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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Friday, August 07, 2020

Pale Horse

The coronavirus proves once again the power of epidemics to upend, and sometimes erase, civilizations. Relearning a lesson the ancient world understood only too well.
Dr. Victor Davis Hanson
by Dr. Victor Davis Hanson: The he great plague at Athens (430–29BC), which broke out in the second year of the Peloponnesian War, according to the historian Thucydides, wiped out as many as eighty thousand people (a fourth of the population of Athens), including rural refugees from the Attic countryside. Nothing, the historian claimed, did more damage to the city-state.Some twenty-five hundred years later, it remains a parlor game among classicists to identify the precise infectious culprit. Some form of either typhus or typhoid seems most likely.Most historians agree that this epidemic that killed Pericles was probably a result of his policy of forced evacuation of the Attic rural population from the country to inside the walls of Athens during the Spartan invasion in late May 430 BC. The busy port at Piraeus was an incubator and force multiplier of the disease.

Thucydides’s contemporary description of the pestilence inaugurated a tradition in Western historiography of envisioning plagues as reflections on the pathologies of contemporary society. He focused not just on the deaths and the demographic swath of the disease but even more so on the psycho-logical and sociological damage the disease wrought. In his view,such natural and man-made calamities, like war and revolution, by the nature of their illogical violence and unpredictable mayhem, eventually rip off the thin veneer of civilization. They reduce people to their animal essences. In their instinctual and deadly competitive efforts to survive one more day, the mob in extremis will do almost anything—and blame almost anyone and anything.

Most preindustrial mass plagues were bacterial, caused by urban over-crowding and poor-to-nonexistent garbage and sewage disposal. In the disruptive aftermath of pandemics, fundamental social and political change sometimes followed—wars were lost, governments ended, wealth and power were reversed. Today, cheap antibiotics, modern medical care, and sophisticated sewage treatment and refuse collection have mostly ended the epidemic threat of typhus, typhoid, and bubonic plague. But our trust in modern drugs is such that we arrogantly overlook the chance of pandemic danger posed by a half million or so homeless Americans who live outside in harsh weather, amid vermin, excrement, and rodents on our major urban-center sidewalks.

In the modern age, viruses have mostly replaced bacteria in posing theoretical threats of mass infection, illness, and death. While modern Western medicine, given enough time, can sometimes prevent many pandemic viral infections through mass vaccinations, they are, unlike many bacterial illnesses, often impossible, or at least difficult, to treat.

Globalization has made possible the specter of a viral epidemic—Ebola,Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and, most recently, Covid-19. The A and B influenzas, despite mass inoculations, infect about twenty million to thirty million Americans every year. Depending on the particular annual mutating strain, between ten thousand and eighty thousand die from those seasonal influenzas, mostly the elderly or chronically sick. There are also fears that it may be possible to weaponize a disease in labs to spark a historic pandemic.

RUINS OF EMPIRE
In the ancient world, plagues usually arrived in early summer from the non-west (such as Egypt or Asia). They entered European ports, usually int he south and east, and accelerated through filthy and densely populated cities. Pandemics triggered debates between those who focused on science—symptoms,diagnoses, therapies,and prognoses—and the majority with its popular embrace of religion and superstition. The majority equated plagues with divine wrath or hubris, and there-fore fixated on particular villains and customs that must have provoked such godly wrath.

After the Athenian plague, Athens could still ward off a Spartan victory, but it lacked the resources to vanquish the Spartan empire and its growing number of allies. In some sense, the grandiose visions of imperial Athens ended with the plague—even as a wider Greek interest in both medical science and popular religion increased.

Sophocles’s greatest play, Oedipus Rex, was staged a year after the plague began to wane. Its chief protagonist, Oedipus, a good and wise man whose sin is to believe that his haughty reason can defeat cosmic fate, resembles in his arrogance the recently deceased Pericles, the renaissance man with a worldly consort of philosophers, libertines, and artists.

Again, it was the statesman’s strategy of withdrawing tens of thousands of rural Athenians into the city to ride out the invasion of Spartan hoplites that ensured that the city became the petri dish for the plague. Of course,Pericles’s strategy, in theory, might have worked, had his celebrated reliance on reason included knowledge of the relationship between sanitation and infection. In the end, even the rationalist Pericles was reduced to clutching amulets to ward off the plague.

The lifelong quest of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian (c. 482–565) focused on re-establishing the lost Roman empire in the West under new Byzantine Greek auspices. Over some thirty years of constant campaigning, his brilliant marshals Belisarius and Narses reconquered much of Southern Europe, North Africa, the Balkans, and Asia Minor, while Justinian dedicated the monumental church of Hagia Sophia and codified Roman law. But the bubonic plague of 541–42 soon spread from the port capital at Constantinople throughout the empire. The pandemic would go on to kill a half million Byzantines and render the military agendas of Justinian—who also got the disease but recovered—inert.

The chatty contemporary historian Procopius, in Thucydidean fashion, blamed the Egyptians for the pandemic’s origins. He went on to describe the disease as the catalyst for the same uncivilized behavior so chillingly described nearly a millennium earlier by Thucydides: the crasstreatment of the unburied, the avoidance of the infected, the desperation to live wildly in the expectation of impending death,and an equally pernicious outbreak of nihilism, superstition, and self-pity.

PALE HORSE
The medieval outbreak in Europe of the Black Plague (1347–51) probably killed more than the Athenian and Justinian plagues combined, perhaps eventually half of the European population, or somewhere around fifty mil-lion to eighty million people. Like prior bacterial plagues, it too was believed to have spread from the east and entered Mediterranean ports. It went ballistic in the heavily populated, fetid, and numerous cities of Europe.

In The Decameron, his brilliant collection of novellas, Giovanni Boccaccio follows the same Western tradition of describing the symptoms, collating the various religious and superstitious exegeses for the sudden arrival of mass death, and illustrating the general breakdown in popular mores. He toonotes that the stricken public believed they were shortly to perish and should therefore satisfy their appetites in the time they had left.

The modern world may be technologically savvy and medically sophisticated, but it has not escaped the rumor, panic, and hysteria that break out when unknown diseases strike, as Thucydides and Procopius so chillingly detailed. For all our millennia of scientific advancements, when Covid-19 broke out we knew about as much about the novel coronavirus as Sophocles and Thucydides knew about the Athenian plague.

How exactly does it spread differently from the flu? Are there unknown millions of infected who are not sure when, or even if, they became sick? How did Covid-19 originate—from bats, snakes, or pangolins in the open-air food markets of Wuhan? The Inter-net remains fervid with theories and rumors and known unknowns. It would take a gossipy Procopius to hunt them all down.

Modern people—unlike ancients, who were without effective medicines or vaccinations—apparently believe that the good life means that pandemics of any sort belong to another era and have no business popping up in their own.But in our blending of fear and speculation and blame, the more the world changes, the more its people certainly remain the same.
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Victor Davis Hanson (@VDHanson) is a senior fellow, classicist and historian and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution where many of his articles are found; his focus is classics and military history. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush.

Tags: Victor Davis Hanson, history, Pale Horse, coronavirus To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!

More Jobs, More Riots, Hurricane Joe, Trump Takes Action, Disorder In The Court. Abrams vs. The Ayatollah

Gary Bauer
by Gary Bauer: More Jobs
The economy created 1.8 million new jobs last month as more businesses reopened from the unprecedented coronavirus shutdown. The unemployment rate fell from 11.1% in June to 10.2% in July.

Once again, both figures beat the expectations of most economists who had predicted 1.4 million new jobs with an unemployment rate of 10.6%.

More Riots
While most Americans are trying desperately to return to normal, rioting appears to be the new normal in Portland. Last night, demonstrators blockaded a police station, barricaded the exits and attempted to set the building on fire with officers trapped inside.

This was finally too much for radical Mayor Ted Wheeler. He condemned the rioters for "attempting to commit murder" while simultaneously aiding President Trump's reelection. (I'm not sure which is the greater sin in Wheeler's mind.)

Meanwhile, an elderly woman with a walker attempted to put the fire out. She was assaulted by the radical demonstrators who covered her in white paint.

This is outrageous! But I have some questions:

Are there any God-fearing, law-abiding, America-loving men left in Portland? Are they all cowering in their homes?

Why was it left to an elderly woman to stand up for law and order in our country?

I don't know what's more depressing: what happened to this woman or that she's the only one out there standing with the police.

Hurricane Joe
"Hurricane Joe" wreaked havoc on just about every topic you can think of yesterday.

He began with bizarre remarks about the lack of diversity in the black community. He later attempted to clarify his statement, but he never actually apologized for it. Just the day before, he implied that a black reporter might be a "junkie."

And he said that illegal immigrants "should have access to what everybody else has access to." Presumably that means the right to apply for any job.

