Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Camille Paglia gives an objective and very balanced interview

In today’s sharply divided political atmosphere, where a huge and widening gulf exists between the right and the left, it is both surprising and refreshing when someone identified with the left renders ideas that are objective and balanced. Such an occasion occurred earlier this month when Jonathan V. Last published an interview on he had conducted by email with left-leaning feminist, author and college professor Camille Paglia.

While characterizing herself as a libertarian she confesses that she is a registered Democrat, but not always a supporter of Democrats, noting about the 2000 presidential election she voted for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader because “I detest the arrogant, corrupt superstructure of the Democrat Party, with which I remain stubbornly registered.”

Beginning the interview with a statement of her political affiliations, Paglia noted that she voted for Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the 2016 primary and for Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the general election. She now has her eye on newly elected Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Cal., hoping to vote for her in the next presidential primary.

The Paglia-Last interview focused on three topics: the election and early presidency of Donald Trump, Islamic/Islamist terrorism, and feminism vs. transgenderism.

Like millions of others, she did not take Trump’s candidacy seriously, but attributes his win to “the startling incompetence and mediocrity of his GOP opponents.”

She was no more kind to some Democrats, noting that, Hillary Clinton, “with her supercilious, Marie Antoinette-style entitlement, was a disastrously wrong candidate for 2016 and that she secured the nomination only through overt chicanery by the Democratic National Committee…” And, “Despite his history of embarrassing gaffes, the affable, plain-spoken Joe Biden, in my view, could … have defeated Trump, but he was blocked from running at literally the last moment by President Barack Obama, for reasons that the major media refused to explore.”

While criticizing the Trump Administration’s handling of the temporary ban of travelers from predominantly Muslim countries tied to terrorism on the one hand, she then defended the administration, saying, “I fail to see the ‘chaos’ in the White House that the mainstream media (as well as conservative Never Trumpers) keep harping on—or rather, I see no more chaos than was abundantly present during the first six months of both the Clinton and Obama administrations.” She also noted that Trump was “going about his business” while the media was “consumed with their preposterous Russian fantasies…”

A 1950s-60s liberal, she contrasted the exalted civil liberties, individualism, and dissident thought and speech of that time with what she termed the “grotesquely mechanistic and authoritarian” nature of liberalism today. “It is repressively Stalinist, dependent on a labyrinthine, parasitic bureaucracy to enforce its empty dictates,” she said.

Turning to how today’s liberals regard terrorism, she explained, “The contortions to which so many liberals resort to avoid connecting bombings, massacres, persecutions, and cultural vandalism to Islamic jihadism is remarkable, given their usual animosity to religion, above all Christianity.” Paglia also suggested that some liberals have a racial perspective and therefore “Islam remains beyond criticism because it is largely a religion of non-whites whose two holy cities occupy territory once oppressed by Western imperialism.”

She criticizes liberals “paternalistic condescension” toward Islam, which she said is done from a distance, without really engaging in its “intricate mixed messages, which can inspire toward good or spur acts of devastating impact…”

When Jonathan Last posited an expected showdown in the U.S. between feminism and transgenderism that has not developed, Paglia responded that this occurs more publicly in the United Kingdom than in the U.S. She cited two instances where public programs featuring opponents of transgenderism as a legitimate concept drew spirited protests from activists.

Both programs eventually went forward against the same sort of opposition that conservative speakers experience on American college campuses. In the U.S, transgenderism is one of many things that are off limits for public discussion, and such programs would likely have produced riotous behavior.

She called attention to American liberals’ interesting contradictory views of science. When it comes to their acceptance of climate change theory, science is just fine, although Paglia described it as “a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence.” Where transgenderism is concerned, however, liberals “flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender.”

“The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible,” Paglia stated. “Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one's birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births.”

Paglia takes a common sense stand on the treatment of transgender folks, seeking to protect them from harassment and abuse that may be aimed at them just because they are “nonconformist or eccentric.” But she said that whether the rest of us must identify a transgender person as a man or a woman based solely on that person’s “subjective feeling” does not fly: “it is our choice alone,” she concluded.

