21 Perversions Inflicted by Wokeness

The list is provided by Gad Saad in his article and video Welcome To The Abyss of Infinite Lunacy.  Psychologist and author of “The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas Are Killing Common Sense,” Gad Saad, warns that society is descending into an abyss of ultimate lunacy. Text in italics with my bolds and images.

GAD SAAD: The rate at which our society is tumbling into madness is truly bewildering.

One, it is now racist for a white person to translate the work of a black person.

Two, it is now homophobic for a straight actor to play a gay role.

Three, it is now racist for a white therapist to treat a black client.

Four, it is now racist to have advanced high school programs.

Five, it is now transphobic for biological females to reject having to compete against trans women.

Six, it is now Islamophobic to criticize any tenets of Islam.

Seven, it is now science denialism to question the ongoing COVID lockdowns.

Eight, it is now science denialism to question any tenet stemming from climate change alarmists.

Nine, it is now epistemological bigotry, yes I coined that term, to support the scientific method as the means by which you adjudicate scientific hypothesis.

Ten, it is now racist to argue that mathematics yields right and wrong answers.

Eleven, it is now racist to promote the ethos of individual dignity over collectivist identity politics.

Twelve, it is now racist to question a noble person of color, be it a famous athlete or celebrity.

Thirteen, it is now transphobic to posit that only women menstruate.

Fourteen, it is now racist to publicly proclaim your support for “wrongthink” black individuals such as Thomas Sowell or Larry Elder.

Fifteen, it is now misogynist to note that women greatly outnumber men in universities.

Sixteen, it is now sexist to publish scientific research that yields sex differences that are contrary to accepted politically correct Orthodoxy.

Seventeen, it is now racist to point to FBI murder stats broken down by inter-racial markers.

Eighteen, it is now racist to openly support national borders.

Nineteen, it is now racist to seek to curb immigration from countries whose values are anti-liberal.

Twenty, it is now racist to not decolonize philosophy and literature departments.

Twenty-one, it is now racist to request that job offers be based on the merits of an individual rather than their immutable traits.

JimBob Strikes Again 2021

Here’s a current selection of cartoons Madebyjimbob.  I don’t claim all of them are new, but they are new to me, and they do provide a satirical commentary on today’s cultural foibles.  Enjoy them while you can, since humor is a threat to those in power, especially when they are too insecure to tolerate dissenting points of view.  At the end is a link to a post giving examples of Soviet dissident humor.

 


See Also Soviet Jokes About Living Under Oppression

Stress Testing for Media Bias

I was recently reminded (H/T pHil R) about Michael Crichton’s insight into our vulnerability to media bias.  He called it the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect, named after his friend, physicist Gell-Mann. 

“Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

Howard Wetsman MD takes it from there in his article A New Corollary to the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect, suggesting how to approach media reports with critical intelligence. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The corollary came to me the other day when I was reading an email string on Addiction Medicine. A couple of fathers of the field had written an article in one of those non-peer reviewed clinical newspapers that each specialty has and shared it with the group. They were showered with praise, so I started reading what they wrote. I was struck that the assumptions they made in their article directly contradicted several of the working assumptions of the group, yet the group expressed nearly universal approval with the conclusions of the article.

So the Hunt Assumption Amnesia Corollary is when experts start reading a paper, note that they disagree with some basic assumptions of the work, but keep reading and accept the conclusions, forgetting they had rejected the assumptions. This effect is rife in Addiction Medicine, and, I suspect, much of academia.

When I first learned to read a scientific paper, I was taught to go through the various sections to understand the limitations of the conclusions I’d read at the end. Did they select the subjects correctly? Did they use the right test for the question? Did they have enough subjects to power the study sufficiently? And many other important questions.

But I’ve come to find in the fullness of time that there are really only two questions I need to know when reading a paper. Were the authors aware that their assumptions are assumptions, and are they questioning them?

I want to pose my own testable hypothesis about how this corollary effect occurs. I think, if I’m right, that we’ll see it in all media.

First, the assumption is stated as fact, but in a muted way so that it slides past the readers assumption filter rather than slamming headlong into it. Then data is piled up to bolster the writer’s thesis by generalizing findings in particular situations to all situations. So, by the end of the piece any disagreement with the assumption is forgotten under the weight of “the evidence.”

A previous post is reprinted below showing how a journalism professor prepares his students to read critically media reports concerning climate change/global warming.

Decoding Climate News

Journalism professor David Blackall provides a professional context for investigative reporting I’ve been doing on this blog, along with other bloggers interested in science and climate change/global warming. His peer reviewed paper is Environmental Reporting in a Post Truth World. The excerpts below show his advice is good not only for journalists but for readers.  h/t GWPF, Pierre Gosselin

Overview: The Grand Transnational Narrative

The dominance of a ‘grand transnational narrative’ in environmental discourse (Mittal, 2012) over other human impacts, like deforestation, is problematic and is partly due to the complexities and overspecialization of climate modelling. A strategy for learning, therefore, is to instead focus on the news media: it is easily researched and it tends to act ‘as one driving force’, providing citizens with ‘piecemeal information’, making it impossible to arrive at an informed position about science, society and politics (Marisa Dispensa et al., 2003). After locating problematic news narratives, Google Scholar can then be employed to locate recent scientific papers that examine, verify or refute news media discourse.

The science publication Nature Climate Change this year, published a study demonstrating Earth this century warmed substantially less than computer-generated climate models predict.

Unfortunately for public knowledge, such findings don’t appear in the news. Sea levels too have not been obeying the ‘grand transnational narrative’ of catastrophic global warming. Sea levels around Australia 2011–2012 were measured with the most significant drops in sea levels since measurements began. . .The 2015–2016 El-Niño, a natural phenomenon, drove sea levels around Indonesia to low levels such that coral reefs were bleaching. The echo chamber of news repeatedly fails to report such phenomena and yet many studies continue to contradict mainstream news discourse.

facebook2bnew2blike2bbuttons2bfinal-970-80I will be arguing that a number of narratives need correction, and while I accept that the views I am about to express are not universally held, I believe that the scientific evidence does support them.

The Global Warming/Climate Change Narrative

The primary narrative in need of correction is that global warming alone (Lewis, 2016), which induces climate change (climate disruption), is due to the increase in global surface temperatures caused by atmospheric greenhouse gases. Instead, there are many factors arising from human land use (Pielke et al., 2016), which it could be argued are responsible for climate change, and some of these practices can be mitigated through direct public action.

Global warming is calculated by measuring average surface temperatures over time. While it is easy to argue that temperatures are increasing, it cannot be argued, as some models contend, that the increases are uniform throughout the global surface and atmosphere. Climate science is further problematized by its own scientists, in that computer modelling, as one component of this multi-faceted science, is privileged over other disciplines, like geology.

Scientific uncertainty arises from ‘simulations’ of climate because computer models are failing to match the actual climate. This means that computer models are unreliable in making predictions.

