Weekend Read: How the Media Fueled the Lockdowns

Estimated Reading Time: 28 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where We Get The News

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

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

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

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

Social Media

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

Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

YouTube

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

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

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

Twitter

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

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

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

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

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

Puzzle Pieces Connected

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

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

Media Coverage

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

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

The New York Times

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

Tom Friedman

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

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

In the piece, Friedman wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Atlantic

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

The Bad

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

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

The Good

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

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

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

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

The Great

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

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

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

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

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

The COVID-19 Media in Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Polls

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

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

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

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

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

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

Franklin Templeton Poll

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

share-covid-deaths-age

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

fear-consequences-mortality-data

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

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

Gallup Polls

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

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

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

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

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

MIT Student Studies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best Ad Campaign in History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

83% of Americans Cutting Back on Personal Spending Due to Inflation

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

The vast majority of Americans are cutting back on their spending because of rising inflation, according to new survey data.

Provident Bank based in New Jersey released the report, which found that roughly 83% of those surveyed have cut back on personal spending due to inflation, with about 23% saying they have made “drastic changes” to their spending.

The poll found that 10.5% of those surveyed reported “eliminating all non-essential purchases” and 71.7% reported they have “made at least some changes to personal travel habits.”

Many Americans are struggling to purchase basic necessities as gas prices hit record highs earlier this month. According to AAA, prices topped $5 per gallon before dipping down slightly in recent days.

“In addition to gasoline, groceries, and clothing, respondents named baby products, meat, utilities, household goods, milk, and alcohol as adding the most to their monthly bills,” the group added.

The cutback in spending comes as consumer prices have risen at the fastest pace in four decades and the producer price index saw a 10.8% increase in the past year.

“While some consumers have cut back on some non-essential spending, like dining out and unnecessary travel, others reported much more drastic changes such as skipping meals, conserving water, and eliminating meat from their diets,” the group said. “People are feeling an immense amount of financial pressure right now.”

The report surveyed 600 U.S. adults.

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

New J6 Narrative About Trump And Secret Service Collapses Hours After Tuesday Hearing

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Editors’ Note: The farce called the January 6 hearings continues. As the article below explains, much of the “bombshell testimony” immediately unraveled. One of the fundamental problems is Speaker Pelosi would not let Republicans select their defense team, and instead, Pelosi appointed Trump-hating Liz Cheney. Therefore, in actual fact, the Republicans have no one to rebut arguments, cross-examine witnesses, or bring in outside evidence. It is a trial without a functioning defense.  As such, it is not a trial at all but a star chamber proceeding. That Cheney would lend herself to this endeavor, spearhead it as it were, is the reason Arizonans and others should support Harriet Hageman to defeat Cheney in the coming Wyoming primary. One need not support Trump in all matters to see how biased and unfair these proceedings have become. Irony may be too soft of a word when the Chairman Bennie Thompson of this committee in fact publicly acted to reject the 2004 election as being stolen, and the Democrat Party and officials publically supported hundreds of violent riots throughout the country in the summer of 2020.

 

Blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson collapsed hours after Tuesday’s show trial hearing.

 

House Democrats ginned up another round of blockbuster anticipation Monday night when the Select Committee on Jan. 6 announced a last-minute hearing with a surprise witness.

On Tuesday, the nine-member panel brought forward a key aide to former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Cassidy Hutchinson, who supposedly possessed intimate knowledge of the administration’s conduct on Jan. 6. The topic of the afternoon hearing remained under seal until Hutchinson took the stand to offer new bombshell evidence allegedly incriminating the former Republican president.

“Up until now, our hearings have each been organized to address specific elements of President Trump’s plan to overturn the 2020 election,” Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said at the onset of the panel’s latest show trial. “Today we are departing somewhat from that model because Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony touches on several important and cross-cutting topics, topics that are relevant to each of our future hearings.”

