Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The verdict is in: college professors are overwhelmingly liberal

Colleges are infected with liberal foolishness to a higher degree than ever before. It seems the most popular activity in colleges today is being offended. Many students are offended by such dastardly threats as contrary opinions, and males standing up while talking to seated females. This is the nature of things at too many campuses these days.

“Trigger warnings” are required to warn students of potentially “troubling class material,” and “microaggressions,” which are words and phrases that offend someone, even when the speaker intended no offense, are a really big deal.

A Harvard Law School dean has compared microaggressions to sexual assault and violence, and the University of California lists things that are just too horrible to say, including threatening phrases, like "everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough" and "America is the land of opportunity." Rough stuff, that.

Such terrifying things slip by traditional, older Americans unnoticed, but cripple younger folk. These hallmarks of modern American liberalism have grown from the seeds that sprouted the belief that feelings are more important than anything, and that everyone deserves a trophy for merely showing up.

Americans who graduated from the school of hard knocks are amazed and bemused at the hypersensitive nature of our once-tough culture, and wonder how this could have occurred. Our education system, at all levels, played a big role.

As these changes occurred they were accompanied by, and perhaps abetted by, the liberalization of the college professoriate.

The Daily Signal published an article discussing a UCLA Higher Education Research Institute study that documents the increase in liberal professors. “During the past quarter-century, academia has seen a nearly 20-percent jump in the number of professors who identify as liberal,” writes Natalie Johnson. “That increase has created a lopsided ideological spread in higher education, with liberal professors now outpacing their conservative counterparts by a ratio of roughly 5 to 1.”

In 1990 only about 41 percent of professors identified themselves as “liberal” or “far-left,” but by 2014 the percentage had risen to 60. Over that same period those identifying as “conservative” or “far-right” fell from 18 to 13 percent.

In 2011 liberal profs reached their highest point at 63 percent, while conservatives reached a high of only 22 percent, in 1993. At the other end, liberals never fell below the 41 percent mark, while conservatives were as low as 12 percent in 2011.

In a perfect world this political imbalance should make little difference. After all, what difference does it make if your math professor is a Democrat, Republican, unaffiliated with a party, a Trotsky-ite or whatever? Math is math, right? Biology, music theory, graphic arts, English grammar and most other subjects are not political in nature. And in an atmosphere where professors merely guide students in learning their subject, it wouldn’t matter. But what if for some strange reason it became trendy for professors to inject a bit of political proselytization into their lectures and lessons?

But isn’t secretly and deliberately indoctrinating young people with ideological attitudes while they think they are only studying how to write a proper sentence, determine a standard deviation, or studying the War Between the States fundamentally dishonest, you may ask? Yes, it certainly is. But bias isn’t always deliberate, according to Matthew Woessner, an associate professor of political science and public policy at Penn State Harrisburg.

He said this ideological imbalance “raises critical questions of whether students are getting a balanced education—not because there’s some conspiracy to block out conservative ideas, but merely because the people who are teaching are either not familiar with or don’t embrace conservative ideas.” Even when faculty attempt to present an issue in a balanced and impartial manner, he said, personal biases naturally bleed into material.

The UCLA study reflects that this liberal tilt among professors has had an effect, with data from 2009 showing that the number of students who said their political views were “liberal” or “far left” grew by 9.2 percent from their freshman year to their senior year.

Daniel Klein, a professor of economics at George Mason University, cast more of a cloud on the collegiate atmosphere, opining that the reported 5-to-1 ratio is “not very meaningful” because the terms “liberal” and “conservative” have become “exceedingly troubled.” Instead, Klein suggested that the imbalance between faculty members who vote Democratic compared with those who vote Republican is closer to 9-to-1 or even 10-to-1.

Ideally, there would be relative equality of liberal and conservative ideology among faculty. Woessner, however, suggests that equal numbers of liberal and conservative professors really isn’t necessary for higher education to work well, so long as a sufficient number of faculty hold different views “to create a space for enough conservative ideas that students are exposed at least nominally to these other perspectives,” he said.

