Sunday, November 12, 2017

More Stories From My Youth

(Note: On 7/22/17 I wrote a post entitled "Lessons From My Childhood." It turned out to be a rather popular post. Therefore, what follows are some additional stories.)

I started getting some numbness and tingling down my legs when I was 15 years old. By age 16 the numbness and tingling disappeared, replaced by severe pain and burning. The pain necessitated the use of a cane, as the pain radiated into the right groin making it impossible to fully extend my leg, and nearly impossible to put any weight on that side while walking. When the pain was at its worst, I would lay in bed for 48 to 50 hours straight without one second of sleep, unable to find any position which would allow me to have even a few minutes of respite. Needless to say, I missed a lot of high school. The unremitting pain and lack of sleep at times caused me to wish that I was dead.

On the bright side, I did have people come to visit me while I was laid up. Two girls with whom I was friendly were regular visitors. One, I grew up with in the neighborhood, and the other I met in school. Although I am rarely in touch with either one, I remain grateful for their visits and the comfort that they provided. One of "the boys" with whom I remain friends, lived directly downstairs from us. His parents would both come up to see me. His Mom would bring me candy, and sit and talk with me. His Dad would stand at the door to my room and yell: "What are you doing? Get out of that bed!" I did not take it well. A number of years passed by before I understood what he was doing. He did not want me to be a victim, or to play the sick role. He pushed me to do the best that I could do, given my circumstances. I did not get it at the time.

I was very shy throughout public school. I was fine with "the boys" (as I call them), but I was always reluctant to speak in class. Missing so much high school did not exactly enhance my self-confidence and interaction with my classmates. College, however, was another matter altogether. I was able to find my voice, and break out of my shell. I became a schmoozer; and, as those who know me are aware, I remain a schmoozer to this day. I have, at times, been criticized for taking up too much of people's time with schmoozing, especially in the work setting. However, I always make it a point of trying to establish a personal relationship, even with those who hold adversarial positions.

One time, years ago, when my wife and I were in Las Vegas, we were walking through a very long hallway from one hotel to another. Halfway through the hallway was an older gentleman (probably younger than I am now) with a walkie-talkie. He was obviously employed by one or both of the hotels, not to be a security guard, but to call in any accidents or disturbances or the like. As I watched dozens and dozens of people walk right by him, I walked up to him and engaged him in conversation. The conversation lasted maybe 15-20 minutes. By the time we were done and we were walking away, he was smiling and I felt like I made his day. Therefore, I will gladly accept the criticism of, at times, carrying on for too long, if I have succeeded in brightening the day of even one person.

When we were kids, before my back problems, we would play so many different sports - punch ball, wiffle ball, stick ball, touch football and various other outdoor games. We rarely lacked the necessary number of participants, growing up in an apartment complex, with another apartment complex and single family homes nearby. We were kids who would choose up sides. No parents were involved, or watching. We made up rules as the number of players and size of the field warranted. And we had fun. Sometimes my team won, and sometimes we lost; well, except for punch ball. I happened to be the undisputed best punch ball player, and whichever side I was on won. In punch ball you would hold the Spalding rubber ball in one hand, toss it up slightly, and punch it with the other hand. I was just a little guy, but it was all in the technique, the flexing of the wrist.

Childhood sports brings me to another topic. I attended Hebrew school two days per week, starting after public school ended, during fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grades, after which I became a Bar Mitzvah. However, while I did well in public school and Hebrew school, we got a separate grade for attending Saturday morning Junior Congregation. For that, I would usually get an "F." You see, all the boys in the neighborhood would be up and playing outside on Saturday mornings. On the one hand, I am glad I participated in the sports, as I did go on the DL at age 15, ending my would-be sports career. Okay, I never would have made it in any sport, but it was fun. On the other hand, in my later years, up to and including today, I regret not having attended Junior Congregation, leaving me somewhat deficient in my Hebrew language skills.