Such a logical and objective approach to controversial subjects is rare from left-leaning folk, but is certainly refreshing and productive. Let us hope for an outbreak of this sort of thinking that reaches epidemic proportions.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

America now being challenged by a crisis of integrity

 Integrity is defined as adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. As a society we have moral values, professional ethics and other rules that we are expected to uphold at all times and under all circumstances. When we adhere to professional ethics, the rules of life, and the body of laws, we have a desirable society that is principled, and functions smoothly and efficiently.

In today’s America, evidence of lost integrity is all around us: millions of out-of-wedlock children, people who are not needy collecting welfare benefits, frivolous or questionable lawsuits, and a long list of crimes.

And in the political realm we witness inflammatory language, protests shutting down protected free speech, media taking sides, mob violence and other outrages that have grown to epidemic proportions. These activities are strong evidence of the abandonment of basic human integrity as well as professional integrity.

An immediate danger to the nation and its people is the insanity that has evolved since the election of Donald Trump as president. Lots of people – Republicans, Democrats and the politically unaffiliated – show signs of hysteria. Many are dedicated to bringing Trump down, and seem to be devoted to a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” philosophy, giving little thought to the repercussions this ill-advised path may likely produce.

Trump’s enemies say that he lit the fuse, and he undoubtedly contributed to the current atmosphere. But just because you dislike or hate Trump and his policies, does not entitle you to lie, cheat, commit acts of violence, and behave in a manner that subverts America. If you didn’t support Trump in the election there is only one sensible and honorable path for you to take: Get over it. And remember that you are an American and he legitimately is America’s president.

Three areas are very dangerous for integrity failure: News journalism, the federal judiciary and government bureaucracies.

Last week The New York Times published an editorial stating as fact that when a gunman shot Arizona Democrat Rep. Gabby Giffords in 2011, he was reacting to a political map created by Sarah Palin showing areas that were “targeted” in the coming election. That was untrue, discredited years ago, and The Times corrected its humiliating blunder. But doesn’t journalistic integrity demand that such known details be found before publication? Clearly, integrity sometimes takes a holiday at The Times.

It is very common these days for a news organization to attribute information to an “anonymous” or “unnamed” source. Sometimes, of course, a legitimate source needs the protection of anonymity. But the downside is that this tool can be overused, can be used to cover a non-credible source, or even used when there is no source at all. Add to this the tendency to exaggerate, and even create false stories, and the information upon which we all rely becomes unreliable.

If you’ve ever worked with an attorney you probably noticed how detailed legal language is, so that the exact intent of a document is clear. Yet, we find judges today who abandon the plain language of an Executive Order in favor of what they imagine was in the mind of its author in ruling in favor of a challenge to the Order. It looks as if political desire replaced judicial integrity.

And what about administrative agency employees who abandon their duty to their country, the American people they are paid to serve, and their ultimate boss, to play politics, leaking sensitive information, and even classified information in a cheap and disgusting ploy to damage a duly elected president?

Those who foolishly undermine national security because of their emotional inability to adapt to reality may someday wonder what exactly their behavior has done to their once free and wonderful country.

A lot of political hay can be made in such an atmosphere, and the beneficiaries of this are some elected public servants as well as appointed bureaucrats. Such behavior is the stuff of third-world hellholes, and the abandonment of professional and personal integrity moves America ever closer to becoming one of those.

On the one hand anti-Trumpers denigrate and belittle Trump, and on the other hand they raise him to a high level, one so great that they use it to justify abandoning near-sacred elements of their professions and common decency. It is Trump’s fault, they assert, that they indulged in behavior that is dangerous and often illegal.

Commentator Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News recently, “When you say ‘unless we stop Donald Trump, the republic will not survive,’ then that justifies anything. That’s the language, the ideology, the rationale of terrorists...” And, it produces behavior that will destroy the republic.

