TAX CUTS AND JOBS ACT

I would like to clear up some misconceptions about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) recently signed into law.  Right off the bat, I will stipulate that the law is not perfect.  Name me one law that is.  No one group got everything it wanted.  The law is a compendium of compromises, as it should be in a democracy.

That said, the law is being completely mischaracterized by many of the Dems and the mainstream press.  For example, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, among others, have characterized it as a “giveaway for the rich” and detrimental to the “middle class.”  Bernie Sanders has trotted out his favorite whipping boy – the “billionaires.”  (According to Wikipedia there were only some 500 billionaires in the US in 2016, and they are a heterogeneous group – white, black, Hispanic, liberal and conservative – yet he acts as if they are homogeneous, omnipresent and evil personified.  He blames them for everything except the weather.)

These criticisms are what one of my ex-bosses used to deride as “wandering generalities.”  I have to laugh at these disingenuous oversimplifications, particularly since these same politicians declined to participate in the drafting of the law.  They offered no suggestions or alternatives when given the opportunity.  In my view, having opted out of the process they have no standing to criticize the result.

Regardless of the particulars of the TCJA, common sense would tell you that not all “rich” people will “make out like bandits,” and not all “middle class” households will be disadvantaged.  Those two groups are not homogeneous at all.  Their individual situations are governed by a multitude of variables, such as, for instance, where they live, their age, the size of their families, whether they are retired or still working, etc.

Therefore, in order to give the TCJA an objective analysis, it is imperative to cut through the political bloviating and hyperbole, and analyze the facts.  I will attempt to do so, but keep in mind I am not a tax professional.

First, it is necessary to define what, exactly, is the “middle class?”  Everybody has an opinion, but no one really knows for sure.  The answer seems to be it depends upon whom you ask.  Everyone has a different conception, and most everyone, if asked, will identify him or herself as “middle class.”  The best definition of a middle class household I have found is one that earns income equal to between 66% and 200% of the median national income.  Currently, for a family of four that would be between $40,000 and $125,000.  Naturally, where one lives matters greatly.  $50,000 goes a lot further in Kansas or Alabama than in NY or SF.  Some people consider other factors as well, such as the level of education and type of occupation, but to keep this simple let’s just consider income, and let’s use $85,000, which is near the midpoint of $82,500.

According to a study by the Tax Foundation, under the TCJA the tax liability of a typical middle class family of four with an income of $85,000 would be reduced by $2,254, or 20%.  In fact, the TF presented eight examples of households earning from a low of $30,000 to a high of $2,000,000, and in each case their tax liability was lower.  The above household had the highest percentage savings, although, full disclosure, the $2,000,000 household had the highest dollar savings.  (Of course, the rich have a bigger tax liability to begin with, so even a small percentage results in a large dollar savings.)  The salient point of the survey is that the under TCJA a wide variety of households saved money.

One can argue incessantly over who benefits the most, but the fact of the matter is there are pros and cons for every household and every situation.  Some of the changes will help you; some will hurt you.  Don’t focus on one item that you may not like.   If you want to see how you come out, you have to actually run the numbers.

In particular, critics have been attacking the so-called SALT provision, the reduction in the corporate income tax rate, the healthcare mandate, and the estate tax exemption.

  1. There is no doubt that the SALT restriction will impact most adversely households that own expensive homes in high-income locales, such as NY, Boston, San Francisco and LA and their suburbs.   Both property values and income tend to be higher there.  However, the likelihood is that most of those households earn well in excess of $125,000 per year.  That income level, however, is not “middle class.”  It  would put them in the “upper middle class” ($125,000 – $300,000), or, maybe even in the “rich class.”  Moreover, many of these households will be able to mitigate or, perhaps, offset, any increase due to SALT by taking advantage of the increase in the standard deduction from $12,000 to $24,000 and/or the lower tax rates.  According to the IRS, already, approximately 2/3 of filers use the standard deduction, so it stands to reason that, much if not most, of the “middle class” does.  Again, common sense would tell you that more households would do so, prospectively.  A further benefit would be that fewer households would be subject to the onerous “alternative minimum tax.”
  2. The critics like to demonize the corporate tax cut.  Regarding publicly-held corporations one can argue whether or not the tax cut will be beneficial to the country, as a whole.  In my opinion, it likely will, as have previous ones.  Publicly-held corporations consist of individuals who work for them.  Generally, if corporations pay less taxes, they make more money.  They use that money either to pay dividends to their shareholders, increase compensation, and/or to expand, which causes them to hire more workers.  All of those would be beneficial to the economy.  Some corporations, such as Apple, have already announced company-wide bonuses.  Remember, anyone who owns a 401k, 403b, or IRA likely owns stock in these corporations, so anything that benefits the corporations passes through to them.  According to the Government Accountability Office in 2011, the latest year for which figures are available , some 43 million taxpayers own at least one IRA with a total value in excess of $5 trillion.  Those numbers are probably higher now.

According to the US Census Bureau there were approximately 28 million small    businesses in the US in 2010.  Many, if not most, of these were family-owned by “middle class” households.  According to the Small Business Association since 1995 small businesses have generated 64% of all new jobs.  So, a tax cut that helps small businesses is very beneficial to the country.  And, yet, the critics would have you believe that this tax cut is going solely to multi-national, multi-billion dollar corporations.

3.         With respect to the healthcare mandate the critics are saying it will leave some 13 million persons without healthcare.  Perhaps, but it will be pursuant to their choice.  Under the mandate, there were a goodly number of persons who were required to purchase health insurance whether they wanted it or not.  In my opinion, the constitutionality of the mandate was dubious anyway.

4.  Criticism of the estate tax exemption has some merit.  However, it should be noted it will not benefit only the very rich.  Many small business owners, ranchers and farmers may also benefit.  Also, generally, the very rich have the wherewithal to plan their estates to avoid or mitigate estate tax, anyway.

CONCLUSION

I apologize for being so long-winded.  I tried to be as concise as possible.  In summary, don’t listen to all the hyperbole and disingenuous criticisms you may hear.  The TCJA may not be perfect, but I think it a reasonable law that will benefit the country, as a whole.

Next month, workers will begin to see benefits firsthand in their paychecks.  As for long term benefits, time will tell.

 

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IRAN NUKE DEAL DECEPTION

As we all know, the Iran Nuke Deal executed by the Obama administration has proven to be very controversial.  In my opinion, we gave up a lot for very dubious benefits.  Be that as it may, the purpose of this blog is not to argue the merits and demerits of that deal.  Suffice to say, it is very controversial.  Some people like it; others don’t.

The purpose of this blog is to examine a hidden aspect of this deal, one which we are now learning about that, heretofore, was hidden not only from the American people, but also from Congress as they voted on the deal.  The following story was first reported by Politico’s Josh Meyer.  It reflects very badly on the Obama administration, which pursued the Nuke Deal very aggressively and spent considerable political capital to finalize it.  As is often the case with a negative story about the Obama Administration, CBS, NBC and ABC have ignored it.  Only Fox has reported it extensively, so if you don’t watch Fox chances are you don’t know about it.