According to Cheney, Hutchinson “handled a vast number of sensitive issues” working “steps down the hall from the Oval Office” and “worked on a daily basis with members of the Secret Service who were posted in the White House.”

“In short, Ms. Hutchinson was in a position to know a great deal about the happenings in the Trump White House,” Cheney said.

The ensuing testimony was “devastating,” according to National Review’s resident Cheney-cheerleader Andrew McCarthy in a post published even after the committee’s new narrative fell apart.

In her more than two-hours of uncorroborated commentary, just about all of which was based on hearsay, Hutchinson depicted an image of an unhinged president who was not only complicit in his supporters ransacking the Capitol but was eager to attend the spectacle.

“I don’t know what he personally wanted to do when he went up to the Capitol that day,” she said in a portion of a taped interview played at the hearing. “I know that there were discussions about him having another speech outside of the Capitol before going in. I know that there was a conversation about him going into the House chamber at one point.”

Testifying in public, Hutchinson went further, explaining to lawmakers in the clip below that Trump threw a violent tantrum when the Secret Service refused to allow the president go to the Capitol as supporters swarmed the complex.

“The president said something to the effect of, ‘I’m the f’ing president, take me up to the Capitol now,’” Hutchinson said, citing a conversation with then-White House Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato, who apparently described a scene in the Beast between Trump and Secret Service Special Agent Bobby Engel. “The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, ‘Sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel, we’re going back to the West Wing. We’re not going to the Capitol.’”

“Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel,” Hutchinson continued. “And Mr. — when Mr. Ornato had recounted this story to me, he had motioned towards his clavicles.”

Moments after the Hutchinson’s testimony, NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent Peter Alexander reported “a source close to the Secret Service tells me both Bobby Engel, the lead agent, and the presidential limousine/SUV driver are prepared to testify under oath that neither man was assaulted and that Mr. Trump never lunged for the steering wheel.”

CBS News followed up with “confirmation” of the agency’s categorical denial, likely from the same sources.

Hours later, another pillar of Hutchinson’s testimony fell apart when a spokesman for Former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann told ABC News a handwritten note for which Hutchinson claimed authorship was actually written by Herschmann.

The note, displayed by Cheney as an exhibit, included a statement for the president to read as the riot unfolded on Capitol Hill.

“The handwritten note that Cassidy Hutchinson testified was written by her was in fact written by Eric Herschmann on January 6, 2021,” a spokesperson for Herschmann told ABC News Tuesday night. “All sources with direct knowledge and law enforcement have and will confirm that it was written by Mr. Herschmann.”

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

 

Yes, Biden Is Hiding His Plan To Rig The 2022 Midterm Elections

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

The White House is refusing to share details about its coordinated efforts to engage in a federal takeover of election administration.

President Biden really does not want the public to know about his federal takeover of election administration. Dozens of members of Congress have repeatedly asked for details, to no avail. Good government groups, members of the media, and private citizens have filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act. Not a single one has been responded to. All signs indicate a concerted effort to keep the public in the dark until at least after the November midterm elections. The lack of transparency and responsiveness is so bad that the Department of Justice and some of its agencies have been repeatedly sued for the information.

When President Biden ordered all 600 federal agencies to “expand citizens’ opportunities to register to vote and to obtain information about, and participate in, the electoral process” on March 7, 2021, Republican politicians, Constitutional scholars, and election integrity specialists began to worry exactly what was up his sleeve.

They had good reason. The 2020 election had suffered from widespread and coordinated efforts by Democrat activists and donors to run “Get Out The Vote” operations from inside state and local government election offices, predominantly in the Democrat-leaning areas of swing states. Independent researchers have shown the effect of this takeover of government election offices was extremely partisan and favored Democrats overwhelmingly.

At the time the order was issued, Democrats were also hoping to pass H.R. 1, a continuation of the effort to destabilize elections throughout the country via a federalized takeover of state election administrations.

