Monday, September 27, 2021

The Hunter Biden Cover-Up Is a Scandal

The Hunter Biden email cover-up may not be the most contemptible example of the modern political media’s corruption, but it is probably the most demonstrable.

Politico reports that Ben Schreckinger’s new book, “The Bidens: Inside the First Family’s Fifty-Year Rise to Power,” corroborates much of the New York Post’s pre-election reporting on Hunter Biden’s emails. Two of them stick out: The first is a 2015 missive from a Ukrainian businessman thanking Hunter for the chance to meet Joe Biden — then, still vice president. The second is a 2017 email in which a proposed equity breakdown of a venture with Chinese energy executives included the line, “10 held by H for the big guy?”

Of course, the New York Post story already had more substantiation than the histrionic and fallacious Russia-collusion scoops the nation had been subjected to for four years. The Post had reported, in great detail, how it had physically obtained Hunter’s laptop. They had interviewed the owner of the Delaware computer shop where Hunter had abandoned his computer. They had Hunter’s signature on a receipt. The Post had on-the-record sources with intimate knowledge of Hunter’s interactions. And later, the emails were authenticated by forensic specialists.

Yet virtually the entire censorious journalistic establishment, with the help of tech giants, attempted to limit the story’s exposure by banning it outright, creating the impression that it didn’t meet proper journalistic standards or that it had been planted by Russian spooks.

Only a month earlier, Jeffrey Goldberg had published a highly shared Atlantic piece accusing Donald Trump of besmirching the American military in which he failed to offer a single on-the-record source or corroborating evidence — and then refused to respond to the 21 sources, including on-the-record eyewitnesses, who publicly refuted his account. And a few months later, the media were breathlessly reporting the infamous Russian-bounty story, about Russia paying the Taliban to kill coalition troops, including Americans. This, too, turned out to be another in a long line of “fake news” pieces. This had gone on for years. Is it any wonder that trust in the media dropped from 70% in 2016 to 35% this year?

CNN, where unsubstantiated gang-rape allegations against Brett Kavanaugh were treated as legitimate news, wrote a piece headlined: “The anatomy of the New York Post’s dubious Hunter Biden story.” What was dubious about it? CNN’s chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter, who regularly hosted the raving smear-peddler Michael Avenatti (now in prison for extortion), said of the New York Post, “We are not talking about fully reliable sources here.” Well, I suppose, the one thing the Post had going for it over CNN in its investigation of a presidential son was the presence of a nonimaginary source.

When Hunter’s former partner and Navy veteran Tony Bobulinski was interviewed on Tucker Carlson, he claimed he’d had a business meeting with Joe Biden in 2017 and that the former vice president had been intimately involved in the family business for years. We now have emails that lend credence to those claims.

We shouldn’t forget, either, that there is still no widespread reporting on evidence showing that the president may have benefited from his son’s shady overseas scams. Perhaps Hunter lied in the emails about the “Big Man” getting paid, but on numerous occasions, Joe Biden denied having any knowledge about Hunter’s business deals or his use of family ties to strike deals with Chinese Communists and Ukrainian energy interests. Does anyone believe that Biden didn’t ask his son what he was doing when Hunter tagged along on an Air Force Two trip to China in 2013? When Hunter became a board member of Burisma in 2014, contemporaneous news reports suggested there was a conflict of interest, given his father’s position. Did Biden not read those pieces?

Two Obama-administration officials reportedly raised the ethical problems with Hunter’s dealings. But Joe never discussed this with anyone?
It’s a risible claim.

Much of the reticence in investigating Hunter Biden was surely a reaction to the fallout over the Hillary Clinton email scandal. A revisionist history has emerged in which Hillary was the victim of an unfair and unnewsworthy story. In reality, because of her reckless and potentially criminal behavior, there was an open FBI investigation into the front-running presidential candidate for the presidency of the United States. If anything, Hillary is lucky that James Comey let her off the hook.

Still, political media weren’t going to have a repeat of 2016 and ruin the Democrats’ chances. We don’t know whether Joe Biden has engaged in any criminal, corrupt or even fishy behavior — and major outlets seem determined to never find out. And it speaks poorly of the nation’s political media, to say the least, that Americans have a better chance of learning what Biden’s favorite ice-cream flavor is than whether he knew about, or cashed in on, his son’s corrupt adventures.

The Coming Climate Crisis Shakedown in Scotland

“Follow the money!”

The old maxim is always sound advice when assessing the motives of those advancing bold agendas for the benefit of mankind.

Invariably, the newest progressive idea entails a transfer of wealth from the taxpaying classes of Western nations to our transnational, global and Third World elites.

For the masters of the universe, establishing justice and equality for the world’s poor are rewarding exercises in every sense of the word.

