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Posted by on Mar 1, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 3 comments

Empty Words and False Promises: Dissecting President Trump’s State of the Union Address

 

 

Let’s begin with several positive things about President Trump’s first State of the Union address, which took place last night.

First, President Trump’s opening remarks condemning the alarming increase in hate crimes across America — including several antisemitic acts and deadly violence against immigrants — was both timely and decisive.  For the first time in 40 days of this new administration, we finally witnessed the actions of a President, instead of a circus clown.

President Trump’s speech also included a number of specific policy shifts many of us will support if implemented, including liberals like myself.  Some of these proposals include:

Disengaging from military and financial conflicts in the Middle East.  President Trump noted that the amount of money wasted on pointless wars (specifically in Afghanistan and Iraq) could have “rebuilt American infrastructure two times over.”  He’s absolutely correct.  So, let’s quit wasting more time, money, and brave American lives.  Let’s get the hell out of that region once and for all and let those people solve their own problems.  [Note:  Unfortunately, reducing involvement in that region won’t apply to America’s blind support for Israel, which the president tirelessly reiterated last night.]

President Trump is absolutely correct when it comes to the controversial issue of reducing cumbersome federal regulations which inhibit new drugs coming to market and experimental medical treatments which might save lives.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) imposes many absurd restrictions on new treatments, including waiting times that usually take several years.  Here’s a guideline that will streamline things:  If a drug has already been cleared in other industrialized countries and appears to be working well, then fast-track its approval.  Cut out the red tape and allow it into the United States (of course, a federal bill to allow the importation of foreign drugs was shot down last month, with Republicans blocking this proposal in overwhelming numbers).  Moreover, let’s allow so-called “risky” drugs to be used on terminally-ill patients who have no other options and who will most certainly die without some kind of miracle cure.  President Trump insisted that he wants to reduce FDA regulations, and we should all get behind this strongly.  [Note:  He’s absolutely wrong on other FDA matters, such as food safety, which is may also receive lax treatment.  I’m speaking of experimental new drugs, not cutting all regulations across the board, which is the Republican position.] 

The U.S. must make a considerable investment in updating and improving our domestic infrastructure.  This is a longtime Democratic plan (pushed by liberals), dating back as far as the days of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), under Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Democrats have always supported what have been called “make work” projects providing millions of jobs and improving the nation’s roads, bridges, and other centers of transportation and commerce.  It’s nice to see President Trump finally acknowledge what we leftists have been preaching for a very long time — that infrastructure improvements must be a permanent fixture and responsibility of federal government.

_____

Unfortunately, while there were many positives in the speech, President Trump also continued to misrepresent facts and misstate what have clearly been the contradictory positions of his own party on matters of the utmost importance to this country.  Here are several examples from last night’s speech:

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) — All Republicans, President Trump foremost among them, have been screaming and scrambling to dismantle so-called “Obamacare” for the past six years.  Now we see that was nothing more than dog-whistle campaign rhetoric designed to make the Right-wing base wet their pants with excitement.  Now that they’re totally in charge, we’re still waiting for their “beautiful plan” (Trump’s words) to be revealed to the American people.  We continue to wait, and wait.  Fact is, Republicans have nothing to propose.  President Trump even admits publicly that he doesn’t know the first thing about a America’s complex health care system.  Yet, he did spend considerable time slamming the ACA last night, (falsely) saying it’s collapsing (no, it isn’t).  It sounded like just another red-meat campaign speech.  The bottom line is this:  Republicans have nothing on the table that will replace the ACA.  Not a thing.  Many Americans now realize this system needs to be improved, not scrapped.  President Trump is either a liar or ignorant on this topic — very likely both.

