Europe Locking Down Again

Trump’s fault (or something).

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a second national lockdown until at least the end of November.

Mr Macron said that under the new measures, starting on Friday, people would only be allowed to leave home for essential work or medical reasons.

Non-essential businesses, such as restaurants and bars, will close, but schools and factories will remain open.

Covid daily deaths in France are at the highest level since April. On Tuesday, 33,000 new cases were confirmed.

Mr Macron said the country risked being “overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first”.

Meanwhile, Germany will impose an emergency lockdown that is less severe but includes the closure of restaurants, gyms and theatres.

We have reached this false paradigm where politicians think that shutting down the economy and sequestering citizens is the correct policy response to an increase in COVID19 cases despite very little evidence that it is the correct policy prescription.

Biden is Wall Street’s Big Guy

Fact.

People in the securities and investment industry will finish the 2020 election cycle contributing over $74 million to back Joe Biden’s candidacy for president, a much larger sum than what President Donald Trump raised from Wall Street, according to new data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The sum includes contributions that began in 2019 and continued through the first two weeks of October to Biden’s joint fundraising committees and outside super PACs backing his run. Former Goldman Sachs President Harvey Schwartz gave $100,000 this month to the Biden Action Fund, a joint fundraising committee for the campaign, the Democratic National Committee and state parties.

Biden also received a ton of financial support from leaders on Wall Street in the third quarter. Going into the final two weeks of the election, Biden, the DNC and their joint fundraising committees had over $330 million on hand. That’s $110 million more than for Trump, the Republican National Committee and their joint committees. Biden’s campaign is on track to raise $1 billion in the six days until Election Day.

He certainly has shown to be willing to sell American policy to the highest bidder.

Kimber Moves South

In other gun news

Kimber Manufacturing is moving its corporate headquarters to Troy and will “aggressively hire” in all departments.

The firearms manufacturer last week announced it is moving to a new facility it built last year on 80 acres with more than 225,000 square feet of space, with design engineering, product management and manufacturing space.

The company, formerly based in Yonkers, N.Y., pledged two years ago to open a $38 million production facility in Troy, creating 366 jobs over the next five years, which Gov. Kay Ivey announced in her 2018 State of the State address.

In an announcement, the company said Troy was chosen for, among several reasons, its proximity to engineering schools as well as pro-gun, pro-business support from the city of Troy and Alabama.

Gun Sales Soaring

I know people in both of these groups.

In the U.S., spikes in gun purchases are often driven by fear. But in past years that anxiety has centered on concerns that politicians will pass stricter gun controls. Mass shootings often prompt more gun sales for that reason, as do elections of liberal Democrats.

Many gun buyers now are saying they are motivated by a new destabilizing sense that is pushing even people who had considered themselves anti-gun to buy weapons for the first time — and people who already have them to buy more.

The nation is on track in 2020 to stockpile at record rates, according to groups that track background checks from FBI data. Across the country, Americans bought 15.1 million guns in the seven months this year from March through September, a 91% leap from the same period in 2019, according to seasonally adjusted firearms sales estimates from The Trace, a nonprofit news organization that focuses on gun issues. The FBI has also processed more background checks for gun purchases in just the first nine months of 2020 than it has for any previous full year, FBI data show.

West Bend School District Sees Dramatic Decline in Enrollment

Huh.

On Friday, the district also had released its third Friday count to determine the full time equivalent of district membership.

WBSD serves more than 5,900 students. There are 312 students in early learning, 1,760 students in 5K through fourth grade, 835 students in fifth and sixth grade, 899 students in seventh and eighth grade and more than 2,000 high school students.

The district’s 2019 3rd Friday count was 6,388.91 FTE. If it’s 5,900 now (that appears to be a rounded number), then that’s a decline of almost 500 kids, or 7.6%, in a single year.

This is sharply down from the enrollment projections that the district released in November of 2019. In those projections, it forecasted an enrollment of 5,727 students (not including 4K). The actual looks to be about 5,494.

The enrollment  confirms what we have known for some time. The West Bend School District is in for a long term enrollment decline before it levels off. This is being driven by demographic trends and the proximity of several outstanding private/parochial schools in the area. COVID19 may have played a part this year, but given the district’s hybrid approach, I don’t think it has as much of an impact enrollment as in some other districts.

“Dallas” Brought Down the USSR

Huh.

TV show Dallas was the main reason behind the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, it has been claimed.

Eurythmics co-founder Dave Stewart said that former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev told him that the 1980s soap opera ‘had more effect’ in ending the Cold War than anything else.

