Sorry, media: Florida is still America’s paradise no matter how you spin it

New York Post – NBC News, recently in the news itself for firing ex-Republican National Committee head Ronna McDaniel just 48 hours after the network hired her, ran a pernicious story about Florida by Shannon Pettypiece, NBC News digital senior policy reporter, declaring “rising costs and divisive politics” have people “fleeing the Sunshine State.”

As a close reading of Pettypiece’s lousy article shows, she couldn’t be more wrong.

Based on only one grossly misrepresented statistic and interviews with exactly five disgruntled ex-Floridians, it paints our state as a nightmarish place, groaning under high expenses, worsening traffic, scarcer services and — what else? — extreme weather.

At least she didn’t bore us with a predictable diatribe about alligators (responsible for 30 fatalities in the last 76 years, six fewer than the number of New Yorkers murdered in January 2023).

But the hard facts prove the opposite of what she seeks to put over on hapless readers: Florida is in fact booming, popular, happy and free. It is, indeed, America’s own paradise.

While Pettypiece claims almost 500,000 people moved out of Florida in 2022, she barely acknowledges the fact that well over 700,000 moved in that year, and the ratio of new Floridians to those moving away is rapidly increasing.

Our 2022 net gain of 249,064 people was the largest of any state in the union, as it was the previous two years — while blue-state crime rates soared and most of our nation’s Democrat-governed big cities turned into underpopulated wastelands of crime and decay.

Florida had a net gain of 365,205 people from July 2022 to July 2023, according to data Pettypiece consulted but didn’t bother to cite, while the state’s Chamber of Commerce predicts another 225,000 to 275,000 arrivals in 2024.

Unsurprisingly, the four states with the greatest net out-migration in 2022 were radical-Democrat-governed New York, California, Illinois and New Jersey.

New York City alone has lost more than 400,000 people since 2020.

So many state residents left, that year’s census cost New York a seat in Congress while Florida gained one.

Having added more than a million new residents overall since 2020, migration to Florida has sometimes topped 1,000 people per day.

Many have horror stories about life up north you will never see in an NBC News column.

For those who come and stay, our state is routinely ranked No. 1 in new business creation, job growth, talent development, entrepreneurship and ease of doing business.

At 2.9%, our unemployment rate is the lowest among the 10 most populous states — so low, it meets economists’ definition of functional full employment.

Tourism is at a record high.

Crime is at a record low.

Our 9.3% gross-domestic-product growth in 2023 was the nation’s highest and twice New York’s.

A net nearly $40 billion in adjusted gross income has passed into our state since 2020, the largest amount of capital flow into any state in American history.

Florida’s $14.6 billion state-budget surplus (compare with New York’s $9.5 billion budget deficit) is so high, Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed bills to cut state taxes and fees, reduce tuition for our state’s No. 1-ranked public system of higher education and provide universal vouchers for all Florida school students.

If Florida were an independent country, it would have the world’s 14th-largest economy.

As New York’s benighted authorities plan to boost their state’s tax burden (already the country’s highest) even more, Florida state income and inheritance taxes have for a century been outlawed by constitutional amendment.

There is a reason 158 financial companies managing nearly $1 trillion in assets left New York for greener, and often sunnier, pastures, as of August 2023. More than a third of them went to Pettypiece’s disfavored state.

Are there costs? Sure.

As Pettypiece’s paltry band of dissatisfied interview subjects told her, real-estate prices are higher, though average house prices are still about 20% lower than in New York.

Traffic can be a challenge, especially in the burgeoning business zone between Miami and West Palm Beach, where many former New Yorkers live and work.

With the competition from blue-state transplants so great, some new Floridians have trouble finding doctors, schools and other essential services.

Yet Pettypiece’s blistering ignorance causes her to miss not only the basic law of supply and demand but a profound truth about life in the Sunshine State: These inconveniences are by-products of Florida’s runaway success, rather than symptoms of any supposed deficiency.

The plain fact is people want to be here, and not where she is, in greater numbers than ever before.