Backing NATO — President Trump has openly questioned the role of NATO for the past two years while running for office.  He’s said many times that traditional treaty organization may no longer be necessary.  That might be a debatable position and we should have that discussion.  Yet last night, President Trump completely reversed himself on this issue pledging to fully support U.S. involvement in NATO.  Moreover, he committed at least one laughable gaffe, stating that NATO helped to save the world from fascism during two world wars.  Uh, no it didn’t, Mr. President.  NATO wasn’t formed until 1949, four years after the end of World War II.  Apparently, your speechwriter Steve Bannon needs to take a world history class.

Increasing Defense Spending — What’s the looming global conflict that requires the U.S. go so far above and beyond the bloated all-time record high appropriations for so-called national defense?  We’re already spending more money on boots and bombs and military bases than the next dozen nations in the world — combined!  We’re winding down pointless unwinnable wars in the Middle East (if President Trump’s other pledge is to be believed).  We’re headed towards a more isolationist role in world affairs, by his own admission.  Why in the hell is President Trump proposing to increase military spending by nearly 10 percent?  This is insane, especially given the national debt and the dire need to spend money here are home improving our country, rather than trying to rebuild war zones in the Middle East.  This is madness.

Defeating ISIS — President Trump talks a good game about defeating the terror group ISIS.  On the campaign trail, he pledged to wipe out ISIS within the first 30 days of his new administration.  Well, it’s now Day 41.  What objective to that end has been accomplished?  Has ISIS been defeated yet?  President Trump did approve a disastrous military excursion into Yemen, which resulted in failure.  Just prior to his speech, the president tried to shift the blame to his predecessor (President Obama) and the military for the failure on his watch, which he approved.  What a shameful gutless display of leadership.

Protecting Clean Air and Water — Last night, President Trump pledged to protect clean air and water.  How nice.  Yet, while his mouth was saying one thing, he’s been doing quite another behind the scenes.  He’s vowed to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  He already signed an Executive Order which will dismantle the Clean Water Rule, which was instituted during the Obama Administration.  Trump’s deregulation will now allow companies to turn waterways into sewers.  Polluters rejoice!  President Trump is a fraud on this issue, and everyone knows it.

Helping Our Veterans — President Trump’s pledge to take care of America’s veterans is a farce.  Dismissing the fact he held a fundraiser for veterans during his presidential campaign last year, and then skipped out on writing the check to the charity, congressional Republicans have a dismal record when it comes to funding veterans issues.  [SOURCE HERE]

Crime — Once again, President Trump played fast and loose with the facts when it comes to crime.  All statistics reveal that crime has actually decreased over the past few decade.  Yet, from listening to President Trump’s speech one would think there’s lawlessness in the streets.  Violent crime certainly is a problem in many places and this must be addressed.  Yet, several overtures from urban mayors and leaders seeking a discussion with the new administration have been ignored.  Trump and Republicans love to talk a good game when it comes to crime.  But, they’ve proposed nothing in terms of solutions, other than building more for-profit prisons and criminalizing drugs (see new initiatives by the Department of Justice on recreational marijuana use).  President Trump also ignored what is probably the worst public health crisis of our time, which is Opioid abuse and addiction.  Not a single word about that topic was mentioned.  Shame.

_____

Indeed, President Trump’s speech was noteworthy for what wasn’t mentioned.  Despite rambling on for more than an hour, taking on wide ranging topics, climate change wasn’t brought up once.  Neither was America’s unsustainable reliance on fossil fuels.  The President did do plenty of cheer leading for the coal industry and oil companies, however.

Oh, and while America’s military commitments comprised a significant portion of the speech, there wasn’t a single mention of Russia.  Go figure.

There were also three specific moments during the president’s State of the Union address which left me and many other liberals gasping in disbelief:

— President Trump proposed creating a new federal agency supposedly to operate within the Department of Homeland Security.  This agency will be known as VOICE.  That stands for “Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement.”  This is an utterly appalling idea which brought audible gasps from the audience when it was first introduced in the speech.  Why would the federal government create a new agency that would discriminate based solely, not on the victim of the crime, but the perpetrator of the crime?  What next?  A federal agency designed to protect us only from criminals with brown hair?  What does this absurd proposal say to the hundreds of thousands of actual victims of crimes all across America?  The distinction made for victims of illegal immigrants (a number which is statistically decreasing, by the way) says to all those who were robbed, stabbed, shot, or murdered by anyone other than an illegal immigrant — screw you.  We’re only interested in your case if you were attacked by an illegal.  Otherwise, get lost.  This is a politicized agency based on hate and fear.  It is an appalling idea.

