Gavin Newsom does not want to pick a fight with Florida

The Spectator – No one believes he rules over a magic kingdom.

“Freedom is under attack in your state,” exclaimed California Governor Gavin Newsom in a bizarre 30-second television ad that aired on Fox News in Florida markets over Fourth of July weekend. Unnamed “Republican leaders,” gasped a man who held his constituents under near-house arrest for two years, are “banning books, making it harder to vote, restricting speech in classrooms, even criminalizing women and doctors. I urge all of you to join the fight, or join us in California, where we still believe in freedom.”

Newsom’s anti-Florida canards cost his 2022 reelection campaign a reported $105,000. They addressed an audience that will vote neither for nor against him. And like hapless New York City mayor Eric Adams’s equally absurd billboard campaign to lure back New Yorkers who’d moved to the Sunshine State, they went over like a lead balloon.

No books are “banned” in our state. Any book may be bought, sold, circulated, and read here, and having books mandated for use in public education is hardly an inalienable right. No Floridian eligible to vote has any difficulty casting a ballot, even if those seeking to vote illegally or posthumously may now encounter obstacles.

The only classroom speech “restricted” in Florida is speech instructing students that they are inherently racists, or that exposes children under the age of eight to explicit sexuality of any type. Florida’s viewpoint diversity law, which came into effect on July 1, expressly prohibits any action in a public education institution that limits “access to, or observation of, ideas and opinions that they may find uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive.” It also mandates surveys to assess whether faculty and students “feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom.” Unsurprisingly, it is now Florida, rather than California, that many consider to have the best public university system in America.

Large majorities of Floridians and Americans favor these provisions. The same goes for Florida’s newly signed 15-week abortion law, the terms of which are supported by 71 percent of Americans. That law has no provision for any form of criminal prosecution and is more permissive than those of many European social democracies, which cut off a woman’s “right to choose” before 15 weeks of pregnancy.

One might wonder what Floridians are supposed to “join the fight” against, given how little the prospect of rallying to Governor Newsom offers to Florida Man. Changing state residency involves a decidedly uneven trade of Florida’s zero percent state income tax — guaranteed by state constitutional amendment — for California’s, which rises as high as 13.3 percent. Floridians might also sensibly resist California’s sales tax, which can reach 10.75 percent depending on the locality, compared to 7 percent in Florida. Gas prices in California push $7 per gallon, compared to a $4.50 average in Florida. Homicides in Governor Newsom’s woke paradise increased by 31 percent in 2020, while Florida’s overall crime rate declined by 14.1 percent, falling for the 50th consecutive year. There are no Floridian parallels to this year’s stunning electoral recall of former San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin, the spawn of a murderous domestic terrorist couple, whose progressive lunacy turned his city into a morass of violence and filth, or of three woke members of San Francisco’s school board, whose removal was favored by 75 percent of the electorate.

Despite the “freedom” Governor Newsom advertises, his state is hardly a free speech haven. Ask Gordon Klein, a UCLA business professor, who was suspended in June 2020 for the supposed tone in which he declined a request to grade black students more leniently than white students. His University of Southern California colleague Greg Patton, who was suspended later that same year for using a Chinese word that includes the sequential consonants “n” and “g,” might well concur.

In March 2022, the constitutional law scholar Ilya Shapiro, then under investigation by Georgetown University’s Law Center for controversial tweets he posted before he was employed there, was shouted down and prevented from speaking at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. Hastings’s dean, Morris Ratner, tepidly suggested that student protesters were violating school policies, but did nothing to enforce those policies. Astonishingly, he still has his job, while Shapiro no longer works in legal academia. “Governor Newsom should perhaps focus more on his own backyard,” Shapiro wrote me, “as California’s public law schools seem to be turning out lawyers who are against free speech and otherwise can’t handle hearing ideas they don’t like.”

California’s assault on free speech is far from confined to its universities. Last fall, a state law banned public protests against vaccine policies. Earlier this year, the Irvine Unified School Board adopted rules of conduct that prohibit those attending its meetings from voicing any criticism of its officials. The measure was so censorious that even the American Civil Liberties Union complained.

In February 2022, a California judge stripped Apple software engineer Ted Hudacko of all parental rights over his 16-year-old son because he disagreed with his ex-wife’s insistence that their child is really a girl. Hudacko’s opinion, which he shared in his progressive California workplace, may now also threaten his job. At this writing, the California state legislature is in the final stages of considering a law prohibiting social media content that may cause “emotional harm” to young people. Despite Newsom’s claimed commitment to the “freedom” he believes Floridians lack, he shows no sign of vetoing the bill.

“Details, details,” progressives might snigger. Yet it’s in Florida that many Californians have found refuge from Governor Newsom’s strange East German definition of “freedom.” In 2019, even before the pandemic exposed him as the elitist tyrant he is, 28,628 Californians relocated to Florida. Over the next two years, nearly 300,000 more Californians left, with most migrating to red states with lower taxes, less crime, fewer pandemic restrictions, and, of course, more American-style freedom. The demographic shift has inflicted the first population decline in California’s history. In roughly the same timeframe, Florida has welcomed about 330,000 new arrivals. “I don’t know that we’re ever going to have growth rates over 1 percent anymore,” California’s chief demographer Walter Schwarm recently told the New York Times, which grimly concluded that the state’s days of explosive population growth “are quite likely gone for good.”

The financial fallout of California flight adds to the mockery of Newsom’s silly ad. According to the IRS, in 2020, his benighted state lost $17.8 billion in adjusted gross income, following on $33.4 billion in losses from 2010 to 2019. Los Angeles leads the nation’s cities in failed businesses, with some 15,000 disappearing in 2020 alone. In June, the Wall Street Journal proclaimed West Coast migration to Florida, which gained $23.7 billion in taxable income in 2020, to be “the next California gold rush.”

Miami, rather than Silicon Valley, is rapidly emerging as America’s new tech hub, with 30 percent of its new arrivals coming from San Francisco, the second most represented point of origin after New York. Even Disney, which foolishly objected to Florida legislation restricting teaching about sexuality in grade school, is moving 2,000 employees from Anaheim to Orlando, citing Florida’s favorable tax policies and lower cost of living. By 2026, it expects to relocate all of its non-theme park employees from California to the freer state.