We cannot and must not excuse criminal behavior, like the shooting at a Republican Congressional baseball game practice earlier this month, or even the mob violence of late, as the result of foolish and inflammatory language. But it does not help diffuse the raw craving of those who consider resorting to violence when politicians speak rashly, the news media takes a partisan position, the judiciary abandons plain language in favor of political expediency, and other examples of acting outside the narrow path dictated by integrity and moral character.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Making government operate more like a business: a really smart idea

One good thing about President Donald Trump is his businessman’s approach to government. He understands that like a business, a nation cannot survive endless deficit spending and an ever-growing national debt.

To the horror of those on the left of our political system he proposes significant, but not massive, cuts to government spending. And while the cuts are not excessive, the idea still cranked up the wild imaginations and scaremongering mechanisms of Congressional Democrats and other liberals who think money grows on trees and that the national debt is a number that really isn’t important.

Trump understands what so many on the left do not: much of government spending is wasted, fraudulent and abused, and therefore unnecessary and foolish. Actually, it’s not that the left doesn’t understand this, it’s that they couldn’t care less, because they benefit at the ballot box from lax programs that waste your money, and therefore eschew fiscal responsibility, in favor of positive elections results.

Human nature plays a role here: people often will take advantage of what is available to them free of charge. As evidence, consider the recent results from Alabama.

The Daily Signal reported that when “The Heart of Dixie” this year began requiring food stamp recipients to work, look for work, or get approved job training to get food stamps, 13 counties saw participants drop by 85 percent over a four-month period from 5,538 able-bodied adults without dependents to 831 such recipients.

“Statewide, a total of 13,663 able-bodied adults without children or other dependents were enrolled in the food stamp program before the change [was] implemented Jan. 1, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources,” the news site reported. “As of May 1, that statewide number had dropped to 7,483, the agency said.”

Clearly, Alabama was going well beyond the goal of helping those who really need it, and Alabamans were availing themselves of Uncle Sugar’s federal assistance in a welfare program that was not being operated in a sensible manner.

Other states have had this same experience. In 2013 and 2014 Kansas and Maine implemented work requirements and reduced the number of able-bodied adults on food stamps, and last year Georgia followed suit.

And when Maine imposed work requirements on food stamp recipients in December of 2014 officials reported that the number of able-bodied adults without dependents declined from 13,332 to just 2,678 over a three-month period. Maine officials concluded that many food stamp recipients would do without the benefit rather than perform a minimum of six hours per week of community service, or other aspects of the work requirements.

These results prompted Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation who specializes in poverty and welfare programs, to project that, “If the federal government establishes and enforces similar work requirements nationwide, total food stamp enrollment would plummet in a few years, possibly saving taxpayers $10 billion per year or as much as $100 billion over the next decade,” The Daily Signal reported.

Not all of that money is federal money, of course, but about 90 percent of it is. And keeping the federal portion of those dollars in the nation’s treasury certainly is a positive thing. It’s even better when you understand that those truly needing help are not part of the reductions, and that other federal programs also suffer these same problems.

It is widely acknowledged that Americans are the most compassionate people in the world, and they certainly have no objection to helping their fellow citizens in need. Even so, they do not want their hard-earned tax dollars being wasted on people who can earn their own way. Sound business practices prohibit such sloppiness; they are business killers.

Of course, with all of these people no longer getting food stamps, having available jobs for them is important, and that feeds right into Trump’s goal of bringing back jobs and creating an environment for new job production to flourish.

Trump managed to get pledges from several companies that said they would invest in America, bringing back or creating new jobs. And good things are also happening because of his effort to remove job-killing regulations.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace recently, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said, “We’ve had almost 50,000 jobs created in the mining and coal sector alone. In fact, in the month of May, almost 7,000 jobs,” Pruitt told Wallace.

Naysayers will note that this number really isn’t that significant, but the important reality is that it is a step in the right direction, and a dramatic shift in direction from the dangerous, job-killing policies of the Obama administration.

Coal industry and related jobs killed by Obama are coming back following the removal of the foolish regulations that killed them. No one expects that coal will reach its former economic glory, but a lot of people put out of work by merciless regulations will be productive again.

