The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

THE ENEMY WITHIN

 

Back in the mid-60’s, those who opposed the war in Vietnam (then referred to as liberals), held an absolute belief that the government was involved in spying on them in an effort to undermine their efforts to turn public opinion to their side and end the war.  In addition to their being branded as hippies, commies and un-American, they were generally reviled by the political establishment, even as we sent more and more American boys to southeast Asia to die in a war which then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara would declare, many years later, to be an effort whose goals were unattainable.   Besides the noxiousness of the over-application of perfume, this is yet another lesson we could have learned from the French.

A half century later, the liberals of yesteryear have transformed themselves and found a new banner under which they rally.  That is under the name of “progressives”.  There is probably no greater malapropism than that term because the ideology and tactics they consider essential are reach backs in history to the way in which Hitler, Stalin and other statists conducted themselves and brought their own people and much of the world to the brink of ruin.

Consider for a moment the progressive need for “safe spaces,” places where only their ideas are permitted to be expressed and, if they could engineer it, be thought.  The intolerance for ideas which differ from their party platform is remarkably similar to Hitler’s banning the playing of music by any composers who had Jewish ancestry or reading the works of authors and poets who shared that same characteristic.  The only difference is that Hitler was unapologetically honest about both his reasoning and motivations.  Progressives do not share that straightforwardness but, rather, find grounds to maintain and express their position under the constitutional rights which are guaranteed to them by a document that they mostly despise.

They also learned a valuable lesson which, given the intensity of investigation into Russian interference in our electoral process, from the founding of Pravda (Truth), which first published in May of 1912, five years before the Russian Revolution.  At least the non-Soviet view of this publication is that it served as the main propaganda arm for the Soviet Union to disseminate it’s version of reality to the Russian people and the world.  Given the near uniformity of the manner in which our major newspapers and broadcasters choose to select stories to report while ignoring others and almost unanimously giving them a progressive spin, those who exclusively consume these reports are probably far more likely to have their views shaped by them than by anything the Russians may or may not have accomplished with their “interference”.

Thanks in large measure to the invention of moveable type by Johannes Guttenberg, the dissemination of ideas knows no national boundaries.  When Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto in 1848, that publication occurred in London.  But the ideas in that pamphlet and the later Das Kapital were the kernels which ultimately led to the Russian Revolution many years later and the rise of communism as an alternative and, at one point, wide-spread alternative, to the capitalistic structure which existed in most prosperous and advanced societies.  Today, we no longer need to await the publication of a book to experience the author’s thoughts.

Information is disseminated virtually instantaneously and, almost as quickly, accepted as gospel truth by the consumer without bothering to ascertain whether the stories he or she is consuming are based in fact or are merely expressions of the author’s personal prejudices.  Hence, we now have “fact checkers” who dissect and parse each and every word a speaker utters to determine the validity of any given statement.  And we have invented “Pinocchio Awards” to discredit various inexact statements with greater or lesser degrees of opprobrium.  This system, of course, assumes that the people checking statements or handing out Pinocchios are doing so in a totally objective fashion without applying any personal bias.  That is a very high threshold to maintain – even for those whose self-identified goal is to expose falsehoods and tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Before his fall from grace, I remember listening to one of President Nixon’s speeches one evening.  After it’s conclusion, I listened to the commentators discuss the speech.  I no longer remember which of the broadcast networks I had tuned to.  But I remember my sitting with my jaw dropping as the various pundits picked the speech apart and drew their own inferences from what the president had said.  It was as though we had listened to two different speeches.  And the next day at the office I asked a number of my employees if they had heard the speech.  Several of them replied, “No, but I listened to the commentary afterward.”   That sort of intellectual slovenliness was thriving in the 1970’s and has only gotten “progressively” worse since then.

It’s a somewhat naïve and simplistic argument to make that the media is at fault for all the misinformation, disinformation and lack of information that is going around.  I am reminded of a lecture/discussion at the University of Chicago which I attended, given by the then chairman of the history department, Jock Weintraub.  Those of us who had enrolled in a class by this prominent professor knew that it was his firm belief that he was the brightest bulb in the room and should your opinion differ from his, he would expose your obvious stupidity in the most cutting and eviscerating fashion.

The lecture was on the subject of the French Revolution and the historian’s role in recording that event.  The particular historian about whom Professor Weintraub probed his audience was Jacques Condorcet.  He asked us what we could tell him about Condorcet’s approach to his works on the revolution – and one unfortunate attendee had the misfortune to respond.

