- About the Author–A Brief Autobiography
- Creation of the Year in Review
- My Personal Year
- Almond-Eyed Aliens and Other Conspiracy Theories
- Modern Monetary Theory
- The Fed and Repo-Madness
- Share Buybacks
- Climate Change
- Links In Part 1
- The Jeffrey Epstein Affair
- Thoughts on College
- Political Correctness–Collegiate Division
- Political Correctness–Adult Division
- Political Correctness–Youth Division
- Political Correctness–Corporate Division
- Civil Liberties
- Links In Part 2
“Insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders.”
~ Larry Summers as told by Elizabeth Warren
Let’s take this one right to the hoop: The Epstein saga may be the biggest, most broadly based scandal in US history. Of course, it has some serious competition, but to use the logic of Peter Dale Scott, the Berkeley professor who cut his teeth studying drug cartels, once in a while you get fleeting images of what lurks in the political pipes down in the basement. Peter called it “deep politics” in 1996, what is now called the deep state or, according to Wikipedia,1 a Conspiracy of the Loons. Previous peeks into the basement include the collapse of BCCI,2 the Panama papers,3 Fast and Furious,4 the Iran-Contra scandal,5 and, for the nostalgic, a spate of assassinations.6 You couldn’t miss the Epstein saga (unless, of course, you are still chained in the basement by one of his friends), but our wokeness is highly variable and, by definition, poorly developed. The Tetris pieces fall slowly at first but quickly by the end. Amazon is already filling up with treatises by those who can type 300 words per minute. My sources are a combination of random news reports, daily searches of the keyword “Epstein” on Twitter, and a few particularly persistent sleuths including Michael Krieger (@Libertyblitz),7 Witney Webb (@_whitneywebb),8 and articles flying across Zerohedge (@zerohedge). While reading this chapter let’s play Jeopardy—“Alex: I’ll take ‘WTF?’ for $500”—or maybe even Bizarro Bingo wherein you place a ‘✓’ every time something just got really weird.
I was only vaguely aware of Jeff Epstein until Michael Cernovich (@Cernovich) started howling on Twitter about how he had teamed up with Alan Dershowitz at Harvard and Julie Brown (@jkbjournalist) at the Miami Herald to win a 4-year FOIA suit to pry open a formerly sealed 2015 civil case.9 First question: How and why would you seal a civil case? I had just started the deep dive when only a few days later the Federales indicted Jeff for grotesque acts of pervishness having to do with trafficking in underage girls (12–15 years old), many from former Soviet bloc countries. This was Subway Jared ordering off the kiddie menu on a grand scale. It seemed to me that the FOIA loss may have triggered the indictment.
James Comey’s daughter was assigned to be prosecutor (✓).10 Alex Acosta, the judge who let Epstein’s 2005 conviction of sex trafficking lead to a wrist slap (house arrest) and sealed records11 eventually became Labor Secretary under Trump (✓). Once the story broke, Acosta decided to spend quality time with his family. The casual observer quickly learned that Epstein had been flying pervs (and hopefully some non pervs given the sheer numbers) on his private Mile-High Club’s jet liner, the Lolita Express, to Orgy Island, an elaborate underage petting zoo. We were quickly told that Bill Clinton was a Platinum Club Member.12 There’s a shocker.
“Boss: de plane!”…”Yes Tattoo: unshackle the girls.”
Jeff had humble roots. After working summers as a farmhand choking the chickens, he was hired to teach math at an elite private girls school in New York City…despite not having a college degree. His new employer was Donald Barr, the father of Bill Barr, our current Attorney General (✓). Soon thereafter, they both moved on to higher callings.13 (Bill Barr’s law firm also defended Jeff in a previous brush with the law, forcing Bill to recuse himself from the forthcoming execution prosecution; ✓)14 Jeff’s job as a high school teacher naturally catapulted him to a few non-descript jobs on Wall Street, allowing him to accrue an estimated billion-dollar nest egg without anybody on Wall Street actually knowing who he was (✓). Leslie Wexner, founder of Victoria’s Secret, is said to be his only client and appears to have given Epstein power of attorney and handed over his $100 million NYC condo to Jeff (✓).15 In a pay-it-forward moment, Jeff was a seminal investor in the Clinton Global Initiative (last ✓; you are on your own from here.)16 Harvard and MIT also got millions.17 A 2003 story in the Harvard Crimson painted Jeff as a mysterious billionaire with a not-for-profit foundation: “Epstein is also well acquainted with University President Lawrence H. Summers.18 The two serve together on the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations, two elite international relations organizations.” The Trilateral Commission? That’s real?
Dershowitz, Epstein, Trivers, and Summers
Epstein’s Black Book including over a thousand names published by Gawker in 201519 has now been scrutinized.20 Cronies of special note included billionaire Wexner, Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Woody Allen, the Duke of York Prince Andrew, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, Bill Gates, Larry Summers, Andrew Cuomo, former Prime Minister of Israel and current Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ehud Barak, George Stephanopoulos, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Charlie Rose (who used Epstein as a talent scout for his interns),21 financier Ron Perelman, modeling mogul Jean Luc Brunel, ex-labor minister Peter Mandelson, Adnan Khashoggi (arms dealer and brother of the New York Times reporter Jamal Khashoggi who got fed to the camels by the Saudis last year),22 Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (suspected to be the “prime minister” alluded to in released court transcripts),23 and Mr. Rogers. (Just ✓-ing to see if you are still awake.)
Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times suggested we would soon know “how rotten our rulers really are”.24 Former federal prosecutor Elie Honig suggested that, “anybody who helped Epstein in any way needs to get a lawyer and get scared.”25 But who did the media focus on? That’s right: Clinton and Trump. Unfazed, The Donald piled on with a tweet using the #Clintonbodycount hashtag. (How do you not like that guy?) Joe Scarborough put his IQ on full display:
“I’m at a loss to understand or explain Mr. Epstein’s lifestyle.”
~ Prince Andrew on the rape lifestyle
Then there is Ghislaine Maxwell—known as “Gizz” by her closest friends—the former daughter of media mogul and billionaire Robert Maxwell who mysteriously fell off his yacht and drowned in 1991.26 Gizz was Jeff’s main pimpette, rounding up girls for “modelling” gigs, apparently with the help of modelling mogul Jun Luc Brunel.27 She was also charged with showing the little darlings (using dolls, of course) where Jeff and his buddies liked to be touched.28
Enough of the obtuseness. Epstein was not just a world-class perv. He was running a blackmail operation in which men of wealth and power were lured into “honey traps”,29 filmed releasing dopamine into their own skulls and other biofluids into the damsels’ skulls.30 After Jeff’s 2005 arrest, a police video tour of his house showed copious mildly erotic wall art, photos of famous people, and a painting of Gizz (Maxwell that is).31 Most notably, the plethora of bedrooms each had attached private bathrooms fully stocked in toiletries and neatly stacked towels. What was missing was evidence somebody lived there. Piles of crap indicative of human occupancy were absent. It was not a time capsule of somebody’s life. It looks like a B&B (Brothel & Breakfast).
Next question: How do you blackmail wealthy and powerful men without committing suicide by nail-gun shots to the head and keeping your entry in “Who is Still Who”? Epstein is said to have used strong-arm tactics on occasion,32 but can you really bully the Clintons and their cronies? More questions: How do you get convicted of trafficking underaged girls (at least 34 according to the FBI),33 get off with 8 months of house arrest over the protestations of the lead prosecutor,34 and talk the judge into sealing the case? How do you get subsequent civil cases brought by the victims sealed as well? Recently released partial transcripts of the civil cases include testimony of victims describe being raped by famous people that I will not mention because they have law degrees.35 Where is Mariska Hargitay and the SVU for Christ’s sake? The civil court judges are mandated by law to pass felonious behavior to the authorities. (I actually learned that from Judge Wapner in a People’s Court episode. No joke.) You also could imagine that post-conviction Epstein might be persona non grata among the elite interested in keeping up appearances for the public. Usually sex offenders get banished to trailer parks clustered with other sex offenders miles from elementary schools. His ties with the appropriately named “Prince Albert”, Ehud Barak, George Stephanopoulos, and a host of others stayed strong and in plain sight.36 Hold that thought.
“Dear Bureau of Prisons: Please get Jeffrey Epstein to a super Max prison pronto, or the people who want him dead will make sure we never know the truth. ACT NOW!”
~ Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter)
Figure 23. Humor from the Meme Team predating Jeff’s death by 30 days.
The authorities put Epstein in a high-security prison that had one suicide in 21 years, and even that one was a convicted mobster who may have been escorted to the light.37 The most famous prisoner in the world stewed in a cell reading articles about Whitey Bulger and getting visits by female lawyers (with benefits) lacking legal documents but with attributes the other lawyers and guards found distracting.38
“If somebody tried to commit suicide, I don’t think two more weeks in jail would improve his view on life.”
~ Trevor Noah
I muttered in my infamous QTR podcast booted off YouTube for excessive truthiness that Epstein would never testify.39 Even the mainstream media couldn’t miss the implications. About a week later Epstein was found unconscious on the floor of his jail cell with marks on his neck suggesting assault, attempted suicide, or a stunt. He was immediately put on suicide watch in the special housing unit (SHU). This is no ordinary cell. The bed is a slab with no mechanism to attach anything.40 Your clothes and linens are specially designed to tear under the weight of a person. (We call it “paper”.) You would have better luck hanging yourself with toilet paper, choking yourself to death with your bare hands, or drowning yourself in the sink. Jeff had a roommate by policy,41 guards were instructed to check on him every 15 minutes, and security cameras watched him 24/7.
“But who would not wonder about foul play? With all the people who’d want him dead?… This whole thing is a big stinkin’, fumin’ hunk of foul-up.”
~ Peggy Noonan
At urgings of lawyers claimed to be working for him (but surely for somebody), he was taken off suicide watch, his roommate was pulled, the guards decided that even the standard 30-minute (not 15-minute) checks were optional, and the cameras broke themselves. It was at that propitious moment Jeff gasped his last gasp, but not before filling out a will making Bill Gates’s former science adviser Boris Nikolic, a 49-year-old venture capitalist, as a backup executor.42 Nobody was more surprised by the suicide than Jeff.
“If we were living in a paranoid fantasy universe, I would be very suspicious about the Epstein suicide, even about whether it was really suicide. And you know what? The Epstein case itself shows that we are kind of living in a paranoid fantasy universe.”
~ Paul Krugman on Epstein suicide (and finally admitting what his world is like)
“What does the word suicide mean in the phrase suicide WATCH? Who was watching? Did they fall asleep? Did the camera malfunction? Was there camera surveillance? Who was he about to implicate? This is very questionable. Committing suicide on suicide watch doesn’t happen.”
~ Rudy Giuliani
Professional reputations and caution were cast aside long enough for every media pundit to yell bullshit. A former member of an Italian paramilitary police force reached out to tell me the suicide was impossible “without torching everybody in the chain of command.” Clinton memes flourished. (You’ve got to feel some sympathy for the Clintons; it is hard to lose 56 friends and acquaintances to suicide.)43 Whitney Webb (see below) noticed that the media not only seemed stunned but noticeably lacking in the homogenized talking points that often follow events needing perception management.8 Octogenarian coroner to the stars, Michael Baden, who cut his teeth as a young punk on the JFK assassination and testified for OJ, was called in by Jeff’s attorneys to oversee the autopsy44 and to give the nattering nabobs of negativism something to natter about. Jeff’s hyoid bone had been broken, which is said to be common in strangulations but rare in hangings.45 The obvious conclusion is that he strangled himself.
“Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused me for years…Finish what you started…We are survivors and the pursuit of justice should not abate.”
~ Sarah Ransome, Epstein rape victim and sex slave, to prosecutors in court
A coherent plotline was slowly created retrospectively, but not without a lot of script editing and revision. After initial reports said Jeff was found stone cold dead,46 revisions surfaced claiming the guards attempted to revive him while shrieking “breathe, Epstein, breathe.”47 Great script writing, guys. The guards were also blamed for the screwup but said to be overworked on multiple shifts of overtime.48 The cameras remained broken owing to underfunding.49 (A prison guard told me a camera would be fixed within hours in any prison.) A picture of Epstein being wheeled out of the hospital on a gurney with an oxygen mask into a hospital (not a morgue)50 backed the changed narrative. Articles soon began appearing about how common it is for inmates to die by suicide in jails.51
The FBI finally got around to raiding Orgy Island with great fanfare after he died52 (but not before a $100K cement mixer had been delivered to the island.53) What were they waiting for? What did they find? We don’t know much, but the following sofa-sized painting certainly is fetching:
The media, of course, even patched that up by finding the person who modeled for the painting54 because Bill may be a perv, but he would never be caught dead in that outfit. (The painting also hung itself up while humming “Devil with the Blue Dress On”.)
Eventually Epstein was buried at sea consistent with his devout religious views. OK: He cremated himself. Sorry: I get carried away. He is said to be in an unmarked grave (true)55 fitted with a ball gag and butt plug dressed in his best go-to-church leathers. (There I go again.) The case against Jeff was, according to standard protocol, dismissed in a court of law, which was witnessed by more than 30 Eastern European women with remarkably similar phenotypes (hot).56 They were offered the opportunity to speak, but most were probably pondering safe spaces to hide. Shockingly, lawyers for a “John Doe” petitioned to reseal the cases that had been opened.57 Why? Cernovich and Dershowitz may have gotten some serious dirt, but they have chosen not to make most of it public (That gets a ✓ from me).58 After saying there were “serious irregularities” at the prison,59 a recent script rewrite has Bill Barr claiming the cameras weren’t broken, and they showed the riveting footage of nobody entering Epstein’s cell.60 Months later? Sure. I really want to believe Bill is a good guy—possibly the only good guy in politics—but there are a number of subtle hints to the contrary. It would be easy to fake a video showing nothing, and “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
So, let’s dive deeper. Whenever Jeff got in trouble, powerful people rushed to his aid. An intervention by Cyrus Vance, Manhattan District Attorney prompted Justice Ruth Pickholz to note, “I have to tell you I am a little overwhelmed, because I have never seen a prosecutor’s office do anything like this.”61 Overwhelming evidence suggests that Jeff Epstein was, loosely speaking, a serial blackmailer being protected by his employers—intelligence agencies.62 Acosta said as much when he adjudicated the sweet deal with Epstein in 2005:63
“I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone.”
