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Panel of Experts at COP27

Democracy is at risk from climate experts

Three weeks ago, President Joe Biden declared that “in our bones we know democracy is at risk.” He attributed the threat to Trump acolytes “running for every level of office in America.” Well, no mayhem ensued after November 8.

However, a bigger threat that probably few heard of did arise soon after. On November 6, 2022, the world’s elite once again gathered at the 27th annual United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP27). This time, the conference’s focus was on methods by which the 197 participating countries, including the U.S., should implement the ambitious UN-prescribed climate action plan.

And therein lies the threat to U.S. democracy.

Delegates to the COP27 gathering implicitly agreed to accept the prescribed science behind the climate action plan, identify and remove barriers to implementation of the plan, require changes in corporate behavior to advance the plan, and compel changes in investment to finance the plan. Specific examples were given during the conference:

* Climate science is what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) prescribes based on its research.

* Barriers to implementation of the climate action plan include oil and gas industry lobbying, dominant modes of transportation, and counties without sufficient capital.

* Corporate behavior in need of change include compensation based on production rather than climate action, lack of specific means of accountability for lack of climate action, resistance to a universal repository for listing specific corporate advances in climate action, and the mere existence of fossil fuel industries.

* Investment needs to move away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy. Developed nations need to pay into a fund designed to assist climate action by less developed nations. Financial institutions need to reduce barriers to financing climate action, such as interest rates or development plan characteristics.

Most of the action points above cannot be binding but are implicitly accepted by delegates. The more explicit point is the establishment of a fund to help poorer nations deal with the costs of climate-induced disasters. At COP27, there was agreement to establish the UN Loss and Damage Fund, details of which will be worked out next year.

Why is this seemingly intelligent climate action plan a threat to U.S. democracy?

The COP27, regardless of any sincere and worthy intentions of participants, is nevertheless a body not chosen by or even widely known to U.S. voters. The bedrock of democracy is the vote of the people. Through their vote on candidates and issues, voters express what they want their country to be.

Since the birth of the United Nations, concerned individuals have expressed uneasiness. We the people do not chose the delegates we send to UN conferences, we do not choose the issues the conferences discuss, we do not have any say on what our delegates commit us to do. We can vote on proposals on our ballots but may or may not readily associate them with UN pledges.

Concern in some circles extend even deeper.

A threat to our political structure – call it democracy or representative republic – for the sake of saving us from climate disaster is bad enough. However, a threat disguised as climate action for the sake of ideology is worse.

Here are a couple of interesting excerpts from recent publications:

* The Lew Rockwell blog on November 2, 2022, published a piece by Thomas DiLorenzo that well encapsulates some people’s concern about the relentless talk of climate action. DiLorenzo says,

Years ago my friend the late Murray Weidenbaum, the chairman of President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors, told a story of how he had a conversation with Barry Commoner, one of the founding fathers of the modern enviro-commie movement. (I believe they both taught at Washington University in St. Louis). Weidenbaum said to him (paraphrasing from memory): You guys are against oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear power. Without energy, you cannot have a capitalist market economy.

Commoner’s response was to sit back and smile. Weidenbaum told me that he interpreted Commoner’s expression as saying “exactly right.

* Greta Thunberg, the high-profile teen climate activist, attended a Southbank Center event to promote her new collection of essays, The Climate Book. During her speech and subsequent interview with journalist Samira Ahmed, Ms. Thunberg stated that it is too late for individual action, and saving the planet now requires system-wide transformation.

We need to change everything because right now our current system is on a collision course with the future of humanity and the future of our civilization.

[the current system is] “defined by colonialism, imperialism, oppression and genocide by the so-called global North to accumulate wealth that still shapes our current world order.

As an aside it is useful to note that Greta Thunberg is aware that changes are unlikely without people’s (supposedly including voters’) demand for such changes. She made that point several times during her interview with Samira Ahmed. Whether COP27 participants were equally cognizant, is not clear.

Additional concerns regarding ideology include a perception of bias.

Bias is an unavoidable feature of the human mind. Sometimes it is unintentional and unperceived, and at times it is intentionally baked into ideologies.

Right-leaning ideologues tend to dismiss the negative impacts of carbon dioxide and/or ignore the association between the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the rise of industrialization. Left-leaning ideologues tend to blame climate change for events that could be ascribed to other causes (residential encroachment into fire zones during the last decade as contributors to forest fires, for example), and tend to limit themselves to prescribed remedies.

At present, left-leaning ideologies have the upper hand on matters of climate change.

Left-leaning bias focuses on elimination of fossil fuels. But the plan lacks sufficient focus on the thousands of products derived from fossil fuels. Lots of talk there is about wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicles; but not much talk about effectively replacing polyester clothing, PVC pipes, nylon ropes, plastic toys, or small appliance casings.

Also, left-leaning bias ignores the harm derived from disposal of the large energy-storage batteries required in renewable energies and electric vehicles. It is hard to tell percentage of components that are recycled, although some say 5%. The rest is buried and left to sip into soil and waterways.

Left-leaning bias against capitalism and its profit motive fails to acknowledge that government cannot produce capital. People (including those that work or invest in corporations) produce capital from the profits they make. Focusing on climate action instead of profits will reduce capital. That is fine, as long as we all agree that climate action is more important than the standard of living to which some of us have grown accustomed.

Faced with the conundrums listed above, do we simply do nothing?

Doing nothing about the documented acceleration in the level of global warming since the start of the industrial revolution is not a wise choice. However, neither is risking democracy – which we keep claiming is so important to us – for a promise of safety from anticipated climate disasters.