Biden once again announced that his immigration policy will be open borders. That means more pain and suffering for low-income Americans, including blacks and Hispanics, who will have to compete against illegal immigrants for entry-level jobs.

He also told us what he would do about the coronavirus. He said he would "roll back the reopenings in a number of places," shut down bars and added that "There should not be congregations of more than 10 people."

Are you part of a church that still thinks there's no difference between Donald Trump and Joe Biden?

It's also interesting that he puts bars and churches in the same category. Only one of them is protected by the First Amendment.

So on race relations, immigration, religious liberty and economic recovery, Joe Biden just provided plenty of reasons why America cannot afford to risk a Biden presidency.

Trump Takes Action
Every day, President Trump is reminding the American people what bold leadership looks like, especially compared to hiding in your basement. Yesterday, the president issued several important executive orders.

Trump made good on his promise to ban Chinese social media apps that threaten national security. In two orders, Trump targeted TikTok and WeChat because they "capture vast swaths of information" and allow "the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans' personal and proprietary information."

Just to be clear, President Trump is not alone in his concern about these Chinese apps. The Pentagon banned TikTok in January. Last night, the Senate passed legislation banning the app from all government devices. The House passed a similar ban last month.

The president also issued an executive order strengthening America's domestic medical supply chain. As we have previously noted, the United States is incredibly dependent on communist China for the medicines we need.

How did that happen? How did the world's leading free market economy become so dependent on the world's largest communist nation? It happened because far too many politicians and corporate elites were willing to put profit before principles.

Well, not this president!

Trump is putting America first by ensuring the safety of our domestic medical supply chain. The order requires federal agencies to purchase American-made medical products and to identify and correct potential vulnerabilities in the medical supply chain.

The administration also took additional steps today to confront communist China by imposing sanctions on several Chinese officials, including Carrie Lam, Beijing's puppet leader in Hong Kong.

Disorder In The Court
As I noted yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence made big news going after Chief Justice John Roberts. He reminded voters that the Supreme Court is a huge issue in the election as it directly impacts religious liberty, our Second Amendment rights, the sanctity of life and so much more.

In recent days, there have been disturbing news reports about the high court's latest term. The reports are disturbing because they involve highly unusual leaks about the justices' deliberations, and all of them come at the expense of the court's conservative justices. My good friend Mark Levin believes the leaker is Chief Justice John Roberts.

On Fox News this morning, Carrie Severino, a former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, said that "pressure from outside the court" may be influencing Roberts. This is going to renew concerns that have been around for a while.

We know the Obama Administration politicized and weaponized our intelligence agencies. They spied on the Trump campaign. I believe they deployed similar tactics against those of us opposed to the Iranian nuclear deal, including members of Congress. They even hacked the Senate Intelligence Committee.

When the conservative chief justice voted to uphold Obamacare, many of us wondered if the Deep State had something on Roberts.

At any other time in our history, I would have dismissed such a notion as unfounded speculation. But given what we know now about what happened under the Obama Administration, I think it is a legitimate question to ask.

Abrams vs. The Ayatollah
Kudos to Elliott Abrams!

Elliot is an old friend going back to our days in the Reagan Administration. He is one of the most astute strategists and observers of foreign policy that I know. I am pleased to report that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced that Elliott will be the new U.S. Special Representative For Iran.

Elliott is a strong supporter of Israel, and he clearly understands the threat posed to the United States and the Jewish state by the ayatollah's radical regime.
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Gary Bauer (@GaryLBauer)  is a conservative family values advocate and serves as president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families

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Ticket Balancing May Be Risky for Joe Biden

Michael Barone
by Michael Barone: If the presidential nominating process is the weakest part of our political system -- and, perhaps not coincidentally, one not referenced by the founders -- the vice presidential selection process comes solidly in second place. Some might even argue it's a contender for the top spot.

That's been particularly the case in the two most recent election cycles. The 2016 election, with Republican and Democratic nominees ages 70 and 69 on Election Day, respectively, elevated the actuarial odds of a vice president succeeding to the presidency to the highest level in history.

This year, the Republican and Democratic nominees turn 74 and 78, and the actuarial odds are accordingly grimmer. With Vice President Mike Pence sure to be re-nominated, the focus is on Joe Biden's choice, delayed now from the promised "first week of August."

Foreigners must consider it odd that 30 to 34 million people participate in selecting presidential nominees, but it's taken for granted that vice presidential nominees are selected by just one person. They may also consider it odd that Biden has limited his choice to women and, apparently -- he's not quite transparent on this -- to women who are nowadays called women of color. That limits the plausible picks to a very small percentage, and each of those mentioned seem to have at least one plausible disqualifying characteristic.

Former national security adviser Susan Rice, for example, with more foreign policy and national security experience than the others mentioned, was the Obama administration's designated liar, going on five Sunday programs as U.N. ambassador in 2012 to spread a legend about Benghazi. Sen. Kamala Harris is regarded by many Democrats as having been too prosecutorial when she was district attorney in San Francisco. Rep. Karen Bass was a big fan of Fidel Castro (Florida has 29 electoral votes). Rep. Val Demings was a cop.

Looking back, the two women previously nominated for vice president, former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro and former Gov. Sarah Palin, also had thin credentials and glaring weaknesses. But both, in my view, performed better in their fall campaigns than the men who selected them were entitled to expect. Maybe Biden's choice will, too.

And there's historical precedent for nominees choosing from a sharply narrowed field. The Democratic Party has, from its beginnings, been a coalition of out-groups, capable of winning majorities when united.

Keeping them together, however, can be hard work. Narrowing the VP list to women, or black women, rewards two decadeslong core constituencies, feminist-minded female college graduates and blacks. The prospect of a black female vice president, especially one with a non-negligible actuarial chance of becoming president, might maximize turnout of college females and blacks.

Of course, Americans have already elected a black president and nearly elected a woman. The prospect of a black woman vice president might seem no big deal. After John F. Kennedy won the presidency with 78% of Catholic votes in 1960, Catholic VP nominees were chosen by Republicans in 1964 and by Democrats in 1968 and 1972. All three tickets lost.

Democrats have had to choose from narrow fields of VP possibilities before. In the six decades after the Civil War, when the party's major constituencies were white Southerners and Catholic immigrants, it was considered unthinkable to put a Southerner or a Catholic on the ticket.

During these years, Democrats -- and Republicans -- usually nominated Northern Protestants from New York, Ohio or Indiana, the three large marginal states in close elections. A VP nominee's local appeal, they hoped, might swing enough electoral votes to swing the election. We lack the polling evidence to indicate whether this was so.

But between 1868 and 1920, every winning ticket and most losing tickets had at least one nominee from these three states, which were the home bases of the winning VPs in 10 of 14 elections.

There's a stronger argument for ticket balancing, at least since former President Jimmy Carter and former Vice President Walter Mondale reinvented the vice presidency as a working part of the executive branch. All but one of the vice presidents selected then had a career path and a set of experiences significantly different from those of the president who selected them.

Former Vice Presidents Walter Mondale, Dan Quayle, Al Gore, Joe Biden and Mike Pence have 12 to 36 years of congressional experience, compared with zero to four years for the presidential nominees who picked them. George H. W. Bush and Dick Cheney had years of foreign policy and national security policy experience, while the nominees who picked them had virtually none.

Joe Biden, with tons of experience (36 years in the Senate, eight in the White House), is said to be wary of an ambitious VP and may be tempted to name someone with little or no experience. Balancing the ticket that way wouldn't be unprecedented but might be unnerving to voters with a sense of the actuarial odds.

Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.
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Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. H /T Rasmussen Reports.

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Biden’s Game Plan — Take No Risks & Run Out the Clock

Joe Biden
by Patrick Buchanan: A second hurdle for Biden is his speech accepting the Democratic nomination. The country would be watching intently to see if the Biden of August 2020 had lost the mental and communication skills he once had. 

But Biden’s advisers bypassed that hurdle this week by declaring that the pandemic prevents Biden from traveling to the Milwaukee convention.

When Vice President Calvin Coolidge ascended to the presidency on the death of Warren Harding in 1923, a wag remarked that Silent Cal’s career had exhibited unmistakable signs of celestial intervention.

Governor Coolidge vaulted to national attention during the Boston police strike of 1919, where, in a stinging letter to Sam Gompers of the AFL, he thundered: “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.”

If Joe Biden becomes president, celestial intervention, once again, cannot be ruled out.

Consider.

In the first Democratic contest in 2020 in Iowa, Biden, though the clear front-runner in the national polls, ran a humiliating fourth. In New Hampshire, a week later, he ran fifth. In Nevada, Joe was crushed again by Bernie Sanders but edged out Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar thanks to his loyal African American base.

