Persons of the year: Contrarians

The past year brought many adverse events: presidential impeachment, COVID pandemic, an economic crunch, record deficits, civil unrest, hard-fought elections, and still-smoldering post-election disputes. In short, 2020 was a very troubled year and the 2021 outlook seems uncertain at best.

With Christmas just around the corner, however, we’ll strive to close out the year on a positive note. See also previous holiday blog entries on the
Essays page of this website.

Time magazine recently chose President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as their “Person of the Year.” Aside from the quibble of whether two individuals can properly be referred to as one “person,” this was consistent with Time's selection of George W. Bush in 2000 & 2004, Barack Obama in 2008 & 2012, and Donald Trump in 2016. Hmm. Instead of honoring presidents for getting elected, why not wait to see what they accomplish after taking office?

This entry will announce SAFE’s “persons of the year.” Our choice is “The Contrarians” - a category of people who don’t feel bound by the conventional wisdom, see things many others don’t, and have the courage to honestly speak their minds.

Caveat: Not only are contrarians fiercely resisted by those who feel comfortable with the status quo, but it’s quite possible for them to be wrong (perhaps the bit of conventional wisdom they are challenging is correct after all). They can make an invaluable contribution when they get things right, however, as the following examples will suggest. Enjoy!

1. Political leaders make decisions that affect our lives in countless ways, e.g., peace vs. war - government spending & taxes - economic regulations - redistribution of wealth. And their impact will depend on leadership style as well as policy ideas.

Some leaders seek harmony by toeing the “party line” of their political faction and otherwise trying to get along with everyone. Call them conventional thinkers or moderates.

Other leaders like to stir things up by pushing policy changes and/or doing battle with political foes. Call them disruptors or extremists.

Which leadership style is best? That depends on the circumstances, and there are a range of possibilities. Factoring in priorities as well as style, one observer recently suggested five categories: Surgeon Leaders (such as Donald Trump) – Soldier Leaders (Dick Cheney) – Accountant Leaders (Bill Clinton) – Philosopher Leaders (Woodrow Wilson) - Architect Leaders (Abraham Lincoln). There are five types of political leader; so which is Donald Trump, Benjamin Laker, forbes.com,
2/12/20.

The Surgeon Leader profile: Identify immediate problems, determine what’s not working and focus on delivering quick improvement. Such leaders are often seen as ruthless disciplinarians. They use trusted blueprints and rulebooks and won’t tolerate deviation. The operation becomes overly dependent on one person (the leader) and may not flourish longer term.

As suggested, this description seems apt for President Trump. In one area after another, he has raised issues that US political leaders (on both sides of the aisle) had been ignoring for years and touted outside-the-box solutions (some brilliant, others not so much). There haven’t been any signs of his administration running out of gas either, except that his leadership style clearly rubbed many people the wrong way. The Trump disruption, Wall Street Journal,
8/27/20.

When Donald Trump won the Presidency four years ago, half of America gnashed its teeth or cried and even supporters who cheered weren’t sure what to expect. Four years later our verdict is that he has been better on policy than we feared but worse on personal behavior than we hoped. Whether Americans re-elect him depends on how they assess that political balance sheet.

Hopefully, President-elect Biden (a Philosopher Leader?) will accept some of the course changes made in the last four years versus rejecting everything that has been done. But that’s hardly a given, and as most of Trump accomplishments were effected by executive action they could readily be reversed. 2 paths for Biden: Adopt Trump tactics or tailspin, Victor Davis Hansen, dailysignal.com,
12/17/20.

•[Biden] can appropriate many of the Trump successes. He can rebrand them as his own and quibble over particulars. Do that, and Biden would likely see a huge post-COVID-19 economic recovery, a stable Middle East, a world united against China’s commercial abuses and human rights travesties, beefed-up U.S. defenses, and a refreshed NATO;

OR

•Biden can suffer the Hydroxy Effect [rejection of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID therapeutic after Trump touted its use]. Allow unchecked immigration, freeze border wall construction, lift tariffs on China, let NATO members pay as little as they like, curtail fracking, rejoin the Iran nuclear deal and Paris Climate Agreement, polarize Israel and its new Arab allies, fast track the Green New Deal, raise taxes sky-high, let the Rust Belt rust, and allow Big Tech to do as it pleases.

Whatever the future holds, and for what it’s worth Hansen predicts the Hydroxy Effect will prevail, the political class was too set in its ways and Trump’s record demonstrates the potential benefit of leaders with contrarian tendencies.

2. Journalists can earn their keep by objectively reporting on the performance of our leaders and institutions. At least that’s what they were traditionally expected to do, but such a role is coming to represent the exception rather than the rule.

