Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Texas and Harvey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 27, 2017

My Rebuttal Letter to Another Professor Attacking Free Speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does the New York Times Now Oppose a Palestinian State?

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Letter to the Jewish Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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