I am fortunate to have remained friends with "the boys" with whom I grew up. I have also remained friends with two of the guys I met in college. One became a family doctor, having known that being a doctor was his long time calling. The other became an attorney, rising to a high level in his state's government. While we shared similar political views in college, I have undoubtedly moved further to the right than they have. While some believe it is impossible to be friends with those who hold opposing political views, I am not of that mind. These two honorable men, of fine moral character, are men that I am proud to call "friend."

When my brother and I were kids, our parents bought the World Book Encyclopedia for us. It was, to me, one of the best presents ever. In the age of the world before computers, the World Book opened up the entire world to us. Pick a country, pick a scientific issue, pick a president, pick some historic event or era - it was all at our fingertips. The entire world. History, geography, science. I have had an unending interest in learning ever since, and I can never thank my parents enough.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Elsewhere in the News...

George Washington and his family attended the Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia. In the section where his family sat is a plaque honoring Washington. The plaque has to come down because "the plaques in our sanctuary make some in our presence feel unsafe or unwelcome." There it is. As predicted, the beginning of the end of George Washington as the Father of our country. From statues to schools being renamed to dead white men who owned slaves. I would never justify slavery. But, it will only be a matter of time until our capital city is renamed. As in 1984, as in the former USSR, history must be rewritten as the times require.

Are you a techie? If you are, but you were born white and male and are straight, then you need not apply for 8 open tech jobs at the DNC. Fox is reporting that the DNC's Data Service Manager sent an email explaining "I personally would prefer that you not forward (the list of job openings) to cisgender straight white males, as they are already in the majority." Substitute the phrase "cisgender straight white males" for any other identifiable group (women, blacks, Hispanics, gays, etc.) and we immediately see the illegality of the discrimination being proposed. The DNC leadership disavowed authorizing that memo; but it certainly gives some insight into the thinking of some at the DNC.

A poll was recently done by YouGov with a group called "Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation." As reported by Fox, the poll questioned millennials about their societal preferences. Shockingly, only 42% prefer living in a capitalist country. 45% would prefer living in a socialist country, with 7% preferring to live in a communist country. 43% of millennials agree that speech should be restricted to assure it is not offensive. (Again, shockingly, that percentage closely tracks with other age groups.) The conclusion is I draw is that freedom is not a particularly high value for millennials. They have been taught that equality is more important, that feelings are more important. They do not seem to get the fact that speech that offends no one does not need First Amendment protection. They do not get that American capitalism has created more wealth for more people than any other country in human history.

Following the recent terror attack in lower Manhattan, President Trump Tweeted (surprise!) "I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this." He also Tweeted: "In NYC, looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person." It did not take long for Trump to blame Chuck Schumer for sponsoring the legislation enabling people like this terrorist to come to the US (the diversity visa lottery program). Trump has also Tweeted that the perpetrator should get the death penalty. Readers may recall my criticisms of Obama for getting involved in local criminal matters, which a President should not do. While the Manhattan terrorist will be charged with federal crimes (and perhaps subsequently with state crimes), the President should still stay out of it.

As for the accusation by the Left that Trump tried to immediately politicize the attack (he did go after Schumer) when he should have tried to unite people - yes and no. Of course, I prefer to see and hear a unifying message at a time like this. But I said "no" also because let's get real. Democrats have consistently done the same thing, and worse. After the horrific Las Vegas massacre, the Dems wasted no time in politicizing the event with immediate proposals for gun control. Even worse, the Leftist Dems criticized those who expressed sympathy for the victims - if those same people also supported the Second Amendment right to gun ownership.

The Repubs have a tax plan. They want to cut the rate on corporate taxes from 35% to 20%, which would bring us more in line with other developed countries. The idea is to encourage the use of that saved money for job creation. They also propose increasing the estate tax exemption from estates worth $5 million to those worth $10 million, and eventually phasing it out after six years. I am in favor. The estate tax always seemed like double taxation to me. Additionally, surviving family members should not have to sell the family business just to be able to come up with enough money to pay the tax when the family member/owner dies. The plan also proposes to reduce the number of income tax brackets from seven to four: 12%, 25%, 35% and 39.6%. They should have reduced it to three, eliminating the too high 39.6% bracket.