That is not to say that people who are willing to exchange democracy for a promise of safety should be prevented from seeking that option. They must be free to do so if democracy is to be upheld!

Those who prefer democracy need to be free to choose that preference as well, which is not something by which climate activists like Greta Thunberg abide, or which our “official” climate experts want to allow. And, by the way, who are these official experts?

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created in 1988 to provide policymakers with regular scientific risk assessment on climate change, formulate options for adaptation and mitigation, and determine the state of knowledge on climate change. In other words, the IPCC is the poo-bah of climate science. Suggest other scientific avenues, and risk accusation of spreading misinformation.

But there should be competition with the IPCC

Elon Musk, who seems to be rapidly catching up with former president Donald Trump as the Left’s most prominent thorn, on February of 2021 funded through his foundation a four-year global competition to award innovators that demonstrate ways to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or oceans and sequester it durably and sustainably. The idea is not only to fund work on carbon sequestration, but also to incite other investors.

It took NASA only 10 years to figure how to put a man on the Moon and safely bring him back to Earth. It has been 57 years since the first climate conference in 1979 (Geneva, February 12-23, 1979), and according to COP27 participants, global warming is still taking place, disasters are increasing, and not much has been put in place to reverse the trend.

COP27 participants and experts are correct in their assertion it is time for structural changes. However, given the UN’s 57-year failure to bend the curve of global warming, perhaps such changes could include giving up on the UN and focusing more on hyping the work NASA has done on carbon conversion and sequestration, and the awards EPA has established for credible sustainable methods of reducing and sequestering carbon.

If U.S. voters wish to help poor regions with mitigation of disasters due to climate change, voters can choose candidates that promise to do so. Primary focus, however, should be on developing cost-effective technology that nations poorer or richer can use if they choose to do so to curb emissions and sequester carbon dioxide already present in the atmosphere.

Pictured: YouTube excerpt of COP27 Recommendations of Expert Group on Net-Zero Commitments of Non-state Entities. Non-state entities include private businesses, agencies and financial institutions. The panel of experts recommended guidelines for explicit, required, equitable and just actions. It also recommended transparency via a central repository where progress could be viewed and evaluated.

Paris Peace Conference

November 11, 1918

On November 11, the United States celebrates Veterans Day. This same day is called Remembrance Day in most of the British Commonwealth. New Zealand, Belgium and Serbia call the day by its original name, Armistice Day. On Veterans Day we honor the men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces. Prior to 1954, before Congress changed the holiday’s name, we observed on November 11 the end of World War I. Or more specifically, we remembered the horrific carnage that killed 9 million soldiers and wounded 21 million.

We also remembered, or should have remembered, on Armistice Day the questionable excuses for the start of WWI. How did WWI start? There are probably as many answers to that question as there are historians. But here is a likely scenario offered by Dr Heather Jones, associate professor in international history, LSE.

Relatively common before 1914, assassinations of royal figures did not normally result in war. But Austria-Hungary’s military hawks – principal culprits for the conflict – saw the Sarajevo assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by a Bosnian Serb as an excuse to conquer and destroy Serbia, an unstable neighbour which sought to expand beyond its borders into Austro-Hungarian territories. Serbia, exhausted by the two Balkan wars of 1912-13 in which it had played a major role, did not want war in 1914.

Broader European war ensued because German political and military figures egged on Austria-Hungary, Germany’s ally, to attack Serbia. This alarmed Russia, Serbia’s supporter, which put its armies on a war footing before all options for peace had been fully exhausted.

Ambitions did not stop with European expansion but extended into the Middle East. In the world of 1914, the Ottoman Empire ruled Arabia, Bedouin leaders wanted self-rule, and European leaders wanted to divide Arab territories among themselves.

Thus, the British offered self rule and control of Syria to Arab leaders, in exchange for their expelling the Ottomans. This arrangement was made in ten letters exchanged from 1915 to 1916 between Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca and Lieutenant Colonel Sir Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner to Egypt. Sharif Hussein took the letters seriously and defeated the Ottomans in 1918. Events after the end of WWI bring into question whether Lieutenant Colonel McMahon took the letters to heart as well.

At war’s end, nearly 30 nations gathered at the Paris Peace Conference, including a token Arab Delegation, supposedly to iron out terms of peace. However, three of the Big Four – Prime Ministers David Lloyd George of Great Britain, Georges Clemenceau of France, and Vittorio Emanuele Orlando of Italy – had already decided to divide territories in Europe and the Middle East between themselves.

They had already also decided, encouraged by Clemenceau, to dispense ruthless punishment on Germany.

As for the fourth of the Big Four, United States President Woodrow Wilson, who hoped for a new era of cooperation and self-rule, British economist and delegate to the Conference, John Maynard Keynes referred to him as “a blind and deaf Don Quixote.” True, Wilson was slow to understand that attendees of the Paris Peace Conference were not interested in his 14 Points for Peace, or for that matter, apparently not interested in peace at all.

Germany was almost completely disarmed and required to pay reparations on a scale calculated to beggar her population for a generation. She lost 10 per cent of her population, 15 per cent of her agricultural production and 20 per cent of her iron, coal and steel.

Thus, the Weimar Republic, born in 1919 in the throes of German defeat and resentment, gave rise to Adolph Hitler only 14 years later.

In the Middle East, mandates created spheres of influence under which Syria and Lebanon went to the French, and Palestine and three Ottoman provinces of Mesopotamia – transformed into Iraq – went to Great Britain. This arrangement unraveled by the end of WWII. France retreated from Syria and Lebanon in 1946 after uprisings by the local inhabitants. Britain withdrew from Palestine in 1948, after partition and creation of new states of Israel and Jordan.

