Friday, June 24, 2022

Are the times changing?

In recent decades, the West – like the proverbial frog – has been blasé toward the rising temperature of the cultural waters.

Short-handed by the neologism ‘Woke’, the central idea that immutable characteristics like skin pigmentation should define character and control thought has minted a new social hierarchy. Woke culture stands contrary to Dr Martin Luther King Jr. with its rigid adherence to victimhood, yet is found thriving in preeminent universities, politics, major corporations, medicine, entertainment, and even sports.

This pathetic identitarianism has been allowed to hijack institutions, one after another, because it has become profitable. Its acceleration into every facet of life was ratcheted up by both the Covid pandemic and Marxist race riots. Were burning streets and ruined historic items enough to jolt the average person out of their insouciance? Encouraging signs are appearing in America (despite being the source of most of these bad ideas).

In the media, CNN has gotten itself a new CEO after the ignominious resignation of Jeff Zucker. In light of its tumbling ratings, the new CEO has made reevaluating partisan talents and programs his first priority. That almost sounds like merit creeping into the room…

The equally left-leaning Washington Post, owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, recently suffered the embarrassment of having one of its reporters, Felicia Sonmez, publicly criticise her colleagues and the institution because another reporter, David Weigel, retweeted a mildly sexist joke. Not satisfied with Weigel’s apology and suspension, Sonmez continued her public and relentless attack on her employer and colleagues. Despite the strength of #Metoo and her victim category of ‘womanhood’, Sonmez was fired.

The specious ‘believe all women’ narrative took another hit with Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit win over Amber Heard. In addition to underlining that men can be the victims in relationships and that women lie, it may also make Hollywood pause before cancelling people based on allegations alone.

In the realm of politics, the election win for the Republican Glenn Youngkin in Virginian, a usually heavily Democratic state, was largely a referendum on the public school system. Parents who protested against Critical Race Theory being taught to their kids were treated as potential domestic terrorists by the Democratic Attorney General Merrick Garland at the behest of the National School Board Association. They offered their reply at the ballot box.

In extremely liberal San Francisco, District Attorney Chesa Boudin was recalled in a decisive fashion. His ultra-progressive policies, including reducing the prison population by 50 per cent during the height of the pandemic, has seen crime in San Francisco skyrocket.

California’s progressive Governor Gavin Newsom survived a recall election in 2021, but will face the November election with a track record of losing Californians to other states for two years in a row. It will be the first time in the state’s history that its population has shrunk with many of those who left, including podcaster Joe Rogan, moving to red states like Texas and Florida, forcing California to prohibit state employees from moving to 17 red states. Businesses, likewise have been leaving. Apple moved its headquarters to Austin, Texas, as did Elon Musk’s Tesla.

One interesting challenger for the Governorship is Michael Shellenberger, a disillusioned former Democrat running as an independent. He may be representing a large sector of the centre-left in America who find themselves marooned by the radicalisation of their party. He has clear and well-thought-out ideas about tackling widespread drug-fuelled homeless encampments and the energy crisis – two major issues plaguing California.

The shift in politics is also apparent in the recent win by Mayra Flores, a Mexican immigrant who is the first Republican elected to a Rio Grande Valley congressional seat in over a century. Indeed, Biden’s approval rating among Hispanics is only 24 per cent, according to a recent Quinnipiac Poll. An Emerson poll in 2021 saw that Biden approval among Black voters dropped from 72 per cent in February to 52 per cent in November.

Notwithstanding the traditional support from minority groups enjoyed by the Democratic Party, it seems apparent that radical policies, such as the growing southern border crisis that affects many predominantly Hispanic communities, and anti-police policies that damage largely minority inner-city residents, have turned them away. This is before we get to Biden’s record inflation and gas prices.

These represent some small but significant signs of pushback. The American mid-term elections later this year are expected to bring the House and the Senate back to Republican hands. While the Republican Party is not without its problems, compared to the radicalism of the Democrats, it is, to borrow Shakespeare’s phrase, Hyperion to a satyr.

The important lesson is this that vigilance at all times is the price society must pay for not only liberty, but even common sense. It is somewhat lucky that the Woke have shown their hand to be awash with false self-assurance and extremist policies. There may still be time to hop safely out of the bubbling pot.


Transgender Fascists

By Debbie Hayton (who is transgender)

Anyone still talking about ‘two sides in the transgender debate’ needs to look at the footage from Bristol yesterday. Actually, there was no debate. What happened was one group of people (mainly men) intimidating a second group of people (mainly women). The video is terrifying.

