Commentary: The Escalating Nationwide Battle over Private Millions to Bankroll Public Elections

Democrats across the country are pushing to continue allowing private money to fund public elections as Republicans try to limit the practice, which they say gave Joe Biden an unfair and perhaps decisive advantage in his victory over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential contest.

So far at least 10 Republican-controlled states have passed laws to prohibit or limit the use of private money in public elections. These include the swing states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Ohio. In another swing state, North Carolina, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed such legislation, as did other Democratic governors.

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Commentary: Police Officer Who Killed Ashli Babbitt was Cleared of Criminal Wrongdoing Without Interview

When U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd went on “NBC Nightly News” to tell his side of shooting and killing unarmed Jan. 6 rioter Ashli Babbitt, he made a point to note he’d been investigated by several agencies and exonerated for his actions that day.

“There’s an investigative process [and] I was cleared by the DOJ [Department of Justice], and FBI and [the D.C.] Metropolitan Police,” he told NBC News anchor Lester Holt in August, adding that the Capitol Police also cleared him of wrongdoing and decided not to discipline or demote him for the shooting.

Byrd then answered a series of questions by Holt about the shooting, but what he told the friendly journalist, he likely never told investigators. That’s because he refused to answer their questions, according to several sources and documents reviewed by RealClearInvestigations.

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Republican Shakes Up Race for California Fiscal Watchdog

Lanhee Chen

Lanhee Chen, an educator and GOP policy adviser to presidential candidates, could have reconsidered his plans to run for state controller in California after the recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom flopped so badly in September.

Despite false poll-driven drama over the summer, Newsom easily sailed to victory in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two to one and Republican registrations have continued to dwindle in recent years.

Chen, 43, certainly doesn’t need the unglamorous and usually thankless job. In recent years, the statewide-elected controller post, California’s top bean-counter and auditor, has mainly operated outside the media spotlight even though the office holder is considered the state’s chief financial officer. That could change if the next controller is willing to shake up business as usual in Sacramento— exactly what Chen is pledging to do.

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Commentary: CNN Is Winding Down Its COVID-19 Dashboard Again

Since March 20, 2020, CNN has displayed a live Covid-19 dashboard in the upper-right of its daily news programming tracking the latest pandemic numbers, including infection and death counts, as seen in the image below.

The timeline below records the total seconds of airtime each day since the start of last year in which this dashboard was visible, tracking its ebbs and flows. With the start of 2021, CNN largely phased out its dashboard, bringing it briefly back during the spread of the Delta variant and again with Omicron, but since December 23, 2021 has begun winding down its dashboard once again.

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Commentary: Shrinking the State Versus Draining the Swamp

The Republican Party is divided. An older generation supports limited government. A younger generation wants to use a large government to pursue unapologetically conservative ends.

Less than a decade ago, the Republican Party seemed wholly committed to limited government, and 2016 was thought to be a “libertarian moment.” Then Donald Trump changed everything.

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Commentary: ‘America First’ Has Answers for U.S. Crisis of Confidence

Joe Biden

A majority Americans begin 2022 full of worry and dread. During President Biden’s first year in the White House, societal anxiety surged, including among voters who identify as independents and Democrats. In the newest Axios/Momentive year-end survey, 2021 saw a 50% increase in fear about what 2022 will bring among independents. Democrats weren’t much more sanguine. They began last year with refreshing optimism as their party took control of the White House and Congress, with only 19% of Democratic voters declaring themselves fearful about 2021. By year’s end, that number had surged to 45%.

Reflecting this dour assessment, the RealClearPolitics polling average of Joe Biden’s approve/disapprove ratio also receded sharply for the last year, from a stellar 20-percentage-point surplus in his favor on Inauguration Day, to a minus- 10-point rating.

Given this environment, Republicans naturally grow more confident about the midterm elections. But taking nominal control of Capitol Hill won’t be enough. Will Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy and their lieutenants be content with stopping the woke and socialist-inspired agenda of progressives? Or will they boldly implement a full-throttle populist nationalist “America First” agenda?  

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Commentary: The United States Should Avoid Waging a Two-Front Cold War

Xi Jinping, Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin

The Biden administration appears to be heading in the direction of waging a two-front Cold War over Ukraine in Eastern Europe and Taiwan in East Asia, both of which could turn “hot” any day. The imprudence of such an approach should be obvious, but the great danger is that such “crises” could get out of hand before the leaders involved step back from the brink.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin may want to extend Russia’s rule to Ukraine and other former Soviet republics, but he definitely wants to ensure the end of NATO expansion. China’s Xi Jinping, like all of his predecessors, wants Taiwan unified with the mainland, and while he would prefer to do it peacefully, he may be willing to risk war with the United States to achieve his goal–especially if he believes he can win such a war at an acceptable cost.