Came then South Carolina where the Black vote, 60% of the total, gave Biden a triumph — and the momentum that propelled him to a sweeping victory on Super Tuesday. Biden’s delegate count became so large it was virtually impossible for Sanders to overcome.

That March, however, which had begun with the resurrection of Biden’s campaign, was also the month the COVID-19 pandemic hit in full fury, sinking the exuberant economy that had been Donald Trump’s ticket to reelection.

At that point, Biden went to earth. Through the spring of 2020 and this summer, he has socially distanced himself from the press and the public and sheltered in place in a basement bunker as the worst pandemic in a century drove down the best economy in decades to Depression-era levels. The last quarter alone saw a 9% plunge in our gross domestic product.

If Biden wins in November, then his “basement bunker” campaign will be studied by historians alongside the “front porch” campaign of Harding that led to the 1920 landslide victory over Democrat James M. Cox.

Yet, several scheduled events could still upend Biden’s take-no-risks-and-run-out-the-clock strategy. The first is his choice of a vice presidential nominee, which Biden has promised will be a woman.

However, if Biden restricts his choice to a Black woman, as some have insisted, he eliminates from consideration every governor and senator in the party save Kamala Harris.

And if all the media attention given to Harris and other VP candidates fails to produce that Black woman, in this hour of renewed demands for racial equality, Biden will have some serious explaining to do to the core constituency that saved his bacon in South Carolina.

There is another danger in Biden’s choice.

When General Eisenhower chose Richard Nixon in 1952, the liberal press ginned up a story about a “secret Nixon slush fund,” so intense that Ike was almost stampeded into dropping his running mate.

In 1972, Sen. George McGovern’s campaign failed in its due diligence on his vice presidential choice, and McGovern was forced to drop Sen. Tom Eagleton from his ticket and replace him with Sargent Shriver.

Moreover, given Biden’s age — he would be the oldest president ever inaugurated by eight full years — his choice will have to be seen by the nation as a credible president.

A second hurdle for Biden is his speech accepting the Democratic nomination.

The country would be watching intently to see if the Biden of August 2020 had lost the mental and communication skills he once had.

But Biden’s advisers bypassed that hurdle this week by declaring that the pandemic prevents Biden from traveling to the Milwaukee convention.

This leaves the three presently scheduled debates as perhaps the last major hurdles between Biden and the presidency.

Since 1960, when John F. Kennedy established himself as a credible challenger to Vice President Nixon in the first of four debates, these confrontations have often proven critical.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford severely damaged his chances of holding onto the office he had inherited from Nixon when he insisted during his debate with Jimmy Carter that Poland, then under Soviet control, was a free nation.

Ronald Reagan used his 1980 debate with Carter to show with his wit and demeanor that he was anything but the reactionary of the major media’s depiction.

For Trump to regain lost ground, he must convince the country that not only is he the right man to manage America’s way out of the health crisis, economic crisis and racial crisis that were none of his doing, but that Biden has lost the physical rigor and mental capacity to cope with the triple crisis. And the best, and perhaps last, place to do that is in the debates.

The left understands this, which is why we are suddenly seeing media suggestions that Biden should cancel the debates.

A terrified left wants Joe Biden to coast to victory, and many on that side share a belief that this may be the only way he gets there.
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Patrick Buchanan (@PatrickBuchanan) is currently a blogger, conservative columnist, political analyst, chairman of The American Cause foundation and an editor of The American Conservative. He has been a senior adviser to three Presidents, a two-time candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, and was the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000.

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Why “Eat The Rich” Leads To Pauperizing the Poor

by William R. Collier, Jr.: In “The Rich In Public Opinion“, Dr. Rainer Zitelmann lays bare that raw bigotry that threatens to poison the well for everyone who aspires to a better life. We might call this the all-out assault on the very premise of capitalism and its impressive success in moving humanity toward universal opulence.

The incessant demonization of “the rich,” whose only sin is success, should not be seen as anything less than a threat to the general (including your and my) welfare.

Zitelmann’s book presents the stark reality of what this “reverse snobbery” (hatred of the rich) is, and what harm it does, without becoming boringly didactic. The language of the book is accessible and the evidence supporting his argument is clear and compelling. Study after study, often those done by the very people who despise the rich, exposes the deception and lies of those who disdain the tenth commandment, “thou shalt not covet.”

The enemies of economic liberty have presented a clever and yet demonstrably false claim that the rich got rich at the expense of the poor and workers. Their claim is that the rich are unethical, immoral thieves and that wealth is a zero-sum game. Their premise is that those who have wealth can only have it by pauperizing the rest of us. Balderdash!

Zitelmann does not hold back any punches. This anti-rich bigotry (reverse snobbery) is the only bigotry celebrated by the left’s woke cancel culture. Yet it is as toxic as racism, sexism, and all the other forms of bigotry. It derives from the hellish pits of covetousness and envy, the pillars of those economic systems that destroy legitimate opportunity and its attendant prosperity: cronyism and socialism.

Zitelmann doesn’t just complain. He offers proof that this bigotry is real and dangerous and that its premise is a lie. He decisively refutes the narrative that wealth and success are somehow rooted in evil. He makes an airtight case against that false consciousness.

Pay close attention to Chapter 8 where Zitelmann explains the way we perceive the roots of success. He explains actual studies that were conducted among rich and not-so-rich alike regarding the source of wealth. Is it negative traits, luck, external circumstances or positive individual traits that lead to wealth?

Not surprisingly, the answers often depend on the audience’s level of wealth achievement.

As Zitelmann notes on page 107, “Unfortunately, the authors do not ask whether the relationship between cause and effect could possibly (also) be reversed. Perhaps people are more successful in life when they see themselves as masters of their own destinies and less successful when they see themselves as victims of external circumstances and societal ranking.”

If we have accurate views of the real cause of wealth we increase our own likelihood of achieving wealth. Does this not make more sense than all the mental gymnastics the enemies of capitalism use to defame the rich and make all of us workers their political and social minions?

This view of the power of your own agency is fundamentally true and makes this book all the more urgent now. Zitelmann’s “compensation theory”, which he explains in the book, is a useful warning the aspiring Capitalist should heed. This is a theory wherein the individual who is compensating for their lack of perceived success must denigrate those who are more successful to feel morally superior. It is a small comfort, a guilty pleasure even, and almost an addiction.

Rather than merely posit this the author presents a great deal of evidence from empirical research. In short, he makes his case from the facts, not dogma.

As myself the president of The Capitalist League, and co-author of The Capitalist Manifesto, I believe success is mostly a product of effort and skill. Those who demonize the successful seek to wrap mental chains around us to enslave us. When the socialist and the cronyist hold us back in these chains they laugh all the way to the bank.

After “eating” the rich they come for the rest of us. (Hello Venezuela!) All we can ever hope for is the scraps that may fall from their table. This has been the case in all seventeen experiments with socialism conducted in the real world.

If you don’t even believe you can succeed without cheating, luck, or theft you may take some cold comfort in conflating your poverty with virtue. But as that great capitalist Deng Xiaoping, who succeed Mao as chairman of the Communist Party of China, once shrewdly observed, “Poverty is not socialism.” The virtues of capitalism are both moral and practical. Reject the fallacy that success is evidence of vice.

A false consciousness of moral superiority, the sugar coating of the Satan Sandwich of Socialism, won’t provide financial security to your family. It won’t warm you in the cold of winter. It will not propel your children to a better lifestyle than your own.

Reading this book will not only educate you as to the tactics and lies of the left, it will arm you with empirical evidence for the virtues of capitalism and it will equip you to rise to success yourself. Make no mistake, The Rich in Public Opinion is an important book. It makes an important contribution to the discourse. If you are committed to being an intelligent consumer of politics and policy buy and read it today.
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William Collier is a partner at Intellz and the President of The Capitalist League. His article was in The Economic Standard.

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When the Crowd Is Far Wiser Than Those Leading It

Giraffes, Flamingos, Defund, Defend, and the Wisdom and Madness of Crowds
by Ralph Benko: To belabor the obvious America, and the world, is going through upheavals. We unpleasingly argue our way through a pandemic.

It's hard to know who or what to believe.

We’ve pivoted from the melodrama of threatened, and then, in 2018-19 real (if partial and overhyped), government shutdown. Instead we have a massive social/economic shutdown.

The stakes are far higher.

Is it more dangerous to keep the economy (and school systems) closed?

Or, to open them?

Meanwhile, many hold that the calls to "defund the police" represent a blow against oppression and "systemic racism."

Which they, at least in part, are.

Yet, many see the calls to "defend the police" as taking a stand for our protection and for respect toward the thin blue line between order and anarchy.

Which they, at least in part, are.

The federal government swings like a weather vane in a hurricane.

Elected officials are pretty expert at reading public sentiment.

