Thursday, April 30, 2020

AMERICA: LAND OF THE DOCILE SHEEPLE


I’m retired and don’t eat out a lot or attend crowded events, so the effect of this virus lockdown on me personally has been minimal -- excepting a sizable hit to my IRA portfolio and the closure of local golf courses.  But as the weeks have worn on, the incessant drumbeat of commercials, public service announcements, and local news hairdos declaring that “we are all in this together” and imploring everyone to “stay inside” have become insufferable.   Often these directives are conjoined with salutes to the “heroes” in masks who are credited with saving our secluded backsides from a dreaded plague. (Yes, health professionals almost exclusively in the New York City area have done heroic work, but hospitals around the country have been laying off employees and suffering huge financial losses due to a shortage of patients.)  Another flood of commercials piggyback on the panic with assurances that “take out” is available during these “difficult times” and that your friendly auto dealer is prepared to postpone car payments should you now be unemployed.   A wistful hope about getting back to normal in some distant future accompanies a few ads devoted to slavish obedience to unseen authority.

A few signs of actual courage, however, have begun to emerge.  A salon owner in the North Dallas suburb of Frisco opened her establishment and tore up the citation she’d been issued for defying a government pronouncement that classified her work as “non-essential.”  Even more impressive is the New York City tailor’s commitment to open up in the virus “epicenter” -- a metropolitan area that accounts for about half of the (inflated) Wuhan deaths in the entire country.  By doing so he defied the imperial arrogance of Gov. Andrew Cuomo who snarkishly told beleaguered protesters to “get an essential job” if they wanted to work.  Protestors in Michigan finally began to see the light when it became clear that it’s not about your health when a governor tells you that you can go to Home Depot to buy a sponge but not to buy seeds for your garden!  

It isn’t exactly a portrait of “the home of the brave” that we’ve witnessed over the last month.  Instead, a docile population (about 70% in one poll) seem content to do whatever Dr. Fauci tells them to do, ignoring the fact that even as late as February 29 the long-time NIH epidemiological bureaucrat assured Americans that it was safe to go to the mall, the movies, and even the gym!  That pronouncement followed his comment on January 21, “This is not a major threat for the people in the United States.”  Nor have the cascade of predictive errors given most Americans pause when it comes to trusting the white-robed authorities who are now ceded more credibility than was recently accorded holy scripture.  

For those willing to penetrate the blizzard of media obscurantism, there are many scientists and even a whole European country whose approach to this epidemic differ radically from that of the shutdown-obsessed Fauci.  One of many examples is Dr. Knut Wittkowski who for 20 years was head of the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design at The Rockefeller University -- hardly a “country doctor” as the New York Times described a physician on the other side of its anti-hydroxychloroquine jihad.  Here’s what Wittkowski said about the epidemic:  “With all respiratory diseases, the only thing that stops the disease is herd immunity.   About 80% of the people need to have had contact with the virus, and the majority of them won’t even have recognized that they were infected.”  That was also the approach taken in much-vilified Sweden, which undertook precautionary measures far short of shutting down the economy and shutting up much of the population in their homes.  Wonder of wonders, statistics actually show Sweden doing better than most European countries in terms of deaths, though Fauci fanatics will insist one only compare it with its less densely populated neighbor, Norway. 

What is clear in any comparison, however, is that the Swedish approach disproves conclusively the panic-producing numbers emanating from the Imperial College of London study that predicted up to 2.2 million U.S. deaths and 500,000 U.K. deaths absent radical measures -- numbers endorsed by Fauci and consequently repeated by the President.  But nothing like that apocalypse occurred in non-lockdown Sweden which seems on its way to “herd immunity.”  Swedish epidemiologists, of course, have explained their approach to the few uncomprehending journalists who dare to engage them, but obviously these voices, along with many other likeminded health experts in the U.S. have not been heard by Americans whose eyes and ears are glued to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx, and the panic-loving MSM whose delight over a Trump-defeating economic catastrophe is impossible to conceal! 

So why has the country that used to tout itself “the land of the free and the home of the brave” so quickly become “the land of the docile and the home of the shuttered”?  I proffer two related reasons.  First, Americans possess an inordinate and false belief in “science,” incorrectly assuming that it is next to infallible and that all scientists pretty much agree.  “Follow the science” has been a mantra in the U.S. for a worldwide experiment that’s never been previously undertaken.   And if an experiment is the first of its kind, it cannot be settled science.
  
Moreover, anyone with intelligence and a degree of honesty can see, as noted above, how wrong the scientists anointed as our Corona pontiffs have been thus far.  Secondly, the propaganda power of media, both political and commercial, has reinforced to an incredible degree the panic-laded message of the public health bureaucrats in charge, thus making the slightest deviance from the promulgated orthodoxy a blasphemous heresy.  Mindless mask-wearing conformity and panic emerges based on burgeoning COVID case numbers that to a non-addled mind prove the virus is nowhere near as lethal as previously advertised and that herd immunity may soon be attainable.

 It has taken far too long to break through these almost impenetrable cognitive and emotional barriers and to challenge stay-at-home and wear-a-mask-when-walking-your-dog dictates that go well beyond wartime mandates or anything “science” can vouchsafe.   I, like Dr. Wittkowski, have been chagrined beyond measure at Americans’ willingness to comply with these more-than-dubious requirements, and I concur with his ominous warning:  I think people in the United States and maybe other countries as well are more docile than they should be . . . if people don’t stand up [for] their rights, their rights will be forgotten.”
 
Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: "Who's to Say?"  is also available on Kindle   

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Medicare for None -- Sally Pipes: False Premise, False Promise

“Medicare for All,” were it subjected to truth in labeling criteria, would more accurately be named “Medicare for None.”  This is a point made early in Sally Pipes’ succinct but detailed analysis of the socialized medicine programs offered by Bernie Sanders and other Democrat POTUS candidates.  Her book, False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All provides a chilling portrait of the much-touted socialized health systems in Canada and the U.K. -- programs plagued by doctor and hospital shortages, long waiting times, rationed treatment,  substandard care, and, on occasions, appalling bureaucratic callousness. 

Pipes begins her analysis, however, with a perceptive distinction between traditionally accepted rights and the assertion that health care is a right.  The former rights, she notes, only oblige people not to interfere with, for example, a person’s free speech or religious practice.  Non-interference is required as long as the exercise of those rights doesn’t restrict the rights of others, as it would if one yelled “fire” in a crowded theater.  These traditional rights are labeled “negative” because they “require others [including the government] to step aside and allow people to act independently.”

On the other hand, in the case of health care this “positive right” not only “gives us something,” it also “requires someone else to give it to us.”  And as Pipes illustrates in spades, defining “the criteria for positive rights . . . is tricky” -- a process that supposedly values equal medical care for all above, for example, the freedom of parents to pursue treatment for a sick child outside a nation’s socialized framework, thereby making mincemeat of the most prized of all American rights, life and liberty.  In short, residents of Canada and the U.K. forfeit a tremendous amount of freedom concerning the availability and quality of health care in return for a system designed primarily to offer an equal measure of care to everyone -- an arrangement Pipes concludes “is a catastrophe for the people forced to live under it.”  Thus, a “right” to health care is transformed into the obligation to accept and contribute to a system that often provides mediocre and sometimes appalling care.  

When analyzing specific “Medicare for All” proposals, Pipes notes that the program’s popularity disappears when folks discover it would totally do away with the private insurance held by 253 million Americans (mostly through employers) and would be far from free!  Sanders’ proposal adds at least 32 trillion to the federal budget over ten years and likely up to 60 trillion, since it “would prompt unlimited demand from patients.”  The latter figure represents a doubling of projected federal spending over the decade.  Add to that cost the inevitable hospital closures and doctor shortages tied to stringent government reimbursement rates as well as the dislocations caused by outlawing private insurance and you have the makings of a perfect societal storm.  But it would be a storm caused not by the quality of medical care (with which a large majority of Americans are satisfied) but rather by the cost of insurance.  Far from reducing insurance costs, Obamacare saw a doubling of premiums in the individual market between 2013 and 2017.  Meanwhile, employer-based family premiums continued to rise to over $20,000 a year in 2018.

The bulk of Pipes’ book describes the reality of socialized medicine in the U.K. and Canada, both statistically and via a number of gut-wrenching anecdotes.  Statistically, Pipes shows that the presumed monetary savings of socialized programs are largely illusory since significant costs are hidden in taxes and take no account of lost wages and productivity due to demonstrably inferior health outcomes.  Moreover, the typical assertion that the U.S. trails the U.K. and Canada in overall health rankings is also debunked by showing that those rankings don’t focus on specific health outcomes (e.g. cancer survival rates) but rather give inordinate weight to socialist programs and even fail to account for the different standards countries have for calculating “infant” mortality.  Additionally, those socialist-biased health comparisons don’t take into consideration non-health related factors (such as traffic accidents and crime) that significantly affect life expectancy averages.  When one compares like to like, U.S. life expectancy and infant mortality rates are comparable to or better than other advanced nations and, significantly, specific health outcomes for treatment are consistently better than their socialized counterparts.  

Pipes’ book would be persuasive but not emotionally compelling without its numerous vignettes that put a human face on an often less than human bureaucratic monstrosity.  Among others there is the tragic story of a single mother of two without a car in southeast Wales who called ahead to inform an emergency clinic that she would be a bit late bringing in her severely asthmatic five-year-old child since she had to make arrangements for an infant’s care and catch a bus.  Her 18-minute tardiness resulted in the doctor’s refusal to honor the appointment.   Instead, it was rescheduled for the next day.  That night the child had another asthmatic attack and died in the hospital.  Anyone reading Pipes’ book knows this tragedy is the direct result of doctor shortages that make a typical visit to a general practitioner in the U.K. last a grand total of nine minutes.

Then there is the case of young Charlie Gard, born August 4, 2016, with a rare genetic disorder that’s typically fatal.  His parents, however, wished to try an experimental treatment in the U.S. that wasn’t available in the U.K. and raised over a million pounds to give it a try.  The doctors caring for Charlie Gard, however, petitioned the government to remove him from life support, and it is the court, not doctors and parents, that has the last say in such matters.  Despite pleas from the Vatican and even assurance from President Trump that the U.S. would be “delighted” to help Charlie, “Charlie died in a hospice on July 18, 2017, after the court denied his mother’s request to bring her son home for his final hours.”  Another couple was arrested for kidnapping when they took their child to Spain in 2014 for a cancer treatment not approved in the U.K.  This story, fortunately, had a happy ending in Prague following a legal battle over proton therapy, a treatment available in the U.S. since 2001.  