Consider the 2015 Paris climate accords.

Its declared goal: Save the planet from the ravages of climate change, which is caused by carbon dioxide emissions, which are produced by industrial nations with too many of the world’s factories, farms, ships, planes and autos.

Under the Paris accords, wealthier nations of the West were to set and meet strict national targets for reducing their carbon emissions.

Together, these reductions were to prevent any rise in the planet’s temperature of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

This was presented as the world’s last best hope of preventing a climate catastrophe in this century.

Among the warnings the climate has been sending us:

The melting of polar ice caps, killer hurricanes, droughts, wildfires such as we had this year in California, river floods in Europe, rising sea levels, and the swamping of coastal towns, cities and islands like the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

With the apocalypse thus laid out if we failed to act, there arose the inevitable question:

How much hard cash would the global elites and their Third World clients be needing from the West — to grant the West an absolution for its past sins of carbon emissions?

Answer: The rich nations would fork over $100 billion yearly to repair damage done by climate change to the poorer nations and to compensate them for reorienting their energy dependence away from coal, oil and gas, to greener forms like sun, wind and water.

But in 2016, an inconceivable event aborted the Paris climate scheme. The Americans elected Donald Trump. Calling the Paris deal a rip-off of his country, Trump swiftly pulled the U.S. out of the accords.

Upon what grounds?

Put simply, America First. Under the Paris accords, the U.S. was to cut back carbon emissions annually and contribute the lion’s share of the $100 billion annual wealth transfer for the developing world.

Meanwhile, China, the world’s number one polluter, if carbon dioxide is a pollutant, was to be permitted to increase its carbon emissions until 2030. Thus, today, China is responsible for 28% of world carbon emissions, while the U.S. contribution is half of that, and falling.

Came then President Joe Biden, who immediately reentered the Paris deal.

In April, he pledged to pony up $5.7 billion as a payment on our share of the $100 billion.

At the U.N. last week, he pledged to double that contribution to $11.4 billion. Congress has yet to appropriate either sum.

China’s game? Beijing is suggesting that it wants to stay cooperative. “China will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad,” pledged Chinese President Xi Jinping in prerecorded remarks to the U.N. General Assembly.

Yet, as the New York Times writes, in 2020, China “built more than three times more new coal power capacity than all other countries in the world combined, equal to ‘more than one large coal plant per week.'”

Yet there are trade-offs here.

Those Chinese coal-fired plants in poorer nations do contribute to global carbon emissions.

But such coal plants also enable the peoples of Asia and Africa to enjoy the benefit such plants produce — electricity, heat, light. These can make life far better for 21st-century Asians and Africans, just as coal and oil made life better for 19th- and 20th-century Americans

In Glasgow from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, the U.K.’s Boris Johnson will host the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26.

There, new demands will be made on the Americans, both for more money and new reductions in carbon emissions.

A paradigm, a pattern, has been long set.

Brand the U.S. as history’s great producer of carbon dioxide. Depict the Second and Third Worlds as victims of American self-indulgence. And get on with the shakedown. Demand more money. Castigate the Americans by calling Biden’s $11.4 billion a pittance, not enough.

One wonders: Among the climate elites, how many will be traveling to Glasgow on commercial and private jets, and how many will be battling climate change by arriving by boat, bus or bicycle?

If this New World Order crowd wanted both to set an example and cut the carbon footprint, why not do a virtual summit?

As for the Chinese, we should probably be prepared for one of those “offers they can’t refuse”:

“If you Americans want China’s cooperation on climate change, you might want to cut back your propaganda about the ‘Wuhan virus,’ Hong Kong, the South China Sea, Taiwan and those allegations of ‘genocide’ against the Uyghurs.”

A Tale of Two Pandemics

As Charles Dickens wrote many years ago, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Oh, how true it is today, as we watch Western culture crumble around us — toddlers being forcefully removed from airplanes for not wearing a mask, as Hollywood celebrities and socialist U.S. Representatives gleefully hobnob without such encumbrances. A time when a California mayor decries the “fun police” even as real police crack the skulls of those commoners who defy her mask orders.

To label this the age of foolishness would be a gross understatement.

Americans already were close to a boiling point over vexatious COVID mandates and rules, but last week’s flagrant parading of Leftist Elites’ disdain for the same rules may turn out to be the final straw. When caught violating her own rules, San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s response was precisely what you would expect of someone not only oblivious to her hypocrisy, but resentful of being publicly outed for it.

People are tired of being told to “follow the science” or “do our part,” when such diktat clearly serves as a smokescreen for policies that directly contradict the science, or to protect elites who have no interest in sharing the burden with the rest of us. Then again, as I wrote recently, it was never about science or sacrifice for Democrats. They have their pandemic, and we have ours, each with its set of very distinct — and very different — rules.