The essence of the story is as follows:

  1. As we know, Hezbollah is a terrorist arm funded and supported by the Iranian government.  Its members have been fighting alongside Iranian troops in Syria and Iraq.  Iran has long employed Hezbollah operatives to foment terror attacks and has provided needed funding, sanctuary and other support for it.
  2. Hezbollah had established a sizeable drug trafficking and money laundering operation.  A significant part of that operation was teaming up with Mexican drug cartels to sell drugs in the US.
  3. This operation was providing a considerable amount of funds that were used to support Hezbollah’s terrorist activities.
  4. The DEA was running a major investigation of that operation called “Operation Cassandra” and was closing in on key members of the group.  Over an eight-year period, the DEA had employed wire taps, undercover operatives and informants.  It had traced cocaine shipments through a labyrinthine route through Latin America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and, finally, to the US.  It had tied the network to the “innermost circle)[s]” of Hezbollah and Iran.  It appears it had them “dead to rights.”
  5. Shutting down the operation would have had a dual benefit: (1) Obviously, it would have significantly reduced the supply of drugs entering the US. (As an illustration of the gravity of the domestic drug problem I should like to denote that according to the CDC some 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses during the 12 month period ending January 2017.) (2) It would have denied Hezbollah of its primary source of revenue.
  6. It appears that members of the Obama Administration, fearing the DEA operation might impair the delicate negotiations with Iran, shut down the DEA investigation.  How?  The Justice Department declined to file charges against any of the major players or a Lebanese Bank that was at the center of the money laundering scheme.  Also, agents working on the operation were re-assigned.
  7. One of Meyer’s sources was David Asher, who was one of the primary operatives in “Cassandra.”  Asher told him the Administration “serially ripped apart [the] entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”
  8. For example, the Czech government had arrested and was holding Ali Fayad for extradition to the US.  Fayad had been indicted by US courts for murder and other serious crimes.  Furthermore, the DEA suspected him to be a major Hezbollah operative in the drug network and a major weapons supplier in Iraq and Syria with a direct link to Vladimir Putin.  Rather than pressuring the Czech government to extradite him, the Obama Administration stood down (perhaps, under lobbying pressure from Putin), and Fayad was released.  Now, safely ensconced in Lebanon, he has returned to his old ways, supplying arms to Iranian-backed terrorists.
  9. Another example concerns “the Ghost,” who is reputed to be one of the largest cocaine traffickers and arms dealers in the world.   DEA officials claim the Obama Administration hindered their efforts to pursue him as well.
  10. Of course, representatives of the Obama Administration who were willing to go on the record have disputed elements of this story, but such defenses appear weak.  For example, spokesman Kevin Lewis, who worked at both the Justice Department and the Obama White House, denoted that other Hezbollah operatives were also arrested and held by other countries.  True, but, Meyer reported that these arrests occurred after the nuke deal had been consummated.

CONCLUSION

There is considerably more to this story, but this is a blog, not a book, so I have only presented a brief summary.  Those of us who remember the vigor with which the press pursued the Iran-Contra Deal and the weapons of mass destruction controversies during the Reagan and Bush 43 Administrations, respectively, hope the mainstream press will pursue this story with the same zeal.  I won’t hold my breath.

In any event, there is no excuse for hiding this from the American people or, worse, from Congress as they were voting to approve the deal.  As you may recall, the deal was very controversial, and the vote was close.  It was “sold” as a means to get Iran to suspend its nuclear program (a dubious proposition) in return for just lifting sanctions.  Later, we found out about a sizeable cash payment to Iran, which was bad enough.  Now, this story, if true, casts a pall on the entire agreement and, by extension, President Obama’s legacy.

HISTORY THIS MONTH – DECEMBER

More painless history.  Many historically-significant events have occurred during the month of December.  Below please find what I consider the most significant:

12/1/1955 – Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgonery, AL for refusing to surrender her seat on a bus to a white man.  This action precipitated a year-long bus boycott and many other protests against segregation led by the Reverend Martin Luther King, among others, and was what many consider the seminal event for the civil rights movement.

12/2/1804 – Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of France by Pope Pius VII.

12/2/1823 – President James Monroe articulated the “Monroe Doctrine,” which, essentially, forbad any further colonization of the Western Hemisphere by any European power, and which became a key element of the US’s foreign policy prospectively.

12/2/1954 – The Senate condemned Senator Joseph McCarthy for misconduct, effectively ending his irresponsible communist witch hunt.

12/3/1967 – Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful heart transplant in Cape Town, South Africa.

12/6/1492 – Christopher Columbus “discovered” the “New World,” landing at the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

12/6/1865 – The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, which abolished slavery.

12/6/1973 – Gerald Ford was sworn in as vice president replacing Spiro Agnew who had been forced to resign following his pleading “no contest” to charges of income tax evasion.

12/7/1787 – Delaware became the first state to ratify the US constitution.

12/7/1941 – Japan perpetrated a surprise attack of the US naval base at Pearl Harbor destroying the US Pacific Fleet and precipitating the US’s entry into WWII.  FDR called it a “date that will live in infamy,” and it has.

12/10/1896 – Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel died.  In his will he stipulated that a committee of the Norwegian Parliament award from his estate annual prizes (valued at approximately $1 million) for Peace, Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Literature and Economics.

12/11/1901 – Guglielmo Marconi transmitted the first transatlantic radio signal.

12/11/1936 – King Edward VIII abdicated the English throne in order to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson.

12/13/1642 – Dutch navigator Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand.

12/14/1799 – George Washington dies at Mt. Vernon.

12/14/1911 – Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole.

12/15/1791 – Virginia became the 11th state to ratify the Bill of Rights making it an official part of the Constitution.  (Ratification of an amendment to the Constitution requires 75% of the states, and Vermont had become the 14th state.  The three holdouts were Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Georgia, which did not ratify it until 1939.)

12/15/1961 –  Notorious Nazi SS Colonel Adolph Eichmann was sentenced to death in Jerusalem for his role in the Holocaust during WWII.

12/16/1773 –  A group of Bostonians, disguised as Indians, boarded British ships anchored in Boston Harbor and dumped 300+ containers of tea overboard as a protest to what they viewed as an unjust tax on the product.  This became known as the Boston Tea Party and was a part of the chain of events that culminated in the American Revolutionary War.

12/17/1903 – The Wright Brothers – Wilbur and Orville – made the first successful airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, NC.

12/19/1946 – War broke in what was then called French-Indochina.  Eventually, the French were ousted, and the US got drawn into war in Viet Nam, which did not end well for us.

12/20/1860 – South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union.  Over the next few months ten other states followed, and the Civil War ensued.

12/21/1846 –  Dr. Robert Liston was the first surgeon to use anesthesia (in a leg amputation in London).

12/21/1945 – General George Patton, aka “Old Blood and Guts,” died from injuries suffered in a car accident in Germany.  Some historians have postulated that the accident was intentional, but this has never been proven.

12/23/1947 – The transistor was invented at Bell Laboratories.

12/25 – Christmas Day when Christians commemorate the birth of Christ.

12/25/1776 – George Washington led a small contingent of Colonial troops across the Delaware River from Valley Forge, PA to Trenton, NJ in the dead of night, where they surprised and defeated a substantially larger contingent of Hessian mercenaries.  This daring and famous victory provided a major boost to the flagging revolutionary war effort.