The State Department Should Dump DEI

Newsweek – As diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) appears to be on the wane nationwide, the divisive left-wing ideology is alive and well in the realm of American diplomacy. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the appointment of Zakiya Carr Johnson as the State Department’s chief diversity and inclusion officer (CDIO). Next Monday, Johnson will replace Acting CDIO Constance Mayer, who has led the office since last July in the absence of a permanent director.

Previously, Johnson was senior adviser and director of the State Department’s Race, Ethnicity, and Social Inclusion Unit and co-chair for the White House Inter-Agency Committee on Gender-Based Violence Monitoring and Evaluation.  Alongside those lofty-sounding government positions, she founded an Atlanta-based DEI consulting firm that claims to invest “in the untapped talent of historically marginalized communities, youth and women in the Americas” and was the cofounder and director of Black Women Disrupt. Blinken believes her addition will make the State Department “stronger, smarter, and more innovative” despite a video statement now circulating on social media in which Johnson advocates “dismantling traditional structures,” a category that could arguably include the State Department itself.

Blinken created the State Department’s Diversity and Inclusion Office in February 2021 in an effort to take “diversity and inclusion work already underway at the State Department to the next level.” A month earlier, he had overseen the restoration of mandatory diversity training, in a reversal of President Donald Trump‘s September 2020 executive order banning training based on critical race theory (CRT) in all divisions of the federal government. The CDIO is a high-level position that reports directly to the Secretary of State and has the power to “hold senior leadership accountable” for implementing DEI across the entire department.

Leading proponents of CRT spread the message that white people are inherently racist, that “structural racism” infuses the United States and virtually all of its institutions, and that anti-white discrimination is the solution for past and present discrimination against non-whites. Many, including Johnson, based on her public statements, also believe “patriarchy” and “systemic misogyny” are responsible for social injustice on a mass scale.

Nevertheless, Blinken, a white male, says Johnson will offer “international expertise and a fresh perspective on how we build a workforce that reflects America.” Two days before appointing her, on Easter Sunday, Blinken observed Transgender Day of Visibility by posting on X, “We continue to fight for a world in which trans people can live safely and openly as themselves.”

Blinken’s priorities are increasingly out of step with the rest of the country. Even as DEI becomes more entrenched in the State Department, more than 30 state governments are currently weighing over 100 pieces of legislation to outlaw or defund DEI structures in public institutions, while some have already banned it. In March, the House of Representatives voted to abolish its Office of Diversity and Inclusion. In June 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that race cannot be considered in higher education admissions, a position supported by roughly 7 in 10 Americans. Since then, the pro-DEI presidents of Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania were forced from office amid major concerns about their leadership and integrity.

Last month, a comprehensive report released by Econ Journal Watch revealed that frequently cited McKinsey studies purportedly correlating DEI initiatives with business profitability were unreliable. Even before that, many corporations began rolling back their DEI bureaucracies, with some suffering multi-billion-dollar losses as the direct result of diversity-inflected advertising campaigns. Abroad, the American elite’s obsession with DEI and CRT is poorly understood, widely rejected, or simply ridiculed by allies and adversaries alike. And unlike compliant State Department employees, Iranian mullahs, Russian militarists, and Chinese functionaries more schooled in Machiavelli than microaggressions can hardly be sent to sensitivity training for indoctrination into DEI ideology.

Senior diplomats are also skeptical. “What they are doing now is not really diversity at all but conformity,” says Alberto Fernandez, a 32-year State Department veteran and retired ambassador who deplores “the imposition of a divisive and intolerant ideology, with a DEI commissar at the head.”

For the sake of America’s credibility in the world, Congress and/or the next administration should move expeditiously to root DEI out of our foreign policy and recruit and promote diplomats solely on the basis of knowledge, talent, and skill.

Woke West Point abandoning ‘duty, honor, country’ is a shameful dereliction of duty

New York Post – “Duty, honor, country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be.”

So said Gen. Douglas MacArthur in his famous May 1962 address to West Point cadets.

But those words are no longer hallowed.

West Point last week removed them from its mission statement, substituting a bland reference to “the Army Values.”

West Point’s superintendent, Lt. Gen. Steve Gilland, defended the change, suggesting in a damage-control letter addressed to “supporters” that it resulted from a year and a half of discussions held “across” the West Point community and in consultation with unidentified “external stakeholders.”