Ironically, socialist medicine doesn’t mean the same care for wealthy and well connected individuals, as Canadian singer Micheal Bublé moved to California where his son was treated for liver cancer in 2016 at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.  Even more egregiously, in 2010 Newfoundland’s premier traveled to Mount Sinai Hospital in Florida for minimally invasive heart surgery that he could have received in his own country.

Pipes ends with a series of proposals for making American health care more affordable, ideas that focus on Health Savings Accounts, tort reform, individually tailored insurance policies, and a government program to take care of the approximately two million folks who would not qualify for private insurance -- a small subset for which it makes no sense to socialize the entire health care system.  Overall, Pipes’ book is predicated on the hope that Americans won’t give up their access to quality medical care if they know that the “free” care they are promised will cost almost as much as the 17% the U.S. now devotes to health care and will result in vastly increased waiting times, fewer treatment alternatives, massive dislocations, and restricted or no access to expensive drugs -- all without the default option employed by thousands of Canadians, treatment in the United States. 


Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: "Who's to Say?"  is also available on Kindle    

Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics

Contrary to previous belief, wolves aren’t solitary creatures that naturally roam in random packs but are rather, like most animals, familial beasts whose behaviors assume pathological characteristics when those domestic bonds are broken.  That observation, reiterated with reference to other species, is the biological starting point for Mary Eberstadt’s insightful exploration of the social and political consequences of the recent and monumental disruptions in American family structure that she terms “the Great Scattering” in her book Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics.

Eberstadt’s focus is on the way divorce, absent fathers, shrinking family size, and the sexual revolution of the 60s has produced an environment that radically undermines traditional answers to the question “Who am I?” -- a question typically addressed by reference to a child’s father, mother, siblings, and sex.  In addition, since basic social skills are obtained vis-à-vis parental and familial examples, absent fathers and non-existent siblings make learning how to interact civilly with the opposite sex (or to respect one’s own) extremely difficult.
The rise in “identity politics,” therefore, is linked by Eberstadt to the social and especially familial disruptions that make answering the “Who am I?” question highly problematic.  The negative consequences of the sexual revolution (primarily contraception technology plus the destigmatization of non-marital sex, abortion, single-parent homes, and, to some extent, pornography) are provided abundantly by the author.  They include the clearly detrimental effects of fatherless homes (“a literature as well-known as it is stoutly ignored”) and various studies that document a large increase in self-harm and loneliness, including morose statistics on elderly folks (4,000 a week in population-dwindling Japan) who die alone without relatives and are only discovered by neighbors due to the odor coming from their residences.  The author links these and other sociological data to a desperate cri de coeur that amounts to a primal scream: “Who am I?”
As surrogates for the basic familial answers to that question, ethnic, erotic, racial, and sexual identities have been asserted with a vengeance, especially against those seen as oppressors.  Eberstadt notes that the “first collective articulation of identity politics comes from a community [black women] where familial identity was becoming increasingly riven” and constituted “a harbinger of what would come next for everyone else.”  In the previous year, 1976, “the out-of-wedlock birth rate for black Americans had just ‘tipped’ over the 50 percent mark.”
The “infantilized expression and vernacular” of identity politics also points to a regressive “mine, mine!” toddler mentality.  Young adults screaming at speakers they imagine threaten their sexual, racial, or ethnic identities (e.g. Christina Sommers and Charles Murray) or even at friendly faculty members offering criticism of Yale’s detailed “cultural appropriation” guidelines for Halloween costumes is typical behavior -- tantrums that go hand in hand with “safe spaces” on campus, “those tiny ersatz treehouses stuffed with candy, coloring books, and Care Bears.”  Such childish exhibitions point to a primitive psychological deficit that corresponds with studies about identity-formation in children of divorce or of those having no father at all.  
Eberstadt notes, furthermore, that after the sexual revolution, women were expected to be more like men and were praised for achieving sexual liberation (no strings sex), physical prowess comparable to men, or corporate CEO status.  Those women who assumed traditional maternal roles were correspondingly disparaged.  Men, on the other hand, received a steady dose of blame for “toxic masculinity” while those without fathers in the home had additional reasons to reject their biological heritage.  Lost in this reshuffling were familial models, via parents and siblings, to teach girls how to understand men and boys how to treat the other sex.  But were women, who now had the sole legal voice on abortion, naturally constructed to approach sex as men might?  And were men deprived of a father or an opposite sex sibling likely to approach females with the same respect and reticence as previous generations of men did whose families were large, intact, and often schooled to view women as, in some sense, sisters in a religious community?  And what about the impact of the sexually saturated culture that offers graphic, often violent, pornography with the click of a mouse?   
Eberstadt observes that the #MeToo movement exposed what perceptive observers already knew, that the dissolution of the family has led to profound ignorance not only about the opposite sex but also about one’s own sexual nature.  Even men who “identity” as women (or vice versa) are presumed to be the gender of their choice and treated as victims entitled to whatever athletic competition or locker room they choose.  Meanwhile, protestors against this biological conflation are relegated to the status of bigots.  The identity movement has gone so far that the feminist icon Martina Navratilova who protested against transgender competitors was all but excommunicated by its political mob -- a state of affairs that provides a stark example of the revolution consuming its own “in a spiral of scapegoating and social destruction that no one seems to know how to stop.”
Eberstadt concludes as follows: “Identity politics is not so much politics as a primal scream.  It’s the result of the Great Scattering -- our species’ unprecedented collective retreat from our very selves.”  Though the author’s analysis of the primacy of nature and the family is instructive, her persistent attempt to separate that nature from politics, at least for purposes of discussion, is destined to fail.  One of the three responses to her work included in Part Two of her book illustrates this point.  Though politics isn’t the only reason for “the Great Scattering,” the left side of the political spectrum clearly facilitated and encouraged it with gusto.  Thus, Columbia Humanities Professor Mark Lilla’s rejoinder to Eberstadt's book is overwhelmingly political and ignores completely the role of nature in family fragmentation and the divisiveness of identity politics.  Instead, he blames everything bad on “Reagan individualism” and capitalism -- a predictable response from a partisan for whom deterministic Hegelian ideas about History (with a capital H) are embraced with ardor and for whom the importance for most conservatives of unifying cultural institutions (family, community organizations, and religion) is completely ignored. 
That said, Eberstadt’s very compact work is well worth reading for the significant insights it provides into the relationship between family dissolution, the devastation wrought by the sexual revolution, and the puzzlingly infantile extremes to which any reasonable version of identity politics has been taken.
 Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: "Who's to Say?"  is also available on Kindle   