~ Alex Acosta, judge in Epstein’s 2005 conviction in Florida and future Trump Labor Secretary, explaining the case sealing
Epstein’s lifelong employers may include the CIA and MI5, but Jeff was knee deep in the Israeli Mossad. Thus, “serial blackmailer” is way too simplistic. As noted by Mikel Krieger, compromising people and then helping them accrue wealth and power is a very effective protocol and sweet deal for all involved, especially when you throw in tropical vacations and free sex.7
Much of what follows was gleaned from expat Whitney Webb in Chile from a four-part series and affiliated interviews.8 Whitney is likely standing on the shoulders of others who have been following this plot for decades. Her writing and speaking style remind me of watching somebody gulping down a handful of Ritalin and then putting together a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. Nevertheless, she seems honest and sincere about trying to get it right as she paints a partial picture that will send your eyeballs rolling to the back of their sockets.
I am about to talk about Israel’s secret intelligence group, the Mossad. To all you anti-Zionists, please keep the ideas percolating under those skin heads of yours to yourself. Just because you can reach me by email doesn’t mean you should.
I can’t do it justice, but here is Webb’s plot in highly abbreviated form. Epstein’s professional roots trace back to Meyer Lansky, the only bootlegger of the 20’s and 30’s—the Lawless Decade—who was neither killed nor convicted. He was the master of the honey trap—using young damsels to neuter and control powerful authorities. Whitney connects Lansky with the Bronfman family of Seagram’s fame, through to notorious political hitman Roy Cohn. Roy appears to be one of several lynchpins of this deep state theory, connecting Lansky in the past to Epstein in the modern era. Cohn was a bipartisan king maker and breaker for decades, weaponizing hedonism as the lawyer for Studio 54. He had close ties to J. Edgar Hoover, Joe McCarthy during the Red Scare, the cardinal at the heart of the Church’s pedophile scandal, the legendary financier Marc Rich said to be an Israeli asset, and Italian mobsters. Roy is rumored to have ushered Reagan up the success ladder starting with the presidency of the screen guild to the presidency of the United States. Cohn trained Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, but Epstein appears to be Roy’s heir apparent, sharing many common friends and connections. Not unlike the risky drug lord, however, Jeff consumed his own product too enthusiastically.
The second key lynchpin is Gizz Maxwell and her father, Robert with his ✓-ered past. According to Seymour Hersh, Maxwell was a Mossad asset and being investigated for war crimes when he fell off his boat.64 Gizz’s sister, Christine, works in a software company said to have Pentagon ties.65 (I suspect all software companies have them.)
Webb goes seriously deep as she links Ehud Barak and the Israeli Mossad with Silicon Valley. I suspect the Mossad is as influential as any of their intelligence brethren by benefitting from both a sovereign home base and religious ties to people in every country who are acutely aware of past and potentially future persecutions. Israel also happens to have a stupendous tech industry that provides software and hardware to the world, quite possibly with intelligence gathering capabilities. (Don’t think for a minute US domiciled tech companies aren’t doing the same.) Webb describes how Israel’s elite 8200 special ops group has populated high ranking positions in almost every company in Silicon Valley. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s ties to both Epstein and Silicon Valley seem to be beyond doubt.
Ehud Barack and friends photographed visiting the Epstein B&B
Jeff’s benefactors were either complicit or at least willfully blind to his dark habits. Access journalists like Barbara Walters and George Stephanopoulos maintained strong ties with Epstein well after the pedophile conviction. When Corey Feldman accused Hollywood of harboring pedophiles, Walters ripped into him rather than virtue-signaling condemnation, which would have been far more logical.66 Even the Mossad and Harvey Weinstein sneak into this damned plot.67
Harvard and MIT accepted Jeff’s donations despite pressures. MIT’s Media Group appears to be a cash cow even by university standards.68 They laundered Epstein’s post-conviction donations as “anonymous” despite the squeals of a whistle blower inside the Lab.69 Gates is said to have helped Epstein with his MIT relationship, but I presumed that to be superficial because Epstein knew everybody and certainly wanted access to Gates. The New York times, however, painted a much more detailed and sinister description of the Epstein-Gates connection.70 With all this covert crap going on, Epstein would show up at the MIT group with a young bimbette on each arm in garish displays of Epsteinishness71 (no doubt a thrill for the MIT eggheads who probably haven’t made it to first base.) Heads have now rolled at the MIT Media Lab and apologies issued.72 The nagging unanswered question is what and for whom did MIT Media Lab and Harvard really do for that money?73
“MIT Media Lab Agrees to Return All of Jeffrey Epstein’s Donated Girls”
~ The Onion
The stories and connections are endless. I’ve either completely lost you or piqued your interest enough to track down Webb’s articles and podcasts.8 There continue to be more plot thickeners than a Stephen King novel. Where was the media? Funny you should ask. Amy Robach got caught by Project Veritas on a hot mic complaining that they had the whole story—I doubt they had 10% of it—and that ABC completely buried the story.74
“I’ve had this story for three years. I’ve had this interview with Virginia Roberts [Giuffre]…We would not put it on the air. First of all, I was told, ‘Who’s Jeffrey Epstein? No one knows who that is. This is a stupid story.’”
~ Amy Robach, ABC’s 20/20 Anchor
Of course, rather than asking why they buried such a great scoop, ABC went on a witch hunt to find the leaker who now works at CBS…well she did until CBS fired her despite her protestations of innocence.75 I offer this public service announcement: The media is worthless. Hold that thought until the “Conclusion” section.
“Where is this Maxwell lady hiding? You believe nobody knows where she is? You’re an idiot…They’re thinking New York cares and L.A. cares but nobody else in America cares about this pervert and his fancy friends. They’re thinking it’s August, play it out, let the story sink in the sands of time.”
~ Peggy Noonan
Why has nobody else been indicted? Where is Gizz Maxwell? She was supposedly spotted in the In ‘N’ Out Burger Shop in LA (Figure 24),76 posing with a book entitled, “The Book of Honor: The Secret Lives and Deaths of CIA Operatives.” When recognized, she noted wryly, “Well, I guess this is the last time I’ll be eating here.” You can’t make this shit up! Actually, I think somebody did, but she has not been seen since.
Figure 24. Gizz and burgers.
“Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself.”
~ Everybody with a brain stem
“Epstein didn’t kill himself” became a meme to be used at any opportunity, but I will see that meme and raise you one:
“Epstein isn’t dead.”
Social media quickly picked up on the fact that the guy on the gurney did not look like Epstein (Figure 25). The ear is seriously problematic as noted, but the noses don’t match at all. Now imagine you were Jeff with 40 years of intelligence experience and dirt on every powerful dirtbag in the world sitting in a jail awaiting trial. You just might say something like: “Get me outta here in one piece, or I will release the shitstorm that will send you all to the gallows.” It’s called a “Deadman’s switch” or “suicide switch.”77 If he dies, hundreds of media outlets worldwide receive the dirt Snowden style. That’s how Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers. You couldn’t safely kill the guy. You’d have to put him in a witness protection program after serious surgical work.
Figure 25. Guy on gurney, Jeff Epstein, and Mystery Man.
And now for the funniest conspiracy theory in history. Who was that dude on the gurney? Funny you should ask. The third guy in Figure 25 died three weeks before Epstein. The newspapers reported “no cause of death provided.”78 Pretty good likeness, eh? Ear seems right. He wouldn’t even be freezer burnt yet, and if the spooks who hatched the plan noticed the likeness they could even take the photo on the gurney when he died. Why wait? This mysterious Mets fan was also known to be up to his ass in nefarious dealings, what the newspapers called “unwelcome controversy” and “embarrassing business ventures” in Soviet bloc countries. Now for the punchline…wait for it…keep waiting…that is Tony Rodham, brother of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Bwahahahaha! Ah Christ: I just wet myself again! I don’t even care if that story is totally fake. It is beyond entertaining. It would also be the first family member to contribute to the legendary Clinton body count.79 If, by chance, that theory is true, you have to give high fives for creativity to the hooligans charged with rounding up a carcass.
The media had long since stopped chattering about the other pervs who were still very much alive and showing no interest whatsoever in doing live interviews until Prince Andrew royally boned it in mid-November.80 I had just finished the book Spy the Lie (see Books): the Prince was lying like a teenager. His Palace handler resigned in protest before the interview.81 Why would he do this interview? I suspect there may have been pressure applied but have not a clue how it fits the plotline.
Maitlis: “But you were staying at the house…”
Prince Andrew: “Yes.”
Maitlis: “…of a convicted sex offender.”
Andrew: “It was a convenient place to stay.”
So that’s the story. Julie Brown of the Miami Herald and Whitney Webb have inked book deals. They’ll sell hundreds—maybe thousands—of copies to avid conspiracy theorists. I’ll read ‘em. There will be a 100 more books just like them. The FBI just did a big data dump from a FOIA request on previous Epstein cases, but it’s all redacted.82 Digital archeologists will keep unearthing dirt, but the world will move on. Despite enormous numbers of accomplices who should be interrogated under hot lamps, the story has been reduced to a simple plot: Epstein was a perv who also knew powerful people. Nobody believes he killed himself, but he is pronounced dead so somehow that seems to end the pursuit of truth. Lawsuits against the Epstein estate are a distraction;83 victims will be paid off. Gizz Maxwell is probably basking in the sun on a beach somewhere, giving occasional rub and tugs to her BFF, Hugh G. Rection, sporting a new nose, some adjusted cheekbones, a clean-shaven head, and a deep tan. There are articles claiming that there are investigations of pedophilia by the rich and powerful worldwide.84 Nothing will come of them. The hundreds, possibly thousands, of elites connected in this century-old web of corruption can go back to doing their access journalism, molesting young girls and boys, giving and taking huge bribes, writing software to infiltrate the world’s computers, and assassinating inconvenient people. They share a common goal—to remain rich, powerful, and elite. Trump will distract us with Tweets while Adam Schiff will do the same with his sociopathy. Tweeter David Burge caught the spirit of ✓-mate by the elites:
“In the Covington spectacle, all of the players were assigned allegorical roles that stripped away any notions of true individuality.”
~ Jonah Goldberg (@@JonahDispatch), former editor National Review Online
The scandal of the Covington boys versus the world is one of the most shameful moments in modern day liberalism. The setup seemed simple. A bunch of snot-nosed MAGA-hat-donning teenagers appeared to harass an elderly man on the Washington Mall. The iconic image of a teenager with a smirk that could sink ships brought out an unimaginable wave of hatred.
Admittedly, it looked bad, but he was 15 years old—a demographic known to trigger parents world-wide to ponder the merits of vasectomies and 60th-trimester abortions. The media reported that the boys surrounded a Vietnam veteran and native American—a Vietnam Vet and Native American!—and harassed him. The outpouring of emotion from adults was immediate and horrific. Still smarting from the 2016 elections the vengeful left spewed hatred—pure hatred. Anonymous social media posts called for all acts of violence including raping the kids by the priests. But they were just trolls right? Not even close. A Saturday Night Live (SNL) script writer offered a blowjob to anybody who punched MAGA Boy in the face. (This partially explains why SNL hasn’t been funny in years.) The House Intelligence Committee promptly asked Twitter to provide information on the viral video (probably looking for Russian connections). The blue check marked bigots showed up in force and vaast numbers.
“Name these kids. I want NAMES. Shame them. If you think these fuckers wouldn’t DOX you in a heartbeat think again.”
~ Kathy Griffith, former comedian
“He is deplorable. Some people can also be punched in the face.”
~ Bakari Sellers, political pundit, former South Carolina state legislator
“I am calling for a total and complete shutdown of teenagers wearing MAGA hats until we can figure out what is going on. They seem to be poisoning young minds.”
~ Rep. John Yarmuth (@RepJohnYarmuth), democratic representative from Kentucky
“The face-off between Catholic school teens and Native American elder is a reminder of 500 years of conflict.”
~ Washington Post
“Why Trump’s MAGA hats have become a potent symbol of racism.”
~ CNN Headline
Among the zillions of vicious comments that I read (no exaggeration), those of Reza Aslan, religious scholar, seemed the most stunning:
Media and digital sleuths began digging for dirt on anyone associated with Covington Catholic High. Bingo! We got the scoundrel! His name is Michael Hodge. Well, they lynched the wrong kid. Michael, although a teenager who undoubtedly suffers biochemical warp-age and makes adults within earshot suffer mercilessly, was not the Smirkin’ Muffly, prompting a social media post from his brother Andy:1
“Yesterday was supposed to be a day of celebration for my middle brother Alex, who got married last night. Instead my family had to deal with the fallout of my youngest brother #MichaelHodge being falsely accused for standing & smiling in front of an indigenous man with a drum. People then proceeded to spam my family with harassments and threats of physical violence. We then find out our parents address was posted online. If that wasn’t enough, our family operated business has been slandered and attacked…”
It got worse. The kids were abandoned by the most trusted adults in their lives:
“We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C.”
~ The Diocese of Covington, being less than Christian
There is a hero of the story: Robby Soave, writer for the appropriately titled Reason Magazine. Robby does great work. He analyzed the video quickly (within hours), reporting his findings all day long to Twitter. The story was clarifying by day’s end. He then plowed through all available videos to tell the story in detail.2 (I was scheduled to do an interview with Demetri Kofinas on Hidden Forces podcast, but after a few audibles were called at the line Demetri traded up bigtime to get Robby for the slot.)3
“We have criminalized being a child.”
