For the Flying Public It’s a Lose, Lose

Newsmax – Did your plane skid off the runway?

Did a side panel of your 737 blow out mid-flight due to “loose bolts?”

Did an engine on your jet burst into flames midair?

Did an oxygen leak prevent your plane from leaving Davos on time?

All of these infelicities of modern air travel have happened in the first weeks of the new year. The last incident victimized hapless Secretary of State Antony Blinken as he tried to leave the World Economic Forum, in fact.

But if you are concerned about the condition of America’s aviation industry, fear not: it is more diverse than ever before, and the good people at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are working hard to make sure it will be even more diverse in the future.

In March 2022, the FAA, a federal agency overseen by the Transportation Department that employs some 45,000 people to manage civil aviation, set a bold new course in implementing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) among its work force.

“Our inclusive culture is defined by our values,” its statement loftily maintained, “and we continuously seek employees from all backgrounds with distinctive ideas, perspectives, insights and talents … FAA actively supports and engages in a variety of associations, programs, coalitions and initiatives to support and accommodate employees from diverse communities and backgrounds.”

How broadminded of them.

Lest you imagine that an August 2023 New York Times investigation documenting nearly 300 “near misses” by planes landing at or taking off from U.S. airports in a 12-month period following the 2022 diversity guidelines changed any minds, updated diversity guidelines released last month reveal a bit more about what “backgrounds” our federal sky monitors would like to see better represented in an industry in which, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, some 80% of accidents are caused by human error.

Departing from its original focus on making sure more Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, female, disabled, and LGBTQ people were included in its workforce, the FAA now insists that “individuals with targeted or ‘severe’ disabilities are the most underrepresented segment of the Federal workforce” and therefore deserve greater accommodation.

“The mission of the FAA involves securing the skies of a diverse nation,” the diversity statement continues, “it only makes sense that the workforce responsible for that mission reflects the nation that it serves.”

Under the Federal People With Disability (FWD) program, on which the FAA relies, however, “severely” disabled individuals include those whose challenges in life include “hearing, vision, missing extremities, partial paralysis, complete paralysis, epilepsy, severe intellectual disability, psychiatric disability and dwarfism.”

Some of these conditions — such as epilepsy and dwarfism — are precise with applicable medical definitions, but several are alarmingly undefined.

Just what is a “severe intellectual disability,” and would you believe a person suffering from one is competent to manage your flight?

Are FAA employees whose disability is “psychiatric” screened for depression, suicidal ideation or homicidal tendencies in jobs involving decisions that can put hundreds of lives at risk? Or would such different and presumably inequitable treatment be unacceptably discriminatory?

Exactly how deaf or blind can one be before FAA diversity bureaucrats perceive any practical problem in employment involving airplanes flying at hundreds of miles per hour?

These inconvenient details are swept aside.

Scrolling down the FAA website’s protocols, implementing the new diversity plan is largely left to managers, who may engage in “on-the-spot” hiring, which the FAA defines as a “non-competitive hiring method for filling vacancies.”

Caught between FAA commissars who evaluate them at least in part on increasing diversity hiring and a sea of potential employees of varying characteristics and competencies, the temptation for managers will be all too strong to make non-competitive hires among the disabled, regardless of definition, risk, or effect.

In addition to serving official DEI ideology in a way that can only benefit middle management careers, this would also eliminate the often laborious process of competitive evaluation among job candidates.

As long as nobody in a position of responsibility cares about safety, competence or comfort, it’s a win-win. For the flying public, however, it’s a lose-lose.

NPR’s Demise Long Overdue

Newsmax – “Trump is a racist,” tweeted former Wikimedia Foundation president Katherine Maher in 2018. Maher further posted “white silence is complicity,” excused Los Angeles looters for reacting against America’s “system of oppression,” confessed culpability for her own “whiteness,” and denounced her home state of Connecticut for, she claims, having amassed wealth through slavery.

As investigative journalists have revealed, these posts were scrubbed from Maher’s feed sometime before it was announced that she will become the new CEO of National Public Radio, which touts “fact-based reporting” in an environment where “opinion and commentary are secondary.”

Maher, 40, will succeed John Lansing, 66, a white male who led the radical leftist, government-subsidized news source from October 2019 under the end of 2023.