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Who Killed Civil Society?: The Rise of Big Government and Decline of Bourgeois Norms by Howard Husock


The Manhattan Institute’s Howard Husock begins this overview of social services in America by considering the “biggest mystery” of his childhood, namely, “how my father survived his.”  Husock’s dad was an orphan living in a scruffy Philadelphia neighborhood during the Great Depression.  The answer his dad provided was “The Agency,” a private, largely volunteer organization that stressed norms over material provisions -- a message often delivered to the elder Husock by a widow who rode in a chauffeured Cadillac across town to encourage principles like self-control, honesty, and good manners.

By contrast, today’s social service message is that “institutional barriers are to blame” for the plight of America’s “marginalized” individuals.  In the words of a recent textbook, “Social Workers recognize the extent to which a culture’s structures and values may oppress, marginalize, alienate, or create or enhance privilege and power.”  Consequently, social workers should “engage in practices that advance social and economic justice.”  Husock’s book documents this fateful transition from the structure and philosophy of “The Agency” to massive government programs that focus on material provision, social issues, and the amelioration of existing maladies (e.g. drug addiction and broken families) rather than the formation of character traits that prevent those maladies from arising.
 
Five prominent figures are employed to chart Husock’s road toward our cultural Hades -- a path paved, to be sure, with good intentions: Charles Loring Brace, Jane Addams, Mary Richmond, Grace Abbott, and Wilbur Cohen.  A sixth figure, Geoffrey Canada, provides a contemporary example of the type of organization Husock hopes will flourish to help reestablish “Middle-Class Values” among a burgeoning social services population.   

The norm-centered focus of the Juvenile Aid Society that saved Husock’s father was pioneered in the latter half of the 19th century by Charles Brace’s Children’s Aid Society which began its privately funded mission of instilling the values of education and civility in thousands of newsboys, bootblacks, and other waifs who roamed the streets of New York City.  Beyond supplying lodging homes and living necessities, Brace sought to influence the character of children who possessed no vision of a better future.  Brace thus became a “missionary of bourgeois norms” that provided the means for achieving a good life.  A major aspect of Brace’s effort involved “orphan trains” that relocated 120,000 children to Midwest farm families -- not as servants but as family members who would learn the same morals and habits as their parents.  Brace, who died in 1890, noted that “our whole influence is moral” and shunned assistance “which doesn’t touch habits of life and … character.”

Much better known than Brace is Jane Addams, founder of Chicago’s Hull House.  Addams’ approach to social work began, as it did with Brace, with modeling and encouraging behavioral norms and habits for the poor immigrants with whom she lived.  Over the years, however, Addams focused more attention on government-funded assistance and political issues (a living wage, workplace safety, child labor laws, etc.).  Indeed, in 1935 Addams won the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy of that expansive goal.  Meanwhile, the task of instilling positive character traits began to be derided by the crusading Addams as “incorrigibly bourgeois.”

Mary Richmond, who herself (unlike Brace and Addams) came out of difficult circumstances, attempted to preserve the character-focused approach of Brace while also emphasizing the need for significant material assistance.  Her “friendly visit” vision of social work stressed professional “diagnostic” methods employed largely by trained volunteers working with private organizations.  This non-governmental approach that retained an emphasis on moral norms was abandoned completely by the Abbott sisters, Grace and Edith, both University of Chicago graduates, Hull House residents, and fervent advocates for government assistance programs.  The capstone of their efforts was the Social Security Act of 1935 that included an Aid to Dependent Children component.