The British protectorate of Iraq formed after WWI went through an interesting iteration. Concerned about unrest, Britain established a kingdom in Iraq in 1921 and placed Faisal I bin Al-Hussein as King. That strategy calmed the populace a bit and pacified Faisal. Although not welcomed with open arms, King Faisal I proved an effective and unifying leader.

Faisal was the son of the Sharif of Mecca Hussein bin Ali (mentioned earlier), the Hashemite leader who started the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. Emir Faisal and British Intelligence Officer Thomas Edward Lawrence waged relentless guerilla warfare against the Ottomans, defeating the colonizers in 1918. The Emir was confident Britain would keep its promises, he would be the recognized King of Syria, and soon the Arab-speaking world would be united under his leadership. Since Britain decided otherwise, Faisal had to be content with being King of Iraq, where he ruled until his death in 1933.

At war’s end, T. E. Lawrence was skeptical but hopeful. Sadly, his skepticism proved correct and his hopes futile. A passage from his memoir Seven Pillars of Wisdom, originally published in 1926, perfectly describes his and Emir Faisal’s struggles for naught.

We were fond together because of the sweep of open places, the taste of wide winds, the sunlight, and the hopes in which we worked. The morning freshness of the world-to-be intoxicated us. We were wrought up with ideas inexpressible and vaporous, but to be fought for. We lived many lives in those whirling campaigns, never sparing ourselves: yet when we achieved and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to remake in the likeness of the former world they knew. Youth could win, but had not learned to keep, and was pitiably weak against age. We stammered that we had worked for a new heaven and a new earth, and they thanked us kindly and made their peace.

The Treaty of Versailles peace was forged by the old men, as were many other agreements and mandates during and in the wake of WWI. Much of the maladroit world these old men created in their own likeness is still here today.

T. E. Lawrence has another often quoted passage in Seven Pillars of Wisdom:

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.

Perhaps this November 11, 2022, Armistice Day of remembrance, might inspire dreamers of the day throughout the world to challenge the bellicose world we have inherited, and ask a fundamental question, is war really necessary?

Pictured: Select delegates to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919

Tulsi Gabbard

No more “cowardly wokeness” for Tulsi Gabbard

On October 11, 2022, former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard announced she is leaving the Democratic Party. After 20 years in the party, Gabbard said,

I can no longer remain in today’s Democratic Party. It’s now under the complete control of an elitist cabal of warmongers driven by cowardly wokeness, who divide us by racializing every issue and stoking anti-white racism, who actively work to undermine our God-given freedoms enshrined in our Constitution.

Tulsi Gabbard’s exit does not come as a surprise, since she has often and emphatically pointed to the Democratic Party’s devolution. She made her unsurprising announcement during the first podcast of what Gabbard hopes will be The Tulsi Gabbard Show. She also summarized the features of the new Democratic Party that contributed to her decision.

Before the new left brands her “anti-government” or attaches other customary labels used on non-compliant individuals, Tulsi Gabbard reminded viewers of her podcast of the oath she took as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve (with deployments to the Middle East) and as a member of the U.S. Congress (U.S. representative for Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district from 2013 to 2021). The oath to defend the U.S. Constitution is an oath to defend the principles of individual liberty and God-given individual rights.

As Gabbard sees it, the features of the new Democratic Party are diametrically opposed to the principles enshrined in the Constitution, and she vigorously lists those features in her introductory podcast. Here is a brief summary of the most salient points.

* In the Republic the Founders envisioned, the people through their elected representatives governed for the benefit of the people. The new Democrats want a government by the elites for the benefit of the elites.

* The old Democratic Party was the liberal, live and let live party that stood in opposition to the more conservative Republican Party. The new Democratic Party leads the cancel culture, in which fear rules – conformity is accomplished by fear of losing one’s job, fear of our kids not getting into good schools, fear of being cancelled, fear of violence.

* The rule of law is essential to a peaceful society. The new Democratic Party calls for defunding the police, electing progressive District Attorneys, unduly protecting criminals, questioning the legitimacy of courts when they do not rule according to the new Democratic Party principles.

* The Constitution’s original ten Amendments, referred as the Bill of Rights, are intended to protect the people from government’s restrictions on speech, religion, self-defense, and assembly. It also protects people’s private property and personal affairs. Leaders of the new Democratic Party are comfortable calling for the abridgement of these rights. Prime example is President Joe Biden’s attempt to establish a Disinformation Governing Board. Another is Democrat-supported credit card tracking of purchases at gun shops.

* Title IX of the Civil Rights Act was signed into law on June 23, 1972. The purpose of this act was to give women equal opportunities to those of men in the fields of education and sports. The Biden Administration proposes changing Title IX’s aim from prohibiting sex discrimination to prohibiting gender identity discrimination. If passed, this proposal will settle current controversies. Whether women showering or competing in sports with biological males will benefit from this change in Tittle IX depends on one’s ideology – certainly not on objective truths.

* The denial of the existence of objective truth removes boundaries. Truth becomes whatever those in power say it is.

At the end of her podcast, Tulsi Gabbard suggests that those who are opposed to the ills she listed and opposed to government by and for the elites, act by leaving the Democratic Party.

Party knows no impulse but spirit, no prize but victory. It is blind to truth, and hardened against conviction. It seeks to justify error by perseverance, and denies to its own mind the operation of its own judgment. Thomas Paine, The Opposers of the Bank, 1787.

Perhaps it is better to vote for candidates who understand the value of the legacies of our Founders as well as the Founders’ shortcomings, than vote the Party line.