He said the decision was supported by Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, whose last job was director of a center at the RAND Corp., a research and policy institute that professes to “strive to cultivate a community that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion as central to our culture.”

Gilland also claimed the approval of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George, who previously served as senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, whose department requested $86.5 million in fiscal year 2023 for “dedicated diversity and inclusion activities.”

That would pay for a lot of implicit-bias workshops for men and women who should be trained to lead and kill, but the difference in language is neither subtle nor insignificant.

The words “duty, honor, country,” enshrined at West Point since 1898, have precise meanings that have historically bound our officer corps to timeless imperatives vital to the nation’s defense.

They presuppose our country is worth defending, honorably and as a matter of duty.

Proponents of woke ideology reject this notion.

For them, those very concepts — along with such basic values as merit, hard work, rational thought, respect for authority and even punctuality — are undesirable symptoms of a culture supposedly infused with “structural racism” and “white supremacy.”

A country built on them is patently not one they would care to defend.

A March 2022 Quinnipiac poll found 52% of Democrats would leave the country rather than stand and fight against a military invasion of the United States.

“Army Values,” in contrast, can mean anything politicians and their diversity, equity and inclusion commissars want them to mean.

Just ask former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who testified in a 2021 congressional hearing only weeks before horrifically botching the US withdrawal from Afghanistan that he had devoted a significant amount of time to contemplating “white rage.”

Milley also objected to doubts about West Point teaching critical race theory, a Marxist-influenced body of social analysis that reduces all conflict to race-based dichotomies of alleged oppressors and the supposedly oppressed.

CRT and DEI instruction at West Point has been confirmed by documents provided to Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), an academy graduate who released them alongside a formal inquiry in February 2021, and to Judicial Watch, which brought lawsuits against the Defense Department later that year to obtain hundreds of pages of documentation improperly withheld following Freedom of Information Act requests.

Featuring such lessons as “Modern Slavery in the USA” and “White Power,” these materials show cadets are taught “whiteness” is a problem and they should address it in accordance with CRT principles.

In August, Gilland hosted West Point’s biggest-ever DEI conference, at which he described diversity in terms of “how important and how critical it is not only to our U.S. Military Academy, to our military, but especially to our nation.”

“This is our mission,” concluded the man who a few months later would preside over the removal of “duty, honor, country” from West Point’s mission.

Notably, the service academies were exempted from June’s Supreme Court ruling in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard outlawing the explicit use of race in higher-education admissions, an area in which our elite military schools are now comically more woke than the craziest liberal-arts colleges.

On that point, Biden administration Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued successfully but without evidence that “it is a critical national security imperative to attain diversity within the officer corps. And, at present, it’s not possible to achieve that diversity without race-conscious admissions.”

In September, plaintiff SFFA filed lawsuits to extend the prohibition to the service academies.

Litigation is pending, but last month the Supreme Court declined to grant an injunction barring consideration of race in admissions to the service academies’ incoming classes.

“The unbelievers will say they are but words,” MacArthur reflected on the “duty, honor, country” triptych.

Prophetically, he added, “Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and, I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.”

After swallowing gallons of DEI Kool-Aid, they have.

A new administration should restore those noble words to West Point’s mission statement on Day 1, root out all traces of DEI and CRT and cashier the woke bureaucrats who dared remove them in their dastardly bid to elevate diversity, equity and inclusion over duty, honor and country.

Biden Did Himself No Favors With Angry, Partisan State of the Union

Newsweek – State of the Union addresses have long been dull, pro forma affairs. Loud cheers resound, offering the pretense of unity over division. Policy disagreements are buried under unifying values. The leader soberly rattles off platitudes about achievements and aspirations, often illusory. The union’s “state” is always “strong,” and the nation’s “best days” invariably “lie ahead.”

No longer. President Joe Biden‘s third and very possibly last State of the Union address descended from this act of staid but dignified statesmanship to what Democrats think they need to shore up his increasingly doubtful reelection bid. In his 67-minute address, reportedly the result of months of intense preparation, Biden was bitter and angry, delivering many of his lines in the loud and cranky tone of a frustrated family patriarch who commands no respect, marshals no enthusiasm, and fears his legacy will spill down a drain of derision. It was not “presidential” by any stretch. It was hysterical and vulgar, desperate and cheap.

