Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville

Yesterday, a group of neo-Nazi inspired white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. One of these individuals decided it was a good idea to drive his car into a crowd of counter-protesters and anyone else who happened to be standing in his way. One young woman was killed and 19 were injured. As always when terror strikes, our prayers go out to the victims and their families.

Hours later, President Trump made some comments condemning the attack. Trump: "We condemn this egregious display of bigotry and violence on many sides; it's been going on for a long time in our country," noting that it predates both his and Obama's presidencies. The uproar over Trump's use of "on many sides" immediately followed.

One criticism concerned Trump seeming to create some equivalency between the white supremacists and the counter-protesters. But, Trump did say that this violence has been going on for a long time. So, if we are honest, we must acknowledge he is correct. The violence against Congressman Scalise and others at the Republican Congressional baseball practice was actually quite recent. Then we have the violent protesters against freedom of speech, most notably at Berkeley. And, we can go back through our country's history and cite numerous incidents of political violence "on many sides."

The other criticism of Trump's comments had to do with his failure to call the attack for what it was - a domestic terrorist attack by white nationalists. Here, I am struck by the sheer hypocrisy of the Left. Obama would never call Islamic terrorism by its name. Instead, he referred to "violent extremism." Did those criticizing Trump now ever criticize Obama for the same lack of specificity in refusing to put a name to terrorism? Not likely. Instead, we have the usual hypocrisy from the Left.

Some examples. Actor Ed Helms referred to Trump's statement as "milquetoast drivel." That is rather interesting, as Trump also said: "Above all else, we must remember this truth - no matter our color, creed, religion or political party - we are all Americans first." Is there a problem with that? Helms: "What kind of coward is afraid to call out white supremacy by name?" Did Helms call Obama a coward for failing to call out radical Islam?

Actor and activist George Takai made a similar remark: "If you ever need to explain moral cowardice and false equivalence, quote Trump's "on all sides" speech today. Made me want to turn and spit."

Once, when Obama was explaining why he would not say "Islamic terrorism," he said that "no religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism." Does that explain why Obama, and many on the Left, so often referred to Islamic terrorist attacks as "isolated incidents?" And, can we say that "people" committed the violence in Charlottesville, and not have to identify those people any further? In early 2015, following the Islamic terrorist attack in Paris on, among other victims, people in a kosher market, Obama would not even identify the victims - the targeted victims - as Jews. Rather, you may recall he referred to them as "a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris." Obama refused to say that an Islamic terrorist targeted Jews. Who was the coward then?

My take. The truth should always prevail. Of course Trump should have identified the rat-bastards who carried out this attack as neo-Nazi white supremacist terrorists. (I apologize for the language not usually seen in this blog, but as a Jew, and as an American, what I actually think of neo-Nazis cannot be said here. Six million of my fellow Jews died at the hands of the Nazis, family members fought the Nazis, and we remember the over 400,000 American soldiers who died, mostly fighting Nazis, during World War II.) The neo-Nazi, white supremacist ideology is a hateful ideology - unable to see the humanity in the "other." In that regard, it is no different from radical Islam. Both should be properly identified as enemies of this country.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Guess the Countries

In one country, an Imam recently included the following in one of his sermons: "Oh Allah, count them (Jews) one by one and annihilate them down to the very last one. Do not spare any of them." And this: "Oh Allah, make this happen by our hands. Let us play a part in this."

In another country, an Imam recently said this at a sermon: "Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque and all the Muslim lands from the unjust tyrants and the occupiers." And: "Oh Allah, destroy them, they are no match for you." And this to his congregants: "...wake up, it is time to be a Muslim. Prayer is not the only thing." The latter comment was made after he accused Jews of plotting to take over the Palestinian territory, Mecca and Medina, and most of the Middle East.

One country uses a textbook in their schools accusing Israel of torturing and murdering hundreds of Palestinian women. Another country uses a textbook suggesting that a Palestinian suicide bomber blowing up several dozen Israeli teenagers in a Jerusalem restaurant perhaps should not be considered terrorism, but rather "wartime retaliation against Israeli government policies and army actions." I find it quite disturbing that some can convince themselves that blowing up a bunch of innocent teenagers is akin to an attack on soldiers.

Another country's textbook claims that "The land called Palestine now consists of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza strip." That is extremely misleading as Jordan was also part of Palestine. The students are not being informed that the vast majority of the territory called Palestine - which was never a country - is already under Arab control. The text also tells students that the Jews have had no connection to the land since they were driven out in about 135 AD. That is simply false.

