Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Smollett fiasco reveals much about leftists, and the news media

As President Donald Trump is inclined to do, he frequently comments and tweets about “fake news.” This most often upsets the news media, which maintains they do not indulge in fake news.

That, of course, is sharply debated by a large faction, those who are the targets of, or suffer from, those news stories. Some events are more useful than others in demonstrating how crazy some of these tales really are. For this noble purpose the fates have provided the celebrity bright light Jussie Smollett, who is called the “star” of a less-than-well-known TV show called “Empire.”

For those who may not know the gory details, when the story first broke, Smollett had reported that he was attacked about 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 in a Chicago neighborhood by two people who yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, tied a rope around his neck, and poured a chemical substance on him, which he believed was bleach. Smollett said at least one assailant told him “this is MAGA country” during the alleged attack, as reported by The Washington Post.

He then appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to further expound upon the racial and homophobic nature of the attack, to assert that the seriousness of the event was not being fully acknowledged by the public, and then proceeded to insult everyone who did not immediately rise to his cause.

However, Chicago police have discovered a substantial amount of evidence supporting the position that the reported hate crime was really a hoax. This evidence is sufficient to have caused the police to charge Smollett with a crime. The “Empire” bright light now looks like a dim bulb.

Even some of the left’s more dependable critics of all things not-liberal condemned Smollett, and others have moved from their previous joyous and unbounded support to a neutral “let’s wait and see’” position.

In the coming days, weeks and months, this story will play out, hopefully getting as much attention as the initial media-friendly story of racist Trumpsters attacking a gay black man in a troubled Chicago neighborhood in the middle of a 20-degree February night.

If there is anything good to come from this, it’s that is it is no longer a tale of horrible racism committed by Trump supporters. Given that a neutral body, the Chicago PD, has put the charge of racism to rest, and put a truthful perspective on this event, it opens the door to demonstrating other false narratives promoted by supposed victims of discrimination.

Many “fake news” stories are automatically accepted as fact without adequate vetting, or because they fit a particular narrative, or both. A few examples are:
** At Drake University, several students were targeted in racist notes this past December. The notes were, in fact, written by one of the students targeted in the notes.
** In the now infamous incident, Covington Catholic High School students in Washington, DC for a pro-life rally were blamed for hassling Native American Nathan Phillips. The disruption turned out to be caused by Phillips, a known troublemaker.
** A liberal journalist for was fed a story about a Native American being harassed by a Trump supporter, but it was never confirmed … because it was a hoax.
** Reported hate crimes directed at Muslims, blacks and a bisexual student in different states recently were all later revealed to be hoaxes.

All of these examples were taken as truth and reported before their lack of credibility came to light. Real journalists practicing real journalism could have saved everyone affected by these false stories a lot of grief, had they done their jobs in the required way.

Much of – perhaps most of – the news media reveals itself to be biased toward certain topics – like racism, homophobia, anti-Islamism – and biased against other topics – like Donald Trump, conservatives, and white people, particularly men.

Among way too much of the news media new standards have replaced the traditions of truth, objectivity, fairness, due diligence and balance. The new standards seem to be: Getting it out fast is better than getting it out right; assuming truth is better than finding truth; and inches and minutes of ad sales, and mouse clicks, are foremost.

News should be news and opinion should be opinion and never the twain shall meet. That is a rule that is these days routinely broken. This represents a true crisis that has rendered news journalism a profoundly tattered and broken profession.

When President Trump calls bad news “fake news,” and when he says that purveyors of dishonest news are the “enemy of the people,” he is reacting to what the purveyors of these stories have created for themselves.

When the American people are deliberately misinformed by the very voice upon which they depend for essential information, how is that different from the work of propagandists?

Rather than reacting to the revealing of their corruption as a wake-up call, many of them merely issue denials, and keep traveling the same road.

