Rethinking Regulatory Capture

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

The capture theory of regulation, popularized in an article by Nobel laureate George Stigler, concludes that regulatory agencies become “captured” by the firms they regulate. Regulatory agencies act in the best interest of the firms they regulate rather than serving the general public interest.

Regulatory capture partly occurs because regulated firms have a concentrated interest in regulatory outcomes. In contrast, the general public has a diluted interest. Regulated firms have a large incentive to influence regulatory agencies. Most members of the general public have almost no incentive to do so.

Assume, for example, that a regulatory protection for a firm would cost each of one million customers of that firm $5, which would then be transferred to the firm. Individuals have little incentive to mount any opposition to that $5 cost they bear, whereas the firm would stand to gain $5 million from the regulation. The firm will lobby hard for the regulatory protection, whereas most consumers probably will be unaware that the regulation even exists.

A good real-world example is the mandate that motor fuels include ethanol. There is little consumer backlash against this, even though we know consumers would prefer motor fuels without ethanol. (Otherwise, there would be no reason to mandate it.) Meanwhile, corn farmers and processors reap an enormous benefit from the mandate in exchange for a small cost imposed on many consumers.

Regulated firms have other advantages too. A big one is that information which the regulatory agency uses to regulate the firm comes directly from the firm, so the firm can control that flow of information to its advantage. Another advantage is that regulators and the regulated are likely to know each other personally and want to remain on good terms with their friends.

The title of this post is also the title of an article I published recently in the Journal of Private Enterprise, which adds to this theory of regulatory capture. For a regulation (and regulatory agency) to be created in the first place, it would have to provide some advantage to its creator.

The advantage to the creator is that the regulated firm becomes dependent on the continued flow of benefits from the regulation. Should the regulation be repealed, the regulated firm will suffer a loss, perhaps severe enough to bankrupt the firm. So, regulated firms must continue to pay off legislators and regulators to maintain that favorable regulatory environment.

Decades ago, airlines were regulated to restrict competition among them. When airlines were deregulated in 1978, the loss of this regulatory benefit bankrupted many of them. What happened to Eastern Airlines? Braniff? Pan American? TWA? They were victims of deregulation.

To avoid a similar outcome as the airlines, regulated firms are incentivized to support the politicians and legislators who have the power to continue or terminate existing regulations. Regulation provides a benefit to regulated firms, as Stigler explained. Still, it also creates a dependence of those firms on the continuation of regulation.

Thus, politicians are in a position to extract payment from those regulated firms. Firms can hope to preserve a favorable regulatory environment by providing campaign contributions and other political support.

The ultimate result is that regulated firms are “captured” by legislators and regulators. In exchange for regulatory protections, those firms become dependent on continued regulation. They must continue to pay up—whether literally or figuratively—to maintain their regulatory protections.

Disney provides an example of what happens when firms do not support those with the power to continue their regulatory protections. In 1967, Florida’s state government essentially allowed the company to create its own government to run Walt Disney World. In 2022 the company opposed legislation supported by the Florida legislature and Governor DeSantis. In response, the legislature repealed their privilege to self-govern.

Firms that benefit from regulatory protections must continue to support the legislatures that can reverse those protections, or they will lose them. Stigler concluded that regulatory agencies are captured by the firms they regulate. Still, ultimately, it is the regulated firms that become captured by the legislators and regulators who have the power to terminate their regulatory protections.

*****

This article was published by AIER, American Institute for Economic Research, and is reproduced with permission.

 

Hillsdale’s Larry Arnn Is Over the Target

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

His comments about education schools were a clear-eyed revelation of the cronyism and professional incest that has emerged between university graduate programs and university bureaucracies.

 

When Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn commented on university teacher education programs in late June, he not only struck a nerve with teacher advocacy groups but he also struck at the root of the decay that has taken hold in our public schools.

Arnn made his comments at a private event while on stage with Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. Afterwards, a secretly recorded video of the event was made public by a Nashville television station and then widely reported.

“The teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country,” Arnn said.

He was also unsparing in his assessment of the presence on campuses of the “diversity” movement: “In colleges, what you hire now is administrators . . . Now, because they are appointing all these diversity officers, what are their degrees in? Education. It’s easy. You don’t have to know anything.”

The Hillsdale president was castigated by the usual suspects—various teacher groups in Tennessee, teacher college apparatchiks, and a spokesman for the state association of schools. Naturally, Lee was attacked for his silence as Arnn spoke.

Critics sniffed in indignation. They feigned outrage that anyone would dare to tell the truth about the nation’s schools of education.

Arnn is correct. The situation is arguably worse in education schools and education departments than what he portrayed. A half-century of studies have shown this to be the case.

But more than just producing teachers, university education schools and, to an extent, departments of education at colleges without a free-standing ed school reside at the core of today’s overall decline not just of K-12 education, but also higher education.

This is the case for a number of reasons. Low-quality undergraduate and graduate students flock to these programs created in “educational leadership,” “higher education administration,” and “student affairs.” Then they stream these graduates into college bureaucracy jobs created just for them by their cronies in administration. Next there is the near-complete ideological colonization of ed schools by the noxious doctrine of critical pedagogy and its handmaid “antiracist pedagogy.”

As Arnn points out, the diversity bureaucrats arriving on campuses have almost all been trained in schools of education, which are universally permeated with the ideology of neo-Marxist critical theory. These students are trained according to a neo-Marxist doctrine called “critical pedagogy,” which was concocted in the 1960s and 1970s by the Brazilian Maoist Paulo Freire…..

*****

Continue reading this article published at American Greatness.

Gun Sales Are Collapsing in Arizona

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Editors’ Note: The statistics below should be compared with the next several six-month analyses following the SCOTUS New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen decision in favor of gun owners and their second amendment right for concealed carry without the need to show cause for that carry.

 

Gun sales in America, as estimated by background checks, jumped at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and remained high until well into 2021. Several days and weeks in that period set all-time records. Total sales were 28,369,750 in 2019 and 39,659315 in 2020. These figures come from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System — firearm background checks are often used as a proxy for gun sales.

During the period of the increase, the number of first-time gun buyers jumped. Sales also rose among women and minorities. First-time buyers have accounted for about 20% of new gun sales nationwide in 2020.

Recently, however, gun sales have collapsed, both month to month and year over year. The pace of the decline accelerated in June. June gun sales last year totaled 3,054,726 nationwide. Last month, nationwide gun sales totaled 2,570,608. Compared to the first six months of 2021, there were 6.4 million fewer background checks for the purchase of a firearm, a 28.7% drop.

In Arizona, gun sales are falling, but at a slower pace than the national decline. There were a total of 273,584 FBI firearm background checks in the state in the first half of 2022 compared to 322,799 in the first six months of 2021 — a 15.2% reduction and the 43rd largest decline among states.

Reasons for the slowdown are not as clear as those that explained the surge reported last year. The New York Times reported in May 2021, “While gun sales have been climbing for decades — they often spike in election years and after high-profile crimes — Americans have been on an unusual, prolonged buying spree fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, the protests last summer and the fears they both stoked.”

Rank State and Change in sales, 1st half 2021 to 1st half 2022. Background checks in 1st half of 2022 and Background checks in 1st half of 2021.