~ Robby Soave (@robbysoave), Reason Magazine
Here is the Paul Harvey version of the story in a nutshell: The kids were waiting for a bus; they could not just walk away. They were getting harassed by hyper-racially motivated epithets for an hour straight by a group of black Israelites. (Where was the left when those guys are bloviating or can you no longer criticize people of…never mind.) The Israelites threatened the kids with violence, goading them to retaliate. They called the kids “white incest babies” and “faggots”, eliciting boos from the students. The kids asked permission to chant the school’s pep song and got it. Mr. Nathan Phillips—a self-appointed Chief of his group—is a professional activist and bullshit artist of a higher order (more on that below). Phillips was caught on tape announcing he would bait the kids.
The kid’s name is Nick Sandmann. He looks like “The Beave”. Imagine what was going through his head while Phillips was in his face.
In the aftermath, four licensed investigators spent 240 hours going through all available videos, agreeing with Robby Soave by finding no fault by the kids or chaperones: they stuck it like Russian gymnasts.4 (I would argue that letting teenagers walk around a big city with MAGA hats on was a lapse in judgement even if that shouldn’t be the case.) Phillips, on the other hand, was AWOL and uncooperative.5 That was not the first time. He never served in Vietnam, went AWOL on multiple occasions, and was discharged early.6 The Lakota People’s Law Project carried out an independent investigation and came to a more guarded conclusion: they circled the wagons.7 Many detractors started deleting their tweets; some found the character to publicly apologize for their rush to judgement, but not all. Reza left his hateful tweets and likely has added many more. The debate about the wretched kids in MAGA hats raged on for days. Apparently, wearing a MAGA hat is an unforgivable sin for some.
There may be some silver linings, although one needs to grope a bit (like Joe). The kid is gonna have a killer college essay, but it will be toxic to many of my brethren on college admissions committees. I doubt Gillette will give him sponsorship, but it would be cool: “I will shave with a Gillette when I hit puberty!”
“Do you feel from this experience that you owe anybody an apology? Do you see your own fault in any way?”
~ Today show host to Nick Sandmann, proving her writers are still bigoted fools
“We should not have allowed ourselves to be bullied and pressured into making a statement prematurely, and we take full responsibility for it.”
~ The Diocese of Covington
The kids were offered free legal help—nothing legal is free—and took it. A target-rich zone contained illustrious politicians, Hollywood elites, media outlets, and pundits.
“The defendants were each individually offered the opportunity to correct, delete, and/or apologize for their false statements, but each refused and continued to circulate the false statements about these children to this very day on their social media platforms they personally control.”
~ Todd Nace, Metropolis.com
But they may have made a fundamental mistake by going after the Washington Post first. You will not beat the media in court, and they didn’t.8 There are others, including Kathy Griffith, in their sights.9
“It just beggars belief that the same liberals who fret about “micro-aggressions” for 20-somethings were able to see 16-year-olds absorbing the worst racist garbage from religious bigots….Our mainstream press has been poisoned by tribalism. My own trust in it is eroding.”
~ Andrew Sullivan
If you recall having a visceral response and still no tingling of shame after the fact because that smirky little twirp was wearing a MAGA hat, then you harbor too much hate. Opposition to the extreme tribal left is not white supremacy; it is common sense. I do so with pride.
“A chancellor’s job is to provide parking for the faculty, sex for the students, and athletics for the alumni.”
~ UC California Chancellor
College is a time for monumental growth, personal exploration, and transition from childhood to adulthood, all the while risking life and limb along with the sanity of the adults around them. It is a gigantic laboratory in which parents deposit their little dumplings and pot stickers and ask the college to add the finishing touches. Somehow this miraculous transformation is supposed to take place under the guidance of faculty and administrators with ideological peanut allergies who appear to have come right out of the Star Wars bar. Some of what goes on inside the ivory tower is baffling to those on the outside looking in.
“A new poll of nearly a quarter-million Americans has found fully two-thirds of them have buyer’s remorse about their diploma, their major, and the higher education experience in general.”
From my vantage point, I see kids doing wonderful things and following fantastic paths to success despite our interventions. (Somebody’s kid-turned engineer invented the Pringles holder on the StairMaster.) I also witness high costs and squandered opportunities. College can be a colossal waste of money. As your barely post-pubescent, diabolically unprepared spawn with an underdeveloped frontal cortex takes that four-credit-hour course in “Heteronormativity in 11th Century Tibet”, “Critical Menstrual Studies”, or even “Wine Tasting” try to push to the back of your mind that you (or your child with the help from uncollateralized loans) are dropping up to $8,000 for that 4-credit hour mind-expanding, transcendental experience. Just a few of those and it starts adding up. One Time Offer: I will personally help your child “find themselves” for the discount rate of $150,000 total. Alternatively, pay attention to what courses your kid is taking and how they are doing—do a cost-benefit analysis. If they are smoking their body weight in pot every night, maybe a gap year (or two) is in order. Don’t let their primary achievement in life be to serve as a warning to others.
“We have an enormous number of expensively schooled imbeciles who are badly educated at great expense.”
~ George Will
I’ve droned on about why college is so expensive in previous writeups and will simply note that the causes are numerous, complex, and not fully under the control of the colleges. I suspect that if we quit measuring our sovereign wellbeing by numbers of degrees, and, instead, cut that number of degrees in half by diverting kids to pragmatic pursuits requiring little or no abstract academic skills, the economy would flourish. The economy needs workers of all shapes and sizes, and what kids study in college does not change these needs. The reason you can’t hire a carpenter or plumber even if you are willing to write massive checks is because potential carpenters and plumbers are in college studying material that prepares them to be baristas. Ironically, the kids in Cornell’s hotel school are not the future baristas. They rock.
“We have an enormous number of expensively schooled imbeciles who are badly educated at great expense.”
~ George Will
It is in this context that I submit that free college is a bad idea. You cannot fathom the bloat that would appear if the argument for going to college was reduced to, “Why not?” It is also arguably unfair to make those who do not go to college pay taxes that subsidize the educational advantages (when they exist) of those who do go. In 2012 I suggested on a Capital Accounts interview1 (with the truly brainy and adorable Lauren Lyster) that instead of loading students with unpayable debt you let the free market—the private sector—bid for percentages of their earnings after college, it would cure a lot of ills. How much would you pay for 10% of MIT graduates’ earnings during their first 10 years of employment? How about that Fyre Festival called Evergreen State College? It would relieve the students of an impossible debt burden and rather quickly unburden society of numerous institutions that serve little or no purpose. Schools graduating those unable to produce enough in the adult world to extinguish their debts without enormous interest rates would go out of business. Very Darwinian. Sheila Bair, former FDIC head and current president of Washington College, has been talking about this,2 and Purdue is said to be exploring the idea.3 Alas, I can already hear the squeals about how unfair that would be to somebody.
”These regular undergraduate kids want to get jobs.”
~ Bill Coplin, Professor at Syracuse University for 43 years
The schools can also get with the program. Virginia’s Sweet Briar College was insolvent.4 The alumni stopped the dissolution in the court, raised $30 million, cut its tuition and available majors in half, and emphasized programs in science, technology and math. It now has a balanced budget, another $64 million in donations, and an enrollment growing 20% year over year. They have revenue streams coming in from 3,200 acres that had been a working farm. Paul Smith’s College, my son’s alma mater embedded in the scenic Adirondack Mountains, offers four majors. (Shockingly, forestry is one of them.) Although not known for its insurmountable admissions requirements, they changed his life. He has the force working for the Council on Foreign Relations (the Death Star), and I couldn’t be prouder.
“My daughter got accepted into USC all on her own. No jail time!!!”
~ Dr. Dre on Instagram forgetting about a $70,000,000 donation to USC
Enter the college bribery scandal. When it first broke, I thought it would be about rich people (especially alumni) getting favored admissions. The brutal reality is that, statistically speaking, it is exceedingly cost effective to admit children of the wealthy and powerful. They pay for those buildings with names on them. Every dollar donated is a dollar that does not come from tuition and potentially a dollar of financial aid. Harvard, Princeton, and Yale are relatively inexpensive schools to attend if you do not have the money because they have so much. It is now free to go to NYU Medical school thanks to a very wealthy donor.5 Imagine the horror of the docs-in-training who had turned down NYU to go to a “better school”. Right now, there is no better school.
“I don’t know how much of school I’m gonna attend. But I’m gonna go in and talk to my deans and everyone and hope that I can try and balance it all. But I do want the experience of, like, game days, partying…I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.”
~ teen heading off to college as parents head off to court on bribery charges
The bribery scandal proved a bit more garish than I thought. Over 35 Hollywood elites, a group that is known to be preachy about social fairness, bribed individuals to get their kids in back doors. It appears as though all bribes were to now-unemployed individuals, not the schools. These were quid pro quos—a Latin term that literally translates “Trump sucks”—between hyper-pushy parents and crooked employees.
“Our family, along with thousands of others, used Rick Singer’s company to guide us through the college admission process. We are shocked by the revelations of these events. Obviously, we were not part of this fraud, our kids would disown us if we ever tried to interfere.”
~ Phil Michelson, golfer, yet again scrambling for bogie after a shank
Neither the names nor the details of the court cases are interesting to me, but the irony is.
Getting your kid an upgraded admission may be marginally beneficial. Raw stats showing how well Harvard kids do in life ignore the picky little detail that these kids have brains the size of watermelons. Studies that account for aptitude and exclude extraneous factors suggest brainy kids will do well in state schools.6 I am not a fan of the New York’s SUNY system that spreads resources too broadly without enough stratification, but the big and stratified state school systems in California, Wisconsin, and Minnesota just to name a few offer huge opportunities. I served as Director of Graduate Admissions in chemistry at Cornell for a record seven years. Graduate students at top-ten programs come from a wildly diverse feeder system that includes schools I am confident you didn’t know existed. Academics is like a mall: it doesn’t really matter which door you enter. It is what you do while you’re there. Let your kids rack up some cheap credits at community colleges. Those kids are there to learn. Alternatively, bribe some guy to get your kid into a school, go to prison, and make your kids loathe you even more.
“I don’t think you can overestimate how much people have been choking on political correctness and hate it….Nobody likes to be living on eggshells.”
~ Bill Maher, right-wing neo-Nazi MAGA man
We were told this year that women peeing their pants is a sign of independence while the A-OK sign and white polo shirts are symbols of white supremacy. The A-OK and pant peeing started life as a hoax at 4Chan,1 but that polo shirt thing, especially with golf shoes, is real. There was an epidemic of photos surfacing of famous people wearing black face, which includes a lot of rather sanctimonious characters. I will not repeat these names because such things don’t matter unless you are nominated for the Supreme Court. The phrase “learn to code”, inferred to have an implicit “you loser” tacked on the end, can get you booted from social media and even lose jobs.2 One can only imagine the reign of terror that would besiege you if you said, “develop some skills and get a good job.” I won’t know what I’ll do if neo-Stalinists in charge of deciding what I can do without being called a bigot go after Levis and sneakers.
“If a woman has a penis, her penis is a biologically female penis.”
I appear to have way overpaid for that degree in biology. We are in an era in which you can become whatever you want by using the limitless fluidity offered by word salading. This is really just a natural progression from linguistically primordial phrases like, “I’m feeling like Pizza tonight” or “Make that ham sandwich a pastrami on rye instead.“
“We wish there were some kind of organized, armed force that could fight back against Antifa.”
~ Chief Danielle Outlaw (great name), Portland Police, riffing on Mayor Ted Wheeler during the riots
We have serious issues requiring serious attention. Repairs for past sins are incomplete. Let’s finally get on with same-sex marriage across the board for Christ’s sake. (Maybe Moses should have brought down an 11th tablet.) There are vast swaths of the world where women are treated atrociously. To rectify this, the United Arab Emirates set up Gender Equality Awards.3 All were given to men. Don’t even mention genital mutilation. (Scratch that: I do below.) There is a substantial expedition of cultural Marxists who, after their brethren lost to the capitalists on the economic battlefield, are mobilizing to conquer Mount Stupid culturally. With mixed emotions I bring you this year’s bulleted lists—yes, bullets—of memorable moments of anthropogenic global correctness. Many of these are weaponized virtue signaling or noble lies taken to the extreme more than deeply held beliefs, but I would personally rather virtue signal my adoration of Hoboken. Others are thinly veiled racism and misandry, but that is OK provided you support the right cause albeit with little help from the left brain. By the way, if you think I’ve missed something, hold your horses there pardners. We have Collegiate, Youth, and Corporate divisions coming. Just give me the sign, and I’ll get started…
“If are an extreme leftist there is no way you can take a joke. Light up a doobie, pierce a body part, and campaign for Beto.”
In no particular order, a hail of bullets:
- A guy threatening legal action against a magazine for using his image in a story about why all hipsters look the same discovered it wasn’t him after all.4
- General William C. Lee’s statue got vandalized by idiots thinking it was Bob’s statue. The Lees all look alike.5
- Newsweek reported that tanning salons are targeting gay men and putting them at risk of cancer by opening tanning salons in LGBT neighborhoods.6 I suspect profit motive and capitalism are at play. Hey: You could protest those!
- At an Illinois town board meeting a woman wouldn’t let an elected official talk because he was a white man.7 Wait a damned minute: she was white, and my kids do that to me.
- When saying “we’re pregnant” no longer cuts it there is now a device so men can pretend to breastfeed.8 Alternatively, men can be induced to lactate.9 (Psst. Hey buddy….yeah you. You don’t need to do this. You already got laid.)
“Woman Didn’t Know Progress on Toxic Masculinity Would Turn Boyfriend Into Such A Weepy Little Pansy”
~ The Onion headline
- A new ad campaign by the Canadian Cancer Society to fight cervical cancer is dominated by a transgender person who is a biological male and has no cervix:10 It suggests that “If you’re a trans woman, you may not have given much thought to Pap tests and cervical cancer. And if you haven’t, that makes a fair amount of sense. After all, in order to get cervical cancer, you need to have a cervix.” There is a lot to unpack in that public cervix announcement.
- Hillary and Barack introduced the term “Easter worshippers” to avoid using the C-word (Chr*st*ans).