Then there is this country, where the leaders have said: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."

And finally, we have this from the leaders of another country: "The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hid behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him."

Were you able to guess the countries? The first Imam was speaking at a mosque in Davis, California - in the USA. The second Imam was speaking at a mosque in Riverside, California - in the USA. The various textbooks have all been in use in various states - in the USA. Only the last two paragraphs originate elsewhere - in the Hamas charter. But, were you able to tell any significance difference between the above entries?

Wake up my liberal friends! Wake up my liberal Jewish friends! What is being preached in your country is a call to violence - against you! Wake up if you expect your children and grandchildren to be able to live under the same freedoms generations before us have been able to experience. Or, you can keep voting for the likes of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and other like-minded Democrats who would continue an open borders policy, while expecting us to show tolerance to people who want to do harm to Jews and change the nature of our country. It is up to us to decide the kind of country we want to pass on to the next generation. There is no room for error.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

I'm Pretty Sure Obama is Still President, and the Democrats Still Control Congress

It was recently reported that the State Department is deleting all references to "genocide" in describing the massacre of innocent civilians by ISIS, of groups such as the Yazidis, and the apparently lesser known group called Christians. This is certainly reminiscent of Obama directing the military and intelligence agencies to remove the term "jihad" from their training manuals.

Rex Tillerson's State Department also recently submitted a report to Congress regarding terrorism. As for Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israelis - that is Israel's fault. What else would you expect from Obama's State Department? The report blamed Israel because of "Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount, and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive." What? Trump is President? I don't think so.

The report also discusses how nice the Palestinians have become. "Explicit calls for violence against Israelis, direct exhortations against Jews, and categorical denials by the PA of the possibility of peace with Israel are rare and the leadership does not generally tolerate it." C'mon, you cannot expect me to believe that Obama is still not the President. A week ago Friday, on Shabbat, a Palestinian entered a Jewish home in Halamish in the West Bank and stabbed three family members to death. I do not recall hearing any condemnation from Trump or Tillerson; even Obama and Kerry would be saying they condemn all violence by either side.

The PA run media is constantly inciting people to violence. Then, they reward the violence with money paid to the families of the terrorists who do the killings, and even name parks and schools after them. Last December, Obama failed to have his Ambassador to the UN veto the anti-Israel measure saying all of the West Bank, even the Kotel (Western Wall), belonged to the Palestinians. So, the President denied reality in December, 2016, and is again denying reality in July, 2017. It must be the same guy, no?

Well, one thing is for certain. The Democrats remain firmly in control of Congress. The Republicans are not able to pass any legislation; clearly, they must be the minority party. The repeal of Obamacare? Nine Republican Senators bailed on that. The so-called skinny repeal? Could not pass that either, as Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona voted with the rest of their party - the Democrats.

While the tone of this post may be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the reality is the Republicans are doing little to encourage people to vote for them next year. Trump's Tweets probably lose some independents. And just how motivated will Republicans be to vote if their party seems unable to govern? If the Democrats do take back the Congress, they will be able to pass additional healthcare legislation if the leadership wants it. The Democrats do not break rank. But that legislation may very well be the Democrats long-desired single payer system. I have a hunch that Trump would sign pretty much anything presented to him on healthcare.

As for me, i do not want to see a government run system, where only a bureaucrat or judge decides the fate of the next Charlie Gard. "One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It's very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project." Ronald Reagan. And, Collins, Murkowski and McCain all helped prove another Reagan quote/truism: "Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth."

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Lessons From My Childhood

I grew up in a medium size town in New Jersey in the 50's and 60's. We never had much money, but I never felt that we were poor. We lived in a garden apartment complex. The friends I made there, all of whom still live in New Jersey, have remained life-long friends. It's very special. It was, for me, an ideal place to grow up. My fond memory of that time and place is not negated by the medical setback I had at age 15, ultimately resulting in spine surgery at age 17, and being diagnosed with an auto-immune arthritic disorder. In fact, I would say that those problems have given me a certain perspective on what is truly important in life.

My Mom loved to read. She probably read one book a week. My Dad used to say that she always had her nose in a book. But her love of reading also translated into a love of the world of ideas. That love of ideas, with an openness and willingness to discuss anything, was passed on to me. No topic (personal or otherwise) was off limits for discussion, and there was never any requirement that I agree with her on any particular issue. There was, however, an expectation that I be true to her values.