47 Delaware -8.4% 34,602 37,764
46 Minnesota -8.6% 458,568 501,936
45 New York -9.6% 221,579 245,023
44 California -10.1% 691,718 769,591
43 Arizona -15.2% 273,584 322,799
42 North Dakota -15.8% 35,732 42,421
41 Tennessee -16.2% 420,199 501,372
40 Montana -17.1% 70,552 85,087
39 Iowa -17.1% 127,848 154,243
38 Maine -17.4% 53,787 65,116
37 Oregon -17.7% 201,022 244,214
36 Alaska -18.0% 39,759 48,493
35 New Mexico -18.4% 86,322 105,821
34 Oklahoma -18.5% 180,342 221,221
33 Pennsylvania -18.9% 619,530 764,206
32 Idaho -19.3% 119,491 148,011
31 Texas -19.4% 855,905 1,062,416
30 Mississippi -19.6% 134,642 167,522
29 Louisiana -19.6% 170,127 211,706
28 Florida -19.8% 748,659 933,434
27 Vermont -19.8% 22,197 27,678
26 Utah -19.9% 506,367 632,562
25 Wisconsin -20.0% 316,376 395,468
24 Massachusetts -20.4% 113,472 142,631
23 Virginia -20.7% 278,978 351,987
22 South Carolina -20.9% 209,843 265,374
21 New Hampshire -21.7% 66,013 84,286
20 Kansas -21.9% 95,135 121,781
19 Colorado -21.9% 266,553 341,260
18 Wyoming -22.2% 35,169 45,201
17 West Virginia -22.6% 92,541 119,606
16 Nebraska -22.6% 38,309 49,518
15 Connecticut -22.9% 126,268 163,741
14 Nevada -23.0% 80,710 104,884
13 Missouri -24.4% 261,399 345,880
12 Maryland -24.5% 114,372 151,424
11 Michigan -26.1% 403,011 545,526
10 South Dakota -26.7% 41,772 56,973
9 Arkansas -27.1% 113,314 155,524
8 Alabama -27.4% 374,096 515,239
7 North Carolina -28.1% 316,997 440,812
6 Ohio -28.7% 336,981 472,354
5 Rhode Island -33.7% 15,157 22,853
4 Georgia -34.6% 302,270 461,957
3 New Jersey -40.1% 81,209 135,591
2 Indiana -45.0% 625,360 1,137,707
1 Illinois -65.9% 2,064,400 6,050,704

*****

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

Bulk-mail Voting Is The Main Obstacle to Election Integrity

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

The debate over election fraud versus voter suppression is high-stakes and high-intensity. Trump loyalists insist the election was stolen, mechanically rigged, and rife with fraudulent actors. Democrats continue to insist that fraud never happens, an argument easily swatted away by the existence of thousands of documented incidents.

But Democrats have a point in that the problematic behaviors – bulk mail voting, ballot harvesting, and related practices – were permitted by law in most states. That means, according to the “fact checkers”, that all reasonable people must agree that there was No Fraud.

Trump fought the wrong war at the wrong time. While he was ranting about corrupt voting machines, rogue election workers, and a cascade of assorted allegations, Democrats in the last two elections were cleverly creating election rules intended to create a permanent majority.

Trump and his supporters were never able to prevail in a court of law. In the end, they were outsmarted and lost the election to a pathetically weak candidate.

Attorney General Bill Barr was an astute, loyal adviser to Trump during the election. Unfortunately, his advice to stop exploring rabbit holes was not heeded.  Yet he would see the traps the Democrats were setting in September 2020.

Bulk mail balloting is not your father’s absentee voting, he explained on CNN. “Instead of requests coming from a specific address, we are now going to mail them to everyone on a voter list, when everyone knows the voter lists are inaccurate.“

“People who should get them don’t get them…and people who get them are not the right people. They are people who have replaced the previous occupant…and sometimes multiple ballots come to the same address with several generations of previous occupants”.  That’s no way to run an election, he concluded.

He’s right. For generations, America had voting laws that produced fair, reliable results. The laws required that all voters register beforehand and present a secure ID. All votes were cast confidentially. Absolutely no intimidation or persuasion was allowed in or near a polling station.

Importantly, there was a strict chain of custody to make sure that there could be no tampering and that all legally cast ballots would be counted. Voting was done mostly on site although accommodations were made for those unable to vote in person on election day.

That was the American way of conducting elections. Now, all that has changed. Millions of ballots are sent automatically to voters just because they didn’t opt out of receiving one. Nobody knows what happens to them until they are returned.

Helpful party workers can collect them, offer aid with voting and often leave them anonymously in drop boxes. The notoriously unreliable signature verification often is the only ID required.

Today, this is all perfectly legal. Of course, it’s illegal to vote a ballot not your own, to unduly influence another voter, or to fail to deliver certain ballots. But with bulk mail voting, none of this is detectable.

Once a mail-in ballot is opened and separated from its envelope, any possible proof of fraud is lost, no matter how many audits and investigations are performed. We have a voting system obviously prone to fraud and coercion yet opaque to any misdeeds committed within it.

Arizona voters, thanks to their legislature, will have a chance this year to close one gaping flaw in our system by approving a requirement of voter ID for bulk-mail voters. There is no coherent reason to require ID  at the polls while bulk-mail voters get a pass.

Although the media continue to insist that those who support voter ID are “vote suppressors“, Americans smell a rat. According to a Quinnipiac poll, only 60% of voters overall believed the last election to be legitimate.

In the end, it may not matter that much how much “provable fraud“ can be discovered.  So long as we have a slipshod, non-secure system like bulk-mail voting, it will be difficult to convince voters of the integrity of their vote.

In a closely divided country, it is critical that citizens have confidence in elections and the legitimacy of the government. As Bill Barr says, “we are playing with fire“.

*****

Thomas C. Patterson, MD is a retired Emergency Medicine physician, Arizona state Senator and Arizona Senate Majority Leader in the ’90s. He is a former Chairman, Goldwater Institute.

 

 

America Excels at Building Bureaucracy

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

A new bridge in Los Angeles is one example out of thousands.

Los Angeles recently celebrated the opening of its new Sixth Street Bridge, which connects downtown to the city’s eastern district and crosses over an industrial area and the L.A. River (drainage wash). Designed to safely accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles, it is indeed a beautiful bridge.

Are there any negatives about the bridge? Well, not according to media coverage.

In conducting an Internet search on the bridge’s construction and opening, I could not find one negative story or remark in six pages of sources. Media outlets were uniformly ecstatic about the bridge.

But there are negatives, as there are a lot of construction projects in America. Consider:

The bridge had been projected to be completed in three years at a cost of $428 million. Unsurprisingly, it took six years and cost $588 million, or $160 million over budget.

If you’re a US taxpayer, you paid some of the cost, even if you don’t live in L.A. or California. That’s because $364 million of the funding came from the Federal Highway Bridge Program—although the bridge isn’t exactly a critical infrastructure of national importance.

Given that the average household income in the US is $90,000 in rounded numbers, this means that the $364 million in federal funding is equal to the total yearly income of about 4,000 households across the nation.

Cost overruns missed deadlines, and hide-the-pea funding has become so commonplace on public works projects that they are met with a big yawn from the media and the public. 

This reflects the bureaucratization of America, one of the most serious problems facing the nation—a problem that doesn’t get the attention it deserves but will get some in this commentary.

It might seem hyperbolic and even kooky to say that bureaucratization is that serious, but history suggests otherwise. Bureaucracy has caused huge corporations to lose touch with customers and market trends, ultimately resulting in them going out of business. The same with nations, most notably the Soviet Union, which, due to communism, tried to micromanage an entire economy and society. It was the ultimate bureaucracy and a perfect illustration of my axiom: The more socialism, the more bureaucracy

Experts from various disciplines are puzzled as to why productivity growth has flat-lined for many years in spite of new technologies. This is a very important question because prosperity depends on productivity. The answer is that productivity is being throttled by red tape.

Bureaucracy is also a key reason why Americans are frustrated with their government and elected leaders. Layer upon layer of unaccountable and unelected apparatchiks have come between them and lawmakers, a situation made worse by the fact that most members of Congress are attorneys, who, by nature, training and experience, are comfortable with abstruse minutia.     

