Who watched the Republican debate?

How did my favorite Nikki Haley do in the Republican debate a couple of nights ago? And, in a matter of local interest, what about the hated fascist tyrant of Florida, Ron DeSantis (who continues to oppress Latinx migrants such as Lionel Messi)?

I happened to be at my mom’s retirement apartment building on the night of the debate. The elderly Democrats there (DC suburbs, remember, so all of these folks made their money from bigger government) were intensely interested. I asked “If Joe Biden were a mental vegetable, would you still vote for him?” The answer was “yes”. I followed up with “What if Joe Biden were dead. What you vote for his corpse to serve as president rather than a Republican?” The answer was again “yes”. I never figured out why people who would never consider voting for a Republican would bother to watch. (They also expressed intense fear that Trump would return, though none can cite any example of personal suffering or even suffering of an acquaintance that they attribute to Trump’s first administration.)

There are a fair number of Jews in the building and they have followed recent political events in Israel in U.S. media. Their impression is that “everyone in Israel is out protesting.” (I didn’t have a chance to ask whether the victims of tyranny in Israel will seek asylum in Syria or if Lebanon is the preferred destination for refugees.) A couple of young visitors who had just returned from two weeks in Israel said, “We didn’t see anyone protesting,” but this wasn’t persuasive.

Based on consumption of U.S. media, another prevalent belief among the older crowd was that most of Hawaii had been torched. They’d checked in with anyone they knew who might have been on Oahu, for example.

I’m not sure what it matters what Yellow Dog Democrats at the NYT think about candidates in a primary that they’d be ashamed to vote in, but Nikki Haley was chosen as the best of the worst:

(Winning “most levelheaded person onstage” is like being a dwarf among midgets?)

Readers who watched: What did you learn?

From an aviation group, regarding the candidate who wasn’t there….

Note that the jet-fuel-pumping FBO chain Signature is substantially owned by climate charge activist Bill Gates.

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Would Supreme Court Justices retire younger if they couldn’t live like billionaires while in the job?

I always wondered why Supreme Court Justices didn’t quit their $400,000ish/year (total compensation) jobs and become law firm partners making $5 million/year arguing cases. Why live like civil servants when they could easily be living the multimillionaire lifestyle? And why not retire prior to becoming 98% dead? Recently we’ve learned the answer: they’re living like billionaires just as long as they keep sitting on the Court. Examples: “I shot myself a deer,” Elena Kagan said of a recent big game hunting trip with the conservative justice [Scalia] in Wyoming.” (Atlantic) and “Justice Samuel Alito Took Luxury Fishing Vacation With GOP Billionaire Who Later Had Cases Before the Court” (ProPublica).

If ethics rules were changed so that Supreme Court Justices couldn’t spend weekends and vacations on Gulfstream G700s, I wonder if they’d retire at a more typical age and/or leave government at 60-65 to earn some big $$ in the private sector before hanging up their pens.

Here’s one of our heroes on a July 2008 trip to a $1,000/day fishing lodge in Alaska:

(i.e., right before the world was about to melt down for the peasants)

From the ProPublica article:

“If you were good friends, what were you doing ruling on his case?” said Charles Geyh, an Indiana University law professor and leading expert on recusals. “And if you weren’t good friends, what were you doing accepting this?” referring to the flight on the private jet.

If nothing else, I guess we can be sure that our legal system will remain friendly to the interests of billionaires!

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Supreme Court saddens the guys working at our house today

The “abnormal” Republicans on the Supreme Court prevented the working class from paying for elite kids’ gender studies degrees. “Supreme Court blocks Biden’s student loan forgiveness program” (CNN):

In a stinging defeat for President Joe Biden, the Supreme Court blocked the administration’s student loan forgiveness plan Friday, rejecting a program aimed at delivering up to $20,000 of relief to millions of borrowers struggling with outstanding debt.

The decision was 6-3 with Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the conservative supermajority.

Roberts said the government needed direct authorization from Congress.

“The question here is not whether something should be done; it is who has the authority to do it.”

The liberal dissenters said the majority is basically making political decisions.

“The Court acts as though it is an arbiter of political and policy disputes, rather than of cases and controversies,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote.

The end of this glorious scheme comes just as there are three guys working at our house. One is a plumber rebuilding the Watts 007M3 backflow preventer, a 20-year-old device that protects the public water supply from contaminants (SARS-CoV-2?) that could be introduced from our house’s irrigation system, which is entirely separate and fed by “reclaimed water” (maybe we don’t want to know the details?). There are two guys installing a new garage door that meets the latest code for impact resistance (shooting 2x4s at the door with a cannon) as well as wind resistance. I actually went up to W8 wind resistance, which is required down in Miami, on the theory that the New York Times might be correct about the appropriate level of climate panic. (Hurricanes may actually be getting less common; see “Declining tropical cyclone frequency under global warming” (2022) from Nature Magazine)

(The new garage door should pay for itself within a few years because it is insulated, unlike the other one, and it will give us a discount on homeowners insurance, a rare Florida problem that the New York-based media does not exaggerate!)