It is critical for colleges and universities to work much harder to even out the ideological divide if higher education is to regain credibility for delivering a balanced education. No group should want that more than the professors themselves, who should prefer a reputation of integrity as opposed to one of having a finger on the scale.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Obama's last State of the Union: Just another campaign speech

President Barack Obama gave his eighth and final State of the Union (SOTU) message last Tuesday night, to a mixed set of reviews. Commentators had noted that a president’s last SOTU generally is predictable and boring. Obama’s final flourish was both predictable in its petulance and arrogance, and boring, because most of it has been said before. And often.

Pledging near the beginning that this one would be short perhaps gave false hope. Going back to Lynden Johnson’s presidency from 1963 to 1969, our presidents’ addresses have averaged right at 50 minutes, and Obama’s speeches have averaged 63 minutes. Only in comparison to Bill Clinton’s average of 75 minutes does this one qualify as short, running just under 59 minutes. At 29 minutes, Richard Nixon’s 1972 address holds the record for the shortest.

Perhaps it is due to his 12-year stint as a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School that the address was an hour-long lecture, one part of which dealt with the tone of current political discourse and contained an uncommon admission of failure. “It's one of the few regrets of my presidency – that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” he said. “I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide...” That is no doubt true, as it is a commonly and broadly held opinion that Obama is the most divisive president in recent memory, or perhaps ever, and he has done nothing to calm the raging political waters in seven years.

Complaining that there has been precious little progress in Congress, he noted: “Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise…” But compromise depends upon the details of the issue. Sometimes, compromise is simply not possible if it means one side abandoning fundamental principles. If one party demands the other party sacrifice their right hand, for example, the other party cannot be blamed for refusing to compromise by giving up two or three fingers. This is the nature of the compromise Obama and the Democrats slam Republicans for not indulging in, as they routinely demand things that even acquiescent Republicans cannot accept.

Burnishing his accomplishments, Obama said we have “a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry and booming energy production.” He also said that the U.S. is in the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. Typically, this is the most non-specific and favorable part of the story, and there is much there deserving of clarification. Many jobs have, indeed, been created and the unemployment rate (U-3) is in good territory, but that is due to millions of Americans having stopped looking for work because they couldn’t find a job in the Obama economy. The Workforce Participation rate is at its lowest point in 35 years.

Wages have stagnated during Obama’s tenure, personal debt has increased by about $1 trillion, and fewer Americans are buying homes. And then there is the national debt, which has increased substantially under Obama. He took office in January of fiscal year 2009, with a national debt of nearly $12 trillion. In fiscal 2015 that figure stood at more than $18 trillion. Fiscal 2016 will end September 30 of this year, and it is likely that by that time the national debt will be $20 trillion.

All the while GDP limps along at rates ranging from a low of minus 2.8 percent in 2009 to 2.4 percent in 2014, never rising above 2.5 percent. GDP finally began approaching respectable levels in 2015, fully six years after Obama took office. Not much to brag about there.

Obama said it is a hallmark of his economy that today more Americans work in the solar industry than in the coal industry. But at what cost? He gave well over a billion dollars of taxpayer money in subsidies to a few solar firms that not long thereafter went bankrupt, and the administration’s harsh and unwarranted attacks on the coal industry put tens of thousands out of work and closed several coal-fired electric generation plants well before natural changes in energy production would have more gradually and less chaotically replaced coal with other methods.

In West Virginia, the loss of income from the Coal Severance Tax and Income Tax collections from out-of-work coal miners and workers in support industries have seriously damaged the state’s economy, and Kentucky and Virginia also have suffered job losses and economic harm, all without a sympathetic tear from the president.

Each year as the State of the Union address grows near there is talk of doing away with it, because it no longer has a valid purpose. “What’s tiresome is the hoopla about a speech that hardly anybody watches, and that, as a general rule, contains nothing new,” stated Yale law professor Stephen Carter. The SOTU originally was intended for the president to report to Congress on the condition of the nation, but also allowed the President to outline his legislative agenda.