Equally concerning, public and private construction projects seem to take a lot longer than they did more than a century ago, in spite of such technological advances as computer-aided design, instant electronic communications, lighter and stronger materials, and more versatile and powerful construction equipment.

Take the Kinzua Bridge near my wife’s hometown of Bradford, Pa., in the northwestern part of the state.  A railroad trestle, it was built in 1882 to carry coal from Pennsylvania coal mines to Buffalo.  At 301 ft. tall, it was the highest railroad bridge in the country at the time.  Spanning the Kinzua Valley, it was 2,052 ft. long.  Originally made of iron, the bridge was built in 94 days.  Years later it was torn down and rebuilt out of steel in order to accommodate heavier trains.

To compare, it took 94 days in 1882 to build the Kinzua Bridge in Pa., versus six years in the twenty-first century to build the Sixth Street Bridge in L.A.

Or consider the Eads Bridge that crosses the Mississippi River at my hometown of St. Louis. It was the first bridge over the Mississippi at its wider section south of the Missouri River. It took seven years to build, beginning in 1867. That’s one year longer than it took to construct the Sixth Street Bridge, but the Eads Bridge, at 6,442 feet in length, had to cross a mighty river, had to be high enough for tall steamboats to pass underneath, and had to carry trains and horse carriages and wagons (and later motorized cars and trucks). Not only that, but new construction methods had to be developed as it was being built, such as learning to build a bridge with steel and inventing the pneumatic caissons required to construct footings 100 ft. below the surface of the river.

Then there is the Brooklyn Army Terminal. Its construction began in 1918 and was completed in one year. The facility, much of which still stands, covered 94 acres and consisted of two eight-story warehouses, three two-story piers, ancillary buildings, railroad tracks, cranes to move material between pier and ship, and a storage yard with a capacity of 2,200 freight cars. In all, it had 4.6 million square feet of indoor space.

What has happened over the intervening years to slow down construction projects? The easy answer is labor laws, safety regulations, and environmental regulations—all of which came into being for good reasons but have morphed into a nightmare of needless red tape. For example, it can take years to write an environmental impact statement and get government approval before construction can begin, even for something as environmentally benign as a bridge.  

A cynic—or perhaps a realist—would say that politics come into play, in that politicians can “buy” votes by building something that an interest group wants and by spreading the cost across all taxpayers. Economists refer to this as concentrated benefits and dispersed costs. Those who benefit will tend to be better organized, more vocal, and more determined than the general public that foots the bill. Of course, the beneficiaries are insensitive to costs.

However, there are other causes of bureaucracy that are even more pernicious and almost impossible to stop.

First, the natural tendency of organizations, including nation states, is to slowly become more bureaucratic as they age. Like a ship slowly accumulating barnacles, a ship of state slowly accumulates laws, regulations, and rules. As an example, when the income tax was instituted in 1913, the tax code was four pages. It grew to 1,000 pages during FDR’s New Deal, to 8,200 pages during the Second World War, and to more than 70,000 pages today.

Similar exponential growth in red tape has been produced by other federal agencies, departments, sub-departments, and sub-sub departments. States and municipalities have followed suit.

The second reason for the growth in red tape is self-interest. Every law and regulation, and every sub-section of a law or regulation, becomes the rice bowl of those in the public and private sectors who are paid, often handsomely, to interpret and administer the gobbledygook.

As an example, the IRS now has over 70,000 employees, or one for every page of the tax code.  Not included in this number are the tens of thousands of private-sector tax attorneys, accountants, administrators, financial advisors, clerks, developers of tax software systems, and others who owe their livelihood to the tax code. No doubt, many of these are small-government conservatives who rail about the growth of government.

It was frustrating during my corporate career when I had to attend expensive seminars to learn about new regulations promulgated by OSHA or some other agency. Oftentimes, the consultants holding the seminars were the former government bureaucrats who wrote the regulations. They had an incentive in their former jobs to make the regulations as indecipherable and ambiguous as possible.

Equally discouraging is the government’s spawning of regulations to address problems caused by the government. Ponderous financial regulations such as Dodd-Frank are a case in point. The Federal Reserve and the Treasury have caused financial crises by working in cahoots to print money and lower interest rates, to cover deficit spending. This in turn has fueled financial speculation, market exuberance, and malinvestments. In response, the government has promulgated regulations instead of addressing its culpability.

It’s a similar story with the government’s tuition loan programs, which have driven up the cost of college, which in turn has led the government to enact even more subsidies and regulations, which in turn have driven up costs even more.

My 1991 book on bureaucracy detailed how companies could save themselves from being destroyed by self-inflicted bureaucracy, and my consultancy helped to save several clients. There are no solutions for nation-states, however. In those, bureaucracy will run its course and slowly weaken the host, until something catastrophic happens and upends the existing order, such as devaluation, bankruptcy, revolution, or being conquered or subsumed economically by a stronger nation.

On the bright side, at least L.A. will have a pretty bridge.

 

 

New York Times Inadvertently Makes The Case For More Concealed Carry

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Editors’ Note: Not much is known about the heroic young man who used his concealed weapon to stop a mass shooter.  More will likely come out fairly soon. Was he violating mall policy to have the weapon on him? If so, thank heavens he violated that silly requirement. It never seems to dawn on Progressives that the reason so few citizens stop mass shootings is that almost all mass shootings are in gun-free zones, which discourages good people from stopping criminals. But it never stops criminals because if you are about to murder innocents, who would care about violating some gun-free sign? Even that said, stopping 5% or more of such tragedies is significant. Moreover, this young man is one hell of a shot.  News reports so far do not indicate he had military or police experience, but rather learned to shoot with his grandfather. Making a 40-yard shot, hitting no bystanders with a 9mm pistol, and hitting the target 8 of 10 times under pressure as people are being killed, and under severe time constraints is almost an Olympian feat.  It would appear that a sick, cowardly young man, was stopped by a heroic young man. We should ignore the former and give due praise to the latter.

 

The evidence shows that an armed citizen is more likely to stop a mass shooting than any of the policies being advocated by Democrats.

After Eli Dicken stopped a mass shooter this weekend at an Indiana mall, left-leaning outlets began churning out pieces arguing that “good guys with guns” are rare. Now, I don’t know a single pro-gun advocate who claims constitutional carry is a panacea. The nihilistic mass-shooter problem is crying out for a holistic societal remedy. There is no one solution. But it’s clear from the very statistics offered in pieces like this one from the New York Times (which generously quotes me) that concealed carry saves lives.

Consider:

1. Eli Dicken is an absolute badass. The 22-year-old reportedly took down the shooter with eight of 10 shots just 15 seconds after the incident began from 40 yards, showing more bravery and composure than the hundreds of cops milling around while students were being slaughtered in a Uvalde school.

2. The only reason Dicken was armed with a 9-millimeter at the Greenwood mall is that Indiana had recently passed a permitless carry law, which removed license requirements for handgun carriers (though gun buyers still go through the usual FBI background check, a fact omitted in many news stories.) One can assume that Dicken would not have brought any weapon with him had it been illegal to do so, but that the killer, Jonathan Douglas Sapirman, would have shown up with his 100 rounds, two ARs, and a pistol regardless of how forcefully the signs in the mall informed him that he was in a gun-free zone.

3. The New York Times refers to Dicken’s shooting as a “statistical unicorn.” But is it? “An examination of 433 active shooter attacks in the United States between 2000 and 2021,” writes the Times, “showed that only 22 ended with a bystander shooting an attacker, according to data from the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University.”

Only 22 of 433 incidents is 5 percent — which translates to a significant number of lives saved. Or, put it this way: The lives saved by bystanders taking down shooters are as, or more, effective than any Democrat-led policy effort on gun safety.