I wonder if these hard-working guys are experiencing personal sadness that, while they can still pay for the elites’ new Teslas, they can no longer fund elite kids’ college tuition and, indirectly, enrich anthropology professors and administrators.

Separately, it’s interesting that what is constitutional is now entirely predictable based on the political party of the Supreme Court Justice. A layperson might be excused for thinking that these sacred legal principles are entirely arbitrary!

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Why won’t Americans move away from states that they characterize as oppressive?

“NAACP Issues Travel Advisory in Florida” (NAACP):

the NAACP Board of Directors issued a formal travel advisory for the state of Florida. The travel advisory comes in direct response to Governor Ron DeSantis’ aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.

The formal travel notice states, “Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals. Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”

“Let me be clear – failing to teach an accurate representation of the horrors and inequalities that Black Americans have faced and continue to face is a disservice to students and a dereliction of duty to all,” said NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson. “Under the leadership of Governor Desantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon. He should know that democracy will prevail because its defenders are prepared to stand up and fight. We’re not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation.”

According to the NAACP Board members, Florida has either no soul or an evil soul. Democracy might “prevail” in the future, which implies that right now there is no democracy in Florida. Therefore, nobody should risk spending a week at Disney World or on the Miami Beach sand.

Where do the successful intelligent people who issued this advisory choose to live? Florida. The Board of Directors page lists Leon W. Russell as the Chair. Mr. Russell’s Twitter profile says that he chooses to live in Tampa, Florida. The page shows that at least some other Board members also choose to live in Florida:

In other words, the folks who said that Florida is too dangerous to visit for even a few days due to its missing and/or defective soul and its lack of democracy choose to live in Florida all-year every-year. There is no income or estate tax in Florida, but the folks who issued this warning pay sales tax to support the tyranny of Ron DeSantis (whose name they do not capitalize properly!) every time that they shop at Publix. If they keep sending money to the tyrant, shouldn’t he infer that they actually support whatever it is that he is doing?

The Republicans I know who live in Democrat-run states don’t say that they are suffering from “fascism”, but they still say that they disagree with lockdowns, school closures, mask orders, vaccine papers checks, race-based government programs, gender reassignment surgery for teenagers, etc. When I suggested to a pilot friend in Maskachusetts that he move to a state where the government would use his tax money to do things that he supports, he said that he wants to but that his wife wants to “stay and fight”. He pays about $400,000 per year in state/local taxes. I suggested that he give me $400k/year and that I would do a bunch of stuff that he disagrees with in exchange. His wife can trash talk me on Facebook and Twitter to her heart’s content. Does he think that I will be motivated to change while the $400k checks continue to roll in?

“Stay and fight” makes sense to me if the dispute is over the appropriate level of school funding or whether zoning laws should be relaxed to allow construction of massive apartment buildings to accommodate some of the 100+ million additional Americans who are going to be living here due to our mostly-open-borders immigration policy. But “stay and fight” wouldn’t have made sense against a totalitarian 20th century government. Nobody who stayed to fight Stalin or Mao had any significant positive impact. Yet it is precisely this kind of totalitarianism that Florida Democrats say they are experiencing. Some examples from the tyrant’s opponent in the 2022 general election:

After what he called “fascism” won by a landslide, did he move to a fascism-free state? I haven’t found any media stories suggesting that Crist did anything to free himself. He’s quietly living in Florida, apparently, paying taxes to keep fascism going. (See Will Democrats have to move if Republicans win in their states? for some more examples.)

Marijuana entrepreneur-partnered Nikki Fried is running the Florida Democrats right now. She chooses to live in Florida, where she says that “fascism” prevails (since we must work to “end fascism”):

Why don’t we see Democrats fleeing fascism in significant numbers? There should be plenty of room right now in the fascism-free state of New York: “NYC lost 5.3% of its population — nearly a half-million people — since COVID, with most heading South” (New York Post, May 18, 2023).

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Ron DeSantis vs. the Progressive Elite

Posts so far regarding The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival, by Ron DeSantis:

One topic that cuts through the book is how progressive elites have found new ways to dominate American politics and therefore, as the government has been greatly expanded, American society.

Ron explains how Facebook can now run U.S. elections:

In 2020, Facebook founder and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg poured $400 million into nonprofit groups to funnel directly to election offices in key states. This included more than $350 million dispersed by Zuckerberg’s Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) to provide so-called “COVID-19 response” election administration to local election offices, with the money going disproportionately to left-leaning counties to boost Democratic turnout in the election. Rather than fund groups seeking to influence the behavior of voters through persuasion, Zuckerberg used his $400 million to manage the election itself. In 2020 injecting private money into election administration was not against the law, largely because it was not something that state legislatures had contemplated. This meant that Zuckerberg-backed groups could direct the grant money it distributed to election offices. Groups like CTCL used this leverage to staff local election offices with partisan activists, requiring the offices to work with partisan “partner organizations” to expand mass mail balloting and to permit ballot harvesting. This represented an unprecedented transformation of election administration into an organ of partisan electioneering. Following the 2020 election, I responded to these questionable practices by ushering through the Florida Legislature a sweeping package of reforms to fortify election integrity. First, we enacted a prohibition on ballot harvesting and made it a third-degree felony. Second, we required voter ID for absentee ballot requests, equalizing the voter ID requirement for absentee votes with the long-required ID requirement for in-person voting. Third, we ensured that county supervisors of elections clean their voter rolls on an annual basis by instituting penalties for noncompliance. Fourth, we instituted an outright ban on Zuckerbucks to stop the use of private money in election administration.