If you couldn’t catch what was said through their masks, here is my transcript:

Go, get in the sea. Die out. You’re dinosaurs. Dinosaurs. Fossils. You’re going to die out (x5). You are ancient history. You are fossils. You are dinosaurs. You have failed (x2). Your ideas have failed. Get in the sea. Get in the sea like Colston. Go home. Get in the sea.

The reference to Edward Colston’s statue – pushed into Bristol harbour two years ago by an out-of-control mob – was chilling. But Colston died in 1721. This time the suggested target was the living. Specifically, a group of women who wanted to meet on College Green in central Bristol to discuss women’s rights.

The protesters’ motivations felt like pure misogyny: when the two men had run out of blood-curdling threats, the masked bandit finished tellingly with, ‘look after your kids’. But this was was no naive young student, this was a fully grown man unleashing his fury on women. Behind him, the mob chanted ‘trans rights are human rights’, as if those ends justified whatever means – however vile.

And the police watched on as all this happened. In a statement, Avon and Somerset police said, ‘Earlier today, officers facilitated around 150 people’s right to protest in Bristol city centre… The right to protest is a fundamental democratic right and we are pleased to have been able to facilitate both these demonstrations.’

No, there was only one demonstration, protest, exercise in brutal intimidation – call it what you like. On the other side of the police line, the women just wanted to talk. Standing for Women who organised the event said:

Standing for Women organised a women’s free speech event ‘Let Women Speak’, not a protest or a rally. It’s an event aimed at combatting the silencing of women’s voices on the erasure of our rights, our spaces and our language posed by the totalitarian transgender promoting ideologues.

I spoke to Bo Novak who had travelled from Wiltshire for the event. Describing the protestors as ‘anarcho-bully boys’, she told me:

They so reminded me of the Socialist Workers party I endured through my younger activist days, as well as Militant, back in the day. Just abusive angry men using a cause… They did everything possible within the law to intimidate women. There was a lot of squaring up to police, there was a lot of shouting, there was a lot of pointing, and screaming and chanting. At one point they just had their megaphone on a drone – high-pitched feedback – so that nothing could be heard.

The silencing of women’s voices, indeed. The cause these men are using is transgender rights. My rights, in other words. It seems that they think by invoking trans rights they can do exactly as they please.

This needs to stop. The mob can never be appeased. For too long politicians and policymakers have prevaricated. Maybe they don’t understand what is going on. Well, they need to learn quickly, and not from the likes of Stonewall. The ideology that those groups have been pushing has got us into this mess. To get out of it we need to restore some common sense. It’s not difficult. There are two sexes – and that has been the case for around a billion years. The two sexes are different in our species and sometimes they need separate provision.

Some people struggle with their sex and their sexed bodies. In recent years we have become more accepting of those people, while medical advances have made it possible for people to change their bodies so that they can be more comfortable with them. But neither hormone therapy nor surgery can change anyone’s sex. Whatever I might have done to my body should give me no extra rights to impose on women. Nor should it give these so-called allies any rights to impose themselves on women either.


‘Experts’ have been so wrong on just about everything

It’s hard to recall a period in history in which experts have been so comprehensively wrong on so many topics in such a short time. Think Covid-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and inflation.

Intelligence experts looked foolish when it turned out Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction after all.

The Queen took a dim view of economists, who failed en masse to foresee problems in the world’s banking system that precipitated the global financial crisis in 2008.

Economists have a long history of being wrong, at least since more than 300 of them publicly warned Margaret Thatcher in 1981 that the British prime minister’s belt-tightening policies would cause a recession, only to be proved spectacularly wrong a few months later.

But the decade beginning in 2020 appears to have taken institutional wrongness to a higher plane. Economists, even after the embarrassment of calling inflation “transitory” for most of last year, are still at it; they wrote a public letter in September last year playing down concerns about inflation and encouraging Joe Biden to press ahead with his $US3.5 trillion Build Back Better package. But with inflation at almost 9 per cent in the US, supporters of the package have gone strangely quiet in recent months.

Foreign policy experts, though, have given economists a run for their money since Russia invaded Ukraine, prompting the US and Europe to wallop Russia with unprecedented sanctions designed to compel Vladimir Putin to stop his illegal invasion.

They fired a bazooka at their own feet, doing nothing to avert the war while crushing the competitiveness of European industry and slashing the living standards of ordinary Americans and Europeans. Goodbye German car industry, on current trends.

It’s worse, though. In late March Biden, under the advice of experts no doubt, said Russia’s currency would be turned to “rubble” by sanctions. This week the rouble reached a seven-year high against the US dollar, becoming the best performing currency in the world this year.

Interest rates on Russian 10-year government bonds, at about 9 per cent, are one percentage point lower than they were before the war. The Russian central bank is cutting interest rates as the Fed lifts them.