Published in the eminent journal Nature (Ma, et. al., 2017), ‘Theory of chaotic orbital variations confirmed by Cretaceous geological evidence’, provides excellent stimulus material for student news writing. The paper discusses the severe wobbles in planetary orbits, and these affect climate. The wobbles are reflected in geological records and show that the theoretical climate models are not rigorously confirmed by these radioisotopically calibrated and anchored geological data sets. Yet popular discourse presents Earth as harmonious: temperatures, sea levels and orbital patterns all naturally balanced until global warming affects them, a mythical construct. Instead, the reality is natural variability, the interactions of which are yet to be measured or discovered (Berger, 2013).

In such a (media) climate, it is difficult for the assertion to be made that there might be other sources, than a nontoxic greenhouse gas called carbon dioxide (CO2), that could be responsible for ‘climate disruption’. A healthy scientific process would allow such a proposition. Contrary to warming theory, CO2 levels have increased, but global average temperatures remain steady. The global average temperature increased from 1983 to 1998; then, it flat-lined for nearly 20 years. James Hansen’s Hockey Stick graph, with soaring and catastrophic temperatures, simply did not materialize.

As Keenan et al. (2016) found through using global carbon budget estimates, ground, atmospheric and satellite observations, and multiple global vegetation models that there is also now a pause in the growth rate of atmospheric CO2. They attribute this to increases in terrestrial sinks over the last decade, where forests consume the rising atmospheric CO2 and rapidly grow—the net effect being a slowing in the rate of warming from global respiration.

Contrary to public understanding, higher temperatures in cities are due to a phenomenon known as the ‘urban heat effect’ (Taha, 1997; Yuan & Bauer, 2007). Engines, air conditioners, heaters and heat absorbing surfaces like bitumen radiate heat energy in urban areas, but this is not due to the greenhouse effect. Problematic too are data sets like ocean heat temperatures, sea-ice thickness and glaciers: all of which are varied, some have not been measured or there are insignificant measurement time spans for the data to be reliable.

Contrary to news media reports, some glaciers throughout the world (Norway [Chinn et al., 2005] and New Zealand [Purdie et al., 2008]) are growing, while others shrink (Paul et al., 2007).

Conclusion

This is clearly a contentious topic. There are many agendas at play, with careers at stake. My view represents one side of the debate: it is one I strongly believe in, and is, I contend, supported by the science around deforestation, on the ground, rather than focusing almost entirely on atmosphere. However, as a journalism educator, I also recognize that my view, along with others, must be open to challenge, both within the scientific community and in the court of public opinion.

As a journalism educator, it is my responsibility to provide my students with the research skills they need to question—and test—the arguments put forward by the key players in any debate. Given the complexity of the climate warming debate, and the contested nature of the science that underpins both sides, this will provide challenges well into the future. It is a challenge our students should relish, particularly in an era when they are constantly being bombarded with ‘fake news’ and so-called ‘alternative facts’.

To do so, they need to understand the science. If they don’t, they need to at least understand the key players in the debate and what is motivating them. They need to be prepared to question these people and to look beyond their arguments to the agendas that may be driving them. If they don’t, we must be reconciled to a future in which ‘fake news’ becomes the norm.

Examples of my investigative reports are in Data Vs. Models posts listed at Climate Whack-a-Mole

See also Yellow Climate Journalism

Some suggestions for reading critically National Climate Assessment reports is at Impaired Climate Vision

 

 

Supremes Steer Clear of Penn Case of Election Fraud

JUST IN – U.S. Supreme Court refuses to review #Pennsylvania election cases. No standing before an election, moot after. Justices Alito, Gorsuch, and Thomas dissent from the denial. Since it only takes 4 justices to hear a case, these cases were only one vote away from getting a full hearing at the SCOTUS. (Source: Disclose.tv tweet)  Excerpts in italics with my bolds from dissenting opinions. Full text available at Gateway Pundit post Supreme Court Refuses to Review Pennsylvania Election Cases – Alito, Gorsuch and Thomas Dissent.

Justice Thomas:

Changing the rules in the middle of the game is bad enough. Such rule changes by officials who may lack authority to do so is even worse. When those changes alter election results, they can severely damage the electoral system on which our self-governance so heavily depends. If state officials have the authority they have claimed, we need to make it clear. If not, we need to put an end to this practice now before the consequences become catastrophic.

Because the judicial system is not well suited to address these kinds of questions in the short time period available immediately after an election, we ought to use available cases outside that truncated context to address these admittedly important questions. Here, we have the opportunity to do so almost two years before the next federal election cycle. Our refusal to do so by hearing these cases is befuddling. There is a clear split on an issue of such great importance that both sides previously asked us to grant certiorari. And there is no dispute that the claim is sufficiently meritorious to warrant review. By voting to grant emergency relief in October, four Justices made clear that they think petitioners are likely to prevail. Despite pressing for review in October, respondents now ask us not to grant certiorari because they think the cases are moot. That argument fails.

The issue presented is capable of repetition, yet evades review. This exception to mootness, which the Court routinely invokes in election cases, “applies where (1) the challenged action is in its duration too short to be fully litigated prior to cessation or expiration, and (2) there is a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party will be subject to the same action again.”

And there is a reasonable expectation that these petitioners—the State Republican Party and legislators—will again confront non legislative officials altering election rules. In fact, various petitions claim that no fewer than four other decisions of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court implicate the same issue.  Future cases will arise as lower state courts apply those precedents to justify intervening in elections and changing the rules.

One wonders what this Court waits for. We failed to settle this dispute before the election, and thus provide clear rules. Now we again fail to provide clear rules for future elections. The decision to leave election law hidden beneath a shroud of doubt is baffling. By doing nothing, we invite further confusion and erosion of voter confidence. Our fellow citizens deserve better and expect more of us. I respectfully dissent.

Justice Alito, joined by Justice Gorsuch:

Now, the election is over, and there is no reason for refusing to decide the important question that these cases pose. . .A decision in these cases would not have any implications regarding the 2020 election. . . But a decision would provide invaluable guidance for future elections.

Some respondents contend that the completion of the 2020 election rendered these cases moot and that they do not fall within the mootness exception for cases that present questions that are “capable of repetition” but would other-wise evade review.  They argue that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision “arose from an extraordinary and unprecedented confluence of circumstances”—specifically, the COVID–19 pandemic, an increase in mail-in voting, and Postal Service delays—and that such a perfect storm is not likely to recur. 

That argument fails for three reasons. First, it does not acknowledge the breadth of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision. That decision claims that a state constitutional provision guaranteeing “free and equal” elections gives the Pennsylvania courts the authority to override even very specific and unambiguous rules adopted by the legislature for the conduct of federal elections. . .That issue is surely capable of repetition in future elections. Indeed, it would be surprising if parties who are unhappy with the legislature’s rules do not invoke this decision and ask the state courts to substitute rules that they find more advantageous.