The above is, of course, in addition to Facebook’s power to nag young progressives to get off the sofa and cast an in-person or mail-in ballot.

Facebook and friends had better keep working to keep Ron DeSantis out of Washington, D.C.!

As the years wore on, especially following the election of Donald Trump in 2016, large Silicon Valley companies began to evolve from being open platforms to serving as censors. Part of this was in response to pressure from the tech industry’s fellow travelers on the political left to crack down on what they considered to be “misinformation,” which was frequently just speech they didn’t like. Tech companies also received pressure from legacy media outlets, which had lost influence because of Big Tech’s rise.

This is all well and good, but when these tech platforms start to aggressively censor speech, it calls into question the basis for the federal liability protection. Indeed, the practices of Big Tech reveal the companies to represent the censorship arm of the political left, and their mission seems to be the enforcement of leftist orthodoxy and the marginalization of those who dissent from it. As companies like Facebook and Twitter make censorship decisions that always seem to err on the side of silencing those who dissent from leftist orthodoxy, they distort the American political system because so much political speech now takes place on these supposedly open platforms. From censoring the Hunter Biden laptop story during the 2020 presidential election to suppressing search results from conservative media sources, Big Tech has consistently placed a firm thumb on the scale for the political left.

Even apart from the risk of collusion with the government, Big Tech platforms have become the new public square, so viewing these quasi monopolies as just run-of-the-mill private companies is a mistake. While a properly functioning free market should allow for competitors to emerge to challenge the incumbent companies, Big Tech has used its massive market power to crush upstart firms. As a result, it’s wishful thinking to hope that the market will solve the problem of Big Tech censorship. With this in mind, I worked with the Florida Legislature to enact a series of reforms to protect Floridians from Big Tech censorship. We did this knowing these represented novel legal issues that would eventually be decided by the US Supreme Court. Our goal was to provide a legal framework that guaranteed more, not less, political speech. In doing so, we recognized that these massive tech companies are different from a typical corporation and are more akin to a common carrier like a telephone company. Our reforms included protections for political candidates against being deplatformed, which is a way for Big Tech to interfere in elections. What is stopping Big Tech companies from shutting off Republican candidates from social media platforms during the stretch run of an election? If someone hosts a get-together for a candidate and provides refreshments, that must be accounted for as a campaign contribution, yet a tech company can upend an entire candidate’s campaign, and that is somehow not considered interference with an election.

For those who are curious about the backstory regarding Disney and its fight with the people of Florida:

As the controversy over the Parental Rights in Education bill [“Don’t Say Gay” according to the New York Times] was coming to a head, [Disney CEO] Chapek called me. He did not want Disney to get involved, but he was getting a lot of pressure to weigh in against the bill. “We get pressured all the time,” he told me. “But this time is different. I haven’t seen anything like this before.” “Do not get involved with this legislation,” I advised him. “You will end up putting yourself in an untenable position. People like me will say, ‘Gee, how come Disney has never said anything about China, where they make a fortune?’ “Here is what will happen,” I continued. “The bill will pass, and there will be forty-eight hours of outrage directed at Disney for staying neutral. Then the Legislature will send me the bill a few weeks later, and when I sign it, you will get another forty-eight hours of outrage, mostly online. Then there will be some new outrage that the woke mob will focus on, and people will forget about this issue, especially considering the outrage is directed at a political-media narrative, not the actual text of the legislation itself.”

In promising to work to repeal the bill, supposedly family-friendly Disney was moving beyond mere virtue signaling to liberal activists. Instead, the company was pledging a frontal assault on a duly enacted law of the State of Florida. Things got worse for Disney. Almost immediately after the company issued its declaration of war, remarkable footage leaked from a video conference in which Disney executives promised to inject sexuality into programming for young kids. One speaker said that Disney would keep a “tracker” to monitor that the company was including a sufficient number of “canonical trans characters, canonical asexual characters, [and] canonical bisexual characters” in its programming. In bowing to the woke agenda, Disney had already, one speaker proudly pointed out, eliminated the use of “ladies,” “gentlemen,” “boys,” and “girls” from its theme parks.

Even though Democrats often rail about the nefarious power exerted over politics by large corporations, and supposedly oppose special carve-outs for big companies, they all dutifully lined up in support of keeping Disney’s special self-governing status. This confirmed how much the modern left has jettisoned principle in favor of power—so long as those corporations use their power to advance the left’s agenda, the left is perfectly willing to do the bidding of large corporations.

Ron D makes the point that Republicanism is essentially obsolete now that the biggest corporations have been enlisted in the Army of the Woke.

ESG provides a pretext for CEOs to use shareholder assets to target issues like reducing the use of fossil fuels and restricting Second Amendment rights. It is, in effect, a way for the political left to achieve through corporate power what they cannot achieve at the ballot box.