That leaves the Biden administration, which to date has been sending mixed signals to both Russia and China. Administration spokespersons have warned of severe consequences should Russia invade Ukraine, but President Biden has stated that those consequences will be primarily economic in the form of sanctions. Meanwhile, President Biden has stated that the United States will defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack, but administration spokespersons have walked that back and reaffirmed the U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity.” This is a recipe for confusion, misunderstanding, and possibly war on two fronts.

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Nationwide, Americans Brace for a Busy Election 2022 Year

This past week was the last one before the US officially entered a midterm election year. Below are the latest updates.

States

In Alaska, the Lieutenant Governor is not running for reelection. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump has said he will endorse the incumbent Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy, so long as Dunleavy does not back incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski.

In Colorado, Mesa County dropped a lawsuit against their County Recorder over an ongoing dispute about attesting to documents. The County Recorder is still facing other investigations.

In Georgia, a review of elections found that only four deceased people voted in the 2020 election.

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Commentary: Republicans on College Campuses Struggle to Find Dates in Today’s Political Climate

Political polarization in the United States is bad. Americans don’t just dislike the other party; we hate anyone associated with it. We increasingly indulge our worst impulses. We grow ever-more biased against people with different political perspectives. Hatred for those in an opposition political party in the U.S. has risen steadily since 2000 – when around 10% to 20% of Democrats and Republicans said they despised the other party – to today, when about half say so.

There’s no end in sight. Generation Lab/Axios polling just released some disturbing new findings: Young Democrats really hate Republicans.

The poll asked 850 college students nationwide from Nov. 18 to 22 whether they would date someone who voted for the opposing presidential candidate. Seventy-one percent of Democrats said they would not date someone who voted for a Republican for president; 31% of Republicans said the same. Forty-one percent of Democrats said they would not shop at or support a business of someone who voted for the opposing presidential candidate; 7% of Republicans said the same. Thirty-seven percent of Democrats said that they would not be friends with someone who voted for the opposing presidential candidate; 5% of Republicans said the same. And 30% of Democrats said they would not work for someone who voted for the opposing presidential candidate; 7% of Republicans agreed.

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Commentary: The Reckless Push for Electric Vehicles at the U.S. Postal Service

As Democrats regroup and forge ahead with plans to implement components of the Build Back Better legislation killed by Senator Joe Manchin, calls for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to be given billions to electrify its vehicle fleet are likely to soon reach a fever pitch.  

USPS is a high-profile, well-regarded institution through which progressives want to unveil new programs. Progressives pulled out all the stops to provide USPS with electric vehicle funding in 2021 and will likely double down in 2022. 

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Commentary: A Coming Epidemic of Motion Sickness

The tandem rise of autonomous driving and virtual reality has the potential to revolutionize modern life. At the same time, however, the technologies could introduce an epidemic of motion sickness.

This disconcerting prospect inspired Behrang Keshavarz, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Ryerson University in Canada, and John Golding, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Westminster in the U.K., to review currently available research and, in an article recently published to the journal Current Opinion in Neurology, summarize why motion sickness occurs, who is susceptible, and what can be done about it.

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Commentary: A Scientist Debunks His Own Study on the Implications of Finger Length

Take a look at one of your hands, specifically focusing on your index finger (2D) and ring finger (4D). If you’re a man, your index finger is probably slightly shorter than your ring finger. If you’re a woman, they’re probably about the same length. How these two fingers compare might not mean much to you, but some scientists think the ratio between the lengths of these two fingers (2D:4D) can predict your health, personality, musical ability, and even your sexual orientation. Why? Because these researchers think that 2D:4D is a biomarker of exposure to higher levels of testosterone in the womb, and this, they say, can have lasting effects throughout one’s life. One of them even thinks that sports teams should use the ratio as a criterion for selecting players!

Dr. James Smoliga, a Professor of Physiology in the Department of Physical Therapy at High Point University, is not one of those scientists. Reviewing some of the more than 1,400 papers published over the past two decades linking 2D:4D to pretty much anything (reduced risk for video game addiction, sumo wrestling success, artistic ability, penis size, etc.), he grew skeptical that this one physical trait could reveal so much about our lives.

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Commentary: The Pandemic Has Increased the Need for Student Tutoring

Two people writing on a dry-erase board

The first time I caught a plagiarized essay was at the beginning of my career as an English professor over 20 years ago. Two of my students had turned in papers with more than a few suspiciously similar phrases, and a quick Google search revealed that they had lifted whole paragraphs directly from an academic website about American poetry that was, as far as I could tell, honestly trying to help students understand the subject.