Second, the suggestion that we are unlikely to see a recurrence of the exact circumstances we saw this fall misunderstands the applicable legal standard. In order for a question to be capable of repetition, it is not necessary to predict that history will repeat itself at a very high level of specificity.

Third, it is highly speculative to forecast that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will not find that conditions at the time of a future federal election are materially similar to those last fall. The primary election for Pennsylvania congressional candidates is scheduled to occur in 15 months,and the rules for the conduct of elections should be established well in advance of the day of an election. . .As voting by mail becomes more common and more popular, the volume of mailed ballots may continue to increase and thus pose delivery problems similar to those anticipated in 2020.

For these reasons, the cases now before us are not moot. There is a “reasonable expectation” that the parties will face the same question in the future. . ., and that the question will evade future pre-election review, just as it did in these cases.These cases call out for review, and I respectfully dissent from the Court’s decision to deny certiorari. 

Background:  SCOTUS Conference on Election Integrity

Election Integrity is up for conference at SCOTUS on Friday.  The petition to be discussed is the complaint by the Pennsylvania legislature against the state Election Officer Boockvar, a proceeding that began on Sept. 28, 2020.  The petition makes clear the intent is not to overturn any completed election, but to ensure future elections are conducted according to laws in force.  From scotusblog:

Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar

Issue:  Whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court usurped the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s plenary authority to “direct [the] Manner” for appointing electors for president and vice president under Article II of the Constitution, as well as the assembly’s broad power to prescribe “[t]he Times, Places, and Manner” for congressional elections under Article I, when the court issued a ruling requiring the state to count absentee ballots that arrive up to three days after Election Day as long as they are not clearly postmarked after Election Day; and (2) whether that decision is preempted by federal statutes that establish a uniform nationwide federal Election Day.

The petition to be discussed is the December 15, 2020 brief from the petitioners Republican Party:

No. 20-542 REPLY BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF PETITION FOR A WRIT OF CERTIORARI

Respondents’ Oppositions only confirm what some
Respondents told the Court just weeks ago: that the
Court should grant review and resolve the important
and recurring questions presented in this case. Pa.
Dems. Br. 9, No. 20A54 (Oct. 5, 2020) (advocating for
review because the questions presented are “of
overwhelming importance for States and voters across
the country”); Sec’y Br. 2-3, No. 20A54 (Oct. 5, 2020).
Respondents uniformly fail to mention that after the
Republican Party of Pennsylvania (RPP) filed its
Petition but more than a month before Respondents
filed their Oppositions, the Eighth Circuit created a
split on the question whether the Electors Clause
constrains state courts from altering election
deadlines enacted by state legislatures. See Carson v.
Simon, 978 F.3d 1051 (8th Cir. 2020). Instead,
Respondents seek to obfuscate the matter with a
welter of vehicle arguments turning on the fact that
Pennsylvania has certified the results of the 2020
general election. In reality, however, this case is an
ideal vehicle, in part precisely because it will not affect
the outcome of this election.

Indeed, this Court has repeatedly emphasized the
imperative of settling the governing rules in advance
of the next election, in order to promote the public
“[c]onfidence in the integrity of our electoral processes
[that] is essential to the functioning of our
participatory democracy.” Purcell v. Gonzalez, 549
U.S. 1, 4 (2006). This case presents a vital and unique
opportunity to do precisely that. By resolving the
important and recurring questions now, the Court can
provide desperately needed guidance to state
legislatures and courts across the country outside the
context of a hotly disputed election and before the next
election. The alternative is for the Court to leave
legislatures and courts with a lack of advance
guidance and clarity regarding the controlling law
only to be drawn into answering these questions in
future after-the-fact litigation over a contested
election, with the accompanying time pressures and
perceptions of partisan interest.

Note:  As reported in Gateway Pundit, legally required chain of custody for ballots was broken in every battleground state and in other states as well.

Democrats Were ONLY Able to “Win” in 2020 By Breaking Chain of Custody Laws in EVERY SWING STATE

President Trump was ahead in Pennsylvania by nearly 700,000 votes.
In Michigan Trump was ahead by over 300,000 votes.
In Wisconsin Trump was ahead by 120,000 votes.

Trump was also ahead in Georgia and Nevada.

And President Trump already trounced Joe Biden in Ohio, Florida, and Iowa — three states that ALWAYS go to the eventual presidential winner.

Then suddenly Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin announced they would not be announcing their winner that night. This was an unprecedented and coordinated move in US history.

Then many crimes occurred to swing the election to Biden, but perhaps the greatest crime was the lack of dual controls and chain of custody records that ensure a fair and free election. At a high level, when ballots are transferred or changes are made in voting machines, these moves and changes should be done with two individuals present (dual control), one from each party, and the movements of ballots should be recorded.

So when states inserted drop boxes into the election, these changes first needed to be updated through the legislature, which they weren’t, and all movements from the time when the ballots were inserted into drop boxes needed to be recorded, which they weren’t.

After Counting Mail-in Ballots, Senate Finds Trump Guilty

Babylon Bee has the special report In Mail-In Impeachment Vote, Senate Convicts Trump 8275 To 3.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—In a historic move, the U.S. Senate decided to switch to voting by mail for Trump’s second impeachment trial. After all the votes were counted by an intern in a back room with no cameras, the Senate ruled to convict President Trump of incitement to violence by a vote of 8275 to 3.

“Our holy democracy has spoken,” said Senator Chuck Schumer. “Do not ask any questions or you are a blasphemer against the sacred sacredness of our vote. Everyone can go home now!”

A couple of troublemaking Senators attempted to overthrow the Constitution by bringing up the point that there are only 100 Senators, making it impossible to arrive at a tally of 8275 to 3, but they were quickly removed from the Senate Chambers and condemned for “attempting to suppress the votes of people of color.”

The Senate then moved on to other business, passing universal healthcare by a margin of 320,000 to 4.

Footnote:  SCOTUS Conference on Election Integrity

Humor aside, Election Integrity is up for conference at SCOTUS on Friday.  The petition to be discussed is the complaint by the Pennsylvania legislature against the state Election Officer Boockvar, a proceeding that began on Sept. 28, 2020.  The petition makes clear the intent is not to overturn any completed election, but to ensure future elections are conducted according to laws in force.  From scotusblog:

Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar

Issue:  Whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court usurped the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s plenary authority to “direct [the] Manner” for appointing electors for president and vice president under Article II of the Constitution, as well as the assembly’s broad power to prescribe “[t]he Times, Places, and Manner” for congressional elections under Article I, when the court issued a ruling requiring the state to count absentee ballots that arrive up to three days after Election Day as long as they are not clearly postmarked after Election Day; and (2) whether that decision is preempted by federal statutes that establish a uniform nationwide federal Election Day.