They are fixated, as they should be, on whether their actions are responsive to voters’ wishes and, thus, on their reelection prospects. And as bigfoot journalist James Surowiecki persuasively argued in "The Wisdom of Crowds" there are some great, scientific, reasons to consider crowds, which use "collective intelligence," wiser than individuals.

Good politicians can read those tea leaves.

Or . . . they don’t last long.

That said, the crowd also is foolish. Charles Mackay established that definitively almost two centuries ago in "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds."

To frost that cake, Sir Isaac Newton, perhaps the smartest man who ever lived, lost a fortune in the South Sea bubble.

He is widely reported by the omniscient internet to have said, "I can calculate the motions of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people."(Newton’s actual words, as recorded by Joseph Spence of the recollection of Lord Radnor, were "that he could not calculate the madness of the people." Close enough.)

So. Many elected officials, rather proficient in calculating the madness of the voters, are at loggerheads with each other. And with career civil servants. The latter are technocrats.

The technocrats’ expertise resides in interpreting scientific data. They tend to rely on computer models. These sanitize and make sacrosanct a lot of judgment calls programmed in by scientists. Scientists, after all, are only human. And "To err is human."

Meanwhile, to those of us in the bleachers the only positive certainty is that the elected officials are busily contradicting each other — and the experts.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., elegantly characterized the most recent offspring of the pachyderms and the donkeys as "giraffes and flamingos."

There seems no arbiter in whom we can safely repose our trust.

The Establishment never fully recovered from the credibility gap it bought itself by systematically lying about the Vietnam war, as revealed in the Pentagon Papers (and elsewhere). This mendacity generated countercultural bumper stickers for many of us Hippies to the effect of "Question Authority" and "Don’t trust anyone over 30."

It really does seem like the collapse of Western Civilization began in earnest in the 1970s. It is now visibly gaining momentum. Many of the causes of the protests of yore — anti-war, women’s lib — have been long resolved.

The civil rights movement made gains and was slowly (yes, far too slowly) continuing progress.

Just one piece of President Nixon’s perverse economic legacy, the "temporary" closing of the gold window, lingers. Might this matter? What should we make of John Maynard Keynes’s observation in his prophetic 1919 "The Economic Consequences of the Peace"? Keynes there embedded a clue to the possible cause of the existential crisis underlying so many of our institutional crises.

“Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth. . . . “Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”

Our political leaders, our experts, and our authorities obsess on symptoms.

The media and the pundits obsess upon the attendant palace intrigue. Meanwhile we in the wise and foolish crowd await the one-in-a-million capable of diagnosing what is unleashing all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction.
---------------------------
Ralph Benko is Chairman, The Capitalist League and contributor to the ARRA News Service. Benko shared this article on NewsMax.com.

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Free Market Voting

by Kerby Anderson: On the campaign trail and in university classrooms, capitalism and the free market are under attack. Defenders of a free market system make a convincing case for the economic benefits of capitalism. Adam Smith, for example, emphasized its efficiency but said little about its morality. That is a bit strange given that he was a professor of moral philosophy.

When defenders of capitalism ignore the moral issue, it allows socialists (like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) to criticize the injustice of capitalism. Dinesh D’Souza in his book, United States of Socialism, doesn’t ignore the issue of justice but actually embraces it.

Capitalism, he says, “far more than socialism, reflects the will of the people and expresses democratic consent.” A consumer is like a voter. As a citizen, we get to vote in an election every two to four years. But a consumer gets to vote every day with his or her dollar bills. That money represents the time and effort put in to get those dollar bills.

Citizens participate in a system of representative democracy (where their views are filtered through politicians who represent them). But a consumer votes in a system of direct democracy. You can choose Coke or New Coke or Pepsi or Dr. Pepper. You choose Fox over MSNBC and prefer an iPhone to another cell phone. You exercise your preferences by paying for it yourself.

The free market provides you a level of political participation and democratic consent that politics can never provide. You get to vote every day with your dollars and send economic signals to people and companies providing goods and services. Essentially, capitalism, like democracy, is a clear form of social justice.
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Kerby Anderson @KerbyAnderson) is an author, lecturer, visiting professor and radio host and contributor on nationally syndicated Point of View and the "Probe" radio programs.

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Senate VA Committee Advances Bill Championed by Boozman to Support Women Veterans

Watch Boozman’s statement after the Senate
VA Committee approved the Deborah Sampson Act.
WASHINGTON — The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (VA) this week passed legislation championed by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) that would improve VA care and services for women veterans.

The Deborah Sampson Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by John Boozman and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), would eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face and help ensure the VA can address the needs of women veterans who are more likely to face homelessness, unemployment and go without needed health care.

“More women are answering the call to serve in uniform. The modern makeup of our veteran population requires us to reexamine how we can best serve their needs. Removing the obstacles women face to accessing the care and benefits they earned is necessary to fulfilling our promise to these veterans. We are one step closer to making the VA more accommodating to the unique challenges facing these brave former service members,” Boozman said.

“Women are the fastest growing population of veterans and VA needs to be fully prepared to meet their needs,” said Ranking Member Tester. “The landmark passage of our Deborah Sampson Act sends a very important message—not only to women veterans, but to the American public—that my colleagues and I came together during politically turbulent times to do what’s right. In this case, it means getting one step closer to providing critical support to our sisters, mothers, and daughters who have sacrificed so much on our behalf.”

There are 19,000 women veterans in Arkansas. According to VA data, women comprised nine percent of the nationwide veteran population in 2015. That number is expected to increase to more than 16 percent within the next 25 years.

The Deborah Sampson Act includes the following provisions:
  • Empowers women veterans by expanding group counseling for veterans and their family members and call centers for women veterans,
  • Improves the quality of care for infant children of women veterans by increasing the number of days of maternity care VA facilities can provide,
  • Eliminates barriers to care by increasing the number of gender-specific providers in VA facilities, training clinicians and retrofitting VA facilities to enhance privacy and improve the environment of care for women veterans,
  • Improves the collection and analysis of data regarding women veterans, expands outreach by centralizing all information for women veterans in one easily accessible place on the VA website and requires the VA to report on the availability of prosthetics made for women veterans.
The legislation has widespread support, including from Veterans Service Organizations such as Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

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Where There’s Smoke

. . . Biden caught on tape saying Latinos are incredibly more diverse, unlike Black People.
Editorial Cartoon by AF "Tony" Branco

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Racism as Health Crisis?

by Paul Jacob, Contributing Author: How can you tell when people really care?

It is not when they mouth the right platitudes.

Or advance a carefully crafted political agenda.

What counts more? Something practical.

Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer cracked down further with COVID-related health care mitigation efforts this week. One stands out: on Wednesday she “declared racism a public health crisis, ordered implicit bias training for all state employees, and,” reports Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press, “created a state advisory council to focus on issues affecting Black people in Michigan.”

“We have a lot of work to do to eliminate the systemic racism that Black Americans have experienced for generations,” the governor said.

Whitmer noted that black Michiganders are four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white Michiganders — because, well, you probably do not need to read deeply into her communiqués or watch USA Today’s helpful video. The arguments are familiar.

And not completely without merit.

But notice what she did not say.

She did not advise darker-skinned people to take Vitamin D supplements and go outside and soak in more rays than they might, otherwise.

Vitamin D deficiency has been repeatedly linked as a co-factor for the development of severe COVID-19.

Race, not racism, may be what’s most relevant. Or, as the president might say, “it is what it is: white skin more efficiently absorbs solar radiation to produce Vitamin D than higher-melaninned skin, an adaptation for northern climes where solar radiation is less intense than in the tropics.*

While this is certainly not the only factor in susceptibility to the virus’s worst effects, and it is still unproven — a word to the wise.

From the caring.

Not the politicians.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

* “According to a CDC study published in 2006,” offered the Arizona Republic, “21% of non-Hispanic white people are at risk of having inadequate levels of vitamin D, versus 73% of Black people and 42% of Hispanic people.”
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Paul Jacob (@Common_Sense_PJ) is author of Common Sense which provides daily commentary about the issues impacting America and about the citizens who are doing something about them. He is also President of the Liberty Initiative Fund (LIFe) as well as Citizens in Charge Foundation. Jacob is a contributing author on the ARRA News Service.

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Fact check: Yes, the Mob is Coming for the Suburbs

Michelle Malkin
by Michelle Malkin: In June, America's mass media propaganda machine endangered the public by spreading insidious "disinformation" – while purporting to debunk "disinformation."

The New York Times, NBC News, CNN and the Associated Press converged nine weeks ago to persuade readers and viewers that neither Antifa rioters nor Black Lives Matter militants were fanning out from major urban areas into flyover country. Law enforcement bulletins and citizen alerts about the metastasis of violent demonstrations all amount to "misinformation," "bad information," "false information," "unfounded rumors" and "conspiratorial content," the Gray Lady scoffed.

