Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Speech (Again) - Not Just a Legal Issue

It seems as if the issue of speech is constantly in the news. That, in turn, along with my strong support for speech, results in quite a few posts concerning the issue. Let's start by taking a look at the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, a 5-4 vote allowing unlimited corporate contributions in support of candidates or causes, so long as there was no affiliation or coordination with those candidates. The Democrats were so convinced that this unlimited spending - on speech - would be the downfall of our democracy. They were so worried, some had supported the rather drastic action of amending the First Amendment's right to speech. (See the 01/23/10 post discussing the Court's decision for further detail.)

In an article by attorney Floyd Abrams in the 10/17/17 Wall Street Journal, Mr. Abrams does acknowledge the involvement of "so-called super PACs" after the decision came down. But most of that money was not from corporations. From 01/01/15 through 12/31/16, Mr. Abrams tells us that only $85 million came from business corporations. $242 million came from unions and trade associations and nonprofits and others. But $1.04 billion came from individuals. (The top three were Thomas Steyer, over $89 million, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, over $77 million, and Donald S. Sussman, over $38 million. Michael Bloomberg was No. 10 at over $23 million, and George Soros was No. 19 at over $19 million.)

Meanwhile, corporate PACs, consisting of individual employees' money, gave under $1 million in the 2016 Presidential election. As Mr. Abrams points out, businesses generally do not want to get in the middle of political battles, potentially alienating half of their customer base. (Mr. Abrams participated in the oral argument of the case before the Court.) The fears of the Left about Citizens United simply did not materialize.

Now, however, the Attorney General of the US has gotten involved in the issue of speech on college campuses. AG Sessions recently announced a "national recommitment to free speech on campus." He apparently will have the Justice Department get involved in cases where speech rights are denied. In their 10/17/17 editorial, The Los Angeles Times seemed to get it right. First, they comment on the increasingly used argument that "racist or 'hate' speech is a form of violence and shouldn't be tolerated." Then, the Times discounts that argument by concluding "even racist speech, even hate speech, even repugnant ideas deserve protection, because once we say that free expression may be subordinated to other values, someone has to decide exactly which values justify censorship."

However, in the Times' initial editorial on the AG's new commitment (09/20/17 editorial) they were somewhat confused. The Times: "We worry that Sessions' embrace of free speech on campus - and his plan to deploy the Justice Department in vindicating it - might be designed to protect only conservative speech..." Really? If that is a danger, where are all the news stories about liberal speakers being shouted down by conservatives, or being uninvited to speak after accepting an invitation to do so?

That editorial was right, however, about one thing. Trump has often come down on the wrong side of free speech. When, as a candidate, he suggested a change in the libel laws making it easier to sue, he was wrong. When he suggested jail time or even loss of citizenship for flag burning (as odious as it is) he was wrong. When he told the NFL that they should fire those who kneel during the national anthem, he was wrong. The President of the United States should not be telling a private business who they should fire. If he had said that he, like many Americans, was offended by the kneeling and would not watch any more NFL games as long as the kneeling continues, that would have been fine. That is exactly what this writer and many others are doing this football season.

Ironically, while the New York Times hailed the kneelers as "patriots" in a recent editorial (see the 09/26/17 post), they seem not to have the same attitude towards the free speech rights of their own employees. Dean Baquet, Executive Editor, instructed his staff as follows: "In social media posts, our journalists must not express partisan opinion, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts The Times' journalistic reputation."

While this post is not about the journalistic integrity of the media, I could give Mr. Baquet a few suggestions that do not impede the paper's employees' free speech rights. (Yes, I know that as a private business they may set the standards for their employees as they see fit. But, Mr. Baquet's order is not what will fix the problem.) First, The Times should acknowledge their Left-wing bias. Second, they should acknowledge their anti-Israel bias (which does generally go along with a Left-wing bias). Third, they should insist that all their reporters and journalists be made aware of their own biases - and determine if they are willing and able to put those biases aside when reporting the news. Finally, the Op-Ed editors and writers should adopt a new standard for their own editorials - no more name calling, no more demagoguery, and no more using guest columnists to express opinions with which The Times agrees, but may be reluctant to express themselves. Here is just one example for editorials - no more referring to wars as Mr. Bush's war or Mr. Trump's war. When our troops are in the field fighting it is the United States of America's war. Clear?