Obama and others on the left think they know best and will try to control every aspect of our lives to achieve their vision. But that isn’t what America is all about. Thank goodness that Trump understands that.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The Journalists Creed: Another tradition fallen by the wayside

Several years ago on a trip to Washington, DC, my wife and I visited the National Press Club for lunch and a tour of the Club. Among the many things that impressed me there was a bronze plaque on a wall, The Journalists Creed, which the Press Club has had on display since 1958.

The Creed is the product of Walter Williams, not the excellent columnist of today, but an older gentleman who is credited with starting the world’s first school of journalism in 1908 at the University of Missouri. In 1914 Williams created the Creed, as “a declaration and personal affirmation of the principles, values and standards of journalists throughout the world,” according to the Fourth Estate organization. It regards journalism as an ethical public trust that requires accuracy and fairness.

Since Williams created the Creed, and even since the Press Club’s acknowledgement of it in ’58, huge changes in the way news is distributed have taken place. Now in addition to newspapers, periodicals, radio and television we have the Internet and social media.

These days absolutely anyone can appear to be a legitimate news source on the Internet. Many or most of these sources may have good intentions, but lack the background or discipline to do it correctly. They are unaware of, or ignore the Creed.

These days even some who know the importance of the ethics with which news journalism should be practiced don’t always stick to the straight and narrow. Being first is often more important than being correct. “Click bait,” sensational headlines designed to increase the number of visitors to Web sites, are common.

In addition to new media technologies are also new media genres, such as the speculative media: Trying to be first, a hint of something often spurs frantic action to get out there before anyone else through online or on-air media. For example, when President Donald Trump reached back for Malania’s hand while exiting a plane on their recent trip abroad, and she sort of flipped her hand away, the media reported that there might be trouble in their marriage.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who is catholic, was not among those who met the Pope on the trip, so the media reported that his being excluded might signal that Spicer was on his way out as spokesman.

Neither of these were true.

The assumption media: When Trump mentioned being “wiretapped,” it was “assumed” that he meant wiretapping and only wiretapping, not the newer, more modern methods of surveillance, apparently widely used in the Obama administration.

The agenda media: We saw very little reporting on the positive aspects of Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican and NATO, but there was plenty on the “troubles” in Trump’s administration.

And then there’s Kathy Griffin, the self-described “D-list comedian,” who worked very hard to create a disgusting, low-class image of her holding a bloody likeness of the decapitated head of the President of the United States ISIS-like, by its hair.

Criticized for this repulsive display of what today passes for humor by nearly everyone, she finally issued an apology, except not apologizing to her target, Trump and his family. Shortly thereafter, the firestorm of anger and disgust she stirred up created for her a moment of brilliant insight: The negative reaction to her gross attempt at humor, and her resulting misery is actually Trump’s fault.

And guess which one gets too much coverage? Poor deranged Kathy’s campaign about her hurt feelings at the hands of her imaginarily beheaded enemy.

Wesley Pruden, Editor Emeritus of The Washington Times, is a man trained in and who worked in journalism when standards were more broadly expected of practitioners. He characterized a Bloomberg News reporter’s G7 coverage like this: “Just what a ‘bromance’ is [between France’s Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Justin Trudeau], beyond the not-so-clever wordplay, sounds like too much information, something you ought not to want to know about. It’s no doubt overheated reporting by a reporter who never had an editor to teach him the rewards of restraint.

“But romance was clearly in the air, not between the leaders of France and Canada, but by reporters nurtured not on the rough edges of politics and discipline of newspapers, but by too much time spent watching soap operas.”

Another old pro, Gerald Seib of The Wall Street Journal, said this about today’s practice of the profession: “When journalists drop objectivity to become part of the shout-fest, and when grass-roots activists move beyond making voices heard to voicing threats against those with whom they disagree, they are adding to the problem.”

These examples of journalistic malpractice and comments about news coverage from two old timers show how far news reporting has strayed early in the 21st century.

Combined with a general public largely unconcerned with studying current events America has a true problem. So many consumers of news get their “news” from their friends on social media, and accept as true those communications that fit their preconceptions. They just don’t look beneath the surface for fact.

With all these factors, the public is largely under-informed, or misinformed, a circumstance both dangerous and foolish.