NBC News and CNN exploited a single fake Antifa Twitter account to dismiss nationwide concerns of domestic terrorism as "viral misinformation."

The AP blasted "baseless theories" about encroaching violence and castigated "conservative news outlets and pro-Trump social media accounts" for reporting on them.

In short: Don't worry. Be happy. Blame Righty.

The "progressive" Anti-Defamation League – headed by Jonathan Greenblatt, a Clinton/Obama official and former George Soros-funded operative – amplified the fraudulent media campaign. "There has been no evidence of Antifa or Black Lives Matter organizing or carrying out attacks on suburban or white communities," the ADL declared, and the "large-scale protests following the murder of George Floyd" were "overwhelmingly peaceful."

Fact check: ADL = All Damned Lies. AP = Anarchist Propaganda. CNN = Chaos-Nurturing Network.

Since this agitprop campaign two months ago, armed extremists allied with Antifa and BLM have indeed staged escalating incursions into the heartland. Yes, the mob is on the move. Yes, the mob is targeting "suburban neighborhoods and white communities." Yes, the mob could turn up at your home at any time.

And no, in the age of American anarchotyranny, you cannot rely on the police, nor elected officials (Democratic or Republican), nor even mainstream Second Amendment organizations in Washington, D.C., like the National Rifle Association to stand with you in your time of need.

Just two weeks after the Denver police purposely stood down and watched my friends and I come under attack by BLM and Antifa at a "Back the Blue" rally, Colorado Springs police sat by and did nothing on Monday night as a residential neighborhood was shut down by cop-hating provocateurs. Toting AR-15s, carrying walkie-talkies and openly defying state laws prohibiting targeted picketing, the mob marched unobstructed into the streets of Pulpit Rock to the private home of a Colorado Springs Police Department officer. He had been cleared by a grand jury a year ago in a police-involved fatal shooting of an armed robbery suspect.

Local news outlets filmed black-clad BLM menaces in camo and combat boots ignoring cops' orders to stop blocking motorists. Militants cursed, threatened and waved their weapons at law-abiding citizens, one of whom called 911 for help once the mob let him through. No officer came to assist. Instead, CSPD officials posted on Twitter that they were "reminding" the mob "to not block the streets" and were issuing two "shelter in place" orders advising residents to "stay indoors; please lock and stay away from windows and doors."

"Protect and serve" has been replaced with "Tweet and retreat." Run and hide. Kneel and grovel. If it's coming to my once-solidly conservative community, it's coming to your town, too.

Former City Councilman Sean Paige condemned the fecklessness: "We have a 'law and order' mayor in Colorado Springs, right? So why is John Suthers letting thugs get away with this kind of dangerous/threatening nonsense in residential areas?"

Twitter user Sandi K. responded to the CSPD police posts: "Announcements? Reminders? How about arrests? Pathetic response by law enforcement. Unbelievable!"

Another enraged citizen asked CSPD: "(H)ow are the masked protesters who are in full tactical gear and standing down vehicles with their hands on the stocks of their rifles not menacing?"

I asked Lt. James Sokolik, CSPD public information officer, why no one was arrested. "We monitored" the protest "extensively," he told me, and made an "ultimate decision not to intervene" because "it took care of itself." That passive language echoes Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen's diffident downplaying of the riot at the "Back the Blue" rally as having "devolved" on its own, with no one and no entity actually accountable. "But I don't want to give the impression that this was some sort of blase thing," Sokolik warbled.

Oh, no. Who would ever get that impression? After all, the situation was being monitored.

Colorado Springs native and Benghazi Marine hero John "Tig" Tiegen, who works with the nonprofit Faith Education Commerce United, rejects such abject passivity in the face of extreme aggression. "You shouldn't have to hide in your own house and be held against your will for fear of bodily harm or death," he told me. He issued a call to action when he heard of the mob hijacking of Pulpit Rock. A large group of his friends joined him to defend and protect the homeowners from direct assault: "We were definitely a force, and the neighbors were glad we were there."

"It's time to stop living in utopia instead of reality," Tiegen counsels. Amen. Reject the lies. Ignore the smears. Lock, load and lean on each other. Domestic tranquility, like anarchotyranny, doesn't just happen on its own.
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Michelle Malkin is mother, wife, blogger, conservative syndicated columnist, and author. She shares many of her articles and thoughts at MichelleMalkin.comH/T  WND.

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1st Black Service Chief as Gen. 'CQ' Brown Takes Charge of Air Force

Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. reacts after he is sworn is as Chief of Staff of the Air Force,
in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Washington. 
by Gina Harkins: The Air Force must accelerate change to take on future challenges, the service's new chief of staff said during a historic ceremony in which he became the first African American to lead a military branch.

Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown became the 22nd Air Force chief of staff at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, replacing Gen. David Goldfein, who's retiring after 37 years. Members of Congress and Pentagon leaders, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, were in attendance. Brown's wife, Sharene, and their two sons looked on.

The event was done on a much smaller scale than normal due to the coronavirus pandemic. Guests and some Air Force musicians wore masks, and chairs for the smaller-than-normal crowd were spaced apart.

Brown not only credited his family's support for contributing to his success, but other Black military leaders such as the Tuskegee Airmen, who broke barriers and paved the way for officers like him.

"This is a very historic day for our nation, and I do not take this moment lightly," he said.

Brown took the helm after most recently leading Pacific Air Forces, where he oversaw more than 46,000 airmen operating out of Japan, Korea, Hawaii, Alaska and Guam. He also led the air campaign against the Islamic State as head of Air Forces Central Command.

The general is an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with nearly 3,000 flight hours, of which 130 were in combat.

He said he'll continue to build on the three focus areas Goldfein set during his four-year tenure as chief of staff: revitalizing squadrons, strengthening joint leaders and teams, and advancing multi-domain command and control. Brown also pledged to develop and empower leaders and prioritize quality-of-life initiatives for airmen and their families.

"No doubt, there are challenges ahead that will be difficult but not impossible," he said.

Brown also said he'd provide the Joint Chiefs with his best military advice on the challenges the U.S. military faces today and in the future. He is the first Black member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since retired Army Gen. Colin Powell served as chairman from 1989 and 1993.

He said he'll continue to build on the three focus areas Goldfein set during his four-year tenure as chief of staff: revitalizing squadrons, strengthening joint leaders and teams, and advancing multi-domain command and control. Brown also pledged to develop and empower leaders and prioritize quality-of-life initiatives for airmen and their families.

"No doubt, there are challenges ahead that will be difficult but not impossible," he said.

Brown also said he'd provide the Joint Chiefs with his best military advice on the challenges the U.S. military faces today and in the future. He is the first Black member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since retired Army Gen. Colin Powell served as chairman from 1989 and 1993.

He's stepping into the role as protests continue across the country following the May death of a Black man, George Floyd, while in police custody. He addressed the incident in a video message just days after Floyd's death, sharing how race played a role in his own career -- experiences, he said, "that didn't always sing of liberty and equality."

Esper said Brown is exceptionally qualified to serve as the next Air Force chief of staff.

"I'm confident that you will take the Air Force to even greater heights, and I'm excited to watch you lead," he said.

Goldfein's Legacy
Goldfein led the service during the fight against ISIS, the creation of the new Space Force, and the start of a global pandemic.

"His leadership was crucial at laying the foundation for what is now our sixth and newest military service, the United States Space Force," Esper said. "Gen. Goldfein was at the right place at a very important time as the department laid out the national defense strategy in 2018 -- the first revision of its kind in a decade."

Goldfein led the development of the B-21 Raider, the super-secret future bomber, and pushed to boost the number of Air Force squadrons to 386, up from 312. He also led efforts to ready the force for a future fight against near-peer threats after decades of operations in the Middle East.

Goldfein survived being shot down in an F-16 while flying over Serbia in 1999, an experience that shaped his leadership style for decades to come.

"We don't know, especially as officers, when some young airman is going to risk everything to pull us out of bad-guy land or a burning truck or an aircraft or you name it, and risk everything to save us," he said in a July interview with Military.com. "All we know is, on that day, we better be worthy of their risk."

Esper presented Goldfein with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal on Thursday. Goldfein was a bold advocate for empowering airmen, the citation states, and his dynamic leadership led to outstanding achievements during both war and peace.

"Because of Gen. Goldfein, the core fighting units of the Air Force are much stronger, and airmen are better prepared to lead in a joint environment," Esper said.

Goldfein said the Air Force and airmen will flourish under Brown's leadership.

"I could not be prouder that a true warrior, leader and personal friend will be taking his first 'walk of the chief' [in the Pentagon] tomorrow," he said. "... The future of our Air Force has never looked brighter."