The culture of student cheating on the Internet has come a long way since then, and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought it into even sharper focus. One thing that has changed dramatically in the past two decades is that students aren’t turning to crude HTML sites put together by well-intentioned poetry scholars to cheat on their assignments, but to sophisticated “homework help” sites like Chegg.com that grew by almost 70 percent during the pandemic, reaching a current market cap of $8.5 billion.

Chegg is trying to encourage university faculty to partner with it, claiming (accurately) that “90% of college students say they need more help with their studies.” But the solution to helping students with their homework isn’t to move them onto online platforms that could easily be exploited for student cheating. Rather, students need to work with peer tutors on their own campuses.

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Commentary: The Top 10 Websites for Science in 2021

Man on sight with microscope

Science communicators once again had their hands full in 2021. Between two and three million research articles were published this year, announcing discoveries from the microscopic to the cosmic and from the (relatively) mundane to the controversial. The gigantic elephant in the room – COVID-19 – also continued to hang around, killing millions while dishonest actors manufactured misinformation galore.

Separating science from pseudoscience, hype from reality, and truth from fiction, all while reporting honestly and coherently, can be a struggle. But each year, writers at a range of websites prove they are up to the task. At RealClearScience, we honor them in our annual listing of the top websites for science.

Honorable Mentions:

ScienceNews has provided dependable science journalism since 1921.

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Commentary: The Biggest Junk Science of 2021

Doctor with protective gloves handling vaccine

Just as it did last year, the most dangerous pandemic in a century spawned all sorts of junk science in 2021, running the gamut from pure quackery to ideology-fueled misinformation. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to spot junk science, especially when it’s disguised in techno-babble or parroted by governments, doctors, or other traditionally trusted sources. This sneakiness, combined with the unprecedented stress of a novel, highly-infectious disease, makes almost anyone prone to falling for BS.

To help identify junk science in the future, it’s useful to showcase junk science from the present and past. Here are six of the worst examples from this year:

6. Star NFL Quarterback Aaron Rodgers Was ‘Immunized’ Against COVID-19 With Homeopathy. Through much of the NFL season, Green Bay Packers starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers led reporters and fans to believe that he had been vaccinated against COVID-19. But when Rodgers was diagnosed with the illness in early November, it was revealed that he had not in fact been vaccinated, but rather had been ‘immunized’ with a homeopathic remedy. Homeopathy is a ridiculous, utterly disproven pseudoscience based on the magical notions that “like cures like” and that water can ‘remember’ the essence of a substance. Furthermore, according to practitioners, diluting a substance down to infinitesimal, often nonexistent amounts actually makes the homeopathic remedy stronger. In keeping with this fairytale logic, Rodgers likely imbibed a homeopathic potion (essentially just water) that before dilution may have had some sort of virus in it, and claimed that it raised his antibody levels, rendering him ‘immunized’. It’s utter nonsense.

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Commentary: Americans Believe Damaging Sleep Myths

Woman sleeping

A new survey suggests that at least half of Americans fall for a number of sleep myths, some of them quite damaging for sleep health.

Assistant Teaching Professor Elizabeth Pantesco and Associate Professor Irene Kan, both in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at Villanova University, spearheaded the research, which was recently published to the journal Sleep Health.

The duo surveyed 1,120 adults residing in the United States via CloudResearch’s Prime Panels. Participants were queried about their demographics, then asked whether they agreed or disagreed with twenty statements about sleep, for example, “Watching television in bed is a good way to relax before sleep” and “For sleeping, it is better to have a warmer bedroom than a cooler bedroom.” Unbeknownst to them, the statements were all widely recognized as myths by sleep experts.

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Commentary: The Biggest Myth About Nuclear ‘Waste’

Biohazard sign

With a dismissive wave of the hand, nuclear power opponents play their trump card to argue why they will never support this safe, dependable, carbon-free source of energy.

“Radioactive waste.”

But in doing so, they reveal their ignorance. Nuclear ‘waste’ – in the form of spent uranium fuel rods – is not really waste.

The United States, which generates about a fifth of its electricity from nuclear power, produces roughly 2,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel each year, which must be securely stored in immense concrete and steel casks for hundreds of years. That sounds like a taxing task, but if you aggregate all of the spent fuel produced in the U.S. since the 1950s, it would actually fit on one football field stacked about ten yards high. Nuclear plant operators are more than capable of handling this amount for the foreseeable future.

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Commentary: The World May See a Red Revolution Before a Green One

Chinese flag

In the current day and age, energy security is a prerequisite for national security. When America became energy independent in 2019, it freed us from the political whims of unstable countries. But dogmatic leftists across the world have made it clear that they will sacrifice energy security for their idea of necessary climate policy, seemingly undisturbed by the transfer of that security to communist and authoritarian regimes in China and Russia. As a result, the world might see a Red Revolution before it ever sees a Green one.