The battle lines almost invariably find large, publicly traded corporations lining up behind leftist causes. [Budweiser?]

For decades, a huge swath of GOP elected officials have campaigned on free market principles, but governed as corporatists—supporting subsidies, tax breaks, and legislative carve-outs to confer special benefits on entrenched corporate interests. Just because policies may benefit corporate America does not mean that such policies serve the interests of the American economy writ large. What is in the national interest is not necessarily the same as the interests of large corporations. And when large corporations are seeking to use their economic power to advance the left’s political agenda, they have become political, and not merely economic, actors. In an environment in which large corporations are aggressive political actors, reflexively deferring to big business effectively surrenders the political battlefield to the militant left.

Ron did manage to prevail in the 2022 election even in the very lair of rich corporate progressives:

While there had been chatter leading up to the election that Miami-Dade was in play, few were talking about the possibility that we could win the traditional Democrat bastion of Palm Beach County. Yet, we ended up being the first Republican to win Palm Beach in a governor’s race in nearly forty years.

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Ron DeSantis and Coronapanic

Posts so far regarding The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival, by Ron DeSantis:

Today let’s look at the chapter on coronapanic.

Compared to some of the Deplorables who comment here and myself, Ron DeSantis was a late convert to the Church of Sweden. He declared a state of emergency on March 9, 2020 and “Later than most governors, DeSantis imposed a lockdown” on April 1, 2020 (The Hill):

“All persons in Florida shall limit their movements and personal interactions outside of their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities,” his order said.

The lockdown ended on April 29, 2020 and that’s when DeSantis began to diverge from the Faucists. The book downplays DeSantis’s one-month Faucist period to concentrate on his Church of Sweden rebellion. He opens by quoting Eisenhower:

“we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.” [1961]

Eisenhower cited the alarming risk that what he termed a “scientific-technological elite”—an elite that is neither interested in nor capable of harmonizing all the competing values and interests that are the hallmark of a free, dynamic society—could commandeer policy and, ultimately, erode our freedoms.

Eisenhower wouldn’t have been surprised by the takeover of American society by the Covidcrats:

In March 2020, Fauci was held up as the authority on the coronavirus. On its face, this seemed understandable because Fauci was the head of the NIAID and touted as the nation’s foremost expert on infectious diseases. However, Fauci was also the epitome of an entrenched bureaucrat—he had been in his position since 1984, demonstrating staying power in Washington that would not have been possible without being a highly skilled political operator. He proved to be one of the most destructive bureaucrats in American history.

Ron describes getting immersed in the Imperial College London model and conversations with various high-level bureaucrats, including CDC director Robert Redfield, Deborah Birx, but perhaps not the Great Fauci Himself.

At one point, I asked Dr. Birx whether the policies for which the expert class was advocating—and which could be very destructive to society—had any precedent in modern history and, if so, what were the results. “Well,” she said, “this is kind of like our own science experiment.”

I decided that I needed to read the emerging research and consume the available data myself, not just about Florida or the United States, but also about what was going on in other countries.

I wanted to be armed with the foundational knowledge to chart my own course for the State of Florida. This course kept our state functioning and ultimately led to Florida serving as an example for freedom-loving people not just in the United States, but around the world.

As more data came in, it became clear that the Fauci policy of perpetual mitigation was wrong. One important insight stemmed from a study done by a team of Stanford researchers led by Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a physician at the Stanford School of Medicine who also had a PhD in economics and was one of the few prominent academics willing to speak publicly about the failures in the COVID-19 policies advocated by Fauci and his followers. The Stanford study examined the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, which can be detected after someone recovers from a coronavirus infection, in Santa Clara County, California. The study found that the prevalence of antibodies in the population was dramatically higher than the number of “cases” that had been detected up to that point,

Ron DeSantis was checking the curves wherever he could find data:

The April 2020 COVID-19 wave in New York saw hospitalized COVID-19 patients peak at 18,000, a significant number but something that the medical system could handle and a far cry from the 140,000 predicted by the flawed models.

He got some information from a Deplorable Science-denying Nobel laureate in chemistry:

While lockdown advocates claimed the epidemiological curves nosed over because of so-called social distancing, Levitt pointed out how lockdown-free Sweden also saw its first COVID-19 wave perform in a similar fashion. Indeed, as successive COVID-19 waves hit various parts of the United States in the ensuing months, the waves almost always featured about a six-to-eight-week period during which the wave would escalate, peak, and then decline. This was true regardless of mandatory “mitigations” that were employed.

He makes similar points to what I wrote in June 27, 2020 in “Looking at Covid-19 death rate is like the old saying “An economist is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”?

A Covid-19 epidemiologist can tell you how many Covid-19 deaths your society has suffered and, perhaps, some things that you can do to reduce Covid-19 deaths going forward. But the Covid-19 epidemiologist can’t tell you whether Intervention A against Covid-19 is actually worth implementing because (a) the Covid-19 epidemiologist is ignoring deaths from all other causes, and (b) epidemiologists in general can’t tell us what human activities are worth accepting some risk of death. How many lives are we willing to sacrifice in order that our children can go to school? Obviously we are willing to sacrifice some, because all of the driving of children, teachers, and administrators to and from school causes some deaths. But the threshold number at which schools should be shut down is not something that any epidemiologist can give us.