12/26 – Boxing Day is celebrated in the UK, Canada, and various other countries that, formerly, were part of the British Empire.  It has nothing to do with pugilism.  Most likely, it has evolved from the 18th Century English custom of giving a “Christmas box” containing gifts, such as food or clothes, to servants and tradesmen as a reward for good service throughout the year.

12/26 – 1/1 – Kwanza, an African – American holiday established in 1966, is observed.  It celebrates family unity and a bountiful harvest.  The word means “first fruit” in Swahili.

12/29/1890 – The US cavalry massacred in excess of 200 Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee, SD., which became a symbol of the white man’s brutality to Native Americans.

12/31/1781 – The Bank of North America became the first bank to receive a federal charter.  It commenced business on January 7, 1782 in Philadelphia.

12/31/1879 – Inventor Thomas Edison’s first demonstrated the incandescent lamp (light bulb) at his lab in NJ.

12/31/ –  New Year’s Eve is celebrated throughout the world.

Birthdays – Charles Stuart, American portrait painter (of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, among others), 12/3/1755; Joseph Conrad, Polish novelist, 12/3/1857; Martin Van Buren, 8th President, 12/5/1782; General George Armstrong Custer, 12/5/1839; Walt Disney; 12/5/1901; Ira Gershwin (wrote several hit songs for “Broadway” shows), 12/6/1896; Eli Whitney (cotton gin), 12/8/1765; Clarence Birdseye (invented process for freezing foods), 12/9/1886; Emily Dickenson (poet), 12/10/1830; Melvil Dewey (invented Dewey decimal system used to categorize books in libraries), 12/10/1851; NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia,12/11/1882; John Jay (first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), 12/12/1745; General James Doolittle (led audacious bombing raid on Tokyo during WWII), 12/14/1896; Alexandre Eifel (Eifel Tower), 12/15/1832; Ludwig van Beethoven (composer), 12/16/1770; George Santayana (philosopher) (“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”), 12/16/1863; Wily Brandt (Chancellor of West Germany), 12/18/1913; Harvey Firestone (Firestone Tire and Rubber), 12/20/1868; Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvli, aka Josef Stalin, 12/21/1879; Claudia Alta Taylor, aka “Lady Bird Johnson,” 12/22/1912; Japanese WWII Emperor Hirohito, 12/23/1901; Christopher “Kit” Carson, frontiersman, 12/24/1809; Howard Hughes, 12/24/1905; Isaac Newton (theory of gravity), 12/25/1642; Clara Barton (nurse who founded American Red Cross), 12/25/1821; Humphrey Bogart, 12/25/1899; Mao Tse-Tung, 12/26/1893; Louis Pasteur (pasteurization process), 12/27/1822; (Thomas) Woodrow Wilson, 28th President, 12/28/1856; Andrew Johnson (17th president, first to be impeached), 12/29/1808; Pablo Casals (cellist), 12/28/1876; Rudyard Kipling (poet, wrote Jungle Book), 12/30/1865; Hideki Tojo (Japanese WWII Prime Minister), 12/30/1884; General George C. Marshall (Army Chief of Staff, WWII), 12/31/1880.

MOVIE QUOTES

With all the bad news in the world today, I thought we could all use a change of pace.  Therefore, below please find a quiz of famous movie quotes.  If you are a movie buff, it should not be too difficult.

Good luck, and no peeking at the internet.  This is not an “open book” quiz.

  1. “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” – (a) Platoon; (b) The Deer Hunter; (c) Apocalypse Now; (d) Hurt Locker
  2. “They call me Mr. Tibbs” – (a) In the Heat of the Night; (b) Mr. Tibbs; (c) Mr. Tibbs II; (d) Raisin in the Sun
  3. “Here’s looking at you, kid” – (a) The Maltese Falcon; (b) The Guns of Navarone; (c) The African Queen; (d) Casablanca
  4. Stella!” – (a) A Streetcar Named Desire; (b) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; (c) Stella Goes to Mardi Gras; (d) On the Waterfront
  5. “A martini, shaken, not stirred – (a) Dr. No; (b) Goldfinger; (c) From Russia with Love; (d) Thunderball
  6. “Show me the money” – (a) Greed; (b) Jerry Maguire; (c) Wall Street; (d) The Great Gadsby
  7. “I want to be alone” – (a) Sleepless in Seattle; (b) It Happened One Night; (c) Grand Hotel; (d) The Good Earth
  8. “Toga!  Toga!” – (a) Animal House; (b) Ben Hur; (c) Gladiator; (d) The Ten Commandments
  9. “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too” – (a) Turner and Hootch; (b) Alice in Wonderland; (c) The Wizard of Oz; (d) Shrek
  10. “You know how to whistle, Steve?  You just put your lips together and blow.” – (a) Funny Girl; (b) Cover Girl; (c) The Days of Wine and Roses; (d) To Have and Have Not
  11. “Tomorrow is another day.” – (a) Django; (b) The Last King of Scotland; (c)  Gone with the Wind; (d) The Help
  12. “You want me to hold the chicken, huh?  [Yes.]  I want you to hold it between your knees.”  – (a) Five Easy Pieces; (b) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; (c) All About Eve; (d) Sunset Boulevard
  13. “A boy’s best friend is his mother.” (a) Mommie Dearest; (b) Psycho; (c) Big Mama; (d) Mama Leone
  14. “Hello gorgeous.” – (a) Tootsie; (b) Some Like It Hot; (c) Funny Girl; (d) Chicago
  15. “It was beauty killed the beast.” – (a) Beauty and the Beast; (b) Godzilla!; (c) Mighty Joe Young; (d) King Kong
  16. “You’re going out a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star.” – (a) 42nd Street; (b) Mame; (c) Funny Girl; (d) Chicago
  17. “If you build it, he will come” – (a) The Natural; (b) Bull Durham; (c) The Babe Ruth Story; (d) Field of Dreams
  18. “There’s no crying in baseball.” – (a) Major League; (b) Eight Men Out; (c) The Pride of the Yankees; (d) A League of Their Own
  19. “I’ll have what she’s having.” (a) When Harry Met Sally; (b) Romancing the Stone; (c) Sleepless in Seattle; (d) Dude Ranch
  20. “Funny? How? Like a clown?  I’m here to fxxxin amuse you?” (a) Scarface; (b) Angels with Dirty Faces; (c) Public Enemy; (d) Goodfellas

Answers: 1. (c); 2. (a); 3. (d); 4. (a); 5. (b); 6. (b); 7. (c); 8. (a); 9. (c); 10. (d); 11. (c); 12. (a); 13. (b); 14. (c); 15. (d); 16. (a); 17. (d); 18. (d); 19. (a); 20. (d)

 

 

PRESIDENT TRUMP AND JERUSALEM

Sometimes, a situation just calls for decisive action.  Sometimes, a leader just has to have the conviction to do what he thinks is the right thing, regardless of what others, friend or foe, may think or do, regardless of politics, regardless of the polls.  That is what makes a strong leader.  That is what President Trump did last week when he announced that the US recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will be relocating its embassy there.

Thus, the president deviated from seven decades of US Middle East policy.  For decades, one president after another has promised to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and one after another they have reneged on that promise.  The entire international community has maintained that Jerusalem, which contains sites sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike, should remain a neutral site believing that to be the lynchpin of a lasting peace settlement.