— President Trump’s line about limiting government corruption was absurd and obscene, particularly coming of an eight-year presidency with no scandals whatsoever.  He said, “we have placed a hiring freeze on nonmilitary and nonessential federal workers.  We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption….”  Again, more laughter from the audience.  Draining the swamp of government corruption would actually mean not hiring Wall Street insiders, political flunkies, and billionaires, which is precisely what this administration has done since taking office.  President Trump continues to use his pups to enrich himself, runs from questions on his international business connections, and still steadfastly refuses to release his tax records.  To utter the words “drain(ing) the swamp of government corruption” is ludicrous.

“The time for trivial fights is behind us.”  President Trump actually said those shocking words with a straight face (which elicited laughter from the gallery).  Trouble was, he wasn’t joking.  He was serious.  This delusional one-man hate-machine, obsessed with tweeting attacks against actresses at 4 am has already lowered “trivial” to subterranean depths.  No politician in my lifetime has engaged in more trivial bullshit.  For this impostor to stand before the American people in the hallowed gallery of congress and preach to us — the American people — about “trivial” behavior is a disgrace.  He should have been laughed out of the Capitol Building for that remark.

_____

Finally, President Trump is either a liar (well, that’s already been established) or else he’s very bad at math.

The President is proposing to increase the size of the military by nearly 10 percent.  He’s proposing to increase funding for veterans.  He’s proposing to build a wall on the Mexican border, which will probably cost about $35 billion.  He’s proposing to spend $1 trillion (that’s with a T-as in trillion) on domestic infrastructure improvements.  He’s proposing not to touch government entitlement programs — including Medicaid and Social Security.  And now — get this — he’s going to cut taxes.

Someone please explain how anyone can propose to increase the federal budget by perhaps 20-25 percent while cutting taxes?

I’m still waiting.

Oddly enough, the press and public reaction to the speech was largely positive.  Afterward, he was described repeatedly as “presidential.” This is the depth of the dungeon which has come to define to appallingly low expectations of the Trump Administration.

The evidence is clear — this was a speech filled with empty words, false promises, and plenty of lies.  Why should anyone be surprised.  Lies and empty rhetoric is something this president has truly become an expert at.  In fact, he’s the best of all time.

 

Writer’s Note:  Technically, this was not a State of the Union address.  However, I’m using some literary latitude and categorizing it as precisely that based on the setting, content, and delivery. 

 

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Posted by on Feb 28, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 2 comments

Revulsion for the Man vs. Respect for the Office

 

 

If someone you absolutely loath was elected President of the United States, if you were to meet that person, would you agree to shake hands?

 

Within a few minutes, President Donald Trump will make his first-ever address to a joint session of congress.

In response, some opposition legislators have announced their intentions to openly rebuke the 45th president.  Some Democrats won’t attend at all.  Others will stand silently in the House gallery and refuse to clap, which is the customary gesture of respect afforded to all chief executives both when they enter and depart the chamber.  At least one Democrat has stated that he will not shake President Trump’s hand, if it’s extended.

That’s what you call a rebuke.

No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, we can all agree on one thing.  American democracy entered unprecedented and uncharted political territory, and the ways things are now headed, the great continental divide may only get worse in coming months and years ahead.  In other words, pretty soon, this might get really, really ugly.

How did this happen?

President Trump has brought this level of ire entirely upon himself.  His outrageous behavior, insulting demeanor, repeated lies, petty bickering, and brazen unwillingness to work with members of the legislative branch (even those within his own party) has alienated representatives on both side of the aisle on Capital Hill.  He’s not exactly been Reaganesque when it comes to charm, either.  He is, to millions, actually billions — a repulsive figure.