- A Danish study showed diversity erodes community trust.11 There goes that Federal grant.
- Laguna beach residents complained that the word “Police” on police cars was fashioned to look like the American flag.12 In most places that would be A-OK.
- Brunei will begin stoning gays and adulterers to death owing to recently introduced Sharia law.13 Liberals marched on Washington demanding diplomatic pressure to stop such atrocities. (I made that up; those cowardly hypocrites never speak up about stuff like that because it breaks some other immutable taboo.)
- Chicago’s Cook County voted to completely dismantle their database of more than 25,000 known or suspected gang members to remove the stigma of gang banging (or because “gang banging” sounds misogynistic).14
- Sweden, the world’s first humanitarian superpower, has a rule allowing “unaccompanied children” of North African Immigrants to bring their parents to Sweden.15 Pretending to know how “unaccompanied children” can “bring their parents”, some guy pointed out that these children were awfully big and hairy for their putative age. He got fired.
- Convicted felons in San Francisco get to keep their dignity after the city’s Board of Supervisors declared them “justice-involved persons” or “formerly incarcerated” while banning triggering words like “felon,” “convict,” “addict,” “offender,” “juvenile delinquent”, and “your daughter’s future assailant.” You nitwits should dig into the financial hardships that the state imposes on ex-felons after they get released,16 not what they’re called.
“San Francisco, a place where they hand out 4 million plus needles to drug addicts, but heaven forbid if you use plastic straws or plastic bags.”
Derek Utley (@realDerekUtley)
- Once again, aiming for the center of the demographic bell curve, there is a move afoot for a transgender 007 in the iconic bond series.17 Please make a good movie not just a point.
- Starbucks booted two cops because a customer said they felt unsafe.18 It is not known if the complaint came from the crackheads shooting up in the bathroom (thanks to Starbucks’ new policies introduced last year.)19
- A top UK art gallery got pressured to cover paintings deemed “blasphemous” according to the Koran.20 The alternative plan to mutilate the offensive parts got shelved.
- Forty-six percent of American men are afraid to compliment a woman at work for fear of retribution.21 In Russia, competitive female ass-slapping is a sport.22
- Berkeley is removing all gendered terms from their city codes. “Manholes” are now called “maintenance holes”.23 Assemblymen are now called “assholes”.
- Sperm is said to be an increasingly popular energy drink.24 That ain’t new. It’s called “swallowing”, and that is not a plastic straw. It’s like when you find a pubic hair in your food…and it’s still attached.
- Liam Neeson fessed up to hateful thoughts about blacks after a friend got raped. Liam discovered that virtue signaling is a subtle art form: he got his ass kicked.25
- A British man was interrogated by police for posting a ‘transphobic’ limerick on Twitter.26 I suspect he could get off the hook by identifying as an innocent person. (The @TheLimerickKing was not available for comment.)
- A woman invented chairs to prevent manspreading. Levi Strauss, recognizing the importance of thermoregulation, will soon introduce crotchless jeans. Too late for this gent; he has nothing to thermoregulate…
“Tommy John surveyed 1,000 Americans and discovered 45 percent wore the same pair of underwear for “two days or longer.”…Thirteen percent of those surveyed said they wore the same underwear for a week or more.”
~ USAToday, joining the fight against “manspreading”
- Zahavian signaling is biological term for when the male or female pays an inordinately high price to display to the opposite sex.27 Examples include huge antlers, moose knuckles, and FMPs (high pumps).
- A particularly hairy woman posts nude photos on Twitter telling us that it is not a sin.28 I am gonna start doing that and set up a GoFundMe campaign to get me to stop.
- The French parliament has voted to banish the words “mother” and “father” from official paperwork in the education system to tackle discrimination against gay parents.29
- Titania McGrath, legendary Twitter parody account, got written up in The Spectator thinking Titania was real.30 Can’t we all just get the joke? (I know who Titania is.)
- Captain Marvel’s misandristic girl power theme got beaten by an even more powerful foe: the box office.31
- Proponents of feminist theory now claim artificial insemination of cows is rape, and milking them is sexual abuse:32 “an outdated stereotype about women being caretakers and most importantly child-bearers remains consistent in the dairy industry.” The common practice of farmers choking their chickens is under scrutiny by PETA.
- PETA has cancelled its annual Bar-B-Que and Pig Roast.
- Michael Strahan, on his morning show, was cheering a pre-pubescent drag queen.33 Somebody remind me: what was his previous job?
- A feminist vegan cafe charged an 18% “Man Tax” showing little awareness of the life expectancy of dining establishments.34 It lasted 24 months. Maybe next time try “women get an 18% discount.”
- Cesar Chavez routinely hired thugs to beat up illegal immigrants crossing the border to compete for union jobs.35 Next time you see one of those T-shirts with his face on it, remember: “woke” doesn’t mean you’re not ignorant.
- The meeting of Democratic Socialists of America Conference was disrupted by outlandish demands from Democratic Socialists of America. Watch the video.36
- “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men” on the American Psychological Association (APA) website noted that “traditional masculinity — marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression — is, on the whole, harmful.”37 It is gone now, but there are still ample guidelines on how the knuckle draggers can live up to the APA’s high standards.
- Throwing milkshakes on people who you disagree with is now considered by extreme coffee-shop dwellers to be acceptable, non-violent protest against the political right.38
- A banana stuck to a wall with duct tape sold for $120,000….then some guy peeled it and ate it.39
When you see somebody wearing a shirt that promotes punching a political foe in the face, just throw a milkshake on them and tell ‘em, “Dave says hi!”
The Peter Boghossian Affair. We begin the zanier intellectual antics witnessed on college campuses with some backfilling on Portland State philosophy professor, Peter Boghossian. As you may recall, pranksters Peter, James Lindsay, and Helen Pluckrose faked and published papers in “grievance studies”, the name they gave to a collection of disciplines that have as their primary purpose to bitch about (grieve) perceived injustices.1 The memorable fakes described gendering dogs at dog parks and desensitizing homophobic males by inserting objects into dark places. The reward for showing that these disciplines are packed with charlatans is that Peter got brought up for sanctions using a clever ploy: his butt-hurt detractors said he used the referees and editors as human guinea pigs without filling out the proper paperwork.2 There was a quick outpouring of support from a bunch of us through letters to the provost and favors called in by our favorite journalists. I contributed as described in an article in the Daily Wire3 but was trampled by the cavalry of the professional academic thought leaders riding to his rescue:
The staggering irony was that Portland State University was on the cusp of sanctioning not only the most famous professor in the history of the University but the most famous philosopher of the 21st century. The punishment proved a minorly humiliating walk of shame (not even naked), but both publicly and privately, Peter seems likely to move on. He is now an author of a book entitled, “How to Have Impossible Conversations: A Very Practical Guide” and is well published in the popular press: Peter has become a thought leader. But how does that pay the bills? Just ask Jordan Peterson how many millions of dollars per year he makes in speaking fees alone. Peter: Some of us are grateful for your boldness.
“This is a game changer. Academic freedom is not a blanket freedom from libel.”
~ Peter Lake, a law professor at Stetson University, in Chronicle of Higher Education
The Oberlin Lawsuit. This one was a shot across the bow to colleges and universities showing that there are consequences to university-sanctioned lunacy. The set-up was, as always, simple enough. The Gibson family bakery had been serving the students at Oberlin College both directly and through the university dining program for over 100 years.4 Several black townies tried to shoplift, got caught by the owner’s son, a scuffle ensued, and arrests were made.5 Mind you, Oberlin is said to not only be one of the most liberal colleges in America, Business Insider anointed it one of the worst returns for dollars invested:6 40% of 2013 graduates are unemployed, and one third of graduates work in positions that do not require a degree. (I hope the overlap in the Venn Diagram of those two stats is non-zero.). In any event, the social justice warriors were called to arms to reverse this travesty.
Of course, no college should be held accountable for its students’ behaviors; the average 18–22 year old is nuts. But that is not what happened. An African-American employee—the press always says that to distinguish him from a white supremacist—testified in court that the Dean of Students, Meredith Raimondo, was “standing directly in front of the store with a megaphone, orchestrating some of the activities of the students.”7 The employee also said there was not a hint of racism in how the Gibsons managed the store. Oberlin suspended the college’s baked-goods orders with the Gibsons.8 Discovery revealed that Oberlin had a list of 400 disproportionately black townies (out of 4,000) who were banned from the campus.9 The jury did not miss the irony in that one.
“I love how these Gibson supporters accuse us of making rash decisions, but are totally blind to their own assumptions … all these idiots complain about the college. Fuck-em … they’ve made their own bed now.”
~ Ben Jones, the vice president of communications , email
“Fuck him. I’d say unleash the students if I wasn’t convinced this needs to be put behind us.”
~ Dean Meredith Raimond, email reply, in reference to a faculty calling for due process
The jury found libel with “malice” and “reckless disregard”,10 whacking Oberlin for $44 million dollars.11 It got reduced to $25 million because of statutory caps,12 but that still pays for a lot of unsold donuts. A non-scientific survey of 20 Oberlin students by a reporter showed that 100% would never shop at Gibson’s again,13 which is OK cause the Gibsons are probably in Fort Lauderdale basking in the sun with other college kids. The irony is that the Oberlin students might someday find themselves working at Dunkin Donuts.
“Colleges and universities across the country are learning that letting the political left run wild across their campuses without adult supervision may be more trouble, and more costly, than it is worth.”
~ Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal
The battle for free speech. Job applicants and existing faculty are being forced to sign declarations in support of diversity. This relatively harmless, if not content-free, statement is said by Harvard’s medical school dean to be coerced speech and, thus, unconstitutional.14 University of Chicago has stated unequivocal support of free speech; according to Michael Bloomberg that statement has been endorsed by only 67 (approximately 1%) of existing colleges and universities.15 I don’t know if Cornell signed it, but they seem to be following it in spirit. By contrast, students in Georgia have to register free-speech zones, apparently leaving the rest of the campus an academic gulag.16 A recent poll showed that those outside academia are dominantly in favor of applying uncomfortable pressure on colleges to promote uncomfortable ideas (free speech).17
“A campus is not the place for free speech.”
~ Union College President David Harris
“I am scared to teach courses on race, gender, or sexuality, or even texts that bring these issues up in any way—and I am a gay mixed-race woman. There is a serious problem here and at other [selective liberal arts colleges], and I’m at a loss as to how to begin to address it, especially since many of these students don’t believe in either historicity or objective facts.”
~ Anonymous Assistant Professor at Reed College
Legislators are getting involved. Twenty-six states (and counting) have either introduced or passed campus free speech laws.18 Kentucky’s governor signed the “Campus Free Speech Act” that bans free speech zones on the notion that the campuses in their entireties should be free speech zones.19 Texas has followed suit with disciplinary sanctions to those who impede free speech.20 Unfortunately, the Texas law is littered with garbage that makes it ineffectual.21 Even worse, Texas appears to have passed a law that essentially requires professors to report anything that could be considered offensive or risk arrest and prosecution.22 Seems unlikely to hold up in court but still. Speakers continue to be disinvited, and conservative groups are sporadically denied equal treatment under university laws. My sense, however, is that these are outliers resulting from isolated adults making stupid decisions.
“White people begging us for food feels like justice. It feels like Afro-Futurism after America falls. It feels like a Black Nationalist wet dream. It has the feels I rarely feel, a hunger for historical vengeance satisfied so well I rub my belly.”
~ Nicholas Powers, professor of literature at SUNY Old Westbury
The faculty still spew out some decidedly racist garble. Imagine if Professor Powers reversed white and black. Oh dear. He would be gelded. Rather than metaphorically gag Professor Powers, however, I would just try to avoid colleges that have accrued too many of such faculty. My “Thoughts on College” address that point. If you don’t like what I have to say, the same rule applies (although I am an outlier too.) The urge to reach out, however, seems irresistible…
Title IX may be settling down. For a while it appeared as though young men were escorted off campus by accusations of all shapes and sizes, often with no direct evidence or semblance of due process. We then went through a phase where the courts seem to be offering monetary incentives to colleges for not being arbitrary and capricious. (Translation: the colleges were losing millions in court.) It seems quiet now. Maybe new guidelines by Betsy DeVos at the helm of the Department of Education let colleges know it could get even more expensive to strip young men of due process.23 A California court ruled that Title IX defendants must be allowed to cross examine the accuser.24 A friend of mine active in our Title IX system says the Title IX staff is good and work very hard to get it right. I trust her. I’m hoping we are now curbing bad behavior using good protocols and due process. Even the ACLU, known in the past for taking on politically charged cases but has authored some pretty sketchy things lately, has chimed in favoring balance:25
“The ACLU supports many of the increased procedural protections required by the Proposed Rule for Title IX grievance proceedings, including the right to a live hearing and an opportunity for cross-examination in the university setting, the opportunity to stay Title IX proceedings in the face of an imminent or ongoing criminal investigation or trial, the right of access to evidence from the investigation, and the right to written decisions carefully addressing the evidence…[We urge universities to] provide counsel for both parties for the hearing if either party requests counsel.”
Affirmative action is in the spotlight. The original notion of affirmative action—the idea that you “affirmatively” try to find highly qualified candidates from historically underrepresented groups—became more than just seeking such candidates but making sure you err on the correct side. Some may bitch about it, but these policies became the fabric of modern society decades ago. Precisely how hard to press your thumb on scales to ensure fairness and avoid the wrath of the extremists on both ends of the debate send policies back to the shop for tuning regularly. There now seems to be an emergent pushback. Maybe this arises from a sense that it has worked—it surely has if you look at stats from 50 years ago—and that less aggressive actions are required. Some angst may stem from the profound polarization of the left-right political divide, sending most of society to the two extremes on every issue. I’m inclined to believe it is working and, at times, not totally fair. Here are some events that caught my eye this year:
- The college boards are being eliminated by many schools owing to perceived bias.26 I would say that it is a shame to give up such a universal metric. However, the Kaplan-like training courses have screwed up the system. They are regressive because, quite simply, they cost a lot of money. The company that provides the SAT tests lets you take the tests three times and report only your favorite score, which gets students to pay for it three times. The academic-industrial complex is often highly regressive against those who are not driving Beamers on campus.