That approach has failed miserably and unequivocally.  A state of tension, conflict, terrorism and, at times, war has continued to exist between Israel and its Arab neighbors for those seven decades.   Many of these neighbors have never recognized Israel’s sovereignty and have threatened to destroy it.  So, one could argue that the region is further away from a lasting peace than it has ever been.  It wasn’t as if the region was on the cusp of a lasting peace settlement, which is now ruined anyway.

Mr. Trump followed through on his campaign promise.  Why should we be so shocked?  “Today, we [the US] finally acknowledge the obvious, that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” he said.  “This is nothing more than a recognition of reality.  It is also the right thing to do.”

In anticipation of the fallout Mr. Trump reiterated the US’s commitment to remaining neutral and helping the Israelis and the Palestinians reach a peaceful settlement.  Moreover, he stated that this action does not mean the US is taking any stance on the final status or boundaries of Jerusalem.  “Those questions are up to the parties involved,” he opined.

Reaction was swift and predictable:

  1. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, opined on CNN that it would “move the ball forward for the peace process. ….. What this does is just [recognize] what’s real.”
  2. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, characterized the president’s action as “courageous and just,” and he pledged that “Israel will always ensure freedom of worship for Jews, Christians and Muslims, alike.”  I believe that, and I also believe that it would not be the case if Muslims controlled the city.
  3. Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said President Trump’s decision “disqualified the US [from playing] any role in any peace process.”
  4. Jordan’s King Abdullah claimed it would “undermine efforts to resume the peace process and [would] provoke Muslims and Christians alike.”
  5. Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el Sissi stated it would “undermine the chances of peace.”

Predictably, the aftermath included riots and clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli police in Jerusalem and elsewhere.  Protestors burned American flags and pictures of President Trump.  In addition, Palestinians declared “three days of rage,” which caused many schools and business establishments to close.

CONCLUSION

I applaud President’s Trump’s action as well as his courage and conviction to do what was right.  My opinion is that he made a campaign promise, and he fulfilled it.  Isn’t that what we want our politicians to do?

I believe Israel, like any other country, has the right to designate its own capital city.  Furthermore, Jerusalem has been functioning as the de facto capital of Israel anyway.

In my view, for years, the world has been bending over backwards to appease the Palestinians in hopes of encouraging them to cease hostilities, and it has not worked.  It is long since time to recognize reality.  Besides, what, really, is there to lose.  The peace process has been stalled anyway.  The region is as far away from a lasting peace as ever.  Many of the Arab states in the region provide funding, training sites, personnel and safe havens for terrorists.  For the most part, their hatred for Israel and the US is intractable and will remain so regardless of what we do.  So, I repeat, what, really is there to lose?

I look upon this action as signaling to the world steadfast support for a strong, reliable ally.  I think that all Americans, not just Jews, should support it.

 

THE SILENCE BREAKERS (AKA # ME TOO)

Time Magazine has designated “The Silence Breakers” as its “Person of the Year” in recognition of the thousands of women who, at long last, have found the courage to speak out regarding their sexual harassment experiences.  The #Me Too can be traced to actress Alyssa Milano.  In October she tweeted “if you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”  By the next morning she found that some 30,000 persons had responded, and the dam was breaking.

Before I continue, I feel compelled to say that I am at a loss to find the words to express adequately my shock, horror and revulsion with respect to this issue.  It seems that we are being bombarded with new revelations on a daily basis.  I am appalled that so many men feel the need to abuse, harass and even rape co-workers and friends simply because they feel they can get away with it.

During my 42 year business career I was cognizant of verbal interactions, which have now been deemed inappropriate, such as off-color jokes and comments, and I was aware of some illicit office romances.  But, I was ignorant of the depth and pervasiveness of this behavior.  In addition, until now, I did not appreciate fully the angst of the victims.  It is apparent that, as a society, we have a major social problem, and, furthermore, that it has been going on for many years, or, even, centuries.

Time has been selecting a “Person of the Year” since 1927.  Until 1999 it was called “Man of the Year.”  According to Time, the purpose is to honor and profile “a person, an idea or an object that for better or for worse … has done the most to influence the events of the year.”  The first one so designated was Charles Lindberg, the aviator, who, ironically, had not even “made” the cover earlier in the year following his historic trans-Atlantic flight from NY to Paris.

Some interesting facts regarding the honor:

  1. Every President has been honored while in office, except for three.  Can you name them?  See answer below.
  2. FDR is the only person to receive the honor three times.
  3. Several women have received the honor, including Wallis Simpson (1936), Queen Elizabeth II (1952), and Corazon Aquino (first female president of the Philippines)(1986).
  4. There have been many shared winners, such Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger (1972), Nelson Mandela and F. W. deKlerk, Yassir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin (1993) and Bill Clinton and Ken Starr (1998).
  5. Several groups of people have been honored, among them were the “Hungarian Freedom Fighters” (1956), “US Scientists” (1960), and “You”(2006).
  6. Inanimate objects, such as “The Computer” (1983) and “The Endangered Earth” (1988), have been honored.
  7. Some of the choices have been very controversial, such as Adolph Hitler (1938), Joseph Stalin (1939 and 1942), Nikita Khrushchev (1957) and the Ayatollah Khomeini (1979).  Although they were heinous persons, their choices were in accordance with the criteria of the award.
  8. Winston Churchill was named “Man of the Half-Century” in 1949.
  9. Albert Einstein was named “Man of the Century” in 1999.

This year’s selection was very apt.  Women are finally finding the courage to speak out.  The Silence Breakers “(SB) include women of all ages, nationalities and occupations.   We are seeing that abuse and harassment is not limited to Hollywood.  Recently, I published a blog on Harvey Weinstein.  One of my conclusions was that he would not be the last predator to be unmasked.  True, but at the time, I had no idea what was to come.

Now, we see that it pervades all segments of society – the government, athletics, private industry, schools, even the church.  Probably, it has always been around.  Human nature has not changed.  It is what it is.  The victims were just afraid to report it due to the stigma and the feeling that nothing would be done anyway.

Now, the SBs give each other courage and support..  Each one gathers strength from those who went before.  The stigma has largely been removed.

Just a few SB examples should get the point across:

  1. Three members of the US women’s gymnastics Olympic team, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gaby Douglas, accused former team doctor, Larry Nassar, of sexual abuse.   Nassar pled guilty to molesting young girls at his office and his gymnastics club, even when parents were present, and to possessing “thousands of images of child pornography.”  Maroney called Nassar a “monster.”  Nassar admitted he has an “addiction,” adding “I really did try to be a good person.”  Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison.  Good riddance.
  2. In 1997, when Ashley Judd was just an aspiring actress, Weinstein invited her to his hotel room.  Once there, he tried to coerce her, unsuccessfully, into bed.   She told “everyone” [in the industry and her father] about it.  Judd recalled being told that Weinstein’s proclivities were an “open secret” in Hollywood, the implication being that she could not do anything about it, especially if she wanted a career.  Says Judd, “Were we supposed to call some fantasy attorney general of ‘moviedom?’ ”  Now, we know how he was protected by the moguls, the press and even influential politicians.   Among Weinstein’s other alleged victims were Angelina Jolie, Rose McGowan and Gwyneth Paltrow.  In October Judd finally went public and gave others the courage to do so.
  3. Following an intensive investigation Variety published a frightening account of Matt Lauer’s deviant behavior.  They included (a) exposing himself to a female staffer, then propositioning her, (b) giving another staffer a “sex toy” with explicit instructions of how he wanted to use it on her, (c) playing a crass game called “f…, marry or kill” regarding female colleagues, and (d) allegations of sexual abuse during the Olympics.  NBC fired Lauer, but the network’s senior executives may face lawsuits due to an alleged systemic culture of sexual abuse throughout the company.
  4. Representative John Conyers, the longest serving member of Congress (1965) is being forced to resign amid allegations he has sexually molested several females over the years.
  5. Fox News fired its star rainmaker, Bill O’Reilly, amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment that Fox had settled for a total of $13 million.  Wendy Walsh, a former guest on the Factor, was the only one to go public.  She did so, she said, “for women everywhere and the women who are silenced.”
  6. SBs have surfaced in other countries as well, such as Great Britain, France and India, among many others.  It has become a worldwide movement.
  7. Perhaps, the king of sexual harassment, a dubious honor if there ever was one, is former President Bill Clinton, whose sexual transgressions were too numerous to name.  In my opinion, he was fortunate to have been president during a period when attitudes were vastly different than today, or else, he likely would have been forced to resign.
  8. Even President Trump is not immune.  Trump is being sued by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, for defamation after he called her a liar in response to her claims of sexual harassment on the show.

I could cite numerous additional examples, but you get the point.  Supposedly, there are dozens more allegations to come in the government and Hollywood.  Perhaps, even more frightening are the situations involving vulnerable women who do not have the means to fight back, such as the single-mom waitress who has to fend off her boss and even customers, or the chambermaid, who fears being assaulted while cleaning a room, or the office worker who works for a powerful manager, or the soldier who is admonished to “go along to get along,” or the immigrant, the disabled, or the LGBTQ.  Time reported it uncovered many, many examples like these.

Abuse is not always in the form of rape or groping.  Sometimes, it is the off-color jokes, the lascivious stare or insistent invitations for drinks or dinner.  Some men can offend without even being aware they doing so.  All of the above make for an uncomfortable work environment.  The cumulative effect of these types of behavior takes a significant psychological and emotional toll.

Going public is not as easy as one might think.  Many of the SBs s advised they were hesitant to do so because “your complaint becomes your identity.”  Lindsay Reynolds, one of the women who reported on the culture of sexual harassment at the group of restaurants run by celebrity chef John Besh, opined “nobody wants to be the buzzkill.”  One lobbyist, who was reporting about abuse in the California state government was warned “remember Anita Hill.”  On the other hand, many who have gone public report a catharsis of sorts.  Says Susan Fowler, the Uber SB, “there’s something really empowering about standing up for what’s right.  It’s a badge of honor.”

It is easy to forget that not long ago sexual abuse and harassment were ignored as described above.  In fact, before 1975 the term “sexual harassment” did not even exist.  With the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the creation of the EEOC things began to improve.  At least, we had a law on the books.   Corporations have been training employees as to proper behavior.  However, societal attitudes have been slow to change.  In 1991 Anita Hill’s accusations against Clarence Thomas fell on deaf ears.  I dare say, things would have been different today.

CONCLUSION

This was a very hard blog for me to write.  I wanted to do justice to the victims.  I am glad that so many have found the courage to speak out, and I am gratified that society is finally willing to deal with the problem.

That said, I feel compelled to denote one important caveat.  I fear that we are now very close to a slippery slope with respect to this issue.  Once we head down that slippery slope there is no going back.  As I said, we are being bombarded with new allegations seemingly every day.   We have reached the point where any allegation is being deemed to be accurate.  Politicians and high-profile executives have had their reputations besmirched and, in some cases, been forced to resign.  Businesses are acting swiftly to terminate those who have been accused.  Most of us are applauding these actions, and rightly so, but we have to be careful not to overreact.

The US constitution guarantees due process for those accused of a crime.  I don’t want to be put in the position of defending these predators in any way, shape or form.  But, one could argue that, in some cases, due process, e. g. a thorough, impartial investigation and a trial, is being denied.  That, my friends, is the slippery slope to which I am referring.

Furthermore, in the eyes of the public, all instances are being perceived equally.  Thus, an inappropriate joke is being perceived as equivalent to a charge of groping or even rape.  Obviously, we as a society need to recognize that not all abuses are equal and the punishment for all of them should not be the same.

Quiz answer:  Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Gerald Ford.

A DATE IN INFAMY

Today, December 7, marks the 76th anniversary of one of the most heinous, despicable acts in modern history.  As President Roosevelt forecast, December 7, 1941 is truly a date that has lived in infamy.  It is one of those dates we can never forget.  It is burned into our very souls.  Mention that date to a person of a certain age and their reaction will be akin to later generations’ reaction to November 22, 1963 or September 11, 2001. Most any person over the age of five on those dates remembers where he was, what he was doing and how he felt when he heard the news. Those are dates that had a profound effect on our lives both individually and collectively.

On December 6, 1941 America was still working its way out of the Great Depression, which began in 1929 with the stock market crash. Unemployment was at 9.9%, not good, but a significant improvement from the peak of 25% in 1932. Americans were not thinking about war. After all, we had just fought the “Great War,” (the “war to end wars”). Sure, there was a war waging in Europe, but we were not involved directly. We had no boots on the ground, and we had a vast ocean between us and them. Most Americans were focused on their own lives, not on world events. America was in full isolationist mode. All that was about to change suddenly, violently, tragically and irrevocably.

We all know what happened on December 7, 1941. We know that the Japanese executed a devastating surprise attack on our naval base at Pearl Harbor that precipitated our involvement in WWII. Approximately, 3,500 lives were lost, civilian as well as military, along with most of our Pacific Fleet and airplanes. America switched immediately from peacetime mode to wartime mode. Patriotism and nationalism abounded. The “greatest generation” was on the march.

As we all know, America recovered to win the war after four years of intense and costly fighting. Consequently, there is no need for me to rehash those events.  The Pacific War has been the subject of numerous books, movies, and tv productions.  The central theme of this blog will focus on the events that led up to the war with Japan.

Every war has its immediate cause and its underlying causes. The attack on Pearl Harbor was the immediate cause. But, what were the underlying causes? What would make Japan start a war that it had virtually no chance of winning? Glad you asked. Read on.

Many, if not most, historians maintain that the US actually provoked Japan into starting the war, although we did not intend for them to devastate our naval fleet in the fashion they did.  Over the course of the 1930’s we took various actions that, in reality, left Japan no choice, to wit:

1. The US was providing assistance to the Chinese who were at war with Japan. This included providing airplane pilots, armaments and other supplies and materials. Japan had been at war with China since the 1930’s. Its extreme brutality was exemplified by the Nanking Massacre, aka the Rape of Nanking, which began in December 1937. In a six-week period over 300,000 Chinese civilians were murdered, and there was widespread raping and looting. This shocking brutality was a portent of the Pacific War.
2. Along with the British and the Dutch the military was actively planning prospective military operations against the Japanese in the Far East to counter its aggression.
3. Japan had few natural resources of its own; it needed to import raw materials, such as coal, iron, oil, rubber and bauxite, from the US and other countries in Southeast Asia to fuel its burgeoning industries. In the late 1930’s the US began to severely limit its access to these materials by enforcing sanctions, limits and embargoes. This aided the British and the Dutch, who were concerned about Japan’s aggressive behavior in the Far East, but it provoked the Japanese.
4. Thus, one can view the attack on Pearl Harbor, not as an isolated event, but rather as the last act in a long line of connected ones.