When The Washington Post fact-checkers looked at 41 of the most deadly mass shooting since 2015, they could come up with only two instances where “universal background checks” might have averted a shooting. The Post’s claim is debatable in both instances because unlike the shooters who are killed by bystanders, we have no idea what alternative actions would-be mass shooters might take. But, for the sake of argument, let’s concede that “universal background checks” stopped just under 5 percent of the worst mass shootings (there is no reason to believe the percentage rises with bigger sample size). Would the Times categorize the policy’s effectiveness as a “statistical unicorn”? Unlikely.

4. But even the Times’ 5 percent number is misleading. Many, probably most, planned mass shootings happen in places where citizens are forbidden by law to carry guns for self-protection. How many of these rampages would be stopped — or more quickly ended — if teachers or movie theater patrons or mallgoers were allowed to legally carry weapons? The number is surely more than 5 percent. Maybe a lot more.

5. Adam Skaggs, chief counsel, and policy director at Giffords, told the Times that good guys with guns are “exceedingly rare” and “the exception rather than the rule. The reality is that more people carrying guns means more conflicts escalating into deadly violence and more people being shot and killed.”

That is not the reality. There is little correlation between high levels of gun ownership and criminality. There are counties where gun ownership is widespread and there is little criminality, and there are urban areas where the percentage of gun ownership is low and there is exceedingly high criminality, and there are places with low gun ownership and low criminality. But the reality is guns exist in this country. Hundreds of millions of them. Society should be incentivizing responsible ownership and punishing irresponsible ownership. The fact that we strip people of the ability to protect themselves is indefensible.

*****

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

Dr. Birx Praises Herself While Revealing Ignorance, Treachery, and Deceit

Estimated Reading Time: 15 minutes

The December 2020 resignation of Dr. Deborah Birx, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator under Trump, revealed predictable hypocrisy. Like so many other government officials around the world, she was caught violating her own stay-at-home order. Therefore she finally left her post following nine months of causing unfathomable amounts of damage to life, liberty, property, and the very idea of hope for the future.

Even if Anthony Fauci had been the front man for the media, it was Birx who was the main influence in the White House behind the nationwide lockdowns that did not stop or control the pathogen but have caused immense suffering and continue to roil and wreck the world. So it was significant that she would not and could not comply with her own dictates, even as her fellow citizens were being hunted down for the same infractions against “public health.” 

In the days before Thanksgiving 2020, she had warned Americans to “assume you’re infected” and to restrict gatherings to “your immediate household.” Then she packed her bags and headed to Fenwick Island in Delaware where she met with four generations for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, as if she were free to make normal choices and live a normal life while everyone else had to shelter in place.

The Associated Press was first out with the report on December 20, 2020.

Birx acknowledged in a statement that she went to her Delaware property. She declined to be interviewed.

She insisted the purpose of the roughly 50-hour visit was to deal with the winterization of the property before a potential sale — something she says she previously hadn’t had time to do because of her busy schedule.

“I did not go to Delaware for the purpose of celebrating Thanksgiving,” Birx said in her statement, adding that her family shared a meal together while in Delaware.

Birx said that everyone on her Delaware trip belongs to her “immediate household,” even as she acknowledged they live in two different homes. She initially called the Potomac home a “3 generation household (formerly 4 generations).” White House officials later said it continues to be a four-generation household, a distinction that would include Birx as part of the home.

So it was all a sleight-of-hand: she was staying home; it’s just that she has several homes! This is how the power elite comply, one supposes.

The BBC then quoted her defense, which echo the pain experienced by hundreds of millions:

“My daughter hasn’t left that house in 10 months, my parents have been isolated for 10 months. They’ve become deeply depressed as I’m sure many elderly have as they’ve not been able to see their sons, their granddaughters. My parents have not been able to see their surviving son for over a year. These are all very difficult things.”

Indeed. However, she was the major voice for the better part of 2020 for requiring exactly that. No one should blame her for wanting to get together with family; that she worked so hard for so long to prevent others from doing so is what is at issue.

Sin of omission

The press piled on and she announced that she would be leaving her post and not seeking a position at the Biden White House. Trump tweeted that she will be missed. It was the final discrediting – or should have been – of a person that many in the White House and many around the country had come to see as an obvious fanatic and fake, a person whose influence wrecked the liberties and health of an entire country.

It was a fitting end to a catastrophic career. So it would make sense that people might pick up her new book to find out what it was like to go through that kind of media storm, the real reasons for her visit, and what it was like to know for sure that she must violate her own rules in order to bring comfort to her family, and the difficult decision she made to throw in the towel knowing that she has compromised the integrity of her entire program.

One slogs through her entire book only to find this incredible fact: she never mentions this. The incident is missing entirely from her book.

Instead at the moment in the narrative at which she would be expected to recount the affair, she says almost in passing that “When former vice president Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 election, I’d set a goal for myself—to hand over responsibility for the pandemic response, with all its many elements, in the best possible place.”

At that point, the book skips immediately to the new year. Done. It’s like Orwell, the story, even though it was reported for days in the world press and became a defining moment in her career, is just wiped out from the history book of her own authorship.

Somehow it makes sense that she would neglect to mention this. Reading her book is a very painful experience (all credit to Michael Senger’s review) simply because it seems to be weaving fables on page after page, strewn with bromides, completely lacking in self-awareness, punctuated by revealing comments that make the opposite point of what she is seeking. Reading it is truly a surreal experience, astonishing especially because she is able to maintain her delusionary pose for 525 pages. 

Chief lockdown architect

Recall that it was she who was tasked – by Anthony Fauci – with doing the really crucial thing of talking Donald Trump into green-lighting the lockdowns that began on March 12, 2020, and continued to their final hard-core deployment on March 16. This was the “15 Days to Flatten the Curve” that turned into two years in many parts of the country.

Her book admits that it was a two-level lie from the beginning.

“We had to make these palatable to the administration by avoiding the obvious appearance of a full Italian lockdown,” she writes. “At the same time, we needed the measures to be effective at slowing the spread, which meant matching as closely as possible what Italy had done—a tall order. We were playing a game of chess in which the success of each move was predicated on the one before it.”

Further:

“At this point, I wasn’t about to use the words lockdown or shutdown. If I had uttered either of those in early March, after being at the White House only one week, the political, nonmedical members of the task force would have dismissed me as too alarmist, too doom-and-gloom, too reliant on feelings and not facts. They would have campaigned to lock me down and shut me up.”

In other words, she wanted to go full CCP just like Italy but didn’t want to say that. Crucially, she knew for sure that two weeks was not the real plan. “I left the rest unstated: that this was just a starting point.”

“No sooner had we convinced the Trump administration to implement our version of a two-week shutdown than I was trying to figure out how to extend it,” she admits.

“Fifteen Days to Slow the Spread was a start, but I knew it would be just that. I didn’t have the numbers in front of me yet to make the case for extending it longer, but I had two weeks to get them. However hard it had been to get the fifteen-day shutdown approved, getting another one would be more difficult by many orders of magnitude. In the meantime, I waited for the blowback, for someone from the economic team to call me to the principal’s office or confront me at a task force meeting. None of this happened.”

It was a solution in search of evidence she did not have. She told Trump that the evidence was there anyway. She actually tricked him into believing that locking down a whole population of people was somehow magically going to make a virus to which everyone would inevitably be exposed somehow vanish as a threat.

Meanwhile, the economy was wrecked domestically and then all over the world, as most governments in the world followed what the US did. 

Where did she come up with the idea of lockdowns? By her own report, her only real experience with infectious disease came from her work on AIDS, a very different disease from a respiratory virus that everyone would eventually get but which would only be fatal or even severe for a small cohort, a fact that was known since late January. Still, her experience counted for more than science.

In any health crisis, it is crucial to work at the personal behavior level,” she says with the presumption that avoidance at all costs was the only goal. “With HIV/AIDS, this meant convincing asymptomatic people to get tested, to seek treatment if they were HIV-positive, and to take preventative measures, including wearing condoms; or to employ other pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) if they were negative.”