Is asking an epidemiologist whether to keep schools and playgrounds open like asking your accountant whether you should buy a dog? Yes, the expert can give you a bit of insight (“my other clients with dogs spend $4,000 per year on vet, food, and grooming”), but not a life-optimizing answer.

Here’s what Ron D writes:

So many of the so-called experts lost sight of the fact that true public health cannot be blind to everything but a single respiratory virus. Led by Dr. Fauci, the experts seemed to be throwing away previous understandings of how to approach pandemic management—and sowing fear and hysteria in the process.

The mostly peaceful mostly unmasked George Floyd mass gatherings showed Ron D that the Covidcrats weren’t serious about preventing Covid-19.

For two months, these so-called experts lambasted anyone for making a cost-benefit analysis when it came to COVID-19 mitigation policies. Then, the moment it suited their political interests, they reversed course by endorsing the protests as passing their cost-benefit analysis over COVID-19 lockdowns. That they specifically rejected protesting for other causes they did not support told me all I needed to know about what partisans these people were. These “experts” were not going to save us. People making the best decisions for themselves and their families would. It was up to leaders like me to lead in a way that was evidence-based, that recognized the obvious harms of mitigation efforts, and that best maintained the normal social functioning of our communities.

I’m still looking for good summary-by-state excess mortality data (comparable to what Our World in Data gives us by country), but Ron apparently ran the numbers and Florida has done pretty well by this metric (remember that the righteous said that Florida’s COVID-tagged death numbers were fabricated so excess deaths should be a better place to look):

Between April 2020 and mid-July 2022, New York witnessed an increase of so-called excess mortality of 20 percent, while California experienced an excess mortality increase of 17.7 percent. Excess mortality represents deaths above what is normally expected; of course, it includes COVID-19 deaths but also includes deaths caused by lockdown policies. During the same period, excess mortality increased in Florida by 15.6 percent—a smaller increase than in lockdown-happy states that typically received

Ron says that he doesn’t Deny Science. He just follows different scientists:

The approach that we took in Florida reflected the thinking of prominent epidemiologists like Stanford’s Jay Bhattacharya, Harvard’s Martin Kulldorff, and Oxford’s Sunetra Gupta.

And it is following these MDs, PhDs, and MD/PhDs that turned DeSantis into a Science-denier:

After several weeks of consuming data and measuring it against policies implemented around the country, I decided that I would not blindly follow Fauci and other elite experts. To this end, I revoked my order suspending elective procedures at hospitals. The predicted April surge in coronavirus patients never materialized, leaving Florida with one of the lowest patient censuses on record. I also abandoned the federal government’s framework of essential versus nonessential businesses. Every job and every business are essential for the people who need employment or who own the business. It is wrong to characterize any job or business as nonessential, and this entire framework needs to be discarded in pandemic preparedness literature.

It was easy for me to join the Church of Sweden because nobody cares what I think, say, or do. But Ron took a lot of heat:

When Florida experienced its first major COVID-19 wave starting in the middle of June 2020, it sparked massive media hysteria. The media drew a connection between Florida’s lack of restrictions and the COVID-19 wave. If only Florida had not been so reckless, the narrative went, it would not be experiencing such a wave.

After I saw other states from similar geographies endure similar COVID-19 waves in the fall and winter, I knew that COVID behaved in a seasonal pattern. I was, though, monitoring the data on a daily basis, and I was sure that the summer wave would follow a pattern similar to the trajectory that Dr. Michael Levitt had identified from earlier waves. It would not simply increase exponentially without end in the absence of a shutdown. The pressure grew on me to shut down the State of Florida to mitigate the COVID-19 wave, not just from the media but also from experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and partisan opponents. On July 8, 2020, Dr. Fauci advised that states like Florida “should seriously look at shutting down.” This was because, Fauci explained, “we are seeing exponential growth.” All Democratic members of Florida’s US House delegation but one wrote me a letter to demand that I shut down the Sunshine State and impose a compulsory mask mandate. The letter was written on July 17, 2020.

Some of my friends and allies were worried about all the negative attention and urged me to implement some mandates and restrictions to help take the heat off me. For me, the important thing to do was to safeguard the freedom, livelihoods, and businesses of the people I was elected to serve. If doing so caused me to suffer political damage, and even to lose my job as governor, then so be it. It is easy to do the right thing when it is popular, but leadership is all about doing the right thing when under political attack.

In fact, by July 8, 2020—the day Fauci said Florida should shut down—infections in our state had already peaked. I knew this because visits to the emergency departments for COVID-like illness, which was the best leading indicator of infection trajectory, peaked on July 7.

What Fauci and especially the House Democrats were calling for was a post-peak shutdown, which would have been totally counterproductive and hurt Floridians.