Biden gave each agency 200 days to file their plans for approval by none other than Susan Rice, his hyperpartisan domestic policy advisor. Yet fully nine months after those plans were due, they are all being hidden from the public, even as evidence is emerging that the election operation is in full swing.

Mobilizing Voters Is Always A Political Act

There are several major problems with Biden’s secret plan, critics say. It’s unethical to tie federal benefits to election activity. It’s unconstitutional to have the federal government take authority that belongs to the states and which Congress has not granted. And, given that all 50 states have different laws and processes governing election administration, it’s a recipe for chaos, confusion, and fraud at a time when election security concerns are particularly fraught.

Mobilizing voters is always a political act. Choosing which groups to target for Get Out The Vote efforts is one of the most important activities done by political campaigns. Federal agencies that interact with the public by doling out benefits can easily pressure recipients to vote for particular candidates and positions. Congress passed the Hatch Act in 1939, which bans bureaucrats and bureaucracies from being involved in election activities after Democrats used Works Progress Administration programs and personnel for partisan political advantage.

Executive Order 14019 ignores that the Constitution does not give the executive branch authority over elections. That power is reserved for the states, with a smaller role for Congress. With H.R. 1 and other Democrat Party efforts to grab more control over elections have thus far failed, Congress hasn’t authorized such an expansion.

As with previous efforts to destabilize elections, the chaos and confusion that would occur are part of the plan. The Executive Order copied much of a white paper put out by left-wing dark money group Demos, which advocates for left-wing changes to the country and which brags on its website that it moves “bold progressive ideas from cutting-edge concept to practical reality.” Not coincidentally, Biden put former Demos President K. Sabeel Rahman and former Demos Legal Strategies Director Chiraag Bains in key White House posts to oversee election-related initiatives.

Rahman serves as senior counsel at the White House office that oversees regulatory changes, meaning he approves every federal agency’s regulations and provides legal review of executive orders before they’re released. If you were looking to rush out constitutionally and ethically questionable orders, this post would be key to fill. Bains had been Demos’ director of legal strategies, helping write the paper that was turned into an executive order. He reports directly to Susan Rice, the hyperpartisan head of the Domestic Policy Council.

Rice has served in political positions in Democrat White Houses and the scandal-ridden Brookings Institution. She played a role in the spying-on-Trump scandal, blatantly lying about the same, lying about the Benghazi terrorist attack, and lying about Bowe Bergdahl’s military record.

Rice is described as President Obama’s “right-hand woman,” and it’s been said she was “like a sister” to the former president. She was his National Security Advisor at the same time Hunter Biden was hitching rides on official White House aircraft to other countries for meetings with oligarchs and corrupt government officials. She spread conspiracy theories about the law enforcement officers in Portland during the violent BLM riots that besieged the city. Most worrisome, she was briefed on the Clinton campaign’s Russia collusion hoax, which was used to destabilize the 2020 election and question its illegitimacy.

Leftist Groups Know Exactly What’s Going On

Conservatives may be in the dark, but left-wing activist groups are fully involved in the plot. The left-wing dark money group Demos put out press releases immediately after the executive order was issued, saying it would be happy to work with federal agencies on the project.

And then the group admitted publicly that it “organized agency-based working groups and met with the staff in these agencies to provide technical expertise as they developed their initial voter registration plans, to ensure those plans reflect the knowledge and priorities of various agency stakeholders.” It also admits it “developed research and resources to assist and advance agency efforts to implement robust voter registration opportunities, including a slide deck explainer of the agencies’ potential for impact, best practices for conducting voter registration at federal agencies, and recommendations for modernizing and improving the accessibility of Vote.gov.”

All of that information should be available to oversight authorities in Congress and the American taxpayers paying for its implementation, not just the left-wing groups that produced it. Yet as of this publication date, none of it has been shared.

