Sunday, February 12, 2017

Quick Hits

Some things are simply too difficult to believe. Various sites online have reported the results of a CBS poll taken 2/1 and 2/2/17. When asked if Islam encourages an equal amount of violence as other religions, 66% of Democrats agreed! Only 14% saw Islam as encouraging more violence than other religions. On the other hand, 63% of Republicans saw Islam as encouraging more violence than other religions, with only 2% saying Islam is less violent, and 25% seeing an equal level of violence with other religions. I cannot think of a better example in support of my generalization that "liberals let their beliefs dictate their reality, whereas conservatives let reality dictate their beliefs."

Speaking of hard to believe...Nancy Pelosi was at a townhall recently, when a woman told her about her son who had been tortured and murdered by an illegal alien. After saying that she prays for the woman, Pelosi said this: "But I do want to say to you that in our sanctuary cities our people are not disobeying the laws." I think I'll just leave it at that.

The latest Pew Research poll continues to reflect the ever-declining support for Israel in the Democratic Party. This is not surprising as the left has never supported Israel, and today's Democratic Party is a party of the left. The poll shows only 33% of Democrats are more sympathetic to Israel than they are to the Palestinians. The Republicans? 74% are more sympathetic to Israel. How my fellow Jews can continue to vote Democrat is a source of both bewilderment and dismay.

One letter writer to the LA Times, said that " a Jew I am embarrassed by the refusal of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to recognize the human rights of the Palestinians." I would love to ask this letter writer if he ever wrote a letter to the Times complaining about all the rockets launched from Gaza into Israel, or about the murder of innocent Jews at bus stops or in cafes, or if he ever complained about Palestinians naming schools and parks in honor of people who have killed many Jews. I am afraid, however, that his answer would leave me bewildered and dismayed - and quite angry.

I would also like to ask this Jew if he has the same concern about the Kurds. As Bret Stephens pointed out in his 1/10/17 column in the WSJ, "Kurdish national claims stretch for centuries, not decades," as with the Palestinians. Has the letter writer expressed his support for the Tibetans? Or for any of the other numerous groups who claim a right to their own state?

As Stephens so astutely points out: "In theory, Israel would be well-served living alongside a sovereign Palestinian state that lived in peace with its neighbors...But Israelis don't live in theory. They live in a world where mistakes are mortal. In 2000 and 2007 Israeli prime ministers made good-faith offers of Palestinian statehood. They were met on both occasions with rejection, then violence. In 2005 Israel vacated the Gaza Strip. It became an enclave of terror...The ideal of a Jewish and faultlessly democratic state is a noble one. Not at the risk of the existence of the state itself."

In a post-election editorial of 11/30/16, the WSJ presented some interesting data. Black and Hispanic caucuses are estimated to "make up an estimated 70 of the 194 Democrats seats next year," while "the centrist Blue Dog coalition has lost three-fourths of its members since 2010." So, the question is, are these minority caucus members taking the party in a further leftward direction? The Journal continued: "House Democrats are now largely a coastal party with nearly a third hailing from California, New York and Massachusetts. Since 2010 half of the Democrats from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan have been wiped out." And while Hillary won the the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, the Journal says that "House Republicans won three million more votes than Democrats this year."

Here are some more numbers. In a 1/29/17 op-ed in the LA Times, Doyle McManus wrote this: "Two weeks ago (a Quinnipiac poll) found that 76% of Republicans approved of the job Trump was doing; now that number is 81%. Among Democrats, his rating sank from 10% to a barely measurable 4%." Anybody out there unclear as to just how divided this country is?

David Myers is a Professor of Jewish History at UCLA. He wrote an article that was published in the 12/23-29/16 Los Angeles Jewish Journal entitled "The Function of the University in the Age of Trump." (Professor Myers and this writer have exchanged emails in the past, although I cannot recall if I posted those exchanges.) As you can imagine from the title, the Professor is a man of the left. The Professor wrote: "University officials must articulate clearly that their institutions will not only remain sites of free and open discourse, but that all students, regardless of their origins and legal status, will be protected on campus."

That is quite an interesting concern of the Professor - "free and open discourse." Would that include a concern about all the conservative speakers who get invited to speak at college campuses, but then get uninvited at the first sign of protest from leftist students? Would that concern also include the various Israeli or pro-Israel speakers who get shouted down by students who belong to the Muslim Student Association or to Students for Justice in Palestine? Or, does the Professor believe that the university functioned just fine, but with Trump in office G-d knows what may happen. To put it another way, does he fret more about what might happen than about what actually has happened? This unreasonable fear of all things Trump is yet another reflection of the deep divide in our country.

