The Sovietization of California

I am writing this column upon returning home to California after five days in Florida. For the first time since my first trip to Los Angeles in 1974 and moving there two years later, I dreaded going to California.

That first trip, as a 25-year-old New Yorker, I experienced the palpable excitement looking at the American Airlines flight board at JFK airport and seeing “Los Angeles.” For most Americans, the very name “California” elicited excitement, wonder, even envy of Californians, and most of all … freedom. While America always represented freedom, within America, California exemplified freedom most of all.

Yet, here I am, sitting in a state where corruption reigns (one of the leading Democrats of the last half-century told me years ago that politicians in California are window dressing; the real power in California is wielded by unions) and where, for nine months, normal life has been shut down, schools have been closed and small businesses have been destroyed in unprecedented numbers.

During these last five days in Florida, a state governed by the pro-freedom party, I went anywhere I wanted. First and foremost, I could eat both inside and outside restaurants. At one of them, when I stood up to take photos of people dining, a patron who recognized me walked over and said, “I assume you’re just taking pictures of people eating in a restaurant.” That’s exactly what I was doing. I even took my two grandchildren to a bowling alley, which was filled with people enjoying themselves playing myriad arcade games as well as bowling.

None of that is allowed almost anywhere in California. It is becoming a police state, rooted in deception and irrationality.

Restaurants have been shut down (except for takeout orders), even for outdoor dining, for no scientific reason. After ordering Los Angeles county restaurants closed, the health authorities of Los Angeles county acknowledged in court that they had no evidence that outdoor dining was dangerous; they ordered restaurants closed, even to outdoor dining, solely in order to keep people home.

The left’s claim to “follow the science” is a lie. The left does not follow science; it follows scientists it agrees with and dismisses all other scientists as “anti-science.”

Science does not say that eating inside a restaurant at least six feet from other diners, let alone outside a restaurant, is potentially fatal, but eating inside an airplane inches from strangers is safe.

Science does not say mass protests during a pandemic (when people are constantly told to social distance) are a health benefit, but left-wing scientists say they are — when directed against racism. In June, Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins epidemiologist, tweeted: “In this moment the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus.” She cited )the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden:

“The threat to Covid control from protesting outside is tiny compared to the threat to Covid control created when governments act in ways that lose community trust. People can protest peacefully AND work together to stop Covid. Violence harms public health.”

Even The New York Times, in July, acknowledged the double standard:

“Public health experts decried the anti-lockdown protests as dangerous gatherings in a pandemic. Health experts seem less comfortable doing so now that the marches are against racism.”

Science does not say, “Men give birth” or, “Men menstruate.” But the left routinely argues that “science says” such things and that “science says” there are more than two sexes, many more.

The last time I felt I was leaving a free society and entering an unfree one was when I visited the communist countries of Eastern Europe. As a graduate student majoring in communism, during the Cold War, I would travel through the countries known as Soviet satellites: Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. In the middle of my trips, I would stop in Austria to breathe free air.

Never did I imagine I would ever experience anything analogous in America, the Land of the Free, the land of the Statue of Liberty and of the Liberty Bell. But I did yesterday, when leaving Florida and returning to California.

There is no question that America is becoming, if it hasn’t already become, two countries: one that values liberty, from small businesses being allowed to operate to people being allowed to say what they believe, and one that has contempt for liberty, from eating in restaurants to free speech.

I am asked almost daily by friends around the country and by callers to my national radio show whether I intend to stay in California. Were it not for all the close friends who live here and the synagogue I and a few friends founded, the answer would be no. But at a given point, I am sure that I will leave this Soviet satellite for a free state. The bigger and far more important question is: How long will the Soviet states of America and the free states of America remain the United States of America?

Dennis Prager, Capitalism Magazine

In a Crisis, a Compromise Solution is Worse than No Solution

The raging argument on the left between progressives who argue for radical change and centrists who advocate for incrementalism is hardly new.

Nearly a century ago, progressive titan and Wisconsin Gov. Robert La Follette and then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt were often at loggerheads over the same question.

Roosevelt, La Follette complained, was too quick to compromise with reactionaries. FDR insisted that “half a loaf is better than no bread.” While that might seem intuitively obvious, La Follette had a ready reply. “Half a loaf, as a rule, dulls the appetite, and destroys the keenness of interest in attaining the full loaf.” That can be dangerous. The average adult male requires approximately 2,500 calories of nutrition per day. Twelve hundred and fifty is better than zero, but 1,250 is still malnutrition that would eventually kill him.

Even in a long-running crisis, the sustained agitation necessary to pressure the political classes into granting concessions doesn’t usually occur before people’s suffering has become acute. If the powers that be provide partial relief in the form of a half-measure that partly alleviates a problem, angry citizens can be persuaded to put down their pitchforks and go home peaceably. Yet the problem persists.