The final nail in the coffin of a character-centered vision of social work was administered by Wilbur Cohen, “the consummate federal bureaucrat” who earned the sobriquet “Mr. Social Security.”  Cohen, who had no close connection with the population affected by his policies, saw poverty purely as a product of economic circumstances whose solution was to be found in a variety of “social insurance” programs.  Cohen’s lasting legacy was achieved via LBJ’s massive Great Society welfare system that focused overwhelmingly on providing material “entitlements” and dealt with existing, often intractable, pathologies.  But to Cohen’s dismay, “social services increased along with benefit levels,” and many of the problems those material benefits were intended to solve (e.g. illegitimacy) increased dramatically.

Husock’s new model for social services follows the structure and philosophy of Geoffrey Canada whose Harlem Children’s Zone project grew out of his own experience of the violence and cynicism inculcated in youngsters by hardened mentors who saw the system rigged against them and scoffed at the foolishness of seeking anything beyond immediate gratification.  Canada’s privately-funded project focuses on young kids not yet corrupted by the negative influences around them and has grown from one block to more than a hundred.  His urban oasis provides a stark example of a clean, graffiti-free neighborhood and demonstrates what can be achieved by embracing “middle class values” such as self-discipline and education.

While Husock’s overview of social work’s abandonment of moral norms is instructive, the hope he places in admirable efforts like Canada’s seems unrealistic.  As Husock himself admits, the world of social work represents only a fraction of the cultural input that shapes individual perspectives and habits.  And Canada’s work, even multiplied by dozens of similar projects, represents a small fraction of the services delivered by state and federal government agencies.  Put bluntly, the cultural input of all social service workers pales in comparison with that of mass media.  Husock mentions rap music in one sentence, noting its banishment from Canada’s model community.  Yet rap is a cultural item whose negative influence by itself dwarfs all the unquestionably positive work done by Canada and similar projects.  Now add to rap the drumbeat of cynicism promoted by Hollywood, academics, politicians, and the mainstream media.  While morally-focused social projects are certainly saviors for the thousands they touch, the idea that such projects will significantly move the broader cultural needle in the same direction is naïve.
 
Attorney General William Barr’s recent Notre Dame speech accurately summarized the massive secularist attack on religion and traditional values over the last half-century – an attack that includes but goes well beyond the world of social services.  The success of that attack is poignantly summarized by Planned Parenthood’s indignant response to New York City’s “moralistic” campaign to discourage teen pregnancy: “It’s not teen pregnancies that cause poverty, but poverty that causes teen pregnancies.”  This anti-moral economic determinism is now deeply engrained in American culture. 

Without a “fundamental transformation” of the mass media’s constant condemnation of personal moral judgments – without a drastic change in its lionizing of hedonistic pursuits that “push the envelope” beyond every prior boundary of decency – without a rejection of its reflexive division of society into  privileged and victim groups -- without a massive intellectual and moral shift on the part of educators, the entertainment industry, prominent intellectuals, and folks in electronic communications, the prospect for significant improvement in the culture at large, including its ever-expanding social services arena, seems bleak.
    
Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: "Who's to Say?"  is also available on Kindle    

Monday, December 02, 2019

50 Things They Don’t Want You to Know by Jerome Hudson


Breitbart’s Jerome Hudson goes out on an limb by placing a hefty number in the title of his book, 50 Things They Don’t Want You to Know.  Perhaps that’s why this best-selling volume doesn’t appear on the prestigious New York Times list.  In any case, Hudson’s collection of MSM-disdained facts turns out to be both readable and enlightening.  Categories that account for most of the chapter headings concern illegal immigration, tech company machinations and employment practices, Obama Administration policies toward Russia, and a handful of entries about gun violence, the environment, Jihadism, and President Trump’s economic success, especially with minorities and women.

Hudson begins his magazine-length collection of articles, however, by focusing on abortion in black communities, noting in chapter one that “From 2012 to 2016 More Black Women in New York City Had Abortions Than Gave Birth.”  (Hudson himself is “black” and employs that race-descriptive term.)  This startling heading is verified statistically and expanded into a discussion of abortion in the black community, a group that accounts “for more than 36 percent of all abortions nationally.”  The article concludes with an extensive analysis of Planned Parenthood’s targeting of black communities and the racist views of its eugenics-enamored founder, Margaret Sanger. 

The lion’s share of articles in Hudson’s book concerns illegal immigration.  Hudson notes, for example, that in 2014 “immigration arrests grew to 50 percent of all federal arrests from just 28 percent a decade earlier.”  Another chapter is devoted to the huge economic cost of illegal immigration for low-skilled workers, especially black Americans.  Hudson’s most startling statistic, however, focuses on females that come into this country illegally: “Eighty Percent of Central American Women and Girls Are Raped While Crossing into The U.S. Illegally.”  That figure comes from a Univision-owned news source, “an anti-Trump and anti-Wall outfit.”  Another study by “Princeton Policy Advisors estimates that, in 2019, 103,000 women will be raped trying to reach the United States from Central America.”  Obviously, these are numbers the #MeToo Democratic Party and its media allies, two groups that welcome “undocumented immigrants” into the country, don’t want voters to know.

Some quite unexpected information about illegal immigration is disclosed in chapter 46, which discusses Obama border policies that were actually harsher than those implemented by President Trump.  Hudson notes that there was no outrage about psychological damage to kids or talk of “concentration camps” when the former Commander-in-Chief placed “unaccompanied children in steel cages” or separated “tens of thousands” of family members.  And one can only imagine how the New York Times would have characterized a Trump-initiated Alien Transfer Exit Program (ATEP) that shipped “male migrants” across the country, sometimes “thousands of miles from their original border sector” and then “escorted [them] back across the U.S.-Mexico border.”  In the process “ATEP routinely broke up families migrating together and made it a logistical nightmare for a couple to find each other again.”  This Obama-era program, however, elicited no media tears, if it was even noticed.  