If Newsom is reelected in November, he may still be in office when the Disney employees go. Perhaps by then it will be clear that no one believes he rules over a magic kingdom. And his rival governor may very well be in a storied white house.

Biden’s New Title IX Rules Double Down on Bad Ideas

Newsweek – Last week the Biden administration unveiled a proposed reform of Title IX regulations—the U.S. federal rules adopted in 1972 to guarantee equal gender access to college facilities, such as sports programs. In 2011, the Obama administration vastly expanded their purview to include all suspected instances of gender-based discrimination in academic environments, including supposed cases of sexual harassment.

Then-vice president Joe Biden was tasked with elaborating the administration’s position, while the policy itself was developed by Assistant Secretary of Education Catherine Lhamon, a trained lawyer who has never worked in a university. Lhamon ensured compliance by threatening academic administrators with loss of all federal funds if they failed to obey her directives.

Notoriously unfair to the accused, the Obama-era Title IX guidance created what amounted to kangaroo courts in which respondents had limited access to evidence and no right to cross-examination, hearings, or legal counsel. University administrators were empowered to assign guilt on the basis of a “preponderance of the evidence” standard rather than the more rigorous “clear and convincing evidence” standard.

The guidance also promoted a single-investigator model, which allows a university bureaucrat with few or no qualifications to serve as detective, prosecutor, jury, and judge, empowered to make life-altering decisions. No appeal process was required. Training materials for investigators, rarely disclosed and usually provided by unidentified “experts” from shady consulting firms, recommended bias against respondents (almost always male) and presumption of guilt.

Propaganda around the issue falsely claimed that women never lie about sexual harassment and implausibly held that American colleges have higher sexual assault rates than inner-city Detroit. Unsurprisingly, many schools have reported adverse findings in 75 percent of Title IX cases or more.

As Title IX became a fact of campus life in the 2010s, commentators across the political spectrum objected to having a secret police govern sexual activity in educational institutions. As Johnny Depp‘s recent defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard has vividly shown, ever fewer Americans support the discredited #MeToo movement, which has suffered setback after setback.

Since 2013, more than 700 Title IX-related lawsuits have been filed in federal courts, often resulting in high-value judgments or settlements favorable to respondents. Some 73 percent of those lawsuits have included defamation claims against complainants. Many also brought claims against Title IX officials, who are often exposed as biased against male students.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the job of Title IX coordinator is increasingly sad, isolating, and stressful, in addition to being legally risky—all predictable, well-deserved consequences for individuals who seek career-ending power over teenagers and twentysomethings without regard for their basic civil rights.

In September 2017, the Trump administration replaced the Obama-era guidance with somewhat fairer investigative requirements, though many universities simply ignored them. In May 2020, the Department of Education issued comprehensive new rules that guaranteed many due process rights, including hearings, legal representation, cross-examination, full access to evidence, and appeals. The progressive Left decried Trump’s reforms as a brutal assault on “survivors,” even though complainants were not, in fact, deprived of any rights.

Despite having been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women during the 2020 presidential campaign—and with then-senator Kamala Harris publicly stating that she believed his accusers—Biden pledged to make counterreform a priority of his administration. He even nominated Lhamon to return to her post in the Education Department, an appointment that was widely criticized, delayed for several months due to fierce congressional opposition, and finally only approved by Harris’ tie-breaking vote in a deadlocked Senate.

The new rules, which weigh in at over 700 pages, set investigative procedures back to the dark days before 2017. They also expand the definition of “gender” to include gender identity and sexual orientation. Ironically, given Title IX’s original purpose, the new rules do not address the politically unpopular assertion of “transgender rights” to participate in opposite-sex sporting events, which the otherwise comprehensive document curiously leaves for later deliberation.

Like the Trump reform of 2020, Biden’s rules must go through a lengthy review and comment process. This means they may not be implemented for years, possibly until after the next presidential election, which Biden seems unlikely to win. Enforcing them will in any case be problematic. Courts have already found most of the restored Title IX provisions to be unlawful, effectively setting up schools for major legal liability if they comply. The new rules also put complainants at increased risk for defamation lawsuits since testimony without cross-examination—which the Trump reform prohibited—is not legally privileged.

Resisting Title IX, moreover, is a powerful civil society movement, complete with outspoken activists, determined nonprofits, experienced legal specialists, dedicated academic experts, an increasingly sympathetic media, and an informed general public that overwhelmingly rejects cancel culture and has—justifiably—less faith in the integrity of our colleges and universities.

If Biden’s new rules stand, the next Republican president is sure to repeal them. Any Democratic successor will almost certainly then restore them. Rather than play that dismal game, Republicans might reasonably decide to repeal Title IX altogether and get creepy university administrators out of people’s private lives for good. There are many other ways to ensure equal gender access to college facilities without empowering woke zealots to ruin lives, educations, and careers. And while they’re at it, the useless Department of Education, its 4,400 swamp-dwelling employees, and wasteful $68 billion budget can go, too.

US Academia Seeks to Impose a Totalitarian Moral Order

Newsmax – “A Soviet childhood leaves its traces on the heart,” wrote University of West Georgia professor Nadya Williams in April.

Williams, who is apparently an immigrant from the Evil Empire, really wasn’t kidding.

Earlier this month, she wrote a lengthy screed in Inside Higher Ed, an online publication for the decaying academic profession, in which she denounced the distinguished classics scholar Joshua Katz, whom Princeton University fired in May.

Katz’s dismissal followed national controversy over a short piece he wrote following George Floyd’s killing in June 2020.

He objected to colleagues’ demands that minority Princeton faculty members receive race-based raises and perks, that Princeton’s security be disbanded, and that faculty committees review professorial research for suspected racist content.

Princeton officials smeared Katz as a “racist,” condemned his views, questioned his right to express them, and appear to have defamed him in mandatory student orientation materials that likened him to slaveholders and segregationists.

When Princeton colleagues and multiple professional organizations objected to Katz’s appalling treatment, the university refused to take corrective action, ironically citing free speech principles.

At the same time the scandal broke, Princeton’s campus newspaper began to muckrake through Katz’s professional history and discovered that he had been disciplined for a consensual relationship with a student, which had occurred in 2006, long before virtually any university prohibited professor-student relationships.

