Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Do we still have freedom of speech? Well, yes; sometimes we do.

Thank goodness for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects what our Founders viewed as our God-given rights to free exercise of religion, free speech, freedom of the press, peaceable assembly, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.

However, while efforts to infringe upon those and other rights are not unheard of, the attacks on them currently form a far more serious threat than perhaps at any other time, and certainly the most serious in many decades.

There has been ample news coverage of instances where Christian bakers and florists were forced to bake cakes or produce flower arrangements for gay weddings, contrary to their religious beliefs.

A decorated Army chaplain is facing what his attorneys are calling a “career-ending punishment” after he explained to a soldier that he could not conduct a marriage retreat that included same sex couples, but was willing to find someone else to do it.

Somehow, no matter how many people are available and willing to provide these services, those wanting a particular service view it as a horrible crime if a person refuses to perform it on religious grounds.

These days, certain “preferences” held by relatively small groups are thought to be of even greater importance than those rights set in stone by our Founders.

Some small efforts at balancing these breaches have occurred, but one’s ability to practice his or her religion in the customary fashion is only sometimes protected, these days.

These breaches of the First Amendment’s protections are serious enough, but what is happening on social media, on college campuses and elsewhere regarding free speech and free access to information is much worse, if for no other reason because of its broad swath of free speech encroachments that are being slashed through our culture.

Burgess Owens, a conservative African-American entrepreneur and 10-year veteran of the NFL, appeared at Hobart and William Smith Colleges recently. He told the audience, “I grew up in the Deep South during Jim Crow segregation laws. I can tell you how racism looks, how it feels, and what it means. You guys today can go anyplace you want to — any restaurant, any college.”

Well, that was too much for the audience. A female attendee asked him to repeat his first name, and after he did so, she said, “Oh, I thought it was ‘Tom,’” as in Uncle Tom. Cute.

Student activists at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, made good on their threat to disrupt an address by conservative Christina Hoff Sommers. What makes this one worse is that it was at the Law School. Yes, that’s right: students studying the law denied Sommers her free speech right.

The Leftist operators of Google, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube social media platforms think the way to persuade people to their ideas is to cheat them out of contrary opinions. 

The Media Research Center has produced a report titled “Censored” on how and to what extent popular social media are trying to “persuade” people to their way of thinking, not through the common sense of their ideas or the power of their argument, but by keeping people from seeing other points of view.

Authors Ashley Rae Goldenberg and Dan Gainor tell us that social media influences our worldview and can even influence elections. “Americans are seeing the results everywhere online. Conservative spokespeople, political candidates, even members of Congress, are falling victim to censors and the top tech firms are to blame.”

The article addresses claims of liberal bias and censorship against Twitter, Facebook, Google and YouTube individually, listing the claims and evaluating them, showing that the claims are supported by evidence.

These include such things as that Twitter censors conservative tweets pro-life ads, and censors content that governments find objectionable.

Liberal attitudes are at the core of Facebook and it censors pro-life advertising. Facebook’s algorithms filter what things its members can see, and it also blocked the “Diamond and Silk” girls’ posts, calling their content “dangerous.” Have you ever seen Diamond and Silk? Dangerous?

Google’s fact-checking system and algorithm contain an anti-conservative bias, and its News Lab partners with the radical Southern Poverty Law Center to identify “hate.”

Charges against YouTube mirror those previously mentioned for the other three media.

Is it that these folks have so little faith in their way of thinking that they don’t trust it to stand up against contrary ideas? Or do they not want to go to the trouble of actual debate and take a chance on losing in the marketplace of free ideas?

Whatever the motivation, using their ability to control what their customers or users see is truly otherworldly.

Liars, cheaters and cowards, oh my!

Faced with unpopular ideas, so many in our country are convinced that the appropriate reaction is to hold their breath, sob uncontrollably, stomp their feet, run to their safe space and demand that the speaker of these ideas shut up.

Private businesses or organizations can control what their Websites show. No argument there. The question, however, is not whether they can, but whether they should? Politics and business is a bad combination, and in these instances is quite dangerous.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

America Is Moving in the Right Direction Under Trump

Whether you think the way the FBI handled the Hillary Clinton email issue was correct or not, or whether the anti-Trump email correspondence between FBI employee lovers was problematic, honest Americans will have to agree that when a Congressional committee with oversight authority of the Department of Justice and the FBI issues proper requests or demands for documents from the DOJ or FBI, and after many months the requests or demands have yet to be fulfilled, something wreaks in the swamp.

And, where a simple request should have caused the fairly quick production of the desired documents, following months of stubborn and illegal refusals to respond, it took the threat of subpoenas and even the threat of impeaching the director and deputy director of the FBI to get them to do their jobs.

Why do federal employees believe they can ignore legal requests, and why did the committees wait so long to initiate the action that finally provided the impetus for the production of desired documents?

Elsewhere, while much of the country entertains and amazes itself with minutiae about Donald Trump, such as whether or not he had an encounter with a prostitute more than a decade ago, or whether he’s going to fire the special counsel or the deputy director of the FBI, or resign the presidency, things are actually going along pretty well in the country.