The standard deduction for individuals would increase from $6350 to $12,000, with the deduction for married couples filing jointly increasing from $12,700 to $24,000. The biggest controversies center around the elimination and/or reduction of deductions. Currently, interest on mortgage payments are deductible for loans up to $1 million. That will be reduced to $500,000 under the proposed law. That will definitely affect people in California and other states which have high prices for residential properties. Many homes in California are priced between $500,000 and $1 million. Without getting the full benefit of deducting all the interest payments on those higher loans, people will think twice about buying, ultimately depressing prices. Combine that with the proposed $10,000 limit on deductions for state and local property taxes, and it is hard to see how prices will not be affected.

I am all in favor of simplifying the tax code. Better yet, I am in favor of eliminating the IRS. Might this be a step in the direction of a flat tax? What if we had a flat tax of 10% with no deductions at all? We all know what would happen. In time that flat tax would go up to 15%, 20%, 25% and higher - with no deductions left. The 1913 rate was 1% for incomes over $3000 and 6% for incomes over $500,000. Look where we are today. What if we eliminated the federal income tax altogether and replaced it with a value added tax? The wealthy would pay more because they spend more. No more abusive IRS targeting people for their political beliefs. And here's an idea that many of us would like to see a Republican Congress actually supporting - lower spending so that we can lower taxes even more. Personally, I do not view a $4 trillion budget passed by Republicans as being particularly conservative.

Russian Collusion?

The Story. The Hillary Clinton campaign/the DNC (which we just learned from Donna Brazile were one and the same) sought opposition research on Donald Trump. Clinton/DNC hired the law firm Perkins Coie, which in turn hired opposition research firm Fusion GPS, who then hired former British spy Christopher Steele. The so-called anti-Trump "dossier" put together by Steele for Fusion GPS was filled with lies; or, as James Comey later referred to it, it was "salacious and unverified." Nine million dollars was paid by Clinton/DNC for this "dossier."

Current DNC Chair, Tom Perez, claims no knowledge of this payment to Perkins Coie, which paid for the "dossier." Former DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, also claims no knowledge. No law firm is spending nine million dollars for a client unless that client fronted the money, or authorized the expenditure in advance. Now the question is: if Clinton and the DNC had this "dossier," is it not likely that they shared the information with the top people in the Obama Administration? Which then leads to the question of why Samantha Power and Susan Rice improperly sought the unmasking of Americans in captured conversations with foreign nationals. Would it surprise anyone that Obama was looking for some evidence of Trump misconduct, based on the lies in the "dossier," in order to stop the man who promised to undo much of Obama's legacy?

As Kimberly Strassel states in her 10/27/17 piece in the Wall Street Journal: "...someone at the DNC and at the Clinton campaign will need to explain how they somehow both forgot to list Fusion as a vendor in their campaign-finance filings," noting that a "willful evasion" has possible criminal consequences. In light of Donna Brazile's revelation that the Clinton campaign secretly took control of the DNC during the primaries, possibly illegally undermining the Bernie Sanders campaign, is anyone still willing to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt on any of this?

Meanwhile, Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner Richard Gates. The indictment seems to deal with Manafort's actions between 2008 and 2014. The charges include failing to register as an agent for a foreign government (Ukraine), and then sending his earnings to offshore accounts and "forgetting" to declare that income to the IRS. Mueller also announced a guilty plea earlier in the year by George Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI; a plea kept quiet by Mueller presumably to send Papadopoulos undercover in an effort to get dirt on people in the Trump Administration.