Princeton officials reopened the investigation and claimed that Katz, who had accepted and fully complied with the terms of a sanction imposed upon him years ago, had not fully cooperated with the original investigation.

Despite New Jersey state laws prohibiting double jeopardy in academic employment investigations, Princeton’s president Christopher L. Eisgruber cited this alleged non-compliance as cause to terminate Katz’s employment after nearly 25 years of service.

Naturally, almost no sane person believes that this, and not the irrational and militantly pursued race controversy, was the real reason for Katz’s dismissal.

Many critics have observed that leftist faculty members making controversial political comments would have suffered no such consequences. Princeton history professor Kevin M. Kruse, a woke liberal who has been accused of plagiarism, appears to be in no significant danger of professional repercussions.

Williams, who attended Princeton while Katz was teaching there but did not, to the best of his recollection, study with him, slavishly believes the party line, perhaps one of those pitiful “traces on the heart” left over from her Soviet childhood.

Believing what the commissars proclaim, her outrage flared from the fact that Antigone, a respected open-access classics forum, published a scholarly essay by Katz while his cancellation was in progress.

Unnamed individuals who were “aware” of the allegations against him, she claimed with remarkable passive aggression, “wondered” if it is “appropriate to give him a platform just because he also happens to be an exceptional scholar.”

Williams deliberately ignored that the only policy violation for which Katz had been found responsible was a consensual relationship that involved no allegation of harassment, and that he had accepted and fulfilled the terms of a sanction imposed by his employer in a process that was intended to be confidential.

She ignored that we have a multigenerational feminist movement founded on the sacrosanct principle that women should never be told what to do with their bodies.

She ignored that our society celebrates and legally protects virtually all forms of sexuality except for those that occur in or even around a workplace, which are now proscribed with near-monastic fanaticism.

She ignored that a person intellectually mature enough to read a scholarly publication should also be able to separate a contribution by a distinguished expert in an academic field from unrelated controversy rather than fall into infantile hysterics at the mere sight of a byline by someone of whose personal actions they may disapprove.

Williams congratulates “some of us” (i.e. herself and those who share her authoritarian views) who make what she calls “character-based judgments” that “ultimately condemn individuals like Joshua Katz” — a man whose choice of consensual romantic partner 16 years ago upsets her now.

“Can we trust the brainchild of someone so morally flawed?” she asks in indignation, tendentiously adding that conservatives “simply do not care about the character of individuals” while insisting that only reliable party members like her do.

Her solution is textbook Lenin: “[I]t is time for us to unite in thinking as a democracy about character and recognize that such abuses of power affect more than just the immediate victims.” (We can wonder whether consensual relationships have “victims,” or if we need shrill scolds like Nadya Williams to tell us they do, but she is certainly committing a microaggression by not calling them “survivors.”)

Williams’ Soviet childhood evidently did not impart the fundamental lesson that a real democracy cannot and must not “unite” on the definition of intangibles like “character.”

Forming and imposing such a definition can only be undemocratic. Officially mandated “character” can, and in many contexts has, imposed uniformity of religion, thought, language, morality, politics and other fluid attributes that our Founding Fathers fought against and then drafted an enduring Constitution to banish from public life

Evidently, the blessings of liberty do not suit Williams’s leftover Soviet sensibilities, which are shared by people who believe that our Constitution should be torn up, and who view our freedoms as an obstacle to their peculiar vision of social justice.

As if to prove that very point, Williams launches into a strange and error-ridden attempt to justify the judicial murder of none other than Socrates.

Socrates, she questionably claims, slept with his student Alcibaides (Alcibaides, as recorded by Plato, denied it), thereby rendering all of his teachings “decidedly problematic” — so “problematic” that people with Williams’ credentials still teach them 2,400 years later.

Socrates’s trial, which resulted in his being condemned to suicide by poison, was in Williams’s estimation an admirable character judgment of the same type that she would now like for a “united” society to impose upon Joshua Katz and, presumably, anyone else whose “character” does not rise to her standards.

It is lamentable that the editors of Inside Higher Ed unapologetically greenlighted a deranged piece that implies a modern academic professional should be dead for transgressing a marginal sect’s moral expectations. They owe Professor Katz a full retraction and an apology.

Williams may only be an obscure professor at a third-tier college so financially troubled that it recently had to lay off faculty, but her backwater career only proves how universally and how enthusiastically woke progressives are embracing the purge and the gulag of her native country.

We should thank her for reminding us that seeking reasoned dialogue with them is a waste of time.