Most US media outlets have a liberal bias, which predisposes them to underrate conservative politicians while glossing over deficiencies of the other side. Perhaps this bias is inevitable in commentary, but it also affects news reporting. What developments or events are deemed newsworthy – which details are emphasized – which “experts” are cited – how prominent is the coverage (e.g., front page story with a dramatic headline vs. a brief story on page 10)?

Studies say some 90% of the reporting on President Trump has been unfavorable. For example, consider the coverage of his Independence Day speech at Mt. Rushmore this year. Behind the media’s breathtakingly dishonest coverage, Michael Barone, townhall.com,
7/10/20.

The great bulk of Trump's speech was a celebration of American history, American principles, American leaders. He spoke extensively of the four presidents whose visages were sculpted on the mountain above him, and paid tribute more succinctly to others.

"We are the country of Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant and Frederick Douglass. We are the land of Wild Bill Hickock and Buffalo Bill Cody. We are the nation that gave rise to the Wright brothers, the Tuskegee Airmen, Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Jesse Owens, George Patton -- Gen. George Patton -- the great Louie Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali."

Trump also said “angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.” True enough, but such a view was deemed offensive by liberals. It was, according to The New York Times, a "dark and divisive speech" designed to deliver a "divisive culture war message." The Washington Post called it a "dystopian speech" and a "push to amplify racism."


Between the mainstream media painting a one-sided view of the presidential campaign and Big Tech (Google, Facebook et al.) censoring conflicting reports as “misinformation,” the public was arguably misled about the candidates in the run-up to the election. The news that Biden voters didn’t know, Tim Graham, townhall.com,
11/25/20.

Thus, the impact of information unfavorable to Biden was minimized, e.g., financial scandals of Hunter Biden to which his father could have been privy, sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden, and Sen. Kamala Harris’ left-wing ideology.

Favorable information about Trump was also minimized, e.g., the magnitude of economic recovery in the third quarter, historic peace agreements in the Middle East, and the race (Operation Warp Speed) to develop and deploy COVID vaccines.


In public appearances, media representatives characteristically went after Trump as hard as they could while taking it easy on Biden.
Ibid.

“You can watch the difference between CNN reporters at President Trump's press conferences and CNN reporters at President-elect Joe Biden's press events. It's the difference between rabid tigers and domesticated kittens.”

Perhaps this was a one-off situation triggered by Trump’s combative style, and the media will revert to more balanced and professional coverage in the next administration. But given how little hard questioning of President Obama there was during his eight years in office, why should anyone expect it now? Media will treat Biden very differently than Trump, Ben Shapiro, dailysignal.com,
12/16/20.

If things are destined to improve, it will probably be because of reporters and commentators who aren’t content to follow the crowd – and there are some. The editorial staff at the Wall Street Journal – some of the players on Fox News and Fox Business – emerging competition for Fox on Newsmax and One American News (OAN) – social media start-ups like Parler and Rumble – an army of bloggers whose views span the political spectrum.

Then there are investigative reporters, seemingly out to recreate the triumphs of the muckrakers over a century ago, such as James O’Keefe of Project Veritas who spoke at the Conservative Caucus banquet in 2019. What drives them to do this? Basically curiosity, and an instinctive desire to root out corruption. O’Keefe energizes crowd at 24th annual dinner, CC of DE newsletter,
1/1/20.

What does it take to do first class investigative work? You need some life experience, but not necessarily organizational service, plus a bit of chutzpah. As Charlie Kirk has put it, young people get it while their parents say “don’t get in trouble.” The future will belong to anonymous heroes.

Let’s hear it for the real journalists, bloggers, and under-cover investigators – contrarians all!

3. Election observers have been diligent in reporting errors or misconduct in the November elections, as evidenced by hundreds (perhaps thousands) of affidavits (sworn statements executed under penalty of perjury) of poll observers, poll workers, voters, information tech experts, statisticians, etc.

Collectively, they claimed to have observed or learned of a host of electoral irregularities. Issuance and processing of mail-in ballots not properly monitored or controlled – unusual suspensions of vote counting after the polls closed on Nov. 3 – mysterious bulk deliveries of ballots (primarily marked for Biden and in some case not filled out for down-ballot races) during the early morning hours of Nov. 4 – GOP/conservative poll monitors excluded from areas where ballots were being counted – etc. In short, the picture painted was one of widespread “ballot stuffing” in Democratic-controlled metropolitan areas, which could easily have flipped half a dozen “battleground” states from Trump to Biden.

Some of these claims may be mistaken, and the effects of others (notably denial of access) can’t readily be quantified. But based on a cursory review of legal filings, televised witness testimony (at hearings organized by GOP state legislators in various states), and recaps by other analysts, we concluded that this body of evidence was sufficiently credible to merit serious review. More election news and other matters,
12/7/20.

Herewith some examples, based on a Breitbart report about the Pennsylvania hearing and Daily Signal posts by Fred Lucas about the other state hearings.