Ah, but those were the good old days. More recently it has devolved into a grand political opportunity, as Obama so well demonstrated.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Obama brought to tears talking about gun violence in America

In his comments last Tuesday prior to signing an Executive Order expanding background checks for gun purchases, President Barack Obama became uncharacteristically emotional and shed tears as he discussed children killed in mass shootings. His emotional reaction gave weight to his message, but some doubted the sincerity of his tears, seeing them as a device to increase support for his proposal. The Executive Order issued days later expands background checks for firearms purchasers, but is an action that would not have prevented the shooting that brought the tears, or other recent horrific shooting events.

This rare show of emotion calls attention to Obama’s lack of tears for other tragedies – such as the death of an innocent young woman at the hands of an illegal alien in California, or the San Bernardino murders by radical Muslims – as further evidence of his selective use of emotion for political purposes.

Emotion is the driver of liberal initiatives, which are highlighted by the generous use of false information and/or exaggeration, and the twisting of truth. Demagoguery and shaming are always close at hand, as well. If someone opposes abortion, they don’t really want to protect life, they just want to deny women control of their bodies. If someone opposes stronger gun control measures, it isn’t because they value and want to defend Constitutional liberties, it is because they don’t care that children and other innocents are being murdered daily. Although this tactic sounds like it was developed on an elementary school playground, a lot of people rely on it and fall for it.

Obama quotes the statistic that there are more than 30,000 gun deaths each year, and Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton breaks that down to an average of 90 gun deaths a day. Those large numbers surely catch one’s attention, but throwing out large numbers cheats the public of both perspective and true understanding of gun deaths. For example, roughly 19,000 gun deaths are suicides. How many of those severely troubled individuals would decide to go on living because they could not lay their hands on a gun?

About 1,800 are gang related, and 900 others are accidents. A majority – 80 percent – of the remaining gun-related deaths is attributed to urban problems. And, of course, some gun deaths are justified, as in cases of self-defense. The CDC reports that there are 3.5 gun deaths in the U.S. per 100,000 people while the number of all deaths is 821.5 per 100,000 people.

The self-defense aspect receives far too little discussion. In 2013, Obama ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assess the existing research on gun violence, and a report prepared by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council stated, in part: “Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year … in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008.”

Some suggest that three million is likely an unrealistically high number, but if guns are used defensively a half-million or more times a year, that is compelling. Given the record of people using guns to defend themselves from criminal activity and even death, wouldn’t it be appropriate for tears to be shed because so many have died in “gun-free zones,” where they were denied the ability for self-defense or protection from other people who were in the line of fire who were armed? There is a better than average chance that mass shooters would make a point to avoid places where they knew guns were being carried by their potential victims.

Americans are a rebellious lot; they don’t like to be controlled. Thus, in order to persuade them to go along with ideas like gun control, they have to be made to believe that existing laws are being enforced but that existing laws just aren’t enough, and we need more regulation. This is accomplished through various techniques, including heavy propaganda based upon myths.

Some examples: Background checks are not required for purchases on the Internet. Law enforcement is not present at gun shows, which are a free-for-all for prohibited individuals to obtain firearms. Obama has made firearms enforcement a priority, and his executive action on gun control will thwart criminals’ ability to obtain firearms. There is a general consensus in America that greater gun control is needed to prevent mass shootings in the United States.

Those statements are all false, and have been shown to be so by Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who wrote a commentary published on The Daily Caller online, listing and disproving 10 myths about guns, including those above.

Neither gun violence nor climate change is a critical problem for the United States. The threat of Islamic terrorism, a government too weak on the world stage, but grown too large and too controlling here at home, and a president who thinks he is an emperor, however, are critical problems. And that is why restoring conservative government is so important in the next election.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Asset forfeiture provides huge monetary benefits for law enforcement

The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act became law in 2000. Asset forfeiture is a tool that gives law enforcement the power to seize property and cash if they suspect it is connected to a crime, and is hailed by law enforcement groups as a vital tool for combating drug trafficking and money laundering.