It is and always has been about control, and it is hardly a new phenomenon.

Hollywood elites have long lectured us about global warming all while jet setting across the globe in private planes, because their “busy schedules” leave them so little time for standing in line at TSA airport checkpoints. Marxist Black Lives Matter leaders buy million-dollar homes, because “they’ve earned it.” And it has become clear that “#MeToo #BelieveHer” applies, unless of course, the perp is an influential Democrat. The list goes on and on.

In an ironic twist, the scourge of COVID has made this hypocrisy impossible to ignore, as the consequences were no longer in the abstract, but instead are very real and very personal. It is not easy to shrug off losing one’s job because of COVID shutdowns, or to be ejected from an airplane because a child fails to understand how wearing a mask makes all of us “safe,” as Democrat politicians carry on without having to themselves abide by such inconveniences.

Democrats deserve scrutiny of the cruelty of their hypocrisy – and cruel it certainly is – but the more important story is what this behavior belies about the true nature of how Democrats view power, and the people subjected to it. If Democrats operate in one world, immune to the effects of their actions, how can they possibly represent the interests of those they serve in the other world? The answer is, they cannot.

Remember last year when the social justice marches turned into a broader “Defund the Police” movement, then championed by Democrats at all levels? Turns out that defunding the police has abysmal support among Democrats in general, and with black voters specifically. One reason for this disparity is that elitist Democrats, when not living on Twitter where anti-cop rhetoric wins them praise and notoriety, live in gated communities with private security; meanwhile, inner-city minorities who live in communities ravaged by drugs, gangs, and crime know there is but a thin blue line holding back the violence from their doorstep.

The same is true for the Second Amendment, which because of Democrats’ regulatory schemes with costly and time-intensive requirements, has become a privilege of the rich and near-rich, increasingly out of reach for many in the working class. The same can be said for education.

When Democrat politicians forced school closures last year because of COVID, rich Democrats could afford private alternatives and childcare, while working-class parents gave up jobs to stay home with kids (who were forced to sit in front of a computer screen for hours at a time pretending to “distance learn”).

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may be able to tell herself that wearing an expensive dress emblazoned with “tax the rich” (designed, ironically, by a company with its own tax problems) is some sort of performance art disparaging the system. The reality is, however, that AOC is the system; a system with rules enacted by political elites and reinforced by the cultural elites, neither of whom are subject to the realities their policies create.

If this sounds familiar, it is because this is how every anarchist, socialist, and Communist system ended; with the elite living in luxury, while citizens eat their pets to stay alive. As history and those who objectively recount it tell us, sooner or later things will change.

Biden’s Promise To Unite the US Is a Dismal Failure

President Joe Biden’s administration is now defined by soaring COVID-19 numbers, a botched Afghanistan retreat and millions of Americans who are not simply unemployed but are unwilling to work.

Biden campaigned on the promise of increasing America’s morale, enhancing our international standing and doing a better job controlling COVID-19 than his predecessor.

But the exact opposite has occurred, and his poll numbers have plummeted.

According to a recent poll from Reuters, just 43% of those surveyed approved of Biden, while 51% disapproved. The same poll showed that although the majority of Americans wanted to leave Afghanistan, 51% disapproved of Biden’s approach to the withdrawal while 38% approved.

The fact that there are still Americans in Taliban territory, with the United States powerless to protect them, is a source of tremendous anxiety for many Americans, as it should be.

Potential allies will be less willing to cooperate and aid the United States the next time we have to enter a conflict — and there will be a next time — out of fear of being left behind after we depart. It sends the message that you can stand with the United States, but the United States won’t stand with you under the Biden precedent — putting American citizens and troops in greater danger in future conflicts. It also erodes the United States’ image as a military superpower on the international stage by taking unthinkable actions that appear to have been made without thought.

Biden assumed office at a time when the United States was as divided as it has ever been, promising to bring us all together to build a better future. Biden has not only failed to deliver on that promise but he has also completely failed to even attempt it. The United States is no more united than it was before Biden took office, and despite his claims of being able to turn things around and work across the aisle, he has yet to take any action to unify us. Since the first $1.2 trillion stimulus package, Biden has not been able to achieve anything in a bipartisan way, and there have been no signs showing that he will even attempt to unify us going forward.