She immediately hops to the analogy with Covid. “I knew the government agencies would need to do the same thing to have a similar effect on the spread of this novel coronavirus. The most obvious parallel with the HIV/AIDS example was the message of wearing masks.”

Masks = condoms. Remarkable. This “obvious parallel” remark sums up the whole depth of her thinking. Behavior is all that matters. Just stay apart. Cover your mouth. Don’t gather. Don’t travel. Close the schools. Close everything. Whatever happens, don’t get it. Nothing else matters. Keep your immune system as unexposed as possible. 

I wish I could say her thought is more complex than that but it is not. This was the basis for lockdowns. For how long? In her mind, it seems like it would be forever. Nowhere in the book does she reveal an exit strategy. Not even vaccines qualify.

Myopic focus

From the very beginning, she revealed her epidemiological views. On March 16, 2020, at her press conference with Trump, she summarized her position: “We really want people to be separated at this time.” People? All people? Everywhere? Not one reporter raised a question about this obviously ridiculous and outrageous statement that would essentially destroy life on earth.

But she was serious – seriously deluded not only about how society functions but also about infectious disease of this sort. Only one thing mattered as a metric to her: reducing infections through any means possible, as if she on her own could cobble together a new kind of society in which exposure to airborne pathogens was made illegal.

Here is an example. There was a controversy about how many people should be allowed to gather in one space, such as in a home, church, store, stadium, or community center. She addresses how she came up with the rules:

The real problem with this fifty-versus-ten distinction, for me, was that it revealed that the CDC simply didn’t believe to the degree that I did that SARS-CoV-2 was being spread through the air silently and undetected from symptomless individuals. The numbers really did matter. As the years since have confirmed, in times of active viral community spread, as many as fifty people gathered together indoors (unmasked at this point, of course) was way too high a number. It increased the chances of someone among that number being infected exponentially. I had settled on ten knowing that even that was too many, but I figured that ten would at least be palatable for most Americans—high enough to allow for most gatherings of immediate family but not enough for large dinner parties and, critically, large weddings, birthday parties, and other mass social events.

She puts a fine point on it: “if I pushed for zero (which was actually what I wanted and what was required), this would have been interpreted as a ‘lockdown’—the perception we were all working so hard to avoid.”

What does it mean for zero people to gather? A suicide cult?

In any case, just like that, from her own thinking and straight to enforcement, birthday parties, sports, weddings, and funerals came to be forbidden. 

Here we gain insight into the sheer insanity of her vision. It is nothing short of a marvel that she somehow managed to gain the amount of influence she did.

Notice her above mention of her dogma that asymptomatic spread was the whole key to understanding pandemic. In other words, on her own and without any scientific support, she presumed that Covid was both extremely fatal and had a long latency period. To her way of thinking, this is why the usual tradeoff between severity and prevalence did not matter. 

She was somehow certain that the longest estimates of latency were correct: 14 days. This is the reason for the “wait two weeks” obsession. She held onto this dogma throughout, almost like the fictional movie “Contagion” had been her only guide to understanding.

Later in the book, she writes that symptoms mean next to nothing because people can always carry around the virus in their nose without being sick. After all, this is what PCR tests have shown. Instead of seeing that as a failure of PCR, she saw this as a confirmation that everyone is a carrier no matter what and therefore everyone has to lock down because otherwise, we’ll deal with a black plague.

Somehow, despite her astonishing lack of scientific curiosity and experience in this area, she gained all influence over the initial Trump administration response. Briefly, she was godlike. 

But Trump was not and is not a fool. He must have had some sleepless nights wondering how and why he had approved the destruction of that which he had seen as his greatest achievement. The virus was long here (probably from October 2019), it presented a specific danger to a narrow cohort but otherwise behaved like a textbook flu. Maybe, he must have wondered, his initial instincts from January and February 2020 were correct all along. 

Still, he very reluctantly approved a 30-day extension of lockdowns, entirely on Birx’s urging and with a few other fools standing around. Having given in a second time – still, no one thought to drop an email or make a phone call for a second opinion! – this seemed to be the turning point. Birx reports that by April 1, 2020, Trump had lost confidence in her. He might have intuited that he had been tricked. He stopped speaking to her. 

It would still take another month before he would fully rethink everything that he had approved at her behest.

It made no difference. The bulk of her book is a brag fest about how she kept subverting the White House’s push to open up the economy – that is, allow people to exercise their rights and freedoms. Once Trump turned against her, and eventually found other people to provide good advice like the tremendously brave Scott Atlas – five months later he arrived in an attempt to save the country from disaster – Birx turned to rallying around her inner circle (Anthony Fauci, Robert Redfield, Matthew Pottinger, and a few others) plus assembling a realm of protection outside of her that included CNN reporter Sanjay Gupta and, very likely, the virus team at the New York Times (which gives her book a glowing review).

Recall that for the remainder of the year, the White House was urging normalcy while many states kept locking down. It was an incredible confusion. The CDC was all over the map. I gained the distinct impression of two separate regimes in charge: Trump’s vs. the administrative state he could not control. Trump would say one thing on the campaign trail but the regulations and disease panic kept pouring out of his own agencies.

Birx admits that she was a major part of the reason, due to her sneaky alternation of weekly reports to the states. 

After the heavily edited documents were returned to me, I’d reinsert what they had objected to, but place it in those different locations. I’d also reorder and restructure the bullet points so the most salient—the points the administration objected to most—no longer fell at the start of the bullet points. I shared these strategies with the three members of the data team also writing these reports. Our Saturday and Sunday report-writing routine soon became: write, submit, revise, hide, resubmit. 

Fortunately, this strategic sleight-of-hand worked. That they never seemed to catch this subterfuge left me to conclude that, either they read the finished reports too quickly or they neglected to do the word search that would have revealed the language to which they objected. In slipping these changes past the gatekeepers and continuing to inform the governors of the need for the big-three mitigations—masks, sentinel testing, and limits on indoor social gatherings—I felt confident I was giving the states permission to escalate public health mitigation with the fall and winter coming.

As another example, once Scott Atlas came to the rescue in August to introduce some good sense into this wacky world, he worked with others to dial back the CDC’s fanatical attachment to universal and constant testing. Atlas knew that “track, trace, and isolate” was both a fantasy and a massive invasion of people’s liberties that would yield no positive public-health outcome. He put together a new recommendation that was only for those who were sick to test – just as one might expect in normal life.

After a week-long media frenzy, the regulations flipped in the other direction.

Birx reveals that it was her doing:

This wasn’t the only bit of subterfuge I had to engage in. Immediately after the Atlas-influenced revised CDC testing guidance went up in late August, I contacted Bob Redfield…. Less than a week later, Bob [Redfield] and I had finished our rewrite of the guidance and surreptitiously posted it. We had restored the emphasis on testing to detect areas where silent spread was occurring. It was a risky move, and we hoped everyone in the White House would be too busy campaigning to realize what Bob and I had done. We weren’t being transparent with the powers that be in the White House…

One might ask how the heck she got away with this. She explains:

[T]he guidance gambit was only the tip of the iceberg of my transgressions in my effort to subvert Scott Atlas’s dangerous positions. Ever since Vice President Pence told me to do what I needed to do, I’d engaged in very blunt conversations with the governors. I spoke the truth that some White House senior advisors weren’t willing to acknowledge. Censoring my reports and putting up guidance that negated the known solutions was only going to perpetuate Covid-19’s vicious circle. What I couldn’t sneak past the gatekeepers in my reports, I said in person.