I do not want to end this post before commenting on what may actually be the biggest threat to speech in our society. That threat usually emanates from the business world, when a company employee makes an impolite remark on air or in a written column or in a personal post on social media. Yes, private companies are not required to abide by First Amendment protections for their employees. But every time some employee slips up, intentionally or inadvertently, do we want to see that person lose their job, or even their career? I say no. I say we should all try to be more civil in our discourse - to one another and in discussing the issues of the day. But for those who fall short of that goal, I recommend some tolerance, lest we discourage people from freely speaking their minds.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

What Makes a Jew?

While this post discusses Jews, I believe that the issues may be relevant to many religions, given the increasing influence of secularism and liberalism/leftism in American society. In a recent poll conducted at the request of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in August, 2017, 1000 Jews were asked to self-identify as to which "branch" of Judaism best defines them. 31% said Reform, 16% said Conservative (not to be confused with politically conservative), 9% said Orthodox, 2% Reconstructionist, with a plurality of 39% identifying as "just Jewish."

In a study by AISH cited in the September 17, 2017 Jewish Press, it was reported that 71% of non-orthodox Jews intermarry. How significant is that? In 1950 that percentage was only 6%, rising to 25% in 1974. Today, in our multicultural melting pot society, the numbers are out of control. However, for those who go to Israel on the Birthright program (see the 9/10/17 post) they are 51% more likely to marry a Jew than non-participants.

So, why would that be? Exposure to Israel and Jewish history and practice seems to infuse a greater sense of Jewish identity. Where else do we see that sense of Jewish identity? In orthodoxy. Orthodoxy, in general, seems to be the fastest growing branch of Judaism. And Chabad, in particular, seems to be the fastest growing part of orthodoxy. Having attended Chabad services with greater frequency over a number of years, I can say there is a distinct difference between Chabad and other denominations within Judaism.

In my past experience with Reform and Conservative synagogues, I recall many of the various Rabbis' sermons often focusing on current events - and often from a left-wing perspective. The Chabad Rabbis I have listened to infuse their sermons with Jewish history, tradition, Torah and G-d. The focus is on Jewish practice and traditions, traditions handed down from G-d to Moses and through thousands of years of Jewish history, with the idea of being a better person through Jewish practice. There is precious little discussion of politics or social issues, as with Reform Rabbis. There is, however, a discussion of doing good, and fulfilling our commandment from G-d to be a "light unto the nations." And, there is a strong expression of support for the Jewish homeland - the state of Israel. As a dear friend and reader put it, the Chabad Rabbis' sermons are filled substance and meaning and are inspirational; all the while relying on "Jewish history, experience and tradition" (to quote one of the Rabbis).

While support for Israel used to be more consistent among all the branches of Judaism, we know that over the last several decades support for Israel has waned in the more liberal/left leaning branches of Reform and Conservative Judaism. Christian friends and readers often express their disbelief to me when they hear or read about Jews who do not seem to support Israel.

In the above-referenced AJC poll, Jews were asked their view on moving the US embassy in Israel from its current location in Tel Aviv to Israel's capital city of Jerusalem. 44% did not favor moving the embassy, 36% said move the embassy when there is progress in the peace talks with the Palestinians, whereas only 16% said move the embassy immediately. 4% were undecided. Try to imagine any other country where Jews would say that the US embassy should not be in that country's capital city.

A columnist in this week's LA Jewish Journal wrote this: "A friend of nearly 25 years said to me: 'If you're going to defend Israel publicly, I'm not sure we can still be friends.'" She went on to describe "a rather rude awakening about where Israel stood in elite, leftist circles." She continued: "When I started to defend Israel, to provide facts, the spouses of two of my closest friends blocked me."

Since the days of ancient Israel, it has taken another 2000 years for Israel to exist again. Following the establishment of the modern state of Israel in May, 1948, Israelis have had to fight war after war, starting with the day after declaring their independence. It is a true miracle that the democratic and free state of Israel not only continues to exist, but thrives. That liberal/left-wing Jews are unable to support Israel - their historic homeland - is simply an indication of the extent to which their left-wing ideology has replaced Judaism.