The petition to be discussed is the December 15, 2020 brief from the petitioners Republican Party:

No. 20-542 REPLY BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF PETITION FOR A WRIT OF CERTIORARI

Respondents’ Oppositions only confirm what some
Respondents told the Court just weeks ago: that the
Court should grant review and resolve the important
and recurring questions presented in this case. Pa.
Dems. Br. 9, No. 20A54 (Oct. 5, 2020) (advocating for
review because the questions presented are “of
overwhelming importance for States and voters across
the country”); Sec’y Br. 2-3, No. 20A54 (Oct. 5, 2020).
Respondents uniformly fail to mention that after the
Republican Party of Pennsylvania (RPP) filed its
Petition but more than a month before Respondents
filed their Oppositions, the Eighth Circuit created a
split on the question whether the Electors Clause
constrains state courts from altering election
deadlines enacted by state legislatures. See Carson v.
Simon, 978 F.3d 1051 (8th Cir. 2020). Instead,
Respondents seek to obfuscate the matter with a
welter of vehicle arguments turning on the fact that
Pennsylvania has certified the results of the 2020
general election. In reality, however, this case is an
ideal vehicle, in part precisely because it will not affect
the outcome of this election.

Indeed, this Court has repeatedly emphasized the
imperative of settling the governing rules in advance
of the next election, in order to promote the public
“[c]onfidence in the integrity of our electoral processes
[that] is essential to the functioning of our
participatory democracy.” Purcell v. Gonzalez, 549
U.S. 1, 4 (2006). This case presents a vital and unique
opportunity to do precisely that. By resolving the
important and recurring questions now, the Court can
provide desperately needed guidance to state
legislatures and courts across the country outside the
context of a hotly disputed election and before the next
election. The alternative is for the Court to leave
legislatures and courts with a lack of advance
guidance and clarity regarding the controlling law
only to be drawn into answering these questions in
future after-the-fact litigation over a contested
election, with the accompanying time pressures and
perceptions of partisan interest.

Note:  As reported in Gateway Pundit, legally required chain of custody for ballots was broken in every battleground state and in other states as well.

Democrats Were ONLY Able to “Win” in 2020 By Breaking Chain of Custody Laws in EVERY SWING STATE

President Trump was ahead in Pennsylvania by nearly 700,000 votes.
In Michigan Trump was ahead by over 300,000 votes.
In Wisconsin Trump was ahead by 120,000 votes.

Trump was also ahead in Georgia and Nevada.

And President Trump already trounced Joe Biden in Ohio, Florida, and Iowa — three states that ALWAYS go to the eventual presidential winner.

Then suddenly Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin announced they would not be announcing their winner that night. This was an unprecedented and coordinated move in US history.

Then many crimes occurred to swing the election to Biden, but perhaps the greatest crime was the lack of dual controls and chain of custody records that ensure a fair and free election. At a high level, when ballots are transferred or changes are made in voting machines, these moves and changes should be done with two individuals present (dual control), one from each party, and the movements of ballots should be recorded.

So when states inserted drop boxes into the election, these changes first needed to be updated through the legislature, which they weren’t, and all movements from the time when the ballots were inserted into drop boxes needed to be recorded, which they weren’t.

 

 

 

Media Chose to Lie, Not Go Broke

Martin Gurri tells the story how legacy print and tv news descended into deceit and rabble-rousing when faced with decline and eventual bankruptcy.  His article Slouching Toward Post-Journalism at City Journal is a thorough and probing analysis, of which only some excerpts are posted here, in italics with my bolds and images. The journey of the NY Times exemplifies how and why mass media went from informing to inflaming the public.

The New York Times and other elite media outlets have openly embraced advocacy over reporting.

Traditional newspapers never sold news; they sold an audience to advertisers. To a considerable degree, this commercial imperative determined the journalistic style, with its impersonal voice and pretense of objectivity. The aim was to herd the audience into a passive consumerist mass. Opinion, which divided readers, was treated like a volatile substance and fenced off from “factual” reporting.

The digital age exploded this business model. Advertisers fled to online platforms, never to return. For most newspapers, no alternative sources of revenue existed: as circulation plummets to the lowest numbers on record, more than 2,000 dailies have gone silent since the turn of the century. The survival of the rest remains an open question.

Led by the New York Times, a few prominent brand names moved to a model that sought to squeeze revenue from digital subscribers lured behind a paywall. This approach carried its own risks. The amount of information in the world was, for practical purposes, infinite. As supply vastly outstripped demand, the news now chased the reader, rather than the other way around. Today, nobody under 85 would look for news in a newspaper.

Under such circumstances, what commodity could be offered for sale?

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the Times stumbled onto a possible answer. It entailed a wrenching pivot from a journalism of fact to a “post-journalism” of opinion—a term coined, in his book of that title, by media scholar Andrey Mir. Rather than news, the paper began to sell what was, in effect, a creed, an agenda, to a congregation of like-minded souls. Post-journalism “mixes open ideological intentions with a hidden business necessity required for the media to survive,” Mir observes. The new business model required a new style of reporting. Its language aimed to commodify polarization and threat: journalists had to “scare the audience to make it donate.” At stake was survival in the digital storm.

The experiment proved controversial. It sparked a melodrama over standards at the Times, featuring a conflict between radical young reporters and befuddled middle-aged editors. In a crucible of proclamations, disputes, and meetings, the requirements of the newspaper as an institution collided with the post-journalistic call for an explicit struggle against injustice.

The old media had needed happy customers. The goal of post-journalism, according to Mir, is to “produce angry citizens.” The August 2016 article marked the point of no return in the spiritual journey of the New York Times from newspaper of record to Vatican of liberal political furor. While the impulse originated in partisan herd instinct, the discovery of a profit motive would make the change irrevocable. Rutenberg professed to find the new approach “uncomfortable” and, “by normal standards, untenable”—but the fault, he made clear, lay entirely with the “abnormal” Trump, whose toxic personality had contaminated journalism. He was the active principle in the headline “The Challenge Trump Poses to Objectivity.”

A cynic (or a conservative) might argue that objectivity in political reporting was more an empty boast than a professional standard and that the newspaper, in pandering to its audience, had long favored an urban agenda, liberal causes, and Democratic candidates. This interpretation misses the transformation in the depths that post-journalism involved. The flagship American newspaper had turned in a direction that came close to propaganda. The oppositional stance, as Mir has noted, cannot coexist with newsroom independence: writers and editors were soon to be punished for straying from the cause. The news agenda became narrower and more repetitive as journalists focused on a handful of partisan controversies—an effect that Mir labeled “discourse concentration.”  The New York Times, as a purveyor of information and a political institution, had cut itself loose from its own history.

[The Russia Collusion story] was one of the most extraordinary episodes in American politics—and the first sustained excursion into post-journalism by the American news media, led every step of the way by the New York Times.