Long gone was the “unifier” of those few halcyon days in early 2021, when the newly inaugurated Biden peered out from the armed camp that Washington, D.C., had become to promise he would pursue a moderate course to settle divisions and curb the vitriolic partisanship of former president Donald J. Trump’s term.

Now Biden is a hyperpartisan, blaming the Republicans—who control neither the presidency nor the Senate nor the Washington bureaucracy—for all of his many problems, from Ukraine to border control to tax policy. He broke firm and laudable precedent to take a swipe at the Supreme Court, the Justices of which attended the speech but by tradition registered no reaction to it, for overturning Roe v. Wade, even though the result has been a pro-choice surge in state abortion referendums and the election of Democrats in several important races. Biden claimed Republicans would cut entitlements to fund a tax cut for the rich despite the Republican House majority’s failure to act on entitlements at any time during his presidency. He countered with his own plan to introduce yet more punitive taxation on “wealthy” Americans.

We heard surprisingly little about Biden’s supposed “achievements,” which his loyalists—and those who benefit from his increasingly obvious cognitive decline—tout with nauseating regularity despite all evidence to the contrary and in the face of massive popular disappointment. Instead, the president lashed out, once again broad brushing half the country as authoritarian fascist enemies of democracy on par with the Nazis, the Confederacy, and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Biden has largely avoided mentioning Trump throughout his presidency—perhaps a wise move. Trump currently outclasses him in opinion polls on virtually every issue, as well as in general competence, physical and mental ability, and, according to almost all recent surveys, the popular vote in the all-but-certain rematch that awaits us in November.

But as Biden gets cagier and undoubtedly more worried about his dubious reelection prospects, he simply cannot ignore Trump. Although Biden never said his name (unlike Laken—or, as Biden mispronounced it, “Lincoln”—Riley, a nursing student murdered by an illegal immigrant on Biden’s watch) in the speech, he referred to his “predecessor,” “the former Republican president,” 13 times. There can be no doubt that as November approaches, the race will become increasingly brutal, personal, and negative—characteristics that, Democratic strategists may wish to note, heavily favored Trump in 2016.

Comparing himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt, a trope to which his flatterers never tire of resorting, struck another point about Biden. With a coterie of Washington politicos and a congressional Democratic Party either convinced of, or willing to play along with, the illusion of the incumbent’s soundness and importance, there is now less chance than ever that he will be replaced as the Democratic candidate, as some have speculated. Given his grumpy demeanor, that is probably good news for the Trump camp. Either way, Thursday’s State of the Union did nothing to convince the 82 percent of Americans who believe Biden is simply too old for the presidency to change their minds.

Sweden’s Accession to NATO: A Strategic Assessment

Until Russia invaded Ukraine, the prospect of NATO incorporating either Sweden or Finland was nonexistent.

The European Conservative – On March 7, Sweden officially became the 32nd member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the transatlantic defensive alliance that, since 1949, has bound the United States, Canada, and most European nations in a collective security structure. Sweden’s accession will follow that of Finland, which formally joined NATO in April 2023.

Even before Sweden’s formal accession, Swedish military forces began taking part in an 11-day, joint-service military exercise alongside 12 NATO members. The operation, which is held biannually, is focused on the Arctic “High North,” where Norway, a NATO member since the alliance’s founding, shares a short but strategically significant 195-kilometer land border with Russia. Until now, the operation has been called “Cold Response,” but given the new memberships of Sweden and Finland, which are hosting the exercises along with Norway, it has been renamed “Nordic Response.” More than 20,000 servicemen are involved, with 4,500 hailing from Sweden. The exercises overlap with NATO’s Steadfast Defender 2024 (SD24) operation, a series of maneuvers scheduled between January and May 2024 that involves a total of 90,000 troops drawn from all NATO countries (including Sweden) and constitutes the largest NATO exercises since the Cold War.

Like neighboring Finland, which also joined NATO in the wake of Russia’s war against Ukraine, Sweden abandoned decades of neutrality to protect itself from aggression that could only conceivably come from one large country to its east.