This unparalleled rebuke isn’t really partisan.  Party lines don’t explain the intensity of repugnance.  Consider that President Bush was viciously slammed by Democrats, especially during the last two years of his administration, when two pointless wars raged on and the economy finally crumbled into the crapper.  Still, the Democrats always stood up and applauded President Bush at all official and ceremonial events.  He was always treated with respect.  Personal exchanges between partisans were even cordial on every occasion.  Indeed, for all his faults (and they were staggering), most of his political opponents personally liked President Bush — the man.  And so, he was afforded not just common courtesy, but respect because of the office he held and the gentleman he was (is).

During President Obama’s eight years in office, Republicans sometimes took off the gloves when it came to civility.  One attention-seeking Republican congressman even shouted at President Obama during a State of the Union address, eliciting audible gasps from both Republicans and Democrats.  Yet, while Republicans treated President Obama in a vile manner, within partisan circles and when riling up the base, they still afforded the 44th president all the standard courtesies.  They stood and applauded when he entered the House chamber.  They might not have been very congenial behind closed doors.  But at least Republicans acted civil in the presence of the President and in front of the American people.

However, President Trump is a different animal, entirely.  And frankly, I’m not even sure how to react to him.  Many on the Left are also having difficulty coming to terms with this new reality.  The question is — can we revile the man, but still respect the office?  

I don’t know.

Certainly, my personal and professional experience in Washington. D.C. culture strongly influences my view on this.  I’ve spend almost half my adult life living and working in the nation’s capital.  Those years not only enriched my life and afforded me an extraordinary world view, it also exposed me to all kinds of different people with a wide gambit of political ideas.  Throughout my experience in Washington, we were taught to respect those who were in office.  Congressmen were always addressed with the preamble, “The Honorable….”  Political appointees were always afforded some measure of deference.  And, the highest elected official in the land was always addressed as “Mr. President.”  There were no exceptions.  Ever.  Republican or Democrat — the office deserved dignity.  Always.

President Trump makes continuing these proud traditions most difficult.  A man who by all accounts appears mentally unbalanced, who is utterly obsessed with himself, who has displayed unwarranted hostility towards a majority of American citizens, and who is attacking basic rights, protections, and institutions does NOT deserve my respect.  That view is shared by a lot of people, it seems.

I tried hard to give President Trump the benefit of the doubt, at least for awhile.  Like many Leftists, I was initially appalled by the 2016 election results.  But, I accepted them and was fully prepared to move on and make the best of things, presuming Donald Trump the bombastic con-man would somehow grow into the office and come to portend some measure of dignity within the office once held by Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt.

So far, that has not happened.  Until it does, I see no reason to respect either the man, or the office.

For me, as a political traditionalist, what some might even called old-fashioned, as someone with dozens of friends and associates who have been and remain Trump supporters, this isn’t a decision I take lightly.  I do want to believe my elected officials.  I do want to respect them, even those I’m opposed to politically.  I do want to give them the courtesies they would normally be entitled to.

Sorry.  But I cannot give that respect to this man who will walk into the House of Representatives tonight and address the nation.  My respect isn’t a rubber stamp.  It’s not given lightly, nor automatically.  He was given a chance to earn my respect.  So far, all he’s earned is my revulsion.

 

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Posted by on Feb 27, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 2 comments

Insurance Company Loansharking

 

 

Um, no it’s not, you lying-ass stooge!

U.S. health insurance companies are not, according to this early-morning tweet by President Trump, “provid(ing) great healthcare to the American people.”

Insurance companies are, in fact, undermining health care in America.  They’re doing whatever they can to deny coverage to as many Americans as possible, at the highest possible margins to ensure massive company profits — to the exclusive benefit of shareholders and bonus-whoring company executives.

Yes indeed, great healthcare *is* being provided by some extraordinarily dedicated people in this country.   Allow me to mention them now.