Salvage Something From Afghan Disaster by Supporting Music Institute

Newsmax – “The Taliban has learned corruption very well,” Dr. Ahmad Sarmast told me in a meeting in his sparse office in Lisbon, Portugal, earlier this week.
Dr. Sarmast, who founded the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) in 2010 and has led it since then, knows well of what he speaks.
ANIM’s premises in Kabul are now occupied by the militant Islamist organization, which has repurposed its main school facility as a barracks. Its financial assets in Afghanistan are inaccessible, with the Taliban making determined efforts to confiscate them.
Dr. Sarmast’s task has never been easy.
Afghanistan’s developing culture of musical education, in which he began his studies, was wiped out by the Taliban as soon as it came to power in the early 1990s.
With music outlawed in his country, Sarmast pursued further study briefly in Russia and then in Australia, where he became the first Afghan to receive a doctorate in musicology. In 2006, he returned to Afghanistan, where after two years of negotiations he was charged with creating a new system of musical education.
From its inception, ANIM was designed to blend Afghan and Western traditions of music, and, unusually, functioned as a co-educational institution. Its mandate also charged it with selecting half of its student body from Afghan’s teeming population of disadvantaged youth, including orphans and children from the street.
This bold work did not endear Sarmast to his old opponents, who continued to resist the new Afghan government and the U.S. forces backing it.
The Taliban regularly denounced ANIM as sinful and labeled Sarmast personally as a corrupter of Afghan youth. In 2014, he barely survived a suicide bombing, which caused him permanent hearing loss and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Nevertheless, over the years ANIM survived and thrived. In 2013 its students performed concerts of Afghan music at New York’s Carnegie Hall and at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.
Other international engagements and accolades poured down.
In 2018 ANIM won the Swedish Polar Music Prize, with a Global Pluralism Award following in 2019. A U.S. non-profit, the American Friends of ANIM, stepped up to provide continuing support.
By 2021, ANIM had a community of 273 faculty members and students.
The swift collapse of Afghanistan’s government before a resurgent Taliban in 2021 caught everyone by surprise.
While many Afghans had documents to escape before the U.S. finally abandoned Kabul airport on August 31, most of those who wanted or needed to flee had neither the authorization nor the time to escape.
Sadly, this included ANIM’s community, which was feared lost. With their facilities seized and chief activity banned by the Taliban, their only choice was to disperse.
Some of the students returned to the streets. Others went into hiding.
Many of those with Afghan passports lost them because the school had held them for administrative purposes just before it came under Taliban control.
Gradually, Dr. Samast, who was in Australia at the time, managed to keep the community in touch, while ANIM’s American Friends and foreigners with the right connections (myself included) brought the school’s plight to the attention of diplomats, government officials, civil society organizations, and private sector companies that were in a position to help.
Back in Afghanistan, a school custodian who remain employed by the Taliban smuggled the passports out of the building.
Officials of the Taliban-controlled passport office agreed, often with certain financial enticements, to provide travel documents to those who lacked them.
The government of Qatar offered to transport ANIM’s people to Doha, where they were allowed to remain before finding a permanent refuge. Between October 2 and November 16, 2021, five Qatari-sponsored flights flew all 273 faculty members and students out of Afghanistan.
Discussions with Portuguese diplomats and defense officials resulted in Portugal offering asylum to the entire community. On December 13, a charter flight sponsored by Spotify moved them all from Doha to Lisbon.
Once in Portugal, ANIM set up administrative offices and a student dormitory rent-free in a decommissioned military hospital in a residential part of the city with splendid views of the Tagus river. Portugal’s National Conservatory hosts its music courses.
Many of the students, who range in age from 12 to 22, are enrolled in Portuguese public schools for their general education.
Only about 10 students, in Dr. Sarmast’s estimation, have left for other countries, usually because they have close family members there.
ANIM’s work proceeds apace and has received much attention and recognition.
Last month, Dr. Sarmast received an honorary doctorate from Julliard and spoke at the World Justice Forum in The Hague. The famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma has visited and offered substantial support.
ANIM’s operations, however, remain precarious.
Portuguese bureaucracy poses a number of challenges that must be addressed in costly court proceedings.
Expenses for public performance, the school’s ultimate mission, will depend on private philanthropy and partnerships with international cultural institutions.
If anything can be salvaged from the unmitigated disaster that the “adults in the room” inflicted on Afghanistan and its people last year, saving its music students might be a good first step.

Georgetown University’s Disgrace is Ilya Shapiro’s Freedom

Newsweek – “Relieved, excited, free!” the distinguished constitutional law scholar Ilya Shapiro told me when I asked him how he felt after resigning following just 72 hours of active employment as a senior lecturer and executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for the Constitution.

Only three days earlier, Shapiro had been energized by what he called a “technical victory” over cancel culture. Earlier this year, before even starting his job, Shapiro was placed on administrative leave and investigated by two Georgetown offices for “inartful” tweets criticizing President Joe Biden‘s decision to limit the candidates for his first Supreme Court pick to black women. After four torturous months, which Shapiro described in the Wall Street Journal as a “personal and professional purgatory,” the inquisitors concluded that he was not subject to disciplinary action because he had posted his tweets before he was a university employee.

Nevertheless, the inquisition’s reports whined that Shapiro’s tweets “had a significant negative impact on the Georgetown Law community” and recommended that Georgetown Law’s dean William Treanor take “actions” to address them. In an awkward statement on June 2, Treanor, who had denounced Shapiro’s tweets at the time of the scandal as “appalling,” announced that his embattled employee would begin active work the next day, subject to further diversity training and meetings to assure student leaders that he is not a racist.

In case anyone made the mistake of thinking Treanor supportive of his faculty or even simply objective, the dean reiterated that Shapiro’s tweets were “harmful” and had caused unacceptable “pain.” He further assured the braying woke mob that Georgetown’s free speech protections do “not mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish.”

These ominous lines gave Shapiro understandable pause as he contemplated the prospect of daily work with students and colleagues who believe he is an existential threat, that his words are actual violence and that he is a racist and misogynist. He also wondered what it would be like to work under a dean so easily intimidated that he subjected a new employee to a punishing investigation for having exercised his constitutional right of free speech before he even started his job. As Shapiro told me the day he resigned, he has “no confidence in the integrity of Georgetown officials.” He certainly should not, nor should anyone else.

Yesterday’s conservative might have advised Shapiro to take comfort in his technical victory, keep his head down and be grateful for whatever paltry benefits academia still offers. He might perhaps have fastened a crisp bowtie to signal to his new colleagues that he is inoffensive enough to be invited to those all-important Washington cocktail parties, where he would reliably refrain from the faintest peep against the progressive left’s hegemony over intellectual life.

Many D.C. conservatives happily embrace that existence, but where can it lead? As Shapiro remonstrated in a searing four-page resignation letter submitted to Treanor and shared with me on Monday, June 6, “the freedom to speak unless someone finds what you say offensive or infringing some nebulous conception of equity is no freedom at all.” This lack of freedom, under what Shapiro accurately calls “an orthodoxy that stifles intellectual diversity, undermines equal opportunity, and excludes dissenting voices,” would certainly have been his lamentable fate had he clung to his post.

As he convincingly observed to Treanor, if Shapiro were to take public positions supporting possible Supreme Court decisions to overturn Roe v. Wade, outlaw race-based college admissions, or uphold gun rights—all well within his right of free expression and all supported by large numbers of Americans—he could once again, upon the flimsiest complaint by Georgetown’s most emotionally troubled student or psychologically disturbed faculty member, find himself suspended and hauled before the same inquisitors, only without any technicality to save him. Georgetown’s administration “set me up for discipline the next time I transgress progressive orthodoxy,” he admonished Treanor, who he believes “painted a target on my back such that I could never do the job I was hired for.”

Many progressive leftists are twisted enough to rejoice at Shapiro’s resignation. They giddily believe that like-minded enforcers of “repressive tolerance” have succeeded in making it almost impossible for non-woke employees to work in academic institutions, even when technically cleared of wrongthink.