While in recent years the US has embraced its liquified natural gas (LNG) boom, European countries steered the other way, ramping down fossil fuel production and increasing their dependence on fossil fuel imports. They have justified this as a “necessary” sacrifice until solar and wind deployment catches up. They are seemingly unconcerned that Russia has become the EU’s largest supplier of fossil fuels, supplying around 40% of the EU’s LNG and coal. 

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REVIEW: George Will’s Thoroughly Spectacular ‘American Happiness and Its Discontents’

The first book I ever read on public policy was Compassion Versus Guilt. A collection of columns by the great Thomas Sowell, it was what I regularly referred to on all questions economic toward the end of high school, in college, and well beyond. I have it to this day, and it informs my thinking to this day.

In many ways Sowell’s collection is a look back in time. Thanks to the internet, these kinds of compilations aren’t as common nowadays. This is unfortunate, but at the same time some writers are so prominent and popular that they still rate this kind of publication. Washington Post columnist extraordinaire George Will is one of them. Thank goodness. His latest collection of essays, American Happiness and Discontents: The Unruly Torrent 2008-2020 is nothing short of spectacular. Though a little under 500 pages, I read it in a few sittings so unputdownable was it. Every column had me wanting more, which meant a few late nights and early mornings in a very short, very busy 8-day stretch.

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Commentary: The Brain May Use a Ton of Energy Because It’s ‘Leaking’

Your brain may be leaking … energy, according to a new study that may explain why your noggin consumes 20% of the energy needed to keep your body running.

The study researchers found that tiny sacs called vesicles that hold messages being transmitted between brain cells may be constantly oozing energy, and that leakage is likely a trade-off for the brain being ready to fire at all times, according to a new study published Dec. 3 in the journal Science Advances. 

“The brain is considered a very expensive organ to run,” said senior author Timothy Ryan, a professor of biochemistry at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.

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Commentary: Scientists Discover the First Millipede with More Than 1,000 Legs

Ever since humans gave millipedes their name, the leggy arthropods have had a ‘false advertising’ problem. The prefix “milli-” refers to a “thousand,” while “pede” means feet, yet no millipede had ever been found with more than a thousand legs.

Until now, that is.

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Commentary: Salvation Army’s Woke Descent Hurts Those It Serves

In regions like suburban Philadelphia, the Salvation Army’s red kettles at retail entrances are a timeless reminder of ordinary Americans’ philanthropic commitment to the less fortunate. Unfortunately, Salvation Army leaders have now dared to accuse these same Americans of participating in a “racist” society where “racial groups are placed into a hierarchy, with White or lighter-skinned people at the top.”

The organization’s “Let’s Talk About Racism” curriculum for its officers and soldiers has sparked national outrage for its admonition that white people “repent” for “racism” and for its belief that America “work[s] to keep White Americans in power.” Yet rather than admit that these woke ideas are not shared or supported by its donors or staff, the leadership of the Salvation Army has hidden its new effort from the public.

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Commentary: Great American Stories Such as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Bert and Ernie

This week in 1946, “It’s a Wonderful Life” was screened for the first time at the Globe Theatre in New York City. Audiences weren’t quite sure what to make of the film, even though it starred Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed and was directed by Frank Capra. Perhaps the economic jeopardy of life in Depression-era small towns was still all too real. Or maybe the specter of sons and husbands returning from the front reminded audiences of how many American fighting men had not come back from Europe or the Pacific.

Stewart, the leading man who portrayed small-town savings-and-loan owner George Bailey in Capra’s movie, was such a charismatic leading man that when studio executive Jack Warner heard in 1965 about Ronald Reagan’s plans to run for governor of California, he quipped, “No, no! Jimmy Stewart for governor. Ronald Reagan for best friend.”

But casting in movies, as in life, can be deceiving. It was something of an in-joke, for instance, to have Jimmy Stewart play the older brother who flunks his Army physical in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and can’t go to war. In real life, Stewart and Frank Capra both enlisted in the military after making “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” together in 1939. The Italian-born Capra, then in his 40s, produced an evocative series of films for the military called “Why We Fight.” Stewart did his part, too, and then some. After winning Best Actor for his role in 1940’s “The Philadelphia Story,” Stewart had become the most bankable star in Hollywood. Nonetheless, by the time Pearl Harbor was bombed, he was already in uniform, pulling duty at Moffett Field, south of San Francisco, in the Army Air Corps. By the end of World War II, Stewart had flown 20 combat missions in a B-24, become a squadron leader, been awarded a chest full of medals, and risen in rank from corporal to colonel.

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Commentary: Abundant Evidence Shows Critical Race Theory Is in Our Schools

Mary Nicely, who is now second-in-command at the California Department of Education, went on her personal Facebook page this summer to denounce conservatives who oppose teaching critical race theory in schools as “yet another White right and education reformer distraction.”