Biden’s plan “raises serious ethical, legal, and constitutional concerns,” wrote Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C., along with three dozen Republican members of Congress on January 19, in a letter to the head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), demanding more information by February 28 about the secret plot. It went unanswered.

The top Republican members of nine House committees and subcommittees likewise demanded information from Rice and the head of OMB in a letter they sent on March 29. They noted that election activity goes well beyond “the scope of each agency’s authorizing statute and mission.”

One of the concerns shared by the members was that Biden was directing agencies to work with third-party organizations. Nobody knows which third-party organizations have been approved by Rice for her political efforts, nor which are being used. They also asked how much money is being spent on the effort, which statutory authorities justify the election activities, and what steps are being taken to avoid Hatch Act violations. They received no response.

The Foundation for Government Accountability filed a lawsuit on April 20th to compel the Department of Justice to respond to the FOIA request for information. And the American Accountability Foundation (AAF) filed suit on June 16 to compel Justice to comply. Those suits are ongoing.

What We Know

While the White House and agencies are steadfastly refusing to share details about how they’re complying with the executive order, who they met with to develop their plans, or how they’re justifying their involvement in something Congress has not authorized them to participate in, some details are trickling out. Here are a few examples of the widespread and coordinated effort by Biden’s political appointees to meddle in the state administration of elections.

  • In the midst of a labor crisis, the Department of Labor boasted that it was turning 2,300 American Job Centers previously focused on helping displaced workers find jobs into hubs of political activism. These new federally funded voter registration agencies were given guidance about how to bring in organizations to conduct “voter outreach.”
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services likewise announced plans to turn community health centers into voter registration agencies, using thousands of health care facilities to focus on voter registration and turnout.
  • The Housing and Urban Development Department sent notice to public housing authorities that they should begin voter registration drives and participation activities. Previously, officials had been barred from electoral activities because they receive federal funding.
  • “It is presumed residents of public housing might disproportionately vote Democrat. … The executive order targets people receiving government benefits who might think their benefits depend on one party in power,” Stewart Whitson, legal director for the Foundation for Government Accountability, told the Daily Signal.
  • The Department of Education sent “dear colleague” letters to universities, telling them that Federal Work Study funds could now be used to support voter registration activities, contrary to previous guidance. The change was made without having gone through any rulemaking process to allow the change.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it’s using its child nutrition programs to push voter registration and enlisting state, local, and federally funded employees to implement voter registration drives in local schools.
  • The Commerce Department produced a massive, 113-page report which likely took four agency officials many hours to generate. It directs local voting board members about polling stations and poll worker training.

The tactics being used by these agencies were almost certainly contained in the plans submitted to Rice that have been withheld from investigators and overseers who had hoped to have some transparency about what the plans were. Frequently, the agencies claim the tactics are in response to the executive order, yet information about how they were developed has been withheld from the public for much of the year.

It is unclear why Biden and his political appointees are being so secretive about the work that went into their plan to engage in a federal takeover of election administration.

Whatever the case, Americans have a right to know whether these bureaucracies that are meddling in elections have experts in for each state’s election laws, what type of training is going on to ensure that state laws are being followed, whether they are allowing inspections and oversight to ensure no illegal activity, how they are determining whether a third-party group is genuinely non-partisan, whether they are allowing state investigators to approve money, and how much is being spent on this federal takeover of elections.

 

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is the Editor-in-Chief of The Federalist. She is Senior Journalism Fellow at Hillsdale College. A Fox News contributor, she is a regular member of the Fox News All-Stars panel on “Special Report with Bret Baier.” Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the Washington Post, CNN, National Review, GetReligion, Ricochet, Christianity Today, Federal Times, Radio & Records, and many other publications. Mollie was a 2004 recipient of a Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship at The Fund for American Studies and a 2014 Lincoln Fellow of the Claremont Institute. She is the co-author of Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court. She is the author of “Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections.

