The Washington Post’s selective outrage over harassment of public officials

As John discussed here, the National School Boards Association retracted and apologized for urging federal authorities to target unruly school board meetings. That letter spurred (or was the coordinated pretext for) the Justice Department’s decision to call in the FBI.

The apology was reported by the Washington Times, among other outlets. However, I’ve seen no mention of it in the Washington Post.

The Post, though, has published a piece by a member of the Brevard County, Florida school board describing how angry parents “came after me.” She complains that her “progressive” stances caused her to be called names and “subjected to months of threats, harassment, and intimidation.”

The school member, Jennifer Jenkins, does not assert that she has been the target of violence. In fact, much of what she describes as harassment and intimidation is legitimate, albeit zealous, protest activity. For example:

Protesters became regulars outside school board meetings. Trump flags waved in the parking lot. Young children, accompanied by their parents, shouted into megaphones, “Don’t touch me, pedophiles!” LGBTQ students tried to speak while adults chanted “Shame!” Meetings were packed, and those who couldn’t get in banged on the windows and doors.

Some of it is mere name-calling, e.g., Nazi, pedophile, and wicked witch. The average conservative blogger with a medium-size audience is similarly abused on a regular basis.

Some of the conduct Jenkins claims to have experienced is plainly inappropriate. I’m thinking in particular of crowds assembling in front of her home and allegedly saying things like “we’re going to make you beg for mercy” and “if you thought January 6 was bad, wait until you see what we have for you.”

This sort of behavior happens all over America and typically is directed at conservatives. It happened to Tucker Carlson, for example.

It also happened to the chief of police in Seattle, hardly a conservative, because she wasn’t sufficient compliant with the demands of Black Lives Matter.

Rep. Maxine Waters advocated harassing officials of the Trump administration at restaurants, department stores, and gasoline stations. Joe Biden considers this sort of thing “part of the process” for office holders. However, non-office holders — ordinary citizens — were harassed by the BLM protesters as they tried to enjoy outdoor dining in D.C. restaurants.

These efforts at intimidation and/or exercises in venting are disgusting. But they don’t warrant federal intervention.

That’s true even if they spill over into illegality, such as the minor property damage Jenkins says she experienced. That’s a matter for the local police force (assuming it hasn’t been defunded), not the FBI.

To be fair, Jenkins doesn’t call for federal intervention. She doesn’t take a position one way or the other on Merrick Garland’s absurd memo.

I don’t blame Jenkins for wanting to complain to as large an audience as possible about the abuse she has received. I do question the Post’s decision to provide her a forum for her grievances. It amounts to selective outrage by the Post, which generally fails even to report on instances of harassment of conservatives, including at college campuses all over America.

A salute to Judge Silberman

The Antonin Scalia Law School’s Gray Center at George Mason University has honored Judge Laurence Silberman of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals with its first annual Justice Clarence Thomas First Principles Award. The Wall Street Journal notes the award to Judge Silberman in its editorial “A Judge for First Principles.”

The symmetry here is perfect. To adapt the phrase Lincoln used in his eulogy of Henry Clay, Justice Thomas and Judge Silberman represent our beau ideal of a judge.

We last wrote about Judge Silberman in “Judge Silberman’s dissent.” The Journal editors hit a few highlights in Judge Silberman’s stellar career, some of which have involved extrajudicial service. The Journal concisely notes another memorable Silberman dissent: “In 1988 (In re Sealed Case), he held that the independent counsel statute violated the Constitution’s Appointments Clause. The Supreme Court failed to agree in one of its worst decisions, Morrison v. Olson. But Judge Silberman’s view was echoed in Justice Scalia’s famous dissent in Morrison that has been vindicated by history.”

Judge Silberman is a man of honor, judgment, and discretion as well as of the first principles recognized in the Justice Clarence Thomas Award. I appreciate this note in the Journal editorial regarding one of the assignments Judge Silberman undertook before his appointment to the bench:

As deputy Attorney General in the 1970s, Judge Silberman was asked by Congress to testify on the late FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s secret and confidential files and so was obliged to read them. In a 2005 op-ed in these pages, he called examining those files the “single worst experience of my long governmental service.” He vowed to take the secrets he read about politicians to his grave, and so they have never leaked to this day.

I can only second the salute to Judge Silberman. Josh Blackman briefly recaps the award ceremony in the post “A Night To Remember With Justice Thomas” including the video below. Congratulations to the Scalia Law School at GMU and the Gray Center at the law school, to Justice Thomas, to Judge Silberman, and to everyone else involved.

Sowell versus Obama

At RealClearPolitics they like to pair columns with contrasting points of view, but they have President Obama injecting his poison into our bloodstream without an antidote this morning. Obama was out campaigning for the Democratic candidates in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races this weekend. RCP has posted a video clip and transcript of Obama’s appearance in New Jersey under the heading “We Don’t Have Time To Waste On These Phony Right Wing Culture Wars.”