Mr Stewart, 68, said the Gorbachev admitted an illicit broadcast of the US show in Russia had opened his people’s eyes to Western life, and the Texas-based show ‘brought down’ the communist superpower.

[…]

Mr Stewart said it had taken place in the early 1990s just as the Soviet Union was starting to open up. Before then, the Russians had been stopped by the government from listening to Western music or watching TV shows.

He said: ‘He was saying what brought Russia down was they weren’t allowed to see any shows from anywhere and they had in the churches they had giant blockers of signals so they’d only get fed the information from the government.

[…]

‘What Gorbachev was saying it was Dallas the TV show, somebody managed to get a VHS to work and broadcast it to part of Russia and they thought, ”Hang on, that’s how people live in America?”

‘He said that had more effect, that half an hour, than anything else.’

The elusiveness of legitimacy

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a taste:

In any civic society, the stability and success of the government requires that the vast majority of the people consider the government to be legitimate, but legitimacy is an elusive concept that is largely in the mind of each citizen. Some argue that democratic governments are inherently legitimate because democracies are designed to enact the will of the majority of the people. Democracy, however, is a method of making decisions. It is not, in and of itself, a basis of legitimacy.

Thomas Jefferson got to the root of it in the Declaration of Independence when he echoed John Locke’s contention that governments are instituted, “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The word “consent” is the basis of legitimacy and can be just as easily given or withdrawn in a democracy as in an autocracy. A relatively free society like ours relies on almost everyone agreeing to abide by the laws enacted by government of their own free will — even when they disagree with the law or the means by which it was enacted. Unlike a totalitarian government, democratic societies purposefully lack the police power to enforce widespread disobedience and face stiff resistance when they try. For order and stability to prevail, almost everyone must generally consent to the laws. They will only do so when they think that the government is legitimate and that there is a general sense that we are all in this together.

There are many things that can rend the sense of legitimacy in a democracy. Marxists rely on dividing people by class and race to delegitimize the government by convincing people that the government is not working for them. Democracies can devolve into mob rule where a substantial minority is subjugated to the majority. Technocracies can develop in democracies where the public will is subverted by unelected experts. Human history is replete with the rise and fall of governments. They always fall when the people no longer think they are legitimate and, therefore, no longer feel a need to obey them.

UW Implements Furloughs AND $15 Minimum Wage

So if you’re lucky enough to keep your job, you’ll make more. Of course, more people could keep their jobs if UW didn’t set an artificial wage floor, but that’s how the minimum wage works.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison will implement more furloughs for spring semester to help offset revenue losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. The first round of unpaid leave, announced in August, ends this month.

Furloughs will begin Jan. 1 and last through June 30 to allow time for employees’ pay to return to normal, Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in an email Monday. They will have the same graduated structure as the current furloughs, ranging from three monthly furlough days with a 2.5% pay reduction to six monthly furlough days with a 4.6% pay reduction.

The university estimates that revenue between March and the end of this fiscal year in June 2021 will be about $320 million less than anticipated, Blank said. Some of the shortfall was offset through cost savings efforts, such as $27 million in savings from furloughs and salary reductions.

[…]

UW-Madison will also continue moving forward with its commitment to a $15 minimum wage for all hourly employees. Though it temporarily halted the plan earlier this year, Blank said it will go into effect Jan. 17, mainly affecting custodial, animal care and food-service employees.

Mailed Ballots Must Be in Officials’ Hands by 8 PM on Election Day

Court upholds clear language of the law.

The United States Supreme Court on Monday upheld Wisconsin’s voting laws requiring absentee ballots be in election officials’ hands by the time polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The Supreme Court’s decision was decided 5 to 3.

Democrats challenged the law, saying the Election Day deadline should be extended because of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. They unsuccessfully argued that ballots should be counted as long as they are postmarked on or before Election Day.

Republicans made the argument that election rules shouldn’t change in the face of the pandemic.

The contentious decision comes after a federal court of appeals upheld a six-day extension for ballot counting.

Chief Justice John Roberts was the deciding factor in this vote, although he joined with the liberal justices to extend ballot counting in Pennsylvania. According to the chief justice, the two states are vastly different.

 

Justice Barrett

Huzzah, huzzah.

Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court Monday evening by the Senate in a 52-48 vote – with Republican Susan Collins crossing the aisle to vote against her.

Donald Trump’s third nominee was not in the chamber to watch the roll call vote, which allows her to join the eight justices on Tuesday morning, and potentially to decide on cases about voting before the November 3 election.