He began his analysis by saying, “Well, Condorcet was born when the French Revolution was ten years in the past.  Therefore, he realized he would have to rely for source documents on the records which were written at the time and were still available to him.  But he also realized that those writers had their own bias and incorporated that bias into their work.”

He continued, “Furthermore, in selecting certain documents and historical accounts while rejecting others, he inevitably was crafting his work infused with his own personal bias.”

He concluded, “Condorcet also realized that the people who read his work would apply their own pre-formed biases and attitudes in their analysis of his efforts.  So between these three factors, it was virtually impossible for anyone to pick up his or anyone else’s work and have a clear, factual and objective understanding of what occurred during the French Revolution, or any other historical event for that matter.”

The young student sat down, waiting for the esteemed professor’s pronouncement on his analysis.  Weintraub didn’t disappoint.  After a few moments, sufficient time for a very pregnant pause, Weintraub looked at him and said in his very heavy German accent, “So, with this analysis do you think you’re making some great contribution to knowledge?”

Those of us in the audience appropriately laughed at this witty bon mot – not in an effort to further demean the young man who had the arrogance to express his opinion – but in a sort of nervous relief that the ordeal was now over.  Those who had taken the professor’s Western Civilization class knew that the outcome for the student was as inevitable as the fate of the hapless cow who walked into the bludgeoning station of the then still existing Chicago Stockyards.

Notwithstanding the dismissal of this student’s analysis, there is a great deal of truth in what he said.  We all come to any given issue armed with our inherent prejudices.  Sadly, the social sciences are given to this sort of manipulation.  They are not exact as is, for example, mathematics where the answer to any specific problem is clear, provable and universal.  The start of any discussion should begin by our admitting to that.  But that doesn’t mean that we should not scrutinize those who report news in an effort to shape our thoughts.  They have every responsibility to report stories accurately, even as we allow them to express their own views which might differ from our own.  But either omitting material facts which are in evidence or including material which cannot be verified is not acceptable journalism because it is inherently dishonest. No one has the right, whether the media or an individual, to spread mistruths about another person.  That’s why we have laws that define the nature of slander.

One of the most prevalent stories that has been ardently promoted by the media has been the alleged Russian connection and their efforts to “get Trump elected.”  There is as yet no evidence which has been revealed to suggest that this is a fact rather than a mere theory.  And per se, it would seem to require a great deal of imagination to understand that connection – if it ever existed.

The underlying premise is that Russia’s and the United States’ interests are divergent and probably almost diametrically opposed to each other.  That is, for the most part, a reasonable presumption.  The narrative is that Vladimir Putin was directly involved in ordering this “tampering.”  Why would he do such a thing unless he expected that, if successful, this would further his and Russia’s interests?  The conclusion of those who subscribe to this conspiracy is that Putin believed Russia would be in a stronger position with Donald J. Trump rather than Hillary Rodham Clinton sitting in the Oval Office.

Reflecting back to our story about Condorcet, the “It was; he thought; she said,” scenario, at the very least if we could get inside Putin’s head, that would be a good start to determining whether or not this conspiracy has any credibility.  It seems to me that there are three potential mindsets which we might ascribe to Putin.

First, the Russian is insane.  This would not be the first time that a person who most of us would call insane was the leader of a nation.  Look at North Korea.  The list goes back to at least ancient Rome.  But why would we put credibility in the ability of a person whom we define as insane to carry out such a convoluted exercise?  That, in itself, would be an act of insanity on our part.

Second, Putin is a moron. If we accept this premise, then trying to get Trump elected and defeat Clinton would most likely be in the best interest of the United States, not Russia.

Third and most likely.  Putin is a shrewd and manipulative person.  There is a great deal of evidence to support this.  But if that is the case, Putin already had the ability to manipulate then Secretary of State Clinton during her “reset” moment.  Furthermore, with Russia’s economy almost totally dependent on oil and particularly gas production, Trump’s position on exploration, “Drill, drill, drill,” poses a direct financial threat to Putin and Russia.  Why would an intelligent if ruthless Putin attempt to have such a person elected to the White House?

No matter which of these three mindset scenarios is actually the case, it would suggest there is little reason for us to be overly concerned about the “Russian intrusion.”  That is not to say that something was not attempted by Putin and company.  This  should come as no surprise since all governments, including ours, engage regularly in that type of covert activity.  So was there an attempt to thwart a free and honest presidential election?  The answer is that there probably was.  But was it Russia that was the primary manipulator?  I suspect the real manipulators were twofold.