Coincidentally, Jewish World Review editor Binyamin Jolkovsky writes this morning to advise that Thomas Sowell has come off the bench to weigh in on the Virginia race. He sees it differently from Obama. Sowell’s column is “High stakes in Virginia.” Take this as Sowell’s response to Obama’s “argument,” such as it is:

This is one battle in a much bigger war, and the stakes are far higher than the governorship of Virginia or the Democrats and Republicans. The stakes are the future of this nation.

When school propaganda teaches black kids to hate white people, that is a danger to all Americans of every race. Anyone at all familiar with the history of group-identity politics in other countries knows that it has often ended up producing sickening atrocities that have torn whole societies apart.

If you have a strong stomach, read about the 1915 atrocities against the Armenians in Turkey, “ethnic cleansing” in the Balkans, or the reciprocal atrocities between the Sinhalese and Tamils during their civil war in Sri Lanka.

Do not kid yourself that this cannot happen in America. The relations between the Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka were once held up to the world as a model of intergroup harmony.

They got along better than blacks and whites have ever gotten along in the U.S. But then a talented demagogue polarized the country with group-identity politics, to get himself elected prime minister.

Once he was elected, he was ready to moderate his position. But you cannot just turn group hatred on and off, like a light bulb. He was assassinated and the hatred continued on.

There is a point of no return in America as well. And we may be nearing it, or perhaps past it.

Low-income minority students, especially, cannot afford the luxury of having their time wasted on ideological propaganda in the schools, when they are not getting a decent education in mathematics or the English language.

When they graduate, and go on to higher education that could prepare them for professional careers, hating white people is not likely to do them nearly as much good as knowing math and English.

Here is a bit more:

Parents who protest the arrogant abuse of a captive audience of children are performing an important public service. They deserve something better than having the Biden administration’s Attorney General threatening them.

But this whole issue is far older and far bigger than the Biden administration. It will be a cancerous threat to this country, long after the current administration is over.

Poisonous indoctrination will not stop unless it gets stopped. But most parents and voters have lives to lead, and cannot keep monitoring everything the schools do.

Most low-income parents lack the one thing that would get them taken seriously by the education establishment — an ability to take their children to other schools

Sowell has more and I urge interested readers to read the whole thing here.

Kevin Roche speaks

Gene Galin interviewed Kevin Roche for Chatham Journal last week. I have posted the video below. Kevin is the proprietor of Healthy Skeptic and the former general counsel of UnitedHealth as well as former CEO of its Ingenix division.

Kevin has tracked the data and the research on Covid-19 from the beginning. He knows what he is talking about and is able lucidly to articulate his knowledge. The video supplements Kevin’s “Where we are now” posts that he has written for us this month. If you have followed Kevin’s work here or at his site, I think you will find this video update of interest.

This weekend’s big Star Tribune story by Jeremy Olson opened another front in the campaign of fear the paper continues to wage. The headline reads “COVID wave overwhelms rural Minnesota hospitals, leaving the sick nowhere to go.” Just in case you didn’t get the point, the subhead reiterates: “Latest wave has overwhelmed rural hospitals, leaving the sick nowhere to go.” This is a Minnesota issue — both the alleged problem and the Star Tribune’s coverage of it. I asked Kevin to comment. His response is below the break.

* * * * *

Rural areas with their relatively low population and low population density have always had fewer health facilities and resources than metropolitan areas. Hospitals in rural areas never had large numbers of beds. For several decades the United States as a matter of policy has attempted to reduce use of expensive hospital care and this has resulted in a very substantial drop in total hospital beds per capita across the country. Many hospitals closed, others just reduced beds.

This trend hit rural areas particularly hard. As you might imagine, rural hospitals have even fewer specialized beds of any type, including ICU beds, which are featured in the Strib article. Although DOH doesn’t want to talk about it, the vaccine mandates in most health care facilities have caused or exacerbated staffing shortages, particularly again in rural areas. That means that even when a hospital may have beds, they can’t fill them because they don’t have the nursing or other staff to care for patients.

Hospitals typically run at very high occupancy rates, which is what they have to do when you have very expensive, capital intense facilities. There are not a lot of spare beds at any period of time. As noted above, certain actions during the epidemic are making this narrow band of available capacity even narrower.

Covid-19 patients are not a large proportion of any hospital’s daily census. On a given day any hospital has heart attack patients, congestive heart failure patients, patients waiting for or recovering from surgery, patients who need observation for an acute episode of a chronic condition and many other patients. I am not sure why we are treating the Covid-19 patients as the ones who are causing the tightening of available capacity.