The Takeaway. Was there collusion between Clinton, the DNC, the Obama White House and James Comey to undermine the Trump campaign and subsequent Trump Administration through the use of this paid for "dossier" filled with lies? Think about it. Last summer James Comey gave a press conference laying out the criminal case against Hillary Clinton regarding her use of a private email server and destruction of 33,000 emails. He then shocked everyone by concluding that Clinton did not have criminal "intent" even though the criminal statute in question regarding handling of classified information only required "gross negligence." Well, Mr. Comey asserted that Ms. Clinton was "extremely careless." Can anyone tell me the difference between "gross negligence" and "extreme carelessness?" Furthermore, we now know that Comey made his statement exonerating Clinton before the FBI even interviewed her.

Did Comey give Trump the same benefit of the doubt? Hardly. He admitted to leaking private communications with Trump to a friend who in turn leaked the information to the New York Times - all in the hope that the result would be the appointment of a special counsel. How do we know that was Comey's intent? Because he admitted it. Combine that with all the false allegations in the Trump "dossier," which the FBI may have relied on for their own investigation, and then combine that with the likely illegal unmasking of American's names by White House officials - that sure sounds like collusion to me.

Here are some questions. Who will investigate the Clinton/DNC collusion which undermined the Sanders campaign? After all, if Clinton was able to secretly get money from the DNC, were those transfers legal? Did she report them? Sadly, AG Jeff Sessions has shown little interest in any of this. Will the FBI investigate? The FEC? Or, as has happened many times before, do the Clintons get another pass? I am amused when my friends on the Left tell me that Clinton is unimportant because she lost. She is old news. Is that the new legal standard - lose an election and you escape legal scrutiny? Old news? Obama complained about Bush for for eight years; but I am told I should not be bringing up Clinton.

Here are some more questions. We all thought Mueller's job was to look into illegal collusion with Russia. So why is a special counsel the one issuing indictments against Paul Manafort on matters unrelated to the Trump campaign? The US has 93 United States Attorneys whose jobs are to prosecute those accused of federal crimes. Why, then, is Mueller the one prosecuting Manafort for what looks like tax evasion, instead of one of the US Attorneys? They are the ones who ordinarily prosecute such crimes. Doesn't this have the appearance of nothing other than a "fishing expedition" which Mueller will continue until such time as he believes he has a prosecutable case against Trump? Not because he necessarily wants to prosecute Trump, although he may. But more likely to use an indictment in order to accomplish the Democrats' goal from the day Trump was inaugurated - impeachment.

Caroline Glick generally comments on the Middle East. But here is her take on what is happening in the US (and to a certain extent to P.M. Netanyahu in Israel): "Unable to win elections, they (the Left) exploit their control over the bureaucracy and media to overturn election results. There can be no greater threat to the health of a liberal democracy than that." Doesn't that explain why Democratic politicians and the mainstream media have been talking up impeachment since Trump's first day in office? And isn't that what Mueller's witch hunt is all about? Not only have the Democrats been unable to accept the election results, it is also clear that the "swamp" will fight back.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Can Politics Get Any More Indecent?

Recently, four US soldiers were killed in Niger. President Trump's telephone call to the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson has needlessly turned into a political controversy. It would appear that Florida Representative Frederica Wilson (a Democrat) was determined to cause this dust up in order to make Trump look bad. But, to any right thinking person she is the one who looks petty and spiteful.

As the story goes, Rep. Wilson was apparently in the car with Sgt. Johnson's widow when the call came in from the President and was on the car's Bluetooth, enabling the Congresswoman to listen in. It seems to me, that as a matter of common courtesy, when a call comes in with others listening, especially a member of Congress, from the President of the United States no less, the first thing that Congresswoman ought to have done was identify herself as being present. Why did she not do so?

Then, we are told that Trump said to the widow that the Sgt. "Knew what he signed up for." And? I can draw no conclusions from that. If Trump said in an oft-handed way, "well, (like "too bad") but he knew what he signed up for," that's one thing. If, however, he said that the Sgt. was doing what he wanted - serving this country - notwithstanding that "he knew what he signed up for," that is quite another thing. And if Trump stumbled over his words during such a difficult call, so what? Who might not stumble?