Nicely also reposted a newspaper column in July defining critical race theory as a key used in law schools to expose racism in the legal system: “It is taught, if at all, in law school — not high school.”

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Commentary: Biden’s Blind Spot on Democracy

President Biden’s Summit for Democracy hasn’t yet provoked the sort of debate about Biden’s relationship to his church that abortion has. But questions about the president’s adherence to church teaching may be as applicable to democracy as it is to a woman’s right to choose since, in both cases, Roman Catholicism has much to say. In the case of democracy, Americans used to view Rome, a hierarchical church that had a long history of cooperation with emperors and monarchs, as an arch opponent of the nation’s democratic politics. Until the 1960s, the perception may have been accurate, but today it is a relic of an earlier era in church history.

One question that emerged after the Summit for Democracy is whether Biden’s faith might explain the presence of nations who seem to lean more authoritarian than democratic. As the story in the New York Times put it, “It was no surprise that China and Russia were not included, but the administration was second-guessed for its decision to invite other countries with checkered human rights records, like the Philippines and Nigeria, while excluding NATO allies Turkey and Hungary, both led by rulers with authoritarian streaks.”

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Commentary: Dismissals of Safe Outpatient Drugs Cause Needless COVID Deaths According to Doctors

For the first nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no officially approved outpatient treatments for combating the disease. From March 2020, when the virus first emerged in the United States, until that November, when the Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of monoclonal antibodies, health authorities advised that the infected do little but quarantine themselves, drink plenty of fluids and rest unless hospitalization was necessary.

During those chaotic final months of Donald Trump’s presidency, the medical establishment expressed extreme caution regarding outpatient treatments for the virus, and these warnings were amplified by major media hostile to the president, for example when he touted the anti-malaria medicine hydroxychloroquine.

Although an estimated 12% to 38% of prescriptions are written for FDA-approved drugs used “off-label” (including Botox and Viagra), Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, declared early on that providers should dispense only medicines proven to be safe and effective for COVID patients through “randomized, placebo-controlled trials.” These can take months or years to conduct, and often at great cost.

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Commentary: Gun Storage Laws Would Do More Harm Than Good

Shortly after the Oxford High School shooting last Tuesday, politicians started calling for more gun control.

“Michigan’s laws are woefully inadequate,” Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald (pictured) announced at a press conference. “We [Michigan] don’t have a safe storage law. We’re not legally required to store your weapon in a safe manner. Children are allowed to attend [gun ranges] with their parents. … We don’t have strong enough laws.”

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Commentary: Gun Storage Laws Would Do More Harm Than Good

Shortly after the Oxford High School shooting last Tuesday, politicians started calling for more gun control.

“Michigan’s laws are woefully inadequate,” Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald (pictured) announced at a press conference. “We [Michigan] don’t have a safe storage law. We’re not legally required to store your weapon in a safe manner. Children are allowed to attend [gun ranges] with their parents. … We don’t have strong enough laws.”

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Commentary: Recall, Remove and Replace Every Last Soros Prosecutor

George Soros

Last year, our nation experienced the largest increase in murder in American history and the largest number of drug overdose deaths ever recorded. This carnage continues today and is not distributed equally. Instead, it is concentrated in cities and localities where radical, left-wing, George Soros progressives have captured state and district attorney offices. These legal arsonists condemn our rule of law as “systemically racist” and have not simply abused prosecutorial discretion, they have embraced prosecutorial nullification. As a result, a contagion of crime has infected virtually every neighborhood under their charge.

Soros prosecutors refuse to enforce laws against shoplifting, drug trafficking, and entire categories of felonies and misdemeanors. In Chicago, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx allows theft under $1,000 to go unpunished. In Manhattan, District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. refuses to enforce laws against prostitution. In Baltimore, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has unilaterally declared the war on drugs “over” and is refusing to criminally charge drug dealers in the middle of the worst drug crisis in American history. For a time, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon even stopped enforcing laws against disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, and making criminal threats.

All of these cities have paid a terrible price for these insane policies. Last year, the number of homicides in Chicago rose by 56%, and more than 1,000 Cook County residents have been murdered in 2021. In New York City, murder increased 47% and shootings soared 97%. In 2020, the murder rate in Baltimore was higher than El Salvador’s or Guatemala’s — nations from which citizens often attempt to claim asylum purely based on gang violence and murder—and this year murder in Baltimore is on track to be even higher. Murder in Los Angeles rose 36% last year and is on track to rise another 17% this year.

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Commentary: The Worst Excuses for the Lockdowns Were the Initial Ones

The following is an excerpt from “When Politicians Panicked: The New Coronavirus, Expert Opinion, and a Tragic Lapse of Reason” (Simon & Schuster, 2021).   

