Sunday, December 31, 2017

Year End Reflections, Part VI (Trump's First Year - Foreign Policy)

As far as I can tell, none of the terrible consequences - both foreign and domestic - feared and predicted by the Left, that were to have flowed from a Trump Presidency, have come to fruition. Nevertheless, the mainstream media still views the Trump Presidency as a disaster. The 12/26/17 LA Times main front page headline read: "Foreign leaders say U.S. losing stature." The 12/29/17 NY Times front page headline read: "Insurgent President Alters, Unpredictably, America's Global Role." So, let's take a look.

Not surprisingly, one of the liberal media's main concerns was Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital city, especially after the UN General Assembly voted to demand that the United States rescind its decision recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The vote was 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions. And, our Western European "allies" in the UK, France and Germany voted with the likes of China, Russia and the 57 nation Islamic block. Unlike Obama, willing to defer on US sovereignty to international organizations, Trump is not. Why should the UN get to decide where the USA puts its embassy? This is the same UN that once declared "Zionism" to be racism; a decision only reversed later on through the efforts of the US.

Our UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, said this after the vote: "We will remember (this vote) when we are called upon to once again make the world's largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit." Thereafter, the US announced a $285 million cut in our contribution to the UN. Said one commentator in the Wall Street Journal: "Diplomacy based on denying reality isn't helpful." In true conservative fashion, Trump acknowledged the reality of Jerusalem as Israel's historic and religious capital. The Leftist media and Europeans would prefer to continue the appeasement of the Palestinians, as if that appeasement has actually moved the parties closer towards peace.

Both the LA and NY Times suggested that Trump's Jerusalem decision was nothing more than a pandering to his base. The NY Times: "...evangelicals and some hard-line, pro-Israel American Jews exulted..." Actually, unlike his predecessors, Trump actually kept his campaign promise. By doing so, he also fulfilled a 1995 Congressional measure passed overwhelmingly by the House (374 to 37) and the Senate (93 to 5) calling for the relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The NY Times: "The president takes credit for eradicating the caliphate built by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq,, though he mainly accelerated a battle plan developed by President Barack Obama." What utter nonsense! Trump "takes credit for...?" No, Trump deserves the credit for eradicating ISIS from the territory they had held in Iraq and Syria. He followed Obama's plan? Then how come in 8 years Obama could not succeed against ISIS? No, Trump made a campaign pledge to destroy ISIS in their strongholds. Another campaign promise kept.

The LA Times quotes with favor one Iranian commentator as follows: "Now Russia is celebrating its victory in Syria, and America is watching as an onlooker." Very confusing. The left-wing media cannot seem to decide if the US should withdraw from Middle East entanglements or get more involved. Wasn't it Obama who said that Syrian use of chemical weapons would be a red line, which, if the Syrians crossed, would not be tolerated? Well, they crossed it - and Obama did nothing. Trump, on the other hand, had 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles sent into Syria. Not a devastating blow, but a clear message that there are consequences.

Meanwhile, the NY Times frets over the reactions of the Europeans to Trump. They quote Angela Merkel: "We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands. The times in which we can fully count on others - they are somewhat over." Is there a reason they are not able to take care of themselves? Britain and France are nuclear powers. Germany is an economic powerhouse. And, succeeding where his predecessors have failed, thanks to Trump the Europeans are starting to increase their monetary contributions to NATO.

As for North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote in an Op-Ed in the 12/28/17 New York Times, Trump "abandoned the failed policy of strategic patience." Says Tillerson: "This year, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted three of the strongest sanctions resolutions in history...Our peaceful pressure campaign has cut off roughly 90 percent of North Korea's export revenue, much of which is used to fund illegal weapons development." As for Trump's name calling exchanges with Kim Jong-un - I've said before I've never been fond of the name calling. But who knows? Maybe the Korean dictator fears a tough talker such as Trump; and fear can often change minds.