First there was the American media.  It’s no secret that the press and television almost uniformly have a liberal bent.  That is evident in the fact that nine out of ten people involved in disseminating news contributed to the Clinton campaign.  It wouldn’t take but a few minutes of reading or viewing to realize that there was less than objective reporting on the two candidates, highly skewed to make Trump look as bad as possible.  Since we don’t receive the Russian television station but do, as a nation, spend a lot of time viewing our own television and reading American newspapers, it would be fair to suggest that if there was collusion in the campaign, much of that effort was put forth by our very own media.

But there is a second group that is equally concupiscent and culpable.  That is the American voter – or, more exactly – the American non-voter.

Participation in the election by people who were qualified to vote was fairly typical.  About seven out of ten who could legally vote bothered both to register and then exercise their most fundamental right to express their opinion.  And you, like me, have probably heard the various excuses that people who don’t vote employ.  Primary among them is, “My vote won’t make a difference.”  Given the closeness of the election, that statement is demonstrably false.

Clearly we live in a world filled with dangerous people and governments.  But there is probably no greater danger than American complacency.  That is the real enemy.  The enemy within.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE FLYING GALLARDOS

A few miles from my home in Las Vegas is a casino by the name of Arizona Charlie’s.  I presume that it is, or was at one time, owned by a person named Charlie who came from our neighboring state of Arizona.  This presumption is based on the fact that there are a lot of Chevron gas stations in southern Nevada that are owned by a chap who goes by the name of Terrible Herbst.  Mr. Herbst is a real person – and he has roots in  California – so the name of his business makes sense.

After my first visit to AC’s about fifteen years ago, I came away with two impressions of the place.  The first was that I thought they would make the place a more inviting venue for their patrons if they renamed it Arizona Carlitos, or at least had the name in parenthesis on their large billboard.  The second was that I was concerned in the short while I wandered around the casino to check it out that my car would be in the parking lot when I left to go home.  The casino is not in one of Las Vegas’ most upscale areas.

As I was not overly impressed with the place the first time around, it took about ten years before I decided to go back.  The reason for my return was that a number of people had told me that Arizona Charlie’s café had an excellent and inexpensive steak and egg breakfast.  And one day my desire for steak and eggs led me back there.  My friends were right and I was very pleased with the meal.

As I was leaving after breakfast, I noticed that one of the machines had hit a jackpot which required a hand payout by casino staff.  That occurs whenever a machine pays $1,200.00 or more on a single spin or play.  Naturally, being nosey, I was curious to see how large the lucky gambler’s hit was.  So I walked over to the flashing lights and ringing bells and took a seat at the bank of machines just behind the one which had been hit for $3,800.  There were two Hispanic people, a man and woman, sitting in front of the machine engaged in a vibrant Spanish conversation.

Within a minute or so, two of the casino’s staff came over and asked the couple for identification so they could complete the 1099 tax info required of all jackpots.  I was fairly certain this was the reason for their animated conversation since I had noticed that they were playing without having a casino card inserted into their machine.  A casino is legally required to obtain current photo identification such as a driver’s license, state issued ID or passport before giving the hopeful player a card which entitles him to cash back offers and entries into drawings based on the amount of his play.  The couple was unable to furnish such identification and the casino withheld payment of the amount due them until such time as someone presented the required documentation.  I leave it to your imagination to hypothesize why neither of this couple had a picture ID of some sort.

So what does this all have to do with the title of this post?  And what’s a Gallardo?

Well, I needed to find a way to link this to our fine state of Arizona.  And what better way than to introduce the man who was lovingly entitled “The Godfather” of the Mexican drug cartels, Miguel Gallardo.  Back in the ’80’s he established an association with the Columbian Medellin’s cartel kingpin, Pablo Escobar so that cocaine could be moved from the site of production through Mexico to the United States.  At the time of this agreement, Florida was the major port of entry for illegal drugs.  But that all changed.

Gallardo, now 71 years old, is serving a 40 year prison term in Mexico for ordering the murder of undercover DEA Agent Enrique Camarena in 1984.  Camarena had infiltrated the cartel and disclosed the location of an $8 Billion marijuana growing operation on one of Galalardo’s ranches.  The crop was destroyed and several days after the raid, Camarena was kidnapped and for 30 hours was tortured until finally a Phillips screwdriver was shoved into his head, killing him.

So now you understand the Gallardo portion of the title.  But how does Arizona fit into this whole thing?  Read on.

As you can readily understand, when a multi-billion dollar business loses its CEO, there is no lack of candidates who are ready to step up to the plate.  And as times change, so do businesses.  The old system of drug mules, while still extensively used by the cartels, is not their only method for exporting drugs to the United States.