Missing: self-reflection

Most of the book consists of her explaining how she headed a kind of shadow White House dedicated to keeping the country in some form of lockdown for as long as possible. In her telling, she was the center of everything, the only person truly correct about all things, given cover by the VP and assisted by a handful of co-conspirators.. 

Largely missing from the narrative is any discussion of the science gathering outside the bubble she so carefully cultivated. Whereas anyone could have noted the studies pouring out from February onward that threw cold water on her entire paradigm – not to mention 15 years, or make that 50 years, or perhaps 100 years of warnings against such a reaction – from scientists all over the world with vastly more experience and knowledge than she. She cared nothing about it, and evidently still does not.

It’s very clear that Birx had almost no contact with any serious scientist who disputed the draconian response, not even John Iaonnidis who explained as early as March 17, 2020, that this approach was madness. But she didn’t care: she was convinced that she was in the right, or, at least, was acting on behalf of people and interests who would keep her safe from persecution or prosecution.

For those interested, Chapter 8 provides a weird look into her first real scientific challenge: the seroprevalence study by Jayanta Bhattacharya published April 22, 2020. It demonstrated that the infection fatality rate – because infections and recovery were far more prevalent than Birx and Fauci were saying – was more in line with what one might expect from a severe flu but with a much more focused demographic impact. Bhattacharya’s paper revealed that the pathogen eluded all controls and would likely become endemic as every respiratory virus before. She took one look and concluded that the study had unnamed “fundamental flaws in logic and methodology” and “damaged the cause of public health at this crucial moment in the pandemic.” 

And that’s it: that’s Birx grappling with science. Meanwhile, the article was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology and has over 700 citations. She saw all differences of opinion as an opportunity to go on the attack in order to intensify her cherished commitment to the lockdown paradigm. 

Even now, with scientists the world over in outrage, with citizens furious at their governments, with governments falling, with regimes toppling and anger reaching a fevered pitch, while studies pour out by the day showing that lockdowns made no difference and that open societies at least protected their educational systems and economies, she is unmoved. It’s not even clear she is aware.

Birx dismisses all contrary cases such as Sweden: Americans could not take that route because we are too unhealthy. South Dakota: rural and backwater (Birx is still mad that the brave Governor Kristi Noem refused to meet with her). Florida: oddly and without evidence she dismisses that case as a killing field, even though its results were better than California while the population influx to the state sets new records. 

Nor is she shaken by the reality that there is not one single country or territory anywhere on the planet earth that benefitted from her approach, not even her beloved China which still pursues a zero-Covid approach. As for New Zealand and Australia: she (probably wisely) doesn’t mention them at all, even though they followed the Birx approach exactly.

The story of the lockdowns is a tale of Biblical proportions, at once evil and desperately sad and tragic, a story of power, scientific failure, intellectual insularity and insanity, outrageous arrogance, feudalistic impulses, mass delusion, plus political treachery and conspiracy. It is real-life horror for the ages, a tale of how the land of the free became a despotic hellscape so quickly and unexpectedly. Birx was at the center of it, confirming all of your worst fears right here in a book anyone can buy. She is so proud of her role that she dares to take all credit, fully convinced that the Trump-hating media will love and protect her perfidies from exposure and condemnation.

There is no getting around Trump’s own culpability here. He never should have let her have her way. Never. It was a case of fallibility matched by ego (he has still not admitted error), but it is a case of enormous betrayal that played off presidential character flaws (like many in his income class, Trump had always been a germaphobe) that ended up wrecking hope and prosperity for billions of people for many years to come.

I’ve tried for two years to put myself in that scene at the White House that day. It’s a hothouse with only trusted souls in small rooms, and the people there in a crisis have the sense that they are running the world. Trump might have drawn on his experience running a casino in Atlantic City. The weather forecasters come to say a hurricane is on the way, so he needs to shut it down. He doesn’t want to but agrees in order to do the right thing.

Was this his thinking? Perhaps. Perhaps too someone told him that China’s President Xi Jinping managed to crush the virus with lockdowns so he can too, just as the WHO said in its February 26 report. It’s also difficult in that environment to avoid the rush of omnipotence, temporarily oblivious to the reality that your decision would affect life from Maine to Florida to California. It was a catastrophic and lawless decision based on pretense and folly.

What followed seems inevitable in retrospect. The economic crisis, inflation, the broken lives, the desperation, the lost rights, and lost hopes, and now the growing hunger and demoralization and educational losses and cultural destruction, all of it came in the wake of these fateful days. Every day in this country, even two and a half years later, judges are struggling to regain control and revitalize the Constitution after this disaster. 

The plotters usually admit it in the end, taking credit, like criminals who cannot resist returning to the scene of the crime. This is what Dr. Birx has done in her book. But there are clearly limits to her transparency. She never explains the real reason for her resignation – even though it is known the world over – pretending like the entire Thanksgiving fiasco never happened and thus attempting to write it out of the history book that she wrote.

There is so much more to say and I hope this is one review of many because the book is absolutely packed with shocking passages. And yet her 525-page book, now selling at a 50% discount, does not contain a single citation to a single scientific study, paper, monograph, article, or book. It has zero footnotes. It offers no go-to authorities and displays not even a hint of humility that would normally be part of any actual scientific account.

And it nowhere offers an honest reckoning for what her influence over the White House and the states foisted on this country and on the world. As the country masks up yet again for a new variant and is gradually being groomed for another round of disease panic, she can collect whatever royalties come from sales of her book while working at her new gig, a consultant to a company that makes air purifiers (ActivePure). In this latter role, she makes a greater contribution to public health than anything she did while she held the reins of power.

*****

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

Weekend Read: The“Progressive” Left: Existential Threat to America’s Constitution and Liberty

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

Perhaps the biggest mistake liberty-loving Americans can make is to assume that so-called “progressives” are people who have America’s best interests at heart but simply have different views about how to make America a better place.  To believe this is to believe the wolf in sheep’s clothing is really a sheep.  The wolf’s sheep clothing is intended to deceive and lull other sheep into a false sense of security.  Once that clothing is removed, the true nature of the wolf becomes manifest.

Make no mistake about it:  the Progressive Left is embarked on a jihad to destroy America’s constitution, to destroy the liberty of America’s people and to substitute a form of government that is tyrannical in the truest sense of the word.

The Progressive Left’s first victims were those who were most vulnerable at the beginning of the FDR Administration:  America’s black community.  Following emancipation in 1865, blacks were subjected to all sorts of discrimination, harassment, and hatred.  They were deprived of good education and relegated to menial, low-paying jobs.  The Ku Klux Klan and the Jim Crow laws did their work.  Yet, despite such overwhelming adversity, the black family was able to remain intact.  Candace Owens points out in her brilliant book “Blackout” that between 1890 and 1900, a black baby was more likely to be born to an intact, nuclear family than a white baby.

All this was to change beginning in the 1930s during the FDR Administration and with greater speed during the 1960s LBJ Administration.  What the Progressive Left did to black Americans reveals its true playbook:  wreck and ruin people’s lives through the adoption of policies designed for that purpose, and then swoop in as the purported saviors of the very people whose lives were wrecked by Progressive Left policies.

In the case of black Americans, there was no point in destroying their economic prospects; those prospects had already been decimated to the nth degree.  Instead, the Progressive Left focused its efforts on destroying the only thing black Americans had left:  their intact, nuclear family structure.  Accordingly, the Progressive Left engineered the adoption of welfare laws that made it possible for black men to abandon black women and their offspring and for black women to undergo such abandonment without facing the starvation of themselves and their children.  As late as 1963, 72 percent of nonwhite families were married and together.  By 2017, only 27 percent of black households were married (“Blackout”, page 51).  Mission accomplished.  The Progressive Left had destroyed the black family, enabling it to swoop in as “saviors” promising enhanced government benefits and thereby capturing votes for the Progressive Left’s plan to destroy our Constitution and our country.