Neil Gorsuch For the Supreme Court; and Free Speech is Front and Center

Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. First, let's dispense with the nonsense that the open seat is owed to the Democrats, in light of the Republicans refusal to hold hearings on Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland. Here is what Chuck Schumer said in 2007: "We should not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court, except in extraordinary circumstances..." After all, the election season was heating up, Bush had already appointed Roberts and Alito, so why give him another pick? In 1992, Joe Biden was Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and felt that Bush the first "should consider following the practice of a majority of his predecessors and not name a nominee until after the November election is completed." Biden added that his committee would perhaps "not schedule confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over." (Quotes from the 2/2/17 Wall Street Journal editorial.)

Here is Judge Gorsuch's basic approach to judging: "I respect, too, the fact that in our legal order it is for Congress and not the Courts to write new laws. It is the role of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people's representatives. A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge." Exactly, because such a judge would be deciding cases on his or her political agenda, rather than applying the Constitution and the law to the facts of the case. A judge who either upholds or strikes down a particular law based not on the law's Constitutionality, but on their personal views, is simply acting as a super-legislator.

But a super-legislature is what Democrats expect the courts to be. After describing the Gorsuch nomination as a "very hostile appointment," House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, said this: "If you breathe air, drink water, eat food, take medicine or in any other way interact with the Courts this is a very bad decision." She went on to describe Gorsuch as "well outside the mainstream of American legal thought." I would advise Ms. Pelosi that it is up to Congress to make laws regarding clean air, clean water, and safe food and medicines. It is definitely not the job of the courts. What Pelosi and people like her really want in a Supreme Court Justice is a guarantee that they will uphold every left-wing piece of legislation passed by Congress and every left-wing rule made by the Administrative state - the Constitution be damned.

Free speech again is front and center. With regards to the violent protests at UC Berkeley, forcing the cancellation of a speech by Milo Yiannopoulus, I was very pleased to see the Los Angeles Times come down on the right side of the issue. As the Times said in their 2/3/17 editorial, the prevention of Yiannopoulos "from speaking to a willing audience of campus Republicans should make supporters of free speech shiver." Added the times: "This is just the latest variation on the age old argument of the censor that 'error has no rights,' or, put another way, that one only has a right to free speech if one is speaking the 'truth.' It's an insidious notion that needs to be opposed in every generation." This blog has criticized the Times in the past, but now I wish to give credit where credit is due. Although, the LA Times has been accused of refusing to print letters to the editor in rebuttal to climate change - so I am not sure how that comports with their editorial.

Elizabeth Warren was prevented from continuing her Senate floor speech against Jeff Sessions when Mitch McConnell raised Senate Rule XIX. That rule prohibits Senators from "besmirching the character and motives of their colleagues." (From the 2/9/17 WSJ editorial.) Sessions, nominated for Attorney General, was a Senator at the time of the debate over his qualifications. Clearly, the House and the Senate have the right to make their own rules. Warren had been reading from a letter about Sessions written by Coretta Scott King, the late widow of Martin Luther King. On the one hand, the free speech advocate in me says she should have been allowed to continue her speech from the Senate floor. (She did continue it on Facebook and in various media outlets, getting far more attention than a Senate speech would ordinarily get.) On the other hand, the Hubert Humphrey approach to politics in me (Humphrey was known as the Happy Warrior, remaining friendly with his political adversaries) sides with the WSJ comment that "the Senate is an institution that used to run on civility and comity." So, should the Senate enforce their rule on civility, or should it be allowed to reflect the ever-growing hostility between liberals and conservatives, a hostility that plays out daily in our personal lives, on social media and in society as a whole?

A 2/12/17 editorial in the New York Times rightfully raises concerns about some proposed laws in various states which, if enacted, might have a chilling effect on speech. However, their editorial, "Peaceful Protests Are Not a Crime," fails to discuss the issue of exactly when a protest crosses the line from "peaceful" to something else. We can all agree that what we saw recently at UC Berkely, with the setting of fires and smashing of store windows and an ATM, cannot in any way be considered "peaceful." But I am not sure the NY Times sees a problem with demonstrators blocking roads and highways, without a permit. Do non-protesters lose their right to get to work on time, or wherever they may be going, because of protesters? Do emergency vehicles - fire, ambulance and police - not have a right to take care of the people who need them? And what about people waiting for that ambulance or fire engine or police car? Do protesters have a right to shout down members of Congress at a Townhall meeting, preventing the Congress member from speaking? Why does their right to protest exceed the right of the people's representative to speak to his constituents? Does the NY Times support the "heckler's veto?"