Of course, while there are many other topics that could be discussed under the "foreign policy" umbrella, I cannot end this post without a discussion of Russia. Trump's recently released national security strategy paper "accused the Russians of using 'subversion' as a tactic and said that countering both rival (Russia and China) powers was necessary" (from the LA Times). But, the Times then asserts "Trump's refusal to overtly criticize Russia, some diplomats say, has emboldened Putin in his military actions in Ukraine." I'm trying to not laugh too hard. It was Obama and Hillary who had the "reset" with Russia. It was Obama who mocked Romney for calling Russia the greatest geopolitical threat to the US. It was Obama who told Medvedev to tell Putin that he (Obama) would have more "flexibility" after his reelection.

Obama stood by and did nothing when Russia invaded Ukraine. Did Obama's criticizing of Russia deter Putin? Of course not. Yet, the LA Times seems to believe that some harsh words from Trump would produce a different result. Russia supports Syria's Assad. Obama did not nothing to Russia's client state after they used chemical weapons. Trump sent in cruise missiles. Which one was more likely to upset Russia? Trump has now announced the US will send Javelin antitank missiles to Ukraine, to aid in their fight against Russian backed forces. Anyone think that such action enamors the US in Putin's eyes?

Overall, Trump has had a successful foreign policy first year. But notice how the mainstream media spins their front page "news" stories in order to reflect negatively on Trump. At what point does left-wing spin become "fake" news?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Year End Reflections, Part V (John Kerry vs Nikki Haley - No Contest)

In December of last year, the United States - by abstaining - allowed the passage of UN Security Resolution 2334. As was typical of the Obama-Kerry team, the resolution criticized Israel for building in Jerusalem, blamed Israel for the lack of a peace agreement, and, as usual tried to appease the Palestinians by giving them everything they want - and still expecting the Palestinians to come to the bargaining table.

Now, a year later later, Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN, said this: "Given the chance to vote again on Resolution 2334, I can say with complete confidence that the US would vote no, and we would exercise our veto power." The other day, the UN Security Council voted 14-1 on an Egyptian sponsored resolution declaring that the US should annul its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. As the one "no" vote was cast by Nikki Haley on behalf of the US, and as the US is one of the five permanent members with veto power, the resolution did not pass. Haley: the US "will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy."

Kerry, last December: "Now you may have heard that some criticize this resolution for calling East Jerusalem occupied territory. But to be clear, there was absolutely nothing new in last week's resolution (2334) on that issue." Except, that was not true, as previous policy was that the final status of Jerusalem was to be negotiated between the parties. No excuse making by Haley, however, as she asserted that the US had the "courage and honesty to recognize a fundamental reality: Jerusalem has been the political, cultural and spiritual homeland of the Jewish people for thousands of years; they have had no other capital city."

Last December, Kerry gave a 70 minute speech defending the contents of resolution 2334. The resolution included a provision claiming that Israeli "settlements" were "a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace." Here is what Haley just said about which party constitutes the biggest obstacle to peace: by "misplacing the blame for the failure of the peace efforts squarely on Israeli settlements, the resolution gave a pass to Palestinian leaders who for many years rejected one peace proposal after another."

Haley, with no hand wringing, and no doubt about what was right and what side the United States should take, then tweeted this: "At the UN we're always asked to do more and give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl, about where to locate our embassy, we don't expect those we've helped to target us. On Thursday, there'll be a vote (this time in the General Assembly where the US has no veto power) criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names."

No apologies. No appeasement. No agonizing over using US power and influence. Does it make sense to keep providing foreign aid to countries who then poke us in the eye and vote against US interests at the UN? My take? G-d bless Nikki Haley and G-d bless Donald Trump for appointing her to be UN Ambassador.

Postscript: We can reasonably predict how the Western European, anti-Israel, Palestinian-appeasing countries will vote. For example, and representative of the Western European leaders, French President Emmanuel Macron referred to Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital "regrettable." But it is worth noting the words of Czech President Milos Zeman: "The European Union, cowards, are doing all they can so a pro-Palestinian terrorist movement can have supremacy over a pro-Israeli movement."