Turning its attention to Latino, white and Asian Americans, the Progressive Left pursued the same attack it employed against black Americans — configure government benefits in such a way as to destroy intact, nuclear families.  89 percent of white families were intact in 1963, but by 2017 only 51 percent were intact.  As Candace Owens aptly points out, “Policies that were purported to ‘empower’ black America actually resulted in the greatest family breakdown across all demographics.”   (“Blackout” page 52).

Not satisfied with greatly eroding family structure for all demographic groups, the Progressive Left added a new chapter to its playbook:  destroy economic prospects for all working-class and middle-class Americans.  Ruin people’s lives, and then pretend to ride to their rescue.  And so we arrive at the Progressive Left strategies, implemented over many decades, that President Donald Trump sought to reverse.  Flood the nation with illegal immigrants through an open borders policy, thereby driving down wages and salaries through increased supply.  (To believe that this policy did not drive down wages, one first would have to reject the ironclad economic rule of supply and demand).  Outsource and offshore good manufacturing jobs to China and other low-wage countries.  Create an indentured class of newly-minted college graduates burdened by exorbitant student loan debt — and at the same time enrich the hard Left college administrators through funds raised via these same student loans.  Those administrators then proceed to use those funds to raise their own salaries, fund gender studies programs and establish so-called “diversity, equity, and inclusion” offices whose “inclusion” rules mysteriously never seem to apply to conservatives, libertarians, or Republicans.   Colleges infested with Progressive Leftists continue to expand their endowments while their students depart these institutions burdened by debt that will financially cripple many of them for decades to come.

But does the Progressive Left really seek to destroy the Constitution?  Let the record speak for itelf as we review Leftist proposals and actions.  Abolish the Electoral College.  Pack the Supreme Court.  Adopt election laws that facilitate large- scale cheating and the casting of fraudulent ballots.  Classify the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as states so the Democrats can gain four new Senate seats.  Continue the undermining of the Second Amendment right to bear arms through new gun control laws — all way stations on the road to total firearm confiscation, which is the real Progressive Left goal.  Abolish the Senate filibuster rule to make these changes possible.  Use the Justice Department and the FBI to harass, arrest and prosecute political opponents.  Expand the ranks of political prisoners through phony narratives about the January 6 protest.  Deprive those arrested of their right to a speedy trial (months and months of solitary confinement awaiting trial) and their Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment (alleged beatings in prison and deprivation of necessary medications).  As a last resort, murder political opponents and then exonerate the murderers.  And so we have the case of Ashli Babbitt, an unarmed, diminutive woman, a threat to no one, who was shot to death in cold blood on January 6.   Her killer walks free today.

The real elephant in the room, however, is the Climate Change Hoax.  Despite compelling evidence showing that increased temperatures are the result of higher energy output from the sun, the Progressive Left has peddled the false narrative that mankind’s use of fossil fuels is primarily responsible for the rising temperatures.  The Progressive Left’s playbook here is to substitute poorly-performing (and expensive!) wind and solar power for power generation from fossil fuels and nuclear reactors.  If the Progressive Left succeeds, energy costs will rise astronomically, thereby impoverishing working class and middle-class Americans — the precise goal sought by the Progressive Left.

And how do we know this is true?  We know it is true through an examination of Progressive Left policies that seem to make no sense at all, even if the Progressive Left’s Climate Change theories are assumed to be true.  As soon as he was elected, Biden promulgated executive orders to cancel the Keystone pipeline, halt substantially all drilling for oil and gas on federal lands and discourage banks from lending to energy companies.  When gasoline and diesel prices shot through the roof — a direct product of these policies— Biden didn’t relent on the destructive energy policies he mandated.  Instead, he has traveled to Saudi Arabia to persuade its ruler to increase crude oil production.

From an environmental/Climate Change policy standpoint, what makes more sense:  (1) to have Saudi Arabia produce an additional x thousand barrels of oil and then ship such oil thousands of miles to the United States, or (2) to increase drilling in the United States and create an additional x thousand barrels of oil here at home?  The oil tankers carrying the x thousand barrels of oil will burn tons of crude oil getting from Saudi Arabia to the United States, thereby pouring huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  This extra carbon dioxide generation is completely avoided if the drilling occurs here.

If ameliorating purported Climate Change is really the objective, Biden would be reversing his policies against drilling on federal lands, not going to Saudi Arabia for more oil.  But in truth and fact, ameliorating Climate Change is not the objective, only a pretense.  The real objective is to destroy the domestic American oil and gas industry and to impoverish Americans.

Equally alarming is the New Green War on food production.  Chemical fertilizers derived in part from fossil fuels are being attacked.  The Climate Change fanatics insist farmers should substitute manure for chemical fertilizers. Any farmer will tell you that this is a surefire recipe for plunging food production, wildly-escalating food prices, and, ultimately, famine.  Intentionally creating a famine is part of the totalitarian playbook, as shown by planned famine in the Ukraine during 1932 and 1933 that starved to death approximately four million Ukrainians.  This atrocity, now known as the Holomador, was intentionally engineered by Josef Stalin and the Bolsheviks to subjugate the Ukraine, where revolts against Soviet rule were beginning to emerge.

The Progressive Left’s threat to our liberty, our Constitution, our property, and our very lives has now reached existential proportions.  The elections in 2022 and 2024 undoubtedly will be the most consequential of our lifetimes.  Election-stealing is now part of the Progressive Left playbook, making the Patriot cause doubly difficult.  If Patriots can prevail in these two elections, the Progressive Left agenda can first be shut down on a federal level beginning in January 2023 and then reversed beginning in January 2025.  There must be a reckoning with the Deep State and the Progressive Left if the United States is to survive as a constitutional republic.

POSTSCRIPTCategory:  Just when you thought it couldn’t get any crazier.

Many progressives believe racists and racism are everywhere.  Trump is racist.  Republicans and conservatives are racist.  Jews and Christians are racist.  Mathematics is racist.  Starting on time is racist.  Paying attention to detail is racist.  There is a racist underneath every rock and behind every bush.

In an alarming display of imbecility, a reporter from the New York Times writes the following:  “ . . . the outdoors can bring up connotations of enslavement and lynching for Black communities . .. Acknowledging the racist history of the outdoors is an important first step toward making people of color feel safer in nature.”

So beware of those racist mountains and free-flowing streams!  Prior to reading the reporter’s article, I thought racists were underneath every rock and behind every bush.  What I obviously missed in my ignorance is that the rocks and bushes themselves are racist.  I guess you learn something new every day.      

The One Essential Book on History and Geopolitics

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

If America’s leaders had read Prisoners of Geography, maybe America would’ve stayed out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

It hasn’t improved my middling IQ, but over my adult life, I’ve read hundreds of books on history and geopolitics.  Almost all have been thick ones, many have been impenetrable ones, and most have been scholarly ones written by renowned historians and experts on geopolitics.

At least the reading has made me more informed than the sorry bunch of geniuses that have been running American foreign policy for decades.

I could’ve saved a lot of time by reading just one book, a book that isn’t seen as scholarly but is brilliant.  More importantly, American foreign policy might not have turned into the disaster it is today if the book had been read by presidents, members of Congress, staffers at the State Department, the commentariat, and every college student and high school student.  The book is:

Prisoners of Geography:  Ten Maps That Explain Everything about the World, by Tim Marshall, 2015, Scribner Publishing, New York, 305 pages.

The title is misleading.  While the book shows how geography influences the foreign policy of nations, it also summarizes key historical events in regions of the world and in selected countries, as well as describes something that Americans are particularly naïve about:  the downside of diversity—namely, the conflicts, uprisings, and bloodbaths that have occurred and are occurring within and between countries because of irreconcilable animosities centered on race, ethnicity, tribe, religion, and sect.  In many places in the world, diversity is certainly not a strength. 