Biden is also deceiving millions of Americans by offering them false hope in the wake of the recent expiration of the pandemic unemployment benefits. There are 8.4 million unemployed Americans, yet there are 10 million job openings. In fact, several businesses are offering bonuses and other attractive incentives to get potential employees to work for them. However, for some, the promise of not having to return to work is a better choice than working, which is a problem because those who refuse to work are staring at the working taxpayer who must foot the price. During the pandemic, millions of Americans were out of work and collecting unemployment checks that oftentimes matched or exceeded their previous salaries. This caused mass complacency among the population — something that will severely impede progress as we move out of the pandemic and into normalcy. It is also an issue for small firms seeking to resume normal operations as quickly as possible.

Biden has been unable to halt the delta variant of COVID-19 from wreaking havoc across the country and infecting children. In fact, several communities have reinstituted mask laws in response to delta and other unanticipated strains. Some will point the finger at specific groups of people for their vaccine hesitancy, but leaders must lead even when it is challenging. Biden has not been able to earn the trust of many Americans when it comes to COVID-19; nor has Dr. Anthony Fauci or the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. This is due to the many contradictory statements made by them during the pandemic on measures to keep people safe, which frequently resulted in companies closing and family members being separated for long periods of time.

In many ways, Biden has already doomed himself and Democrats, especially when looking ahead to 2022. With Republicans likely to retake the House, Biden will be a lame-duck president unable to do anything unless he follows through on what he promised, which is to work across the aisle with Republicans. But as of now, Biden has failed on all fronts.

Biden’s presidency has turned out to be the polar opposite of what he promised. He has not brought us closer together; in fact, we may be even more divided. Nor has he restored our standing in the world; if he had, the British parliament wouldn’t have voted to impeach him because of the Afghanistan withdrawal. He also has not protected us from COVID-19; new strains of the virus are entering the country. Finally, the economy appears to be slowing down due to inflation and COVID-19.

Biden has not improved America. In some respects, it has become worse; in other respects, things have stayed the same. As it turned out, the man who campaigned to restore America’s soul has not restored a thing.


U.S. Funds Project At Private University

The government agency that gave a professor hundreds of thousands of dollars to study white supremacy and racial injustice in U.S. landmarks is giving a small Wisconsin liberal arts college half a million dollars to boost “racial/ethnic and gender diversity” in science fields and “broaden participation of underrepresented minorities.” The money is flowing through the National Science Foundation (NSF), which was created by Congress seven decades ago to promote the progress of science, advance national health and prosperity and secure the national defense. Lately, it seems the agency is focusing a lot more on racial justice endeavors that exclude large portions of the American population.

Judicial Watch has reported extensively on the government wide race and gender equity movement that often puts federal agencies at odds with their taxpayer-funded mission. Race-based initiatives have been well documented in recent years at a multitude of leading agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Labor (DOL) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to name a few. The NSF seems to be leading the pack lately, though many other federal agencies are also dedicating considerable resources to the cause. With an annual budget of $8.5 billion, the NSF funds more than a quarter of research conducted at American colleges and universities, where it is worth mentioning that the theft of intellectual property by Communist China is pervasive.

In the last few weeks alone, the NSF gave away millions of dollars to race-based projects in secondary and post-secondary institutions. The first allotment, $271,594, went to a private liberal arts college in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania that will use the money to identify potential “systemic inequities” in science, technology, engineering, and math fields (STEM) at the campus with an enrollment of around 3,724. The goal, according to the NSF, is to uncover “any existence of systemic inequities and advancement barriers related to gender, race, and ethnicity in STEM faculty” at the school, Bucknell University. Weeks later the NSF doled out nearly $2 million to “address the historical and current racial and gender disparities in participation in high school computer science education.” The project is part of a broader program called Researching Equity and Antiracist Learning in Computer Science (REAL-CS) that focuses on expanding participation for black, indigenous, “Latinx” (the new, politically correct gender-neutral term for Latino or Latina) and Pacific Islander students by addressing systemic barriers in high school computer science education. REAL-CS is designed to sustain yet another publicly-funded, “equity-focused” initiative called Exploring Computer Science (ECS) dedicated to “democratizing” the field by increasing opportunities for “traditionally underrepresented” high school students after a study identified disparities along “race and socioeconomic lines.”

Now the NSF is giving Alverno College, a tiny women’s liberal arts school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, $499,983 to increase racial/ethnic and gender diversity in STEM. “As a women’s college serving primarily first-generation, low-income students, more than half women of color, Alverno College will use this project to broaden participation of underrepresented minorities and women in STEM, who lag in STEM degree attainment and STEM workforce participation,” according to the NSF grant announcement. “Increasing racial/ethnic and gender diversity in STEM is a recognized strategy to expand the STEM workforce.” The agency further writes that the project engages the external community in a cooperative relationship, recognizing the intersection between STEM and students’ social/community identities. “Ongoing faculty development in culturally responsive teaching and a formalized administrative support structure will expand project impact across the college,” the NSF grant document sates.