Let’s travel back in time to March of 2020. It was then that predictions of mass death related to the new coronavirus started to gain currency. One study, conducted by Imperial College’s Neil Ferguson, indicated that U.S. deaths alone would exceed 2 million.   

The above number is often used, even by conservatives and libertarians, as justification for the initial lockdowns. “We knew so little” is the excuse, and with so many deaths expected, can anyone blame local, state and national politicians for panicking? The answer is a resounding yes.

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FBI Now Warns of Missing Persons Scams on Social Media

There is a new type of cyber-enabled fraud that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning the public about – missing persons scams using social media. Scammers use information posted about missing persons on social media websites to target and exploit the victim’s family and friends network.

It is common for scammers to only request small amounts of money as missing persons scams tend to be a quick cash-grab. In addition to small requests, scammers tend to express some level of urgency in the payment by claiming the victim is either injured or sick.

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Commentary: Poll Reveals Education Quality, Curriculum Stoke Parents’ Concern

After a year in which parents across the country began exercising more political power at school board meetings and through activist groups, the COVID-fueled parent movement is unlikely to subside any time soon, a new poll released Monday found.

Even as some school districts in Oregon and other locales this year suspended math and reading proficiency graduation requirements, most Americans believe public school academic standards aren’t high enough.

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Commentary: As Biden Courts Unions, Poll Shows Voter Split on Labor

Staff were still finding their desks at the White House when the new first lady hosted a summit to celebrate educators. There were just two guests invited on that first full day of the new administration: the leaders of the two largest public teacher unions in the country. And not that there was ever any confusion, but Jill Biden assured them both that organized labor “will always have a seat at the table.”

That has been true throughout the 46th president’s first year. For the Bidens, unions aren’t a casual part of some coalition. Labor is family. The first lady is a card-carrying member of the National Education Association. It is personal when Joe Biden promises to govern as “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.”

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Commentary: The Collapse of Yellow School Bus Transport

Between 2012 and 2019, student ridership on school district buses declined nationally by 3.8 million riders. The drop is owed to various factors, especially increased demand for drivers in private industry. The COVID-19 pandemic intensified the trend, via a combination of even more demand for drivers with Commercial Drivers Licenses and reluctance of older drivers to return to work after the shutdown. A nationwide bus driver shortage has been in the headlines this fall, with stories focusing on stranded students and; most dramatically, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker called out the national guard to drive buses.

The decline of the yellow bus system presents an equity challenge for students. In a choice-based education system, lack of bus transport in certain areas means that children in those areas will have fewer schooling options. The problem will require an urgent effort to modernize. Nationwide, only about a third of students took buses to school in 2017, but in some states the figure is considerably lower – such as Arizona, where it had 23% by 2019.

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Commentary: DC Bar Association Restores Convicted FBI Russiagate Lawyer to ‘Good Standing’ Amid Irregularities

A former senior FBI lawyer who falsified a surveillance document in the Trump-Russia investigation has been restored as a member in “good standing” by the District of Columbia Bar Association even though he has yet to finish serving out his probation as a convicted felon, according to disciplinary records obtained by RealClearInvestigations.

The move is the latest in a series of exceptions the bar has made for Kevin Clinesmith, who pleaded guilty in August 2020 to doctoring an email used to justify a surveillance warrant targeting former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

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Commentary: U.S. Drug Agents Ramp Up Fentanyl Counterattack on Chinese Mainland — as DEA Faces Its Own Troubles at Home

U.S. drug agents are expanding operations in China – six years after America’s largest trading partner and global rival emerged as the main source of chemicals used to make highly lethal fentanyl. It’s now claiming 65,000 American lives a year.

The small crew of about a dozen Drug Enforcement Administration agents, including those in new outposts in Shanghai and Guangzhou, is nearly double the number in 2018. They face what seems like mission impossible: collaborating with Chinese agents to try to bust traffickers hidden somewhere in a sprawling export supply chain that’s linked to 160,000 companies.

“It’s such a massive chemical industry, and then there are layer upon layer of traders, brokers and freight forwarders,” says Russ Holske, the DEA’s director for the Far East, who set up the new offices in China before he retired. “It’s a daunting challenge.”

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Commentary: The U.S. Might Lose the Tech War in Its Own Hemisphere

South America has sat within the U.S. sphere of interest since the Monroe Doctrine was enunciated in 1823. Now that may be changing, thanks to the inroads that Chinese telecom companies such as Huawei are making in the region’s economies. The advent of 5G networks is showcasing Beijing’s growing ability to rival Washington in South America.