One of my local readers mentioned to another who mentioned his comment to me – that my post about how building the Trump wall might decrease the amount of illegal drugs that would be imported as being sheer fantasy.  Perhaps he is right.  Or perhaps the Mexican cartels are concerned that it might actually work.  Hence, they have already come up with an alternate delivery method.

South of the Arizona border, the DEA has discovered that a catapult has been constructed – for hurling drugs across the border.  What a novel, if somewhat medieval idea.  And on learning about this, a thought occurred to me.  Why couldn’t we use the same method to deport those who are here illegally and have been convicted of felony drug law violations?

The libs should like this as delivery to your destination by catapult has none of the negative implications of putting a person on a plane run with fossil fuels.  Conservatives should like this because we’d save a fortune on our prison budget.  We could broadcast these deportations on Pay Per View, so the media should like this.  The manufacturers of athletic gear should like this as each deportee would be provided a helmet to mitigate the blow of landing.  The Vegas bookmakers should like this as they come up with proposition bets on whether the individual will survive his or her brief journey and if so how many body parts would be broken on impact.  And the country could pull together as we all learned the phrase, “Via Con Dios.”

It sounds like a win, win, win, win, win, win idea to me.  And with the number of candidates for exiting in this manner stage south, President Trump might be proven correct with his statement that, “We all might get tired of winning.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CANADA, BLOODY CANADA

It seems appropriate with the visit of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to offer a post about our good neighbors to the north.  And as an aside, it provides me the opportunity to offer my kudos to President Trump because despite all the forebodings coming from our left of center citizens, he has managed the visits of three foreign leaders without either verbally or physically assaulting them and has not insisted on their deportation.  Apparently they all went home voluntarily.

If you’ve read the statements which the Prime Minister has released recently, he is espousing a position of welcome on behalf of all Canadians to foreigners and refugees.  And I would have to say that from what I have read he most likely will be true to his word.

To start this conversation, let’s begin with the story of three people.  The first two are named Will Baker and Vince Li.  Interestingly, these are the same person sharing one schizophrenic body.  Mr. Li immigrated to Canada from China and subsequently changed his name.  The third is, or more exactly was, Tim McLean.  As it happened, Mr. Baker/Li and Mr. McLean were on the same Greyhound bus in Manitoba when the evil side of Baker/Li manifested himself.  Baker/Li pulled out a knife and applied it vigorously to the unsuspecting Mr. McLean’s neck. severing his head.  Incidentally, Mr. Baker/Li didn’t know Mr. McLean nor had they spoken when this rampage happened.

As disturbing as this homicide was, the story actually gets worse.  Baker/Li then used the knife which he had used to kill McLean and sliced a portion of flesh from his chest – and then proceeded to eat it.

When the Canadian court ruled on this case in 2008 they found Baker/Li to be not guilty by reason of mental condition.  Baker/Li was inducted into the confines of a Canadian mental facility where he remained under supervision – until last November when he was relocated to an apartment where he lived under limited supervision on his own – until last week when he was granted the right to re-enter Canadian society as a free man (men).  In return for this Baker/Li has promised to continue taking his medication.  I hope for the sake of all Canadian bus riders he keeps his commitment. That is the compassionate side of Canadian justice and is a story that all those who believe in the re-habilitation of the individual will enjoy as an endorsement of their philosophy.

But there is another side to Canadian compassion.  And for those of you who love diversity you might find it a bit disturbing.  That is that once again, the annual Harp Seal kill is about to begin. This is an annual hunt in which hundreds of thousands of harp seal pups, most only a few months old, are mercilessly slaughtered in the most primitive and violent manner.

There is no market for seal meat.  The seals are killed solely for their pelts which often are skinned from their bodies while they are still alive.  If you’ve ever seen footage of this abomination and have any feelings at all, you will probably endure a few sleepless nights.  In 2009 the European Union banned the importation of seal skins and the United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling for the immediate cessation of this hunt.  But it continues.

About thirty years ago I joined several humane and animal rights organizations that were actively working to try to end this annual slaughter.  I also entered on my own private boycott of all things Canadian – not that it has had much economic impact on our neighbor – but it does assuage my conscience.  Ten years ago a friend invited me on a railroad trip across the Canadian Rockies.  At the time I had one reason for declining the offer.  Today I have two.

 

 

Much of the focus on President Trump’s southern wall with our Mexican border has focused on several issues.  The first, of course, is will it really be built – or was this just some campaign hype?  The second is, how will we get Mexico to pay for it?  The third and most recent entrant into this discussion is, how much will it really cost?  As to the third of those questions, the most recent estimate I’ve seen is $21 Billion.  That’s a whole lot of moolah.  Or is it?