Senate president pro tempore Chuck Grassley declared her confirmation at 8.06pm; outside the Supreme Court conservatives chanted Coney Barrett’s name as soon as she was confirmed.

Biden Poised to Defeat George

Um

Speaking at an ‘I Will Vote’ virtual concert, Biden said: ‘Not because I’m running, but because who I’m running against, this is the most consequential election in a long, long, long time. The character of the country, in my view, is literally on the ballot. What kind of country we’re gonna be? Four more years of George, um, George…’

His wife Jill could be seen repeatedly muttering the word ‘Trump’ under her breath as he stumbled to remember the name of the president – ironically enough, a question often put to concussion patients in hospital to check if they’re cognitive functions are working properly.

A vacant-looking Biden hesitated then added: ‘Gonna to find ourselves in a position where, if Trump gets elected, we’re going to be in a different world.’

The fact that Biden briefly thought he was running against George W. Bush, whose presidency ended eleven years ago – and I have to assume he meant that George, not Dubya’s late father President George H.W. Bush, or it really is time for another urgent cognitive test – was a toe-curling mistake, and one that will be seized on by Republicans desperate to portray Biden as a man suffering from the onset of senility.

Especially as it came just two days after Biden said during a campaign video: ‘We have put together, I think, the most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organization in the history of American politics.’

Early Voting Turnout

The early voting turnout is huge, but I don’t know what it means yet.

The result is a total of 58.6 million ballots cast so far, more than the 58 million that The Associated Press logged as being cast through the mail or at in-person early voting sites in 2016.

Democrats have continued to dominate the initial balloting, but Republicans are narrowing the gap. GOP voters have begun to show up as early in-person voting, a sign that many heeded President Donald Trump’s unfounded warnings about mail-voting fraud.

On Oct. 15, Democrats registrants cast 51% of all ballots reported, compared with 25% from Republicans. On Sunday, Democrats had a slightly smaller lead, 51% to 31%.

The early vote totals, reported by state and local election officials and tracked by the AP, are an imperfect indicator of which party may be leading. The data only shows party registration, not which candidate voters support. Most GOP voters are expected to vote on Election Day.

EVERYBODY has been pushing early voting, so it’s not surprise that early voting turnout is huge. I suspect that most of the people who voted early were already motivated voters who already knew their choice. I expect undecided voters will come later. Will it impact overall voting patterns? That’s hard to tell. My decision to vote early or not is separate from my decision on which candidate to vote for.

I’m also not certain if the large early voting indicates a larger overall turnout. I expect turnout to be larger because of the heated election, but will it be historically as large as some of the pundits are projecting based on early voting totals? I doubt it. And whether or not turnout impacts the results depends on which state. California can turn out 100% and it still gives Biden the same number of electoral votes. In states like Texas, I would expect larger turnout to favor the Republicans. In Wisconsin, it probably favors Democrats. In Florida? Probably Republicans.

It’s going to be interesting…

Jews Flee Europe

Interesting 

Between the end of the 18th and 19th centuries, the number of Jews in the world rose to more than 10 million, and climbed further to 16.5 million on the eve of the second world war. Most of the growth was in eastern Europe, then America and then Palestine and Israel.

The murder of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust reduced the global population to around 11 million, “radically disrupt[ing] what had been up to that moment the continuous build-up and transformation of European Jewry”.

In 1880, 88% of the world’s Jews lived in Europe. By 1945, this share had fallen to 35%, then to 26% in 1970 and to 9% in 2020. Most of this decline happened in eastern Europe, where the share of the global total fell from 26% in 1945 to 2% in 2020.

In the latter decades of the 20th century, the “opening of the doors of the Soviet Union” meant that more than 1.8 million Jews left eastern Europe between 1969 and 2020, resulting in “a drastic shift in the Jewish population’s centre of gravity from the east to the west of the continent”.

Containment vs. Mitigation

This kind of exchange is exactly why we can’t have a civil conversation about our policy response to COVID-19

‘Here’s what we have to do. We’re not going to control the pandemic, we are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations,’ Meadows said in his interview on ‘State of the Union.’

‘Why aren’t we going to get control of the pandemic?’ Tapper asked.

‘Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu,’ Meadows reasoned.

‘Yeah, but why not make efforts to contain it?’ the CNN host pushed.

Meadows assured, ‘Well we are making efforts to contain it.’