Goldfein was once thought to be next in line to serve as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, but President Donald Trump ultimately picked Army Gen. Mark Milley for the job. Goldfein told Military.com he didn't take the decision personally.

"I've never looked back on that," he said. "The president has the absolute right and responsibility to pick the ... military adviser that he wants. And he picked the right guy."

Goldfein on Thursday said he hopes Americans are inspired by the selflessness of troops and their families, and remain hopeful for the country's future.

Though his speech was apolitical, in keeping with military tradition, Goldfein stressed that service members swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution. It's the same message Milley relayed in a recent speech after he was photographed in uniform near the White House, where federal police officers used force on peaceful protesters ahead of a presidential photo opportunity.

The image raised concerns about the military's involvement in nationwide protests in the wake of Floyd's death, as well as domestic politics. Milley later apologized and said he shouldn't have been there.

Goldfein on Thursday referenced Milley's speech, reminding troops that "the principle of an apolitical military "is so deeply rooted in the very essence of our republic." Civilian and military leaders must work as a team, he added.

"Neither one can bring lasting change alone," Goldfein said. "It's the ultimate team contact sport and a relationship that both must work equally hard to establish that level of trust and confidence that the institution and the nation deserve."
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Gina Harkins shared article on Military.com. Oriana Pawlykcontributed to this report.

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Barack Obama and His Race Card

Former President Barack Obama
at Funeral of John Lewis
by Larry Elder: Former President Barack Obama once again pulled out the race card for political gain, consequences be damned.

This time at the funeral of civil rights icon John Lewis, Obama compared President Donald Trump to not one but two racial segregationists, former Birmingham, Alabama, Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor and former Alabama Gov. George Wallace. The inconvenient truth that Connor and Wallace were Democrats is, apparently, of no relevance to Obama, his fellow Democrats or most of the media.

About Connor, Obama said, “Bull Connor may be gone, but today we witness, with our own eyes, police officers kneeling on the necks of Black Americans.” The longtime former Bronx Rep. Charles Rangel, whose district included Harlem, also employed the Republicans-are-like-Bull Connor meme. Rangel, though, used it on then-President George W. Bush, who also spoke at Lewis’ funeral. In 2005, Rangel criticized Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina by saying, “George Bush is our Bull Connor.”

For those who have forgotten or never knew, Connor is the segregationist Alabama lawman who, in the ’60s, turned water hoses and sicced dogs on civil rights protesters. “You can never whip these birds if you don’t keep you and them separate,” Connor said in 1963. “I found that out in Birmingham. You’ve got to keep your white and the Black separate.”

Yes, Obama just compared Trump to that man. Never mind that Trump signed the First Step Act that, so far, has allowed more than 3,000 inmates convicted for crack cocaine — mostly Black men — to have their sentences reconsidered and over 2,000 released. Never mind that Trump posthumously pardoned Jack Johnson, the first Black heavyweight champion, who was the victim of a racially motivated prosecution.

About Wallace, Obama said, “George Wallace may be gone, but we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators.” In 1963, Wallace defied federal officers by literally standing in front of the door of the University of Alabama in a failed attempt to prevent the university from integrating. That same year, in his gubernatorial inaugural speech, Wallace said, “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw a line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”

Yes, Obama just compared Trump to Wallace, the governor who tried to stop Blacks from getting an education at a public school that Blacks qualify to attend. Never mind that Trump is a proponent of school choice, allowing Black students, K-12, to take their public school dollars to whatever school they qualify for as an alternative to poor urban public schools.

Since Obama compared Trump to two dead racist Democrat segregationists of the 1960s, it is only fair to ask about Obama’s relationship with two living racist anti-Semites.

During his first six years, Obama invited the anti-Semitic, race-hustling, Tawana Brawley-lying Rev. Al Sharpton to the White House 72 times by December 2014. (Any visits after that time are not available on public record.) This would be the same Sharpton who, in 1991, fueled a rage in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, which experienced several days of violent protests in which Jews were attacked by Blacks. A few days earlier, Sharpton was recorded on tape bellowing, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.”

As to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a smiling Sen. Obama, in 2005, took a photograph with America’s most notorious anti-Semite — and segregationist. (“What the Muslims Want” No. 10 on the Nation of Islam official website reads: “We believe that intermarriage or race mixing should be prohibited.”) Photographer Askia Muhammad admitted that he did not show the photo to the public until 2018, after Obama left office. Asked whether the photo would have made a difference in Obama’s 2008 presidential race, Muhammad said: “I insist. It absolutely would have made a difference.”

If in doubt about whether the Obama-Farrakhan picture would have mattered, consider what Democratic lawyer Alan Dershowitz said after seeing the photo: “Louis Farrakhan is a virulent anti-Semite. He’s called Judaism a ‘gutter religion.’ He’s anti-American. He is a horrible, horrible human being.

“And if I had known that the President had posed smilingly with (Farrakhan) when he was a senator, I would not have campaigned for Barack Obama. It would have influenced my decision. Look, I threatened to leave the Democratic Party if Keith Ellison were elected as chairman because of his association with Farrakhan. You don’t associate with a bigot. You don’t associate with an anti-Semite.”

Democrats, such as Obama, can “associate” with racists and bigots like Sharpton and Farrakhan and, with a straight face, denounce Trump’s alleged racism and bigotry. And Obama knows that our left-wing media, of which MSNBC host Sharpton is a part, will not call him out.

Hypocrisy, anyone?
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Larry Elder (@larryelder) is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host, an American lawyer, writer and radio and television personality who is also known as the "Sage From South Central." To find out more about Larry Elder. Visit his website at LarryElder.com

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The Nonconformist

Over a lifetime of scholarship and public engagement, economist Thomas Sowell has illuminated controversial topics such as race, poverty, and culture.
Dr. Thomas Sowell
by Coleman Hughes: Measured by his contributions to economics, political theory, and intellectual history, Thomas Sowell ranks among the towering intellects of our time. Yet, rare among such thinkers, Sowell manages never to provoke, in the reader, the feeling of being towered over. As Kevin Williamson observed, Sowell is “that rarest of things among serious academics: plainspoken.” From 1991 until 2016, his nationally syndicated column set the bar for clear writing, though the topics he covered were often complex. “Too many academics write as if plain English is beneath their dignity,” Sowell once said, “and some seem to regard logic as an unconstitutional infringement of their freedom of speech.” If academics birth needlessly complex prose, editors too often midwife it. An editor, Sowell once quipped, would probably have changed Shakespeare’s “To be or not to be, that is the question” to something awful, like “The issue is one of existence versus non-existence.”

Consider Sowell’s clear, brief explanation of the economic idea of “scarcity.” “What does ‘scarce’ mean?” he asks in his layman’s textbook, Basic Economics. “It means that what everybody wants adds up to more than there is.” Not only is pointless complexity absent from Sowell’s prose; so is the first-person perspective. The words “I” or “me” scarcely show up in his 30-odd books, but for his memoir, A Personal Odyssey.

To his critics, Sowell’s writing style is severe. But to his fan base—which includes figures as different as Steven Pinker and Kanye West—it’s a refreshing break from the self-absorbed drivel that frequently passes for cultural commentary nowadays. Pinker, a Harvard psychologist and leading public intellectual, named Sowell the most underrated writer in history. West, for his part, tweeted out a handful of Sowell quotes to millions of followers in 2018.

Sowell’s first piece of writing was published in 1950—a letter to the now-defunct Washington Star, urging the desegregation of the city’s public schools. The only hint during this period that he would someday be an economist was a budding interest in Karl Marx. For Sowell, Marx’s ideas “seemed to explain so much,” including his own “grim experience.” At the time, Sowell was a 20-year-old high school dropout, working as a clerk by day and taking classes by night—a situation that actually marked an improvement over his being unemployed and, for a time, homeless in his late teens.

Sowell’s experience had not always been so grim. Though his father died before he was born and his mother soon after, he nevertheless remembers his early childhood as a happy one. He was raised by his great-aunt in a house without electricity or hot water—typical for black North Carolinians in the 1930s. At the time, it never occurred to Sowell that they were poor; after all, they “had everything the people around [them] had.” Nor did he realize what it meant to be black in the era of Jim Crow. White people were “almost hypothetical” to him as a child. Indeed, it “came as a shock” to learn that most Americans were not black.

Sowell’s world expanded radically when his family moved to Harlem in 1939. It was the Harlem of James Baldwin (six years Sowell’s elder), and among its offerings were public libraries, which a nine-year-old Sowell gravitated to, and fistfights, which he had no choice but to engage in frequently. “At one point,” he recalls, “getting home for lunch safely became such an ordeal that a friend would lend me his jacket as a disguise, so that I could get away before anyone could spot me.”