Lansing’s contract was scheduled to conclude in September 2024, but he announced his departure a year earlier, claiming that he wants to spend time with his college-age daughter during a study-abroad program.

If you really want your Boomer parents around while you’re studying abroad, there is probably a good chance they listen to NPR.

But as Lansing found during his troubled tenure, the overall number of Americans tuning in is in a tailspin.

According to Nielsen Audio ratings, from June 2021 to June 2023, even urban markets with overwhelmingly leftist publics registered significant declines in NPR’s listenership:

  • New York’s flagship WNYC member station lost 20% of its market share in those 24 months.
  • In Chicago, WBEZ’s audience declined by 19%.
  • Listeners of San Francisco’s KQED fell by 24%.
  • Los Angeles’s KPCC (now LAist) lost 25% of its audience, while that city’s alternate NPR member station, KCRW, tanked by 42%.

It’s true that Nina Totenberg’s ageing phalanx of fans is rapidly dying off — some 41% of NPR’s national audience is over 55, while less than 6% is under 25 — but another and less rarified culprit raised its head during Lansing’s tenure: diversity.

Even before the George Floyd mess, Lansing pioneered an initiative to make diversity “our number one goal,” presumably ahead of reporting the news or producing high-quality content.

Long before DEI conquered other American institutions, NPR went full bore (pun intended), boasting of workshops on unconscious bias, tracking racial data on content and reception, and mandating that hiring committees and job finalist pools included women and minorities.

By the time Lansing announced his departure, employees of color accounted for 46% of NPR executives, compared to 9% when he came along.

Obviously, this hasn’t helped NPR remain competitive in the free marketplace of ideas – despite benefiting from your tax dollars while competing radio networks do not.

Nor has it much broadened NPR’s appeal to underrepresented communities.

As of 2022, NPR estimated that only about 25% of its audience were listeners of color and that its audience’s median annual income was a comfortable $115,000.

If that disconcerts listeners like you, recall that in 2020, NPR’s number one song of the year was Cardi B’s “W.A.P.,” a hip-hop tune listing material favors a young woman of color hopes to gain from sexually beguiling men.

NPR contributor Briana Younger claimed to find the song “fun and infinitely quotable,” but the audience of “Morning Edition” probably doesn’t groove to it while dropping off the kids at school.

By contrast, in 2023 NPR denounced Oliver Anthony’s hit country song “Rich Men North of Richmond,” featuring complaints of working-class white males, as “extremist and conspiratorial.”

Lansing also bet heavily on podcasts in the hope of drawing younger audiences, doubling NPR’s production division.

It was a bad wager.

According to Listen Notes, which monitors the podcast industry, the overall number of new podcasts fell by 80% in 2022.

By late that year, NPR was in serious trouble as Lansing’s initiatives crumbled and corporate advertisers, who had come to fund as much as 40% of NPR’s budget, melted away.

Lansing announced a $10 million budget cut, which by February 2023 expanded to cover up to $32 million in losses.

NPR laid off about 10% of its staff, or about 100 employees.

Ironically, some of those who departed were among women and minority staff.

NPR’s plight was not singular in legacy media, in which an estimated 2,500 jobs have disappeared in the last year, but it was one of the heaviest hit outlets.

Gannett’s and Spotify’s layoffs amounted to 6% each, while Vox let go 7% of its employees.

Leaving his job early might be an understandable choice for Lansing in these dire circumstances.

But Maher, who appears to have no experience in broadcast media and may well have been hired because of her gender, will have a tough job when she and her clumsily concealed political and racial biases take the helm at NPR on March 25.

In addition to NPR’s internal tension between progressive ideals and financial viability, Americans distrust legacy media, with Gallup finding in October 2023 that a record 68% rated their level of confidence as “not very much” or “none at all.”

The latter category has soared to an all-time high of nearly 40%. No matter what Katherine Maher does or tries to do, the fate of NPR could soon be a broadcast to nowhere.

Memory Challenged

City JournalWas President Biden’s disastrous press conference the beginning of the end?