[…]

‘Jake, we can get into the back and forth. Let me just say this – is what we need to do is make sure we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it’s therapies or vaccines or treatments to make sure that people don’t die from this,’ Meadows said. ‘But to suggest that we’re going to actually quarantine all of America, lock down our economy –’

‘Nobody’s saying that,’ Tapper cut in.

‘Well they are, Joe Biden’s saying that. He says, lock everybody down, we’re going to have a dark winter,’ Meadows said, taking a jab at the Democratic nominee’s comments from the debate in Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday.

‘That’s what health officials say,’ Tapper said, launching the two into a series of cross-talk points.

There are a variety of responses we can take to COVID-19 as evidenced by the different responses that states are taking. It is a perfectly reasonable policy choice to think that containment is a losing strategy – that cow left the barn in February – and focus efforts on treatments and vaccines. Yet Tapper, rabid liberal attack dog that he is, and other liberals choose to use the policy choice to accuse the Trump administration of being monsters. We would all be better off if we could have a rational discussion about our response to the virus without caricaturing people who disagree as wanting more people to get sick and die.

al-Qaida Leader Killed in Afghanistan

Excellent.

Afghan security forces have killed Abu Muhsin al-Masri, a senior al-Qaida leader who was on the FBI’s most-wanted list, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) said in a tweet late on Saturday.

Al-Masri has been charged in the United States with having provided material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organisation, and conspiracy to kill US nationals.

Al-Masri, believed to be al-Qaida’s second-in-command, was killed during a special operation in Ghazni province, the NDS said.

Reid Says Biden Should End Filibuster

So if you’re keeping score, the Democrats want to stack the Supreme Court and end the filibuster so that they can push through their Marxist agenda without bothering with negotiating or discussion. Gotcha.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Senate leader Harry Reid says if Democrats win the presidency and the Senate, Joe Biden should take “no more than three weeks” to test bipartisanship before ending the filibuster so Democrats can overcome what they call Republican obstruction and pass bills.

The retired Nevada Democrat told The Associated Press in an interview that he understands Biden wants to work with Republicans, as the former vice president and Delaware senator has in the past. But Reid said there is just too much that needs to be done in the country to wait around trying to reach agreements under the decades-old Senate practice of requiring 60 votes to advance legislation.

Oh, and apparently, Reid wants the Executive Branch to force its will on the Legislative Branch.

Final Debate

I bit the bullet and watched the entire debate in full. It was remarkably different from the last one. Biden came off as an empty suit – and angry empty suit, but empty nonetheless. I think the difference on COVID response is stark. My experience with being out in public (I’ve been in 6 or 7 states and multiple cities over the last couple of months) is that people are generally tuning out the politicians and going about their lives. They are wearing masks when seemingly appropriate, keeping distance, washing hands, etc., but getting back to work and life. Specifically in Wisconsin, I’ve been out to 4 or 5 restaurants since the 25% order was implemented and 0% are complying… and nobody cares. Trump has his finger on the public pulse. People don’t want to shut down again and if the politicians try, the people will shrug it off.

In individual closing argument to voters, they offered starkly different visions for the nation on everything from shutting down the country to tackle coronavirus, to shutting down the fossil fuel industry to confront climate change.

Nowhere was the distinction between the two candidates more apparent than in their approach to the pandemic.

Asked about his support for more lockdowns if the scientists recommended it, Mr Biden, a Democrat, did not rule it out.

But Mr Trump, a Republican, said it was wrong to inflict further damage on the economy because of an infection from which most people recover.

“This is a massive country with a massive economy,” said the president. “People are losing their jobs, they’re committing suicide. There’s depression, alcohol, drugs at a level nobody’s ever seen before.”

Government Employees Monitoring Homes

Many people have a government employee monitoring their homes throughout the day. I say that a little glibly, but only a little. This implications are widespread.

HealthChristi Brouder had finally gotten her 10-year-old daughter settled on the hallway floor with a laptop and signed into a video class on Google Meet when the girl’s 6-year-old brother leaped over computer the screen “in his birthday suit” to get a juice box.

To Brouder’s surprise, a social worker from the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families called her later that day; someone had reported an adult male exposing himself during the class. That was followed by a visit from a police detective sent by the school to do an in-person wellness check.

Brouder explained that her son has epilepsy and autism and sometimes takes his clothes off to feel more comfortable and the inquiry ended there.

But the experience left the mother in the city of Haverhill incensed, and underscores the challenge on educators to make judgments based on fleeting scenes or sounds from a webcam.

“The teachers never asked to speak to me. Nobody said anything” during the class, Brouder said.