Brian Fallon, a former spokesperson for Hillary Clinton went after General John Kelly, Trump's Chief of Staff and himself a Gold Star Dad, because Kelly defended Trump regarding the call. Fallon: "Kelly isn't just an enabler of Trump. He's a believer in him. That makes him as odious as the rest. Don't be distracted by the uniform." The Congresswoman later threw this accusation, saying the "White House itself is full of white supremacists."

This has got to stop! Clearly, the politicians have no interest in leading the way. Therefore, individual Americans - you and I - need to lead the way. If we are unable to address each other with even a modicum of respect, then I really do not know what country we have left.

The Democrats Unending Fascination With Identity Politics

I know. Republicans are racists. I hear it all the time from the Left. So why is it that the Democrats and the Left seem to be obsessed with the issue of race? Of course, the same applies to sex and all those other categories in Hillary's "basket of deplorables."

First, Michelle Obama told us that "any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice." Because women are not able to decide for themselves which candidate best represents their values? So, not having that capability, women need to just automatically vote for the female candidate? Wow!

Now, the former First Lady (and future Presidential candidate?) tells us what she observed at the State of the Union address: "On one side of the room, it's literally gray and white. On the other side of the room, there are yellows and blues and whites and greens. (Yellows? Greens? Really?) Physically, there's a difference in color, in the tone. Because one side - all men, all white. On the other side - some women, some people of color." Upon viewing this, Mrs. Obama thought: "No wonder people don't trust politics."

Then, this very dangerous comment: "Until we are ready to fight for that - which means some people have to be willing to give up their seats to make room, or you need to be ready to add more seats - I think we're going to continue to struggle." Another wowser! Michelle Obama is talking racial quotas. Historically, quotas were used to limit the access of minorities to certain institutions. Does the former First Lady not know this?

These comments bring to mind some earlier comments by Democrats. Recall Madeleine Albright, campaigning for Hillary Clinton, and saying "there's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other." And Harry Reid, while Senate Majority Leader, asserting "I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican." And, of course, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as head of the DNC: "There is nothing, and I mean nothing, in the Republicans' right wing agenda that appeals to the American Jewish community."

Okay, let me concede that the white supremacist, Richard Spencer, is also (not surprisingly, he's a white supremacist) prone to identity politics: "You are going to have to get used to white identity." Except, the Democrats I mentioned above are all mainstream Democrats, some having served as leaders in their party. Spencer does not enjoy the support of the vast majority of Republicans. For Leftists who assert that he does, to what office has he been able to get elected? On the other hand, how many times was Robert Byrd elected and reelected to Congress? (He was 6 years in the House and 51 years in the Senate.)

Mia Love is a black, female Republican member of the House from Utah. Love, in reply to Michelle Obama, said this: "Sadly, this is identity politics. I don't know if she noticed, but I am not white and I am not a male...This is absolutely divisive language. It's not language that unifies us as Americans." Amen to that. As Dennis Prager likes to point out, he has repeatedly asked conservative audiences which make-up of the Supreme Court would they prefer: nine white heterosexual males who are all left-wing, or nine black lesbian females who are all conservatives? The answer is always the same - conservatives go with their values, not identity politics.

(For a further discussion see the 1/18/13 post "Republicans Vote Their Values, Democrats Are Driven By Issues."

As Predicted, It Will Never End

During the arguments over the gay marriage debate, I argued that the Left's ultimate goal would be the end of the terms and concepts of "man" and "woman," "male" and "female" - as we, and millennia before us, have always understood those terms.

The latest in this onslaught includes a bill signed by California Governor Jerry Brown, entitled the "Gender Recognition Act." Now, you have the option of not only choosing "F" or "M" on your driver's license - now you have the option of "non-binary." The option will also be available on birth certificates - although presumably the newborn baby will not be asked to make the choice. This new law takes effect on January 1, 2019.