In their infantile self-congratulation, however, they miss the larger picture: that those institutions look ever more like crumbling madrasas for fanatical zealots that are of little value to anyone else. By 2020, only 45 percent of Americans still believed a college education to be necessary for success in life, down from 95 percent in 1980. Most of that decline has come in just the last decade, as wokeism became entrenched on campuses. College enrollments have fallen by over a million students since 2019, with few signs of post-pandemic recovery on the horizon. In just the past six years, some 75 institutions of higher education have disappeared—the largest contraction in American history, and one that some economists predict will accelerate even absent rigid ideological conformity and the strict policing of thought and expression.

Shapiro’s departure from that dying subculture is no setback. He has many other options to explore his interests and amplify his voice, probably more now than he did before. The day after he resigned, he announced that he will join the Manhattan Institute as a senior fellow and its director of constitutional studies. Rather than tiptoeing on eggshells, he tells me, he is free to be “even more in the arena” and “more effective than ever.” Good for him!

Princeton University Has Disgraced Itself by Firing Free Speech Hero Joshua Katz

Newsweek – “It is our collective responsibility not to shrug our shoulders” or accept “the normalization of untruths,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told Princeton’s 2022 Class Day on May 23. That same day, Princeton’s Board of Trustees, acting on the recommendation of its President Christopher L. Eisgruber, fired star classics professor Joshua Katz after nearly 25 years of employment.

In July 2020, in the wake of George Floyd‘s killing, Katz criticized a Princeton faculty letter demanding preferential treatment for minority faculty members, the disbanding of Princeton’s security, and the creation of faculty panels to police colleagues’ work for supposed racism. Katz was immediately branded a racist and ostracized by his colleagues. Eisgruber condemned him for having used his freedom of speech “irresponsibly.”

Princeton grudgingly admitted that Katz could not be sanctioned for his dissenting statements, but wasted no time finding a pretext to dispose of him. The student newspaper spent months muckraking through Katz’s private life and confidential university business, and discovered that he had once been suspended for a consensual relationship he had with an undergraduate student, way back in 2006. Casting due process to the wind, Princeton reinvestigated the matter and cryptically determined that Katz had “misrepresented facts or failed to be straightforward” the first time.

Along the way, in August 2021 Princeton produced a mandatory “anti-racist” internet feature for incoming freshman that placed Katz in the same category as slaveholders among Princeton’s founders, segregationists among its later leaders, and discriminatory admissions policies, among other sins. A group of Katz’s colleagues filed a complaint on his behalf last October, but the university’s diversity bureaucracy dismissed it out of hand without appeal.

In a moment worthy of Orwell, Eisgruber refused to remove the language about Katz, suggesting that doing so would “censor” the free speech of those who wrote it. A few days later, Princeton’s Board of Trustees praised Eisgruber for his purported commitment to free speech and renewed his $1 million annual contract for at least the next five years.

Earlier this month, Eisgruber recommended Katz’s termination to Princeton’s Board. He and other university officials have sheepishly denied that it had anything to do with Katz’s public speech and instead insist that it resulted from a personnel matter dredged up from 16 years ago that just happened to resurface at the exact moment the speech issue emerged.

If you believe that, I have an ivory tower to sell you. To anyone even mildly capable of critical thought, Princeton appears to have transparently resuscitated a personnel matter to punish a dissenter for exercising his right to free speech while attempting to shield itself against legal claims.

As Katz’s lawyer Samantha Harris put it, his abysmal treatment “will have a powerful chilling effect on free speech, because anyone who might wish to express a controversial opinion knows that they must first ask themselves if their personal life can stand up to the kind of relentless scrutiny that Dr. Katz’s life was subject to.”

Free speech advocates agree. “I’m embarrassed I went there,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Judith Miller, a Princeton alumna and leading advocate for free speech, upon hearing of Katz’s termination.

Katz has told the New York Times that he believes he was treated with “gross unfairness.” He is understandably “angry and heartbroken.” In a letter to the Wall Street Journal published just hours after he was fired, he convincingly lamented that Princeton “fed me to the cancel culture mob.”

His legal claims are strong, however. “The law in New Jersey,” Princeton alumnus and former New Jersey state Superior Court judge Andrew P. Napolitano told me, “requires private schools disciplining faculty members to follow basic due process. Punishing Prof. Katz again for a matter for which he has already been punished is an egregious violation of the law.”

The internet slurs associating Katz with Princeton’s history of racism also suggest a strong defamation claim. Colleges and universities routinely lose such cases these days, and Princeton will be hard put to deny that it branded Katz a racist and thereby caused him significant reputational harm.

Nor is it a foregone conclusion that Katz cannot recover. Last week, the University of Central Florida was legally compelled to restore psychology professor Charles Negy to employment and tenure (with back pay) after he was fired for criticizing tenets of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Regardless of the legal outcome, Professor Katz can also take comfort in Princeton’s grotesque myopia. By firing him from a prestigious job he loved for reasons that look absurd and downright shifty, it has simultaneously made him a figure of national importance, with almost every major news outlet covering his story. Once the sting fades, he may well realize that he is now a public intellectual of greater stature and higher moral authority than all other classics professors in America combined.

Shorn of his affiliation with a disreputable university that exerts a frightful amount of control over the speech, behavior, and private lives of its employees—and no longer weighed down by the groupthink of creepy conformist colleagues there—he now has the ultimate freedom to say and do what he wants without reference to a failing academic culture that will soon be dead and buried.

It smarts to lose a job, but it is wonderful to be handed a megaphone. Let us look forward to hearing Professor Katz use his.

Elon Musk and the End of #MeToo

Newsmax – Until last week, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk was merely the savior of free speech. Poised to buy full ownership of Twitter, he stood on the verge of liberating the influential social media platform from pervasive, politically-biased censorship by its woke employees.

As a senior engineer at Twitter candidly admitted on video, his colleagues do “not believe in free speech” and are “actually censoring the right and not the left.”

Leftist attitudes soured further when Musk posted a series of tweets criticizing Twitter’s old management for its aggressive wokeism and apparent manipulation of algorithms to control the flow of information.