NATO expansion in Scandinavia is one of the great ironies of contemporary geopolitics. A major rationale for Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and for its general hostility to the West over the past two decades, is its perception that the Atlantic alliance is led by treacherous enemies eager to contain, diminish, and ultimately subjugate Russia. A significant part of the Kremlin’s apprehension is rooted in NATO’s expansion eastward, first into the former East Germany, then into Central and Eastern Europe, and finally to the former Soviet Baltic republics and to Balkan countries that Russia has traditionally insisted are under its protection. Possible NATO membership for Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova has infuriated Russian strategic planners, who assert continuing hegemony over all post-Soviet space and have acted to prevent those three countries from integrating with Western political and economic structures. The prospect of NATO membership for Sweden and Finland has also galled Russia’s leaders, who periodically threatened unspecified “retaliation” if either country should join the Atlantic alliance.

Russia’s objections have long resounded on the geopolitical stage, sometimes to sympathetic understanding among Western analysts and policymakers, even though NATO is purely defensive, only takes effect when a member state is attacked (this has only happened once: following the September 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States), and, for a time in the 1990s, embraced the possibility of altering and pacifying its mission to accommodate some form of Russian involvement.

Until Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago, however, the prospect of NATO moving to incorporate either Sweden or Finland was nonexistent. Majorities of both countries’ populations had long opposed NATO membership, even though their governments maintained regular military contacts with the alliance, enjoyed private security guarantees from the Americans, and joined the European Union in 1995 (Finland also adopted the Euro upon the transnational currency’s introduction in 1999, though Sweden has not). Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia and was under Russian rule with limited autonomy from 1809 to 1917, effectively subordinated its Cold War-era foreign policy to Soviet interests in order to stave off invasion in the last months of World War II. It remained quiescent into post-Cold War times, giving the English international relations lexicon the verb “to Finlandize,” meaning “to neutralize” or “to render harmless.”

Despite Sweden’s storied martial past, it preserved a prudent neutrality for over two centuries, successfully avoiding both world wars through cautious diplomacy. During the Cold War, fear of provoking Swedish accession to NATO was a leading factor in the USSR’s more pacific approach to Finland, and in its speedy withdrawal from the Danish island of Bornholm, which the Soviets briefly occupied in 1945-1946 and voluntarily evacuated on assurances that it would remain demilitarized (Bornholm has a voluntary militia but no regular Danish military or NATO presence). After the Cold War, Sweden almost totally disarmed, reducing its army and navy by 90% and its air force by 70%.

This all changed in 2022, not because of Western “expansion,” but because of Russia’s naked aggression. With weeks of the war breaking out, a majority of both Swedes and Finns for the first time favored NATO membership, as did a nearly unanimous consensus among their political leaders. Their governments acted swiftly and won relatively rapid approval from the 30 existing alliance members. In the early weeks of 2024, Sweden’s accession overcame objections from two holdouts: Turkey, which has been angered by the Swedish government’s toleration of anti-Islamic speech and expression, and Hungary, which has objected to official Swedish criticism of its domestic government. By the end of February, however, both countries’ parliaments relented and approved Sweden for membership, following trenchant diplomacy sweetened in both cases by favorable arms deals.

Sweden’s entry into the alliance changes the balance of power in the Baltic Sea, which will essentially become a NATO lake. Except for Russia, whose Baltic access is limited to the environs of St. Petersburg and the former East Prussian exclave around Kaliningrad, all countries of the Baltic littoral are now NATO members. While Denmark and Norway already control egress from the Baltic to the open ocean, and Estonia and Finland bottle up St. Petersburg, Sweden’s membership will vastly improve NATO maneuverability and interception efforts across the maritime region. Just as the Soviets feared in Stalin’s time, Sweden’s membership advances NATO territory hundreds of kilometers closer to Russian territory and military assets. Sweden’s 3,200 kilometer-long mainland eastern coastline protrudes far enough into the Baltic to block any Russian naval movements attempting to gain local tactical or strategic advantage or to deploy nuclear-armed submarines beyond a very small operational area.