Child protection laws require school personnel, along with health care workers and other professionals, to report any suspicions of neglect or abuse. The coronavirus pandemic and virtual instruction have only raised the stakes; in the absence of daily in-person school and extracurriculars, a teacher’s video contact may offer the only window to spot potential problems in students’ lives.

Joe Biden is the “Big Guy”

It is looking more and more like the Bidens were conducting a very traditional corruption shakedown scheme.

Tony Bobulinski issued a statement on Wednesday saying that he personally witnessed Biden discuss business deals with his son, Hunter, contradicting claims by the former vice president.

‘I’ve seen Vice President Biden saying he never talked to Hunter about his business.

Bobulinski claimed that the Chinese were pursuing the deal as a ‘political or influence investment’ and that Hunter Biden was ‘using the company as his personal piggy bank by just taking money out of it as soon as it came from the Chinese.’

He said in his statement that he ‘took steps to prevent that from happening.’

Bobulinski also said in his statement that he was one of the recipients of the email from one of Hunter Biden’s business partners which  involved a deal with a Chinese energy firm in May 2017 which promised a 10 per cent cut for a person known as ‘the big guy.’

Bobulinski claimed in his statement that ‘the big guy’ is Joe Biden.

Time to regulate Facebook, Twitter like the publishers they are

Here is my column that ran in the Washington County Daily News this week.

The New York Post, the newspaper founded by Alexander Hamilton, broke a story last week about Joe Biden’s family. The story was supported by credible evidence and implicated Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in a long-term scheme to shake down foreign entities for money in exchange for favorable American government action. It is the kind of story that, if true, is the most serious kind of government corruption imaginable — the selling of American foreign policy for cash.

The bombshell story was instantly quashed and hidden by Twitter and Facebook. Both companies actively censored the story, blocked accounts that attempted to share the story, and disabled links under the faux-truistic cover that they were upholding journalistic standards by insisting on stronger sourcing. This is despite a lengthy history of allowing every conspiracy theory and liberal fake news story to propagate unmolested. In choosing to put their digital thumbs on the Biden story, both companies crossed the line from internet platforms to publishers and require a different regulatory treatment.

Twitter and Facebook both benefit from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which is credited with providing the legal umbrella that allowed the internet to flourish into what it is today. Section 230 simply states, in its entirety, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

While simple, the distinction has massive implications in law. By not being deemed a publisher, internet companies are protected against liability for libel or defamation for what appears on their platforms. Section 230 is an evolution of an ancient English common law practice of “common carriage” or common carrier. The crux of common carriage is that private enterprises who are engaged in something imperative to the common good are granted some special protections by the government in exchange for certain obligations. In the case of internet companies, the free exchange of ideas these platforms facilitate is considered the lifeblood of a free, self-governing society and a common good worthy of such protections.

In the 20th century the common carrier that dominated technology for the better part of 70 years was AT&T. In exchange for a monopoly on long-distance lines and the ability to use eminent domain, AT&T agreed to let the government regulate their rates and, what was critical, to not discriminate against what was said on those lines. This was a stark contrast to the great monopoly of the telegraph, Western Union, which might have helped sway the presidential election of 1876 to Rutherford B. Hayes by secretly providing the Hayes campaign the Democrats’ telegrams and suppressing others. AT&T’s great bargain was to agree to be regulated in exchange for a monopoly.

Section 230 took the grand bargain a step further by providing all of the benefits of legal absolution in exchange for nothing. Under this law, companies like Twitter and Facebook grew up into dominant natural monopolies because their users provided petabytes of content for other users to consume without having to police the content for accuracy or even sanity.

Make no mistake, if you are not paying for it, you are what is being sold. In the case of Twitter and Facebook, their business model is to collect incredible amounts of personal data about their users and sell that data for the purpose of target marketing, research, and whatever other moneymaking purpose they can divine. Their algorithms target people for specialized content and might have already broken the common carrier trust that the public bestowed on them.

In purposefully, actively, and personally deciding to stomp on a negative story about Joe Biden that was published by a reputable newspaper in the midst of a political campaign, Facebook and Twitter have definitively and unmistakably crossed the line from being internet platforms to publishers. As such, the legal protections granted to them under Section 230 must be withdrawn so that they can be regulated like The New York Times, Fox News, MSNBC, and all of the other publishers that filter, edit, and curate the information they provide to their subscribers.

Facebook and Twitter can’t have it both ways. If they want the legal protections provided under Section 230, then they must allow all information to flow freely. If they want to be information gatekeepers, then those protections must be withdrawn so that people have legal remedies against abuse.