They are called doctors.

They are called nurses.

They are called medical technicians.

They are called caregivers.

They are also called researchers and educators.

These are the genuine heroes of American medicine — not an Oval Office crammed with insurance executives, you morally-bankrupt, dim-witted, anti-intellectual prick!

Add up all the hefty salaries ending in lots of zeroes and the expense accounts paid out just to the 13 insurance industry loan sharks who visited to President Trump this Monday morning.  Their average salary rings in at about $14 million, not including all the bonuses and stock options to be paid out.  Then, there’s all the dirty PAC money spent to keep this corrupt for-profit, milk-the-American public system fully in tact.  These cretins are President Trump’s heroes of healthcare, greedy bastards much like himself with no real objective in life other than to cream their sweet margins off the top at the terrible expense of everyone else struggling to keep up.

Meanwhile, all the medical professionals who actually make the sacrifices for their patients — the doctors and nurses — get stuck with massive student loan debt.  They suffer disproportionate levels of family breakups, including divorces.  They endure considerably more stress than virtually every other occupation, working all hours of the day and night to keep us as healthy as possible.

A Tweet from President Trump thanking the real heroes of medicine would have been nice.  A thought or two acknowledging the dedication of those who willingly chose the medical profession would be a noble gesture.

But instead, the self-absorbed clueless rube sitting at his desk in the most powerful office in the land choose to make an absurd statement that it’s insurance companies which “provide great healthcare to the American people.”

The only thing insurance companies provide is higher costs to all Americans and obscene payouts to their executives.  That’s it.  Nothing more.  Nothing else.

 

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Posted by on Feb 18, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, Rants and Raves, What's Left | 10 comments

Where’s Your Outrage? Where’s Your Decency?

 

 

You’re looking at one of the last photos ever taken of James Foley.

He was a war correspondent who reported on the Syrian Civil War.

On August 19, 2014, some 44 days after being captured and taken into captivity by ISIS, he was forced to his knees at an undisclosed location in the desert.  An evil man wrapped in a black turban wielded a mighty sword, lifted his instrument of death towards a gorgeous blue sky, and then thrust the blade violently downward, instantly severing off the head of an American.

James Foley was 40 years old.  [READ MORE HERE]

 

 

You’re looking at a picture of Chauncey Bailey.

He was a reporter for The Oakland Post, who regularly covered events within the African-American community.  Bailey was highly-respected by peers and readers alike for his tireless work ethic.  He was particularly adept at uncovering local corruption and was then working on a story that was particularly sensitive to people known for violence.

On August 2, 2007, Bailey was walking from his apartment to work, just as he did every morning.  While strolling up 14th Street, a lone gunman wearing black clothing and a ski mask approached Bailey and blasted three bullets into his body, which killed the journalist instantly.

Chauncey Bailey was 57.  [READ MORE HERE]

 

 

You’re looking at a photo of Cynthia Elbaum.

She was a correspondent with Time magazine assigned to the war in Chechnya.

Elbaum worked as a photojournalist.  She captured the horrors of that terrible failed war for independence in the breakaway state of Chechnya.  Elbaum was particularly remarkable for her courage, not just a willingness to risk her life in one of the world’s most dangerous regions, but also because she was one of the few female journalists daily in the line of fire.

She paid the ultimate price to bring us news, sending back images that most of us barely gave a glance at, perhaps only for a few fleeting seconds while parsing through an old issue of Time while waiting in a doctor’s office.  We don’t think much of the dangers and sacrifices it took to bring us the things we read and see.  We’re oblivious to those risks taken by the brave.

Cynthia Elbaum was 28.  [READ MORE HERE]

 

 

You’re looking at a picture of Michael Kelly.

He wrote from The Washington Post and The New York Times.

On April 3, 2003, Kelly was traveling in a Humvee along with American troops dispatched to a war zone in Iraq.  The vehicle hit a land mine, and exploded into flames, killing everyone trapped inside — including Kelly.  Thus, he became the first journalist who was killed in Iraq.