The Institute for Justice reports that the Justice Department’s program furnished state and local law enforcement agencies some $4.7 billion in forfeiture proceeds from 2000 to 2013. What better way to help fund law enforcement than through the confiscation of property from criminals?

But the DOJ now plans to halt the program. Naturally, law enforcement wants this program to continue, and the possibility of the program being halted has raised concerns and prompted letters to President Barack Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

The National Sheriff’s Association, to cite just one of the law enforcement groups expressing concern, said the Justice Department’s decision will hinder law enforcement agencies’ ability to do their jobs. “While Congress and the president vacation in peace and tranquility, law enforcement knows all too well that the criminals, terrorists, and criminal aliens do not take a holiday,” the sheriff’s organization noted. “Those seeking to do us harm can rest easier knowing one less tool can be used against them.”

However, typical of governments at all levels, which are operated by humans and not angels, this program has been abused to illegally confiscate the private, legally possessed property of innocent Americans. Essentially, the message government sends out far too frequently is, “Any useful program that governments have at their disposal will eventually be misused, to the detriment of the people for whose benefit it was developed.”

If you need a recent example of government power misused by government employees, remember Lois Lerner and the IRS targeting and harassing certain conservative organizations seeking non-profit status. Other examples of misbehavior are not hard to find.

The asset forfeiture program also is abused. From the ACLU Website: “Police abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws has shaken our nation’s conscience. Civil forfeiture allows police to seize — and then keep or sell — any property they allege is involved in a crime. Owners need not ever be arrested or convicted of a crime for their cash, cars, or even real estate to be taken away permanently by the government.

“Forfeiture was originally presented as a way to cripple large-scale criminal enterprises by diverting their resources. But today, aided by deeply flawed federal and state laws, many police departments use forfeiture to benefit their bottom lines, making seizures motivated by profit rather than crime-fighting. For people whose property has been seized through civil asset forfeiture, legally regaining such property is notoriously difficult and expensive, with costs sometimes exceeding the value of the property. With the total value of property seized increasing every year, calls for reform are growing louder, and [the ACLU and others are] at the forefront of organizations seeking to rein in the practice.”

Adam and Jennifer Perry exemplify people who were victimized by this law and law enforcement officers willing to capitalize on it.

On October 25, 2012, the couple was stopped for speeding in Henry County, Mass. Police searched the couple’s vehicle and found a suitcase containing $107,520 in cash. Suspicious? Yes, but not a crime or necessarily evidence of a crime. And although no drugs or any other evidence of a crime were found, the police said they suspected the Perrys of criminal activity, and seized the cash and their vehicle.

During nine hours of questioning the Perrys insisted they had done nothing wrong and that the money was theirs legally, from various legal sources, and had evidence confirming that for some of the funds. Lacking any real evidence, the police had to release the couple. But they kept the money and the vehicle, even though no charges were filed, no trial was held, and no guilt was proved. Three years later, the Perrys are still fighting to get their property back.

If this legalized theft from innocent citizens isn’t bad enough, now a federal judge has demanded that the Perrys prove how they got the money, this after they had already given explanations to the police, who did not disprove those explanations. Question: If there was no evidence of a crime, and no charges filed, why should these citizens be compelled to prove where they got their own money?

A fundamental American legal principle is the presumption of innocence, that Americans are innocent until “proven” guilty, and that the onus is on the judicial system to prove guilt, not on citizens to prove they aren’t guilty.

On December 23, the Justice Department announced it will discontinue the asset forfeiture program, but the discontinuation is temporary.

The tyrannical treatment of the Perrys by Henry County, MA police and a federal judge epitomizes what “un-American” means. Before it can be reinstated, asset forfeiture laws must be amended to protect Americans from rogue actors in law enforcement who seek improved work conditions at the expense of law-abiding citizens. Stiff criminal penalties for abuse are essential. These people soil the reputations of the 99 percent who honorably serve the people.