I try to imagine all the excuses these left-wing Jews would make for other countries that are not perfect. No country, of course, is perfect, but apparently Israel has to be perfect in their eyes in order to gain the support of some Jews. According to the web site known as The Intercept, Bernie Sanders would consider voting to withhold US aid from Israel. I would guess that Sanders would identify as "just Jewish" in the AJC poll.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Who Cares About Symbols?

Following the lead of Colin Kaepernick from last season, an increasing number of NFL players were taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem during the first couple of games this season. Then, unnecessarily injecting himself into the controversy, President Trump said this: "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say 'get that son of a bitch off the field right now - he's fired.'"

The result was seen yesterday - an increasing number of players and even team owners taking a knee during and before the anthem. Some stayed in the locker room while the anthem was played. However, with all of his teammates staying in the locker room during the anthem, Pittsburgh Steeler Alejandro Villanueva stood at the end of the tunnel with his hand over his heart during the playing of the anthem. Then again, Villanueva is a former Army Ranger with three overseas tours in Afghanistan and a Bronze Star medal for valor.

But, Villanueva is not the patriot. No, per the New York Times, yesterday was "The Day the Real Patriots Took a Knee." Originally, those kneeling were basically supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, believing that cops go looking for blacks to kill. After all, Michael Brown put up his hands before he was shot in cold blood. Except, the actual evidence showed otherwise. Kaepernick were socks depicting cops as pigs. So what, we should all support him.

I'm trying to remember when conservatives took a knee or felt that they could not stand for the flag or the anthem. After Obama said he wanted to "fundamentally change" the best country on earth and then did his best to do so? Did not happen. Maybe I should refuse to stand given the way I was personally verbally assaulted just for having conservative views. (See last summer's post "A Personal Tale of Intolerance.") Would not happen. Given that there are more religious hate crimes against Jews than any other religious group in this country, perhaps I and all my fellow Jews should refuse to stand for the flag and the anthem. The country must hate us. No it does not. Nor does the country hate blacks.

But there is racism. There is anti-Semitism. Jonathan Pollard was kept in prison for spying far longer than others who committed a similar offense. Was it because of anti-Semitism, because he spied for our ally Israel? As a Jew who supports Israel, should I not stand for the flag and anthem? No one is disputing that people have the right to speech, and the right to protest. But just as our Constitution protects those rights, The Supreme Court has also ruled that government may place reasonable "time, place and manner" restrictions on speech and lawful protests. While I am not advocating for government mandated restrictions on taking a knee, I am arguing for some common decency and respecting a symbol that many hold dear, and yes - have fought and died for.

There seem to be precious few things that still unite us. Increasingly, however, our unifying symbols are now considered divisive. The Pledge of Allegiance - now offensive to some. The flag - too jingoistic. Too insulting to minorities who have been oppressed. Sports, ironically, could unite us. Ironic because half the audience roots for one team and half for the other. But, as fans, we understand that. And we understand that we are united in our love for the game. Now, that has been taken from us.

Recently, the Annenberg Public Policy Center conducted a poll. Astonishingly, only 26% of those polled could name all three branches of government. 33% were unable to name even one branch. And a shocking 37% could not name a single right given to us all by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Here's a unifying idea - let's bring back the teaching of civics and government to all of our schools. Or, is it more important to teach classes based on identity politics which further divides us.

Here's a final irony. I have been told by some that I inject politics into too many conversations. Yet, some of those same people have no problem with players injecting their politics into one of our national pastimes. Just saying...

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Our Inadequate Constitution?

In a lead Op-Ed on the front page of Sunday's New York Times "Sunday Review" Vanderbilt University Law School professor Ganesh Sitaraman decries the Constitution's failure to address economic inequality. Said the professor: "Our Constitution was not built for a country with so much wealth concentrated at the very top nor for the threats that invariably accompany it: oligarchs and populist demagogues."

I trust that the professor has President Trump in mind with regards to both "oligarchs and populist demagogues." After all, Trump is a billionaire and a populist, and a demagogue to the Left. Just how big a factor was his wealth in his becoming President? Well, Hillary Clinton spent more money on the campaign than Trump did; just as Obama spent more than the billionaire Mitt Romney. And just as the billionaire Meg Whitman was unable to win the California governorship. And, of course, John Kerry, with a wife worth billions, was unable to win the Presidency.