Elizabeth II

Elizabeth II leaves very big shoes to fill

Elizabeth Windsor, better known to the world as Elizabeth II or Queen Elizabeth, died on September 8, 2022, at 96 years of age. Her eldest son Charles, 73, ascended the British throne as King Charles III. Elizabeth II leaves very, very big shoes to fill.

Elizabeth II was the longest reigning British monarch, becoming queen at only 25 years of age in 1952. Thus the 96 year old queen the world lost today had an opportunity to build an exemplary track record as a true stateswoman, as a pillar of stability and service.

She led by example, the highest form of leadership. This virtue she learned from her parents, Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother).

During WWII, the young Elizabeth and her sister Margaret remained in Britain, instead being sent to Canada or other safer parts of the British Commonwealth. The King and Queen remained at Buckingham Palace, even as Germany bombed London. They often visited neighborhoods destroyed in the bombings. At age 19 Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, a women’s branch of the British army, and trained as a driver and mechanic.

If anyone kept calm and carried on through turbulence since the Cold War, it was Elizabeth II. She met often with world heads of state, and regularly with her Prime Ministers. She missed only three Openings of Parliament during her long reign, two due to pregnancy and one at the end of her life. The respect she commanded, has been key to keeping the British Commonwealth intact.

King Charles III is now tasked with rising to the occasion. Hopefully, his grandparents and parents’ example of service to the people will guide his path.

Pictured: Princess Elizabeth (in uniform), Queen Elizabeth, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, King George VI, and Princess Margaret, in the balcony of Buckingham Palace at the end of WWII.

Biden addresses nation on Sep 1

Biden’s strange soul of nation speech

President Joe Biden delivered his fight for soul of the nation address on Thursday, September 1. The main networks did not carry the address. Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarty (R CA) taped a very brief response before President Biden gave his speech. Googling for other responses yields little at present.

Maybe people’s preoccupation with soaring prices, their kids’ unfruitful education, crime in the streets, porous borders, and other mundane challenges detracts from rhetorical talk of souls.

President Biden tried hard to change the focus from the mess this country is in to a vision of a future where prosperity, peace of mind, and unity will reign. Abundance of riches, goodness, and harmony will come, apparently, when MAGA extremists, who ignore the Constitution, the rule of law, free and fair elections, and democracy go away.

In all fairness, this nation’s predicaments are not all President Biden’s fault. The national debt and its attendant evils have been growing since President Bill Clinton’s days, the mass of unskilled workers unable to make ends meet has been around since education collapsed and the robber barons of monopolies sucked up the nation’s wealth, divisiveness and name calling has been almost fashionable for a while now. But, the present administration policies, like the Inflation Reduction Act that won’t make a dent on inflation, have not helped.

And in equal fairness, debacles like January 6, when Trump supporters got themselves lumped in with violent unlawful trespassers, feed into the view that MAGA folks are extremists. Hecklers outside Independence Hall shouting “Let’s go Brandon” and “F—Joe Biden” while the President was giving his “soul of democracy” speech were fodder for the President’s calm response: “They’re entitled to be outrageous. This is a democracy.” “… good manners is nothing they’ve ever suffered from.”

So, will a repetitious 24-minute speech touting a nebulous vision of an even more nebulous democracy turn the tide of Republican’s expectation to flip the House and Senate in coming elections? Probably not. But the expected drumbeat of anti-MAGA vitriol in the coming months might.

By the way, one is to assume that the “democracy” to which President Joe Biden referred in his speech is not the same “democracy” that these folks describe:

Republics decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms. Aristotle – Greek philosopher during the Classical period of ancient Greece.

Democracy is the road to socialism. Karl Marx – German philosopher, critic of political economy, and socialist revolutionary.

Democracy is four wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Ambrose Bierce short story writer, journalist, poet, and American Civil War veteran.

Jigsaw puzzle

Google’s Prebunking: Eyes that never close

Google has come up with a potent antidote to conspiracy theories, misinformation, and misleading statements. Yes, even more potent than ubiquitous algorithms unleashed upon poor souls who do not understand the need to conform and stay in one’s place.

The new fakery fighters are short videos, akin to public service ads, intended to inoculate (Google’s word) Internet users against various forms or fakery. These videos, now being tested in Eastern Europe, were developed by Jigsaw, a unit within Google that “explores threats to open societies, and builds technology that inspires scalable solutions.” Jigsaw calls the inoculation approach by the clever name of “prebunking.” Debunking occurs after a particular claim is made. Prebunking works to counter any and all falsehoods continuously.

Now, the videos are actually very useful at teaching basic critical thinking. They illustrate methods commonly used by fakes, like emotional language, scapegoating, and false dichotomies. Jigsaw’s objectives as delineated in its website have value: counter disinformation, toxicity, censorship, and violent extremism. No one wants to fall victim of a targeted well-organized disinformation campaign, or experience incivility in a toxic environment, or heavens forbid be prevented from expressing one’s ideas.

So enter prebunking. What could go wrong?

* It is difficult to imagine the existence of an untargeted ad. Should Facebook, for example, purchase a set of prebunking videos, one would imagine such videos might be placed in the vicinity of a targeted post. This would be a distraction from the information on the post. Google uses a similar approach with its Redirect Method.

Redirect Method placed ads next to search results for terms indicating interest in potentially harmful content, including queries related to joining extremist groups.

* The sample prebunking videos available on the Internet provide general information and look harmless per se. But some sneak in quick unobtrusive preaching. The friendly voice explaining “ad hominem” says sometimes attacking individuals as well as their claims is OK, such as in the case of cigarette manufacturers that claimed their product was safe. One would wonder what other preaching will show up in future examples.