My Mom was a people lover. She taught that everyone was to be treated equally - regardless of skin color, religion, or any other unimportant "difference." My Mom worked as a sales clerk part-time in the neighborhood pharmacy. Given her outgoing nature, it seemed as if everyone in town knew her. One time, while I was in the fourth grade with a rather strict teacher, I was sitting and doing an assignment, as was the rest of the class. All of a sudden, the teacher calls me up to her desk, and I could not imagine how I got into trouble just sitting there. As she told me to come close to her, she whispered to me: "Listen, can your Mom (calling my Mom by her first name) get me some (I don't recall what it was) from the store." Everyone, it seemed, knew her and liked her. In turn, she never had a bad word to say about anybody.

My Dad was very direct in his approach - no tolerance for bad guys. Behave properly and you won't have any problems. As tough as he sometimes seemed on the outside, he was warm and loving and affectionate to his family. Until going on the DL at age 15, I loved playing sports with the boys in the neighborhood. I also loved watching sports on TV with my Dad - from Wide World of Sports to football, baseball and track and field.

My Dad also loved to kid around, and show off when my friends were over. He'd say to my Mom: "I'm going to trade you in for a couple of 20's." It was all in good fun. He had lines such as: "Stay single, and your pockets will jingle." But he was quite serious when it came to life issues. You work hard for what you want in life. Hard work never hurt anyone. Never expect handouts. And he demonstrated that by the way he did what he needed to do to support his family - including working on nights and weekends. And no job was so menial as to not deserve respect, and any job worth doing deserved to be done well. But he had no tolerance for the "work" of criminals.

My Dad was a gun owner. I recall him taking me to the shooting range one time. Even though he gave me ear plugs, the noise seemed so loud to me that I did not enjoy it. He kept the gun in a locked box in the house. And he made it very clear that we were never to go near that box. In an age when parents still bought toy guns for their kids, he also made it very clear that you do not point even a toy gun at anyone.

For a number of years my Dad would play pinochle once a week with a group of other men. Some were clearly more well off (professionals and businessmen) than we were. The same for many of my parents friends. I do not recall socioeconomic differences determining who their friends were. It did not seem to work like that back then. Friends were friends, regardless of career paths or money earned.

The 1960's was a contentious time in our country. My brother was drafted, but our parents did not want to see their oldest child go off to war. But off he went. After his basic training, he was headed for Viet Nam. My parents had to cope with one child going to war as another was developing disabling back problems. As a parent now, I know it is never easy. One of the aforementioned neighborhood boy's father was a Lt. Col. in the Air Force Reserves. He gave my brother a pocket Bible to keep with him at all times, and told him to bring it back safely. While I have never discussed it, I have always believed that that Bible was what kept my brother alive. He was shot, but he survived. And I have always been grateful for my friend's Dad, and for that Bible.

The older I get, the more I seem to miss my Mom and Dad. But I treasure my memories of them and the lessons learned. The main lessons I learned? Always treat everyone the same (unless and until they give you a reason not to), and always do the right thing. I have tried to pass those values on to my kids. Whenever any of our kids would leave the house when they were in middle school and high school, I would stop them at the front door as they were leaving and ask them to repeat the Number One Rule: Always do the right thing, regardless of what anyone else is doing. I hope they pass on the same values to their kids.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Left's Love Affair With Tyranny Continues

The Left's affinity for tyranny seems to know no bounds. In my April 30, 2017 post, I discussed how the Left's new theory of speech was to protect only that speech which was deemed to be for the "public good." Additionally, there was concern that the "oppressed" would not be able to stand up for themselves. None of the proposed "standards" came even close to meeting First Amendment Constitutional guidelines for protected speech.

Now, the Left has yet another reason to ban certain speech. According to a 7/16/17 op-ed piece in the New York Times ("When is Speech Violence?"), Lisa Feldman Barrett, a psychology professor at Northeastern University, claims that certain speech, scientifically speaking, is a form of violence. You see, the professor tells us that "certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sick, alter your brain - even kill neurons - and shorten your life." "Can make you sick." We can assume, then, that not every individual exposed to this adverse speech will suffer ill health effects. Is it only a tiny percentage of people that might be negatively affected by exposure to adverse speech?