I’ve read the book three times and refer to it periodically.  The author, a former foreign correspondent for Britain’s Sky News television, was prophetic about several current events, most notably Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and China winning the hearts and minds of many less developed countries through investments in infrastructure and trade, without being ideological or preaching to irredeemable strong men about human rights.

The chapters on Russia and China alone are worth the price of the book.

The danger of diversity can be seen in every chapter but in particular the chapter on the Middle East.  The word “diversity” isn’t mentioned, but the chapter reveals the folly of the West in trying to force longtime enemies to live together within artificial boundaries.  Scores of in-depth, scholarly history books have covered this in such detail that the big picture can be quickly forgotten by non-historians like myself.

In that regard, there are six great works of Middle Eastern history in my personal library:

Power, Faith, and Fantasy:  American in the Middle East 1776 to the Present, by Michael B. Oren.

Lawrence in Arabia:  War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, by Scott Anderson.

The Fall of the Ottomans:  The Great War in the Middle East, by Eugene Rogan.

America’s War for the Greater Middle East, by Andrew J. Bacevich.

A Peace to End All Peace:  The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, by David Fromkin.

The Arabs, by Eugene Rogan.

Most Americans don’t have the time or interest (or masochism?) to read the 3,500 pages of the above books, but if they did, they’d probably be like me and end up being overwhelmed by the details.  Prisoners of Geography distills the history to its essence so that it’s easier to remember the key points.

One of the key points is that when the Ottoman Empire (now reduced to present-day Turkey) controlled much of the Middle East for 623 years, it kept existing ethnic, religious, and tribal boundaries in place instead of creating artificial states by arbitrarily moving boundaries around, as the British and French did with their Sykes-Picot agreement, an agreement that explains a lot of the conflicts and extremism in the region today.

Here are three related quotes from Prisoners of Geography:

Iraq is a prime example of the ensuing conflicts and chaos.  The more religious among the Shia never accepted that a Sunni-led government should have control over their holy cities such as Najaf and Karbala, where their martyrs Ali and Hussein are said to be buried.  These communal feelings go back centuries; a few decades of being called “Iraqis” was never going to dilute such emotions.

The routine expression of hatred for others is so common in the Arab world that it barely draws comment other than from the region’s often Western-educated liberal minority who have limited access to the platform of mass media.  Anti-Semitic cartoons that echo the Nazi Der Stürmer propaganda newspaper are common.  Week in, week out, shock-jock imams are given space on prime-time TV shows.

Western apologists for this sort of behavior are sometimes hamstrung by a fear of being described as one of Edward Said’s “Orientalists.”  They betray their own liberal values by denying their universality.  Others, in their naïveté, say that these incitements to murder are not widespread and must be seen in the context of the Arabic language, which can be given to flights of rhetoric.  This signals their lack of understanding of the “Arab Street,” the role of the mainstream Arab media, and a refusal to understand that when people who are full of hatred say something, they mean it.

Maybe if George W. Bush and the Republicans and Democrats who supported his invasion of Iraq had read the book, they wouldn’t have made one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in the history of the United States.

Maybe if they and other leaders had read the book, they would’ve known that Afghanistan and its neighbor Pakistan are so riven with tribal hatreds that they are essentially ungovernable, except by the military or warlords.

Maybe if Joe Biden and the Democrats and Republicans who supported his handling of the Ukraine War had read the book, they would’ve known that sanctions were going to hurt the West and the Third World as much as they were going to hurt Russia.

Maybe if Americans were to read the book, they’d understand how China sees the world and thus know how to meet Chinese competition without resorting to dangerous bluster, bellicosity, belligerence, and bombast.  And maybe they’d also realize that the Chinese don’t have much history of engaging in wars off their shores and certainly don’t have a history of sending gunboats up the Mississippi, unlike the US and other Western nations, which have a history of sending gunboats up the Yangtze.  (Don’t mistake these comments as a paean to authoritarianism.)

Or maybe I’m delusional to think that reading a book can overcome hubris, arrogance, nationalism, and tribalism.

Exploding the Watergate Myth

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

I was a child of the Watergate generation. Vacationing at a lake house the summer I was 17, I spent weeks glued to the committee hearings on TV. Back in school that fall, I wrote a paper arguing that Nixon should resist pressure to resign. Headed south the next August, I watched Nixon’s resignation speech at a motor lodge on I-95 and the next day, on the highway, listened on the car radio as Gerald R. Ford declared “our long national nightmare” over.

And then there was the book All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two Washington Post reporters who’d supposedly brought Nixon down. When it came out in 1974, I read it avidly. And two years later I was enthralled by the movie version, written by William Goldman and directed by Alan J. Pakula.

But there was one thing – in the book and the movie – that always puzzled me.

I’ll describe it as it’s presented in the film. Woodward (Robert Redford) meets late at night in a parking garage with his secret source, known as Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook), who drops a bombshell. The Watergate cover-up, he says, wasn’t really about the June 17, 1972, break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex. Its actual purpose was to protect a whole raft of covert operations that involved “the entire U.S. intelligence community – the FBI, CIA, Justice.”

After receiving this revelation, Woodward rushes to Bernstein’s (Dustin Hoffman) apartment, puts on some classical music at top volume (the walls, he’s been told, have ears), and types out this mind-blowing new information while a stunned Bernstein reads over his shoulder. They then hurry to the home of Post editor Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards), where – on his front lawn, to avoid hidden microphones – they share the news with him.

And then? Well, that scene is followed immediately by the famous (to movie buffs) deep-focus shot of the Post newsroom where our heroes type away in the far background – saving American freedom with every keystroke – while on a TV set in the foreground our villain, Nixon, takes his second-term oath of office. Then, in a tight close-up, headlines on a teletype machine finish the story: “Magruder pleads guilty,” “Segretti sentenced,” and so on, concluding with “Nixon resigns.” Run credits.

All the President’s Men was a splendid work of American cinema – and it was about what we’ve all been told ever since was the most splendid chapter in American journalistic history, a textbook case of dogged footwork and moral integrity that lifted the Post into the front rank of American newspapers, gave Woodstein (the Post’s in-house nickname for Bob and Carl) an Olympian status that they still enjoy to this day, made journalists as a class more important and influential than ever, and ushered in a new era of aggressive and ambitious – yet far more respected – investigative reporting about politicians.

But whatever happened to that earthshaking revelation about covert operations by “the entire U.S. intelligence community”? In the nearly half-century since Watergate, we’ve never heard another word about it. Not from the Post, anyway.

There was always another big question about Watergate: why would the Nixon White House have wanted to burglarize Democratic headquarters in the first place? It was already obvious that Nixon was heading for a landslide victory. He didn’t need any DNC dirt. Even in the movie, an unnamed editor at the Post, played by John McMartin, tells Bradlee: “I don’t believe the story. It doesn’t make sense.” The motive for the burglary remained murky for decades.

Then, two and a half years ago, John O’Connor – a veteran criminal prosecutor and friend of FBI number-two Mark Felt, who in 2015 admitted to being Deep Throat – published a book entitled Postgate: How the Washington Post Betrayed Deep Throat, Covered Up Watergate, and Began Today’s Partisan Advocacy Journalism.

Alas, that work never made it onto my radar. But now, just in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the break-in, O’Connor has given me a second chance. In The Mysteries of Watergate: What Really Happened, which he characterizes as “a more accessible, plainspoken” version of its overly “dense” and “lawyerlike” predecessor. In it, O’Connor leads us, Virgil-like, through the whole convoluted scandal, debunking old conjectures, proffering new information, and ultimately spelling out, with prosecutorial meticulousness, the myriad ways in which the full story deviates from the Post’s accounts……

*****

Continue reading this article at FrontPage Magazine.