He suggested significant layoffs, hinted that former president Donald J. Trump might be allowed to return to the platform, and revealed that he will from now on vote for Republicans instead of Democrats because he believes the Democrats have become “the party of division & hate.”

Powerless against Musk’s billions, and confronted by mounting evidence of unsavory practices at Twitter, cranky legacy media scolds could only cringe at the prospect of fellow citizens exercising their civil rights and indulge in unconvincing bouts of reductio ad Hitlerum whenever Musk’s name was mentioned.

Musk is a smart man and knew what was coming next. On the same day he signaled his new political allegiance, he presciently tweeted “political attacks on me will escalate dramatically in coming months.”

As if on cue, they arrived within a matter of hours. The next day a “friend” of a former SpaceX flight attendant divulged that Musk’s space exploration company had paid $250,000 to settle a sexual harassment claim brought by the former employee, who had signed a nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreement in exchange for the payoff.

According to the allegations, in 2016 Musk exposed himself to the flight attendant during an in-flight massage and suggested that he would give her a horse if she sexually gratified him.

There is no evidence that the alleged incident ever happened. Musk admitted no amount of guilt as a condition of the settlement and has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

This would not have saved him in an America where #MeToo continued to be a potent force, however. In the sanctimonious “reckoning” foisted upon our society by social justice zealots hysterically seeking revenge for Trump’s election five years ago, Musk would have been presumed guilty, forced out of his companies, erased from public recognition, compelled to issue a platitudinous apology to all those whom he may have hurt, and vaporized out of public life.

Twitter would have been spared his purported right-wing whims, horses-for-happy-end quid pro quos, and toxic masculinity. More importantly, it would have continued to function as an unchecked censor of disfavored people and views.

That certainly seemed to be the intention of the leaker, who moralized that “someone with that level of power causing that kind of harm and then throwing some money at the situation, that’s not accountability.”

But none of the usual consequences materialized. The magnitude of the Twitter deal’s free speech implications, together with Musk’s unabashed political statements on the eve of the revelation, left little doubt about what this #MeToo eruption really was — a desperate attempt to blacken his name and possibly prevent a massive liberation of free speech in an important public forum.

Musk has remained defiant and connected the dots for anyone dense enough not to see the obvious and predictable. “The attacks against me should be viewed through a political lens,” he tweeted to the general public, “this is their standard (despicable) playbook — but nothing will deter me from fighting for a good future and your right to free speech.”

He offered multiple logical analyses of the allegations — if he’s a sexual harasser, why did nobody say so at any other time in his 30-year career? Why did the accusation only surface at the most politically sensitive moment of his life, and not years ago, when the harassment allegedly happened?

Astutely realizing that tyranny cannot withstand ridicule, Musk proceeded to mock the allegation. “Finally, we get to use Elongate as a scandal name,” he tweeted, cheekily observing, since he was alleged to have flashed a full erection at the complainant, that the word “elongate” was “kinda perfect” to describe his current problem.

He challenged his accuser — “the liar” and “far left activist,” as he called her — to “describe just one thing” on his body “that isn’t known to the public.” He also doubled down on legal protection, announcing a new “hardcore litigation department” at Tesla that will “directly initiate & execute lawsuits.”

This is the finest defense against defamation we have these days, but Musk also benefits from the parallel drama of Johnny Depp’s $50 million defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard, whom Musk coincidentally dated just after she split from Depp. For all its nauseating vulgarity, the Hollywood court battle, in which Musk’s name has come up, has independently cast powerful doubt on the premise that all women should be believed.

A few leftist commentators have argued that Musk manipulated the timeline and declared himself a Republican opportunistically, only after he learned the leak was coming. But hardly anyone of consequence is convinced.

Musk’s companies show no sign of any shareholder revolt or human resources intervention. Nobody in the legacy media has urged Musk’s destruction. No activists have emerged to femsplain the discredited canard that women never lie about sexual harassment.

Mainstream outlets have cited expert opinion that the allegation will have little or no effect on the Twitter purchase. Even The New York Times has finally admitted that #MeToo has seen “muddled cases” of “overreach and backlash” that might have been handled wrongly.

The former paper of record’s new opinion writer Pamela Paul admits “we still haven’t thought enough about how to handle all accusations with proportion and fairness.” The plain truth is that many no longer believe them any more than they would believe witchcraft allegations leveled against the good people of Salem, Massachusetts.

And for that we have Elon Musk to thank.

Left’s Tears Over Twitter are Those of Joy, Victory for Right

Newsmax – “All they have is censorship. Their ideas don’t hold up in debate,” tweeted Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert on April 26.

Hers was one of the more incisive comments in the media storm around Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter for the staggering sum of $44 billion.

Real conservatives, along with libertarians and some non-woke liberals, are rejoicing with an ebullient cry of freedom that the world has not heard since communism’s fall.

The reasons are plain to see. For “free speech absolutists,” a category in which Musk readily includes himself, Twitter censorship is a thing of the past.

Over the last few days, conservatives have reported that their Twitter followings are no longer limited, that they are no longer subject to unofficial “shadow bans,” and that mysterious algorithms that they have long suspected kept their tweets from normal accessibility no longer appear to function.

Some are testing the new regime, tweeting such taboo statements as “Trump won” or “There are only two genders” to see whether these widely shared but Twitter-proscribed opinions are still flagged as “misinformation” or violations of policy.

So far, they no longer are.

Conservatives who were banned from Twitter  in some cases permanently  are now enthusiastically appealing their bans.

It remains to be seen whether the most famous of them all, former President Donald J. Trump, will seek to return to the platform, on which he had over 88 million followers before Twitter banned him in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021 events.

While Trump was banned, Twitter placed no apparent restrictions on the governments of Iran, China, Russia, or North Korea, and even allowed the murderous Taliban to tweet with impunity.

Musk himself has decried the suppression of critical news stories, including vital pre-election coverage of the Hunter Biden laptop story, which legacy media outlets now consider credible, and which some 25% of voters say would have influenced their votes had they known of the story before casting their ballots.

Twitter’s new owner characterized the decision to suppress the story as “obviously incredibly inappropriate.”

Musk laudably hopes that “even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.”

America agrees with him. A majority believes that Twitter censored free speech under its old management, while 57% approve of Musk’s purchase.