Another chunk of information in Hudson’s collection of forbidden facts is devoted to the tech industry.  One area of interest concerns methods employed to slant Internet searches and news apps toward “trusted” sites like the New York Times and away from conservative outlets.  Another line of inquiry involves the staggering amount of information these companies gather about users that can be employed for nefarious purposes, both political and mercantile.  A revealing anecdote at the end of chapter 35 concerns a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg who told a friend, shortly after Facebook launched, that he had thousands of emails, pictures, addresses, and even Social Security numbers from folks at Harvard whom he described as “dumb f--ks” for blindly trusting him.  A third subject for scrutiny concerns the employment practices of multi-billion dollar tech companies that employ legions of foreign workers who are paid substantially less than their American counterparts thanks to F-1 (OPT) and H-1B visas that pad the corporations’ already enormous profit sheets -- funds that often go untaxed thanks to IRS regulations tailored by Congress to the specifications of their tech supporters.  

As noted above, several entries in this book deal with Obama Administration policies toward Russia, an approach summarized by the heading of chapter 27: “Hillary Clinton Supported a ‘Strong, Competent, Prosperous, Stable Russia’ Before Blaming It for Her Election Loss.”  Apparently one way to secure a strong, prosperous Russia was to sell it twenty percent of all U.S. uranium (chapter 28) and in the process make the Clintons themselves a lot wealthier.  For starters, Bill received a half-million dollar speaking fee “for an event in Moscow attended by high-ranking Russian officials.”  Add to this stipend “a combined $145 million to Hillary and Bill Clinton’s family foundation” paid by “nine foreign investors involved in the uranium deal” and one would have Adam Schiff’s dream scenario for impeachment and removal from office.  In addition to the uranium deal, “President Obama and Hillary Clinton Encouraged U.S. Investors to Fund Tech Research Used by Russia’s Military” (chapter 29).  This pet Obama project focused largely on the Skolkovo Foundation and was described by a U.S. Army program as “arguably an overt alternative to clandestine industrial espionage.”  It was a policy so reckless as to make John Brennan’s “treason” accusation against Trump reasonable -- were Trump (and not Obama) the one actually pursuing this kind of technological “reset” with Putin’s regime.

Add a few chapters on fake “right-wing terrorism” statistics, trade policy, Venezuela’s socialist disaster, failed government programs, and violent Democrat-run cities and you have the complete ensemble of topics in Hudson’s statistic- and information-packed offering, a work replete with footnotes to establish the sources of information employed to let readers know what leftists fervently wish to conceal.  Snowflakes should certainly be given “trigger-warnings” in advance of exposure to the contents of this book.

Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: "Who's to Say?"  is also available on Kindle   

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

RECLAIMING COMMON SENSE (by Robert Curry)


How has it come to pass that in America a man can identify as a woman and his linguistic affirmation by itself, at least in New York City, obligates others to address him as “her”?  And why is it increasingly considered mandatory to declare that men taking female hormones can compete against natural born women in sporting events?  What aberrant philosophical doctrine, you may ask, is behind the assertion that there are sixty-three genders or that marriage must no longer be considered the union of a man and a woman?  The answer to these and other absurdities can be found in Robert Curry’s new book Reclaiming Common Sense: Finding Truth in a Post-Truth World.  This brief and manageable philosophical analysis forms a welcome addendum to Curry’s earlier work, Common Sense Nation, which “explores the thinking of the American Founders” and “present[s] to Americans today what was once known by virtually every American.”

What Americans once knew was humorously summarized by Abraham Lincoln when he posed this question, “If you call a tail a leg, how many legs would a dog have?”  Abe’s answer: “Four, because even if you call it a leg, it’s still a tail.”  This “common-sense realism” was once, as Curry points out, the currency of both everyday Americans and the nation’s academics.  The author, however, goes well beyond Lincoln’s yarn to explain the philosophical background of “common-sense” as developed in the writings of Scotland’s Thomas Reid.  Reid notes the foundational quality of certain “self-evident” truths not only for practical living [You can’t fly if you jump out a fifth story window.] but also for intellectual and moral pursuits.  These basic truths are not ideas that can be proven.  Instead, they are the necessary presuppositions of rational analysis and moral reflection.  Furthermore, these basic, “self-evident” truths aren’t always obvious, but rather are recognized as rational or moral pillars once discovered.  Even simple mathematical truths, to say nothing of more advanced axioms, require a grounding in the discipline to be seen clearly.  With respect to morality, the “self-evident” truth that “all men are created equal” was capable of being clearly perceived only after history and thoughtful refection prepared individuals (like the Founders) to see and acknowledge this seminal insight.