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Year End Reflections, Part IV (Do You Still Believe the Mainstream Media?)

Following President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the New York Times ran a story entitled: "Jerusalem, Explained: Why Trump's Decision Matters and What's Next." The article by Max Fisher ran in the 12/10/17 edition. Fisher: "Evangelical Christians have been joined by a subset of American Jews and others on the political right in arguing that the United States should overtly back Israel in the conflict." I guess, if we ignore the May, 2016 Pew poll showing that Americans back Israel over the Palestinians by 54% to 19%.

And why wouldn't Americans back Israel, given the shared Judeo values as well as the shared values of democracy and liberty. Fisher says that the pro-Israel position "hardened during the second intifada, a period of vicious Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the early 2000s." The truth is that it was a period of vicious terrorist attacks started by Yasser Arafat after he rejected an Israeli offer of a Palestinian state and walked out on then President Bill Clinton. By "vicious conflict" he means Arabs blowing up Jews on buses, in cafes and even at a Passover Seder.

Fisher suggests that Trump backed full Israeli control over all of Jerusalem, ignoring Trump's comments that the final decision on the borders of Jerusalem are to be decided by the parties.

In an Op-Ed in the 12/7/17 LA Times, UCLA Professor Saree Makdisi writes of "Trump's Mideast disaster." Admittedly, an Op-Ed piece is not a news story. However, mainstream papers such as the NY Times and LA Times excel at letting left-wing writers use the papers' opinion pages to express ideas which these papers support. The beauty of it is it allows the papers to say that they are simply giving voice to "other" opinions - which the papers just happen to share. Makdisi: "For Trump to endorse Israel's claim to the entire city, then, is to endorse illegality." Allow me to reiterate: Trump endorsed Jerusalem as Israel's capital, clearly stating that the final boundaries are up to the parties.

These papers obviously know that Israel's government offices are in the Western part of Jerusalem, and that any US Embassy will also be in the Western part of Jerusalem. Why, then, do they permit their writers to state "facts" that simply are not true? That would be because they want Trump to look bad, and they want Israel to look bad. The left-wing crowd is anti-Trump and anti-Israel. After accusing Trump of supporting white supremacy and being Islamophobic, the Professor concludes with what I imagine is her real wish for Israel. Accusing Israel of apartheid, she says this: "...what looks like a victory for Israeli apartheid now may well turn out to be a turning point on the road to its eventual demise."

In the 12/15/17 edition of the NY Times, the paper had a chart, or diagram if you will, on page 12 above the fold, with the title "What Is the 'Russia Story?'" Above that are these words: "Confused by all the news about Russia and the 2016 presidential election? We are here to help." Well, isn't that special? Is the Times there to help with the major scandal of the century (see the prior post) and give us a diagram of all the players involved in the cover-up of the Clinton email scandal, the Trump dossier and fabricated Russian collusion story, and the effort by high government officials to prevent Trump from getting elected, and to resort to other tactics to get him removed from office should he win? Just asking.

However, the winner for the most overt bias against, and hatred of, Trump will have to be the USA Today. Their 12/13/17 editorial discusses Trump's dust-up with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. After calling for Trump to resign, Trump responded in his usual attack mode. He said that Gillibrand previously came to his office (before he was President) "begging" for campaign contributions, and "would do anything for them." Now, maybe I'm naive, but I did not attach any sexual innuendo to that comment. To me, it's a politician making promises - and saying anything - in order to get a campaign contribution. Nothing more. But for the USA Today, and others on the Left, Trump was essentially calling Gillibrand a "whore" (per their editorial).

Of course, by interpreting the remark the way the USA Today does, it fits in with the overall attack on Trump based on allegations of sexual harassment and other improprieties. After all, and as noted in the prior post, the Russian story is not going anywhere, so another plan is needed to help remove Trump from office. And then, the USA Today goes where no other mainstream paper has gone before (sorry, I loved Star Trek): "A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the planned Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush."