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

Arizona Extends School Choice to All K-12 Students

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

Killing Is Not OK

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Slippery Slope of Red Flag Gun Laws

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

Foreign Funding of Nonprofits Goes Unchecked

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Think tanks and universities are taking millions in foreign donations, and Biden has no interest in imposing transparency.

 

The University of Pennsylvania received more than $15 million in anonymous donations from China in 2018, the same year it announced the founding of its Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. This is just one high-profile example of a question that has been bubbling behind the scenes in think tanks and universities for several years: How has new, massive, unreported foreign funding flowing into America’s intellectual infrastructure shaped the country’s approach to governing, national security, and even cultural affairs?

Following on the heels of a 2020 Trump administration report excoriating universities—including Harvard and Stanford—for failing to report $6.5 billion in foreign funding, two new pieces of legislation have been introduced since Biden’s election that would address the influence of foreign spending in the academic, nonprofit, and think tank sectors.

Welcome to an age of heightened concerns over foreign money flowing into America’s institutions, both private and nonprofit. It has led to debates over donor transparency, intellectual and academic theft, lobbying and election integrity, and the proper role of charity in American civic and political life.

Conservatives tend to like the idea of donor privacy, especially in this era of cancel culture. But the calculus changes a bit when you consider how foreign entities might be using U.S. nonprofits to influence public policy, notes Michael E. Hartmann, a senior fellow of the Capital Research Center and co-editor of The Giving Review.

“The legal structure of American tax-exempt nonprofitdom has always wrestled with how to manage what are often the competing desires for transparency and donor privacy,” Hartmann says. “Historically, there hasn’t seemed to have been as much tension between transparency and foreign funding of nonprofits—that is, non-American funding of American nonprofits—[but] the whole set of underlying considerations with which to wrestle…is just so appreciably different than the regular old domestic ones.”

Republican legislators seem to agree that the question of transparency becomes a bit more fraught when foreign interests are involved and national security concerns are raised. Particularly if the disclosure rules are being outright flouted, as was the case with the 12 universities mentioned in the 2020 Trump administration report.

On the Senate side, one attempt to address the problem is to strengthen the Higher Education Act of 1965, specifically Section 117 dealing with disclosure requirements of foreign gifts and contracts. Republican Senators Tom Cotton, Bill Hagerty, Marsha Blackburn, and Tim Scott are all attached to the legislation they are calling the “Foreign Funding Accountability Act,” which, according to a joint release, will attempt to “combat malign foreign influence in American colleges and universities.”

Senator Cotton, who in 2021 released a report on “decoupling” from China, said the reason for the legislation is simple: If China wants to win a new economic Cold War, they will need to harness the “traditionally open research” on U.S. college campuses to give them a “competitive advantage in all innovative fields,” including semiconductors, artificial intelligence, and quantum research.

“The CCP has patiently cultivated its de facto allies on college campuses across the country, offering prestigious fellowships, in-kind gifts, and donations to lure professors and universities into sharing information,” Cotton said.

“Just like every other member of the ‘China Lobby,’ from multinational corporations and Hollywood executives to NBA stars and large banks, colleges and universities have lined their pockets with Chinese cash for years and don’t want to stop any time soon,” he explained. “The China Lobby opposes anything that might hurt their bottom line. And they know that transparency about their Chinese cash binge will bring tough questions from Congress and a real effort to stop the inflow of Chinese money.”

Cotton said he doubts universities are in the dark about what these foreign gifts are intended to inspire.

“I find it hard to believe that they’re ignorant of what the CCP wants from them,” he said. “For example, MIT, Princeton, [and] Yale have all accepted millions from a Chinese tech billionaire, Ma Huateng, the founder of Tencent. His company actively censors the internet in China and is at the forefront of China’s efforts to dominate A.I. It doesn’t take a college education to suspect something is up.”

As a solution, Cotton’s legislation attempts to impose reporting requirements, which the Trump administration had established for a short period following their 2020 report. But, as Cotton noted, the American Council on Education wrote a letter to President Biden begging them to halt the reporting requirement on foreign gifts.

