evils of communism. That’s because popular books and movies on the Third Reich and the Final Solution far outnumbered those on communism’s mass murders and concentration camps. Among the first books that I read on the subject was Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago.

Books and movies on Joe McCarthy alone seemed to outnumber books like Solzhenitsyn’s. McCarthy has been so vilified by history for his witch hunts for communists in the State Department and Hollywood that “McCarthyism” has become a pejorative to denote right-wing extremism. But it took me a long time to realize that if the bullying drunkard had gone after Nazis instead of communists with the same zeal and unethical methods, he’d probably be lionized by history and Hollywood.

The double standard continues today, not only with the likes of Bernie Sanders being cheered on college campuses but in the difference in usage of the adjectives “right-wing” and “left-wing.” The former, which conjures images of jackboots and stiff-armed salutes, is used by reporters, commentators, academics, and authors as a pejorative about eight times more than the latter.

It’s no wonder that 36% of millennials have favorable views of socialism.

How Government Finally Made Americans Dependent

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

This used to be a self-reliant country. When people suffered either through physical maladies or economic challenges, they turned to their neighbors, community, or religion-based organizations to help them through. The onset of COVID has collapsed the mores of most Americans. Now accepting government help has not only lost its stigma, but it has also become acceptable no matter your economic status.

As you know, initially we were told our economy would shut down for fifteen days. That was a fallacy. Then when the federal government canceled mandates, many Governors stepped in and elongated the period which put millions of Americans out of work. We were told these rules were saving lives, but the infection spread and will continue to spread and will never go away. It has become endemic. The shutdowns forestalled the inevitable medically but redefined our lives economically.

Governments from the federal level on down determined that, since they were disrupting so many people’s lives and cutting off their self-supporting resources, they had to give us handouts. They came in many forms – direct deposits, tax credits, PPP loans, enhanced unemployment benefits, and more. There were definitively people in need for a period, but that largely ended a long time ago. Many of the handouts did not.

What we have seen is that people who neither have the need nor in the past would not have taken government handouts have been dipping their toes (some their entire body) into the freebie trough.

To give people the benefit of the doubt, there was a period of uncertainty in the beginning but did not last for most people. That is because we only had two months of an economic downturn. That is not even close to being an official “recession,” defined as two consecutive quarters of an economic downturn, not two months. There are vocations, like performers and actors, who were completely shut down and only recently able to perform with many still hampered. Most of them are not financially stable enough to endure such a blow to their incomes.

We are not just addressing the people who stayed out of work because of excessive, prolonged unemployment benefits and rental eviction moratoriums. Many of these people took the opportunity to pay off their credit card balances while not meeting their other obligations like their landlords.

We are talking about people who took unemployment benefits when they had spouses still earning significant money. Even if they did not have spouses making money, they had adequate resources to continue their lifestyles without impediment. The government expanded unemployment benefits to self-employed individuals even though they were not part of the insurance system and did not pay into the fund. Otherwise, pure welfare.

There are people who had an excellent year in 2020 due to their PPP loans who went back to the trough and got a second PPP loan or Employment Retention Credits (ERC) in 2021. They took the benefits because there is an attitude today that others are taking the benefits; if I do not, I will be paying for their benefits and losing out. And why not? “Why not” used to be because there was a societal agreement these benefits were only for people in real need. Now it seems most everyone is feeding at the trough.

The state of California decided to add additional freebies instead of using a surplus to pay down debt or keep the money for an inevitable downturn or God forbid return the excess funds to the people who paid the excess taxes. Instead, they decided to provide breakfast and lunch for all students without income limitations in public schools. That concept alone warrants a full analysis, but we will only address a NYT commentary.

The New York Times has a daily column called California Today. On Friday October 1, 2021, it was written by Soumya Karlamangla. When addressing the reason for making every student at public schools eligible for free breakfast and lunch she wrote: “Families also felt stigma. Some had been reluctant to fill out the needed paperwork because they didn’t want to rely on government benefits.” Stigma? What about, “we don’t need help from the government so why take it?” Now every child in a public school has become a ward of the state. Why not keep them around and give them dinner also?

Many of the proposed programs that the Leftists want to add in the $2.0 trillion (or is it $4.0 trillion?) are not income-limited like most programs have been in the past. Many of the existing benefit programs have been stripped of work requirements.

The Leftists want to make us dependent on government benefits. It seems virtually everyone is playing along. It has become every person for themselves and damn the country.

When did we become such a selfish, non-self-reliant country?

*****

This article was published on November 14, 2021, in FlashReport, and is reproduced with the permission of the author.

Biden Treasury Nominee Saule Omarova Wants to “Bankrupt” Energy Companies

Estimated Reading Time: < 1 minute

President Joe Biden has nominated Saule Omarova to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in the Department of the Treasury. That move is making headlines thanks to Omarova’s prior comments on bankrupting energy companies.

“For example for certain troubled industries and firms that are in transitioning,” Omarova said, “here, what I’m thinking about is primarily the coal industry and oil and gas industry. A lot of the smaller players in that industry are going to probably go bankrupt in short order, at least we want them to go bankrupt if we want to tackle climate change.”

In a statement to Fox News, AAF founder Tom Jones said: “Calling to bankrupt the fossil fuel industry that drives nearly our entire economy is dangerously misinformed. Yet the Biden administration is nominating zealots like Saule Omarova to serve in our government as they attempt to destroy American energy jobs and stifle innovation.”

Omarova was also a member of a Marxist Facebook group as late as 2019. According to the Washington Times, in a tweet in 2019, Omarova offered praise for the former Soviet Union, saying: “Until I came to the US, I couldn’t imagine that things like gender pay gap still existed in today’s world. Say what you will about old USSR, there was no gender pay gap there. Market doesn’t always ‘know best.’”

The Fox News article can be read here, while the Washington Times article can be accessed here.

*****

This article was published in November 15, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from CFACT, Committee for A Constructive Tomorrow.

Poll: Independent Arizonans Shifting Toward GOP Side on COVID-19 Issues

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Monthly polling of Arizonans shows Independents have shifted to align more with Republicans in terms of handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the pandemic-related mitigations began in early 2020, registered Independent voters in Arizona have treaded evenly between Republican opinions on how to mitigate the spread of the virus and those of Democrats.

That began to change in July, according to OH Predictive’s Arizona Public Opinion Pulse.

Since mid-summer, Independent voters polled in OHPI’s monthly survey have inched closer to the sentiments of GOP-aligned residents.

In its latest poll, released Tuesday, more than one-quarter of Independents said they are unwilling to take the COVID-19 vaccine; seven percentage points behind Republicans. Thirty-four percent of GOP-registered voters had the same opinion, while only 10% of Democrats said they weren’t ready to be vaccinated.

Independents also have moved away from Democrats in terms of mitigation strategies.

Mask and vaccination mandates are opposed by 59% of Republicans, and now 28% of Independents agree. Only 6% of Democrats oppose the mandates.

“Independents in Arizona have always been a curious group to pin down, and it can be challenging to paint a clear picture of overarching Independent values and priorities,” OHPI Chief of Research Mike Noble said. “But, when Independent trends begin to shift, watching the direction they came from and where they go helps us understand what might be driving Independent sentiment.”

Comprising approximately one-third of the state’s electorate and increasing, registered Independents often are the target of Democrats and Republicans hoping to swing the large contingency their way. Former Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain’s centrist attitude toward politics and tendency to buck his Republican Party voting line made him a favorite among Independents.

The poll was conducted from Nov. 1-8 and questioned 713 registered Arizona voters. Its margin of error is 3.7%

*****

This article was published on November 16, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.