If the massive chorus of cheers reveals a conservative movement more confident and more united than it has been for years, progressives and, unsurprisingly, their small allied community of Vichy conservative confederates are in a tizzy.

The New York Times, which recently editorialized that America has a “free speech problem,” now maintains that free speech on Twitter is inherently problematic and should not be allowed.

One scold at the former paper of record dismissed Musk’s buyout as “a problem masquerading as a solution,” while another of its hysterics suggested that loosening Twitter’s speech restrictions would turn it into a “cesspool” and prove to be a bad business decision.

The Washington Post, which is also solely owned by another billionaire  a billionaire who has not had the poor manners to advocate free speech  fears that Musk will “ruin” Twitter and “change it for the worse” by allowing speech to resound freely.

The saturnine Bulwark, largely staffed by refugees from the failed Weekly Standard, which went out of business in 2018 after adopting a puerile Never Trumper line, fantasizes that a free Twitter may take the wind out of the sails of alternative social media platforms to which right-wingers have gravitated.

For that petty reason, but not for the prospective restoration of free speech, Bulwark offers “half a cheer” or “a mild affirmative grunt” for Musk’s ambition.

A number of progressives have announced that they will leave Twitter, albeit in the same unconvincing way that they offered to make America a better place by moving to Canada after Trump’s first election to the presidency, in 2016.

Perhaps the most hysterical reactions came from within Twitter itself.

Project Veritas, a hardnosed investigative outlet that was itself banned from Twitter in February 2021, revealed a leaked audio recording of an internal “all hands” virtual meeting in which Twitter employees were deeply troubled by the prospect of free speech.

One who obviously lacked much of a civics education asked whether there was “an updated definition” of the concept that may have eluded the company’s workforce.

Board member Bret Taylor, who sounds like he has thoroughly researched alternative definitions of masculinity, reassured Twitter’s disconcerted employees “I just want to acknowledge all the emotions of today.”

Those emotions were raw.

One loaded question from an employee asked how Twitter’s new owner would deal with a predicted “mass exodus” of colleagues “considering the acquisition is by a person [Musk] with questionable ethics,” a category that apparently includes commitment to free speech.

Another employee demanded to know “who will keep Elon accountable and how,” without elaborating to whom the company’s new owner should be held accountable, and without mentioning what means might be used for that purpose.

Still another found that returning to open discussion of controversial topics threatened to put Twitter “in a very difficult position.”

Obviously, that “very difficult position” involves the left having to defend its views in free discussion rather than simply eliminate those who disagree.

All Twitter’s nervous CEO Parag Agrawal could do was offer to arrange for Musk to answer employee questions at a future meeting.

The episode was so embarrassing that Twitter’s chief marketing officer Leslie Berland took to her personal Twitter account to disclaim that any of the views expressed in the recorded meeting were hers or the company’s.

Twitter’s general counsel Vijaya Gadde, who reportedly played a major role in banning Trump and other figures, was said to have broken down in tears over the potential consequences of Musk’s acquisition.

With inquisitors like her, who needs heretics, but how long will it be before she pleads that she was only following orders?

The night the masks came off

The Spectator – At last we’re free from the government’s performative safetyism.

My wife and seven-year-old son were halfway to Boston to catch a connecting flight to Ireland on Monday when the news came down. Or, as it were, went up, as Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle voided the Biden administration’s widely reviled but recently extended mask mandate on public transportation.

After receiving instructions from the ground, the pilot on their plane emerged from the cockpit and announced that masks were no longer required. He then invited the passengers to “go ahead and throw them in the trash.” There was a swell of cheers as the passengers and crew were overcome by a euphoria of deliverance from the tyranny of overzealous Washington. For nearly two years, they had demanded compliance, despite “the science,” which had shown again and again that masks are of little to no use in stopping the spread of Covid and can cause serious psychological harm.

Mme du Quenoy offered up a celebratory “woot” as she and young Master Charles breathed freely again.

By the time I’d heard her secular version of the Easter season’s triumph of light over darkness, two other friends on planes had messaged me with similar stories. Within minutes, social media lit up with videos of Americans applauding and cheering as the news reached them at 30,000 feet.

It is hard to settle on which post was the most moving. Candidates include one plane’s flight crew blasting “Celebration” after the announcement was made. Another featured two flight attendants embracing because they could see each other’s faces for the first time after months of working together. In still another, a man exclaims “Finally!” after the pilot announces that masks are to be consigned to the dustbin of aviation history.

For many, the emotional effect was like the Berlin Wall coming down. “It’s just glorious,” said Robert Mihlbaugh, a pilot with a major airline who told me he was “overjoyed,” adding, “it’s a great day for free choice!” “Vive le dix-huit avril!” wrote an Éric Zemmour-supporting French friend, as though the date of Judge Mizelle’s ruling were a grand journée in a new revolutionary epoch. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, in whose freest of states Judge Mizelle issued her ruling, spoke for the country he will likely lead one day when he praised her decision to follow the law, tweeting, “airline employees and passengers deserve to have this misery end.”

Alas, not all Americans are freedom-loving anymore, and the Biden administration clearly wants the misery to continue. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who is leaving her job for an equally objective role at MSNBC, announced that the administration was “disappointed” by Judge Mizelle’s ruling and urged the flying public to continue wearing masks.

To be fair, the administration seemed dazed by the countermanding of its cruel edict. It was still reeling from yet another embarrassing video, this one of a visibly confused Biden being led away from a reporter by an official dressed in an Easter Bunny suit.

But further down the American left’s rotting food chain, those who were happy to live under near-house arrest for two years doubled down on the hysteria they would like to make a permanent national characteristic. The public transportation systems of Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and, of course, New York announced that they would continue to enforce mask mandates. Some claimed to be “studying” Judge Mizelle’s ruling, but by defying it they have raised the awkward question of whether they are now in violation of federal law.

Rather than challenge her legal reasoning, the intolerant left has tried to demonize Judge Mizelle personally. The ever-courageous Daily Beast derided her as “Trump’s worst judge” for having the audacity to exercise her constitutional role. Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern tweeted that “no sane democracy would permit this system of government,” meaning one in which a woman confirmed by the United States Senate can reach a legally binding decision he disagrees with.