For some reason, the professor thinks the English model is preferable, with a House of Lords and a House of Commons, with checks that "prevent oligarchy on the one hand and a tyranny founded on populist demagogy on the other." He continues: "Our founding charter doesn't have structural checks and balances between economic classes...this was a radical change in the history of constitutional government." Yes it was. Out of Europe's view on "class" differences, we got the likes of Karl Marx's "Communist Manifesto." Communism turned out to be an ideology whose real world aftermath saw the deaths of tens of millions of people. And what has been the result of our "classless" society? A country that has produced the greatest amount of wealth for the greatest number of people more than any other country in history.

The professor acknowledged that our Founders knew that the American people would not accept a class-based system of government. He does not discuss all of the checks and balances the Founders put into the Constitution in order to prevent unchecked power by any person or branch of government. The House, with elections every two years, reflects current political sentiments. The Senate, being staggered with one-third of the Senators up for election every two years, but holding office for six years, lends greater stability to the Congress. The President can veto legislation passed by a power-hungry Congress, just as the Congress, with a two-thirds vote, can override a Presidential veto.

Most shocking, perhaps, is the fact that by a 5-4 vote, with a single Supreme Court Justice making the difference, the Court can declare a law unconstitutional - even if passed unanimously by all 435 members of the House and all 100 Senators and signed by the President. And let's not forget the power of the House to Impeach and the power of the Senate to Convict and remove from office a sitting President.

What is really bugging this professor? He bemoans the wealth of the top one percent. He continues: "...our constitutional system might not survive in an unequal economy." Why would that be? "Campaign contributions, lobbying, the revolving door of industry insiders working in government, interest group influence over regulators and even think tanks...skew policy making to favor the wealthy and entrenched economic interests." Citing Gouverneur Morris from 1787, the professor says "The rich will strive to establish their dominion and enslave the rest."

The professor then speaks admiringly of the early twentieth century Progressive movement, whose reforms "would tame the great concentrations of power of wealth and power that were corrupting government." If much of the professor's reasoning sounds to you like left-wing talking points, you would be correct. It is not that the Progressives enacted no positive policies. They did, such as the direct election of Senators and women's right to vote. But it was a mixed bag to say the least, with the beginnings of the expansion of the Federal government - accelerating the growth of the Federal leviathan. As one example, the Progressives gave us the Federal income tax.

I always find it helpful to know something of the background of the authors of Op-Ed pieces. Mr. Sitaraman is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. As the name suggests, the Center is, indeed, a progressive left-wing organization. And, from the professor's website, we learn that "he served as Policy Director to Elizabeth Warren during her successful Senate campaign, and then as her Senior Counsel in the United States Senate."

I, for one, do not want to see a Constitutional system that enshrines income equality, nor one that dictates how much a person may earn, nor how much wealth someone may accumulate. Elizabeth Warren may deny that she is a socialist, but her statements often suggest otherwise. And her former aid, Professor Sitaraman, argues for what seems to be a Constitutionally mandated socialist society. To which I would reply: "No thank you."

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Birthright Israel - Good or Bad?

In the late 1990's, the State of Israel, along with wealthy Jewish benefactors, established the Birthright Israel program. The program allows young Jews living in the Diaspora (the world outside of Israel) to have a 10 day all-expenses paid trip to Israel. There are various preconditions that one must meet to qualify - one must be between the ages of 18 and 26, have at least one parent who is Jewish, and not have traveled to Israel before, with some minor exceptions. The purpose is to create a connection between Jewish youth around the world and the State of Israel. The young people are accompanied by an armed guard/tour leader, and travel to historic sites throughout Israel. Two of our children went to Israel on Birthright, the third did not qualify as he had studied for a year in Israel.

Not every Jew seems to agree that the program is a good idea. How could that be, you ask? Well, leftist Jews side with the Palestinians, and as such, oppose not only the Birthright program, but the idea of Israel as a Jewish state. The group "Jewish Voice for Peace," which I would argue is actually a Jewish group against Israel, has a "Manifesto" that was issued by some of their young adherents.

The Manifesto states: "In 1948, Zionist militias expelled over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and villages, an act of ethnic cleansing, known by Palestinians as the Nakba or 'catastrophe' in Arabic, that cleared the land for the creation of the modern-day state of Israel." I do not know if this Manifesto was indeed issued by young Jews, but if it was it reflects the anti-Israel bias and propaganda one might see in a Palestinian publication.