- Possibly tossing a bone to the left, the SATs considered an “adversity score”, which strikes me as awfully vague and inappropriately placed in the hands of a corporation.27 Let the admissions folks figure that out. (I’ve read undergraduate admissions; that part works fine.) Where it would get seriously ugly is if the adversity and aptitude scores get blended into a single score that cannot be deconvoluted. At that moment, the SATs will become wholly worthless. [NB-It got abandoned. (Phew!)]28
- Washington State lawmakers unwound a ban on affirmative action.29 This is more political than functional given that California had such a ban and simply worked around it. Heather McDonald’s The Diversity Delusion (see “Books”) takes a scythe to the diversity-industrial complex. It is a good read, but there is no pretense of balance.
- Princeton Seminary will pay $27 million in reparations because they had invested in Southern banks and its donors benefited from slavery.30 The major push will be to pay for 30 scholarships for students who are “descendants of slaves or from underrepresented groups”. Translation: it will pay for shit they already planned to do. Never underestimate wily administrators’ skills at repurposing funds.
“My father, who is Mexican, which really doesn’t have anything to do with the story, but the last time I mentioned it Harvard accepted me…”
~ Zack Guzman (@zGuz), Harvard commencement speech, now an anchor at YahooFinance (and going places)
- By definition, if you are putting your thumb on the scale for one group you are removing opportunity from another. To repeat, society seemed to come to terms with this when they thought it was the privileged white kids. Asian Americans, however, discovered in a hard-fought court battle with Harvard that they were the ones forfeiting opportunity by massive numerical handicaps obscured by huge negative bias on subjective measures.31 One admissions consultant, when asked by an Asian-American parent how to improve the odds of a difficult admission, responded, “Change his name.”
- There are lawsuits arriving in college legal offices claiming discrimination against men. I’ve read one that listed >100 female-specific university-sanctioned opportunities lacking male analogs. The claim is that scholarships, organizations, and rules that are selectively applied differently for women and men are unconstitutional. Could you establish analogous endowed scholarships and opportunities for young men? I do not know but suspect it could get dicey.
- UC Berkeley will remain unranked for three years by US News and World Report because they got caught cheating on their stats.32
There is always an eclectic mix of wackiness oozing from the approximate 5,300 campuses. Statistically speaking, whacky ideas must emerge from such a large sample size. I offer a few as a token effort to push back:
- Academics intend to establish the field of “critical menstrual studies” with the upcoming publication of the first-ever scholarly handbook devoted to the consideration of menstruation.33
- The Swedish Board of Education decided against replacing “ancient history” with classes in “postmodernism”.34 “Backlash 101” will be offered pass/fail.
- Complaints keep rolling in that libraries are consuming valuable space with collections that promote and proliferate whiteness.35
“It wastes your four years when you could be learning rather than defeating your enemy.”
~ Jonathan Haidt, evolutionary psychologist, New York University
- Oxford University’s Classics degree will be overhauled to boost the number of female students getting high academic rankings.36 Although a superficial interpretation might be that women can’t compete, I suspect that many bright women are noodling over in math and sciences instead.
- Pete Davidson of Saturday Night Live ripped an audience at University of Central Florida for using their phones during his performance.37 The college ripped Pete for his F-bombs.
- Campus Reform asked students if they supported socialism: Sure! When asked if they would give up GPA points to inferior students they balked.38 Socialism is blossoming on college campuses. This is a serious problem.
“The virgin birth story is about an all-knowing, all-powerful deity impregnating a human teen. There is no definition of consent that would include that scenario.”
~ Associate Professor Eric Sprankle, Minnesota State University, on intellectual sabbatic leave
- Georgetown students voted for a mandatory $27 fee for slave reparations.39 An advocate noted, “the Georgetown student body can be grossly apathetic, and we have to beat down that apathy.”
- While an aging Cornell alumnus was accepting an award, he called legendary ball player Satchel Paige a ‘Negro’.40 You can imagine the response. Do they know Satchel played in the so-called “Negro League”?
- Dean Ronald Sullivan, a black Harvard law professor, is representing Hollywood perv Harvey Weinstein. Triggered students demanded Sullivan’s resignation as faculty dean. Sullivan’s record as a progressive lawyer known for pro bono work with the indigent including the family of slain Michael Brown did not protect him from cowardly administrators who removed him as Dean.41
- University of Michigan Medical School Dean made a big deal when a ‘noose’ — “a symbol of hate and discrimination” — was found. An employee had been tying fishing knots.42
- Dominican University in California has made “social justice” a fully dedicated new major at $70,000 per year. Let me repeat: $70,000 per year. Other schools are doing this too. Also, could you tell me what employer is gonna let somebody who majored in social justice near their company?43
- Harvard prohibits students who join single-gender groups from endorsement for Rhodes scholarships, captaining varsity sports teams, or leading student groups.44
- The Smith College police chief got put on leave for ‘liking’ (not Tweeting) pro-Trump tweets.45
“It is increasingly evident that this strategy was meant to advance Harvard’s larger social agenda of reprogramming students.”
~ Harry Lewis, Harvard Professor.
- Colorado State University’s Inclusive Communications Task Force has declared “America” and “Americans” non-inclusive words.46 The guidelines suggest you may be “erasing other cultures and depicting the United States as the dominant American country.”
- A university professor declared SpongeBob Squarepants “violent,” “racist,” and “insidious” in a “scholarly” article.47 The fictional town of Bikini Bottom is too close to “Bikini Atoll”, famous for nuclear testing. The article is titled, “I Got Paid for Publishing Intellectually Bankrupt Tripe.” Peter Boghossian was not available for comment.
- SUNY–Plattsburgh recently brought in a small herd of miniature donkeys to help students cope with the anxiety and stress.48 There is a distinct smell of corn dogs in this story.
- Lehigh University is promoting men cuddling to deal with stress and “redefine masculinity.”49 Oh FFS! Now they’re just makin’ shit up.
- George Washington University dumped the mascot, “the colonials”.50 I’ve got a few suggestions if anybody is interested.
- The University of South Dakota allegedly pressured the Student Bar Association to change the name of its event from “Hawaiian Day” to “Beach Day.” You got it: cultural appropriation.51 The Student Bar Association retaliated by calling it “Douche Bag Day.” (OK. I lied.)
- Two students at Brigham Young University were admonished for wearing sombreros and dressed as tacos to celebrate “Taco Tuesday.”52 I’m stunned they culturally appropriated tacos.
- More than half of American university students suggested “offensive” Halloween costumes are not covered by free expression and should be punished.53
- There is a story making the rounds that white parents who adopted babies of color are now horrified as their kids returned from college denouncing whiteness.54
- Hillary Clinton’s former campaign spokesperson is campaigning to keep Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh from a summer teaching job at George Mason University.55
A case can be made that the kids want educations; the faculty seem unwilling to deliver without the social accoutrements. I also suspect you would be hard pressed to locate these attitudes in statistically significant quantities in the sciences. As an encouraging aside, I asked a group of ten freshman what they should do if they met an authentic white supremacist? After the blank stares, I told them, “Talk to them. Take this opportunity to find out who they really are and why they think the way they do.” So far no deans have called.
“Any student who claims to be in physical fear of politically incorrect ideas does not belong at a university.”
~ Alan Dershowitz, Harvard University (and Epstein didn’t kill himself)
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
~ Fredrick Douglass, African-American social reformer and abolitionist
Evolutionary psychologists are wrestling with growing evidence that we have a serious problem brewing among the kids; they’re pretty screwed up. Some are developing bone spurs (skull horns)1 on the base of their skulls from chronic phone-induced bad posture. Suicide rates are soaring.2 Peripheral vision and ability to stay on mentally challenging tasks are plummeting.3 We have dumped 60% more cash into California’s K–12 with no measurable change in performance.4 Taking some cues from the pros, I have this hunch that there is a period in a child’s life in which the previously unprecedented forces on the kids—smart phones, social media, ADHD meds, common core math, bombardment with adult topics at very young ages, lack of free time for unsupervised play, and adults intervening with new social norms—may be conspiring to cause their life skills to plummet like a fat kid on a see-saw.
“There can be no greater stretch of arbitrary power than to seize children from their parents, teach them whatever the authorities decree they shall be taught, and expropriate from the parents the funds to pay for the procedure.”
~ Isabel Paterson, journalist, author, and “one of three founding mothers of libertarianism”
With that said, let me present a bulleted list of anecdotes that I suspect would be rather foreign to boomers reflecting back on their childhoods. We continue to inflict children with what seem like pretty whacky adult rules and social norms. I realize I am coming off pretty ignorant right about now, but we have an epidemic of bullying because you’re not allowed to smack that mean SOB in the chops without getting sent to years of therapy. So, in a sense, this section documents how adults victimize kids unknowingly.
- We are told that “dodgeball isn’t just an unethical tool, it’s a form of oppression.”5 Capture the flag is “militaristic” and tag “singles out one poor participant, often the slowest child, as the dehumanized ‘It,’ who runs vainly in pursuit of the quicker ones.” It would be much better if they stuck to ripping each other to shreds on Facebook.
- The governor of Texas had to sign a law allowing kids to run lemonade stands because the police shut one down run by two girls trying to raise money for a Father’s Day gift.6
- The Supreme Court will rule on whether a mother can stop state-imposed transgender services with hormones.7
- Mayor Bill DeBlasio wants to get rid of schools for the gifted students in NYC.8 I am going to go out on a limb here: He is a halfwit who took the short subway to school.
- Backed by some seriously watery logic, an 8th grader got suspended for three weeks after posting a picture online posing with a toy gun at home without threat of violence of any kind.9
- A ten-year-old kid faces charges for hitting another kid in the face during dodge ball after the victim’s mom decided a one-day suspension was inadequate.10 Where is dad during all this? (Answer: trying to breast feed his newborn son.)
- A teacher gave an 11-year-old autistic boy an award for “most annoying male” in the class.11 I fully endorse a little sensitivity training in that case.
- A school spent $54,000 to re-print its yearbook because some kids had made “OK” signs symbolizing white supremacy, everything is OK, or just “we are punk-ass teenagers.”12
- A teacher lost her job at a private school in Southern California for an online post in support of teaching Western Civilization.13 Too late: it’s gone.
- In Colorado a kid got booted from school after they found out mom took him to a shooting range for target practice.14
- A pre-school farm stand in Georgia was shut down with the city manager arguing “we could end up with one on every corner.”15
- A California School Board outlawed the Pledge of Allegiance not because of freedom of speech or some paradoxical separation of school and State argument, but because “it’s too offensive” and “steeped in expressions of nativism and white nationalism.”16
- An Ohio school eliminated their valedictorian and salutatorian honors for reasons that are too obvious to even state.17
- California sex-ed classes for young kids with adult themes—all forms of sex acts, trans-gender, and queer issues—are provided without parental say.18
- The company peddling common core math crap sued a dad for libel and slander for his Facebook posts arguing that common core math is, well, serious crap.19
- “Studies” show Dr. Seuss was a “racist”; only 2 percent of Seuss’s characters were “people of color.”20 Wasn’t it a veritable Rainbow Coalition of pastels? Don’t these intellectual blumpkins realize Seuss was the most progressive author of his era? Did you morons ever read about the Sneeches?
- A poll showed that 29% of American kids hoped to grow up to be “YouTubers”.21 Probably just shorten that to “tubers”.
- Sesame Street has introduced a new character, Karli, who is a crack-head mother.22 She shoots up in Starbucks (brand placement). Also, Cookie Monster is now gluten free.
An insightful Facebook post23 reminded me that Boomers somehow survived childhood with smoking mothers, access to medicine cabinets, sandlot sports with no equipment or adults, no booster seats, rides in the backs of a pick-up trucks, water from a tap or hose rather than a bottle, sandwiches made of Wonder Bread, sugared drinks, burned calories by disappearing all day only to return for dinner because of hunger, no cell phones, and unsupervised trick or treating to collect candy that we got to actually eat (after Dad stole some of it.) We sold flower seeds or Christmas cards door-to-door unsupervised to buy our first Daisy BB gun and occasionally shot each other with it, smacked each other (usually cause they needed it), crashed and burned doing pretty much anything imaginable, hitch-hiked before we got our driver’s licenses, and turned to friends and their own twisted imaginations for entertainment. We got hurt, patched up (with Bactine), and sent outside for more action. I suspect the death toll was lower than that from soaring suicide rates stemming from chronic depression in this modern era. You know what precautions our parents did take? They vaccinated us. Howbowdah?
I’ve also become a supporter of school vouchers without being clear on how to do it. There ought to be a way to pull your kids out of harm’s way when the school district goes rogue. Critics often say to home school your kids or send them to private schools. That’s a regressive solution: Who can afford those options, and why should they have to double pay? I think bigger school districts could offer tracks that allow philosophical differences to be satisfied. I would rather my kids learn to write coherently than read Waiting for Godot…maybe even learn to hyphenate…
It seems unlikely vouchers will happen given that social engineering seems to be the primary goal. Ben Hunt noted that compulsory public education comes from the Prussians needing soldiers, which meant more citizens to think of themselves as Prussians. We are training kids to think like “cultural Marxists” to build a drone army for the culture wars. A former Roosky spy interviewed decades ago noted that “ideological subversion”—rotting the American Empire from the inside—was way more important than spying.24 (See Jonah Goldberg’s latest in the “Books” section.)
“We are living in an era of woke capitalism in which companies pretend to care about social justice to sell products to people who pretend to hate capitalism.”