So when did Americans begin to lose this common sense perspective that was an essential component of the Founders’ belief that self-government was possible?  Curry points to the ascendance of German-trained academics among American intellectuals in the latter part of the nineteenth century.  With the importation of “Romantic” and “progressive” ideals that often sailed under heading of science, intellectuals dismissed the notion that ordinary folk were capable of discovering the not-so-obvious truths according to which society should be ordered.  Psychiatrists, sociologists, and political scientists would henceforth, they believed, set down rules for raising children and organizing society. This perspective was widespread among American intellectuals in the early twentieth century as the philosophical gap between academics and ordinary Americans widened tremendously.      

A Marxist variant of these “progressive” ideas became “all the rage” on American campuses in the sixties and seventies thanks to another German émigré, Herbert Marcuse.  By that time, however, the illusion that Marxism and science were joined at the hip was becoming implausible.  Eventually, instead of rejecting Marxism or other utopian constructs, science and reason were themselves jettisoned in favor of the unbridled emotions that always lay at the heart of Marx’s romanticism.  The absurd conclusion of this intellectual cul-de-sac is today’s “linguistic realism” that asserts people actually are what they say they are.  Thus, a boy in a tutu and tiara who insists he is a girl, must be considered a girl -- a proposition that has strayed considerably from the common sense statements about dogs, legs, and tails put forth by Lincoln.  A further consequence of this escape from reality is the assertion that speech itself is violence, a corollary of attributing to words the status of reality and thus the justification for hate-speech laws.  A pseudo-scientific cherry on top of this irrational hodge-podge was the popular misunderstanding of Einstein’s “theory of relativity” as asserting that “everything is relative,” including morality -- thus the contemporary ubiquity of the phrase “my truth.”

All these philosophical twists and turns are unpacked slowly by Curry and in a manner that doesn’t require a formal background in philosophy or intellectual history.  Dreams, for example, are used to illustrate the romantic alternative to common sense perceptions, and Jane Austen’s two major characters in Sense and Sensibility provide literary examples of two different approaches to life, one based on common-sense moderation (Elinor) and the other ruled by self-destructive emotion (Marianne).

Other than showing us exactly how far we have traveled from the common sense doctrines of Thomas Reid and the Founders, Curry provides in this short work no advice for reversing course other than admonishing each reader to “make the life-defining effort to become a person of robust common sense.”  Perhaps a third post script to Common Sense Nation will take on that necessary  task with more detailed strategies which extend beyond an appeal to individuals to adopt a  perspective that’s at odds with the enormous emotional power of a corrupt academic and popular culture (cf. Attorney General Barr’s Notre Dame speech) that controls almost all the major instruments of communication and education.

Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: "Who's to Say?"  is also available on Kindle   


Sunday, September 29, 2019

The 97% Consensus -- GLOBAL WARMING HOAX

The 97% HOAX! Where did the 97% figure come from that is so frequently and confidently bandied about as "conclusive" evidence that scientists agree on man-made global warming (aka "climate change)"? Here it is! "The 97% study was a "graduate thesis" (a master's level project) by the "famous" (irony) Margaret Zimmerman, MS (Master of Science) published by the Univ. of Illinois in 2008. Zimmerman sent out a "two-question" survey to 10,257 earth scientists, of whom only 3,146 responded. 96% of respondents were from North America, overwhelmingly from the U.S. and 9% from California. 

THEN Zimmerman selected 77 (Yes, 77, seventy-seven, not a typo, 77) out of the 3,146 respondents and declared them "experts." 75 of these 77 "experts" believed in catastrophic human-caused global warming requiring massive government intervention. THAT, my friends, is where the 97% figure comes from! And have you ever heard ANYONE explain the origin of the figure? Mark Steyn published his book containing this information in 2015! "A Disgrace to the Profession." Can you imagine what the corrupt press would do with a similarly constructed "survey" that showed 97% skepticism on catastrophic, anthropogenic global warming (now altered to "climate change")?!!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

WHY MEADOW DIED: THE PEOPLE AND POLICIES THAT CREATED THE PARKLAND SHOOTER AND ENDANGER AMERICA'S STUDENTS


MASS MURDER: COMING TO A SCHOOL NEAR YOU

Why Meadow Died doesn’t focus primarily on the murderer of seventeen people at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School on Valentine’s Day, 2018, though the book does contain chapters describing the troubled life of Nikolas Cruz (often designated  by his prison number, 18-1958, to avoid giving the killer further notoriety).  Instead, most of this compelling work exposes the “restorative justice” discipline model brought to Broward County schools by Superintendent Robert Runcie, someone without a background in education who was a Chicago-based IT employee of Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.  It was Runcie’s lenient, racially-focused model that virtually created the mass murderer at MSD High School.  Even worse, that same discipline approach is creating toxic environments in schools across the country thanks to leftist pressure groups and Obama’s Education Secretary -- thus, the book’s subtitle:  The People and Policies that Created the Parkland Shooter and Endanger America’s Students.

Why Meadow Died was written by Andrew Pollack, the father of Meadow, in conjunction with the Manhattan Institute’s senior fellow in education policy, Max Eden.  Meadow was one of seventeen students and adults murdered at MSD High School, a tragedy that happened not because of the availability of guns, but because an ideologically-driven bureaucratic system demanded fake statistics about arrests, suspensions, and student behavior to prove the efficacy of Runcie’s disciplinary approach.  This bogus data was required if teachers and administrators were to survive or advance within this corrupt system.  