Of course I would trust any "news" story they might now print about Trump. Their total hatred and loathing of Trump could not possibly bleed over into their news pages. Right?

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Year End Reflections, Part III (The Scandal of the Century)

It's a story which the mainstream media has little interest in reporting. It's a story that the Democrats claim is merely a distraction from the real story about Trump collusion with Russia. As a year has passed without any evidence of such collusion, the focus of the media and the Dems is now on getting Trump out of office based on allegations of sexual harassment. If that does not work, they will come up with something else. But, I digress.

Almost nobody expected Donald Trump to capture the Republican nomination for President. To make matters worse for the Dems and the mainstream media, it looked as if Hillary Clinton's email scandal might derail her path to the Presidency. The only question is, how high up in the Obama Administration did the "fix" originate. At the end of June, 2016, Bill Clinton "coincidentally" ran into Loretta Lynch, the Attorney General of the United States, on the tarmac in Phoenix, while Lynch was "coincidentally" investigating Hillary Clinton and her private email server. "Coincidentally," days later FBI Director James Comey publicly exonerated Hillary Clinton.

Now, we find out that Peter Strzok, then head of the FBI's Counter-intelligence Division, had a hand in changing Director Comey's draft speech regarding Hillary Clinton. The Comey speech originally said that Hillary Clinton was "grossly negligent" in the handling of classified emails, which would be a federal felony. However, Mr. Strzok changed that language to "excessively careless." If the media were interested in this story, they would be investigating why Comey allowed that change to be made. This "coincidentally" occurred after Loretta Lynch told Comey to refer to the Clinton email investigation as a "matter" - not an "investigation."

Now, it turns out that Mr. Strzok and Lisa Page, an attorney at the FBI, had a personal relationship. Some of their text message exchanges have now been released and they are rather interesting. Aside from the references to Trump as an "idiot" and "loathsome," we have this: "She (obviously referring to Clinton) just has to win now." Did I mention that Mr. Strzok "coincidentally" headed up the Russia investigation shortly after Comey/Strzok exonerated Clinton? Here is a text message by Strzok that the media might refer to as a smoking gun, if it had come from a Republican: "I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy's (likely Andrew McCabe, Deputy Director of the FBI) office - that there's no way he (undoubtedly Trump) gets elected - but I'm afraid we can't take that risk." EXCUSE ME? They can't take the risk that the people of the United States might elect someone of whom they disapprove?

Mr. Strzok continued: "It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40." As in the unlikely event Trump gets elected? What insurance policy? A phony Russian collusion story? Page: "And maybe you're meant to stay where you are because you're meant to protect us from that menace." Strzok: "Thanks. And of course I'll try and approach it that way. I can protect our country at many levels." If you think that if any of this were really true you would know all about it from the mainstream media, keep deceiving yourself. For example, one of the lead stories on the front page above the fold of the 12/13/17 New York Times was "SALVOS BY TRUMP ESCALATE DISPUTE ON HARASSMENT," referring to the exchange between Trump and Senator Gillibrand. In a tiny box below the fold, we are advised that we can turn to page 15 for a story about FBI officials who felt Clinton "just has to win."

On page 15, we learn from the Times that "F.B.I. officials who worked directly with Mr. Strzok on the Clinton and Trump investigations said they never detected any bias in his investigative work." Well isn't that special? The esteemed New York Times takes the word of the agency that appears to be involved in possible illegal activity. Of course, none of the juicier quotes are to be found in this page 15 article. And the Times makes it sound as if Strzok and Page were equally concerned about a Clinton Presidency.

Then, we have Bruce Ohr, a senior staffer at the DOJ. He apparently neglected to talk about meetings he had with people who put together the Trump dossier. The dossier was supposed to be opposition research on Trump, and was funded by the Clinton campaign and the DNC. The firm hired to put together the dossier was Fusion GPS, which, "coincidentally" has as an employee Mr. Ohr's wife. Aside from all the obvious conflicts of interest noted above, the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, is close friends with a key witness - James Comey. That is actually a disqualifying conflict. However, Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, just testified before Congress that he sees no issue with the Trump-Russia investigation.