* Although facilitating change to make the world better is a commendable endeavor, some pronouncements can be unnerving, like the title of Jigsaw’s “Issues” page: “Creating future‑defining technology.”

Technology has become our source of knowledge, avenue for social interaction, livelihood for work-from-home bread winners, and prolific provider of convenience gadgets. Whatever future technology decides to create, we will all be in it. We might only see what technology wants us to see – the rest will be relegated to the dustbin of misinformation.

* Clever workers and entrepreneurs that create remarkable systems are not the only source of technology’s power. There is also power that comes from corporatism. Corporatism is perhaps the most worrisome characteristic of gatekeeping tools like prebunking. Here is why.

Corporatism is today’s popular public-private partnership. Large corporations, non-profits, and government agencies mention their public-private partnerships with pride. Corporatism is called “stakeholder capitalism” in polite society; however, critics like Vivek Ramaswamy, author of Woke Inc., argue that corporatism, social capitalism, and stakeholder capitalism are all one and the same. Regardless of wording, it is a collectivist political and economic ideology intended to benefit government and corporations through shared power.

Teddy Roosevelt when campaigning for President in August 1912 spoke in general and hyperbolic terms about public-private alliances. When in office, he did not just talk about the subject, he did break up the big cartels of his day. His words:

Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship of the day. Theodore Roosevelt, His Life and Times, Library of Congress

Not all corporations are corrupt. But partners in the unholy alliance share not only power but also agenda, making them a questionable choice for gatekeepers of the public knowledge.

* Monopolies in advertising media, principally enabled by corporatism and armed with tools like “fact checking” and prebunking, can easily cripple any endeavor. Here is an example:

Hillsdale College, a private liberal arts college in Michigan founded in 1844, posted an ad on Facebook promoting its lecture series The Great Reset. Guest speakers in the series explain the origin and objectives of The Great Reset. They describe The Great Reset as an incubator of corporatism that encourages adoption of controlling tools like universal electronic payment systems (cashless societies) and elimination of private property (you will own nothing).

Facebook labeled the post “False Information.”

It should come to anyone’s mind that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents the U.S. government from censoring Hillsdale’s ad. But it does not prevent a private entity like Facebook from doing so, limiting the ability of Hillsdale to share inconvenient opinions about The Great Reset.

Cute prebunking videos targeting any ad would have been equally effective.

Although the purpose of Jigsaw is not directly to shut people up, it would not be unreasonable to surmise that anyone who does not follow whatever prescribed agenda Google/Jigsaw need to follow would be served with a cute audience-distracting video.

Civil Rights march in Selma, Alabama

1619 Project: any equity yet?

When works with some merit are too forcefully publicized, they become hysterical rhetoric that require a set of illusory truths repeated ad infinitum. At that point they attract critics bent on stripping those works of all value. A good example of this phenomenon is The 1619 Project.

New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones assembled essays on America’s history and named the collection The 1619 Project, which was published by The New York Times in 2019 with great fanfare. The name refers to the year the first shipload of Black slaves landed in America.

According to the project, this seminal event in 1619 forever imprinted racism in the American psyche, causing foundational and expansion episodes to carry slavery’s imprint to this day. The project in its original publication contended that 1619 must be considered America’s founding date, not 1776.

Praises and Disdain

Immediately after its publication, The 1619 Project received accolades from liberals and searing criticism from conservatives. In 2020, Nikole Hannah-Jones received a Pulitzer Prize for her work. She also received denunciations of circulating junk history.

The great tragedy of the original 1619 Project was its missed opportunity to add detail, nuance, and reflection to our historical understanding of slavery and its legacy. That opportunity was lost not upon publication but in the aftermath, when The New York Times met its scholarly critics with insult and derision. The ensuing controversies, initially confined to Hannah-Jones’ and Desmond’s essays, came to overshadow the remainder of the project, including its other historical contributions as well as its literary and artistic sections. The 1619 Project Unrepentantly Pushes Junk History, Reason, March 29, 2022

The principal purpose of The 1619 Project is not to inform but to agitate and entice action. Hannah-Jones wants to see acknowledgement of the persistent consequences of slavery and the ubiquitous nature of racism, present in the judicial system, housing, employment, education, and all other institutions. Her premise is that without that acknowledgement, society cannot begin to erase the negative effects of prejudice. In this regard, her premise aligns with the principles of Critical Race Theory.

Action is often best achieved with focus, flexible statements, relentless publicity, and fascinating storytelling. Lest The New York Times version of the project starts losing media space, Hannah-Jones expanded it into a book, The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, and a school curriculum, Reading Guide for The 1619 Project Essays.

Measures of early action enticed by The 1619 Project could be the level of sales of the book, how many school districts adopted the curriculum, and the backlash. The book is an Amazon best seller. The number of school districts that adopted the curriculum does not seem to be available; there are only article, mostly published in 2020, saying that “4,500 classrooms” are using the curriculum. As of February 2022, 38 states have introduced or passed legislation banning the teaching of race-based curricula.

Illusory Truths

Possibly because of its dependence on illusory truths and storytelling, the Project is an easy target for criticism and dismissal. Here are three of the Project’s most salient, most often repeated, assertions and the JVN Blog’s opinion of how these assertions missed opportunities to enrich American history.

  • The American Revolution was fought over slavery

Traditional history does not fully discuss the crucial role slavery played in colonial economy, principally in the Southern plantations, but also Northern commerce. A deeper discussion would serve better to understand the words of the Declaration of Independence, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and government-sponsored segregation.

However, other reasons for the Revolution abound: British soldiers quartered in America starting in 1763. Devastating taxation and regulation in 1765. The Boston Massacre in 1770. The long list of other grievances listed on the Declaration of Independence.