~ Clay Routledge (@clayroutledge), Professor of Psychology at North Dakota State University
As women and other underrepresented groups moved into the workforce and explicit gender-based hierarchies were dismantled, it was a certainty that progress would be made in fits and starts. We’ve never done this before and have been inventing rules of engagement on the fly. Decades ago Miller Brewing was sued when a comment about a Seinfeld episode was perceived to be insensitive.1 The company tossed the wretch, but the courts reprimanded the company—$26 million-dollar reprimand—for lacking a nuanced view of human relations. Even the most progressive companies like Google run into snags as their progressivism raises the bar proportionately. (After promising to bring pay equity, the management found themselves topping off men’s salaries.2) Aside from the occasional James Damore-like case, these are not that interesting to me.
“I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”
~ The Donald en route to the presidency
What I do find interesting, however, is when companies of their own free will choose to project progressive ideas to the outside world in a form of corporate signaling or as one detractor called it, “rolling over on their backs like whipped dogs and wetting themselves.” Projecting moms as superheroes and sympathetic characters is not only a win but a must. Dads can be projected as nitwits. The realism works. Companies are now “woke” and use “woke capital” to project social justice, but not without some head scratching results. In an era in which people seem to demand that companies be better—at least be less evil—change is long overdue. When United Airlines announces you can “Fly how you identify. Our new non-binary gender options are now available” they are not wing walking.3 It can get tricky, however. A Philadelphia cream cheese ad showing dads being careless with babies didn’t work well—gender stereotypes are forbidden in England—but whocouldanode?4 I flubbed it and broke my son’s leg doing something my wife told me not to do. For those keeping score, my wife has not broken any of the kids’ bones. Dads are riskier and boneheaded as their wives know all too well.
A Volkswagen ad showing men doing cool things and women being domestic offered foreseeable optics problems.5 The response to the Cadbury Unity Bar with both white and dark chocolate introduced in India to celebrate diversity during India’s Independence Day suggested India was not yet ready.6 Netflix bailed on the State of Georgia because of Georgia’s abortion policies while ramping up production in Egypt where women are thrown in jail for abortions; it seems like mixed signaling.7 You gotta wonder if the Atlanta-based Whole Foods Market sponsoring “Drag Queen Story Hour” had the OK from corporate headquarters and whether they anticipated the Christian conservative advocacy group, “One Million Moms Are Gonna Beat You Idiots Senseless”, would call for a boycott.8 Teen Vogue took some guff (with a ‘g’) for their summer promotional campaign.9 It would have made sense if Gillette had sponsored it, or it had been posted by Boy’s Life…
“P&G Challenges Men to Shave Their ‘Toxic Masculinity’ in Gillette Ad”
~ WSJ headline
Speaking of Gillette, they set a new low-water mark this year trying to sell razors by hammering men for being barbaric and encouraging them to raise their children as wimps. OK. That is just my opinion, but it was shared by 450,000 of the 500,000 commenters on YouTube before the comments were cut off.10 How angry must you be to knowingly be the 500,000th person to scream at the top of your lungs in the comment section? The notable 10:1 dislike-like ratio was soon corrected by a statistically impossible wave of bot-delivered “likes”, but the hateful comments persisted to reveal the ruse. A few commenters defended Gillette while showing a complete inability to understand why a half-million angry Philistines thought the message “boys should be better” is not palatable if served sanctimoniously as a shit-pot-pie.
“The best a man can be.”
“Although data reveals the social response to the ad has been generally positive, Fast Company spoke with Gillette’s brand about the ensuing controversy.”
~ Fast Company, doing damage control
Immediately following the swift and bi-gendered backlash to Gillette’s pathetic attempt to monetize virtue signaling, competitors had pop-up ads all over the internet offering alternatives. Of course, the promises to ditch Gillette products was transitory, right? Well, the Gillette CEO said he does not regret the ad even though “the company has taken an $8 billion hit.”11 Gillette put together a follow-up ad showing Dad teaching his transgender son (or daughter—not sure which direction the kid was headed) how to shave.12 Although this was intended to be heartwarming, nerves remained frayed. That one didn’t work either, but it wasn’t a disaster. One also wonders which demographic they were targeting.
To morons now running Gillette
You fools should be starting to sweat
Your ad was expressive
But crassly progressive
And sales will start tanking I’ll bet
The story is slathered with irony. While preaching about toxic masculinity Gillette charges 20% more for women’s razors than for men’s razors. This gender tax is pervasive and, thus, must be based on supply and demand. It sure works on my wife. Moreover, Gillette’s previous ads weren’t “woked” at all. For the record, I did not add the pictures below as click bait. (Editor’s note: yes he did). The great irony is that the parent company, P&G, made one of greatest ads of all time: “Thanks Mom.” If you haven’t seen it, do so.13
“The best a man can get.”
This all does have a point and a model consistent with Occam’s razor. (I had to get that in there.) I suspect that advertising agencies are increasingly staffed by strong-willed women. I would be shocked—flabbergasted actually—if some guy sitting in the room watching the Gillette ad beta test wasn’t thinking, “This is a remarkably bad idea.” They either didn’t speak up for fear of retribution or got voted (shouted) down. Ed Razek, chief marketing officer at Victoria’s Secret was not a fan of their overweight and transgender models: “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes…No one had any interest in it, still don’t.” On the transgender models he noted, “I don’t think we should…the show is a fantasy.” Ed is now pursuing other lines of work.14 Victoria’s Secret’s recently signed 22-year-old trans-gender model, Valentina Sampaio, really is stunning (below). I’d carry her groceries for her. Alas, Victoria’s Secret might dump its fashion show altogether,15 a move that will position the company to compete with the likes of Target and Big Lots. Tell us how that works out for ya.
“Republicans buy sneakers too.”
~ Michael Jordan, God
Nike has made a fortune being at the vanguard of edgy. It is not obvious to me, however, that recent relations with Colin Kaepernick have been a win. They released a U.S.A-themed sneaker showing Betsy Ross’s flag, but drew huge flak after “Colin said ‘Pull it’, and they pulled it.”16 (Truther joke.)
“Nike has made its decision, and now we’re making ours. I’ve ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw all financial incentive dollars under their discretion that the State was providing for the company to locate here. Arizona’s economy is doing just fine without Nike. We don’t need to suck up to companies that consciously denigrate our nation’s history.”
~ Doug Doucey, Arizona governor
Designer shoemaker “Out of Line” released Betsy Ross-like sneakers after Nike pulled theirs.17 Nine Line Apparel tried to do a pro-patriot “stand for the flag” Superbowl ad that was really quite opposite of Nike’s Kaepernick ad. That failed because CBS rejected it knowing you do not mess with Mike & Nike.18
“Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”
~ Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets General Manager
That Daryl Morey tweet caused China to boot the NBA from their billion-person market.19 Shit got real for the NBA. I suspect the NBA sent Lebron James to the line for this technical foul:
“I just think that, when you’re misinformed or you’re not educated about something – and I’m just talking about the tweet itself – you never know the ramifications that can happen. We all see what that did, not only did for our league but for all of us in America, for people in China as well. Sometimes you have to think through the things that you say that may cause harm not only for yourself but for the majority of people. I think that’s just a prime example of that.”
~ Lebron James
Well that was an airball. Maybe he went a little off the script. (Gotta figure the “not educated” line had too much irony.) The fans were not happy with the wording or with Lebron’s sentiment…
“Hey Lebron: how’s it feel to be a punk-assed bitch.”
~ Adoring female fan (video)20
Similarities between China’s Premier Xi and Winnie the Pooh are so acute that using the Winnie meme in China gets you put on the organ donor list…
but the Global Meme Machine kicked into high gear, suggesting Lebron knows where the big Yuan is made…
“Those who have known freedom and lost it have never known it again.”
~ Ronald Reagan
I have become obsessed over the loss of civil liberties. Our ancestors fought like crazy to get and keep them, and now we are just giving them away by the bunch. I am just gonna bullet my way through a pile. Some may not seem troubling, but those you cherish may not trouble others. This is all so deeply troubling to me and sets the stage for my conclusion:
- DNA-testing companies are sharing data with federal law enforcement.1
- There are legislative moves within states to demand access to your social media accounts and Google searches to buy a gun.2 I was a gun kid but not a gun guy now. I am thinking of becoming one again.
- The New York Police Department (NYPD) sent a cease-and-desist letter to Google last week, demanding that the company stop allowing its customers to report police checkpoints using their GPS apps.3
- South Carolina police brought in $17 million in civil asset forfeitures in three years.4 The horrifying detail is that they are pikers in this multi-billion dollar heist.5
- The Supreme Court ruled unanimously to curb some (but not eliminate) civil asset forfeitures following an “excessive” punishment argument.6 It is a horrific practice to which the courts have turned a blind eye. Don’t be surprised if citizens start trying to even the score. ‘Nuff said.
- Tech companies such as Microsoft using ElectionGuard are falling over each other to protect us from election interference. Don’t trust them. The subcontractors have ties with DARPA, NSA, CIA…you get the picture.7
- A Connecticut state law says that “any person who, by his advertisement, ridicules or holds up to contempt any person or class of persons, on account of the creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race of such person or class of persons, shall be guilty of a class D misdemeanor.”8 Seems vaguely un-Constitutional to me.
- Pressure is mounting on banks to block business with gun providers. New York governor Cuomo has expressed interest in putting “the NRA out of business. We’re forcing NRA into financial jeopardy. We won’t stop until we shut them down.”9 Fine, Andrew, but please first explain your relationship to Jeffrey Epstein cause some folks might like to hang you.10
“I don’t think correctly identifying far-right content is beyond our capabilities. But if it is, why not go with Meredith’s suggestion of disabling the suggestion feature?”
~ Leaked internal Google memo showing they are targeting the right
- Your data is being sold by the usual scoundrels (digital media) and others you might not expect including DMV’s, healthcare companies, and hospitals.11
- Meanwhile, a guy got 8 months for locking a girl in a dog cage and raping her.12 Now watch them seal the files.
“So in this particular example if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen, the infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
~ Governor Northam, State of Virginia
- A number of states are moving the abortion rights up to the moment of birth.13 The Virginia governor really stepped in it by defending delivery and post-delivery abortion.14 Although one could imagine an operationally non-viable birth, the justification included provisions for the woman’s “mental health”. A woman in labor requesting an abortion has more than a few conflicts of interest at that moment. The bill was defeated.
- Rhode Island may legalize abortions through contractions up to point of birth.15 As a pro-choice atheist and presuming it could be used on a fully viable offspring, that is infanticide.
- Owing to extreme bills promoting abortions that reach beyond common sense, one can imagine why four governors have signed ‘heartbeat’ bills, outlawing abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected.16 The Alabama bill goes further by banning almost all abortions at any time. This is turning into Roe vs Wade 2.0 but at the extremes.
“It’s one thing to disagree about abortion rights. We all have our own personal views — and nuances by the way, lots of nuances in that fight. But don’t make fun of the other side, don’t make fun of the pro-life people. Don’t think they are low-brows because they aren’t as sophisticated as you are. I think there’s a lot of that attitude that creeps into the vote.”
~ Chris Matthews, MSNBC
- Home security systems have been installing secret microphones without telling consumers.17 The can also be hacked.
- The internet is still technically decentralized, yet Facebook and Google dominates 70% of the traffic.18 Facebook gets nearly limitless access to a user’s device once the app is installed. I’m probably already toast, but I will never use Facebook. These “digital gangsters” are evil.
- Amazon’s Alexa for tots collects all your kids info too.19 Don’t be a dumb-ass; remove all Alexa-like devices from your house. You won’t let them eat their Halloween candy, but you let them consume digital garbage. That kiddie notebook for downloading cute stuff is probably uploading some stuff too.
“They trust me. Dumb fucks.”
~ Young Marcus Zuckerberg
- A family let a 19-year-old stay with them. After burglarizing a restaurant and then stealing from the family they kicked him out. The family got evicted because of a law requiring private landlords to do so when a crime has been committed by an occupant.20
- Facebook has booted “pro-white groups” and countless other “subversives” including Zerohedge, Jordan Peterson, Candace Owens, and, presumably by mistake, Elizabeth Warren.21 Again, stop feeding that monster.
- A Florida man got $30,000 in fines for not keeping his grass mowed ($500 per day). He was away and the lawn mower—no doubt an expat from New Hampshire—screwed the pooch.22 The city of Dunedin was raking in fines approaching $1 million for crap like that.23 Governments are imposing crippling fines and fees and then using tricks like taking away your driver’s license to collect.24
- Another “Florida man”—what is it with Florida men?—spent 41 days in jail for heroin that turned out to be detergent.25
- One family owed $500 in unpaid taxes and fines. County officials used this as justification to seize and sell their house to pocket $108,000.26 (The Supreme Court ruling does you no good if you can’t afford high legal fees.)
- Mastercard is being pressured by activists to monitor payments to “white supremacist groups and anti-Islam activists.”27 I am neither, but y’all can just STFU. Anyone who calls for this can rot in hell for all I care. (I guess I am getting mad.)
“The idea that we need to engage in due process when due process has never served victims of sexual assault… it’s like oh this is how much we respect men that we will give them due process.”
~ Roxane Gay, feminist
- The blue check marked “The Great War” (@WW1_Series) got 250+ of their videos demonetized on YouTube.28 This is common. Where is the Supreme Court?
- Supposedly, in New York City the term ‘Illegal Alien’ can get you a $250,000 fine.29 There must be more to this story. Please tell me there is.
- The Massachusetts “Safe Drivers Act” is a real-time driver surveillance program that is a beta test for a nationwide version.30 “I am sorry. We have turned off your car because you swerved and forgot to pay your heating bill.”
- 18 states are considering a porn tax—a purchasable porn license.31 So is Australia.32 We should ball gag those guys and then…
- Congresswoman Frederica Wilson called for punishment of those who pick on Congress.33 You are dumb as a pigeon, Frederica, and you guys in Congress have a lot to be defensive about.
- Some want possible potential gun owners to provide access to their internet search history and to buy a $1 million liability policy.34
- In China, facial recognition (5G) cameras can identify you J-walking and send you a text announcing how much has been deducted from your bank account by the time you step back onto the curb. Of course, that would never come here.