It gets better. Pursuant to the provisions of yet another new law in California, it will be a criminal offense for health care workers to "willfully and repeatedly" fail to properly address a senior transgender patient's "preferred name or pronoun," so long as the health care worker was "clearly informed" of the patient's preference. The punishment? A possible fine and up to one year in jail.

So let me repeat - I do not believe that anyone should intentionally insult another person. However, I also do not believe that "name-calling," should be criminalized. Because that is what this law does. It is also yet another example of the tyranny of the Left - seeking total control over our words and deeds, and thoughts if they are able to find a way to get there. I am sure there are quite a few out there who believe in criminalizing offensive language. I do not. But the Democrats who run California clearly do.

Not to be outdone, the Daily Mail reports that the British are seeking an amendment to a UN treaty that protects a "pregnant woman." Now, the Brits are looking to change the language of the treaty to protect "pregnant people." Why? Are men now suddenly able to give birth? No, but the argument is that a transgender "man" can give birth. I'm sorry, but I thought the Democrats were always complaining that the Republicans were anti-science. Is that "pregnant person" giving birth from a uterus through a vagina? Do men have those body parts? By definition they do not. Which brings me back to my first point. Gay marriage was not simply about allowing people of the same sex to marry. Of necessity, and by design, it guaranteed a redefining of terms, of biology, of - if you will - science.

(For those interested, I previously addressed the issue of definitions of sex in my 7/20/14 post "My Ex-Wife," which was one of the most popular posts, as well as in the 10/19/14 post "My Ex-Son and Ex-Daughters.")

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.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

My Rebuttal Letter to Another Professor Attacking Free Speech

In an August 20, 2017 Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times, a Professor Richard Hasen (UC Irvine Professor of Law and Political Science) had an opinion piece adapted from his law review article entitled "Cheap Speech and What It Has Done (to American Democracy). I wrote a rebuttal directly to the Professor. Although he thanked me for my "very thoughtful" email, he chose to not otherwise engage with me.

Coincidentally or not, the very next day the USA Today had an article entitled "Companies are targeting hate speech." The article starts out "Silicon Valley appears ready to pull the plug on hate speech." The ease with which hate groups such as neo-Nazis can access the internet and spew their hatred is, of course, a legitimate and serious concern. I see it as not much different from the ability of radical Islamist terrorists to use the internet in order to organize and plan terrorist attacks. We rely upon our law enforcement and counter-intelligence agencies to protect us from those who wish to do us harm.

However, Professor Hasen was concerned with false speech affecting people's beliefs and our politics. "Cheap speech is also hastening the irrelevancy of political parties by facilitating direct communication between politicians and voters," referring, of course, to Donald Trump's use of Twitter, and Trump's "lies to the public." Therein lies my concern. Do I think Trump has lied? Yes. Do I think virtually every President (at least every modern President) has lied? Yes. But I see how the concern about speech arises in the context of having a Republican President.

Here is my letter: "Dear Professor Hasen: I read with interest your piece in today's paper on "cheap speech." I agreed with some of your points, but was concerned by others. As a conservative, and someone who is "old school," I love holding a newspaper in my hands. Understanding that every media outlet has an agenda that may affect their reporting, and definitely their commentary, I try to read and listen to multiple sources. I, too, am saddened by the failing newspaper business.

However, I was distressed by the suggestion that Facebook, Google and Twitter should be policing speech. I do not see how these large corporate entities can be entrusted with determining the truthfulness of speech. Over 5 years ago I had an email exchange with the then Public Editor (a position the paper has since eliminated) of the New York Times, Arthur Brisbane. I had expressed my disappointment in an Op-Ed by Mahmoud Abbas, which I felt was filled with untruths, without so much as a sentence by the Times indicating that the historical "facts" stated by Abbas were very much in dispute.