The science agency is also financing a special project to determine if historical sites around the nation acknowledge white supremacy and racial injustice. The NSF gave a University of Oregon ethnic studies professor $350,000 to research thousands of landmarks and, though the grant announcement uses more discreet language, a university article titled “Professor is finding that a racist past is often left off monuments” provides more details. The professor, Laura Pulido, who specializes in “Chicanx studies,” indicates that her NSF-financed research offers insights into bridging the gap to racial justice. “It examines historical commemoration and the degree to which white supremacy and racial injustice is acknowledged in more than 2,600 different landmarks around the United States,” the article reads. Though in the early stages of her research, Pulido says initial data confirms that racism is deeply ingrained in American historical commemoration and U.S. landmarks fail to acknowledge links to racial inequality. “Although white supremacy — the overt belief in the superiority of white people — was central to the creation of the U.S., the nation is deeply invested in denying its role,” Pulido says. “Historical sites are key to this systemic denial, as they denote places and events deemed worthy of remembrance.”

When They Line Up for Stadium Deals, Cities Get Sacked

Like many sports franchises whose owners want to augment their already immense riches, the Chicago Bears are pondering a relocation. After a full century of playing in the city, the Monsters of the Midway could move to suburban Arlington Heights — unless, of course, Chicago wants to make it worth their while to stay.

Season ticket holder Lori Lightfoot, whose day job is mayor, concedes that Soldier Field has deficiencies when it comes to the “fan experience” and to “revenue-generating opportunities.” While insisting any changes would have to be “fiscally prudent,” she sounds as though she’s willing to meet the Bears halfway. But she ought to flee as if Khalil Mack were chasing her.

Cities that bargain with team owners rarely profit from the experience. That’s because the owners have all the negotiating advantages. Owning a business that enjoys a monopoly in their region, they can choose from an abundance of cities and towns that would love to have them. And they know the fans and TV revenues will keep coming regardless.

The Dallas Cowboys vacated Dallas 50 years ago. The New York Jets and Giants don’t even play in the state of New York. The San Francisco 49ers host games in Santa Clara, 40 miles south of the city. The Atlanta Braves started in Boston, migrated to Milwaukee, moved to Atlanta and now reside in Cumberland.

Chicagoans should know better than to get pulled into this rigged contest. Less than 20 years ago, the city committed $432 million in public funds to renovate Soldier Field, for fear of losing the Bears, and taxpayers are still shouldering the burden. Now they may get to pay again for something they already bought.

The mayor and her constituents would be better off if she gave the Bears a ticker-tape parade on their way out of town. New and refurbished sports arenas are billed as bringing alluring economic benefits to the surrounding area as well as the entire host city. But they rarely if ever live up to the hype.

In a survey for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, economist Dennis Coates of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County found that the economic effects of stadium development tend to be small and negative. “Sports-led development is unlikely to succeed in making a community richer,” he concluded.

Chicago is a good example. In the years after the Soldier Field renovation, the city lost population. Lightfoot unwittingly undermined the case for helping the Bears when she complained that fans lack options in the surrounding area.

“If you want to enjoy a nice meal or convene in another place,” she said, “you’ve got to go outside of the stadium footprint.” If the last deal didn’t generate that sort of development, why would the next one?

She wants to make the stadium a “year-round destination,” which is a vain hope for an outdoor venue in a frigid climate. The problem with an NFL arena is that the resident team plays 10 or so home games each year, leaving 355 days when it’s unused or consigned to events that are generally far less lucrative.

Soldier Field is also home to the Chicago Fire soccer club, which uses it only slightly more often than the Bears and typically fills less than 10,000 of the 61,500 seats. “A football facility is such an economic loser that no team wants to own its own,” University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson told me.

Chicago is one of many cities that have been fleeced by ruthless tycoons. Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas was built with $750 million in public money, the price for getting the Raiders to abandon Oakland. The inhabitants of Arlington paid for a new stadium for the Texas Rangers in 1994 — and already, they’re paying for another new one.

The city of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota had to contribute nearly $500 million to the Viking’s home, U.S. Bank Stadium. For LoanDepot Park in Miami, where the Marlins play, local taxpayers will have to come up with $2 billion before they are done.

All these arrangements turn out to be excellent policies — if your goal is to enrich a handful of wealthy team owners. The Bears have been a model of mediocrity on the field for a long time. But this is one game they know how to play.

Bureaucrats and Politicians Seem Determined to Cripple a Lifesaving Alternative to Smoking

Electronic cigarettes, which deliver nicotine without tobacco or combustion, are the most important harm-reducing alternative to smoking ever developed — one that could prevent millions of premature deaths in the United States alone. Yet bureaucrats and politicians seem determined to negate that historic opportunity through regulations and taxes that threaten to cripple the industry.