Soaring energy prices, as a result mainly of Western sanctions, have supercharged Russian oil and gas revenues, quadrupling the Russian government’s budget surplus in May compared with the same month a year ago, as Putin gloated in St Petersburg last week.

Security and intelligence experts haven’t done much better, routinely foreshadowing the collapse of Russian forces, or even the imminent death of Putin from a variety of diseases, all while those forces appear to have slowly occupied a fifth of Ukraine, including the crucial land corridor between Crimea and Russia.

Perhaps these are the same US intelligence experts who in October 2020 publicly said they were convinced the files on Hunter Biden’s laptops, which have since raised serious questions about the business dealings of the US President’s family, had “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation”. Perhaps, but it was also entirely real, as similarly benighted media experts have now conceded.

Then there’s the climate change and energy experts who have been telling us for years a rising share of solar and wind power in national grids would cause prices to decline, when the two nations furthest down that path – Germany and Denmark – have the most expensive power in Europe. Batteries would continue to get cheaper, the experts told us, seemingly oblivious of the impact an immense increase in mandated demand for electric cars and giant lithium batteries would have on the price of the critical minerals they require. Not very smart.

But no group of experts can compete with epidemiologists and other so-called public health experts for being so militantly and repeatedly wrong about every aspect of their supposed speciality, which will go down as one of the great fiascos of history.

Three weeks to flatten the curve turned into almost 850 days of chaotic, arbitrary restrictions that appeared to do very little in the end to stop the spread of Covid-19, let alone pass any sort of rational cost-benefit assessment.

Cloth masks worked, then they didn’t; vaccines protected against infection, then they didn’t. Two doses were enough, then three, then four. The virus emerged zoonotically for certain, then it didn’t.

“Experts say”, “experts warn” has become something of a joke. It’s not surprising that less than a fifth of American parents, for instance, intend to vaccinate their toddlers against Covid-19, according to a recent Kaiser Foundation survey, even though experts are recommending it urgently.

This false narrative of a consensus among experts risks damaging public respect for all of them. That’s a pity because genuine expertise is valuable.

The handful of people presented by the media as experts are a sliver of the total, among whom there is rarely a true consensus on anything. Social media has supercharged the incentives to moralise and fall victim to groupthink. On top of that, expert ranks have swollen as society has become richer, enabling more people to think for a living.

That means the average quality of advice has declined, providing the media with a greater number of potentially crowd-pleasing, dubious opinions to promote. Experts get it wrong often because they bear few personal consequences of their advice. The accuracy of past predictions or assessments is rarely checked. For experts, it’s much more important to be on the right side of the debate than to be right. Most of all, experts’ incomes typically are guaranteed whatever they say; others bear the consequences.

The past few years have been a crisis for the reputation of experts, but not for experts themselves.


Biden Regulations Adding to Cost of Inflation

The Foundation for Government Accountability’s Jonathan Ingram highlights the role of regulations in driving up prices in a recent op-ed:

The highest inflation in 40 years isn’t driven just by record federal spending, a record government-driven labor shortage and record restrictions on US energy production. President Joe Biden’s record regulation spree is also pushing prices higher. Stopping the bureaucratic assault on the economy is essential to taming inflation and giving families relief.

The role of regulations in the inflation crisis is largely overlooked but shouldn’t be. When Washington wraps the economy in red tape, businesses must spend massive sums on compliance.

That cash doesn’t materialize from thin air. Every dollar that goes toward hiring lawyers, filling out paperwork and redesigning products and assembly lines gets passed to consumers through higher prices. Mercatus Center research finds that a 15% increase in federal regulation hikes the cost of consumer goods by a full percentage point.

This puts the president’s regulation obsession in perspective. In its first year, Team Biden added more than 72,000 pages of regulations, executive orders and agency notices. That’s 25% more than the Trump administration added in its first year, according to my review of the Federal Register. Biden’s team also pushed through more major regulations in his first year than any president in modern US history—69 such regulations compared with 22 under Donald Trump and 52 under Barack Obama.

Unlike the Trump administration’s initiative to reduce the government’s regulatory burden on Americans, President Biden’s regulations achieve the opposite outcome. Dan Goldbeck and Dan Bosch of the American Action Forum estimated the burden of President Biden’s new regulations from his first year in office. They find the Biden administration increased Americans’ costs by $201 billion as they forced businesses to do an extra 131 million hours of paperwork.

The Biden-Harris administration’s regulatory agenda costs Americans both time and money. Its costs are being passed through to American consumers through price increases. Suppose the administration wants to get serious about reducing inflation. In that case, it needs to shrink the federal government’s regulatory burden as part of its plan. Assuming the administration ever develops such a plan.




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