That rivalry isn’t discussed too much in the region itself. Governments in Latin America mostly take a pragmatic approach, waiting for the lowest bidder while trying to remain as friendly as possible with each side. These tendencies hold true for most facets of U.S.-China competition in Latin America, but especially in South America, which is home to several major economies that are more politically and economically independent from the United States than closer neighbors such as Mexico.

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Commentary: The Rise of Climate Terrorism

As I wrote in We Need Leaders Who Prioritize People Over Molecules, climate alarmists “seem to have portrayed the problem [of climate change] in such an extremist way that they have convinced a growing army of climate warriors that terrorism is justified.”

Consider that Tracy Stone-Manning, Biden’s appointment to Director of the Bureau of Land Management, was confirmed by Congress despite proof that she was involved in eco-terrorism and lying under oath.

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Commentary: Platform Transparency Can Help Build Antitrust Cases

There is growing bipartisan concern over the power Silicon Valley’s oligopolies wield over American society. Amazon alone controls 72% of U.S. adult book sales, Airbnb accounts for a fifth of domestic lodging expenditures and Facebook accounts for almost three-quarters of social media visits. Just two companies, Apple and Google, act as gatekeepers to 99% of smartphones, while two others, Uber and Lyft, control 98% of the ride-share market in the U.S. Yet, for government to take robust antitrust action against Silicon Valley requires the kind of data it currently lacks: documenting the harm this market consolidation inflicts on consumers. A new RealClearFoundation report offers a look at how amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to require platform transparency could aid such antitrust efforts.

When it comes to Silicon Valley’s social media platforms, they have long argued that antitrust laws don’t apply to them because their services are provided free of charge. In reality, users do pay for their services: with their data rather than their money. Companies today harvest vast amounts of private information about their users every day, using that data to invisibly nudge their users toward purchases and consuming ads, or the companies simply sell that data outright.

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Commentary: A Market-Driven Solution to the Student-Loan Debt Spiral

Graduation caps being thrown in the air.

It’s calculated that somewhere north of 45 million Americans have run up $1.73 trillion worth of college debt. The numbers may surprise a lot or a little, which is really not the point.

The main thing is that debt now measured in the trillions is in a sense a logical midpoint to the federal government’s unfortunate involvement in the financing of college education. “No one spends the money of others very carefully” is a truth as old as humanity (or money) is, and the trillions worth of federal student loan debt vivify this truth. We know this because the hangovers (literal and figurative) from time spent on campus continue to grow.

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Commentary: Unions Aligning with America First

After intense negotiations, the United Auto Workers secured a new agreement with Ford, General Motors, and their suppliers that effectively prohibits a vaccine mandate for employees by requiring only “voluntary” disclosure of vaccination status for union members. This hard-won validation for workers points to a larger opportunity for the America First movement and organized labor to acknowledge that they are natural allies.

On critical issues ranging from medical privacy to border security and foreign trade, the emerging populist and nationalist consensus of the New Right creates an obvious home for unionized Americans. The America First cause can, in turn, help revitalize private-sector unions and guarantee a more prosperous society for our country, with a stronger middle class through a better diffusion of economic and political power.

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Commentary: Court’s Legitimacy Depends on Overturning Roe v. Wade

When the U.S. Supreme Court takes up Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization today, it will be asked to overrule Roe v. Wade, the court’s 50-year-old precedent that created a constitutional right to abortion.  Legions of commentators are turning out to defend Roe, claiming that the Supreme Court’s legitimacy depends on reaffirming it.  They are wrong.

The majority’s opinion in Roe has undermined the court’s legitimacy for nearly a half-century. Roe relied on dubious reasoning to remove a contentious policy issue from the reach of the American people, placing all abortion policy in the hands of the unelected and unaccountable judiciary. As a result, Roe has politicized the court and poisoned the judiciary. The most legitimate thing the Supreme Court can do is overrule Roe.

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Analysis: Teacher Unions, Parents Gird for 2022 Battles

Protestor with megaphone, talking

Over the last year, school board meetings have become ground zero for the country’s culture wars as irate parents have showed up in droves to decry school COVID closures, mask mandates, and critical race theory, as well as transgender policies.

After political analysts credited a parental uprising with helping Republican political newcomer Glenn Youngkin capture the Virginia governorship this month, these fights show no sign of easing. Both major political parties are already gearing up for next year’s midterm elections with Republicans sensing an advantage and Democrats digging in to defend beleaguered school boards, teacher unions, and the progressive policies they hold dear.

This week, conservative parents and their supporters are expressing new outrage over news that the FBI is placing “threat tags” on individuals accused of harassing or trying to intimidate school board members and teachers. For months, disgruntled parents have angrily targeted school board trustees for recalls across the nation, regularly denouncing union control of the schools as the crux of the problem. Recall attempts against school board trustees have tripled in 2021, targeting at least 216 officials, according to Ballotpedia.