Also, the British were the middlemen who exported slaves to America. Calls for abolishing slavery in Britain did not occur until 1780, five years after the Revolutionary War began.

  • The Second Amendment to the Constitution was placed there to allow White men to defend themselves against Black slaves.

Indeed, history needs to speak more about slaves’ discontent and frequent rebellion, which no doubt caused White apprehension.

History also needs to be clear that the ten original Amendments that make up the Bill of Rights were the result of the Founders’ mistrust of a central government and particularly government’s standing armies. Those Amendments, including the Second, were intended to protect the People against government, not against each other.

What, Sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty …. Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins. Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, Annals of Congress 750, August 17, 1789.

  • Slavery and racism were, and still are, root causes of unjust social, judicial, and educational systems.

There are events that could be better understood with more honest discussions of their relation to racism. For example, during the 1930s through the 1950s, the Federal Housing Administration guaranteed most private mortgages that helped build America’s suburbs. Only 2% of those mortgages went to non-white applicants. The FHA encouraged covenants that kept suburban neighborhoods “harmonious.”

Areas surrounding a location are investigated to determine whether incompatible racial and social groups are present, for the purpose of making a prediction regarding the probability of the location being invaded by such groups. If a neighborhood is to retain stability, it is necessary that properties shall continue to be occupied by the same social and racial classes. Federal Housing Administration 1936:233.

It is not difficult to determine what social and racial class was preferred when we consider what the American suburbs of the 1950s looked like.

Civil rights legislation of the 1960s removed housing discrimination, and many Black families did resettle to prosperous suburbs. But poverty kept more in the inner cities.

Poor Black neighborhoods share key characteristics that ensure poverty: Children living in one-parent families (64% vs. 24% of White children). Incarceration (in state prisons 5 times the rate of White incarceration). Gun violence, that results in high, mostly Black-on-Black, violent crime.

These self-inflicted wounds keep poor Black families poor and deluded by the cruel lie of victimhood.

Meanwhile, Black individuals and families that refuse to cling to victimhood prosper: Harriett Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Candace Owens, Clarence Thomas, the countless number of Black families who insist on discipline and have achieved economic well being.

Yes, slavery, government-sponsored segregation, and prejudice are the despicable triumvirate that shares a place in America’s identity. But they need not be the determining variables in anyone’s life. They need not be the relentless distraction from purposeful endeavors that Nikole Hannah-Jones and her fellow Critical Race Theorists want them to be.

A Great Experiment Goes Unnoticed

The 1619 Project’s plea to face history honestly makes sense, since nothing can be learned from an embellished version that ignores mistakes to be avoided. However, The Project’s version, stripped of understanding, has caused it to be dismissed in its entirely. Good understanding of history should include these three principles:

  • History is incremental. People develop knowledge of themselves and the world around them in bits and pieces.

Earth was once the center of the universe, until it was not. Slavery was once a fact of life going back to ancient times, until it was not.

  • America’s Declaration of Independence laid down a new concept of the rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness: these rights are not granted by government, but by The Creator.

At the time the Declaration was written, the Founding Fathers’ attitude toward slavery and an economy dependent on slavery was evolving. As Hannah-Jones herself pointed out Thomas Jefferson included in the Declaration a passage condemning slavery, but the passage was removed prior to ratification. One would have to speculate that the Founders must have figured that if they were to have a country at all, they could not obliterate their economy by suddenly freeing the slaves.

  • America’s Constitution laid down a never-before tried system of government 1) of rule by the people through the peoples’ representatives in Congress, 2) of enumerated powers in the Articles clearly indicating what each of the three branches of government does, and 3) of restrictions in the first 10 Amendments indicating what government cannot do.

In other words, the Founders wrote the American Constitution as an experiment in self-government, something never before attempted. It turned the idea of government held since time immemorial on its head. Under this Constitution, government works for the people, not the other way around. That means the People, through their representatives, can change (amend) any part of that document if they so choose.

Baby Gone With the Bathwater

In conclusion, The 1619 Project throws away the baby with the bathwater. That is unfortunate. However, if the Project’s intent, along with that of brethren Critical Race Theory, is to agitate, distract, and solidify Black adherence to progressive politics, then rational thinking does not matter.

Hardfire TV guests

Hardfire asks – “Ukraine: Weapons or Immigration?”

Cameron Weber – economist, historian, professor – has a show called Hardfire. Dr. Weber likes thought questions. What are thought questions? They are “what if,” “would you want it?” “what stands in the way?” “what could make it work?” questions. They are questions the Founding Fathers must have asked when someone must have said, “Man, we really need to get rid of King George!” Or maybe questions like President John Kennedy asked when he pledged to put a man on the Moon before the decade ended. For sure, not all thought questions end in successful endeavors – some do, some don’t.

The latest Hardfire show asked the following:

On May 19, 2022, the U.S. Senate approved a $40 billion emergency military and humanitarian aid package to Ukraine in support of Ukraine’s fight against Russian invasion. That is not the first package and probably not the last.

From a pragmatic cost-benefit point of view, would it not be cheaper to offer Russian conscripts tasked with fighting in Ukraine immigration into the U.S. plus $100K?

Discussions would need to include cost-benefits of immigration. And cost-benefits of distressing Vladimir Putin any more than he is distressed already.

Here is a link to the Thursday, July 7, 2022, Hardfire show – only about 30 minutes long.

Ukraine: Weapons or Immigration

Declaration of Independence

E Pluribus and More Pluribus

This 4th of July is a good time to reflect how our country today differs from the nation our Founders envisioned. A handy measure is to compare the national motto the Founders chose vs. how our country behaves today.