Gotland, the Baltic Sea’s largest island, which Sweden barely defended in recent times and officially demilitarized between 2005 and 2016, lies less than 300 kilometers from Russia’s major Baltic naval base at Baltiysk, in the Kaliningrad exclave, and only about another 40 kilometers away from the capital and military headquarters at Kaliningrad itself. NATO jets stationed on Gotland could obliterate both Russian military centers in a matter of minutes, while military units stationed on Gotland could play an effective supporting role for combat operations on the Eurasian mainland. Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city and Scandinavia’s biggest port, offers a close and convenient conduit for NATO troops and supplies if they had to be rushed in to defend the Baltic States, Poland, or Finland against Russian attack. And farther north, where Swedish forces are now engaging in joint maneuvers with future NATO allies, Sweden can augment Norwegian and Finnish operations to monitor and, if necessary, contain Russia’s Northern Fleet, which is armed with about two-thirds of Russia’s second strike, submarine-based nuclear arsenal.

Sweden could also play an essential role in regional military operations. Despite its post-Cold War disarmament, this year it is on track to spend 2% of GDP on the military, the agreed minimal threshold for all NATO members, and one that even some much larger alliance members perennially fail to reach. Sweden’s defense industry is high-tech and already producing or upgrading air and naval vessels of world class sophistication. The country also maintains a “Total Defense Service,” which requires all residents between the ages of 16 and 70 to participate in national service—including military service for those with the requisite training—in the event of a crisis. As Sweden begins to integrate its military into NATO, reports suggest that it is already primed to contribute troops to the alliance’s multinational force in Latvia. And in perhaps the greatest irony of all, with the bulk of Russia’s armed forces tied down in Ukraine, it is nearly inconceivable that Russia can now take any meaningful military initiatives elsewhere, including retaliatory measures against defiant Scandinavian democracies.

Is Merit Really Making a Comeback?

Standardized tests are back for admissions at Yale, but it may not be for the right reasons.

City Journal – Yale University has announced that it will reinstate standardized test requirements for admissions, beginning with students applying to enter in fall 2025. Yale’s “test flexible” approach requires applicants to submit a standardized test score but lets them choose between several options: SAT, ACT, International Baccalaureate, or subject-based Advanced Placement examinations. The policy change follows recent test reinstatements at Dartmouth College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Purdue University.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, about 80 percent of American institutions of higher education, including Yale and almost all other prestigious schools, suspended standardized-testing requirements, usually citing the stress of those upsetting times to favor more “holistic” means of selecting incoming freshmen. Since then, disclosing test scores has been optional. Four years on, most of those institutions still have not returned to the pre-Covid status quo, layering pandemic concerns with the progressive conviction that standardized tests are inherently racist and therefore produce admissions outcomes that perpetuate racial inequality. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Students for Fair Admissions last June made going test-optional all the more necessary, for that option offered a convenient loophole for institutions seeking to favor lower-scoring demographic groups, without creating an evidentiary trail of racial discrimination. An applicants’ personal challenges and experiences (which might be associated with race) could still be factors in admission.

With identity politics coming under pressure at top schools in recent months—and with the value of college education itself increasingly called into question—it may be tempting to believe that Yale and the few peer institutions that have reinstated test scores have seen the light and embraced merit once again. In January, it’s worth noting, a study by Opportunity Insights, compiled by researchers from Dartmouth and Brown University, found a strong correlation between high academic achievement and students who submitted test scores, and a corresponding correlation between lower academic achievement and students who declined to submit their test scores.

One might think that results like these could be of some value to Yale, which has struggled in recent years with free speech and academic freedom issues, overzealous Title IX and DEI enforcement, and a presidential search that has become high-profile with recent resignations of two other Ivy League presidents: Harvard’s Claudine Gay and the University of Pennsylvania’s M. Elizabeth Magill. Yet, the meritocracy argument does not appear to have won the day entirely in New Haven. The university buttressed its announcement of the new admissions policy with the claim that “tests can help increase rather than decrease diversity,” and that “inviting students to apply without any test scores can, inadvertently, disadvantage students from low-income, first-generation, and rural backgrounds.” Mandatory test scores, in other words, are not back in because they produce the most qualified student body but because the university now believes that testing in fact promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion, which presumably remain Yale’s highest priorities.