As it turned out, even though during the summer wave Florida saw an increase in patients hospitalized for COVID, our hospital capacity was more than sufficient to handle the higher patient volume, just like in lockdown-free Sweden in the spring.

How did Florida end up as the mask-free state?

I was skeptical that masks would provide the protection that the public health establishment claimed, but I was adamant that a mask mandate was not an appropriate use of government power. If the masks were as effective as claimed, then people would choose to wear them without government coercion.

(The latest on Ron’s unscientific skepticism… “Were masks in hospitals a waste of time? Hated NHS policy made ‘no difference’ to

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Will Brandon Johnson be Florida Realtor of the Year 2023?

It is impossible to walk a dog anywhere in Florida without running into neighbors who work in the real estate industry. Progressive victories yesterday in Chicago and Wisconsin were being celebrated down here. High hopes in particular are pinned on Brandon Johnson to take the title of Florida Realtor of the Year previously held by Andrew Cuomo.

The Democrat-governed state of Wisconsin isn’t as wealthy as Chicago, but it was a positive sign that a person whom the New York Times calls a “liberal judge” won by 55:45 (see “Liberal Wins Wisconsin Court Race, in Victory for Abortion Rights Backers”). (Separately, it is interesting that laws and the state constitution will have 180-degree different interpretations depending on the personal politics of the judge!)

The more extreme the politics in the states that send wealthy homebuyers to Florida, the better. If state and local governments are expanded in Illinois and Wisconsin and someone with money doesn’t agree with the new goals, that’s a big nudge toward moving. Chicago is home to nearly 200,000 millionaires (was 160,000 in 2022, but inflation should have lifted quite a few more folks into this category). If Brandon’s proposed new taxes motivate just ten percent of them to move to Florida, that’s 20,000 at least moderately nice homes that can be sold.

What’s the scale of real estate development in Florida? A whole new town, essentially, is being built on what was scrub land 30 minutes south of us: Avenir (houses from $700,000 to “over $3 million”); a similar idea is going on 30-miles inland from Fort Myers at Babcock Ranch.

As noted in yesterday’s post, in our neighborhood, the real estate bubble party ended with the interest rate boosts of summer 2022. Everything sat on the market for months maybe because nobody could figure out what houses were worth in the new non-zero-interest-rate environment. But just within the past month or so the market seems to be clearing. People agree that houses are worth, in nominal and continuously eroding dollars, between 80 and 100 percent of the peak 2022 numbers (i.e., everything has at least gone down a little via inflation).

Let’s hope that Brandon can follow through on his promise to make Chicago’s wealthy pay their fair share! He’s got at least $750 million in tax increases planned; the same article notes “34% of Chicagoans would leave the city if given the opportunity” and also highlights his work with teachers:

Johnson is a Cook County Board commissioner and earned over $390,ooo in five years as the Chicago Teachers Union legislative coordinator. He helped organize three teachers strikes in the city and has pushed the Red for Ed agenda intended to spread the Socialist doctrine among teachers.

He has received nearly $3.2 million in contributions from CTU and its affiliates, and the CTU just voted to take $8 per month from each member’s dues to back Johnson.

From a Florida perspective, the big dream would be a school closure or mask order from the new mayor. Here’s a February 2022 article about continued forced masking in Chicago schools:

Maybe it’s a good time to thank Lori Lightfoot for everything that she did for Florida?

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Bernie supports Brandon by denouncing speculators

Here’s Bernie Sanders giving a “Let’s Go Brandon” speech on behalf of a mayoral candidate in Chicago. “All of us are sick and tired of the greed of the real estate speculators, of Wall Street, of the big money interests.”:

Not surprising that Bernie supports a fellow progressive, of course, but…

I wonder if there is a particular religious or ethnic group associated with the above categories of humans: speculators, Wall Street, big money.

Separately, what a great day it would be for Florida realtors if Brandon Johnson can win the race in Chicago! He promises to give a free house to everyone who wants or needs one:

The wealthy will pay their fair share:

(but maybe some will move to our neighborhood instead? We already have a greedy real estate developer from Chicago two houses over (his company shut down all development in Illinois in favor of Florida in 2021). The local real estate hiccup seems to be over. Houses that sat on the market for 6 months have finally sold and new houses are selling in as little as 5 days, though the pace is nowhere near as frenzied as a year ago when only spectacularly stupid people were bidding against each other for houses. In nominal dollars, prices are about the same at the high end of the market and down 15-20% from the peak for peasant-class buyers ($1-2 million range).)

Everyone except cisgender males will be taken care of:

Florida and Texas can tell undocumented migrants that a whole world of services is theirs for the asking in Chicago:

Pregnant people in Florida who want abortion care after the 15-week limit (or maybe it will soon be 6 weeks) can fly nonstop to ORD and receive reproductive health care right in the terminal:

Let’s see if Brandon can win!

Who is against him? Paul Vallas, #OldWhiteGuy (but not a fossil like Bernie or Joe Biden).

Mr. Vallas is also a Democrat and is also passionate about expanding abortion care. Instead of saying that housing is a “right” for the unhoused and non-working, he says “chronic homelessness is almost never simply an issue of housing”. But, confusingly, he also says that it is about the housing:

Implementing a housing-first orientation and response that emphasizes permanent housing, with the right level of services, as the goal for people experiencing chronic homelessness.