Many historians believe that FDR provoked Japan intentionally, because he wanted to go to war against the Axis Powers, and the American people were decidedly against doing so. Before you scoff at that notion, consider that we have fought other wars following provocations that may or may not have been fabricated. For example:

1. The Spanish-American War in 1898 began when the battleship Maine was blown up in Havana harbor under mysterious circumstances. 75% of her crew was killed. “Remember the Maine” became the signature battle cry of that war. There is evidence that suggests that the Maine was not blown up by the Spanish, but may have blown up by accident or been sabotaged to provide a pretext for us to enter that war.
2. The legal basis for commencing the Vietnam War was the Gulf of Tonkin incidents of August 2 and 4, 1964. A US destroyer, the USS Maddox, exchanged fire with North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf, which is off the coast of Vietnam. As a result Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized President Johnson to assist any Southeast Asian country that was being jeopardized by “communist aggression.” Johnson was only too eager to do so. It was later determined that some key facts, such as who fired first, are in dispute.
3. President Bush, 43, “sold” the Iraq War to the American people by asserting there was “proof” that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction.” Such weapons have never been found.

So, if FDR did, in fact, goad Japan into attacking us so that we could enter the war against the Axis Powers, it would not have been the only time the US Government used that tactic. In the 1950’s the renowned historian Harry Elmer Barnes (who, ironically, later lost much of his credibility by becoming a vociferous denier of the Holocaust) published a series of essays describing the various ways in which the US Government goaded the Japanese into starting a war it could not win and manipulated American public opinion. After the war, Secretary of War Henry Stimson admitted that “we needed the Japanese to commit the first overt act.”

CONCLUSION

Most historians agree that even the Japanese leadership in the 1930’s knew it could not win a prolonged war with the US. The US was vastly superior in terms of men, material and resources, and eventually, it would wear down the Japanese. That, in fact, is precisely what happened. In 1941 the die was cast when a more militant, nationalistic government came into power headed by Emperor Hirohito and Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. They spent several months planning the pre-emptive strike.  In his best selling book Killing the Rising Sun, Bill O’Reilly denoted that the Japanese sought to imbed spies into the Hawaiian civilian population to gather intelligence.  O’Reilly quoted one senior officer who found out that his Japanese gardener was actually a colonial in the Japanese army.

Many historians believe that the Japanese hierarchy was emboldened, in part, by the successful surprise attack on the Russians in 1905 led by then-Admiral Tojo during the Russo-Japanese War.   It had worked once; why not again?  Their intention was to neutralize American naval power in the Pacific so that it would be unable to block Japan’s aggression in Southeast Asia. They determined that Sunday would be the best day of the week to attack. They also weighed the advantages and disadvantages of attacking the fleet in the harbor or at sea before settling on the attack in the harbor. Although the battleships were sitting ducks in the more shallow harbor, Admiral Chester Nimitz denoted later that one crucial advantage to the US was that we were able to raze several of them later and return them to active duty.

Despite its years of provocations, the US was ill-prepared for an attack.  In addition, we had failed to confront the Japanese directly earlier when they could have been dealt with more easily. So, instead of fighting a small war in the 1930s we ended up fighting a world war just a few years later.

One could argue that there are strong parallels between then and now with respect to ISIS and other terrorist groups.  Once again, we failed to deal with the problem when it was small; once again most of the country is very reluctant to get involved in “other people’s problems;” and, in my opinion, once again we will end up fighting a much larger and more costly war as a result.  History, when ignored, does tend to repeat itself.

Ultimately, the Japanese underestimated the US. Their leaders knew we were in isolationist mode. They did not think we had the “stomach” to fight a prolonged, brutal war. Also, they knew we would be fighting the Germans and Italians as well. Furthermore, they figured that with our Pacific Fleet decimated, if not destroyed, we would be unable or unwilling to counter their aggression in the Far East. The Far East was their end game for reasons discussed above; they were not interested in attacking the US mainland, although much of the US civilian population feared that they would.

Obviously they were wrong. They were not the first enemy to underestimate the US, and they likely will not be the last.

With the passage of time there are fewer and fewer living survivors of the attack.  At one time, there was an official Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, which, at its peak totalled some 70,000 members worldwide.  However, by 2011 only 2,700 remained alive, and many of those were in poor health.  Consequently, it was disbanded at the end of the year.

Today, some 20 survivors were among the 2,000 or so persons who attended a brief ceremony at Pearl Harbor to honor those who made the supreme sacrifice.  One of them was 94 year old Gilbert Meyer who was an 18 year-old fireman on board the USS Utah.   He recalled how a Japanese torpedo struck the portside of the ship, and he survived simply because he happened to be on the other side of the ship.  Such are the vagaries of war.  Meyer served through the entire war and was fortunate enough to witness Japan’s formal surrender in Tokyo Bay from the deck of the USS Detroit.

KATE STEINLE VERDICT

The thing about juries is that they are unpredictable.  Many trial attorneys consider them to be the key to the eventual verdict.  Some even go so far as to claim that many trials are won or lost before they even begin based on the composition of the jury.  Jury consultants earn considerable fees for their expertise in jury selection.  The hit tv series, Bull, is based on such a character.  When all is said and done, however, no one can predict a jury’s decision, and one can be hard-pressed to explain it afterwards.  Such was the case in the Steinle verdict.

The US constitution mandates that one be tried by a jury of his or her “peers.”  True in the legal sense, but not necessarily true in the real world.  In the real world, each juror comes with his or her own set of preconceived opinions and prejudices.  They are completely different from each other and the defendant.   For example, how and where would one find 12 “peers” of a billionaire businessman, a famous celebrity or, as in this case, an illegal immigrant?  Not happening in the literal sense, but we do the best we can.  The judicial system, though imperfect, is what it is.

The other major variables are the venue and the individual judge.  The venue determines the composition of the jury pool.  For example, in the infamous OJ murder trial, most objective observers believe that had the trial been held elsewhere, say, in Brentwood, the verdict would have been different.   Individual judges are supposed to be impartial, but they are human.  Each has his or her own set of prejudices and opinions, just like the rest of us.

In the Steinle murder trial, Judge Samuel Feng had to weigh the probative value of Zarate’s immigration and criminal history against its potential to prejudice the jury.  As we all know, this is a classic dilemma for a trial judge, who generally has wide latitude in these matters.  Feng ruled Zarate’s entire immigration and criminal history to be inadmissible.   I would think that those things were pretty significant factors of which the jury needed to be apprised in order to render a just decision.   But, apparently, Feng disagreed.

I believe that was the most crucial ruling of the entire trial and greatly affected the outcome.  Outside the courtroom in the eyes of the public the trial became a referendum on illegal immigration and the role of sanctuary cities.  At the moment, these are very controversial and sensitive issues with significant social, legal, economic and political overtones.  Inside the courtroom, on the other hand, the trial became solely about whether or not Zarate had “accidentally” fired a pistol he just “found” under a park bench.