- Volvo is intending to include cameras to monitor and evaluate the responsiveness of drivers to combat drunk and distracted drivers.35 The autonomous safety systems will intervene and “call the authorities”. That’s it. Game over.
“In a lot of ways, Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company. We’re really setting policies.”
~ Mark Zuckerberg
“I try to be cynical but it is hard to keep up.”
~ Lily Tomlin
Writing this annual review is always cathartic, but this year was especially brutal. While the world partied like it was 1999, I felt stuck in 1984. Somehow the sturm and drang of markets seemed like a side show. Talking about fraudulent IPOs and specious earnings reports didn’t cut it. They all reside on the cutting room floor. There were, however, events that shook my worldview. I edited away a lot of overt darkness that kept sneaking into my prose, but the choice of topics was a tell: they were all some variant of looming social change, not by design but by instinct. Even finance topics like gold and bitcoin are about changing attitudes. A careful reader may also have noticed the complete absence of wisecracks in the section on Civil Liberties. I had no jokes left. This is deadly serious stuff. So what are these not-so-subtle changing winds?
“I would recommend you panic.”
~ Hugh Hendry
The disruptions in the repo markets and Powell’s response convinced me (like I needed convincing) that the Fed and their central banker brethren are way behind curves of their own creation and will do anything to defend the myth that they are part of free market capitalism. They have no idea what they are doing and are just making shit up on the fly. Their subtle but relentless quest for a cashless society that, by their own admission, will allow them to impose deeply negative interest rates, somehow presupposes that charging people to lend money using ham-fisted tactics is anything but total insanity. When did the bond markets become sclerotically unmoored from the notion that they are a revenue stream rather than trading sardines? Although the most preposterously priced bonds are filling market-cap weighted bond index funds, I had a bone-jarring epiphany that speculators are using margin debt to buy negative-yielding bonds hoping to unload them to someone even more risk seeking—the Greater Moron Theory. The Fed’s enthusiastic dismissal of any semblance of price discovery in the credit markets did this. After forcing fake yields down the world’s gullet, they debate issuing 100-year bonds because, well, why not if the rates are this low. They are low because you assholes forced them there. Critics argue this monstrosity central banks have created is evidence that capitalism has failed, but this is not capitalism. Capitalism doesn’t set the price of the most important commodity—capital itself—by fiat. Powell et al. seem oblivious to the deep-seated rot.
These policies have, in my opinion, ushered in a profound wealth inequality that has the potential to be our undoing. When you take the highly tuned, Darwinian-selected balance between capital and labor and distort it with unlimited capital, is it any wonder that the capital accrued by savers becomes worthless? Is it any surprise that when capital is free labor will become cheap? Powell pronounced wealth inequality is not the Fed’s jurisdiction (while showing facial tells of lying). He is right in the sense that they caused it, and everybody knows that the perpetrators never fix the problem. The central bankers will fight to the death to avoid losing credibility. Well, guys, it’s over. You’ve lost it. You worry about independence, but you don’t deserve it.
What about the economy? Isn’t it rocking. Yes and no. The record-low unemployment numbers (albeit with 100 million working age people not working) are backed by “Now Hiring” signs on store fronts. I resisted the urge to document yet again how slow the economy has been growing for a decade and how it seems to be slowing because that is not the point; whether it happens this coming year or not, there will always be another recession. What we are witnessing now is just pre-game analysis. In the recession following the dot-com bubble, we blamed ourselves. The recession following the housing bubble was owned by the bankers, but we were assured all would be well if we simply let them print us out of the mess with loose monetary policy and regulatory forbearance (moving the goal posts). I think the next recession will be a mean one, especially when the populace finally realizes the authorities stitched up a putrid wound left by the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) without cleansing it. Maybe I’m wrong, but I finally share the Fed’s obvious primal fear of recession. Any Austrian economist will tell you that credit-based booms give way to credit-based busts. The bigger the boom the bigger the bust. Folks will be mad when they find out the omnipotent Fed not only didn’t, but couldn’t, protect us from the inevitable reset.
“Central bank monetary policy silently bankrupted the entire pension system.”
~ Stephanie Pomboy
Of course, we are told to look at the long term and ignore the daily squiggles. The problem is that we paid an entire generation with promises rather than cash on delivery, and those promises are coming due. Chits are starting to get cashed in. The National debt is growing 5% faster than GDP. You cannot do that. Markets are at all-time highs and all-time high valuations. The Fed is using extraordinary measures while throwing open the Overton Window by claiming these measures are now ordinary. They are not. In the midst of a massive credit and equity bubble, municipal and state pensions are not in trouble; they are insolvent. The biggest corporations have underfunded pension plans with record debts while they buy back their shares to fatten option- and share-price-based compensation packages. Meanwhile, pundits say the markets will collapse if corporations cease pumping their shares with perpetual bids. The CEO of Starbucks was recently offered a $50 million bonus if three years from now their share price has beaten 80% of the S&P irrespective of whether the shares go up or down. What kind of sorcery is this? How much control fraud will he commit to get that $50 million bogie? He sure won’t give a shit about the long-term wellbeing of the company; how could he? This is psycho-capitalism. All this time we are assured that at least the banks are OK. Will they be OK when the biggest corporate debt bubble in history blows up? Not a chance.
“There is no investment strategy to solve the unfunded liability.”
~ CIO, Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS)
People who worry the social security trust will run out of money have bought into the Big Lie: There is no social security trust—no lockbox—and there never has been. It is just a drawer full of IOUs reminding future generations how much they owe us. OK boomer: what would you put in that lockbox that represented real savings? The story is really much worse. Unfunded liabilities—liabilities that are left unaccounted for when commitments are offset by reasonably projected revenues—are estimated to be $240 trillion. This amounts to $2 million per taxpayer. There is no mathematical solution that avoids screwing a lot of people from every direction. This is when the doctor tells you to get your affairs in order.
“The U.S. is an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery…a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors…Now it’s just an oligarchy.”
~ Jimmy Carter
Undergirding these concerns are rancid politics. Obama’s most profound and disastrous legacy will be his Department of Justice and affiliated regulators who gave passes to criminals after the GFC. There was no Pecora Commission like in the 1930’s or show trials like those following the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 1980s. The bankers and financial system screwed up on a grand scale, yet we found no guilty parties. There were no claw backs; no lost bonuses. No heads rolled, certainly none of any consequence. The banks raped and pillaged, and the response was to fine the shareholders (including pensions and 401Ks) with monstrous fines. I knew all this before, but then I read Jesse Eisinger’s The Chickenshit Club (see “Books”), and it camped out rent-free in my skull. Jesse brilliantly delineates how corporate firepower, lack of resources, and total cowardice (“chickenshits”) within the judicial and regulatory system colluded to achieve abject failure. Let’s beat this dead horse: Watch what happens in the next recession when people lose their jobs again and the banks are bailed out again.
Figure 26. Thomas Cole’s The Rise and Fall of Civilizations.
At what stage of Thomas Cole’s allegorical empire do we reside? The wave of contractions will bring on pain and calls for “free shit for the people” like you’ve never seen. Politicians will sell it and sell it hard. The majority of the younger generation are enthusiastically embracing “democratic socialism” while Modern Monetary Theorists stand ready to pay for it by printing money. Socialism has never worked, it won’t work this time, but we are gonna try it again. Recall what Stephanie Kelton, the Queen of MMT, said: we won’t have to pay for it because the government will. Socialism never creates wealth, only distributes it. We swapped General Motors, Standard Oil, General Electric, and US Steel for Facebook, Google, Netflix, Twitter, Tesla, and Uber. Somebody point to the wealth they are creating. I’m dying to see it. The only company that seems to make anything—Apple—is profitable now but dying a slow death. They replaced Steve Jobs with John Sculley again. It’s RCA, 1929.
“Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”
~ Thomas Sowell
It is no coincidence that I put huge efforts into reading and writing about climate change, modern monetary theory, and the rise of cultural Marxism (political correctness). They are all part of the demand for more government control. Have any of the Big Government enthusiasts figured out that governments are, at best, costly and inefficient and tyrannical if given a chance? We should stop handing governments the excess fruits of our labor to repurpose it. It doesn’t work well. It never works well.
“Don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet.”
~ Jackson Browne
Jonah Goldberg in Suicide of the West (see “Books”) describes how we have to keep reteaching ourselves how and why the Great American Experiment worked. His description of the Administrative State—the vast government bureaucracy that is outside the control of Congress and apparently unrestrained by the Constitution—is horrifying. I cannot fathom why you need a license to braid hair or do floral arrangements and how unelected administrators can impose fines and even jail sentences. If you need government to protect you from your barber you need therapy. When the government bureaucracy was 3% of the GDP, we could simply swallow the graft, corruption, and waste. It was a lump or small mole. At 50% of GDP it is a stage IV, organ consuming cancer. This altogether unsupervised fourth branch of government is growing without constraint feeding on the host. I don’t fear huge corporations. I fear huge corporations that commandeer the machinery of a huge government.
“We live in a world where the powerful deceive us. We know they lie. They know we know they lie. They don’t care. We say we care but do nothing.”
~ BBC documentary-maker Adam Curtis
This year reeked of a growing injustice when you compare the elites to the rest of us. Jussie Smollett’s fraud risked race riots, but then he walked because of well-placed calls from Michelle Obama into a corrupt Cook County judicial system. I would have written about it, but the Jeffrey Epstein Affair sucked the oxygen out of the room. I called this the biggest scandal in American history and stand by it. There were hundreds if not thousands of pedophiles and rapists doing unspeakable things to under-aged girls. The scandal reaches Hollywood, inside the Beltway, royal palaces, halls of academia, the media, and the Church. No matter what happened to Epstein or where he is right now, there are profound criminals who have not even been questioned, let alone brought to justice. They will never be brought to justice. And unlike the olden days, we can all see it.
“There is no week nor day nor hour when tyranny may not enter upon this country, if the people lose their roughness and spirit of defiance.”
~ Walt Whitman
The digital world is either freedom’s greatest hope or worst enemy. We are at risk of entering a dystopian digital future. Just because some municipal bean counter needs money to balance the books, are you ready for 5G facial recognition spotting you J-walking and instantly deducting the fine from your bank account? Do you want your car turning you into the authorities for driving erratically or shutting itself off because you have an overdue bill? The political power and financial might of corporations has never been in doubt, but never before had I sensed that they controlled me. Here is a seemingly trivial example: Where are Milo Yiannopoulos or Gavin McInnes now? You don’t have to like them to notice that they have been erased—banished from the town square and the free market of ideas by digital Nazis. If you support gagging them you are tacitly endorsing modern-era digital gulags. YouTube is changing its rules to eliminate the smaller contributors. That means it is no longer about “You” at all. They demonetize people for purely political reasons, and we are told Putin is the problem. I’m waiting for somebody—anybody—to tell me how he rigged our elections. Give some details. You can’t can you? The Chinese keep track of your loyalty to the State with social credits. Don’t for a second believe that a credit-based society won’t cross the oceans. Just give Marc Zuckerberg control over your currency, healthcare, and banking.
“They want you to think we’re all crooked; we’re not.”
~ Brian Stelter
All this is happening under the noses of the media. Some of you are sincere and decent people. Collectively, however, you enable criminals because you want access to power. You have abrogated your Constitutionally granted rights and responsibilities profoundly. We needed you, but you have let us down. You are prostitutes now. Pick up your paychecks on the nightstand, and let yourselves out. Your services are no longer needed.
“Populism isn’t a goal; it is a symptom. Populism is a smoke alarm; ignore it, and the place burns down.”
~ Tucker Carlson
Here is the Big Problem: a number of players implicitly identified above are so criminal and so treasonous that they are worthy of guillotines or being hung from bridges like Mussolini. What if this actually happens? As their body-less heads sit in baskets able to ponder one last thought or they are hanging upside down with drool running in their eyes, they will then understand people can be pushed too far. This possible future has all the trappings of a Fourth Turning. I’ve noticed Jim Quinn, author of The Burning Platform blog and serious scholar of Fourth Turning logic, is suffering similar angst. He doesn’t want to watch anymore. He doesn’t enjoy writing about it anymore. He thinks it achieves nothing.
Revolutions are always marketed as a win for the proletariat, but they never play out that way. Some serious historians are drawing parallels with pre-Civil War America. We are at risk of doing that experiment again. If I am wrong, I will retire in considerable prosperity. I have nothing to gain by being right. But there are violent political disruptions in dozens of countries: violent protests are trending. The populace has opened the Overton Window wider too.
“I don’t think the public is aware of what’s coming.”
~ Eric Peters, CIO of One River Asset Management
Before listing my year’s books, I’d like to thank all of those in the finance world who have generously let me enter your universe and help me try to understand the world you occupy. Many of you are mentioned by name and affiliated Twitter handles and are my heroes. I’ve also benefitted from the morally bankrupt sociopaths in positions of power and authority who create demand for critical analysis and scathing indictment. Without you, I would have nothing to hike my pants up and bitch about. The podcasters who give me a forum to rant on a stunning array of subjects give me a privileged voice that very few have. As to this document, Adam Taggart and Chris Martenson have offered me a forum to summarize my world view for many years. My ideas are my own; compliments should be directed to me. Complaints, however, should be directed at them. (Seriously, all can be directed to me at: [email protected]) The actual preparation of the document demands readers to yank on my reigns and clean up some messes. This group includes Janis Jermaks, Ryan Woltornist, my brother Ned, Scott Atwater, Dr. Howard Wetsman, Bruce Ganem, Janis Jermaks, and John Brynjolfsson. They were helpful but are not culpable. Lastly, I have to thank my wife who astutely noted, “I’ve learned that by November 1st I simply have to leave you alone.” That period of tolerating my idioscyncracies lasts only about 11 months.
“If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you.”