What is the national motto.

The U.S. national motto is “In God We Trust.” This phrase first appeared in some coinage during the Civil War, was officially sanctioned as the national motto in 1956 by then President Dwight Eisenhower, but is not the original national motto the Founders chose. Actually, the Founders rejected that and other similar phrases for obvious reasons: they were trying to build a secular nation that acknowledged the blessings of Providence but rejected the supremacy of any specific religion (including Deism, to which several Founders adhered). The subject was important enough to the Founders that they wrote this as the first clause in the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The motto the Founders chose was “E Pluribus Unum” — From Many, One. The “many” were the several states carrying their own philosophies, economies, and customs. The “one” was the new nation governed by one Constitution and one goal of realization. Of course, one must acknowledge that the norms of that time and place, which allowed for a more homogenous leadership and electorate, facilitated the transition from many to one. However, the sentiment of E Pluribus Unum could have remained unaltered as our nation grew. It did not. At least it did not to the extent the Founders envisioned.

Sentiments of divide and conquer that permeate the national psyche have webbed and flowed since the nation’s birth. Today, we are on an upward flow. Media, including social media, compartmentalizes everybody into spheres of preference – echo chambers – and turn participants into one-issue zealots. Schools, especially government schools, are indoctrination centers, as are workplaces. When school children and employees are forced to sit through hours of diversity training, it is a good bet that a true preference for diversity (when persons will “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”) is not occurring. Add to that brew, legislators that moved away from an ideological center that allows for rational discussion and compromise.

Happy 4th of July

Enjoy the hotdogs and the fireworks. Take a few minutes to cogitate on the new national motto vs. the old one. If you prefer the old motto, perhaps help turn the tide towards E Pluribus, Unum.

I will take my Glock to Congress

MACA: Make America Civil Again

Conservatives have stood their ground on gun possession – give in on “common sense legislation,” and gun control advocates will come after the Second Amendment. This situation is akin to abortion advocates refusing to give one inch for fear a mile will be taken. Both misgivings are warranted. So, nobody budges.

Meanwhile, gun violence continues to escalate. Famously, the U.S. has the highest age-adjusted rate of firearms homicides per 100,000 population among higher-income nations. The U.S. should have a new slogan: MACA: Make America Civil Again.

Unfortunately, leaders as well the general public no longer value civility. Leaders lead by discordant slogans, political candidates rile up their base, and special interests sell their agendas with cherry-picked facts. The desire for trust, compromise and consensus has become a scarce commodity.

Add to the brew granular and persistent factors: mediocre schools, violent video games, pervasive social media, busy or absent parents, isolation, Covid-19, anxiety hammered into young minds by race/gender focused narratives, an uncertain economy, easily-obtainable drugs. Something bad is bound to happen.

Gun violence is what happened

In 2020, 43% of the [gun] deaths – amounting to 19,384 people – were homicides, according to data from the CDC. The figure represents a 34% increase from 2019, and a 75% increase over the course of the previous decade … The data also shows that the vast majority of murders, 79%, were carried out with guns.

Suicides were 54% of gun deaths in 2020. Mass shootings were 3% of gun deaths in 2020 (this figure changes depending on how mass shooting is described – some say 3 or more people, and some say 4 or more people).

From America’s Gun Culture in Seven Charts, BBC News, May 25, 2022

Enter “America’s Rifle”

Although mass shootings are a relatively small percentage of gun-related death, they are the most visible and the most remembered. Also mass shootings are rising since around 2012, giving cause for great alarm.

Pistols are often used in mass shootings, but the focus of rage is over semi-automatic, high-capacity rifles such as the AR-15, possibly because of their visibility and popularity. If anything has substantially contributed to America’s gun culture, the AR-15 has, especially right after President Bill Clinton’s 1994 ban and subsequent ban expiration in 2004.

Culturally, the ban did what marketers could not: In outlawing it, the government made the AR-15 tantalizing. “Once Banned, Now Loved and Loathed: How the AR-15 Became ‘America’s Rifle’,” New York Times, March 3, 2018.

Check out the AR-15s below, and spread the word on what AR really stands for, America’s Rifle. NRA Blog, January 20, 2016.

Clever marketing and plenty of lobbying by the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation) and the NRA (National Rifle Association) further cement America’s obsession with guns, popularize semi-automatic weapons, and help make the gun industry very profitable.

The NSSF has a sleek website and spent $4,580,000 in 2020 on lobbying. The NRA’s lobbying expenses were $2,200,000 in 2020. For comparison, Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown Foundation, the better known of the gun-restriction advocates, spent $1,330,000 on lobbying in 2020. One could wager that such influence might tend to keep public officials from doing much fraternizing with the enemy.

No fraternizing with the enemy or coming to agreements

There are cultural, political, patriotic, economic and self-defense issues that appear to be irreconcilable, with all factions escalating their rhetoric. The discord runs deep, with significant divergence in broad questions such as what was the Founders’ aim when they wrote the Bill of Rights, what is the role of government, who is responsible for the populace’s safety, and must government treat everyone as “created equal.”

Here are recent comments reported in the media that serve to illustrate how deep and acrimonious the divergence runs.

North Carolina Lieutenant Governor speaking at a worship service at Midpoint Church, Middlesex, NC, May 15, 2022: “I got them AR-15s in case the government gets too big for his britches because I’m going to fill the backside of them britches with some lead.”

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper in a Tweet on May 31, 2022, commenting on Lt. Governor Robinson’s speech: “An elected official sworn to uphold the Constitution advocating violent overthrow of our govt shames NC and puts our safety and our democracy at risk.”