I received the following reply from Mr. Brisbane: "Yes, I do believe editorials and Op-Eds should be factually accurate. It is much harder to police it, though, in part because deploying facts to support argument tends very often toward coloring them right to the very boundaries between accuracy and distortion." I have also found factual errors in the editorials of the "paper of record." And, as Mr. Brisbane pointed out in his final column, the liberal bias of the editorial pages sometimes bleeds over into the news pages. Although, I would probably argue about the extent to which their liberal bias affects the news pages. If the paper of record has difficulty with the issue of accuracy/truthfulness, how can we entrust Google,

You start out suggesting that "cheap speech" is affecting the health of our country. I would not dispute that the ease of speech has an effect on our country. But I believe that the biggest reasons for the divisions in our country are twofold. First, I believe one of our two major parties, the Democrat party, no longer shares in the fundamental values that most Americans used to share. To put it another way, the Democratic Party today substantially is made up of Leftists (witness the near victory of an open Socialist for the party's nominee for President). Classical liberal Democrats seem to be a thing of the past.

Some examples. Classical liberals would never suggest limitations on speech; they had faith in their abilities to debate issues. Today, leftist students and professors try to shut down conservative speakers. The same thing happens with pro-Israel speakers - such as happened to then Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at UC Irvine. Some of my recent blog posts (I blog at discussed how university professors have new theories for restricting speech (speech should be for the public good, and speech can cause physical harm to people), with no consideration for First Amendment issues. While you do acknowledge the First Amendment, you suggest that we should consider a "shift" in First Amendment doctrine. That may lead to a slippery slope that I, for one, am not willing to risk going down.

One more example. When the owner of Chick-Fil-A expressed his belief in traditional marriage, big city mayors across the country - all Democrats - said that they did not want him doing business (or opening new stores) in their cities. A classical liberal would have said something to this effect: "While I do not agree with the owner of Chick-Fil-A regarding gay marriage, I defend his right to express his opinion, and welcome his business to our city." I could give other examples as well.

The point is, when both sides agree on fundamental values, it is relatively easy to work out "issues." But how do the 2 sides get to discussing issues when they do not even agree on the fundamental values. I said there two reasons for the division in our country today. The second reason may very well be related to "cheap speech." By that I mean we are now inundated (the 24/7 news cycle) with news and commentary. Perhaps that is the reason people now seem to discuss news and politics more than ever. That alone might not be a problem, but I have witnessed the sheer intolerance that some on both sides have for the other side. Some of my fellow attorneys, people who know how to debate issues, have refused to hear or read a conservative viewpoint. (And see my 7/29/16 post "A Personal Tale of Intolerance," as well as the following post. My exchange with Mr. Brisbane is in the 4/21/12 post "Media Bias, Part III.)

Anyway, I thank you for your consideration in reading through this email."

Does the New York Times Now Oppose a Palestinian State?

In an August 22, 2017 editorial, the New York Times opposed the creation of a state for the five million Iraqi Kurds. Overall, there are 30 million Kurds in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran. You see, the Times tells us that there are "serious problems" interfering with the establishment of a Kurdish state.

The Kurds, we are told, have two families controlling politics in Iraq. Hmmm...would that be like the Palestinians have Hamas and the Fatah run Palestinian Authority? But, the Times tells us, the Kurdish leadership suffers from "widespread" corruption. Much has been written about the corruption of the P.A. under Yasser Arafat, and his successor Mahmoud Abbas.

The Times also says that the Kurdish president has remained in office four years after his term ended. Once again...Hmmm...Abbas was elected to a term from January, 2005 to January, 2009. Yet he is still in office. The Times says the Kurdish government is in debt. The PA is in debt.

The Times says that the Kurdish authorities "are accused of discriminating against minorities." I'm trying not to laugh at the comparison with the PA, and especially with Hamas. Christians are treated poorly by Hamas, and Abbas has repeatedly said that not a single Jew may live in a new state of Palestine.