Michael Kelly was 46.  He left behind a wife and two children.  [READ MORE HERE]

 

 

You’re looking at the wall of the Newseum’s Journalists Memorial, in Washington, DC.  This is just a partial collection of members of the media who have been killed doing their jobs.

Indeed, this could be a much longer article.  In fact, it could stretch on and on with hundreds of thousands of words.  In all, a total of 2,291 writers, journalists, photographers, cameramen, and other members of the media have been killed in the line of duty.

Two-thousand, two-hundred,, ninety-one.  Let that figure sink in.

The 2,291 gave their lives largely out of insatiable curiosities to which we — the readers and viewers — were the ungrateful beneficiaries.  Rarely thanked, but so often criticized, they trekked into zones where others dared not to travel.  They asked questions others dared not to ask.  They took photo and video of events that were not supposed to be seen.

The least one might expect for this work and those who do their best follow in their hollowed footsteps is — a little respect.

 

 

You’re looking at the screen shot of the tweet that was sent out yesterday by the President of the United States.

He called the mainstream news media, “the enemy of the American People!”

I have received a fair amount of criticism lately for my harsh words and many of the brutal things I’ve said about President Trump.  I recognize that my actions and use of language is not suited for all tastes.  However, as a regular consumer of daily news and someone who has known and worked with a great many dedicated members of the media, I can’t help but be profoundly disturbed by the events I’m witnessing.  I can’t help but get emotional about such a grotesque lack of respect and dignity, by the President, no less.

Where’s your outrage?  Where’s your sense of decency?

 

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Posted by on Feb 3, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 5 comments

Student Rioters are Betraying Progressive Principles

 

 

A few days ago, an outspoken media personality who also happens to be an attention-starved right-wing extremist was invited to speak at Cal-Berkeley, one of the most liberal institutions of higher learning in the United States.

Milo Yiannopoulos, an admitted protagonist-agitator, who’s best known for spiking the witch’s brew of noxious deceit oozing out of the sewer pipe called Breitbart.com, was to appear at the university on Wednesday.  Given his toxic background as a provocateur personified by divisive opinions on gays, race, gender, and religion, protests were expected.

However, no one foresaw that a two-day riot would erupt, forcing university officials to capitulate to the angry mob which was comprised almost entirely of students and faculty.  Accordingly, the invitation sent to Yiannopoulos was withdrawn, citing “safety concerns.”  A swarm of media attention ensued to cover the controversy.  Hence, someone who had previously been unknown to most Americans catapulted overnight to near the top of every social media platform.  Largely anonymous aside from a few basement-dwelling gamers and conspiracy kooks, Yiannopoulos couldn’t have asked for more grandiose introduction to national prominence, unless his name popped up in lights on the marquis of “A Star is Born.”

Call this abomination what is was — not a victory for the left, but a counterproductive embarrassment and humiliating defeat for all progressives.

This is the latest sad chapter of a much longer and more troubling trend happening on many college campuses, which is the threat to free speech.  Since the 1960’s, an era of innumerable Vietnam War protests, American colleges and universities have become increasingly liberalized — particularly in the social sciences.  There are valid reasons for various departments to lean left.  While conservatives tend to gravitate to business school, or study law, or medicine, liberals are drawn naturally to the arts and sciences (with exceptions, of course).  I’d even go so far to argue that inquiry is, by design, an inherently liberal pursuit because it invariably calls the status quo and many of our conventional belief systems into question.  And so, leftist activism has fertile traditions deeply rooted in academia.  By extension, it’s easy to understand why youthful idealism would ignite on campuses like Berkeley with a combustible passion for many progressive causes.