Future media historians may hold the Trump-Russia story to be a laboratory-perfect specimen of discourse concentration. For nearly two years, it towered over the information landscape and devoured the attention of the media and the public. The total number of articles on the topic produced by the Times is difficult to measure, but a Google search suggests that it was more than 3,000—the equivalent, if accurate, of multiple articles per day for the period in question. This was journalism as if conducted under the impulse of an obsessive-compulsive personality. Virtually every report either implied or proclaimed culpability. Every day in the news marked the beginning of the Trumpian End Times.

The sum of all this sound and fury was . . . zero. The most intensively covered story in history turned out to be empty of content. Mueller’s investigation “did not identify evidence that any US persons conspired or coordinated” with the Russians. Mueller’s halting television appearance in July 2019 convinced even the most vehement partisans that he was not the knight to slay the dragon in the White House. After two years of media frenzy came an awkward moment. The New York Times had reorganized its newsroom to pursue this single story—yet, just as it had missed Trump’s coming, the paper failed to see that Trump would stay.

Yet what looked like journalistic failure was, in fact, an astonishing post-journalistic success. The intent of post-journalism was never to represent reality or inform the public but to arouse enough political fervor in readers that they wished to enter the paywall in support of the cause. This was ideology by the numbers—and the numbers were striking. Digital subscriptions to the New York Times, which had been stagnant, nearly doubled in the first year of Trump’s presidency. By August 2020, the paper had 6 million digital subscribers—six times the number on Election Day 2016 and the most in the world for any newspaper.

The Russian collusion story, though refuted objectively, had been validated subjectively, by the growth in the congregation of the paying faithful.

In throwing out the old textbook, post-journalism made transgression inevitable. In July 2019, Jonathan Weisman, who covered Congress for the Times and happened to be white, questioned on Twitter the legitimacy of leftist members of the House who happened to be black. Following criticism, Weisman deleted the offending tweets and apologized elaborately, but he was demoted nonetheless.

The dramatic confrontation had been triggered by Weisman’s tweets and the heretical headline but was really about the boundaries of expression—what was allowed and what was taboo—in a post-objective, post-journalistic time. On the contentious subjects of Trump and race, managers and reporters at the paper appeared to hold similar opinions. No one in the room defended Trump as a normal politician whose views deserved a hearing. No one questioned the notion that the United States, having elected Trump, was a fundamentally racist country. But as Baquet fielded long and pointed questions from his staff, it became clear that management and newsroom—which translated roughly to middle age and youth—held radically divergent visions of the post-journalism future.

Unlike management, the reporters were active on social media, where they had to face the most militant elements of the subscriber base. In this way, they represented the forces driving the information agenda. Baquet had disparaged Twitter and insisted that the Times would not be edited by social media. He was mistaken. The unrest in the newsroom had been propelled by outrage on the web, and the paper had quickly responded. Generational attitudes, displayed on social media, allowed no space for institutional loyalty. Baquet had demoted Weisman because of his inappropriate behavior—but the newsroom turned against him because he had picked a fight with the wrong enemy.

Two days after the town hall meeting, the New York Times inaugurated, in its magazine section, the “1619 Project”—an attempt, said Baquet, “to try to understand the forces that led to the election of Donald Trump.” Rather than dig deep into the “half of America” that had voted for the president, the newspaper chose to blame the events of 2016 on the country’s pervasive racism, not only here and now but everywhere and always.

The 1619 Project rode the social-justice ambitions of the newsroom to commodify racial polarization—and, not incidentally, to fill the void left by Robert Mueller’s failure to launch.

The project showed little interest in investigative reporting or any other form of old-school journalism. It produced no exposés of present-day injustice. Instead, it sold agenda-setting on a grand scale: the stated mission was to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the center of our national narrative.” The reportorial crunch implicit in this high-minded posture might be summarized as “All the news that’s fit to reframe history.”

The 1619 Project has come under fire for its extreme statements and many historical inaccuracies. Yet critics missed the point of the exercise, which was to stake out polarizing positions in the mode of post-truth: opinions could be transformed into facts if held passionately enough. The project became another post-journalistic triumph for the Times. Public school systems around the country have included the material in their curricula. Hannah-Jones received a Pulitzer Prize for her “sweeping, provocative, and personal essay”—possibly the first award offered for excellence in post-journalism. The focus on race propelled the Times to the vanguard of establishment opinion during the convulsions that followed the death of George Floyd under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer in May 2020.

That episode replaced the Russia collusion story as the prime manufacturer of “angry citizens” and added an element of inflexibility to the usual rigors of post-journalism. Times coverage of antipolice protests was generally sympathetic to the protesters. Trump was, of course, vilified for “fanning the strife.” But the significant change came in the severe tightening of discourse: the reframing imperative now controlled the presentation of news. Reporting minimized the violence that attended the protests, for example, and sought to keep the two phenomena sharply segregated.

Less than two weeks after Floyd’s death, amid spreading lawlessness in many American cities, the paper posted an opinion piece by Republican senator Tom Cotton in its online op-ed section, titled “Time to Send in the Troops.” It called for “an overwhelming show of force” to pacify troubled urban areas. To many loyal to the New York Times, including staff, allowing Cotton his pitch smacked of treason. Led by young black reporters, the newsroom rebelled.

Once again, the mutiny began on Twitter. Many reporters had large followings; they could appeal directly to readers. In the way of social media, the most excited voices dominated among subscribers. As the base roared, the rebels moved to confront their employer.

The history-reframing mission is now in the hands of a deeply self-righteous group that has trouble discerning the many human stopping places between true and false, good and evil, objective and subjective. According to one poll, a majority of Americans shared the opinion that Cotton expressed in his op-ed. That had no bearing on the discussion. In the letter and the town hall meetings, the rebels wielded the word “truth” as if they owned it. By their lights, Cotton had lied, and the fact that the public approved of his lies was precisely what made his piece dangerous.

Revolutions tend to radicalization. The same is true of social media mobs: they grow ever more extreme until they explode.

But the New York Times is neither of these things—it’s a business, and post-journalism is now its business model. The demand for moral clarity, pressed by those who own the truth, must increasingly resemble a quest for radical conformism; but for nonideological reasons, the demand cannot afford to leave subscriber opinion too far behind. Radicalization must balance with the bottom line.

The final paradox of post-journalism is that the generation most likely to share the moralistic attitude of the newsroom rebels is the least likely to read a newspaper. Andrey Mir, who first defined the concept, sees post-journalism as a desperate gamble, doomed in the end by demographics. For newspapers and their multiple art forms developed over a 400-year history, Mir writes, the collision with the digital tsunami was never going to be a challenge to surmount but rather “an extinction-level event.”

 

 

 

Government of the elite, by the elite and for the elite.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  Along with canceling Lincoln’s name on schools (San Fran), the left is turning his words upside down.