A lot of hospital beds are currently filled with patients whose health worsened because they delayed care during earlier stages of the epidemic. People were frightened into avoiding health care facilities and now they have far more serious disease that requires hospitalization. So maybe we should blame the politicians and public health experts who created that fear.

We also know from the Minnesota Department of Health’s own statements that a significant portion of hospitalizations attributed to Covid-19, especially among the vaccinated, are not actually for Covid-19, but admissions for other purposes and Covid-19 is incidentally discovered via routine testing. It is absurd to treat these as Covid-19 admissions. Hospitals, of course, are highly incentivized to call every possible patient a Covid-19 patient because they get paid extra for treating them. So, once more, we see a shortage of capacity blamed on Covid-19 when it probably has little to do with the problem.

The headline for the story is frightening and clearly intended to be so, but what is described in the article actually reveals somewhat typical administrative runarounds and bungling. And it doesn’t appear that there was an issue with hospital beds in general as much as ICU beds in particular. As I noted above, there just aren’t many of those ever in rural parts of the state.

I wonder what the paper will do when it no longer has the epidemic to use to spread anxiety and panic–maybe talk about the very real crime surge which the party in power has created?

Why is Biden so unpopular?

Harry Enten, formerly of FiveThirtyEight and now of CNN, takes up the question. He writes:

While the causes of Biden’s decline are numerous (e.g. declining trust of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan), perhaps the biggest one is that Americans believe there are big economic problems and that Biden isn’t focused nearly enough on them.

I think that’s right. Enten notes, as we have, that approval of Biden on the economy has tracked almost perfectly with approval of him overall. Says Enten, “Right now, [Biden’s] economic approval is in the low 40s, just as it is overall. In the early summer, it was in the low 50s — as it was overall then, too.”

I think Enten is correct to highlight not just the economy’s performance, but also Biden’s lack of focus on it. Enten points to a CBS News/YouGov poll finding that 60 percent of Americans believe that Biden is not focusing enough on inflation. At the same time, only 37 percent say that Biden and his fellow Democrats are focusing on the issues they care a lot about.

These findings are consistent with one of my pet theories — that voters are unhappy with Biden because he presented himself during the election as a moderate or at most a center-left Democrat, but is governing as a woke leftist. In effect, he defrauded the electorate.

The swing voters who put Biden over the top thought, or deluded themselves into believing, that he was a traditional lunch-bucket Dem, in tune with the concerns of working Americans and the middle class. What they see now is a president who is governing from the left, focusing on agenda items they don’t care that much about, and some they may even oppose, rather than on the price of food and gasoline, the supply chain by which goods and services are delivered, and the invasion of America by waves of illegal immigrants.

Maybe the economy will pick up soon. Maybe inflation will recede. Maybe a less radical Biden will emerge, or at least a less tone-deaf one. But none of these developments seems imminent.

Conspiracy at the Willard hotel, a fantasy

A headline at the top of the Washington Post’s front page today informs us that “D.C.’s Willard hotel served as ‘command center’ for Trump team” during that team’s attempt to contest the 2020 election. I’m not sure what’s headline-worthy about this. Presumably, Al Gore had a command center or “war room” when he was contesting the result of the 2000 election. That’s standard operating procedure.

I don’t see that it matters whether Trump’s team headquartered itself at the Willard, a Holiday Inn, or Steve Bannon’s basement. All that matters at this point is whether anything illegal or improper occurred at the “command center.”

The Post’s article shows that, as far as the Post knows, neither illegality nor impropriety occurred. Maybe that’s why the Post felt compelled to highlight the location of the command center at a “posh” hotel.

What went on there? According to the Post, various operatives tried to find evidence of election fraud and tried to persuade members of state legislatures that there was enough evidence of it to challenge the result in their state. Meanwhile, John Eastman wrote memos presenting his view regarding the power of the vice president to prevent Joe Biden from being declared the winner on January 6.

Clearly, there was nothing illegal about this. Nor was there anything improper. There’s nothing wrong with writing memos — whether sound or unsound — about what the vice president can and cannot do, and nothing wrong with trying to persuade state legislators that rampant fraud in their state changed the result there.

Whether this lobbying effort at such a late date, after the Trump Justice Department had failed to find result-determinative fraud, was a good idea, and good for the country, is another question. But there is nothing scandalous about what the Post reports happened at the Willard.

This doesn’t mean the Post’s story is worthless. On the contrary, I view the Post’s report as important because it helps show that congressional Democrats are off-base in trying to obtain the records of those who were at the Willard working for Trump.

As I understand it, Congress is investigating the storming of the Capitol building on January 6. In any case, that’s all that deserves to be investigated.

Nothing in the Post’s article suggests a connection between actions at the command center — all legal, as far as the Post shows — and the illegal actions at the Capitol. Again, all that seems to have happened at the Willard was memo writing and attempts at persuasion.