Nor did his troubles end when he got home. With each passing year, his relationship with his great-aunt deteriorated, hitting a breaking point after he enrolled at Stuyvesant, New York City’s most prestigious public high school. An untimely illness, together with a heavy workload, conspired to make schoolwork unmanageable. Before long, Sowell was skipping class altogether, even as he and his adoptive mother engaged in internecine warfare: she threw his treasured art supplies away; he smashed her favorite vase; she called the police on trumped-up charges; he threatened to leave home.

The conflict escalated until it reached the brink of actual violence. In his memoir, Sowell recounts the painful climax:“How long is this gonna go on, Thomas?” she asked me one day.

“Until someone cracks,” I said. “And it won’t be me.”

She tried being sanctimonious as I walked away, but I turned on her.

“You lying hypocrite!” I said, and launched into a tongue-lashing that left nothing to the imagination.

Wild with anger, she grabbed a hammer and drew it back to throw it. I was too far away to take it away from her, so I said: “Throw it—but you had better not miss.”

Trembling with anger, more so than fear, she put the hammer down. Afterwards, she seemed to understand at last the reality of our relationship, that we were simply enemies living under the same roof.
Sowell soon got himself emancipated and found a shelter for homeless youth. “It was now very clear to me that there was only one person in the world I could depend on,” he realized. “Myself.” With little more than the clothes on his back, he began a long journey that would lead him to the Marines, the Ivy League, and, briefly, the White House, at the Department of Labor.

In another cultural milieu, Sowell’s life could be the raw material for a compelling biopic or documentary. Instead, his story languishes in relative obscurity. This is partly because Sowell, after years of being a Marxist, ended up somewhere between libertarian and conservative—an orientation decidedly unwelcome in Hollywood. But he also does not wear his life story on his sleeve, and much in our culture today values “lived experience” over logical argument. In her best-selling book, White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo advises that, when talking to black people about race, white people should avoid being silent or emotionally withdrawn—but also avoid arguing. (She considers the phrases “I disagree” and “You misunderstood me” to be off-limits, for example.) For whites, the only option left, apparently, is to agree enthusiastically with whatever a black person says. By contrast, Sowell insists that his work “stands or falls on its own merits or applicability” and is not “enhanced or reduced by [his] personal life.”

His rejection of “lived experience” as a substitute for evidence, however, should not be confused with the view that experiences do not matter. In fact, Sowell’s work at times does reflect episodes from his life—often painful ones. The most striking example concerns his son, John Sowell. John was born healthy and seemingly normal, but as time passed, it became clear that something was wrong. Well past the age when most kids begin speaking in full sentences, John would scarcely utter a word. To outsiders, and even to Sowell’s then-wife, it seemed a clear case of mental disability. Yet Sowell wasn’t convinced. Speech problems aside, John was unusually bright: he could pick child locks before he could walk, for instance. And he had a prodigious memory: he once knocked over a chessboard mid-game and put all the pieces back in their former places. Given these underlying signs of intelligence, his failure to grasp even the simplest words was all the more mystifying. Yet hope came when, around age four, John slowly started to speak, and final vindication came when he grew up to become a well-adjusted young man.

Decades later, after his son had graduated from Stanford, Sowell set out to explain the puzzle. The result: the first academic study ever to explore the phenomenon of late-talking children who are unusually bright but not autistic. Drawing on this original research, as well as anecdotes, data, and history, Sowell wrote two books: Late-Talking Children, in 1997; and The Einstein Syndrome, in 2001. The second—named after history’s most famous late talker—won praise from Steven Pinker as “an invaluable contribution to human knowledge.” But apart from child-psychology specialists like Pinker, and parents of late talkers, these books received little public notice. Yet they represent a remarkable achievement: in an era of high academic specialization, it’s vanishingly rare for a scholar to break new ground in a field in which he has no formal training.

Sowell’s books on economics, the field in which he is trained—he received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1968—form the core of his achievement. Foremost among them is Knowledge and Decisions, first published in 1980. The book draws its inspiration from Friedrich Hayek’s classic 1945 essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” The knowledge that concerned Hayek was not timeless, scientific knowledge of the sort discovered by Einstein, or the bureaucratic knowledge that a government agency gathers, but practical knowledge—the kind required, say, to run a deli on a particular street corner in a specific neighborhood or grow crops on a particular plot of land in a variable climate. Knowledge of this kind is both fleeting (what was true last week may not be true this week) and local (what is true on one street corner may not be true on the next). No single person can ever possess much of it.

If it were possible for the sum total of such knowledge, distributed among millions of different minds, to be collected and conveyed to a single mind in real time, then a central planner could direct the economy like a maestro conducts an orchestra. Of course, it’s not possible, but Hayek’s insight was that the price mechanism achieves the same result, anyway. If tin suddenly becomes scarcer—either because reserves have been destroyed or a new use for it has been discovered—no central planner is needed to get consumers to use less of the metal. People do not even need to know why tin has become scarcer. Armed with no information other than the increased price of tin, millions will reduce their use of it, as if directed by an omniscient force. Put another way, what would require an impossible amount of knowledge and conscious coordination in the absence of prices requires neither in their presence.

Where Hayek’s essay ends, Sowell’s magnum opus begins. As the title suggests, the book is not only about knowledge (in Hayek’s sense) but also about the decisions we make—in economics, politics, war, and much else—based on such knowledge. In a world where each person’s knowledge amounts to a speck in an ocean of ignorance, Sowell’s thesis holds that “the most fundamental decision is not what decision to make but who is to make it.” While decision makers may speak in terms of goals—ending poverty, reducing racism, spreading democracy, and so on—all they can actually do is to begin processes. Thus, when faced with the question, “Who gets to decide?,” we ought to answer not by reference to the superior goals or moral fiber of some institution or another but to the incentives and constraints facing different decision makers.

The American Revolution, with its emphasis on checks and balances, provides the classic example of Sowell’s thesis put into practice. Drawing on “knowledge derived from experience,” Sowell writes, the Founders assumed that humans are basically selfish and created a system of incentives and constraints that would impede selfish leaders from doing horrible things. By contrast, the French Revolution, based on “abstract speculation about the nature of man,” assumed the opposite—that man was perfectible and that government was the instrument of perfection. The very different consequences of these two revolutions, according to Sowell, were no accident.

The more common choice between decision makers pits the government against the market. Yet for Sowell, “the market” is “a misleading figure of speech.” Many “refer to ‘the market’ as if it were an institution parallel with, and alternative to, the government as an institution.” In reality, “the market” is not an institution; it is “nothing more than an option for each individual to choose among existing institutions, or to fashion new arrangements suited to his own situation and taste.” The need for housing, for example, “can be met by ‘the market’ in a thousand different ways chosen by each person—anything from living in a commune to buying a house, renting rooms, moving in with relatives, living in quarters provided by an employer, etc.” Market arrangements may differ, but what unites them—and separates them from government plans—is that those who make decisions experience both their costs and benefits. Their feedback mechanisms are therefore instantaneous.

Though the connection is less obvious, Knowledge and Decisions reflects Sowell’s life as much as his books on late-talking children do. Like the American Founders, Sowell came to his view of government more through experience than through philosophy. In 1960, he worked as an economist with the Labor Department. His task was to study the sugar industry in Puerto Rico, where the department enforced a minimum-wage law. Upon discovering that unemployment was rising with each increase in the minimum wage, Sowell wondered whether the law was causing the rise—as standard economic theory would predict. His coworkers had a different take: unemployment was rising because a hurricane had destroyed crops. Eventually, Sowell came up with a way to decide between the competing theories: “What we need,” he told his coworkers excitedly, “are statistics on the amount of sugarcane standing in the field before the hurricanes came through Puerto Rico.” He was met with a “stunned silence,” and his idea was dismissed out of hand. After all, administering the minimum-wage law “employed a significant fraction of all the people who worked there.”

This was not an isolated experience. In 1959, Sowell was working as a clerk-typist for the U.S. Public Health Service in Washington. One day, a man had a heart attack just outside the building. He was taken inside and asked if he was a government employee. If he had been, he could have received treatment in the same building, immediately. But he was not—so he had to be sent to a hospital across town. It was rush hour, and by the time he got there, he was dead. Sowell captured the dark irony: “He died waiting for a doctor, in a building full of doctors.” As with the Labor Department, the problem was not the employees, who “were very nice,” he remembers; it was the “nature of a bureaucracy” itself, with its bad incentives and slow feedback mechanisms.