Few things in life ever match their ideals, but news journalism has fallen to an historic low. The question now is: Can news journalism ever re-earn the trust of the American people?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Bureaucratic malfeasance in high places puts the nation in jeopardy

Now that President Donald Trump has declared the situation on the southern border a National Emergency his opponents have predictably offered criticisms. It is unconstitutional, or illegal, or unnecessary, or whatever negative arguments they can come up with.

However, while the Constitution does not grant presidents this authority, the Congress gave them the authority to declare national emergencies with the National Emergencies Act of 1975, requiring that the president outline the specific emergency powers he is using under existing statutes.

Declaring a National Emergency is not the rare bird that Trump’s critics would have you believe. There have been nearly 60 declarations since the law passed, including these by the following presidents: Jimmy Carter – twice; Ronald Reagan – six times; George H.W. Bush – five times; Bill Clinton – 17 times; George W. Bush – 13 times; Barack Obama – 12 times; and three previously by Trump.

Even though the statute has been used often since it became law, Trump has received criticism from both sides of the aisle for this one. 

Andrew McCarthy is a former Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and legal authority. He wrote the following about Trump’s considering using the National Emergency declaration: “The presumption in our law, whether we agree with it or not, is that this power to declare emergencies and, in effect, legislate measures to deal with them has been delegated to the president by Congress in numerous statutes,” and he may “invoke any powers Congress has delegated by statute for such emergencies.”

Of course this does not mean that a court challenge will not be made to the declaration, which Trump has already predicted will happen. The argument made by Congressional Democrats – who seem to defend open borders and illegal aliens, etc. – will be that there is no crisis justifying a National Emergency declaration that will allow the president to build barriers on sections of the border to stifle illegal entry into the country.

We do know that millions of illegal aliens are in the country. We know that thousands of people are coming to the border in caravans desiring to enter illegally. We know that some of them are violent, are drug traffickers, gang members and other unseemly characters. But we don’t know how many of them will commit crimes if they get in. We know how many of those who got in illegally were captured and how many of those committed crimes. We don’t know how many that committed crimes were not caught.

But we do know that FBI data show that there were 115,717 murders from 2003 through 2009. The General Accounting Office documents that criminal immigrants committed 25,064 of these murders. That averages out to 3,580 Americans that were murdered by illegal aliens in each of those seven years.

We also know that many Congressional Democrats say that these figures do not constitute a crisis, only a problem. And such insignificant problems do not justify the erection of additional barriers along the southern border to help keep illegals out.

If this is such a serious problem, they ask, why didn’t Trump take care of it before now?

Fair question. Perhaps it is because the most effective and acceptable way to address border security is through legislation, and with a Republican majority in both houses of Congress when he took office, he expected Congress to do that job. It failed to do so.

One might expect the numbers related to illegal aliens in America, from dollars to deaths, to catch the attention of Republicans in Congress. Unfortunately, like Democrats, many Republicans do not consider these numbers a crisis, either. How many Americans have to die at the hands of illegal aliens before these elected public servants consider it a crisis?

Some of this failure to recognize the seriousness of inadequate border control no doubt results from the personal dislike of Donald Trump. So strong is this hatred that it compels people to abandon their sworn duties to the American people and obstruct Trump’s efforts to guide the country.

Others go farther: they work in the DOJ and FBI and plotted to remove him from office. Their motto might go something like this: “We don’t like Trump, and we are going to look until we find a crime to take him out. Or create one.”

Removing a duly elected president is way above the pay grade of these arrogant, self-important bureaucrats. It is not part of the job description of the hired hands in the Justice Department and FBI to plot the overthrow of the President of the United States. Their job is to serve their bosses, the American people. Yet, we find that such plotting did occur.

Whether this behavior meets the legal definition of treason is open to question, but it definitely resides in the neighborhood of that high crime. Certainly, this behavior warrants some degree of serious punishment. Yet today, the worst that any of them has received is being fired.

The Justice Department has sat peacefully on its hands while this subversion of the president was occurring and has done nothing since then.