“And of course, the Biden administration has caved to this,” Cotton said.

Over on the House side, Republicans are also proposing a disclosure system for nonprofit think tanks (often attached to academic institutions) similar to the ones universities had before Biden caved.

Rep. Lance Gooden of Texas introduced the “Think Tank and Nonprofit Foreign Influence Disclosure Act” in March, which he said is an important first step in getting a handle on the “undeniably rampant corruption in the non-profit sector that must be addressed.”

“Americans and Congress deserve to know if the radical climate groups advocating to shut down the Keystone pipeline are funded by Russia or Russian-backed entities,” Gooden said. “Russia has clearly benefited from the Biden administration crippling the U.S. energy sector, and we must know if the climate groups pushing for this have been doing Russia’s bidding.”

“Foreign nations will no longer be able to hide their agenda behind the non-profits they fund,” Gooden continued. “Both our adversaries and our allies will have to be transparent about the groups they support and will have to explain why they support those groups’ agenda.”

Gooden’s bill would require the U.S. Treasury Department to make “publicly available in a searchable database information relating to such gifts and contributions received from foreign governments and political parties.” This would mimic the database created in June 2020 by the Department of Education to record gifts of $250,000 or more (Cotton’s Senate bill would lower this threshold to $25,000 or more).

Gooden’s bill would also require disclosure of think tank or similar nonprofit funding of over $50,000 a year from “foreign governments, foreign political parties or foreign military entities.” Gooden is particularly concerned about the foreign funding alleged to be flowing into the environmental sector, which the Capital Research Center has calculated, based on a report from The Center for International Policy, is part of over $174 million in foreign funding to major U.S. think tanks.

More transparency of foreign funding in the energy and environmental sector might almost put some environmental activist groups out of business, Gooden predicts.

“If the flow of foreign funding is cut off to radical environmental groups, they will no longer have the resources to advocate for economy-crippling green energy and Green New Deal priorities,” Gooden said.

The question of what to do about foreign funding of public policy is not reserved for the right side of the political aisle. While Republicans focus on the nonprofit sector and universities, Democrats have also begun to train a powerful eye on the corporate sector, with a focus on election interference rather than public policy.

In 2021, Democrats reintroduced a bill called “Get Foreign Money Out of U.S. Elections,” which would “block foreign-owned corporations from spending company funds to influence U.S. elections.”

The bill would “extend the federal ban on political donations from foreign nationals to multinational companies that are at least partially owned by foreign nationals,” the Hill reported in December.

While these legislative proposals are ongoing, conservatives have not forgotten the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

In early 2020, the Department of Justice issued an advisory opinion that clarified the rules regarding when a U.S. nonprofit that receives foreign government funding must register as a foreign agent. This led more than a dozen of the nation’s most well-known advocacy groups to warn that FARA registration was a potential threat to free speech and could threaten their mission.

“Being labeled as a foreign agent under FARA would put our neutrality and independence in jeopardy,” the International Foundation for Electoral Systems said in comment.

Given the problem of potentially malign influence outlined above, and the obvious truth that both sides of the political aisle recognize the potential for foreign interests to be in conflict with domestic policy, FARA reform may be the easiest—and quickest—path to change.

“Congress could certainly try to clarify that which is necessary for a foreign-funded nonprofit to have to register under FARA, as I know some are strongly urging,” Hartmann said. “It’s hard to imagine that there’d be a serious objection from donor-privacy advocates to something like this, much less that any such objection would carry the day among policymakers.”

*****

This article was published by Capital Research and is reproduced with permission.

Climate Realism On The Rise?

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nordhaus goes on to explain:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Comparing U.S. and Chinese Companies’ Ratings

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

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

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

Buying Into CCP-controlled Enterprises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Counter to ESG Goals

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

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

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

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

*****

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