The Affordable Care Act is a perfect example. Barack Obama became president at the peak of a major economic crisis, the subprime mortgage meltdown of 2007-09. With hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs every month, the need for government intervention in the health care system was obvious to most Americans. So Obama campaigned on major change that included a public option. Two out of three people, including many Republicans, favored a single-payer system similar to those in many other countries.

Instead, we got the watered-down ACA.

As COVID-19 has made clear, the for-profit American health care system is even more scandalously dysfunctional than it was prior to the passage of Obamacare. The ACA “marketplace” has collapsed; many places only offer one “take it or leave it” insurance plan. Nevertheless, health care is no longer a top political issue. Support for a public option or “Medicare for All” has dropped to about 50%. The Democratic Party chose to nominate someone who promised to veto Medicare for All even if both houses of Congress were to pass it.

Tens of thousands of people are still dying every year because they can’t afford to see a doctor. But in too many people’s minds, health care was partly solved. So they are no longer demanding improvements. Though it might seem counterintuitive, the politics of the health care crisis would be vastly improved had the compromise ACA never been enacted. More people would be suffering. But the absence of an existing, lame plan would add urgency (and supporters) to the fight for a real, i.e. radical, solution.

Half a loaf is killing us.

As President-elect Joe Biden fills his Cabinet with Obama-era centrists and corporatists, many Democrats say they are satisfied with the improvement over President Donald Trump: officials with government experience replacing crazies and cronies, pledges to reverse the outgoing administration’s attacks on the environment, fealty to science. They are falling into La Follette’s “half a loaf” trap. Especially on existential issues like climate change but also regarding the precarious state of the post-lockdown economy, compromise will sate the appetite for meaningful change without actually solving the problems. As with the ACA, voters will be deceived into thinking things are getting better when, in fact, they will still be getting worse, albeit perhaps at a slightly slower rate.

Climate scientists are divided between those who say we might be able to save human civilization if we achieve net zero carbon emissions within a decade (which is the goal of the Green New Deal pushed by progressives) and those who say it’s already too late. A widely reported study predicts that human civilization will collapse by 2050, yet that’s the year Biden is promising to begin net zero carbon emissions. So if we do what Biden wants, we are going to die.

Trump denied climate science, deregulated polluters and pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord. Biden appears to be an improvement. He talks about the urgency of the problem, promises to restore Obama-era regulations and to rejoin the Paris agreement. Pro-environment Democratic voters are breathing a sigh of relief.

But if the goal is to slow the rate of global warming as much as we reasonably can, both Obama’s regulations and the Paris agreement are woefully inadequate. “Marginal cuts by the U.S. don’t have a long-term overall big effect on the climate,” Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, told Scientific American in 2014.

According to National Geographic, a 2017 report by the United Nations Environment Program found that “if action to combat climate change is limited to just current pledges, the Earth will get at least 3 degrees C (5.4 degrees F) warmer by 2100 relative to preindustrial levels. This amount of warming would vastly exceed the Paris Agreement’s goal, which is to limit global warming by the end of the century to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F).”

“(3 degrees C increase) would bring mass extinctions and large parts of the planet would be uninhabitable,” the UNEP warned in 2019.

If liberals head back to brunch in a month thinking that the Biden administration will move the needle in the right direction, if they stop being terrified, we are doomed. For, as bizarre as it sounds, Donald Trump provided a valuable service when he scared the living daylights out of us.

Consider a more modern analogy than the loaf of bread: If a two-pill dose of antibiotics is required to cure an illness, taking one instead doesn’t make you half better. It actually makes you worse, because not only do you not get better but you also destroy your immune system’s ability to fight the disease.

This country is teetering on the verge of collapse. We can’t afford to settle for the single-pill solutions of incremental Bidenism.

Ted Rall, UNZ Review

“Great Spirits” versus “Useful Idiots”By NORA DIMITROVA CLINTON

How was I to resolve the irreconcilable dilemma between my passionate love for scholarship and my gut-wrenching disappointment with those American intellectuals who condoned communist crimes?

Excerpted from the author’s book, Quarantine Reflections across Two Worlds.

“Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech; which is the right of every man, as far as by it, he does not hurt or control the right of another: and this is the only check it ought to suffer, and the only bounds it ought to know.” – Benjamin Franklin, “Silence Dogood, No. 8, 9 July 1722”

I got my Ph.D. and then my first job as a classics research associate. It was a golden time: I got married, my son was born, and I had an attractive job writing scholarly books and articles and teaching classical languages. I was even fortunate to co-establish a charitable foundation with my husband and provide a modicum of help to my beloved country of birth.