As Frieda Vizel explains at the Tablet, the threat in our time is the enslaving of ordinary citizens by imposing a political orthodoxy favored by some elite people and wannabes.  Her article is Conformity to the Good Is Not Good.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

These days, stringent orthodoxies seem to be the only thing on tap

These days, sadly, stringent orthodoxies seem to be the only thing on tap. For some, the dogma requires blind faith in partisan politics, even as our elected officials stoop ever lower in their conduct. For some, the dogma calls for believing our intellectual betters know best, even as their decisions—to continue and champion lockdowns as the best way to fight COVID-19, for example, even as studies show that lockdowns don’t work—run contrary to observable reality and create an endless stream of problems. Question these dogmas, question the fiery loyalty to the tribe of like-minded believers, and you meet an opposition just as vicious and close-minded as anything I’d experienced when I informed my former friends and neighbors that I was leaving the fold.

To an extent, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Most people are more or less conformists. That’s how we organize as communities, as an interconnected social species. As blogger and entrepreneur Paul Graham has noted, for this interconnectedness to work, human beings must largely not only obey rules but, frequently, enforce them when they see others deviating from the norm; only a small minority swim upstream, and those could as easily end up compromising the collective as leading it to new great heights.

If my own experience taught me anything, however, it’s that Graham is only partly right: Personalities matter, but social context may matter more. How conformist we are depends on our place in society, and how much we stand to lose or gain by conforming. Oftentimes, we don’t as much conform as stay away from the can of worms that will be too much trouble if opened. As I learned all too well in my former life, in a system like that, where people are afraid to speak because they don’t want to face the consequence, it’s the bullies that thrive.

When the most cherished value is adherence to an agreed-upon, not-to-be-questioned set of beliefs, when you walk around feeling—as most Americans currently feel—that you’re not free to speak your mind, you can expect little but stasis, or, worst, a descent into a stifling social order of repression and coercion. I’ve seen this happen in my own community. Dear reader, we do not want this to be the case in America.

I get, of course, that most people who conform to a system, even one they feel is needlessly harsh about demanding obedience, do so because they believe they’re doing something good. Sure, you may think, a bunch of people on my side, in my tribe, are much too zealous, but they mean well so I’m just going to go ahead and play for the team and not worry too much about what I can or can’t say in public. Maybe I believe that the right is too hospitable to radical groups that recycle dangerous old racial theories, but I’m conservative and don’t want to give liberals the satisfaction. Maybe I think that political correctness has gone way too far, but I’m a liberal and don’t want to say anything that would give conservatives pleasure. That sort of self-censorship is precisely how communities grow more and more airless.

After I left my community, and after the psychological wounds of seeing basically everyone I ever knew and loved turn on me healed sufficiently, one thing that gave me great strength and comfort was knowing that no matter how hurt I still felt, I was at least free to think, to speak my mind, to make decisions based on my own judgments and ideas rather than follow the herd. This, to me, is what America is very much about, and I’ve come to know it enough to realize that this freedom is neither free nor easy. It depends on our collective commitment to standing up to any and all attempts to require groupthink and conformity at all costs. Now, then, is the time for all those well-meaning people who told me I was courageous for leaving a fundamentalist sect to in turn be brave and leave their own narrow-minded silos. It’s time for us all to be brave.

Enough of Cancerous Cancel Culture

 

If you live and let live, you accept people who behave and think differently from you. The social fabric of the country is changing, but people must learn to live and let live. The opposite attitude is the current practice of denunciation,  the drive to cast into outer darkness anyone who thinks, talks or acts differently than some proscribed standard of political correctness.

This hateful, poisonous spirit sets family, friends and neighbors against one another and undermines our society and civilization.  So enough of the cancerous cancel culture; replace it with tolerance and respect for others.

A another similar expression was written by General John Stark and become the official motto of the state of New Hampshire:

The idea promoted with the NH motto and the Don’t Tread on Me phrase is simple, “leave me alone to live in peace, to do what I do best, and as long as my actions do not cause physical harm to others there is no need for your intervention. It is about free will, personal choice, and freedom without rulers or government overloads.

What is so dangerous about this current oppressive social climate is explained by Izabella Tabarovsky drawing on her experience of Soviet Russia to expose the cultural revolution currently attacking the roots of American civil society. Her article at the Tablet is The American Soviet Mentality. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Collective demonization invades our culture

Russians are fond of quoting Sergei Dovlatov, a dissident Soviet writer who emigrated to the United States in 1979: “We continuously curse Comrade Stalin, and, naturally, with good reason. And yet I want to ask: who wrote four million denunciations?” It wasn’t the fearsome heads of Soviet secret police who did that, he said. It was ordinary people.

Collective demonizations of prominent cultural figures were an integral part of the Soviet culture of denunciation that pervaded every workplace and apartment building. Perhaps the most famous such episode began on Oct. 23, 1958, when the Nobel committee informed Soviet writer Boris Pasternak that he had been selected for the Nobel Prize in literature—and plunged the writer’s life into hell. Ever since Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago had been first published the previous year (in Italy, since the writer could not publish it at home) the Communist Party and the Soviet literary establishment had their knives out for him. To the establishment, the Nobel Prize added insult to grave injury.

None of those who joined the chorus of condemnation, naturally, had read the novel—it would not be formally published in the USSR until 30 years later. But that did not stop them from mouthing the made-up charges leveled against the writer. It was during that campaign that the Soviet catchphrase “ne chital, no osuzhdayu”—“didn’t read, but disapprove”—was born: Pasternak’s accusers had coined it to protect themselves against suspicions of having come in contact with the seditious material. Days after accepting the Nobel Prize, Pasternak was forced to decline it. Yet demonization continued unabated.

Some of the greatest names in Soviet culture became targets of collective condemnations—composers Dmitry Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev; writers Anna Akhmatova and Iosif Brodsky; and many others. Bouts of hounding could go on for months and years, destroying people’s lives, health and, undoubtedly, ability to create. (The brutal onslaught undermined Pasternak’s health. He died from lung cancer a year and a half later.) But the practice wasn’t reserved for the greats alone. Factories, universities, schools, and research institutes were all suitable venues for collectively raking over the coals a hapless, ideologically ungrounded colleague who, say, failed to show up for the “voluntary-obligatory,” as a Soviet cliché went, Saturday cleanups at a local park, or a scientist who wanted to emigrate. The system also demanded expressions of collective condemnations with regards to various political matters: machinations of imperialism and reactionary forces, Israeli aggression against peaceful Arab states, the anti-Soviet international Zionist conspiracy. It was simply part of life.

Twitter has been used as a platform for exercises in unanimous condemnation
for as long as it has existed.

Countless careers and lives have been ruined as outraged mobs have descended on people whose social media gaffes or old teenage behavior were held up to public scorn and judged to be deplorable and unforgivable. But it wasn’t until the past couple of weeks that the similarity of our current culture with the Soviet practice of collective hounding presented itself to me with such stark clarity. Perhaps it was the specific professions and the cultural institutions involved—and the specific acts of writers banding together to abuse and cancel their colleagues—that brought that sordid history back.