If we reflect back to the presidential campaign, Donald Trump put forward two reasons for building the southern wall.  By far the most controversial was his intent to control the never ending flow of people from coming into the country in contravention of the nation’s immigration laws.  Why that should be controversial is a bit beyond me – but those on the left seem to have an issue with it.  The second reason for building the wall was to stem the flow of illegal narcotics which also flood into the country through that same porous border.  There has been very little protest to building the wall to accomplish this.  And it is to that issue that I would like to focus in this post.

As a libertarian, I have absolutely no objection to anyone using a substance – even though that substance whether it be liquor or heroin be detrimental to their well-being.  That’s based on the theory that the individual, not the government, should dictate personal behavior.  But there is, of course, a caveat to that high-minded ideal.  While I might exhort you to behave as you please, the limit to your behavior occurs when it impacts me negatively.  That is why libertarians endorse laws which provide penalties for the commission of any of a variety of crimes which affect society as a whole.

It would be foolish to believe that simply building a wall will completely eliminate the flow of drugs into the country.  As we learned with Prohibition, when there is a demand for a product it will find its way into the marketplace.  But that is not to say that building a wall and stiff penalties for convicted drug traffickers might do much to curb the supply and thus the usage.  If you doubt the efficacy of harsh penalties for drug vendors check out Singapore which has virtually no drug addiction problem.  It executes drug pushers who are convicted.

The number of drug deaths in the United States now exceeds those Americans who die in automobile accidents.  Consider all the steps that we have taken to minimize traffic fatalities.  If you’re old enough, you might remember the introduction of automatic turn signals.  Then there were seat belts and then lap belts and then air bags.  This list is hardly extensive in discussing the number of safety features which are required of auto manufacturers on today’s new vehicles.  It’s a far cry from the first cars that rolled off Henry Ford’s assembly line.  So if we see the efficacy of installing safety features on cars, reducing the toll of deaths, why would we not apply the same reasoning to the illegal drug question?

What does the drug epidemic really cost the country – or more correctly, you and me the average citizen?  Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that question.  But I imagine that if we could quantify it, the result would be mind-blowing.

How many purse snatchings, burglaries or armed robberies are committed annually so that the junkie can get the money for a fix?  The number of drug deaths I mentioned earlier relates strictly to those who die of overdose or drug related health issues.  It does not include the number of fatalities between rival drug gangs – which are plentiful.  And as to those who become ill from drug abuse, who pays for the cost of their medical treatment?  And who pays for the salaries of the police, the judiciary, the prison guards who arrest, try and maintain them in our penal institutions?  Who pays for the higher price of products in our stores because some of the merchandise has been stolen?  Of course, the answer to all of these questions is that you and I pay (involuntarily) for all of these – and many more.

Speaking personally, if I had my choice whether I would rather spend tax money in remediation or have that money spent in a positive way – say to help children achieve higher educational standards, I would opt for the latter.  I think most people would agree with that sentiment.  But while I can’t quantify specifically how much we spend on all drug related matters, I can give you some insight into one example of how the taxpayers paid additional, unnecessary costs because of drug usage.

When I ran my temporary employment agency, I received a call one day from an individual who held a management position with the University of Illinois Circle campus.  He was with the university’s School of Public Health.  In the call, he explained that the school had received a grant from the Federal government to conduct a five year study.  The goal of the study was to determine how much. if any benefit would inure among members of the drug using community if they were supplied with free bottles of alcohol and an unlimited supply of clean, disposable syringes so that they could get their heroin fixes.

In order to implement this program, the school had identified twenty people who were former drug users themselves whom the school felt would be accepted by ongoing users – their “client” base.  Of this group, fourteen were Hispanics and six were black.  There were twelve in this group who were male and eight female.  As you might expect, there were few who had high school diplomas – only two.

The problem for UIC to get this program up and running was that in order for the school to hire these individuals directly, they needed to pass the civil service exam as UIC  is a state school.  And, quite wisely, my contact had zero confidence that any of them would be able to do so.  Cleverly, he realized that under the grant he was allowed to hire a private independent contractor who could employ these people and thus circumvent the requirements of state law.  So his call was to find a firm that would add these people to their payroll and find out how much they would charge for this service.

After some negotiation, I came up with a markup number that would cover my cost of having to pay FICA and Medicare Tax as well as unemployment insurance – and some extra to cover our cost of payroll processing and a small profit.  We agreed on the number and by subverting the normal civil service process, it cost the school about fifteen percent more to add these “employees” to their project than they otherwise would have spent.  This relationship began in 1992.  By the way, you might find it interesting that the university offered all these employees a salary of $14 per hour – a far higher salary than a starting employee at a fast food restaurant would have earned then – or today.  When it’s not your money, I guess a person can afford to be quite generous with it.