How did Yale’s leadership reach this conclusion? “When admissions officers reviewed applications with no scores,” the university’s statement maintains, “they placed greater weight on other parts of the application. But this shift frequently worked to the disadvantage of applicants from lower socio-economic backgrounds.” The university’s faceless admissions bureaucrats may, for example, have failed to consider that applicants from low-income secondary schools have fewer means besides standardized test scores to demonstrate their talent, while more “privileged” students can produce transcripts with honors courses, long lists of unique study and “enrichment” opportunities, and more informative recommendation letters from dedicated teachers in stabler environments.

“This confidence is founded on evidence,” Yale’s statement concludes without a trace of irony, adding that “we hope to empower applicants to put their best foot forward, and to help admission officers respond to excellent students from all contexts.” If you think “excellent” means “most qualified,” however, you might want to ask Yale administrators what they mean by “contexts.” That word has become awfully complicated of late.

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.

Biden’s to Blame for Attack on U.S. Servicemembers in Jordan

Newsweek – It was bound to happen eventually. After over 170 attacks against U.S. military installations across the Middle East since October 2023, on Sunday a drone launched by Iran-backed militants in Syria struck a U.S. supply and logistics site in Jordan. Three American servicemembers were killed and more than 30 were injured. Along with two Navy SEALs lost on a secret mission in Yemen last week, the fatalities are the first to be suffered by U.S. forces since Hamas‘ October 7, 2023, attack on Israel. Dozens of U.S. servicemen had been severely injured in such attacks over the past few months.

In Washington, the ossified policy elite is agonizing over how to respond. Like an addled old man yelling at kids to get out of his yard, President Joe Biden has repeatedly warned of retaliation against Iran, which actively supports a dozen militant groups across the region, including Hamas. U.S. action, however, has been limited to desultory air strikes against Iranian clients in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Thus far, no American response has proved decisive enough to stop the attacks or to dissuade Iran from stepping up its active military presence in the Persian Gulf. The hesitancy and haphazardness of Biden’s responses have only emboldened Iran and its proxies to launch ever more daring attacks, now with fatal results.

In its timid approach to Iranian aggression, Biden’s national security team appears to be following the mystifying playbook of Barack Obama, which held that Iran could launch proxy attacks without fear of war, but insisted that Iran itself could never be attacked, paradoxically due to fear of war. The controlling factor is the administration’s hope—again mirroring Obama’s failed strategy—that Iran’s Islamist theocracy can be goaded into showing restraint through a combination of kid-gloves treatment in the field and high-value hard currency payments, either in cash or through the release of frozen assets.

“The Biden Administration has been pursuing a strategy of strategic engagement with Iran, in the hope of achieving two goals,” says Michael Gfoeller, a retired U.S. ambassador who served for many years in the Middle East, including as policy adviser to U.S. Central Command. These goals, he told me, are “reviving the Obama-era Iranian nuclear agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) and moderating Iran’s aggressive behavior toward U.S. allies in the region.” As was the case under Obama, all this has done is signal American weakness to a culture, society, and wider region that respects strength.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Iran has temporized on returning to Obama’s nuclear agreement—a questionable deal in any case—while giving its proxy forces free rein to attack U.S. assets. Iranian supplies have also flowed to Hamas, which is widely believed to have launched its October 2023 attack on Israel with Tehran’s imprimatur, and to Hezbollah, the pro-Iranian Lebanese militia which has engaged in active military operations across Israel’s northern border since October in what may be a precursor to full-scale war.

As pro-Iranian militants blast away at U.S. forces in the Middle East with tepid consequences for themselves and none for Iran, even America’s allies in the region show little regard for Biden or his team. Israel remains resistant to a ceasefire or deescalation of combat in Gaza, despite increasingly pathetic U.S. entreaties and empty threats to slow the supply of military hardware to Israeli forces. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken‘s trips to Middle Eastern capitals, which he imagines to be “shuttle diplomacy,” typically receive the cold shoulder from Arab leaders who neither respect nor fear him. And of course, everyone in the game knows that a year from now Biden will either be out of office and replaced by a revenant Donald Trump or reelected with an exceptionally weak mandate while suffering from increased cognitive decline. As America enters a prolonged electoral contest, its position in the Middle East is unlikely to improve under its current leadership.