After the Parkland shooting, media attention focused overwhelmingly, as it always does, on “gun control.”  The sham “town hall” produced by CNN after the massacre gave an heroic platform to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel whose department response to the shooting provided a textbook example of malpractice.  The show’s host and questioners ignored the fact that Israel had cooperated enthusiastically in a school program that all but ignored criminal behavior by students, including actions that would have made it impossible for Cruz to purchase a firearm.  Meanwhile, in the wake of the shooting Superintendent Runcie received accolades for a policy that, according to Pollock and Eden, was at much to blame for the massacre as Cruz himself.   

Runcie’s leftist-inspired program claimed that traditional school discipline is both punitive and discriminatory since minority students are suspended and punished at rates higher than white students.  This and other disparities provided for reformers clear evidence that teachers were racially biased and that the traditional system of discipline was destructive for minority groups.  To make matters worse, kids who often misbehaved, even those issuing threats and engaging in fights, were regularly labeled “special-needs” and thus put in another potentially “victimized” grouping.  The obvious explanation that fatherless homes and hostile environments largely account for statistical disparities was dismissed as racist [as these explanations also are, I might add, by urban District Attorneys funded by George Soros].  “Social justice,” reformers insist, demands that suspensions and punishments for blacks, whites, Hispanics, and special-needs kids be equally distributed.   Furthermore, since punitive punishment and law enforcement involvement is viewed as feeding the “school-to-prison pipeline,” Runcie’s program set out to drastically lower such punishments, especially arrests. 

To achieve these goals it was necessary to ignore bad behavior, to make reporting even egregious misbehavior bureaucratically burdensome, and to provide the “least restrictive” punishment for disciplinary violations.  The disastrous result of this approach was predictable -- increased bullying by kids who had little to fear for misbehavior, even for actions that extended to death threats and assaults.  The consequence for teachers who didn’t produce the desired statistics was also predictable: “Give a warning.  Issue a consequence.  Be labeled a racist.”  So while the numbers for suspensions and arrests dropped dramatically, making Runcie and his program a nationwide model, the numbers didn’t reflect reality.  Meanwhile, many students in Broward County were placed in normal classrooms alongside felons.  And at MSD students were interacting on campus with someone who should have been a felon or at the very least placed in a special education setting and denied access to guns.
The information provided in a chapter devoted exclusively to 18-1958 is chilling -- Cruz’s family background, his bloody fantasies, his cruelty to animals, a vicious assault that he initiated on campus, and his incessant threats to kill himself and others, threats that were consistently minimized both by school officials and Parkland police.  The fact that he was eventually placed back in a regular school setting and even allowed to enroll in Junior ROTC caps off a host of decisions that illustrate the incompetence and ideological rigidity of those implementing school policy. 

This mismanagement is further highlighted in a chapter that provides an incomplete list of forty-two ways Meadow’s death and, in many cases, the entire Parkland shooting, could have been avoided.  The list implicates, among others, Runcie’s discipline policy, the pathetic Broward County police response, the incompetent and predatory MSD security monitor, School Resource Officer Scot Peterson (who remained in a safe space holding the only gun on campus while students were being murdered), failure to secure all entrances to the campus, and failure of the district to install an alarm system that wouldn’t send students on a deadly fire drill during a shooting. 

The final chapters of Why Meadow Died relate the attempt by Pollack, Eden, and others to change the composition of Broward County’s school board and to oust the always politically conscious and often vindictive Runcie from his position.  Highlighted in this section is a courageous teen journalist named Kenny Preston who confronted Runcie and the Board with critical facts they invariably deflected, misrepresented, or denied.  In an act of unbelievable spite against this young man with mild cognitive issues, Kenny was denied graduation for what seem trivial reasons.  In the authors’ view, “At the end of the school year, Kenny was the only person in the entire Broward County school district to face any consequences for what happened on February 14.”  Likewise, the mendacity, intimidation, and cowardice displayed during the school board election was a true reflection of the powers that be in Broward County and of the 2-to-1 Democrat constituency that not only featured a blow-hard judge, Elijah Williams, who referred to the Parkland massacre as a “so-called tragedy” but also returned to power (over a man who lost his daughter in the massacre) a school board lackey who had the audacity to call 2018 “an amazing school year.”
  
The reason the authors believe another school massacre like Parkland’s is inevitable is that Runcie’s “social justice” discipline model has been implemented in hundreds of districts throughout the country, something Max Eden illustrates with numerous horror tales in chapter nine -- tales typically related by teachers so intimidated by administrators that they speak anonymously.  This lemming-like institutional behavior isn’t simply a consequence of the ideological conformity that characterizes education professionals.  It also stems from a “Dear Colleague” letter sent by Obama’s Education Secretary, Arne Duncan (Runcie’s old boss) that in effect threatens to investigate and bring civil rights suits against schools that fail to pursue discipline policies like those in Broward County and to produce similar statistical results.  Though the Trump Administration revoked Duncan’s directive, school districts throughout the country still cling to the ineffective and dangerous approach that teaches kids most at risk that there will be no significant consequences even for criminal behavior -- a lesson many will rue once they are out of school.  Of course the victims most to be pitied for these policies are students and teachers who are bullied, assaulted, and occasionally murdered by the fruit of Arne Duncan and Robert Runcie’s politically-correct reform tree -- victims like Meadow and her family.    

Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: "Who's to Say?"  is also available on Kindle