He doesn’t say anything about immigrants, documented or otherwise. He is worried about the pension funds:

But why worry? As long as Democrats control D.C., won’t cities that can’t pay pensions, nearly all of which are run by Democrats, simply get bailed out by Congress and/or the Fed? The Feds have bailed out private pension commitments, e.g., from GM to the unionized workers. “The Coming Biden Bailout of Blue States and Cities” (WSJ, April 2, 2023):

The Federal Reserve’s latest interest-rate hike paired with the continuing bank panic is causing credit conditions to tighten. State and local governments could be the next sinking ships that Washington gets called on to rescue.

The balance-sheet risks for mismanaged states and municipalities have been hiding in plain sight just as they were at Silicon Valley Bank. Continued financial-market turmoil and a prolonged economic downturn could cause some pension funds to collapse and cities to declare bankruptcy. Taxpayers will invariably wind up on the hook for politicians’ bad financial bets.

The most likely outcome: A cascade of bailouts by some combination of U.S. taxpayers, the Fed and municipal bond investors. Democratic-run states and big cities are simply too politically important for the Biden administration to let fail.

Putting more money into a pension fund when a federal bailout is on the horizon seems dumb, like a middle class family saving for college when the financial aid formula will just scoop up all of the savings by setting a higher price than if the family had spent it all on lavish vacations.

Readers: Who will join me and Bernie in denouncing “the greed of the real estate speculators, of Wall Street, of the big money interests”? And are you hoping for one candidate to prevail in Chicago? If so, which one and why?

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The fight over changing the judicial system in Israel

Israelis have been fighting each other lately regarding changes to the judicial system. See, for example, “Demonstrations forced Israel’s prime minister to delay a judicial overhaul” (NYT):

Much of life in Israel came to a halt yesterday: Hospitals stopped providing nonemergency care, planes were grounded at the country’s main airport, and malls and banks closed. The disruptions were part of an escalation in protests against the government’s proposed judicial overhaul, which has plunged Israel into one of its gravest political crises ever.

The fight has been described in the same generally hysterical tones that are used for Democrat-Republican disputes in the U.S., i.e., democracy vs. dictatorship/tyranny. (This always prompts me to ask whether Israelis will flee the impending tyranny and seek asylum in Syria or if instead they will choose Lebanon.)

For folks who want to understand what the fight is about, an Israeli friend recommended “‘Why do we need judicial reform?’ An architect behind the proposal explains” (JNS). First, one background item: Israel has no constitution. Its courts, therefore, can’t invalidate a law as being “unconstitutional.” Here are some highlights from the article:

There have been instances where the attorney general has refused to represent the government in a case, while refusing to allow the government the right to hire private counsel, leaving the government without legal representation to defend itself in court. The reform will allow the government to hire its own counsel in such an event, Koppel said.

One addresses the judicial pretext of “reasonability,” whereby judges overturn laws and administrative decisions based on whether they consider them “reasonable” or not. The pretext is vague enough that opponents of reform (at least in its current form) agree that it shouldn’t be allowed.

The fifth and final part of reform addresses the issue of how the Supreme Court can strike down laws. The reform would regulate the court’s ability to do so, requiring for example that all 15 Supreme Court justices sit on a case and that legislation be struck down by a special majority. Before, as few as three justices, selected by the court president, could strike down a law, Koppel said.

Essentially, then, the laws of Israel have been decided on by a triumvirate, in the best classical Mediterranean style! (Three judges pick whichever laws they consider “reasonable” to validate.)

Separately, for Israelis who disagree with any changes to the political system and who don’t want to escape to Syria, the option of Masada is open. My photo from 2016:

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Ron DeSantis and government accountability

Continuing to mine The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival, an introduction to Ron DeSantis for non-Floridians…

One area where Ron is out of step with the American mainstream is in thinking that there should be consequences for government incompetence. For example, Mary Daly, who focused on the diversity crisis at the San Francisco Fed (NYT) while SVB and First Republic were accumulating risk, would be fired in Ron’s ideal world.

By the time I became governor, it was clear that the victims [of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, which happened a year prior to DeSantis becoming governor] and their families had been failed by both Broward County sheriff Scott Israel as well as the Broward County school district. The Florida Legislature responded to the tragedy by enacting a series of firearms restrictions, which my predecessor signed into law. I campaigned saying that I would have vetoed those restrictions on Second Amendment and constitutional due process grounds. This was a tough position to take, as it was a very emotional time, and there was a natural human desire to “do something.” But when it comes to fundamental rights, those times are the times when defending them is so essential. Rather than a firearms issue, I viewed the Parkland massacre as a catastrophic failure of leadership that cried out for accountability. As someone who had been serving in Congress, I was frustrated that government failures almost never resulted in any real consequences. If an average American posted something politically incorrect on social media, an online mob might very well get that individual “canceled,” including termination of employment. But if a government agency abused its authority or failed in its basic duties, the result, invariably, was essentially nothing in the way of accountability.