Says the Times: "But just voting for independence is no guarantee that whatever state emerges will govern fairly or well." I think we can predict that a Palestinian state would not govern fairly or well. There is no evidence that they would cease funding the families of terrorists killed or captured by Israel. There is no evidence they will cease their demands for complete control of all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which includes the State of Israel.

So, here is a question: do leftists like the editorial writers at the New York Times, support a Palestinian state because they are unable to see the same weaknesses that they see with the establishment of a Kurdish state? Or, does all the talk of creating a terrorist-supporting Palestinian state right on Israel's border just boil down to old-fashioned anti-Semitism? After all, the Times says that the Kurds have been seeking their own state since the end of World War I. The Palestinians have only been seeking a state since the Jews took over the West Bank and Gaza (already given up to the Palestinians). But there was no push for such a state when Egypt controlled Gaza and Jordan controlled the West Bank. Hmmm...

My Letter to the Jewish Journal

In last week's Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, the left leaning editor-in-chief (Rob Eshman) had a three page editorial regarding Trump and Charlottesville. His usual editorial is a single page. I sent a letter to the editor in rebuttal. My two main points were the hypocrisy of the left in criticizing Trump for something for which they never criticized Obama; and that the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and radical Islamists are all the same - they all hate anyone not like them, and they all hate Jews.

The paper does have a word limitation for letters, and my letter, admittedly, exceeded their low word limit. They only printed the first two paragraphs of my letter. By doing so, it makes it seem as if I only cared about the hypocrisy of the left, and not the hate-filled extremist groups. Very disappointing, as they could have printed the last paragraph with the first two. On the other hand, as a left-leaning publication, were they perhaps trying to make it seem as if a likely Trump voter actually supported these hate-filled groups? Which is what the mainstream media does to Trump.

One need not have read the editorial to get the gist of it from my letter. Still, it is astounding that the editor said he never felt betrayed by any other President. I stayed on topic - Charlottesville - but it is beyond comprehension that, as a Jew, he did not feel betrayed by Obama. Obama, who consistently fought with Israel's leader, and who in his last days in office, helped to pass the overwhelmingly anti-Israel UN Security Council resolution establishing a Palestinian state on the so-called 1967 borders. That resolution turned over the holiest sites in Judaism to the Arabs. That resolution also supported the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement. But the Jewish editor never felt betrayed by Obama.

Here is my letter: "I get that Mr. Eshman does not like President Trump and has been attacking him since day one. But that should not negate his ability to maintain some semblance of balance and fairness. Eshman states that Trump "and his supporters" accused Obama of refusing to say "radical Islamic terrorism," offhandedly conceding that Obama's failure opened himself up to "entirely valid criticism."

It was far more than Trump supporters who were unhappy with Obama's failure to ever name radical Islamic terrorism. Obama went out of his way to never call Islamic terrorism by its name; instead we heard things like "violent extremism," "workplace violence," and "man-caused disaster." Trump took 48 hours before identifying the evil perpetrators in Charlottesville as the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Some of us waited 8 years for Obama to identify radical Islamic terrorism - only to remain disappointed the entire time.

One time Obama defended his failure as follows: "no religion is responsible for violence and terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism." When Obama defended his failure to name radical Islamic terrorists as just being "people" who carry out bad acts, did you run a 3 page editorial about that? Even worse, in early 2015, when an Islamic terrorist in Paris targeted Jews in a kosher market, Obama would neither identify the terrorist nor the victims - referring to the murdered Jews as "a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris." Yet, you say that no other President betrayed you. Obama refused to march with other world leaders in Paris to show solidarity against Islamic terror, but Obama never betrayed you.

You said of Trump: "What does it say about the President of the United States of America that getting him to name and shame white supremacists is like getting him to say 'uncle'?" Did you ever say that about Obama's refusal to name and shame Islamic terror?

The KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and radical Muslims all have a couple of things in common. They are all backed by a hateful ideology that is unable to see the humanity in the "other." And they all hate Jews. All such ideologies should be condemned by name and identified as enemies of our country."

Sunday, August 13, 2017


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.