Bottom Line? Trump is crude. He's crass. He says things that I wish he would not say. But do not be distracted by that. Trump went to Washington to "drain the swamp." To change things. To upset the proverbial apple cart. That could not and would not be tolerated by the Democrats, who feared he would overturn much of what Obama accomplished. Neither was Trump accepted by the Washington insider Republicans. As noted before, if you threaten to drain the swamp, the swamp will fight back. But here is the most important issue for all of us - is it acceptable to have people high up in the government plotting to prevent someone they oppose from becoming President? Having failed in the prevention, is it acceptable for those people to create a false Russian collusion story in an effort to get Trump removed from office? In other words, do you agree with what is nothing less than an attempted coup because you hate Trump so much? Do the ends justify the means? If you do, what does that say about the future for democracy in the USA? And what of future Presidents? Will they bow to the will of the deep state simply to stay in office? What kind of government, and media, do you want?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


Breaking from his predecessors, President Trump today gave official US recognition to Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel, and ordered the State Department to start the process of relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump: "Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital. Acknowledging this fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace." Exactly. How can we expect the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world to acknowledge the reality of Jerusalem as Israel's capital if the US and the rest of the Western world will not do so?

Jerusalem has been the "capital" of the Jewish people for 3000 years, and the official capital of the modern State of Israel since its birth in 1948. The Left, including the Jewish Left, has it backwards. For example, the VP of government affairs of "J Street" (which holds itself out as a pro-Israel group, but to conservatives appears to be anything but) said this: "It (the US embassy) shouldn't be moved prior to agreement by the parties to the conflict as part of a comprehensive agreement ending the conflict."

But for those who still foresee a possibility of peace, J Street and others on the Left have it backwards. As Oren Dorell noted in Today's USA Today: "The Palestinians have learned that by saying "no" they can always get something better next time. They have to learn that if they say no, next time they won't get the same offer." Yes, that is how the real world works. The appeasement promulgated by the Left never works. It has only encouraged the "Palestinians" to seek the ultimate destruction of Israel.

Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), having voted for the 1995 resolution for the US embassy to be moved to Jerusalem, is now suddenly opposed. Feinstein fears that the move will "spark violence, further alienate the United States and undermine the prospects of a two-state solution." Spark violence? That is the equivalent of giving a "heckler's veto" - denying the right to speak because the audience may behave badly. It is also similar to: "let the kid have what he wants so he stops crying/complaining."

The British and French, not surprisingly, are opposed to the move. British P.M. May said this: our "longstanding" position "is that the status of Jerusalem should be determined in negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians..." Oh, really? So, Madam Prime Minister, how is it that you and your French counterparts voted for the UN Security Council resolution on December 23, 2016, condemning Israel, and ceding "East Jerusalem" to the Palestinians? You ceded the holiest sites in Judaism to the Palestinians. You call that a negotiated settlement?

So how did the Arab/Palestinian world react to Trump's declaration? Let's see. The Palestinians were burning the US flag in Gaza. (Meanwhile, Israel was projecting a large image of the US flag on the Western Wall.) Hamas said that Trump opened "the gates of hell." And in case anyone doubts their intentions, Hamas also said that Trump's action "will not succeed in changing the reality of Jerusalem being Islamic Arab land." How is that? The Jewish people have been around for over 3000 years; Islam started in about 600 C.E. That's 1400 years by my count. And the PA's chief representative to Britain said this: "He (Trump) is declaring war in the Middle East, he is declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims."

None of that is true. Trump did not declare that Israel will maintain sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. The placement of the US embassy will undoubtedly be in the western part of Jerusalem, where the Israeli government offices are, and have been, for the last 70 years. Trump: "But today we finally acknowledge the obvious. That Jerusalem is Israel's capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality." By making this move Trump is showing his conservative stripes - he is letting reality dictate his belief about where the embassy should be. We'll allow the Left to continue in their dream world of letting their beliefs dictate their reality.