After taking office, I acted very quickly to suspend the Broward County sheriff. I had been consulting with a few of the Parkland parents, and they were very hopeful that I would hold the sheriff accountable. He was mired in multiple scandals, including his department failing to stop the shooter despite receiving forty-five calls about him or his household.

Under Florida law, a constitutional officer suspended by the governor has the right to a trial in the Florida Senate; if the Senate agrees with the governor’s decision, then the official’s suspension becomes a permanent termination. Scott Israel challenged my decision in front of the Florida Senate and lost. Justice was served. I also petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to convene a special grand jury to investigate the failures of school security in counties like Broward. This grand jury ended up leading to the resignation of the superintendent of schools and provided a series of recommendations for reform, including removing several members of the Broward County school board, whom I suspended after the final report became public in 2022.

[Ron DeSantis might say “yes” to How about decimation for the Memphis police department and city government?]

Note that highlighted part. DeSantis is like the dissenters in Korematsu v. United States. FDR said that the Constitution didn’t give Japanese-Americans the right to walk around in freedom #BecauseEmergency (same reason that the Nuremberg Code did not prevent coerced injection of experimental drugs into children; #Coronamergency). The dissenting justices said “What are these Constitutional protections for, then, if not when a president chooses to declare an emergency?”

No matter how whipped up into panic the average American becomes, Ron D is going to do his own analysis and try to act rationally even when everyone else is behaving irrationally.

I refused to do any polling at all once I became governor. When someone does a poll, it provides, at best, a static view of how voters respond to certain issues, but it cannot tell you how people will view a dynamic push for certain policies. If leadership was nothing more than dutifully following poll results, then it would not be in such short supply. A leader does not meekly follow public opinion but shapes opinion through newsworthy actions. If I set out a vision, execute on my governing plan, and produce favorable results, then public support will follow.

We are informed that Republicans are the party of Jew-hatred. But it seems that Ron DeSantis did not get the ADL’s memo. He tells a story about media- and government-selection experts being failures as prophets. It is unfortunate, from my point of view, that he puts double quotes around the word expert.

One major foreign policy issue that I cared about deeply was the relocation of America’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump promised that, if elected, he would move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. US law since the 1990s identified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and, as a result, the proper site of the US embassy, but the law included a waiver provision (in classic DC style) that allowed presidents over two decades to punt on relocation of our embassy every six months—even though Presidents Clinton and Bush had promised to move it.

From my seat in the House, I wanted to create a sense of inevitability about the relocation of our embassy. In 2017, I led a small mission to Israel to scout out possible sites in Jerusalem for the new US embassy. I looked at a handful of possible locations, and the site I thought was the best ended up being the site that was selected by the Trump administration. Before I left, I held a press conference at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem to recount what we did on the trip and to express my view that President Donald Trump promised to move our embassy to Jerusalem, and he will be delivering on his promise.

The next month, President Trump announced that the United States would be relocating its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The formal ceremony in May 2018 was a major event, which I attended in person. It was a great day and should have occurred years earlier.

This was an example of why following the advice of the conventional DC expert class is almost always a mistake. Especially when they predict imminent doom.

“What would happen if the US moved our embassy?” I asked. The consistent response from these so-called experts was that relocating our embassy to Jerusalem would be a geopolitical disaster. None even entertained the idea that moving our embassy would serve our national interests. Looking back on it, these were supposed to be our top experts in matters of diplomacy and intelligence, but they were dead wrong about the impact of the move. This experience confirms the bankruptcy of our bureaucratic “expert” class. Time and again, from weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to the financial crisis of 2008 to the response to COVID-19, America’s bureaucratic elites have whiffed when it counted.

I continue to believe that Ron D faces an uphill battle in any general election. Americans’ faith in bureaucratic elites remains stronger than ever. The majority bought into Faucism and the dramatically lower percentage of excess deaths in no-mask no-lockdown Sweden (6%; see map) compared to the typical Faucist country has not shaken anyone’s faith in Faucism. (Example: “What Worked Against Covid: Masks, Closures and Vaccines” (Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2023) does not even bother to look at Sweden vs. European lockdown and mask champs nor at Florida versus the lockdown states. And that’s in a conservative newspaper!) We also shouldn’t forget that a higher percentage of Americans are dependent on government than at any time in history due to the massive expansion of government that began in 2020 with coronapanic as the justification. That’s going to make it tough for any politician who suggests that government spending be limited in any way. Point 1 of the DeSantis agenda articulated in his 2019 inauguration speech:

Promoting a fiscally responsible government that taxes lightly and regulates reasonably

This is the opposite of what the majority of Americans want. A typical American votes for a fiscally lavish government funded by taxes on successful corporations and anyone richer than he/she/ze/they is (though, of course, what is delivered is a government funded by borrowing/inflation and taxes on the peasants).

Ron also promised, in that speech:

Ushering in a new era of conservation for Florida’s waterways and Everglades

(and delivered, according to the Everglades Trust!). This is presumably popular, except with Big Sugar, but I can’t imagine government-dependent Americans thinking that this commitment to the environment outweighs their own paychecks.

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