Not everything is going perfectly, of course, such as the creatures in the swamp that haven’t yet been drained away, and are busying themselves creating constitutional crises, and misbehaving as if there are no rules for how federal employees are supposed to do things. They justify their transescent temper tantrums that result in their abandoning professional ethics and common sense by blaming it all on none other than the president of the United States.

But hidden away from the view of most of the public by an agenda driven national news media, other things are going pretty well, compared with the not-so-distant past.

After a painfully slow recovery from the recession spawned by the financial crisis of 2007, the U-3 unemployment rate finally returned to respectable territory toward the end of 2015. When President Trump took office in January of 2017, the U-3 rate stood at 4.8 percent, and began a steady decline to the current level of 4.1 percent last October. The last time the rate was that low was all the way back in 2000.

Unemployment rates for African-Americans and Hispanics have also fallen over the last year, meaning that the jobs picture has improved across the board. Black unemployment fell to 6.8 percent in December, the lowest ever recorded since the U.S. Labor Department began tracking that rate in 1972.

The U-6 rate, which also reflects those who became discouraged and dropped out of the labor force, has returned from the 17 percent levels of early 2010 to the 8.0 percent level of before the recession.

There are other relevant employment factors, such as the number of Americans on unemployment benefits plunged to the lowest levels since 1974 recently; underscoring the healthy US economy.

And, according to new statistics released by the federal government, just 1.85 million Americans received unemployment assistance in March; levels not seen throughout the country in approximately 44 years.

The Wall Street Journal reported, “Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., decreased by 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 233,000 in the week ended April 7, the Labor Department said Thursday. This means claims have now held below 300,000 for 162 consecutive weeks, cementing the longest streak for weekly records dating back to 1967.”

The tax cuts that took effect in February produced not only lower taxes for most American workers, but also produced a secondary benefit for many workers, whose employers provided cash bonuses and/or wage increases. One good example is Wal-Mart, whose pay scales have been criticized by the Left for years. The massive company is now raising its minimum wage by $2 an hour.

And doing away with job-killing and economically harmful regulations has spawned new job production, putting thousands of previously unemployed Americans back on the job. The more positive business climate has caused companies like Sprint, Wal-Mart, Lockeed-Martin, Hyundai Motor Company, General Motors, and Carrier to begin bringing jobs back to America, after moving them out of the country a few years ago.

These improvements are expected to make 3.0 percent GDP growth much more common than it’s been for years.

The U.S. energy picture is also improving. Earlier this month reported that the “U.S. has been a net energy importer since 1953, but the AEO2018 (Annual Energy Outlook 2018) reference case projects the U.S. will become a net energy exporter by 2022.” Under slightly different Energy Information Administration scenarios supporting larger growth in oil and natural gas production, this transition occurs even sooner.

While the anti-Trumpers delight in the distractions aimed at damaging the president, while he has been in office some good things have occurred. And more than a little of the good is the result of the plain positive differences between Trump and his socialist predecessor.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Sinclair Broadcast Group controversy

“On local news stations across the United States last month, dozens of anchors gave the same speech to their combined millions of viewers. It included a warning about fake news, a promise to report fairly and accurately and a request that viewers go to the station’s website and comment ‘if you believe our coverage is unfair,’” The New York Times reported last week.

These news anchors work for Sinclair Broadcast Group, based in Hunt Valley, Md., which owns 193 local TV stations, making it the largest owner of TV stations in the U.S. A video produced by Deadspin shows dozens of miniaturized TV screens filling the video screen. In each of the small screens Sinclair anchors are shown all reading the same statement.

The purpose of the video was apparently to create an image of dystopian news control by this owner of local TV stations. The video has created quite a wave of criticism of Sinclair for having all its stations’ news departments present the statement on air.

The idea the critics promote is that this indicates some sinister effort to control news at all Sinclair stations, and some comments allege that many of the anchors were privately opposed to the idea.

However, stations in groups like this routinely show “must-runs” such as this. Must-runs contain content the corporate office requires each station to broadcast, and are not at all uncommon. They also are not the subjects of some specially created special purpose video.

Other criticism includes the references to fake stories and false reporting, suggesting that “right-leaning” Sinclair appears to be parroting President Donald Trump’s criticism of “fake news” in the mainstream media, and that therefore Sinclair news is biased in favor of the Trump agenda.

Trying to find the text of this statement was a bit tricky, but, which is the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s (SeattlePI) online presence, published the script used by anchors at KOMO-TV in Seattle, WA.

The Website noted, “The KOMO segments feature several different pairs of anchors sticking word-for-word to a Sinclair script they were required to read.” “They're certainly not happy about it,” a KOMO newsroom employee told SeattlePI. “It's certainly a forced thing.”

Here is the statement the anchors presented:

Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that KOMO News produces. But we're concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.

More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories... stories that just aren't true, without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control “exactly what people think”...This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.

At KOMO it's our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand truth is neither politically “left nor right.” Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.

But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to and clicking on “Content Concerns.” We value your comments. We will respond back to you.

We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual. We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day. Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback.