Others took issue with Judge Mizelle’s age, arguing that her thirty-five years — despite meeting the constitutional age requirement to hold the American presidency — were insufficient to make big decisions best left to octogenarian medical bureaucrats. Failed former secretary of education Arne Duncan was reduced to begging his Twitter followers: “For my safety, and for the safety of my family, friends and everyone I come in contact with, please keep wearing a mask when you travel.” He promised “to do the same” and sanctimoniously thanked his followers for “saving lives.”

The Biden White House is so insular, conceited, and tone-deaf that it may yet try to have Judge Mizelle’s ruling overturned. But whether it does or not, whatever pretense of moral authority it once claimed is now gone for good. Free Americans will never again submit to the power-hungry tyranny lurking behind its performative safetyism.

When my wife and son boarded their connecting flight to Dublin only a few hours after the ruling was issued, no announcement had to be made that masking was over. In all probability, we will never hear its like again.

New York City’s desperate attempt to lure Floridians

The Spectator – Mayor Eric Adams says ‘come to a city where you can say and be whoever you want.’ Yeah, right.

In his latest desperate attempt to prove that New York is “back,” the city’s hapless mayor Eric Adams has taken a hysterical potshot at Florida — a much happier jurisdiction to where many of his constituents have had the good sense to move.

Adams announced that private funds made available to his cash-strapped city would be used to place billboard and digital ads in five booming Florida markets: Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. These ads invite Floridians to “come to a city where you can say and be whoever you want.”

The jibe is directed at Florida’s recently approved Parental Rights in Education bill, which prohibits instruction in sexuality and gender identity for children from kindergarten through third grade. Opponents have labeled it the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” even though the word “gay” does not appear anywhere in it, and none of its provisions would prevent anyone from saying the word “gay” or any other word. In lockstep with the progressive left, of which he is a typically mindless member, Adams has angrily denounced the Florida law as a weapon in a “shameful, extremist culture war targeting the LGBTQ+ community.”

Mayor Adams is delusional: he requires two-year-old nursery school students to be masked, burdens his groaning subjects with America’s highest tax rates and instructs those horrified by a sharp rise in subway murders to “change their perspective.” Yet Adams has convinced himself that people will voluntarily return to the ghastly concrete gulag he presides over because of an education bill that bars six-year-olds from learning about the vaginoplasty options.

One may rightly wonder why Adams and those who share his politics are so emotionally invested in expanding the sexual horizons of small children. Regardless, relying on leftist zeal to boost New York’s declining population and tax base is just poor salesmanship. According to a recent poll that accurately relates the language of the Florida bill, 61 percent of Americans — including 55 percent of Democratic voters — support it, while only 26 percent agree with a mayor 1,200 miles away who thinks it should be legal to teach second graders about dental dams.

Even Floridians tempted to relocate would be hard-pressed to find New York a place where they could “say and be whoever you want.” They might solicit the opinion of former New York Times editorial page editor James Bennett, who was forced to resign in June 2020 after he greenlighted an op-ed by a US senator suggesting the army be deployed to control Black Lives Matter riots — a fully constitutional measure supported at the time by 58 percent of Americans. Would-be New Yorkers looking forward to shoplifting deodorant with impunity may wish to consult, too, with star Times editorial writer Bari Weiss, who followed Bennett out the door after suffering enormous harassment for defending the principle of free speech.

Dissidents from Florida might also want to ask former New York Magazine contributor Andrew Sullivan why he was forced to leave his publication after opposing critical race theory in print. And speaking of publications, a down-on-his-luck Floridian who cannot find a job in a state with functional full employment but thinks he has better prospects in a city with 8 percent unemployment would be well advised to take a close look at New York’s publishing industry. There, he would have the pleasure of working with hundreds of colleagues who signed an open letter demanding that people who served in the Trump administration “not have their philosophies remunerated and disseminated through our beloved publishing houses.”

Anyone willing to trade Florida’s extraordinarily clean, efficient and privately operated Brightline train for the horrors of Metro-North would be ushered into a city where New York’s literary elite are sacked for “saying what they want.” Literary agent Sasha White was fired from her job in August 2020 after tweeting that “denying biological sex” was something less than “wonderful.” In April 2021, Paul Rossi, a math teacher at the once-prestigious Grace Church School, lost his job after criticizing the school administration’s embrace of woke ideology, a program that included deriding “objectivity” as a characteristic of “white supremacy” and dropped the words “mom” and “dad” to refer to parents.

A Floridian exile dreaming of the good life may also be disappointed by a New York Times investigation of wokeness in New York City private schools, which found no teachers and only one parent willing to go on the record, with many citing fears of serious consequences if they spoke out.

Miami party people willing to move to a place where dining after 9:30 p.m. has all but disappeared due to lack of interest would not find a lively, intellectual community secure in its constitutional right to “say whatever it wants.” Rather, while wallowing in fond memories of days at the beach, our adventurous Florida expat would see that in Eric Adams’s New York, one cannot even repeat someone else’s words without fear of reprisal. Columbia University legal scholar Dinah PoKempner was fired from her teaching position and unrelated job as general counsel of Human Rights Watch, a left-leaning advocacy organization, because she uttered the N-word while reading aloud to her class from the case record of a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center against the Ku Klux Klan.

Not even the most optimistic citizen willing to increase his state and local tax liability from 0 percent to 14.778 percent to help Adams out could fail to admit that members of the mayor’s own administration are equally vulnerable to cancelation. Just five weeks ago, LGBTQ activists protested three appointments to posts in New York City’s offices of faith-based and immigration affairs due to the officials’ past opposition to gay marriage. All three men were reportedly put on notice that their views are “unacceptable” and that they may only continue in office if they do not state them. These men cannot “say whatever they want.” Less fortunate was their short-lived colleague Kathlyn Barrett-Layne, who lasted just six hours as a member of the mayor’s Panel for Educational Policy before it was revealed that she had published anti-gay comments in a book released in 2014.

If Floridian readers are still tempted to become New Yorkers, I leave you with this: on the very day Adams announced his Florida ad campaign, city legal counsel Daniela Jampel was fired after daring to ask the mayor when he would “unmask our toddlers.” At the time, the unamused Adams was standing beneath a banner that proclaimed, “Come to the city where you can say whatever you want.” Any Floridian who believes him should immediately book a flight, secure in the knowledge that he is no loss to the freest state.