On June 3, The New York Times published an opinion piece that much of its progressive staff found offensive and dangerous. (The author, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, had called to send in the military to curb the violence and looting that accompanied the nationwide protests against the killing of George Floyd.) The targets of their unanimous condemnation, which was gleefully joined by the Twitter proletariat, which took pleasure in helping the once-august newspaper shred itself to pieces in public, were New York Times’ opinion section editor James Bennet, who had ultimate authority for publishing the piece, though he hadn’t supervised its editing, and op-ed staff editor and writer Bari Weiss (a former Tablet staffer).

Weiss had nothing to do with editing or publishing the piece. On June 4, however, she posted a Twitter thread characterizing the internal turmoil at the Times as a “civil war” between the “(mostly young) wokes” who “call themselves liberals and progressives” and the “(mostly 40+) liberals” who adhere to “the principles of civil libertarianism.” She attributed the behavior of the “wokes” to their “safetyism” worldview, in which “the right of people to feel emotionally and psychologically safe trumps what were previously considered core liberal values, like free speech.”  See Update: Stories vs. Facts

It was just one journalist’s opinion, but to Weiss’ colleagues her semi-unflattering description of the split felt like an intolerable attack against the collective. Although Weiss did not name anyone in either the “woke” or the older “liberal” camp, her younger colleagues felt collectively attacked and slandered. They lashed out. Pretty soon, Weiss was trending on Twitter.

As the mob’s fury kicked into high gear, the language of collective outrage grew increasingly strident, even violent.

Goldie Taylor, writer and editor-at-large at The Daily Beast, queried in a since-deleted tweet why Weiss “still got her teeth.” With heads rolling at the Times—James Bennet resigned, and deputy editorial page editor James Dao was reassigned to the newsroom—one member of the staff asked for Weiss to be fired for having bad-mouthed “her younger newsroom colleagues” and insulted “all of our foreign correspondents who have actually reported from civil wars.” (It was unclear how she did that, other than having used the phrase “civil war” as a metaphor.)

Mehdi Hasan, a columnist with the Intercept, opined to his 880,000 Twitter followers that it would be strange if Weiss retained her job now that Bennet had been removed. He suggested that her thread had “mocked” her nonwhite colleagues. (It did not.) In a follow-up tweet Hasan went further, suggesting that to defend Weiss would make one a bad anti-racist—a threat based on a deeply manipulated interpretation of Weiss’ post, yet powerful enough to stop his followers from making the mistake.

All of us who came out of the Soviet system bear scars of the practice of unanimous condemnation, whether we ourselves had been targets or participants in it or not. It is partly why Soviet immigrants are often so averse to any expressions of collectivism: We have seen its ugliest expressions in our own lives and our friends’ and families’ lives. It is impossible to read the chastising remarks of Soviet writers, for whom Pasternak had been a friend and a mentor, without a sense of deep shame. Shame over the perfidy and lack of decency on display. Shame at the misrepresentations and perversions of truth. Shame at the virtue signaling and the closing of rank. Shame over the momentary and, we now know, fleeting triumph of mediocrity over talent.

In a collectivist culture, one hoped-for result of group condemnations is control—both over the target of abuse and the broader society. When sufficiently broad levels of society realize that the price of nonconformity is being publicly humiliated, expelled from the community of “people of goodwill” (another Soviet cliché) and cut off from sources of income, the powers that be need to work less hard to enforce the rules.

For the regular people—those outside prestigious cultural institutions—participation in local versions of collective hounding was not without its benefits, either. It could be an opportunity to eliminate a personal enemy or someone who was more successful and, perhaps, occupied a position you craved. You could join in condemning a neighbor at your cramped communal flat, calculating that once she was gone, you could add some precious extra square meters to your living space.

The mobs that perform the unanimous condemnation rituals of today do not follow orders from above. But that does not diminish their power to exert pressure on those under their influence.

Those of us who came out of the collectivist Soviet culture understand these dynamics instinctively. You invoked the “didn’t read, but disapprove” mantra not only to protect yourself from suspicions about your reading choices but also to communicate an eagerness to be part of the kollektiv—no matter what destructive action was next on the kollektiv’s agenda. You preemptively surrendered your personal agency in order to be in unison with the group. And this is understandable in a way: Merging with the crowd feels much better than standing alone.

Americans have discovered the way in which fear of collective disapproval breeds self-censorship and silence, which impoverish public life and creative work. The double life one ends up leading—one where there is a growing gap between one’s public and private selves—eventually begins to feel oppressive. For a significant portion of Soviet intelligentsia (artists, doctors, scientists), the burden of leading this double life played an important role in their deciding to emigrate.

Those who join in the hounding face their own hazards. The more loyalty you pledge to a group that expects you to participate in rituals of collective demonization, the more it will ask of you and the more you, too, will feel controlled. How much of your own autonomy as a thinking, feeling person are you willing to sacrifice to the collective? What inner compromises are you willing to make for the sake of being part of the group? Which personal relationships are you willing to give up?

From my vantage point, this cultural moment in these United States feels incredibly precarious.

The practice of collective condemnation feels like an assertion of a culture that ultimately tramples on the individual and creates an oppressive society. Whether that society looks like Soviet Russia, or Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, or Castro’s Cuba, or today’s China, or something uniquely 21st-century American, the failure of institutions and individuals to stand up to mob rule is no longer an option we can afford.

Comment:  Precarious, indeed.  For Background, See Patriotism vs. Multiculturalism

Salla Finland Should Host 2032 Summer Olympics

The Big Issue reports Why a tiny town in Lapland is bidding to host the summer Olympics.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The residents of the Finnish town Salla are making the most of climate change, saying they’d be the perfect host of the 2032 Olympics: “Warm heart, we have it. Warm place, coming soon.”

“Welcome to Salla, the coldest place in Finland,” says local mayor Erkki Parkkinen in a tongue-in-cheek video declaring its candidacy, as residents explain how by 2032 Salla would be the ideal host.

“In 12 years, ice will be gone and this will be a perfect lake,” says a man taking a dip in freezing water while eating an ice cream. “No more slippery ice, thanks global warming!” adds a skateboarder.

Salla may only have a population of around 3,000 people – who are greatly outnumbered by the reindeer in the area – but it has plenty of sporting facilities.

A map of the town has been created showing where activities happen. Today there is skating and curling on the frozen lake. By 2032, those will become the swimming and beach volleyball arenas.

Salla residents look forward to the impact climate change will bring

Like all other Olympic Games, branding is of prime importance. Salla’s logo has the yellow Olympic ring melting snow on a mountain. There’s also a mascot – Kesa the heat-exhausted reindeer.

Kesa, the heat exhausted reindeer is Salla’s Olympic mascot

Footnote:  Greta’s Fridays for the Future appears at the end of the video clip.  So she should go all in for Salla 2032 since she is certain the planet has a fever with a 12-year deadline.