But the sad fact is that all the waste that gets swept up into newer and higher debt ceilings; all the costs to society not only in terms of lives that are lost, property that is damaged and the general decline of morality and decency; all of these costs, and there are so many more, seem to me to make building the wall not an option but a necessity.

 

 

 

When I transferred schools in my sophomore year of high school I was the new kid on the block.  It was a pretty small block since when my classmates and I graduated three years later there were only thirty-six of us in the class.  But my high school also educated kids starting with kindergarten so many of my classmates had known each other for their entire educational experience.

In my junior year I was offered the opportunity to join the staff of our school newspaper.  Frankly, I was less interested in becoming a reporter than I was in being a member of the debate team which I captained in my senior year.  But at that time, colleges made their decisions about new entrants not only based on test scores and grades but on extracurricular activities as well and I accepted the newspaper opportunity as a way to pad my resume.

As it turned out, the editor of the paper was a student who had been at my new school since the first grade.  The two of us were academic competitors and some of my reporting assignments struck me as being far less interesting than others which we were covering in our limited, three times a year publication.  This was my introduction to the power of the blur pencil.  I found the stories that I had written were seriously edited (shortened) and were usually consigned to an obscure place on the third of our four page publication.

Perhaps this abbreviation of my journalism which, naturally, I considered brilliant was due to the enforcement of our newspaper motto, “All The News That Fits We Print”.  But I was more inclined to see this as an act of retribution on the part of our paper’s editor for our academic rivalry.  Perhaps it was a combination of the two.  And while I hadn’t thought about this for many years, the discussion of how genuinely objective the media is or isn’t today, catapulted this to mind.

Most of us are able to recognize what today is characterized as “fake news”.  This is not a new phenomenon.  When William Randolph Hearst declared, “You bring me the pictures, I’ll give you the war,” he was simply stating what at that the time was obvious.  Our newspapers as the primary source of information had the power to manipulate public sentiment.  And, apparently, it didn’t bother him for them to be manipulated in the way he chose.

Most of us can recognize “fake news”.  Recently someone forwarded an email to me suggesting that Michelle Obama’s mother was going to receive an $80,000 per year government pension for assisting in raising her two grandchildren.  And, of course, there is the now infamous story about Hillary Clinton’s “illicit” activities using a pizzeria as a front for her “criminal enterprise.”  Any responsible person would exert a little effort to determine the validity of such outrageous stories before passing them along as gospel truth.  And the truth is that most of these kinds of stories are generated and disseminated on the internet, not in the press, radio or television.

Disseminating “fake news” is perhaps the least significant way in which public opinion can be manipulated.  Most reasonable people are going to be suspicious of a story that on its face is so outrageous that it calls itself into question.  And the person who is likely to accept it without verification is unlikely to change his opinion, despite being confronted by the facts.  But there is a far more cancerous approach to “journalism” that is now rampant with our press be it print or audio/visual.

Studies show that an alarmingly large number of people get their news information not from the traditional media but from social media.  While there are purported standards to which classic journalists adhere, the internet has none.  Perhaps that is the reason that so many newspapers, in a rush to get the scoop on a story, are setting aside their prudential verification of facts.  That was certainly the case with the “disappearance” of the MLK statue from the Oval Office.  And while the story was factually disputed and the paper that reported it issued a ‘correction” the implication that President Trump had the bust removed because he is a “racist” had spread far and wide by the time the correction was printed.

But I can overlook an occasionally badly reported story – if it is accidental.  What is worse to me is the intentional suppression of real news stories which are not brought to a medium’s audience because it does not meet the “criteria” of that medium’s political philosophy.  And those non-stories are rife within our liberal press and television news shows.

Much has been made of the “historic tie-breaking vote” that Vice President Pence cast to confirm education Secretary Betsy DeVos.  This was preceded by weeks of the media’s blasting DeVos as a person with no “experience in education” and who was adamantly opposed to Common Core and who, through her belief in school choice for all students, was attempting to “dismantle the public school system.”  And then the day after her confirmation, the media covered all the protesters who prevented her visiting a DC public school.  That all was considered newsworthy.  But here’s something which slipped by these media stalwarts.

A study of DC schools, using the Common Core testing standards had some shocking results.  If Common Core is the platinum level of educational assessment, it seems that many DC students are coming away with lead in their lunchboxes.  The test was administered to tenth graders.  The results found that only 10% were likely to be “college ready” in geometry and only 25% met that criterion for English. The gaps in measured achievement between white, Hispanic and black students were vast in both subjects.