These two comments, both needlessly confrontational, are examples of profound and irreconcilable disagreement as to the nature of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. One faction views government as a principal entity representing “democracy,” to which public officials swear allegiance; thus no distinction is made between government and the Constitution. The opposing faction views the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as a foundation document intended to constrain actions of government, and give the people means (Second Amendment) to defend themselves against a government that becomes tyrannical; the distinction between government and the Constitution is observed.

President Joe Biden, during a speech outlining his plan to combat gun violence, June 23, 2021: “If you wanted or if you think you need to have weapons to take on the government, you need F-15s and maybe some nuclear weapons.”

Maybe such a comment illustrates what Lt. Governor Robinson was talking about when he mentioned a government getting “too big for his breeches.” President Biden is apparently OK with a pretty powerful government obliterating its citizens. Hopefully, citizens will use the ballot box to restrain government when needed before the conflagration envisioned by President Biden occurs.

Saida Grundy, Sociology and African American studies Professor at Boston University, Tweet, May 25, 2022, regarding destruction of property during the George Floyd riots: “When you say that to Black people, who historically have been property, one of our greatest weapons was the looting of ourselves as property from the system of slavery. And what we see in communities is they are reacting to the very racism of what we call property … I think it’s very important for people who see reactions in communities not to judge or make assumptions about what is good and not good reactions. And not actually re-victimize communities by saying there’s an acceptable and not acceptable way to react.”

The sentiment in Professor Grundy’s Tweet alludes that not all were viewed as “created equal” by the nation’s Founders, and therefore not all should be judged equally today. The question must then arise if the violence following George Floyd’s murder should not be judged as good or not good, how much leniency should society afford. Is gun violence included in the leniency? It would be difficult to reconcile such leniency with credible solutions to rising violence.

Polarization is the order of the day. There are sacred cows that would be difficult to eliminate, the Second Amendment is one of them. Any law that gun supporters perceive as threats to the Amendment is opposed. On the other hand, there are legitimate fears of people with guns. As families of murdered children increase, so does the call for stricter gun laws.

Again, the seemingly irreconcilable comments above are needlessly confrontational. Leaders like Lt. Governor Robinson mentioned above, who plans to run for governor in 2024, delight in incendiary comments about gun rights. Another governorship contender, Beto O’Rourke of Texas, who famously said during his presidential campaign in 2020, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” was escorted out of a press conference called by Texas Governor Gregory Abbott to report on the Uvalde murders, shouting to Abbott, “This is on you until you choose to do something different.”

But not too different

When Beto O’Rourke challenged Governor Abbott to “do something different,” a good guess would be he was not thinking of something too different, like taking on the underlying forces of which gun violence is a symptom. That would entail reversing over 50 years of the cultural and political status quo.

Some talk about eliminating the “root causes” of violence does come up, usually referring to incidents of mental illness and poverty. That’s like giving someone with a headache an aspirin to combat the root cause of the headache: pain. Cultural, political, economic issues behind mental illness and poverty are way too big to even think about tackling.

And not much can be fixed without a modicum of trust. After every highly-publicized shooting incident, anti-gun factions call for additional gun restrictions claiming the majority of Americans want restrictions. Yet, after every such incident gun sales rise significantly. Seems a lot of people either do not trust law enforcement to protect them, or fear government will use a shooting incident to make guns and/or ammunition largely unavailable to civilians. Again, such concerns are warranted, and will continue until public officials stop posturing.

Palliatives don’t cure but do blunt the pain

Since it does not appear that anyone is talking about deep diving into the real root causes of gun violence, gun restrictions arising from compromise and trust would serve as palliatives.

Compromise is accepting things one fears in exchange for acquiring things others fear. Trust is hoping the party to whom power is allocated will act responsibly. Both require eternal vigilance by average citizens and voters – or like Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.”

There are three gun restrictions at the federal level: the long-standing restriction on owning fully-automatic weapons and “highly destructive” weapons, requirement that licensed gun dealers do background checks on gun purchasers, and requirement that purchasers be 18 years or older. Unlicensed firearms dealers are not required to make background checks. Presumably, folks in the underground market are not too constrained by gun restrictions.

Proposals for federal universal background checks, as well as federal red-flag legislation (law enforcement officer removing guns from individuals that appear to present a danger to themselves and others) are often proposed by anti-gun legislators and often opposed by pro-gun legislators.

As America remains the developed country with the highest rate of gun violence, right up there with failed poverty-stricken nations, more intelligent restrictions than those we have now seem in order. For example, how does it make sense for anyone, but especially someone barely out of childhood, to legally purchase several powerful weapons sometimes on the same day?

Here are a few figures from World Population Review (2018 figures). Suicides are included in gun violence statistics, and suicides account to 60% of U.S. gun deaths. The chart also shows level of strictness of gun laws (2019): A+ for strictest through F for least strict.

Gun ownership in the U.S.

The figures on the chart show that states with the highest rate of gun ownership also have the highest rate of gun deaths. Statisticians acknowledge there could be externalities, like isolation in states with low population density or lack of supportive services in less progressive states.

Regulations and restrictions at the federal level preclude choices by individual states. They would also presumably provide a wider and deeper bank of information on potential purchasers, making background checks and other requirements more effective in excluding people deemed dangerous to themselves and others.

Reversing America’s gun culture, helping people cope with serious adversities, finding a way to get young people to stay away from isolating and violent video games, making the economy work for the less affluent, decrease dependence on government and increase self-reliance – all would help to reduce destructive or violent behavior. None of this has so far been done effectively.

Best that can be done at this time might be to encourage our leaders via the ballot box to tone down the rhetoric, and give a little to take a little.