Then, the good professor takes this incredible leap: "The scientific findings I described above provide empirical guidance for which kinds of controversial speech should and shouldn't be acceptable on campus and in civil society." What? A few people may suffer ill effects from certain speech and that tells us which speech should not be acceptable? Too much sugary soda can be bad for you, so New York City limited the size of a soda anyone could buy from fast food establishments. Second hand smoke can be bad for you, so... Plastic bags can be bad for everyone, so... Guns can definitely be used to commit violence, so the left looks for new and creative ways to restrict gun ownership. And the list goes on and on.

Except, speech has First Amendment Constitutional protections. Gun ownership has Second Amendment Constitutional protections. But, the Constitutional protections generally do not occur to the Left when they are making their arguments; the Constitution did not come up in this professor's article. Speech, gun ownership, big sugary drinks, plastic bags - it's all the same. If we can say it's bad or unhealthy, then that ends the conversation.

Said the professor: "If you spend a lot of time in a harsh environment worrying about your safety, that's the kind of stress that brings on illness and remodels your brain. That's also true of a political climate in which groups of people endlessly hurl hateful words at one another...that's why it's reasonable, scientifically speaking, not to allow a provocateur and hatemonger like Milo Yiannopoulis to speak at your school. He is part of something noxious, a campaign of abuse. There is nothing to be gained (this sounds like the "public good" argument coming) from debating him, for debate is not what he is offering."

I wonder who else the good professor would say is not offering debate? Ann Coulter? Sean Hannity? What about some left-wingers, such as Bill Maher? Or is it only conservative speakers we need to be concerned with because, after all, guys like Maher do not stress out college kids. The liberals on campus love him; and conservatives just ignore him. And what about this offering of debate argument? What about the orator on the proverbial soap box whose only interest is in expounding on his own views? He is not seeking debate, so do we ban him from speaking?

Freedom and liberty frequently yield to the left-wing agenda. When that agenda supersedes even Constitutional restraints on government power, such as restricting speech or preventing individual gun ownership, then what you have is tyranny.

Monday, July 10, 2017

SCOTUS Provides Much Needed Civics Lessons

An Asian-American rock band, the Slants, fought all the way to the Supreme Court to be able to register their name with the Patent and Trademark Office. Federal law bars someone from registering a name or mark that is "scandalous, immoral, or disparaging." Such potential trademarks are likely to offend. The question was whether or not the Patent and Trademark could prohibit the registering of the name "Slants" because of its disparaging nature.

The band wanted to be able to register the name, not to be self-deprecating, but as a means of removing the disparaging nature that the word has come to embody. In a unanimous 8-0 decision in the case of Matal v. Tam, the Court found for the Slants. Justice Alito wrote: "Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express 'the thought that we hate.'"

In a concurring opinion, Justice Kennedy explained: "A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all...The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government's benevolence."

The positive impact has been felt already. First, the Justice Department is dropping its case against the Washington Redskins over the use of its name, after the Redskins lost their Trademark protection in 2014. Second, the New York Times got a needed lesson in the First Amendment. Their editorial board (6/20/17 editorial) opined: "Based on this case, however, we've since reconsidered our underlying position" on the Redskins case. Why would a media outlet need any instruction on the significance of free speech? As previously noted in this blog, the Left no longer shares in the fundamental American values - values such as free speech. The name "Redskins" is deemed offensive by the Left, and that ends their analysis. That approach is why conservatives speakers are not welcome on college campuses - they don't like the message, so no need to allow them to speak. The First Amendment be damned.

The other civics lesson came in the case of Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project - the so-called travel ban case. Two federal appellate courts, the Fourth Circuit and the Ninth Circuit, upheld District Court decisions striking down Trump's executive order. The Supreme Court disagreed, at least for now. The Court agreed to hear the merits of the case in the fall. In the meantime, the injunctions issued by the lower courts are removed, except in cases of those who have connections to the USA - "a credible claim of a bona fide relationship."

The Court's decision was an unsigned - but unanimous - per curiam decision. Three Justices did write an opinion, but not in dissent. Justices Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch joined in an opinion saying that all the restrictions in the executive order should stand, without the restriction on "bona fide relationships."