To clarify, Jews did not just decide to expel Palestinians in 1948. The UN voted to partition the land of the British Mandate in 1947, establishing both a Jewish state and an Arab state. However, the Arabs refused to accept the existence of a Jewish state, and the day after the new State of Israel declared their independence in May, 1948, the Arab world attacked, and tried to annihilate the Jews. Were hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced? Yes, but many left on the advice of Arab leaders saying they could return after the Jews were destroyed. Others left voluntarily. But some were, indeed, forced out. But none of it would have happened but for the Arabs refusal to accept a Jewish state. And, no mention is ever made by leftists of the hundreds of thousands of Jews displaced from the surrounding Arab countries following the establishment of Israel.

More from the Manifesto: "But today, we must acknowledge that the modern state of Israel is predicated on the ongoing erasure of the Palestinians." Ironic, as Hamas vows to get control of all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, promising to drive the Jews into the sea. Ironic, as PA President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said that not one single Jew may live in a future Palestinian state. Ironic, as the Palestinians in the form of Hamas now control the Gaza Strip. Ironic, as the PA controls much of the land in the West Bank. And further ironic, as the Palestinians already have a state of their own - it's called Jordan.

The key, however, is their implication that the modern state of Israel, being founded on the 'erasure' of Palestinians, is not and cannot be a legitimate state. I trust they would feel the same about the USA being founded on the 'erasure' of Native Americans; although I doubt they would feel the same about Mexico, settled by the Spanish on the 'erasure' of the native Mayan, Incan and Aztec peoples.

The Manifesto "implore(s) other young Jews on our campuses and in our communities: don't go on a Birthright trip to Israel. Don't take a trip sponsored by conservative donors and the Israeli government, where the ongoing oppression and occupation of Palestinians will be hidden from you, just because it's free." By imploring Jewish youth not to experience the miracle that is Israel, by referring to "conservative" donors, and by using the Palestinian terms of "oppression and occupation" they ignore history and simply repeat Palestinian propaganda - which is the same as left-wing propaganda. This Manifesto is actually nothing other than another manifestation of the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement against Israel.

So, I would implore Jewish youth - go to Israel. Visit the homeland of the Jewish people. Go to the Kotel (Western Wall) and pray, where our ancestors prayed thousands of years ago, and where all Jews in the Diaspora have always turned to pray - towards the City of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). Go see a country that against all odds has not only survived but thrived. Surrounded by hostile neighbors who have launched war after war trying to annihilate them, a country without the natural resource (oil) that has made their neighbors fabulously wealthy, and occupying the smallest land mass of any of the Arab countries that surround them - Israel has become an economic and technological powerhouse. And, as the only democracy in the area, its Arab citizens vote and serve in the government. Ignore the never-ending anti-Israel propaganda - and go!

In the News

Speech. Berkeley is expecting more problems as conservative thinkers continue to be invited to the UC Berkeley campus to speak. Next up is conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. While the Chancellor wants to protect the right to all speech, the university is also "deeply concerned about the impact some speakers may have on individuals' sense of safety and belonging." So, the school has offered faculty and staff the services of mental health counselors. I totally agree. If you cannot cope with simply hearing an opposing point of view from your own, then I would suggest that you do need mental health counseling.

The Mayor of Berkeley wants to go one step further. Mayor Jesse Arreguin has appealed to the University to simply prevent conservatives from speaking. After all, he tells us that we need to be sure that "while protecting people's free-speech rights, we are not putting our citizens in a potentially dangerous situation and costing the City hundreds of thousands of dollars fixing the windows of businesses." So, the Mayor not only favors a heckler's veto, he weighs the Constitutional First Amendment right to speech against broken windows - and comes down in favor of the windows. This is quintessential leftist thinking, showing no regard for the Constitution.

Kneeling during the National Anthem. It's a new season in the NFL, and players are already taking a knee during the playing of the anthem. I know, they have a beef, sometimes a very legitimate beef. So what? You need your life to be perfect before you will stand for the flag and the anthem? You need society to be perfect before you will stand for the flag and the anthem? Well, neither of those things will ever occur. So, the kneelers should be honest and admit that they will never truly love the country that has given them so much.