It’s possible that the records the Dems seek contain statements suggesting that having Trump supporters come to Washington D.C. would assist in the effort to prevent Biden being declared the winner on January 6. But such statements wouldn’t be evidence of unlawful or improper conduct, either. Urging people to come to D.C. to protest is a time-honored way of advancing an agenda, and is protected by the First Amendment.

Maybe the Democrats hope to find in the records of someone at the Willard’s “command center” a statement to the effect that it would be great if pro-Trumpers stormed the Capitol. This, though, is a fantasy. Seeking the records in question for that purpose is a fishing expedition, par excellence.

Indeed, if you think about it, the question of whether Trump or pro-Trumpers incited the storming of the Capitol can’t be determined from records. Outsiders can’t be incited by insiders’ notes and memos. They can only be incited by what they are told.

Thus, congressional Dems only need records of what Trump and others on his team communicated to the crowd that came to Washington to protest. (No communication of which I’m aware can be construed as advocating that the Capitol be stormed. Indeed, the communications the Post cites advocate being “peaceful” and “respecting the law”.) The inside baseball is irrelevant to any legitimate inquiry.

Unfortunately, congressional Dems aren’t interested in a legitimate inquiry. They simply wish to keep generating news stories about January 6, hoping, unrealistically, to make that day one that will live infamy — and not just in the minds of partisan Democrats and never-Trumpers.

The Washington Post is eager to do its part.

Facebook’s Political Maelstrom Exposed

The Wall Street Journal has obtained internal Facebook documents that shed light on how politics has affected the social media giant’s behavior in recent years. Some argue that the documents confirm suspicions that Facebook deliberately suppresses conservative views, but to me the story seems more complicated than that:

Many Republicans, from Mr. Trump down, say Facebook discriminates against conservatives. The documents reviewed by the Journal didn’t render a verdict on whether bias influences its decisions overall. They do show that employees and their bosses have hotly debated whether and how to restrain right-wing publishers, with more-senior employees often providing a check on agitation from the rank and file. The documents viewed by the Journal, which don’t capture all of the employee messaging, didn’t mention equivalent debates over left-wing publications.

I think that is a key point. The New York Times and Washington Post are just as partisan as Breitbart, a major focus of the WSJ story, and they are no more accurate. Yet Facebook pays them for, and features prominently, their content. Apparently no one at Facebook has ever questioned whether false and hateful reporting by the Post and the Times, such as the Russia collusion hoax to name just one example, should cause their content to be suppressed or downgraded.

Facebook employees focused special attention on Breitbart, the documents show, criticizing Facebook for showcasing the site’s content in News Tab and for helping it to sell ads. They also alleged Facebook gave special treatment to Breitbart and other conservative publishers, helping them skirt penalties for circulating misinformation or hate speech.

Right-wing sites are consistently among the best-performing publishers on the platform in terms of engagement, according to data from research firm NewsWhip. That is one reason Facebook also is criticized by people on the left, who say Facebook’s algorithms reward far-right content.

Twitter recently released a report claiming that its algorithm favors conservative content, an assertion that seems hard to believe. But perhaps it is true that conservative posts get more engagement on average than liberal ones.

In May 2016, the tech blog Gizmodo reported that Facebook’s “Trending Topics” list routinely suppressed conservative news. Facebook denied the allegations, but the ensuing controversy prompted claims of bias from Republicans that haven’t let up.

Some internal documents show employee antipathy toward conservative media. In 2018, an engineer who had claimed on a message board that Facebook was intolerant of conservatives, left the company. When he took his critique to Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, some Facebook employees criticized him for going on a network “so infamous and biased it can’t even call itself a news channel,” records from the message boards show. Various employees called Mr. Carlson a “white nationalist” and “partisan hack” who “looks as though he’s a Golden Retriever who has been consistently cheated out of a cache of treats.”

Tech companies generally have the problem that lower-level employees tend to have extreme left-wing political views. The Journal’s series–the linked article is one of several–suggests that more senior Facebook executives try to maintain some degree of objectivity in the face of rampant leftism from their employees. Then again, Mark Zuckerberg spent more than $400 million to help Joe Biden win the 2020 election, so one wonders how much faith we can put in that restraining influence.

Facebook’s influence on the news is extraordinary, and surprising to those of use who don’t use it, or use it rarely. The Journal article cites a Pew poll that says more than a third of Americans regularly get their news from Facebook. And that might be an undercount: I have read elsewhere that readership of news stories from outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post declines by 80% when stories are not featured on Facebook.

Rumor has it that Facebook employees have been told to brace for more explosive stories in the next few days, based on revelations from a couple of “whistle blowers.” But my impression is that those individuals are on the left, so their revelations may not give us a full picture of what has been happening in Zuckerville.