Despite the incredulity of his story, the jury of his so-called “peers” believed it and acquitted him of both murder and manslaughter.  It only convicted him of felony possession of a weapon.  Most of the country was shocked, dismayed, and irate.  In retrospect, however, given the venue and Feng’s rulings it should not have come as much of a surprise.  Personally, I don’t see how any reasonably intelligent person could believe that story unless he had a preconceived bias, but I wasn’t on the jury.

The crime, itself, was pretty straightforward.   In July 2015 Kate Steinle and her father, Jim, were out for a pleasant stroll on a San Francisco pier.  Garcia Zarate, a homeless, illegal alien from Mexico with a felonious criminal record, who had been deported five times and re-entered illegally each time, began firing a pistol indiscriminately. (Zarate had recently been released from jail despite the fact that ICE had requested the City of San Francisco to hold him for them for deportation.  As a sanctuary city, SF authorities defiantly declined to do so, in clear violation of federal law.)

Zarate claimed he had found the gun under a park bench.  The pistol had been stolen from an officer’s car.  Did he find it or steal it?  No one knows.  In any event, one of the bullets ricocheted off the sidewalk and hit Steinle.  She died in her father’s arms.  Her last words were “Help me, dad.”  Tragic, and unnecessary.  It is hard to imagine anything worse for a parent than your child dying in your arms and you being helpless to do anything about it.

Reaction to the verdict was swift and predictable.  Some examples:

  1. President Trump tweeted that the verdict was “disgraceful.”
  2. Tom Horman, acting director of ICE, said he was “stunned” and “sickened.”
  3. Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett opined “If you are inclined to commit a heinous crime, San Francisco is the place for you.”
  4. The San Francisco Chronicle intoned “justice is not served” and denoted that Zarate “could be released on the streets today.”
  5. CNN covered the verdict moderately but soon as soon as the story about General Michael Flynn’s pleading guilty to lying to the FBI broke, it focused on it.
  6. MSNBC allocated some two minutes to the story over a two-day period.
  7. UC Hastings law professor Hadar Aviram called it a “triumph” for our judicial system.
  8. Finally, Jim Steinle put it succinctly and accurately: “Justice was rendered, but it was not served.”

CONCLUSION

In my opinion, like it or not, in the eyes of the public this verdict, rendered in ultra-liberal SF, has become and will continue to be viewed as a referendum on illegal immigration and sanctuary cities.  It solidifies the impression that most Dems are in favor of very liberal immigration policies, if not outright open borders.  Remember, it was Congressional Dems who “killed” the passage of “Kate’s Law,” which was meant to preclude murders of this type, prospectively.   Going forward, every time an illegal alien commits a violent crime, they will “own” it.  The GOP, on the other  hand, has staked out the more reasonable position of securing our borders and denying sanctuary to illegal aliens who have been convicted of a felony.

I believe the Dems’ motivation for shamelessly kowtowing to Hispanics in this manner is to gain their loyalty and their votes.  Sometimes, it appears that Dem politicians favor the rights of illegal immigrants over those of US citizens.  But, I think that strategy is ill-advised and will backfire.  After all, one of the main reasons Donald Trump was elected was his tough stance on immigration and secure borders.  I predict this will be a major issue in the 2018 and 2020 elections to the detriment of the Dems.

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S TWEETS AND FREE SPEECH

President Donald Trump’s tweets and the inalienable right of free speech may appear to be two separate concepts, but I believe they are related, if not intertwined.  How?  Read on, and I will demonstrate.

First and foremost, let me say that some of Mr. Trump’s tweets are over-the-top, embarrassing and inappropriate to the office of the president.  I understand his general desire to tweet.  He perceives it as a means to counteract the predominantly adverse media coverage of his presidency by disseminating his opinions and viewpoints directly to the public, roughly equivalent to FDR’s “fireside chats.”  In these cases, he is merely exercising his right to free speech.

However, there is no need for derogatory name-calling.  For example, he doesn’t have to refer to Elizabeth Warren repeatedly as “Pocahontas.”  Everyone knows she lied about her supposed Indian heritage.  No need to “beat a dead horse.”  Similarly, repeatedly referring to Kim Jong Un as “little rocket man” is not helpful to resolving the current tension between the US and NK.  It may have been funny the first time, but no need to keep repeating it.  Sometimes Mr. Trump acts like he is engaging in a high school “rank out” session.

In addition, I disagree with his re-tweeting of the anti-Muslim video put out by the Britain First group.  That’s one case where he should have paused before hitting “send.”  On the other hand, I feel that the quotes of some of the members of Parliament (“racist,” “fascist,” “stupid”) were a bit extreme, but they are entitled to exercise free speech too.

All that said, I remain an avid Trump supporter.  I prefer to focus on what he has done, is doing and wants to do rather than on a few tweets.  For example, he has been very aggressive towards combating terrorism.  ISIS’ territory in the Middle East has been reduced considerably.  He is a strong supporter of the military and veterans’ rights.   I support his immigration policies, which, though much criticized, for the most part merely advocate enforcing laws already on the books.  Most Americans feel safer today than they did last year.  He advocates putting America and Americans first.  He has been a strong supporter of Israel and other allies, such as Japan and South Korea.  He has improved relations with China, which I view as critical, prospectively.  The economic outlook is promising.  Unemployment is down.  The stock market, which is an objective barometer of consumer and business confidence, is at record levels.  He has managed to arrest, if not reverse, the PC madness that has been afflicting us the past few years.  He managed to get a moderate Justice appointed to the Supreme Court.  Has he been a flawless president?  No.  After all, he failed to repeal/amend Obamacare, and he has yet to get tax reform passed.  But, name one president who was devoid of negatives.  One has to look at the overall situation.  Some of you may not like it either, but half the country does.

The larger disturbing issue is the deterioration of free speech, not only in the US but also abroad.  We are now on a slippery slope where it has become acceptable to object to, demonstrate against, or outright ban speech that is deemed, by some, to be objectionable.  Whatever happened to that oft-quoted philosophy “I strenuously object to what you are saying, but I will fight to the death defending your right to say it?”

On many college campuses conservative speakers, such as Ann Coulter, have been banned, demonstrated against or attacked.  Recently, this selectivity reached a new low when at Evergreen State University in Olympia, WA a group of students attacked a liberal professor because he refused to support a “Day of Absence.”  They labeled him a “white supremacist,” attacked and insulted him relentlessly and vociferously, and demanded the college terminate his employment.  The liberal-leaning NY Times characterized this an as example of “free speech activists …. turning their ire on free- thinking progressives.”  The article added “without free speech what’s liberalism all about?”  Indeed.

CONCLUSION

I am not a constitutional law scholar, but I do have what I think is a reasoned, logical, common sense opinion on this matter.  First of all, if we endorse the concept that certain types of speech by certain groups can be banned, where does it all end?  Furthermore, who decides what is objectionable and what is not?  Isn’t that what totalitarian governments do?

I think most people would agree that banning any speaker or speech puts us on a slippery slope.  Today, we ban Nazi sympathizers.  Most of us can agree that their ideas are repugnant in the extreme.  However, tomorrow, it could be advocates of abortion or “choice.”  After that, it could be gay rights or certain religious advocates.