Dark irony (usually the result of some government program) is a frequent theme in Sowell’s work. One fact referenced in Basic Economics is typical: as part of an effort to support farmers during the Great Depression, the federal government bought 6 million hogs in 1933 and destroyed them—while millions of Americans were struggling to feed themselves. Modern bureaucracies, of course, can hardly escape ridicule. During the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, common sense led many people to wear masks in public, since it was well known that the virus spread mainly through coughing. Yet for months, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control advised people not to wear masks—only reversing their advice after the pandemic had nearly reached its peak. Unlike a business owner confronting a market test, no one in these organizations will necessarily pay a price.

A Conflict of Visions (1987) represents Sowell’s best effort to put his ideas in dialogue with their opposite. He begins the book by observing a strange fact: people predictably line up on opposite sides of political issues that seemingly have nothing in common. For instance, knowing someone’s position on climate change somehow allows you to predict their views on taxing the rich, gun control, and abortion. It’s tempting to dismiss this as mere political tribalism. But Sowell contends that more is at work: that there are two fundamental ways of thinking about the social world, two sets of basic assumptions about human nature, and two conflicting “visions,” from which most political disagreements follow. He names these the constrained vision and the unconstrained vision.

The constrained vision underlies Knowledge and Decisions. It maintains that humans are inherently more flawed than perfectible, more ignorant than knowledgeable, and more prone to selfishness than altruism. Good institutions take the tragic facts of human nature as given and create incentive structures that, without requiring men and women to be saints or geniuses, still lead to socially desirable outcomes. A good example is the price mechanism as described by Hayek. Centralized power is treated with suspicion, as the humans who wield it will be self-interested, or worse. What’s more, in the constrained vision, traditions and social mores are trusted because they represent the accrued wisdom of untold generations.

As for the unconstrained vision, if humans are flawed, selfish, and ignorant, it is not due to the unchangeable facts of our nature but to the way that our society happens to be arranged. By reforming our economic system, our education system, our laws, and other institutions, it is possible to change the social world in fundamental ways—including those aspects of it purportedly fixed by human nature. Through enlightened public policy, often implemented by a central authority, evils once assumed as inevitable are revealed to be social constructs or products of outdated ideas. Traditions should receive no special reverence, in this vision, but live or die according to their rationality (or lack thereof), as judged by modern observers.

A frequent theme in Sowell’s writing is what philosophers would call reversing the explanandum—the phenomenon to be explained. Take poverty. Many observe the enormous chasm between rich and poor nations and, understandably, wonder why poverty exists. But the real question, in the constrained vision, is why wealth exists. “Standards of living far below what we would consider to be poverty have been the norm for untold thousands of years. It is not the origins of poverty which need to be explained,” Sowell writes in his recent Wealth, Poverty and Politics. “What requires explaining are the things that created and sustained higher standards of living.” In personal matters, too, he is quick to notice a mistaken explanandum. “Age 86 is well past the usual retirement age,” he noted in the final installment of his column, “so the question is not why I am quitting, but why I kept at it so long.” One major difference between the two visions is where they locate the explanandum when viewing the social world. “While believers in the unconstrained vision seek the special causes of war, poverty, and crime,” Sowell writes in Conflict, “believers in the constrained vision seek the special causes of peace, wealth, or a law-abiding society.”

Sowell’s great contribution to the study of racial inequality was to reverse the explanandum that has dominated mainstream thought for over a century. Intellectuals have generally assumed that in a fair society, composed of groups with equal inborn potential, we should see racially equal outcomes in wealth, occupational status, incarceration, and much else. That racial disparity is pervasive is seen either as proof that racial groups are not born with equal potential or that we don’t live in a fair society. The first position predominated among “progressive” intellectuals in the early twentieth century, who blamed racial disparity on genetic differences and prescribed eugenics as a cure. The second has dominated the academy since the 1960s and is now orthodoxy on the political Left. Democrats as moderate as Joe Biden have charged that America is “institutionally racist,” and when asked to prove it, the reply almost always points to statistical disparities between whites and blacks in wealth, incarceration, health, and in other areas. The suppressed premise—that statistical equality would be the norm, absent racism—is rarely stated openly or challenged.

In a dozen books, Sowell has challenged that premise more persuasively than anyone. One way he pressure-tests this assumption is by finding conditions in which we know, with near-certainty, that racial bias does not exist, and then seeing if outcomes are, in fact, equal. For example, between white Americans of French descent and white Americans of Russian descent, it’s safe to assume that neither group suffers more bias than the other—if for no other reason than that they’re hard to tell apart. Nevertheless, the French descendants earn only 70 cents for every dollar earned by the Russian-Americans. Why such a large gap? Sowell’s basic insight is that the question is posed backward. Why would we think that two ethnic groups with different histories, demographics, social patterns, and cultural values would nevertheless achieve identical results?

Sowell notes, too, the cases of a minority group with no political power nevertheless outperforming the dominant majority oppressing them. His favorite example was the successful Chinese minority in Southeast Asia. But he also has written about the Jews in Europe, the Igbos in Nigeria, the Germans in South America, the Lebanese in West Africa, and the Indians in East Africa. Perhaps the most striking American example is the Japanese. The Japanese peasant farmers who arrived on America’s western coast in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries faced laws barring them from landownership until 1952, in addition to suffering internment during World War II. Nevertheless, by 1960 they were outearning white Americans.

The phrase “the myth of the model minority” gets repeated so often that we mistake it for an explanation. It’s not a myth that some American minorities have higher incomes, better test scores, and lower incarceration rates than white Americans. And the most common explanation for this—that such groups come from the highly educated upper crusts of their original homelands—both explains too little and concedes too much. First, it doesn’t explain the rise of groups such as the Japanese; nor does it explain the eventual success of the Jewish migrants who left Europe around the turn of the century and settled on New York’s Lower East Side. Second, the argument implicitly concedes a part of what it seeks to refute: that the main determinants of economic success are education and skills—“human capital,” as economists call it.

One can object that the experience of black Americans is unique, and therefore incomparable with that of any other group. No other ethnic group in America was enslaved, disenfranchised, lynched, segregated, denied access to credit, mass-incarcerated, and so on. This is true enough—but only if our analysis is limited to America. What is so valuable about Sowell’s perspective is precisely its international scope. In three thick volumes published in the 1990s — Conquests and Cultures, Migrations and Cultures, and Race and Culture—he examined the role that cultural difference has played throughout world history. Sowell documents the fact that slavery, America’s “original sin,” has existed on every inhabited continent since the dawn of civilization. Without going back more than a few centuries, every race has been either slaves or enslavers—often both at once. Preferential policies provide another example. What we Americans euphemistically call “affirmative action” has existed longer in India than in America. Malaysia, Sri Lanka, China, and Nigeria have all had it, too.

How does all this apply to America? On William F. Buckley’s Firing Line, Sowell summed it up in a sentence: “I haven’t been able to find a single country in the world where the policies that are being advocated for blacks in the United States have lifted any people out of poverty.” Maybe American race relations are so unique that all historical and international comparisons are useless. But it’s far more likely that we have something important to learn from patterns that have held true around the world and throughout history.

Like others with similar views on race, Sowell has encountered countless smears, though the usual avenues of attack—accusations of racism, privilege, and all the rest—have not been available. Someone should have told Aidan Byrne, who reviewed one of Sowell’s books for the London School of Economics blog. Doubtless convinced that he was delivering a devastating blow, Byrne quipped: “easy for a rich white man to say.” It’s hard not to laugh at this hapless reviewer’s expense, but many mainstream commentators differ from Byrne only in that they usually remember to check Google Images before launching their ad hominems. The prevailing notion today is that your skin color, your chromosomes, your sexual orientation, and other markers of identity determine how you think. And it is generally those who see themselves as the most freethinking—“woke,” while the rest of us are asleep—who apply the strictest and most backward formulas.

To such people, the existence of a man like Thomas Sowell will always be a puzzle. He will always remain, in their minds, a phenomenon to be explained. But the question is not why a man who lived Sowell’s life came to hold the views that he did. The question is why one would expect a mind so brilliant to submit itself to received opinion of any kind
------------------------
Coleman Hughes is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor of City Journal.

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  • 10/13/19 - 10/20/19
  • 10/20/19 - 10/27/19
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  • 11/3/19 - 11/10/19
  • 11/10/19 - 11/17/19
  • 11/17/19 - 11/24/19
  • 11/24/19 - 12/1/19
  • 12/1/19 - 12/8/19
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  • 12/22/19 - 12/29/19
  • 12/29/19 - 1/5/20
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  • 1/19/20 - 1/26/20
  • 1/26/20 - 2/2/20
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  • 2/9/20 - 2/16/20
  • 2/16/20 - 2/23/20
  • 2/23/20 - 3/1/20
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  • 3/29/20 - 4/5/20
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  • 8/23/20 - 8/30/20
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  • 9/6/20 - 9/13/20
  • 9/13/20 - 9/20/20
  • 9/20/20 - 9/27/20
  • 9/27/20 - 10/4/20