When a court-set deadline for “premarket” approval of vaping products came and went on Sept. 9, the Food and Drug Administration had received millions of applications but had not approved any. As a result, the agency says, every vaping device and nicotine liquid sold in the U.S. is “marketed unlawfully” and “subject to enforcement action at the FDA’s discretion.”

Seven years after the FDA officially declared its intention to regulate “electronic nicotine delivery systems” as “tobacco products,” the industry remains in legal limbo, existing only because of the agency’s enforcement discretion and limited resources. Despite the FDA’s promises of regulatory flexibility, it is perpetuating a situation in which manufacturers don’t know whether they will still be in business next week, next month or next year.

The FDA has rejected millions of applications for nicotine liquids in flavors other than tobacco, which are the products that former smokers overwhelmingly prefer. Because those flavors also appeal to teenagers, the agency says, they will be approved only if manufacturers present “robust,” “reliable” and “product-specific” evidence that their benefits in helping smokers quit outweigh the risk that they will encourage underage vaping.

No one really knows what that means, although the FDA says “the evidence of benefits to adult smokers for such products would likely be in the form of a randomized controlled trial or longitudinal cohort study.” Such research is beyond the means of all but the largest companies, and even they may have trouble persuading the FDA that approval of their products is “appropriate for the protection of the public health,” taking into account “the risks and benefits to the population as a whole.”

Under that highly subjective standard, which is mandated by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, it is not enough for a manufacturer to show its products are far less hazardous than conventional cigarettes. Nor is it enough to show that nontobacco flavors are enormously popular among former smokers because the FDA might still conclude, however implausibly, that the risk of underage consumption outweighs the welfare of smokers interested in making the potentially lifesaving switch to vaping.

Survey data indicates that the vast majority of teenagers who vape regularly are current or former smokers, which means the FDA’s fear that e-cigarettes are causing an “epidemic” of adolescent nicotine addiction is overblown. So is the fear that vaping is a “gateway” to smoking among teenagers who otherwise never would have tried nicotine; if anything, recent trends suggest, the availability of e-cigarettes has accelerated the downward trend in adolescent smoking.

The folly of the obsession with preventing underage vaping was apparent in San Francisco, where a ban on flavored e-cigarettes seemed to have boosted smoking by teenagers and young adults. That cautionary example has not deterred other jurisdictions from considering the same counterproductive policy.

In case heavy-handed federal and local regulations are not enough to stop smokers from quitting, House Democrats have proposed excise taxes that would double or triple the price of e-liquids. “This tax will not only kill my business,” a Georgia vape shop owner told my Reason colleague Christian Britschgi, “it will kill Americans.”

Last month in the American Journal of Public Health, 15 prominent tobacco researchers warned that “policies intended to reduce adolescent vaping may also reduce adult smokers’ use of e-cigarettes in quit attempts.” They emphasized that “the potential lifesaving benefits of e-cigarettes for adult smokers deserve attention equal to the risks to youths.”

Although the FDA acknowledges the harm-reducing potential of e-cigarettes, in practice, it is giving that benefit short shrift. Other policymakers, meanwhile, are proceeding as if the lives of smokers count for nothing.

Oregon School Board Flag Censors Flunk Patriotism Test

When Oregon school officials tried to banish political symbols from the classroom, English teacher Gail Grobey delivered a masterful lesson in malicious compliance.

The Newberg School Board singled out the Black Lives Matter and LGBT pride flags for removal and commissioned a blacklist for political paraphernalia. Grobey countered by taking down the American flag, telling local newspaper The Newberg Graphic that the Stars and Stripes is “the most political symbol there is.”

Her protest garnered coverage from Fox News and a rebuke from the American Family Association, whose president blasted “Marxists who are intent on dismantling our Republic” in an overwrought press release. But conservative critics are sounding a false alarm.

Grobey isn’t the mythical America-hating public school teacher traditionalists too often invoke. She’s a patriot who honors Old Glory in its absence, taking the district’s flag ban to its logical conclusion as a cautionary tale about censorship and its consequences.

The trouble started Aug. 10, when the school board voted 4 to 3 to direct Newberg Public Schools’ superintendent to remove BLM and gay pride symbols from district facilities. The board also tapped its policy committee to draft rules that would prohibit display of any political signs, symbols and flags.

Vice Chair Brian Shannon described the pro-Black and pro-LGBT gear as “divisive symbols” that distract schools from their educational mission.

Teacher Stacey Dalton told Oregon Public Broadcasting that the banners are simply “messages of love and support” for students who may feel marginalized for their race or sexual orientation.