After the completion of my research appointment, whose bliss had endured for seven years, I started applying for professorial positions. I sent but a handful of applications, only for opportunities that truly interested me. Although classics departments had been somewhat spared from turning into ideological conveyor belts promoting modernized Marxist dogmas and penalizing dissenters, a growing contingent of classicists taught unproven subjective theories at the expense of good old-fashioned training in facts, documents, and languages. I had no passion for disseminating such theories, having published extensively in the field of ancient documents on stone.

Finally, a dream job opened up at Berkeley for a tenure-track professorship of epigraphy—the study of writing on hard surfaces. I was invited for an interview and then to deliver a lecture—a delightful experience in a breathtaking paradise on Earth, which beckoned, sun-kissed, luscious, and laid-back, even in January. I ended up being a runner-up for the job, which in retrospect was a blessing in disguise.

While my academic hosts wined and dined me as a promising job candidate, for which I felt most obliged, they invariably took me to the Freedom of Speech Café, where I received a powerful dose of anti-American sentiment. I love and admire America, and this made my blood boil. I politely underscored that freedom of speech was a privilege this country had continually enjoyed; if socialist intellectuals wanted to experience its real absence, they should relocate to a communist country.

How was I to resolve the irreconcilable dilemma between my passionate love for scholarship and my gut-wrenching disappointment with those American intellectuals who condoned communist crimes? My parents had been academics, and I had dreamed of becoming one myself since the age of six. At that age, I wrote my first “dissertation,” which consisted of a title page; ten pages with educational illustrations

I meticulously drew and redrew, accompanied by detailed captions; and a judicious conclusion. The impetus had come from my beloved mother’s Ph.D. dissertation, which she defended at that time. Her example inspired me to produce a dissertation of my own, a term I childishly assumed derived from the word for dessert, since it served as the crowning achievement, the cherry on top of someone’s doctorate. I grew up with a profound sense of admiration for all those “great spirits,” who, according to Einstein’s prophetic adage, “always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” I felt incredibly blessed, at all academic institutions I attended, to have learned from such great spirits, who regarded facts as sacrosanct, while encouraging free thought and curiosity. To them I owe eternal thanks.

How different these honorable scholars and scientists were from the cookie-cutter proponents of pro-communist dogma and anti-American platitudes, who had replaced objective knowledge with ignorant propaganda. While constructive criticism of one’s government stimulates democracy, the Marxist intellectuals at Western universities engage in a destructive rewriting of history that defies the principles of scholarship.

Were these the same duty-bound Americans in whom millions of Eastern Europeans placed their hope of deliverance— that they will “tear down this wall” one day, gallop in on white horses, and rescue us from Big Brother? In 1986, Ivailo Petrov published Wolf Hunt, a profound and intrepid portrayal of the communist persecution of Bulgarian peasants, who lost their land, livestock, livelihood, and often lives. One of the novel’s main characters utters the wishful prophesy that the Americans will come: “If they don’t come in our time, then they’ll come in our children’s or our grandchildren’s time. This world wasn’t created yesterday, it has its way of doing things. What was again will be.” [1] Among Bulgarian dissidents, these words assumed a life of their own, repeated from mouth to mouth—whispered at first, then timidly voiced, and at last boldly proclaimed. My disillusionment with mainstream intelligentsia continued to intensify. One professor I knew, who earned a six-figure salary, was an unabashed self-proclaimed communist, who enjoyed a luxurious house with acres of majestic pines and an emerald pond. He incessantly directed invectives at the United States and sang “The Internationale” at his bon-vivant soirees, after distributing gaudy pink brochures with this dreadful anthem’s lyrics to his unfortunate guests.

The French have fittingly labeled this phenomenon “left caviar” or “champagne socialism.” Just think of George Bernard Shaw, who shamelessly propagated eugenics and genocide, offered to assist Hitler and Mussolini, and lauded Stalin’s extermination camps as though they were a quaint holiday arrangement of voluntary duration. Even more eloquent is the term “useful idiots,” allegedly coined by Lenin to describe Western intellectuals and journalists who were sympathetic to the communist regime, yet despised by its leadership for their naiveté, while being ruthlessly used by it to manipulate free-world media and impressionable young minds. I kept arguing with useful idiots, to the point of painful exasperation, and finally relinquished a successful academic career, appalled by their hypocrisy and ingratitude.

My education and the noble minds who sought to impart their wisdom to me will always be a part of my soul. I never regretted my decision to bid farewell to academia, or rather, what has become of it, and set sail on uncharted seas that guided me to a new vocational harbor I now treasure every day—but let this be the subject of another book.

Read Quarantine Reflections across Two Worlds by Nora Clinton.