I actively searched the websites of the major papers to see how they had reported on this subject.  The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune all reported on this similarly.  That is to say, there was no coverage at all.

There should be no surprise that the media are viewed with an even lower favorability level than Congress.  In large measure, they’ve brought it on themselves.  Because when they fail to report on real news, they abdicate their roles as prestigious members of a free press.  And that’s bad news both for their readership as well as for them. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BALL’S IN YOUR COURT

February 5th – a date that shall live in historical importance.  Sure, you’re probably thinking that we finally had a Super Bowl (LI) that was truly exciting.  Those who were either emotionally or financially involved had a real gut gripper.  But what most of us forgot or never knew as they were glued to their hi-def TV’s was that something even more significant was unveiled on an earlier February 5th.  The year was 1937.

In the sixth of his Fireside Chats (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s equivalent of President Donald J. Trump’s Twitter account), President Roosevelt unveiled his proposal for increasing the size of the number of siting Justices on the Supreme Court to as many as fifteen.  The Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937 as the proposed legislation was officially known, was Roosevelt’s response to the Supreme Court’s striking down as unconstitutional several initiatives that had been implemented as part of FDR’s New Deal.

For every living American, having a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices seems as though nine is the sacrosanct number for the membership of the high court.  But while the Constitution required the creation of a Supreme Court, it left to the Congress the authority to determine the number of members of that august body.  Originally, the number was set at six by the Judiciary Act of 1789.  Considering that there was essentially no body of law yet written by the Congress, that seemed like more than a reasonable number of Justices and that remained the size of the court until Congress increased its number to nine in 1869.

Given the vastness of the body of law which has been promulgated, I believe that a strong argument could be made for increasing the number of Justices to more than it’s present size, perhaps eleven.  And I would urge President Trump and the Congress strongly to consider legislation which would accomplish that end.  Concurrent with the increase in the court’s size, I would also urge that a term limit of twenty-five years or age 75, whichever comes later, be imposed on any new Justices who were appointed.

There is little question in my mind that the judiciary at all levels has become highly politicized.  Increasing the number of Supremes would reduce the amount of pressure which any specific Justice might feel in evaluating and making their rulings.  And lest anyone suggest that this would merely be a ploy by the Trump administration to gain leverage in the court, I would urge the Congress make this change effective January 1, 2021.

This is perhaps the most apolitical suggestion that can be offered to make our Supreme Court more judicial.  None of us can predict what political philosophy will have the ascendance years from now.  So new appointees would reflect the spirit and mood of the country as expressed in the person whom we would then elect President and to the Senate.  Having a defined and limited term, political pressure such as was applied to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire during the Obama presidency would be nullified. But most importantly, this should free the then sitting Justices to do their duty in an unbiased manner without feeling as much political pressure as now exists.

 

 

If there was any doubt about the level of my interest in science fiction, it was dispelled when I read the first of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation books.  Set thousands of years in the future, it talked of a time when the Galactic Empire had long been established and was in decline.  Harry Seldon was a university professor who had developed an algorithmic system known as psychohistory in which he was able accurately to predict future events.  Seldon foresaw the breakup of the Empire which would be followed by a millennial long period of chaos – unless he could set in motion certain events which would shorten that period of destabilization.

It’s probably difficult for those younger people who view history as anything that happened before lunch to have a long term perspective.  It’s difficult even for those of us who have a respect for history to think in terms of how what we do today has implications for what might transpire in a thousand years.  But splitting the difference, it is possible to take a sober view of events that have transpired in our life times and reach an understanding of why things are today as they are, determined in part by recent past events.

Those who have tried to explain the virulent anti-Trump demonstrations by stating that the protesters are upset about the result of the 2016 election are merely focusing on a symptom, not the root problem.  Yes, the left is upset that President Trump won, more so than that Hillary Clinton lost.  But that merely scratches the surface of their frustration.  Their election loss last year was not simply the loss of an election but the end of an agenda whose goal was to transform the country into little more than just another global player at the same level as are Sri Lanka and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, toward which they have been working for the last fifty years.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964 he set into motion a series of events whose repercussions  are manifest today.  LBJ promoted this law as a matter of political expediency and certainly not as a result of his personal belief in equality – an attitude he had never seemed troubled by through his extensive political career.  But between Viet Nam and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., he had his hands full.  And the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did what all politicians do in time of crisis.  They pass laws that they think make them look good without concern that the law will actually do good.