This reads like a mission statement for Sinclair’s news services, presented in a personal manor by station news personnel. It plainly condemns weak, slanted and poorly researched reporting, and vows not to indulge in such poor journalistic practices, but to present factual news and a focus on truth.

Further, it invites viewers to contact the station to report what they see as unfair coverage, and promises to respond to such reports. Many people regard that to be a very strong and good message.

Companies routinely have a mission statement telling the public about the company’s philosophy, so why this it an item of fear for Deadspin and other critics of Sinclair is the big mystery, not the message Sinclair put out.

Deadspin has a story online discussing how employees of local stations disagree with the company’s news policy statement. Why honest news people would object to a statement endorsing honest news reporting is a fair question for these staffers.

It all comes down to a simple problem: Any employee who disagrees with the corporate decision for them to read material on air with which they disagree has two choices: One, they can bite their lip and comply, or two, they can find another employer.

Sinclair’s senior vice president of news, Scott Livingston, responded to the furor, calling the backlash “ironic,” and said the stations “keep our audiences’ trust by staying focused on fact-based reporting and clearly identifying commentary.”

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

The 21st century: We are living in a world turning upside-down

Human beings have been consuming coffee for decades, at least, and perhaps for centuries. But despite the drink’s long and loved history, a story in the newspaper last Friday informed us coffee drinkers that the beverage harbors harmful elements that can cause cancer. Who knew?

Well, according to a legal action begun some eight years ago, everyone and anyone associated with coffee products – such as roasters, distributors, and retailers – should have known that because processing coffee beans releases a carcinogen in miniscule amounts, they should have warned the public.

Interestingly, the plaintiff is not the one with the burden of proof resting on its shoulders. In this case the age-old maxim “innocent until proven guilty” has been turned upside-down, and that duty has been shifted to the defendants by state law.

The judge in the case, in (where else?) California, ruled, “Defendants failed to satisfy their burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that consumption of coffee confers a benefit to human health.” The judge somehow holds the defendants guilty of not proving something that plaintiffs did not allege, and leaves the plaintiffs to celebrate not having to prove their case. Nevertheless, coffee sellers now must label their product with a cancer warning, despite the carcinogen being removed from the “possible carcinogen” list.


Citing Pennsylvania Act 31, a law addressing child abuse recognition and reporting, a dental office threatened to report a child patient’s mother to social services or law enforcement agencies if she did not schedule appointments for "regular professional cleanings."  This law allows the very people who provide services to report parents to authorities if they do not do business with the providers according to a schedule created by a professional dental association.

Here is yet another age-old saying brought to the fore: the fox guarding the henhouse. Beyond the open invitation for unscrupulous dental offices to act in their own interest rather than in that of their patients, we have potential interference from government when parents’ decisions on dental care differ from that of dentists, who collect fees for those services.

There should be no legal penalty or threat if a parent fails or decides not to follow the schedule, unless real and significant harm to the child results.


The Trump administration has decided to add a question to the 2020 Census form asking the person filling out the form if she/he is a citizen. And guess who doesn’t like that? Primarily Democrats/liberals.

Counting non-citizens, including illegal aliens, in the census can affect such things as how many congressional districts states may have. Having more non-citizens counted in a state might cause it to have an additional district that it otherwise would not have.

Researchers have found that if citizens-only were counted, Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, which have large immigrant populations, would lose eight congressional seats, collectively.

J. Christian Adams, of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, observed: "Only citizens should be given political power. Our current system leads to noncitizens being allocated political power in legislatures at the expense of citizens." "It's critical that the next redistricting cycle account for the citizen residents of districts so urban centers do not unfairly profit from the political subsidy that higher noncitizen populations provide," he said.


Rumors about leftist indoctrination by teachers in many colleges across the country are not at all unusual, but it is also present in public schools. Few instances, however, are as obvious as this one.

“For this assignment, you are writing a letter to the lawmakers of the United States. The purpose of this letter is to pressure lawmakers to have stricter gun laws in the United States. Your letter should contain at least five complete sentences. Make sure that you use proper grammatical skills when writing your letter,” read the assignment by a social studies teacher to his students at Hampton Middle School, Hampton, GA.

Well, at least the indoctrinator had the good sense to ask for proper grammar, even if it was as an afterthought. Whether he sent the letters to lawmakers or not, he was way out of bounds assigning students to take a particular position, particularly on a red-hot topic like the gun debate. How could a trained professional be so blind and dumb as to assign his students something so blatantly politically biased?


With all the hoopla about supposed collusion by Russians in the 2016 presidential election that some believe helped Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton, you may have gotten the idea that this was a new wrinkle in U.S. elections. But thanks to a friend and reader of this column, who provided a copy of The Christian Science Monitor from the mid 1940s, we see that isn’t at all the case.

In October of 1945 a front-page story tells of the Russian Congress of Industrial Organizations Political Action Committee openly supporting congressional candidates. Democrat candidates. Unsurprisingly, the Democrats denied the news. A Russian English-language newscast openly denounced Republicans and said their election might be the end of democracy in America. The broadcast was in Russia, but The New York Times printed an account of the broadcast.