In the 1970s the Supreme Court opined that the college classroom is a “marketplace of ideas. …. All viewpoints and opinions – no matter how offensive or disagreeable …should be allowed to come out”  Makes sense to me, but we have drifted away from that concept.

Another example.  Some of you may recall that in the 1970s the Supreme Court opined that Nazi sympathizers were entitled to march in a parade in Skokie, IL despite the public outcry and the fact that many Holocaust survivors lived in the area.

England has a law on its books banning free speech that constitutes “expressions of hatred toward someone due to their color, race, disability, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or sexual orientation.”  Sounds good, but, again, who decides what violates the law?  Today, the supposed violator is the group “Britain First.”  Tomorrow, who?

Like I said, where does it all end, and who decides?  Ultimately, the answer to the second question is the courts.  The answer to the first is badly…. very badly.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY

For the sake of variety, I thought it might be fun to provide you with a little “painless” history.  Therefore, I have provided below a list of what I consider to be significant historical events that occurred during the month of November.

  1. 11/1/1848 – The first women’s medical school opened in Boston, MA.  It was founded by a Mr. Samuel Gregory and “boasted” twelve students.  In 1874 it became part of the Boston University School of Medicine, becoming one of the first co-ed medical schools.  According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, today, women comprise approximately 1/2 of all medical students.
  2. 11/1/1950 – President Harry S Truman, whom many historians consider to have been one of our greatest presidents, survived an assassination attempt by two members of a Puerto Rican nationalist movement.
  3. 11/2/1962 – President Kennedy announced that all Soviet missiles in Cuba were being dismantled and their installations destroyed, thus signaling the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  On 11/20 he announced that all missile sites had been dismantled. Unbeknownst to the general public, that crisis was probably the closest we ever came to nuclear war.
  4. 11/3/1948 – The Chicago Tribune published its famous, or infamous, headline “Dewey Defeats Truman,” arguably, the most embarrassing headline ever.
  5. 11/4/1862 – Richard Gatling patented his first rapid-firing machine gun, which utilized rotating barrels to load, fire and extract the spent cartridges.  The gun bares his name.
  6. 11/4/1942 – In the battle generally considered to be one of the turning points of WWII (along with Stalingrad) the British defeated the Germans at El Alamein (North Africa).
  7. 11/7/1811 – General (and future president) William Henry Harrison defeated the Shawnee Indians in the Battle of Tippecanoe Creek, which was located in present-day Indiana.  The battle gave rise to the chief slogan of Harrison’s presidential campaign – “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.”
  8. 11/7/1885 – Canada’s first transcontinental railroad was completed, opening up the western part of the country to settlement.
  9. 11/7/1962 –  Former Vice President Richard Nixon, having lost the California gubernatorial election decisively to Edmund Brown, gave his famous farewell speech to reporters, telling them they “wouldn’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen this is my last press conference.”  As we know, Nixon made a comeback in 1968 narrowly defeating Hubert Humphrey for the presidency.
  10. 11/8/1895 – Wilhelm Roentgen discovered electromagnetic ray, aka, X-rays.
  11. 11/8/1942 – The Allies landed successfully in North Africa (Operation Torch).
  12. 11/9&10/1938 – Known as Kristallnacht as all over Germany Nazis terrorized Jews, burning, pillaging and vandalizing synagogues, homes and businesses.
  13. 11/10/1775 – Marine Corps established as part of the Navy.
  14. 11/10/1871 – Explorer Henry Stanley finds Dr. Livingston after a two-year search.  May or may not have actually uttered the attributed phrase “Dr. Livingston, I presume.”
  15. 11/11/1973 – Egypt and Israel sign momentus cease-fire accord sponsored by the US.
  16. 11/13/1927 –  The Holland Tunnel, the first underwater tunnel built in the US, opens connecting NYC and NJ.
  17. 11/13/1956 – The Supreme Court declared racial segregation on public buses to be unconstitutional.
  18. 11/15/1864 – Union soldiers, under the command of General William Sherman, burn Atlanta.
  19. 11/17/1869 – The Suez Canal opened after taking 10+ years to complete.
  20. 11/19/1863 – President Abraham Lincoln delivers the famous Gettysburg Address.
  21. 11/20/1789 – NJ became the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights.
  22. 11/20/1945 – The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials began.  Twenty-four former leaders of Nazi Germany were tried for various war crimes.
  23. 11/22/1963 –  President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald who, in turn, was later assassinated by Jack Ruby.  Hours later, Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president while on board Air Force One.
  24. 11/28/1520 – Portugese explorer Ferdinand Magellan rounded the southern tip of South America, passing through what is now the Strait of Magellan, crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.

CONCLUSION

In addition, the following notables, who made significant contributions to society, were born during November:

Daniel Boone (frontiersman) – 11/2/1734; President James K. Polk (11th President) – 11/2/1795; Will Rogers (humorist) – 11/4/1879; Walter Cronkite (tv anchor/journalist) – 11/4/1916; John Philip Sousa (musical conductor) – 11/6/1854; James Naismith (inventor of basketball)  – 11/6/1861; Marie Curie (chemist who discovered radium) – 11/7/1867; Billy Graham (evangelist) – 11/7/1918; Edmund Halley (astronomer/mathematician who discovered Halley’s Comet) – 11/8/1656; Christiaan Barnard (pioneer of heart transplant operations) – 11/8/1922; Richard Burton (actor) – 11/10/1925; George Patton (WWII General) – 11/11/1885; Auguste Rodin (sculptor of The Thinker, among others) – 11/12/1840; Elizabeth Cady Stanton (suffragist) – 11/12/1815; Grace Kelly (actress/princess) – 11/12/1929; Louis Brandeis (Supreme Court justice) – 11/13/1856; Robert Louis Stevenson (author) 11/13/1850; Robert Fulton (inventor of the steamboat) – 11/14/1765; Claude Monet (pioneered impressionist painting) – 11/14/1840; Jawaharlal Nehru (India’s first Prime Minister) – 11/14/1889; Louis Daguerre (invented daguerreotype process of developing photographs) – 11/18/1789; James A. Garfield (20th President) – 11/19/1831; Indira Gandhi (Indian Prime Minister) – 11/19/1917; Edwin Hubble (astronomer for whom the Hubble Space Telescope is named) – 11/20/1889; Robert Kennedy (JFK’s brother, Attorney General and US Senator from NY) – 11/20/1925; Charles De Gaulle (French WWII hero and president of France) – 11/22/1890; Franklyn Pierce (14th President) – 11/23/1804; William (Billy the Kid) Bonney (notorious outlaw) – 11/23/1859; William Henry Platt (aka Boris Karloff) (famed horror movie star) – 11/23/1887; Zachary Taylor (12th President) – 11/24/1784; Andrew Carnegie (financier and philanthropist) – 11/25/1835; John Harvard (founder of Harvard University in 1636) – 11/26/1607; Anders Celsius (invented Celsius, aka centigrade, temperature scale) – 11/27/1701; Chaim Weizmann (Israeli statesman) – 11/27/1874; Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, (author) – 11/30/1835; Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister during WWII) – 11/30/1874.

Well, there you have it.  I tried to keep it succinct so as not to bore those of you who are ambivalent toward history.  Please let know your opinion.  Absent a groundswell of negative comments, I will likely publish a similar analysis of the eleven remaining months.  LOL.