I cannot end this post without once again demonstrating the total lack of candor and honesty displayed by the New York Times in their December 6, 2017 editorial on Trump's anticipated announcement on Jerusalem. They claim that the big winner is Israeli PM Netanyahu, "whose hard-line government has shown no serious interest in peace." What "interest in peace" have the Arabs shown? Would that be all the thousands of missiles launched at Israel? The intifadas? The paying of thousands of dollars (US dollars, no less) to the murderers of Israelis? Then, the Times resorts to the Left-wing hand-wringing over what the reaction of the Arab world will be, as if it has been wonderful to date. Then, this gem - after expecting the negative reaction from the Saudis, they write that "Jerusalem is home to the Aqsa Mosque and that the Saudi king holds the title of custodian of Islam's two other holiest mosques, in Mecca and Medina."

Nice deflection. The Times, the so-called "paper of record," with "all the news that's fit to print," does not bother to inform its readers of the following little tidbit. After Israel won the the 1967 war, and captured the rest of Jerusalem with the Jewish Holy sites and the Aqsa Mosque, they turned over control of the Temple Mount where the mosque sits to the Jordanian Waqf. That's right. The Temple Mount, also the holiest site in Judaism, was turned over to the Jordanians. Keep in mind that when the Jordanians had control from 1948 until the 1967 war, Israelis were not given access to their holy sites. Under Israeli military control, Jews, Christians and Muslims all have access to their holy sites. Just a little tidbit that the "paper of record" did not see fit to comment upon.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Year End Reflections, Part II (Privilege)

"Privilege," especially the idea of "white privilege," is currently a very big deal on college campuses and generally on the Left. One professor at the City University of New York expressed this: "the white-nuclear family is one of the most powerful forces supporting white supremacy." The professor also complained about "reproducing white children" that are "part of the problem." Also, when white people leave their homes to their children, they are perpetuating inequality.

At an Ohio State University workshop students were told "whiteness grants you power and access to things." And students were also told that only white people are capable of being racist, and that whites can never be "victims." None of this compares to the comments by a now terminated nurse at the Indiana University Health Hospital. "Every white woman raises a detriment to society when they raise a son. Someone with the HIGHEST propensity to be a terrorist, rapist, racist killer, and domestic violence all star. Historically every son you had should be sacrificed to the wolves b....."

My first observation is that post Obama we are clearly not a post-racial society. As I mentioned often during Obama's eight years in office, rather than acting as a unifying President, he was divisive and encouraged a sense of "victimhood" in the black community. The idea of "white privilege" is by its very nature a racist concept. After all, racism is treating people a certain way simply based on their race or skin color. The individual is not even recognized as such.

This idea of "privilege" is, unfortunately, not restricted to white people. In a recent edition of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, a UCLA student penned an article with this title: "Are Jewish College Students Privileged?" Discussing another Jewish student's comments, the writer states that this other student suffered from a "moral conflict he felt as an American Jew. Yes, Jews face anti-Semitism, sometimes subtly and other times hideously, but Jews also have a come a long way - succeeding at getting our foot in the door of American politics and, by extension, American privilege."

Here's a question. When I think about the Jews who came here after the Holocaust with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, but managed to make a life for themselves and their families, should they be embarrassed about their success? Said the UCLA student: "If Jewish students want to be true partners to our progressive peers, it is our responsibility to check our privilege..." Check our privilege? What does that mean? Stop being white? Stop being Jewish? Don't speak?

This is the kind of drivel that young people are taught at college. I don't know about the rest of you, but I learned that we treat people as individuals. That is also what I taught my children. It is not just discriminatory/racist to treat people as members of groups (black vs white, for example). Think of the various genocides committed throughout history. Genocides were committed because one group was unable to see the individual humanity in others. If the above referenced professor thinks white children are the problem, I am reluctant to ponder what that professor would see as a solution. And the nurse mentioned above? If whites are rapists and killers, well, we can only imagine what her solution would be. Would it be similar to Hitler's "Final Solution" for the Jews? So, allow me to correct myself. This is not simply drivel that college students are being taught about "privilege." It is dangerous and evil.