Though a second vote is required to enact the policies, the school board’s preliminary approval touched off a swift backlash. The Oregon State Board of Education called on the Newberg board to rescind the measures, and the state American Civil Liberties Union affiliate threatened a lawsuit if the forced flag removal takes effect.

Banning so-called political symbols violates the First Amendment. While teachers can’t indoctrinate students or proselytize to them, they retain the right to express themselves and speak out on matters of public concern. In a 1968 case, the Supreme Court overturned an Illinois teacher’s firing for criticizing his school board in a local newspaper.

School districts can’t lawfully implement wholesale bans on political speech, and even if they could, targeting Black Lives Matter symbols and rainbow flags as the first things to go is blatant viewpoint-based discrimination — a cardinal constitutional sin.

In an Aug. 30 letter, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon Legal Director Kelly Simon and Portland communications attorney Alan Galloway warned Newberg school leaders that the policies are legally indefensible, noting that the free expression clause in Oregon’s state constitution is “independent of, and even broader than, the First Amendment.”

A right-wing voting bloc on the school board apparently bristled at the sight of a few harmless flags in teachers’ classrooms, choosing to interpret the displays as a call to political activism rather than an understated show of support for students’ identities. The standoff will test supporters’ conservative bona fides.

Pressing ahead with the policies would leave taxpayers on the hook for legal fees in a case the school district is guaranteed to lose. That’s wasteful and fiscally irresponsible.

And even if the flags are unpopular with social conservatives, a heavy-handed ban seems out of character for self-styled crusaders against cancel culture. So much for that small-government spiel.

The school board said the United States and Oregon flags would be exempt from its laundry list of prohibited symbols, but that contradictory carve-out undermines the board’s intent to make district schools a political purgatory.

If local officials had such sweeping powers (rest assured that they don’t), courts might, at minimum, require consistency. No BLM flag, no Old Glory. Government agencies don’t get to play favorites.

Opportunists will try to paint Grobey, the Newberg High School teacher who reluctantly retired her U.S. flag, as a radical leftist who’s insufficiently patriotic. The American Family Association already tried. Don’t fall for that cynical ploy.

Loyalty to the Constitution — that other cherished national symbol too often used as a convenient political prop — means more than genuflecting to a cloth rectangle.

She’s showing school board members what’s left when censors are through with their tasks: bare walls and empty flagpoles.

Charity That Changes Lives

Government-run schools fail kids.

Teachers unions and education bureaucrats say, “We need more money!”

But America already spends a fortune on public schools.

My town, New York City, spends $28,000 per student — half-a-million dollars per classroom! Think about what you could do with that money: Hire five teachers? Pay for private tutors?

Where does the $28,000 go? No one really knows. When governments run things, money vanishes into bureaucracy. NYC spends $3 million per year on “executive superintendents” and $10 million on consultants.

Some charter schools offer better educations for less. But NYC politicians limit the number of charter schools. As a result, 48,000 kids wait on waitlists.

Fortunately, some charities have stepped in to help.

My video this week features Student Sponsor Partners, or SSP, a nonprofit that helps low-income students go to Catholic schools.

Jeniffer Gutierrez, a parent in the Bronx, was ecstatic to get SSP’s acceptance letter. “I cried so hard when I received that letter because I knew it was an opportunity for my son. … High schools in the Bronx are violent. There’s no discipline. There’s no education.”

Her son Tyler didn’t feel safe in public school. “One of my best friends was shot and killed right next to me,” he recalls.

Many Catholic schools, even though they spend much less per student than government-run schools, do better. SSP sent Tyler to Cardinal Hayes High School, where, says Gutierrez, teachers helped her son “excel in life.”

Tyler now attends St. John’s University on scholarship. He and thousands of other SSP students are on a path to success.

That’s why I support SSP. I’m not Catholic, but I’ve paid Catholic school tuition for dozens of kids and personally mentored five.

That mentoring makes SSP different. SSP assigns an adult to every student. Often these relationships continue after students graduate.

Jorge Aguilar says his mentor “planted seeds in my brain that I could do big things in life.”

Aguilar then became the first person in his family to go to college. Now he’s a doctor.

“SSP helped me break the chain of poverty,” he says.

Eighty-five percent of SSP kids graduate high school, twice as many as their public school peers. Most are accepted by colleges.

All this happened because decades ago, philanthropist Peter Flanigan wanted to give parents an alternative to government schools. He hoped that would help at-risk teenagers escape poverty.

He started SSP. One of the first kids he helped was Debra Vizzi.

“I had been homeless,” she tells me. “I left an abusive foster home and was sort of hopping around from shelter to shelter.”

She met Flanigan at a soup kitchen. He told her he’d pay for her to attend Cathedral High School.