Yet somewhere along the way, a long time after liberals won the right to protest and even spout off radical ideas, some of us devolved into what we’d once feared the most.  Now, intimidation doesn’t come from authority figures, such as campus police or university administrators nor the surrounding communities.  Bullying comes from within our own ranks.  Fact is, free speech has been hijacked in recent years and the problem appears to be getting worse.  Liberals in many areas, once arm-to-arm on the front lines of the free-speech and free-thought movement, now demand that dissenting voices be silenced, which is precisely what we’ve witnessed at Berkeley.  By doing this, we are undermining the very foundation on which liberal free thought is based.

Let’s be clear.  Colleges and universities should not be cradles.  Instead, academic institutions should be mental minefields ready to blow up bad ideas in a moment’s notice.  Bad ideas are best exposed by scrutinizing them and exposing them as such, not by heavy-handed censorship.  Indeed, knowledge, skills, and perseverance must be put to the test.  “College in an earlier time was supposed to be an uncomfortable, experience because growth is always a challenge,” Dr. Tom Nichols, professor at the U.S. Naval War College wrote recently.  “Now, attending college involves “the pampering of students like customers.”

Education demands that we constantly push ourselves to new heights.  It’s vital that we place odd people with seemingly strange ideas in front of the classroom and under the microscope so that we can bear witness and potentially learn.  This is especially true for those with whom we disagree.  It’s even more vital to subject ourselves to thoughts we might at first consider to be absurd, objectionable, and even obscene.  All great ideas start out as blasphemy.  Assuming we believe that facts will come out and truth prevails, the very worst thing that can happen to a bad idea or a flawed argument is intense scrutiny.  Hence, assuming we’re convinced Yiannopoulos is something of a crackpot, his ideas should have been given the chance to be voiced  If those ideas don’t stand up to the heat lamp of truth, they melt down.

This is even more profoundly important at a state university, in other words, a school that’s publicly funded.  One might argue that private schools (and particularly religious-based institutions) have every right to limit free speech, if they so wish.  They might even limit speakers and guests to those who conform strictly to the university’s codes and ideals.  Public schools like Cal-Berkeley, however, are obligated to expose students to the widest possible spectrum of people and ideas.  Sure, protesting such an event is fine.  Silencing a speaker is not.

Years ago, my outlook on life changed when I attended a university lecture by writer Raymond Bonner, the famed New York Times foreign correspondent who broke many of the news stories which exposed the dark and dirty things happening in Latin America at the time, largely engineered by the Reagan Administration (illegally, we’d later discover).  I went into that lecture thinking one way about the issues, and came out afterward as a changed person with very different attitudes about the world.  Such is the power of inviting guest speakers and openly exchanging ideas.  This is the purpose of higher education.

Some will argue, at times there are justifiable reasons to limit free speech, even on college campuses.  The hate speech” victim card gets wrongly played.  But these objections ring hollow and make the protesters seem petty.  British author David Irving has written prolifically on World War II, yet is also infamously known as the world’s leading Holocaust denier.  To many, he’d certainly qualify as a proponent of hate speech.  Years ago, Irving toured the United States and spoke to students on several college campuses.  It took some time, but eventually, his “research” was exposed as fallacious and he was openly discredited in a very public trial that took place in London.  Had Irving not been given a university platform, he might have remained hidden on the outer fringes and made quite a nice living at the expense of those who suffered unspeakable horrors.  Hence, subjecting Irving’s words and ideas to scrutiny became truth’s most powerful weapon.

From what I’ve seen of Milo Yiannopoulos, he can easily be dismissed as just another punk.  There’s nothing remotely credible about any of his ideas, particularly on politics and society.  He’s engaged in crude look-at-me tactics.  He written and said outrageous things, purely to gain notoriety.  Yet for all his pernicious pestilence, Yiannopoulos should have just as much right to speak and be heard at a public university as anyone else.  Free speech means exactly what it says — the right to speak freely.  That means without interruption nor intimidation.

Unless we all have it and defend its practice, none of us enjoys free speech.  That’s the reminder we progressives must take away from the Cal-Berkeley embarrassment.

 

Comment below or follow the discussion on Facebook HERE.

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