The law which guaranteed that people could not be discriminated against by reason of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin was something that fair minded Americans approved of.  It also outlawed segregation in public schools and the use of public facilities.  But it had few teeth.  Seeing that the law was generally well received by their constituencies, the Congress passed further laws which added enforcement authorities to the original – and, of course, with the philosophy that if voters in their districts liked the first law, how much more would they like other laws which expanded the original.  So over a short time span, Congress enacted additional laws including the expansion and loosening of welfare benefits as well as adopting what we know as Affirmative Action.

Now if we consider the purported intent of the Civil Rights laws – to eradicate discrimination (which primarily was intended to help black Americans despite the inclusion of other classes), Affirmative Action deserves our specific attention as it is an excellent example of progressive thinking.  Affirmative Action was predicated on the assumption that for any of a variety of reasons, black Americans while theoretically equal to any other American, had specifically been deprived of the equal opportunity which the Declaration of Independence declared to be each American’s birthright.

As a result, in order to eliminate discrimination, Affirmative Action would rectify this injustice by instituting a policy of  discrimination.   The Federal government would impose quotas either tacitly or specifically in both colleges and the workplace to insure that there was what they deemed to be an acceptable level of minority representation among those who studied or worked in those institutions or businesses.  There were several problems with this policy.

The first was that minority students who were enrolled in colleges and universities and had gained admission not because they were the best intellectually qualified to have earned those places dropped out at a rate four times as high as their white counterparts.  The reason for that was evident. Many of these students had come from high schools which poorly prepared their students for higher education.

The second was that Affirmative Action rankled many white Americans who were supportive of the Civil Rights movement but whose children were being adversely impacted in achieving a college degree for no fault of their own other than that they were denied admission because of their skin color despite showing higher academic achievement than others who were admitted simply because of their skin color.  If there was any one reason for the growth of racism by whites in the country, Affirmative Action provided the perfect platform.

Because of the demography of the country in 1964, the Civil Rights Act was primarily designed to eliminate discrimination again black Americans as I said previously.  However, with the large influx of both Hispanics and Asians that has occurred in the last half century, it is interesting to look at some educational statistics to see how these two minority groups have fared educationally since they are also protected under the law.

For the year 2012, of the forty-eight states and the District of Columbia which reported, the overall nationwide graduation rate for high school students stood at 80%.  White students graduated at a rate of 86%; Hispanics at a rate of 73%; Blacks at a rate of 69%.  Asian students graduated high school in 35/48 jurisdictions at the same or a higher rate than white students for an overall graduation rate of 92%.  The question naturally suggests itself, “Why do students who bear the additional challenge of coping with a language which in many cases is not their first language do better academically than black students who do not have that obstacle to their education?”

It would be overly simplistic to lay all the blame at the feet of the various inner city schools which presumably “educate” the vast majority of black children in the country.  But it is interesting that middle class, suburban blacks’ children graduate from high school at virtually the same rate as their white classmates.   Unfortunately, unless you are a Hip Hop mogul or get signed by the NFL or NBA, lacking a good formative education, there is very little opportunity for the black child born in the ghettos of our cities.  Lacking a particularly great athletic or musical talent, most of our inner city black children are faced with a future of hopelessness – or membership in a gang.

During her campaign, Hillary Clinton made the remarkable statement that, “Being part of a gang is like joining a family.”  Well, that’s true – if you’re talking about the Manson family.  That statement is something that could only be uttered by someone who is a white liberal and who has neither the concern nor the understanding of the dynamics of life in the inner city where murder is the number one cause of death for those under the age of forty. And if you don’t understand why there is no outrage from the left on either black on black violence or the poor quality of education which inner city black children receive you shouldn’t be.  It’s not an accident but by design that these conditions exist.

At one point, liberals wooed black Americans with idealistic jargon about equality and how they would redress the past indignities that these people’s ancestors had endured.  And they had a simple way of convincing them of their sincerity – money.  They bought their allegiance through ever increasing numbers of programs, rewards for having more children, lunch subsidies, free or subsidized housing and most recently under the last administration, free phones.

But if Clinton had won the election, blacks would have had a very big surprise in store.  With the left’s victory which was denied, they would have thrown open the borders – and far more Hispanics would have found their way to the United States, ultimately dwarfing the number of blacks who live here – and making their political support irrelevant.  Then blacks would have found that they really have been living on a liberal-crafted plantation lo these many years.  And while the vast majority of our black citizens do not yet realize it, Donald Trump’s election is the best chance they have of truly participating in what should be freely available to all Americans – a shot at achieving the American dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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