~ General “Mad Dog” Mattis
I do a lot of audiobooks to expand my reading list. I used to burn them to disk for $10 a pop via Amazon Prime so that my colleagues can mooch them. Of course, Apple has made that impossible. (Could I at least get one USB port back for my laptop? Is that asking too much?) Oh well, now it’s by phone. Whether on a 24-minute round trip to work, a 20-minute trip to the grocery store, or six-hour drives to visit grandchildren or for consulting gigs, I have mowed through hundreds of audiobooks. I wish I had started in my 20s. Although I choose my books carefully, when one sucks I still make it through with few exceptions. I’m trying to get through American history through the eyes of presidential biographers. (I nailed Chester Arthur this year.) Although I get frustrated that I often haven’t a clue what is in some of the books six months later, Stanford psychologists suggest the narratives must be structured well to maximize stickiness. Ralph Waldo Emerson suggests it doesn’t matter; they are still in there somewhere. I do know that the ideas jump back to me unexpectedly, suggesting that maybe my knowledge of how cognition works is still quite limited.
“While writing a book if you don’t change your mind on at least a half a dozen topics, you’re doing it wrong.”
~ Charles Murray to Jonah Goldberg
Before delving into my reading list, however, there are a few funny anecdotes from this year that somehow seem related. Naomi Kline, an author a like since Shock Doctrine, was doing a book tour interview when one of her fundamental premises of her book got knocked right out from under her, delaying the release. The always lovable CNN guru and Trump supporter, Jim Acosta, had a book signing at a Barnes and Nobel with 30 signed copies. They didn’t sell. A nice Twitter shout out to Jim’s book was later shown to be the publisher’s VP. Jill Abrahamson, Ex-New York Times Chief (who hired Sarah Jeong?) was accused of rampant plagiarism in her book on ethical journalism entitled, Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts. Maybe none of that matters because a study found that one-third of American teenagers haven’t read a single book in the past year. Before readers are put on the endangered species list, you might consider the following.
The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote by Sharyl Atkisson
This is a natural sequel to Kimberly Strassel’s The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech. Although both come from a right-leaning slant—one estimate put Sharyl’s treatment 80% slanted—I found Smear to feel much more balanced. She documents the political machinery and vast resources backing political candidates. It is a ruthless world in which slash and burners switch teams for the paycheck. She makes the case that political articles in the mainstream media are part of carefully orchestrated campaigns to destroy targets. I found the book enlightening if not disturbing.
The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture by Heather Mac Donald
Heather is on the frontline of campus culture wars and appears to be absolutely fearless. She puts a serious beating on the academic–minority complex, providing copious examples and studies showing how well-meaning (or at least virtue-signaling) academic programs are destructive to the growth and development within the underrepresented groups. She leaves no topics unscathed, taking on Title IX, reverse discrimination, faulty rape stats (that often suggest that college campuses are more dangerous than the Detroit ghettos), faculty-driven political correctness, and the pervasive cultural Marxism. Faculty are paid to ponder and transmit some of the greatest ideas in history and pass it to the students, yet many are screwing it up. Curiously, she gives serious kudos to the Teaching Company (see below). These college-level audio courses are created by a free-market demand and the founders say that politically correct content does not sell. You will not wish to read Heather’s book unless you already receptive to the ideas; they will simply piss you off.
Crashes and Crises: Lessons from a History of Financial Disasters by Connel Fullenkamp
This was one of those books covering enormous breadth of material that I was familiar with. It covered the usual crises working from the Tulipmania and South Seas bubble to the present. The argument I make for such rehashes is to see how others articulate ideas simply and clearly. There were some surprises. I did not know how profoundly localized the Tulipmania was (basically a bunch of drunks betting in taverns) rather than a systemic, economy-wide apocalypse. I enjoyed it as an easy listen.
Keeping at It: The Quest for Sound Money and Good Government by Paul Volcker
This is the story of the man behind the Secrets of the Temple. Volcker was an impressive, principled guy. It is staggering how little he was compensated for such a legendary career as a public servant. There were times in which he lived in starter-level studio apartments more appropriate for young professionals. The story was probably sanitized by the author but a great story nonetheless. His accomplishments are so extensive that there are countless rules, commissions, alliances, committees, and policies with his name attached. Paul has now died. RIP.
Dopesick by Beth Macy
Beth describes the newest epidemic of opioid addiction. It began and flourished without warning in impoverished West Virginia coal towns and migrated up the Atlantic seaboard tracking the rural countryside. Poverty and despair provided fertile turf. It is the story of Purdue Pharma and the hated Sackler family aggressively promoting oxycontin. I think it is an important story, but I have a few gripes. The addictive qualities of the drug are overstated. There are countless pain management programs in which narcotics are used successfully to manage acute pain. My fear is that public outcry will pull support from patients who need the meds. I suspect the compromise will be that sustained opioid regimens will be managed through authorized pain clinics. I also suspect that there are non-traditional ways of treating both pain and addiction involving neuroplasticity. A friend and addiction clinic founder, Dr. Howard Wetsman, also has some novel ideas about genetic predispositions to brain issues. This was a disturbing read because of the victims of the epidemic and the potential victims of constraints placed on opioids.
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance
I suspect that psychologically I was drawn to this autobiography by the plotline in Dopesick with Appalachia playing an important role. Vance was born in Hatfield-McCoy country but moved to Ohio. The story at some level is more about being raised by hillbillies than being a hillbilly himself. The most entertaining parts are describing how batshit crazy his parents and grandparents were. It is heartwarming as he discusses his trials and tribulations en route out of the sticks to graduating from Yale law school. Amazon readers loved it with high star counts from >12,000 ratings. I must confess that it left me a little disappointed like when I muscled through Kite Runner or Bonhoeffer: did everybody really find it that good? I checked some of the poorer reviews and they were familiar: “My grandmother is German, and I grew up as an American living in Germany (military). That does not make me German.” The low scores were heavily populated by former hillbillies who took exception with his omissions.
Ship of Fools by Tucker Carlson
I went from thinking Tucker Carlson was a complete fool to adoring the guy. Maybe the venue with Paul Begala on Crossfire playing the bow-tie-toting conservative was simply never going to work, but he has found his own voice now. This book is nearly a complete five-star book with almost 2,000 ratings at Amazon with no sign of left-wing detractors clicking the lowest rating. Tucker takes on all comers inside the beltway, pulling no punches. His prose is dripping with sarcasm and snark. I don’t even remember who he hammered or why, but I know I loved every bit of it. He is one of the few in the mainstream media that will carve up sacred cows from either party. Even if you are moderate left, I think this is well worth your effort.
The Unexpected President: The Life and Times of Chester A. Arthur by Scott S. Greenberger
As part of my effort to view American history through the lens’ of presidential biographers, I took on Chester Arthur having hardly a clue who he was. The biography was notoriously difficult to write because he had all his papers burned for nefarious reasons. Arthur was steeped in the dubious world of corrupt politics and political bosses in the post-Civil War period. As McKinley’s vice president nobody imagined Arthur as a credible president…until McKinley got whacked by an assassin. I can’t say the biography was particularly sticky, but I do recall enjoying it (matching the high star count at Amazon). As an aside, I discovered that my wife’s (Candace Cornell’s) great, great grandfather, Alonzo Cornell, and son of Ezra Cornell, was a morally ambiguous character. As an aside, my great disappointment is that the Cornell wealth dissipated years ago. Marrying a rich chick would have had its perks.
Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy by Jonah Goldberg
Goldberg is one of the great conservative scholars, recently stepping down as the editor of National Review Online. He puts enormous effort into laying intellectual foundations of our government. His key premise is that it took a lot of work and good fortune to come up with the Great American Experiment, and we have to keep reteaching every generation the fundamental principles or risk losing them. The world watched this experiment with great interest. The elite who founded the nation were statistically second sons—those who came here because an older sibling inherited the family plot. This guaranteed a non-aristocratic form of government. The growth of what he calls the “administrative state” fathered by Woodrow Wilson—administrators outside the reach of Congress somehow granted the power to control the populace and impose penalties on citizens—is a terrifying development in which the over-used “cancer” metaphor seems fully appropriate. Nearly 30% of all jobs now require licenses: why? The bigger the government gets, the more authority is delegated to this administrative state. The influence of Charles Murray (see Coming Apart) on Jonah’s views of societal structure was quite clear.
How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker
I find Pinker’s books (see Better Angels Among Us) to be a little too ponderous. In this tome he talks about what psychologists (and evolutionary psychologists) have taught us about how our brains work and why. There were some cool ideas and some tedious portions. Pinker could tell more succinct narratives without serious loss of content. I was disappointed, although the ideas probably lurk beneath my skull provided the mind still works.
The Celtic World by Jennifer Paxton
The Celts are, in my opinion, usually associated with the hooligans on the island now called Great Britain. Paxton traces them back to central and western Europe (with some ambiguity as to their precise migrations.) Paxton talks a lot about their culture and arts. As usual, this trimester-length college course is well done, and Julie is a compelling speaker. (The best lecturers sound like they are talking to you rather than reading a script.)
Europe’s Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914? by David Fromkin
I asked world-renowned historian-economist-author Benn Steil (Battle of Bretton Woods and The Marshall Plan reviewed by me previously) for his best shot at a book that explains the political backdrop and events leading up to World War I. This was his best shot along with another that was mention but not endorsed (below). Fromkin offers us a coherent read describing the alliances and political currents that I had hoped to understand. Contrary to my naive world view that it was a bar fight that broke out, WWI was years in the making. Fromkin describes it as actually two wars running simultaneously, but I’ll leave that for the reader. I was struck by how irrelevant the death of the archduke Franz Ferdinand would have been had it not been for Germany banging on Austria-Hungary to get off their butts and retaliate. It was well worth the read and does not suffer from arcane minutia.
The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan
This was the second book that Benn mentioned but without endorsement. MacMillan failed to write a meatball-friendly narrative; the gory details of the various players are better suited for those who wish detailed biographical sketches of the key players in the key countries. There were simply too many names that have no stickiness whatsoever. It does a nice job, however, conveying how WWI really represented a shift from monarchies to modern sovereign states. The world entered it with the help of guys marveling at the glory of war and exited a very different place.
Austrian School for Investors: Austrian Investing between Inflation and Deflation Hardcover by Rahim Taghizadegan, Ronald Stöferle, Mark Valek
Full disclosure: I got a freebie from the author so I’ve been bribed (and probably should be impeached). Austrian economics, like so many subdisciplines of economics, is a fairly large tent with diverse views represented. I very much keep Austrian economics and the much smaller subset called the Austrian Business Cycle Theory separate. I am much more of an adherent to the latter than the former. Austrians are scorned as loons for not believing you can print your way to prosperity even if it means printing a ton of the fiat crap. They also love gold. There are several ways to approach the subject. The authors chose to take what I would consider to be a more social look at the subject and leave the arcane details for others to lay out. This will work for some but not for others. I found it to be a comfortable read and an excellent primer, especially for those who think “Austrians” refers to Arnold Schwarzenegger or alpine skiers.
Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths of Language Usage by John McWhorter
I am a huge fan of linguist John McWhorter. He is a genius, and what better medium than an audiobook to learn about linguistics. He has a number of contributions to the Great Courses Series. In this one, he tears into the origins and subtleties of English, telling us how it evolved, why it looks like it does, and how it differs from the romance languages. It breaks my heart that he was at Cornell and then left. (He tells me that being married with children now versus being an unmarried black man in Ithaca are different perspectives.) In any case, the book is great, and he is the first person I have ever known who identified the “Yeah. No.” problem, although years later than this chemist identified it. (You’ll have to listen to the book to figure out what that is.) He even defends the logic of “y’all” and “ain’t”. It is a fun listen for the cunning linguists. (Sorry bout dat.)
The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives by Jesse Eisinger
I read every book about the crisis and can lip-synch explanations of credit default swaps. Is there anything new to be said? Yes! Jesse describes the history of white collar crime (including coining of the term by Edwin Southerland in the 1930s) and the justice department’s and regulators’ responses to it. I am a little more forgiving of the DOJ than before finishing the book but only because the situation seems utterly hopeless. The prosecutors became chickenshits, but it really feels profoundly hopeless to try to encircle the white collar criminals and bring them to justice. These guys will continue ripping us off and be untouchable until…wait for it…we hang them from bridges like Mussolini! On a more serious note, we should hang them in Times Square.
Conspiracies & Conspiracy Theories: What We Should and Shouldn’t Believe – and Why by Michael Shermer
As a devout believer that conspiracies are common:
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, … As always, should you or any of your MI Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape/disc will self-destruct in five seconds.
~ Mission Impossible
I listened to this audiobook with the idea that he might bring perspective and possibly even guide me into thinking about how to sift through the conspiracies with greater clarity and less human bias. Straining to keep an open mind, I found Shermer to be a poor-man’s Cass Sunstein. He has turned debunking into a business much the way professional expert witnesses keep the lights on. The word grifter kept coming to mind. What was the problem? He uses Popperian logic but does so backwards by demanding the theorists make their case rather than refute the existing models. He introduces various categories of human biases but at shallow levels when compared to many other books I’ve read. (See Influence for example). The book is rich with strawman arguments. Truthers, for example, will be surprised to find that they simply cannot imagine 19 Arabs could bring down the towers. Yup. That’s the problem. He simply could not resist insulting anyone believing ideas that were poorly founded, including adding dramatic linguistic tricks to satirize the idiots. How do we know they are poorly founded? Michael told us they were. Here is what was fundamentally lacking. Although he mentions the possibility that a theory could be partially correct, he failed to practice what he preached: they were right or wrong. There was no room for probabilities. Could it be right? What are the odds that it is right? Nope. It was just right or wrong (usually wrong). He mentions the “West Scale” to rank the plausibility of conspiracy theories. (My doubts about the Vegas shootings, by the way, scored me a perfect 10.) However, he used the West Scale as a measure of how forgivable it was for you to be so childish as to believe such crap. Besides being a douche, he trapped himself on two humorous points. In an effort to make the book seem timely—it probably went to print about a year ago—he took special care to cackle at the loons in the present who think the FBI bugged Trump in cahoots with Hillary (see Steele Dossier) and those who think there is a network of pedophilic pervs running around the halls of power. Not sure his opinions will age well. I detested the book.