“My memory is fine!” insisted a defensive President Joe Biden at a hastily convened press conference last Thursday, at which he identified Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as the president of Mexico and blanked on the name of the cathedral where he received a rosary upon the death of his son Beau. For much of the press conference, Biden, 81, resorted to indignation to bat away questions about his mental acuity from an unusually insistent White House press corps.

Just before the press conference was called, Justice Department special counsel Robert Hur released what should have been welcome news for the Biden administration: a 345-page report concluding that the president should face no criminal charges over his improper storage of top-secret government documents and sharing of top-secret information with a ghost writer who held no security clearance. Hur’s report, however, also found that Biden displayed significant memory lapses during the investigation, including an inability to state when he had served as vice president or the year in which his son died. Biden, Hur concluded, is an “elderly man with a poor memory.”

Were it not for Biden’s ill-advised press conference, the main topic of discussion might have been the legal implications of Hur’s report. Biden and his supporters could have claimed vindication, while his opponents might have carped about prosecutorial double standards in light of Donald Trump’s federal indictment for broadly similar alleged offenses. But after Biden left the podium, the desperation was like blood in the water for the beltway sharks, who closed in to feed on a public relations catastrophe—a “nightmare,” according to an anonymous Democratic congressman interviewed by NBC News.

Doubts about Biden’s mental competency can no longer be ignored in any serious analysis of American electoral politics. As long ago as May 2023, a Washington Post/ABC poll found that only 32 percent of Americans believed Biden had the “mental sharpness” to serve as president, against a majority that thought so only three years earlier, when candidate Biden led the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. By last September, however, a CNN poll found that 73 percent of Americans were seriously concerned about Biden’s physical and mental competence, and that 67 percent of Democrats favored another nominee for their party in 2024. Four days before this week’s press conference, an NBC poll registered Biden’s lowest approval rating ever, 37 percent. More than three-quarters of those surveyed said that they have “major” or “moderate” concerns about Biden’s health in a second term, which would end in his 86th year, with the “major” category accounting for 62 percent. Only 11 percent registered no concern.

All the while, Biden’s verbal gaffes have become more frequent and profound. Earlier last week, the president misidentified President Emmanuel Macron of France as his long-ago predecessor François Mitterrand, who died in 1996, and whom Biden seemed to believe hailed from Germany. The day before the press conference, Biden twice claimed at New York City campaign events to have spoken recently with former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who left office in 1998 and died in 2017, apparently meaning to name Angela Merkel, who left office in 2021 and is still alive.

The episodes seem to be influencing the presidential race. The same NBC poll that registered mass concern about Biden’s health days before the press conference found that Trump holds a 16-point lead in being considered “competent and effective.” This registers as a 25-point swing since 2020, when voters favored Biden in that category by nine points. The current numbers represent Trump’s greatest lead on any issue except for immigration and border control. Before the day was out, the Republican National Committee released a mock Biden campaign ad using Hur’s “elderly man with a poor memory” comment. An ABC poll taken over the weekend found that 86 percent of Americans—including 73 percent of Democrats—now believe Biden is simply too old to serve a second term.

Overall, according to NBC’s pre-press-conference polling, Trump leads Biden by five points in the national popular vote in a hypothetical rematch. RealClearPolitics polling averages, compiled before the press conference, show the former president ahead nationally by a similar margin and in all six 2020 swing states. Even if Trump is convicted of a crime before the election (which remains far from certain), NBC’s polling data put Biden up by only two percentage points, still a statistical dead heat in the popular vote and leaving plenty of room for a Trump victory in the Electoral College.

Leading Democratic strategists, including James Carville, Paul Begala, David Axelrod, and, reportedly, former president Barack Obama, have expressed serious misgivings about Biden’s ability to lead, as well as fear that this factor alone may cost him the election. Commenting on CNN, Washington State’s Democratic representative Adam Smith opined that Biden “does not have the normal strength to go out there and campaign.” But these voices have not prevailed so far in persuading Biden to drop out in favor of another candidate. In early primary contests, Biden has won commanding victories over fringe challengers like Marianne Williamson and Dean Phillips. The registration deadlines for new candidates in about 80 percent of Democratic state contests have now passed.

It’s unlikely that Biden’s cognitive disposition will improve in the nine months before Election Day. Though much else can happen in that time, the paths leading to a Biden second term have become increasingly tangled.