Year End Reflections, Part I (Sexual Harassment)

On the old TV show Laugh-In (1968-1973) there was a recurring skit with Ruth Buzzi sitting on one end of a park bench, clutching her purse. Arte Johnson, playing the dirty old man, would sit down on the opposite side of the bench, and then sidle over next to Buzzi. He would then ask her: "Do you believe in the hereafter?" She would nod or state her agreement, after which he would reply: "Then you know what I'm here after." Newsflash: all men believe in the hereafter.

The number of famous, wealthy and powerful men now accused of sexual harassment is getting too numerous for me to list them all. I have often held, however, that the rich and famous do not believe that the regular norms of society apply to them. Clearly, the behavior of these men confirms my belief. Journalist Angela Rocco DeCarlo recently wrote in a piece in the Wall Street Journal that her mother told her: "Never go to a man's hotel room." Noting that her mother likely was never in a hotel room, DeCarlo concurred: "...going to a man's hotel room alone is rarely a smart choice."

Then, DeCarlo referred to a story in her local paper showing a picture of a teenage girl with a low neckline holding this sign: "Instead of body shaming girls, teach boys that girls are not sexual objects." DeCarlo then commented on the idea that "girls should be able to appear in any state of undress and no one, especially boys, (has) any right to react." DeCarlo: "Sorry, young lady. The world doesn't work that way. Somebody should have told you."

But, the Left would never teach that. Not only would that idea be contrary to their idea of sexual "equality," and their idea that men and women are the same, it is a further reminder of my oft repeated truism that the Left lets their beliefs dictate their reality (whereas conservatives let reality dictate their beliefs). After all, look at how the Left mocked Mike Pence for saying that he would not dine alone with a woman, or be at an affair where alcohol is served unless his wife was also present. What's wrong with Pence? Isn't he able to control himself? I am sure that a man such as Pence is able to do that, but he also understands the concept of temptation, and that sometimes we may do things which we will immediately regret doing.

Earlier this year, Robin Abcarian wrote a piece for the LA Times about Pence. First, she states that "removing temptation (in the form of women) from men is a staple of many patriarchal faiths." But, she then asserts that there is "a more important the eyes of the law and the government, women are equal to men. They are deserving of the same workplace opportunities that historically have presented themselves to men. If professional women and men cannot be alone together, women are the ones who will pay a price. They will not have the kind of mentoring that promotes workplace advancement. They will not develop the same kinds of relationships with bosses that their male colleagues do. They will lose out."

I agree that Ms. Abcarian makes some legitimate points. What is left out of the analysis, however, is that the law is one thing, reality is another. Just how many cases of sexual harassment cases do we need to hear about before that point sinks in? Before I receive any criticism, allow me to make clear that I do not condone sexual (or other) harassment. I have never cheated on my wife and do not condone those who cheat on their spouse. I do believe women should be treated as equal to men under the law. And I do believe that men should control themselves. But I do not see how not understanding men's sexual nature benefits anyone. It is a matter of letting reality dictating my beliefs.

After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that he believed the women accusing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, the New York Times ran an editorial entitled "Republicans Finally Believe Women." The Times never passes on an opportunity to score political points - even when the facts are not on their side. I am curious as to how the Times would explain the utter silence of the Leftists in Hollywood ignoring for decades the cases of sexual harassment occurring all around them. Then, the Times makes this feeble concession: "Some Democrats maligned the women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual harassment, molestation and rape as looney tunes and trailer trash." Some Democrats? Don't they mean most Democrats, including their 2016 Presidential choice Hillary Clinton? I have long ago abandoned hope of Times' editorials demonstrating journalistic integrity.

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."