Perhaps the newly confirmed attorney general will fix that.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Due process and proving guilt are important principles of fairness

Defending Democrats is not something I feel the need to do very often, but recent developments compel defending those condemned for something without due process.

In America, we live by an important principle: everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

When the hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court began last year, many people automatically believed Kavanaugh was guilty of the accusations against him without having seen or heard anything besides the accusation of wrongdoing that allegedly occurred decades ago.

Today, the Lt. Governor of Virginia, Democrat Justin Fairfax, stands accused of sexual improprieties from years ago. Immediately upon those accusations being made public, there was again the jumping to the conclusion that he was guilty, based upon nothing more than accusations.

Yes, there is more evidence of Fairfax having a connection to each of his two accusers than what was shown against Kavanaugh. But so far it is just an accusation, albeit a somewhat convincing story. Even so, that falls well short of what ought to be required to remove someone from office.

There is a process for removing an official like a lieutenant governor from office. It’s called impeachment and trial. 

If we are so shortsighted as to be willing to demand someone be removed from a position simply because of an accusation, we will have abandoned a critical protection from vicious and unfounded charges that every one of us benefits from.

Never forget: Anyone can accuse anyone of anything at any time. If that is the standard required for trashing someone’s reputation and removing them from a position they hold, we are indeed in trouble as a nation.

The resignations of two other Democrats in high Virginia government offices also are being demanded for activity decades ago. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring both have admitted to appearing in public in “blackface,” being made up to look like African Americans.

Northam first apologized for being in a photo showing a blackface man and another person in a KKK costume, and later denied being one of those two people. He also said later he had participated in a dance contest in blackface as Michael Jackson.

Northam and Herring are also hearing demands for them to resign. If these resignations happen, the new governor for the Commonwealth would be the Speaker of the House of Delegates, who is a Republican.

As much as I personally would like to see a Republican as Governor of Virginia, this is not the way that should be accomplished. Northam and Herring might be racists. This episode of decades ago, however, does not prove that.

Today, such activity as Northam and Herring participated in is identified as wrong. However, a few decades ago, it was not unusual for white folks to appear in blackface for minstrel shows and other performances. Blacks actually were sometimes in those shows. Many times these performances involved a white person playing the part of a black person, but they were not ridiculing or insulting blacks, they were often honoring them.

Perhaps this outrage is due, at least in part, to not knowing much about our history. White people appearing in blackface goes back a long, long way, to the 19thcentury. More recent Americans to have appeared in blackface include old timers Judy Garland, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.

But some current popular folks appearing in blackface include Ted Danson, as his girlfriend, Whoopi Goldberg, looked on laughing. Dan Aykroyd appeared in a movie with Eddie Murphy. And left-media darlings Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Joy Behar and Sarah Silverman also have painted their faces. So have Billy Crystal, Cyndy Lauper, Robert Downey, Jr. and Jason Aldean.

The key element here is that when Northam and Herring performed these acts, they were not considered wrong. Context is important.

When someone is offended by what someone else does, says or writes, that is not all there is to the story. Being offended has replaced baseball as the National Pastime. It’s almost as if people go to college and major in “how to be offended.”

But just because being offended is popular today does not mean that the offended party is always correct in their reaction to things. And just because someone or some group takes offense at something doesn’t mean we must hasten to pass laws against it. The intent of the person being accused of some social infraction is far more important – it is the most important thing.

Just because one or more people think what someone wrote, spoke or did is bad doesn’t mean that the person intended it that way. The error might well be on the part of the offended party, who doesn’t understand the context, but feels empowered to complain about it.

Furthermore, it is unfair for people to be criticized today for doing things that were common and not unacceptable when they did them years or decades before.

We’ve got to get past this idea of perpetual victimhood, get control of the tendency to believe that our individual feelings are paramount, and return to dealing with things we don’t like in a mature, American fashion.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Democrats’ move toward socialism isn’t sitting well with their base

Most would agree that since the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States things have been crazier than they have ever been, or at least crazier than they have been in our memory.

The left regards Trump as whacko, even as their own policies push the boundaries of radicalism.

Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and even Hillary Clinton are still on scene, and they are joined with a cadre of faces new to the race for the Democrat nomination to oppose Trump, or if he is somehow taken out in the primary, or otherwise, whomever the Republicans put up in 2020.

Trump’s unconventional, non-politician, combative style has put off nearly everybody at some time (or always) and the inability of folks to get beyond their personal feelings surely has further gummed things up even more.

But somehow, all of this has emboldened and set free the most radical among the Democrats, who push socialist ideals as if they are actually reasonable.

“The Democrats have become socialists,” stated liberal columnist Dana Milbank back in September of 2017, less than a year after Trump took office.

“This became official, more or less … when [Bernie] Sanders rolled out his socialized health-care plan, Medicare for All, and he was supported by 16 of his Senate Democratic colleagues who signed on as co-sponsors, including the party's rising stars and potential presidential candidates in 2020: Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand.”

You may have seen the news since then that all of those folks, and even more, have either declared their candidacy, or hinted at it.

Sen. Harris, the former California Attorney General, suggests doing away with private health insurance, replacing it with single-payer government healthcare.

She told CNN’s Jake Tapper that if people like their current health insurance, they would not be able to keep it. "Well, listen, the idea is that everyone gets access to medical care,” she said. “And you don't have to go through the process of going through an insurance company, having them give you approval, going through the paperwork, all of the delay that may require," she told Tapper.

On its face, this actually sounds like a good move. But just ask many a military veteran how government healthcare has worked for them. And the idea that government healthcare would have less paperwork? Where does she think the mountains of existing paperwork had their origin?

But returning to Milbank’s 2017 column, he noted the dramatic shift since 2013, when “Sanders introduced similar legislation” and “he didn’t have a single co-sponsor.”

Democrats obviously believe this approach is their winning strategy, and perhaps even believe it makes sense. The current environment among Democrats has allowed the emergence of a 29-year-old whippersnapper named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to dislodge a long-time New York House member, and quickly rise to fame. So fast and so prominently, in fact, that the old guard was knocked off balance, if balance they ever had.

These folks generally advocate doing away with ICE, open borders, single-payer healthcare - Medicare for All, doing away with private health insurance, abortion up to and even after birth, removing requirements for a photo ID to vote, allowing illegals to vote, radical gun control, raising taxes, free college education, and the Green New Deal.

The latter is one of Cortez’ favored positions. Somehow, despite her wild ideas and silly answers to serious questions, she has garnered a good bit of influence, enough to attract the attention of party leaders in Congress.

And liberal gadfly Michael Moore thinks so much of her that he wants the Constitution amended so that she can run for president.

“It's too bad you have to be 35 to be president,” Moore said on MSNBC. “We put that in the constitution, the Founding Fathers, because people died at 38 or 40 back then. Y'know, we need to lower that. If that was lowered to 30 ...” Obviously, logic is not Moore’s strong point.

These Democrat ideas have gotten so radical that one liberal Democrat, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, raised the flag of caution. “We’ve got to have actionable, practical ideas,” he said. “And I worry — we can’t get into this election season with everybody trying to out-promise one another.”

One survey shows that McAuliffe’s concerns are backed up by data. Democrat and Democrat-leaning registered voters responded to a Pew Research Center survey that by a 53- to 40-percent margin, they want their party to move right, to a more moderate position.

The number of Democrats who view their ever-more-socialist party favorably has fallen from 53 percent last September to 49 percent this year, and 47 percent viewed the party in a negative way.

Interestingly, the survey showed that 58 percent of Republicans seek a more conservative party, while 38 percent seek a more moderate party.

An editorial in Investor’s Business Daily puts things nicely into perspective: ”Socialism is the most pernicious political system ever. Wherever it's been tried, it's led to mass misery, poverty, loss of rights, and even mass killing. Today, Venezuela, North Korea and Zimbabwe are notable examples. True American socialism wouldn't be any better.”

Amen to that.