Actually, the notion of Salla 2032 is not that far-fetched, since July average temperatures are 15 degrees Celsius, along with long days of sunshine.  Montreal hosted the 1976 summer games, and we have ice hotels in the winter and nearly as much snow as Moscow.  The comedy is about the remoteness and facilities, not about the weather.  But there is hope for Salla: in Canada our average temperatures have risen by 1.7 C over the last 70 years, and it has been a great boon for our health and prosperity, not to mention record-setting crops from more CO2 in the air.  Why not for Finland as well?

Biden’s Hostile Takeover Triggers Poison Pills

Poison Pill is a defensive mechanism technique prevalent in the corporate world to thwart a hostile takeover. It is a strategy used by the Target Company to avoid the hostile takeovers completely or at least slow down the acquiring process.(Source: financemanagement.com)

Rupert Darwall explains the traps and pitfalls in the way of the Biden agenda in his Epoch Times article Fettering Biden’s Administrative State.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Trump-era rules will constrain the new president’s activism

The administrative state will get a new lease on life under President Joe Biden, but America’s administrative state is far more constrained than that of many other countries. Britain, for example, wrote its net-zero climate target into law after only a 90-minute debate in the House of Commons, without any examination of what the cost might be. Arguably the European Union is an administrative state, where the unelected European Commission proposes legislation, enforces it, and even levies billion-euro fines on companies without so much as a court hearing.

By contrast, executive-agency rulemaking in the United States is more circumscribed. Agencies must show cause, respect precedent, and demonstrate that their rulemaking is properly grounded in the relevant statute and in a factual record sufficiently compelling to refute any suggestion that their action was “arbitrary or capricious.” They should expect controversial rules to be able to withstand challenges in the courts.

In 2016, the Supreme Court stayed the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan promulgated by the Obama administration to decarbonize the electrical grid. On the last full day of the Trump administration, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacated the Obama plan’s successor, the Affordable Clean Energy plan, in a 2-1 opinion. The majority ruled that the EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act had been too narrow; the dissenting judge—a Trump appointee—opined that both plans relied erroneously on the wrong provision of the Act to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions. These rulings illustrate just how difficult the EPA will find crafting a new rule to fulfill Biden’s promise to decarbonize the grid by 2035.[See post: Latest Court Ruling re EPA and CO2]

The new administration is constrained not only by the courts but also by the late-term rulemaking of its predecessor. It could use the 1996 Congressional Review Act to nullify recently finalized federal regulations with a simple majority vote in each house of Congress. But Republicans can inflict a political price. Last October, the Department of Labor finalized a financial factors rule. It requires managers of corporate pension plans to justify incorporation of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) factors solely on the grounds of boosting risk-adjusted investment returns by reference to generally accepted investment theories.

Wall Street hated it when the rule was first proposed, but all it does is operationalize the requirement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 that plan managers perform their duties for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits to plan beneficiaries and defraying reasonable plan expenses. In reality, opponents of the rule oppose the exclusivity hardwired into ERISA that pension savings be invested with “eye single” to the interests of plan beneficiaries. A vote to nullify the rule would be a vote in favor of socializing retirees’ savings and deploy them for wider societal ends. For Republicans, it would be a debate worth having.

Similarly, congressional Republicans can gain politically by taking a stand opposing nullification of the EPA’s Jan. 3, 2021 transparency-in-science rule. This rule broadens and strengthens the agency’s 2018 transparency rule and aims to ensure that regulatory decisions are taken on the basis of robust, verifiable scientific studies. Polling shows that voters are more motivated to support environmental regulations when presented as protecting public health. This creates a market for studies linking pollution to public-health harms, however flimsy they might be. Environmental regulations mandating national standards on ozone and PM2.5 targeting fossil-fuel combustion are often based on epidemiological studies drawing on undisclosed data that can’t be re-analyzed to check for errors and sensitivity to assumptions.

A justification often made for this anti-scientific practice is safeguarding patient anonymity in such studies, lsomething for which the new rule provides. Covering up is never a good look, however, and the spectacle of the self-proclaimed party of science arguing for secret science and against transparency would demonstrate how deeply politicized the science used to justify environmental regulation has become.

The Trump administration left the best till last. With just one week to go, on Jan. 13, the Federal Register published an EPA regulation that quickly became known as the banana peel rule. Section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act states that the EPA Administrator shall include a category of sources that “causes, or contributes significantly” to pollution anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. The new rule defines the level deemed “significant.” At the rule’s chosen level of 3 percent of U.S. stationary-source greenhouse-gas emissions, the only category deemed significant is electrical power generation—a category that accounts for 43 percent of such emissions.

Should the Biden administration ditch the 3 percent threshold and use the Clean Air Act to enmesh more sectors in greenhouse-gas targets, it will be compelled to develop an objective rationale for doing so. This is far from straightforward, hence the “banana peel” epithet. As the Trump rule notes, greenhouse gases “do not have the local, near-term ramifications found with other pollutants;” their impact is based on “cumulative global loading.” Directly or by inference, significance must therefore be linked to global emissions (U.S. power station emissions account for 3.6 percent of global emissions) and how effectively they are regulated at a global level. It would be irrational to regulate domestic emissions if there were little prospect of global emissions falling, too.

As the Obama administration realized after the collapse of the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, when China—along with India, South Africa, and Brazil—vetoed a global climate treaty, Beijing holds the key to a credible global greenhouse-gas regime. The 2014 U.S.-China climate accord negotiated by Presidents Obama and Xi paved the way for the Paris Agreement on climate the following year. Xi’s statement at the U.N. last September that China would aim for “carbon neutrality” before 2060 is widely seen as a climate gamechanger.

Writing in a January 2021 Foreign Policy essay, Ted Nordhaus and Seaver Wang argue that China’s climate diplomacy is part of a bigger geopolitical play—Beijing’s desire to “counterbalance rising Western concerns about China’s belligerent posture in the South China Sea, its saber-rattling toward Taiwan, its human-rights crackdown in Hong Kong, its genocidal assault on the Uyghur minority in northwestern China, and much more.” It would be naïve not to recognize the geostrategic and political trade-offs in elevating China as climate savior. In a break with the routine formulation of climate change as existential threat trumping all else, Nordhaus and Wang warn that “a world that succeeds in addressing climate change will not necessarily be a more equitable, inclusive, or humane one.”

On his last full day as Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo declared China’s persecution of the Uyghurs a crime against humanity. His successor agrees. During his confirmation hearing, Tony Blinken said that he supported Pompeo’s genocide finding, and that China poses “the most significant challenge” of any nation-state to the United States. China is playing for higher stakes than the climate. This reality confronts the new administration with its greatest dilemma: “saving the planet” requires appeasing Beijing. How the dilemma is resolved could well come to define Joe Biden’s presidency.