Fight for your life? Maybe not, according to Dr. Kathryn Kirkland, of Dartmouth's School of Medicine, in her Op-Ed in the 8/30/17 USA Today. Instead of using the war metaphor of trying to "fight and beat" what are likely to be terminal illnesses, she suggests asking patients "what can I help you fight for?" She suggests alternatives such as "time with family, completion of estate planning, restoration of relationships and even bucket lists." All worthy goals; but haven't doctors always suggested that certain patients "get their affairs in order."

I disagree with Dr. Kirkland. I had predicted this type of thinking after the passage of the Affordable Care Act - a decreased concern for protecting human life. But here's another reason I disagree - my brother-in-law. At age 33 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and given 6 months to live. But he chose to fight, and became his own advocate. Initially, he was diagnosed with a glioblastoma, which has a very poor prognosis. His doctors recommended an atypically high dose of radiation treatment. The treatment would be brutal, but he agreed. Not feeling comfortable that he was given the correct diagnosis, he kept researching and consulting with the top medical experts. Ultimately, he was told he had an oligodendroglioma, which has a higher survival rate. For that he was treated with chemotherapy.

My brother-in-law passed away on August 18, 2017, at the age of 58 years, as a result of a side effect from the high dose of radiation. He was too young. However, by not giving in to his death sentence he survived another 25 years, during which time he married my wife's youngest sister, and together they had two bright and beautiful daughters. They made a life, albeit cut short too soon; but maybe the good Dr. Kirkland would do well to speak with their two daughters - two young ladies who would not be here if my brother-in-law did not fight for his life.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Texas and Harvey

I suspect I am no different from many Americans who have watched and listened and read all about the devastation affecting Texas as a result of Hurricane Harvey. Some in the left-wing media thought it was important enough to focus on FLOTUS leaving the White House in high heels/stilettos for Marine One. Is the media similar to many on Facebook, posting nonsense because they have too much time on their hands?

On a more serious note, one visiting professor at the University of Tampa, was fired after Tweeting: "I don't believe in instant Karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesn't care about them." And in response to one commenter, he added this: "Well, the good people there need to do more to stop the evil their state pushes. I'm only blaming those who support the GOP there."

I am not saying this man's sentiments about Karma are typical of those on the Left. However, the belief that Republicans are evil is undoubtedly more widespread; just listen to mainstream democrats and read the mainstream media. But I did not see evil during the hours of watching pictures from Houston. What I did see was first responders coming from other cities and states to help. I saw Texan helping Texan, neighbor helping neighbor. Whites helping blacks, blacks helping whites. Young helping the elderly. And able-bodied helping the disabled. And I saw rescuers helping to keep people's pets with them.

I saw America at its finest and Americans at their finest. I saw people risking their own health and safety, trudging through waist deep filthy water, likely filled with various dangerous creatures, in order to help their fellow citizens. I saw the owner of a furniture store opening his doors to those who had no other shelter. No one was asking who might be a Republican or a Democrat before offering to give aid. Thankfully, no one had to depend on the likes of the abovementioned professor for assistance.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, not all the people in Houston are saints. The Mayor had to declare a curfew because of looting. I heard a claim that some people were forced to take food and water because of the length of time they were unable to get aid. If true, I would be sympathetic, but would require them to pay when able. To the extent people were simply looters taking advantage of such devastation I would throw the proverbially book at them. Although, as one official noted, you take your chances when you steal from a home or business in Texas.

Also raised in an email I received was the issue of "looting" with regards to FEMA. FEMA will be doling out billions of dollars. With that amount of money involved, the scammers will get away with...millions? Tens of millions? More? Which is the concern raised by libertarians and other conservatives about government programs that hand out large sums of money. After all, this is taxpayer money. The magnitude of the devastation raises the question of whether private charitable organizations are sufficiently funded to provide for those in need. Which, in turn, raises the question of people giving less if they believe the government will take care of everyone in need.

In terms of search and rescue, private citizens did much to contribute, but so did the City's and State's first responders. With streets and boulevards looking more like rivers, we saw a flotilla of boats, again, often provided by private citizens.

The impact of Harvey will be felt for years. But the concern that people showed for one another, for those in need, should serve as a reminder that we are all Americans.