What are the lessons from this case? First, the entire population of the world does not have a constitutional right to come to the United States. The fact that two appellate courts thought otherwise speaks more to a political agenda than to the rule of law. Second, the Supreme Court clearly understands that our Constitution set up three branches of government - all with different functions. Federal courts are not privy to day to day intelligence briefings, and they are not subject to being voted out of office. If the President's policy offends enough people, he may be voted out. In the meantime, it is the President who, traditionally, sets our foreign policy. Not the Courts. Should we also have courts second-guessing where and when a president may order the deployment of troops? While some on the Left would undoubtedly approve of that arrangement, the Constitution tells us that it is the president who is the Commander-in-Chief.

Over the last century the Left has increasingly looked to the Courts to accomplish their agenda, as the political process has often failed them. Just as the Left viewed "offensive" speech as superseding the First Amendment's right to free speech, they also viewed their opposition to the so-called travel ban as superseding any issue about the Constitutional separation of powers. Having said this, it remains extremely disappointing that a government agency (the Patent and Trademark office) and that various District Court and Appellate Court Judges, needed these reminders from the Supreme Court about our Constitution.

Given the failure by federal officials, one can only wonder about how well informed the average student and citizen is about our Constitution. It is for that reason that I suggested (in my July 1 post) that all students be required to learn about the Constitution and how our system of government works. For now, I will be content that the New York Times, the Patent and Trademark Office, and a number of federal judges all got the message.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Fake News Media

The self-described "paper of record," the New York Times, is another participant in the fake news world. Following the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise and others by a left-wing fanatic, the New York Times tried to do what the left commonly does - create an equivalency with the right when someone on their side engages in bad behavior. In this case, the paper attempted to equate the shooting of Scalise with the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords six years ago.

Said the Times in one of their editorials: "Before the shooting (of Gabby Giffords) Sarah Palin's political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs." First, the cross hairs were over the districts - not on individual politicians. Second, the shooting of Gabby Giffords was in 2011. It has been common knowledge for quite some time that the shooter had no particular political affiliation that motivated him to commit his murderous acts. He was thought to be a mentally ill individual.

So, why would the New York Times run with such a story in their editorial? They had to know it was false. This editorial is best understood as yet another example of what motivates the left - their left-wing agenda. As I have noted before, truth often bows to the agenda. Their "issues" are their values, which also explains why the left and the right do not share the same values. The right relies on fundamental religious and Constitutional values.

The allegations against Sarah Palin were so obviously false that the Times had to issue a "correction." It read as follows: "An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that a link existed between political incitement and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established." However, there was such a link between the shooting of Representative Scalise and his shooter - as that shooter clearly hated Republicans. The "correction" did not include an apology to Sarah Palin, who is now suing the Times over the editorial.

Recently, another anti-Trump news outlet - CNN - had their own controversy. Three of their journalists were forced to resign. A story run by CNN accused Trump adviser, Anthony Scaramucci, of having improper ties to Russia. Mr. Scaramucci denied the allegations and the network did not have the facts to back up the claim.

James O'Keefe runs Project Veritas. One of his people was speaking with a CNN producer, John Bonifield. Bonifield: "Just to give you some context, President Trump pulled out of the climate accords and for a day and a half we covered the climate accords. And the CEO of CNN (Jeff Zucker) said in our internal meeting...he said good job everybody covering the climate accords, but we are done with that, let's get back to Russia." Queried the Project Veritas reporter: "Then why is CNN constantly, like, Russia this, Russia that?" Bonifield: "Because it's ratings." To which I would add, it is also consistent with their left-wing, attack Trump news.

Just how biased against Trump is the mainstream media? Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy sought to study that issue, looking at Trump's first 100 days in office. The results should not be surprising to anyone. CNN and NBC had the worst records for fair reporting, with 93% of their news coverage of Trump being negative, with only 7% being positive. As for the rest: CBS was 91% negative and 9% positive, The New York Times was 87% negative and 13% positive, The Washington Post was 83% negative and 17% positive, The Wall Street Journal was 70% negative and 30% positive, and Fox News (formerly under the slogan "Fair and Balanced" but now "Most Watched, Most Trusted") was the only one of these media outlets to have balanced reporting - 52% negative and 48% positive.

Overall, Trump's coverage was 80% negative and only 20% positive. Obama's first hundred days came in at 60% positive to 40% negative. That is a 40% shift towards the negative. Notwithstanding these statistics, it does not mean that I believe Trump should engage in a Twitter war with every critical news outlet or individual. I would like to see him use Twitter to discuss his accomplishments and his policies. But, an occasional Tweet against the "fake media" is sometimes in order.