Pennsylvania, 11/25/20


•Leah Hoopes from Delaware County, Pennsylvania said she served as a poll worker for three straight days as the results came in. She grew concerned about the back room, which had no observers, line of sight, or process transparency. She perceived no cooperation, only “resistance from election night to every day after.” Hoopes and others were attacked for signing affidavits about their concerns with the election. “We have stuck our necks out, been intimidated, threatened [and] bullied, have spent countless hours away from our families, friends, and jobs,” she said during the hearing.

•Attorney Justin C. Kweder, a certified canvass observer, served as an election observer for ten days at the Philadelphia Convention Center. He said Republican observers were kept between 10-200 ft. away from the election counting process. “It was impossible for me or any observer to see what the workers were doing with any type of specificity,” he said.

•Other witnesses appeared via video teleconferencing to talk about their concerns with “illegal pre-canvassing,” as Democrat counties contacted voters to help “cure” their ballots so they would be counted.

•An election security specialist cited spikes in the voting counts for Biden late in the evening as a “prime indicator of fraudulent voting.” The audience laughed and gasped in shock as he noted a point when a spike of votes recorded in Pennsylvania had 600,000 votes for Biden versus 3,200 for Trump.

Arizona, 11/30/20


•Retired Army Col. Phil Waldron, a cybersecurity expert, testified that an anonymous email from a Pima County [Arizona] tech provider alleged that 35,000 votes were illegitimately given to Democratic candidates in that county. “He did not want to be included in the investigation, but the information they recorded is what we would like the opportunity to investigate on your behalf or a forensics team of your choosing. It doesn’t matter to us.”

•Shiva Ayyadurai, an expert witness on technology and data, presented data purporting to show that the only way for Biden to have caught up with Trump after trailing him early on was for the remaining votes of registered Democrats to come in 130% for Biden and negative 30% for Trump.

• Anna Orth, a Pima County resident and Republican election worker, testified that she was denied the chance to observe about 2,000 duplicate ballots. Duplicate ballots are usually ballots that are somehow unclearly marked and require further inspection, typically by observers from both parties. “I was specifically taken out of that room, ushered out, and brought into [another] room,” Orth told the state lawmakers.

Michigan, 12/1/20


•Chris Schornak volunteered with “Guard the Vote” after the balloting. Going through 30,000 of the 172,000 absentee ballots in the city of Detroit, they found that 229 of the 30,000 ballots were from deceased persons and 2,666 came from “invalid addresses described by vacant lots and burnt-down houses.”

•Melissa Carone, an information technology and cybersecurity specialist with PDS Staffing who had contacts with Dominion Voting Systems personnel, alleged rampant fraud at the TCF Center in Detroit. During 27 hours in this ballot counting location, she claimed to have seen “batches of ballots” run through the tabulating machines and counted eight to 10 times. She did not recall seeing any ballots marked for Trump.

•Patty McMurray, a Republican poll challenger at the TCF Center in Detroit, claimed she saw copies of ballots being made to increase Biden’s vote total. “They were all for Biden across the board. There wasn’t a single Trump vote. None of the voters are registered,” McMurray said. She said election workers entered names and addresses with phony birthdates that she said “would override the system and allow them to enter nonregistered voters.”

Georgia, 12/3/20.


•An election worker told count observers and the press to clear out of State Farm Arena in Atlanta around 10:30 PM on election night, saying counting of Fulton County ballots would be stopped for the night due to a water main break (later said to be a leaky toilet), according to Jackie Pick who narrated the Trump team’s video presentation to the Judiciary Committee.

The video seemed to show that after the volunteer observers and reporters departed, several remaining election workers pulled out four suitcases of ballots that had been stashed underneath a table and continued counting votes, unobserved, until early the next morning, Nov. 4. “These machines can process about 3,000 ballots per hour. You have multiple machines there. They are there for two hours. So you do the math,” said Pick, adding that the number of ballots might well have exceeded Biden’s overall margin of victory (about 12K votes) in the state.

•The Trump campaign had requested an audit of signatures to verify the legitimacy of Georgia’s absentee ballots (a total of 1.6 million), which the Secretary of State’s Office had declined to conduct as part of a hand count audit of the ballots.

Wisconsin, 12/11/20


•Postal contract worker Ethan Pease testified to having been told by a USPS supervisor (who was asking whether Pease might have neglected to pick up any mail-in ballots) that the USPS had launched a search for 100,000 “missing” mail-in ballots at around 4:00 a.m. on Nov. 4. Pease was subsequently informed by another USPS employee that the receipt date of any delinquent ballots should be backdated to ensure they would be counted.

•Dan O’Donnell, a Wisconsin talk radio host, told the lawmakers that he had been investigating absentee ballots from nursing homes for several months. O’Donnell related several anecdotes, which he said he got from family members of older residents. Thus, one woman he identified as Susan said her mother told her: “I really wanted to vote for Trump.” To this, a nursing home employee responded “No, no, he’s a bad man. We are voting for Biden.” Susan’s mother reluctantly complied.