“I was suspicious, especially as a kid on the street, but he was legit,” Vizzi laughs. “He paid $350 for me to go to one of the best high schools in New York City.”

Flannigan’s mentorship gave Vizzi more than a better education. “He helped me trust men, believe in people, helped me have a future. Even helped me become a mother later … something that I hadn’t had.”

Vizzi is now executive director of SSP.

“If you would have told me when I was 12 years old, I would run this organization, I would have said you were crazy.”

This year, SSP has a thousand students attending different private high schools.
Want to help? SSP seeks more people who will mentor a student and more donors who’ll help pay for it. You can get more information at


Are the US and China Stumbling Toward an ‘Islands War’?

In a diplomatic coup, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a deal last week with the U.K. and U.S. to have those Anglo-American allies help build a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia.

A $66 billion French deal to provide Canberra with diesel electric-powered submarines, among the largest defense contracts Paris had ever negotiated, was blown off.

“A stab in the back!” said Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who had been kept in the dark on the secret talks. “There has been duplicity, contempt and lies.” Le Drian compared President Joe Biden to former President Donald Trump.

President Emmanuel Macron recalled his ambassadors to both the U.S. and Australia. In two centuries of U.S.-French diplomatic relations, no such recall had ever occurred.

What does this Australia First submarine deal mean?

Canberra, which has sought to steer a middle course between its great customer China and its great ally America, is coming down on the side of the Americans in the rising great-power quarrel.

This “AUXUS” partnership, says Beijing, will “severely damage” peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, and Beijing is demanding to know whether Australia regards China as a “partner or a threat.”

This new clash comes as China is using its military to speak for its claims to islands and islets hundreds of miles off its coast.

Several Chinese claims collide directly with the territorial claims of neighbors who are longtime U.S. treaty allies for whose territory we are committed to fight.

China claims, for example, the Paracel and Spratly Islands and almost all of the rocks and reefs in the South China Sea, many of which are within territorial waters claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan.

China also claims Taiwan itself, 110 miles off its coast, as well as the nearby Senkaku Islands, which Japan controls and for which Tokyo appears to be preparing to fight. A Chinese-Japanese clash over the Senkakus, the Biden administration has said, will bring the U.S. in on the side of Japan.

In a recent CNN interview, Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said the Senkakus would be defended as Japanese national territory.

And Japan has been expanding its Self-Defense Forces, adding the latest U.S. F-35 fighters, converting warships into aircraft carriers, and building new destroyers, submarines and missiles.

Earlier this year, the Biden State Department said the U.S.-Japan security treaty covers the Senkakus and our Philippines security treaty covers Manila’s claims to Chinese-occupied islets in the South China Sea.

Message: If Manila chooses to fight to retrieve its islets from Chinese occupation and control, America will fight on Manila’s side.

Still, China has yet to back down from any of its claims.

It has sailed warships and planes to hassle U.S. and allied ships and planes in the South China and East China Seas and sent fleets of bombers and fighters into airspace on Taiwan’s side of the Taiwan Strait.

To prevent Taiwan’s independence, Beijing has said, it will fight.

Should fighting break out between China and the U.S. over these claims, the war would be about islands that are thousands of miles from our West Coast but within a few hundred miles of the China coast.

Other East Asian nations are also communicating their interests and intent through military demonstrations.

After claiming to have tested a new long-range cruise missile, North Korea last week tested two ballistic missiles. At that same time, South Korea was testing its own submarine-launched ballistic missile, becoming the first country without nuclear weapons to do so.

This past summer, there were reports that Pyongyang had restarted a reactor in its main nuclear complex at Yongbyon, suggesting that Kim Jong Un may be ramping up his nuclear weapons program.

And, regularly now, U.S. planes stationed in Alaska scramble to intercept Russian military aircraft. This year, the number of intercepts, 14, is on pace to set a record since the Cold War. In the most recent case, two Russian bombers and two fighters came within 30 miles of the Alaskan coast.

This summer, Russian naval vessels came within 34 miles of Hawaii.

Russian ships and planes off Alaska are perhaps responding to U.S. warships and planes in the Black Sea.

World War II began in Europe when the British, Sept. 3, 1939, declared war on Germany over its invasion of Poland to retrieve what Berlin claimed were its territories, including Danzig, taken from Germany at Versailles against the will of the people of Danzig and in violation of their right of self-determination.

If World War III breaks out between China and the U.S., it is likely to be over islands of Asia claimed by China, with the U.S. fighting not for its own territory but for the island territory of allies, probably islands in no way vital to the security of the United States.

Which is how world powers often end their days as world powers, fighting unnecessary wars on behalf of other nations.

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