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Commentary: Green Technologies Have a Glaring Problem of Scale

In the context of the massive attention paid to climate change, nations around the world have committed to substantially reducing and even eliminating their carbon emissions by 2050. Achieving these goals relies on several ‘green’ technologies that would form the basis of a future energy system. As envisioned, mass deployment of these technologies will encounter fundamental physical limits that call into question their ability to function as replacements for their equivalents in the current energy system. By placing firm targets, nations around the world have committed to terminating their carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 to offer confidence that a better world is achievable if only society implements the right policies and employs the correct technologies. This assumption is inaccurate, based on a view that is at odds with nature.

Due to unavoidable physical constraints, future green technologies offer little promise for achieving economies of scale. Many of the improvements suggested to improve their performance remain marginal and frequently come with the environmental costs of additional embedded energy requirements, extensive land use and greater material complexity. The outcomes achieved under laboratory conditions are not guaranteed to be viable at the scale necessary for them to make a significant difference.

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Commentary: The Border Is a Major Problem for Biden and America

The Biden administration is drowning on issue after issue, and many of the bubbles are coming from the Rio Grande River. The problem, which dare not speak its name, is illegal immigration. The administration, its political party, and the mainstream media refuse to say the very word “illegal.” For a while, they called it “undocumented,” pretending the migrants somehow forgot their papers in the top dresser drawer in Guatemala or Haiti. Now, even that bland phrase is deemed too clear and honest. The new woke term is “irregular immigration.” Anything to minimize the problem, sway public opinion, and avoid plain talk.

The obfuscation goes much further than a few phrases. Consider Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas’ testimony to Congress last week, where he faced awkward questions about the administration’s decision to stop building the border wall, including portions that had already been contracted and paid for. Mayorkas’ reply, “We are not going to construct a border wall along the ragged and jagged cliffs along certain parts of the border.”

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Commentary: Biden Using Backdoor Rule to Pass Free College Agenda

Americans by and large oppose giveaways to the affluent or privileged, which explains why they consistently oppose forgiving college student-loan debt. Eighty percent of Americans have no student loan debt, and those who carry debt are disproportionately millennials with advanced degrees – and higher earning potential. Easy loan forgiveness falls under the umbrella of the free college agenda championed by most Democrats, but strong opposition led the Biden administration to drop free college from the spending bill it proposed last month.

Not to worry: Democrats discovered a backdoor to free college through an obscure and arcane Department of Education (DOE) rule. Known as Borrower Defense to Repayment (BDR), the rule existed as little more than a formality in the annals of the Federal Register, a stopgap to finalize the Federal Direct Loan Program. Through the first twenty years of its existence, it was implemented just five times, but it has now evolved into a battering ram for Democrats to get free college through the political barricades.

In 2015, Corinthian Colleges, which enrolled over 100,000 students at its 100 subsidiary campuses, filed for bankruptcy. The school’s collapse coincided with growing momentum for the “cancel college debt” and “free college” campaigns, which had evolved out of the Occupy Wall Street movement of the early 2010s and found friendly supporters in Congress, such as Senators Elizabeth Warren and Dick Durbin.

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Commentary: Alzheimer’s Research Pipeline Is Poised to Conquer Alzheimer’s with Combination Drug Treatments

The recent approval of Aduhelm, a drug that removes amyloid plaques from the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, is a reason for cautious celebration. Not just because it is the first new treatment approved in 17 years, but because it is the first piece of a complex puzzle that researchers are hot on the trail of solving.

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Commentary: Conservatives Will Embrace Free Market Populism

It would be an understatement to say that former President Donald Trump changed the Republican Party. Whatever one’s view of Trump, most observers can agree that Trump forced a break-up between the GOP and big business. Within conservative circles, debate persists over whether this is a good thing. On one side, writers like Oren Cass urge conservatives to embrace an essentially anti-free market approach. Even some Republican politicians, like Senator Josh Hawley, have expressed support for this path. On the other side, publications like the Washington Times and The Federalist call for conservatives to continue to support the free market. Others view the GOP as only selectively anti-big business, or using the idea for rhetorical purposes only.

Populism, Conservatism, and Trump

It is important to reflect on what has fueled this “anti-business” view in some conservative circles. To sum it up in one word: populism. It’s no secret that Trump’s political identity is centered around populism – but does populism always mean being anti-free market? Trump’s conservatism has been about more than just pro-tariff and anti-immigration policies. Under Trump, both inside and outside his administration, conservatives have pursued further privatizing education. The Trump administration made it easier for big business to classify workers as independent contractors, and conservative blogs attacked California for passing a law that did the opposite. The Trump administration pursued several policies that sought to reign in the Affordable Care Act.

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