State and federal courts reviewing challenges to the election results typically declined to take such testimony seriously. Electoral irregularities were not proven to be of sufficient magnitude to change the presidential race outcome – requests for judicial review were filed too late or failed to comply with procedural requirements – plaintiff(s) lacked standing – etc.

In defense of the judicial system, there was precious little time for a comprehensive review of all the issues that had been raised and the courts understandably weren’t eager to precipitate a constitutional crisis by taking the task on. There would be plenty of time in 2021, however, to create an Electoral Reform Commission charged with reviewing all the evidence of electoral irregularities and recommending reforms to the election laws before future elections take place. Time to accept 2020 outcome, but election rules must be fixed,
12/14/20.

If such a result is achieved, Americans will owe a big debt to the independent-minded folks (aka contrarians) who voluntarily participated in the election process and duly reported the deficiencies they had observed or heard about.

4. Climate skeptics agree the global climate is changing (as it has been doing for billions of years, long before the human species arrived), with a generally warming trend since approximately 1800 (roughly coinciding with the start of the Industrial Revolution). They don’t buy the manmade global warming theory (MMGWT), which attributes the current warming trend primarily to the growing use of fossil fuels by human beings versus natural causes such as fluctuations in solar activity.

Skeptics further believe that (a) the warming trend isn’t dangerous and won’t necessarily continue in the future, (b) wind and solar power are unsuitable to drive the electric power grid due to intermittency and environmental drawbacks, and (c) if curtailing fossil fuel use was ever proven necessary, nuclear power would be the best alternative. Proposed solutions for global warming,
9/7/20.

For their part, climate alarmists typically claim that (i) the MMGWT is supported by an overwhelming (97% is often cited) scientific consensus, (ii) the warming trend will accelerate with catastrophic consequences unless the use of fossil fuels is phased out within the next, say, 10-20 years, and (iii) wind and solar power would be the ideal substitute for fossil fuels because they are clean and inexhaustible.

The alarmists typically portray their views as obviously correct without addressing the scientific, engineering, or environmental issues pointed out by skeptics. See, e.g., our notes from two Delaware presentations (one by a noted climate scientist, the other by the head of Delaware’s primary environmental agency, DNREC). Climate alarmists stick to talking points,
11/4/19.

In this country, a host of (a) taxes and other restrictions on fossil fuel use (including mandatory energy conservation), (b) subsidies for wind and solar power (which must ultimately be paid for by either energy consumers or taxpayers), and (c) mandatory energy conservation programs have been imposed to discourage use of fossil fuels.

The aggregate cost is not readily apparent due to the multiplicity and complexity of the programs involved, but it is surely considerable – and would grow far larger if some current proposals (e.g., the Green New Deal) were ever implemented.

As for purported benefits from slowing the rate of global warming, they are conjectural at best – except in terms of furthering the agendas of certain groups and political factions. It’s not about the climate – It never was, David Legates (an eminent climate scientist), townhall.com,
3/1/19.

•[Daily] maximum air temperatures should rise if carbon dioxide is the main driver of climate change. In fact, daily maxima have not changed substantially over the last eighty years, and before that, maximum air temperatures were much higher during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

•The United Nations has become the modern-day Robin Hood—creating wealth redistribution on a global scale. Industrialization has made developed nations “rich”, and by using fossil fuels, they are supposedly destroying our climate, for which the developed world must pay. Rich nations, therefore, must give much of their wealth to the poorer nations. Climate change has become the cause célèbre to move nations to action.


How can anyone say renewable energy programs (e.g., the Renewable Portfolio Standard in Delaware) have been a success and deserve to be expanded? The only rationale presented for the
Delaware Climate Action Plan currently being crafted by DNREC seems to be fear of a predicted climate crisis. There is no discussion of cost, alternatives, or the fact that the US is cutting carbon emissions while many other countries are doing the opposite. See, e.g., SAFE Director John Greer’s 10/11/20 comments on the DCAP.

SAFE is on record that the Delaware government should go back to the drawing board on this issue rather than trying to “sell” a half-baked solution. To this end, we have offered to participate in a Blue Team/ Red Team review of any proposed expansions of the RPS. SAFE letter to DE Governor John Carney,
4/27/20.

SAFE has questioned other Delaware energy policy proposals that didn’t turn out very well, notably including the Bloom Energy venture that almost everyone in the state now views as a costly blunder. Perhaps we are right again, and in any case what would be the harm in entertaining informed citizen input about this matter rather than relying exclusively on the judgment of purported “experts” (who are typically reluctant to explain their reasoning, let alone considering other viewpoints)?

If not us, who? If not now, when?

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