There’s been a slowly stirring undercurrent in the world of social media for some time – the outright banning of some people, or the even more insidious “shadow bans’ others have experienced. This received even more attention last week when Facebook announced it was removing several prominent accounts. The reason those accounts were removed wasn’t for any reason other than the things they posted offended the politically correct zeitgeist.
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.Martin Niemoeller
“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
I have nothing in common with Louis Farrakhan, Paul Joseph Watson or Alex Jones. Farrakhan is a virulent anti-semite, Jones a crackpot conspiracy theorist and Watson a social media muckraker. The views of Farrakhan and Jones are abhorrent to me. As for Watson, I doubt the man has ever had an original thought. His principle thought crime seems to be that he amplifies some of the most ridiculous and salacious content to be found on the internet.
But even if you disagree with Farrakhan’s contention that Jews are the root of all evil, with Jones belief that Sandy Hook was a government plot, or with Watson’s desire to monetize the PizzaGate nonsense, you should still be concerned with Silicon Valley’s determination that somehow their opinions are less deserving to be aired than say, Alyssa Milano’s endless screeds about the world ending unless we adopt full-blown SJW socialism. Why? See the quote referenced above.
I doubt there are few beliefs that are more ingrained into our collective soul as the belief in the freedom of speech. Notice I did not say freedom of the press, which today seems to be some pundits preferred alternative to allowing the rabble to speak their minds. The first amendment of our Constitution places freedom of speech ahead of freedom of the press. We’ve accepted (somewhat begrudgingly) that there are some very limited restrictions on that freedom. You can’t run into a crowded theater and yell “Fire” if there isn’t a fire. You can’t knowingly disparage a private citizen in public, seeking to to ruin their lives, without facing potential civil and criminal charges. But that’s about it. Otherwise, our society says if you feel the need to say something, you get to say something.
Throughout our history, our nation has gone to extreme lengths to ensure we can say what we want, when we want. This protection has extended to all forms of speech. Be it Nazi’s marching in Skokie, IL or artists defacing religious symbols, we’ve let speech that offended our collective sensibilities stand. We let these things be, because we understood taking away one man’s (or group’s) freedom of speech is taking it away from all of us.
I fully understand the hesitation in enforcing these standards on the social media giants. I realize they are private companies and under current law, exempt from regulation over what content they carry and to whom they transmit that content. The libertarian in me wishes that this could remain the case.
Early on in American life, the concept of the “soapbox” was created. This was the ability of any person to grab a literal soapbox, head down to the town square, stand atop said soapbox and shout their fool head off about whatever subject prompted them to want to shout their fool head off. We don’t have town squares anymore, at least not in the sense of a public space that we all pass through at least once a day, and maybe stop for a while to chat with friends, do some window shopping, read the news, and so on.
But do you know what we’ve created as the modern equivalent of a public space that we all pass through at least once a day, and maybe stop for a while to chat with friends, do some window shopping, read the news, and so on? Yep. Social media.
From early on in American life, a person with a message they considered important enough to get out into the public sphere could pay a printer to print up a few thousand copies of a pamphlet. If one printer wouldn’t do it, there were others who would. Some of the greatest political treatises of the young country were created in this way. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense may be the famous of these, but right through the late 20th century the political pamphlet was an essential method of getting your views widely distributed. (I still have a copy of one I had researched for an old college paper, entitled “How to Get Rich! Written for Poor Men, and Young Beginners of Life, by their Affectionate Friend Uncle Ben, Who Was Once in Both These Conditions, but is Now in Neither” that was written in 1871).
Today, while that method might still be available, it has neither the immediacy nor reach of social media.
As mentioned, I understand the reluctance of conservatives to change the nature of social media companies to prevent them from censoring content. Were they, in fact, truly content independent information funnels I would agree with that assessment. But anyone who’s observed their censorious actions over the past 36 months has to have realized by now that they are neither independent nor true information pipes. Their political biases show strongly in their actions. Not that I have a problem with political bias in publication. After all, there is a reason I read both the Daily Beast and the Daily Caller: I know before I ever open either site, the stories I read will have a certain political slant. But if the social media platforms we all use only have one political slant, isn’t that a dangerous form of censorship? Is that not unlike our forebears deciding only certain views could be aired from atop that soapbox?
Another of the arguments I’ve heard is that since these are free services, we are not paying customers and therefore have no say over how they run their businesses. This is about as poorly informed an argument as you could make. As has come to light ever since the Cambridge Analytica fiasco was exposed a year ago is that while we may not pay a monthly fee to the social media juggernauts, that is only because they have something far more valuable of ours. They have the ability to sell our information, our likes, our dislikes, our friends, where we’ve traveled, even our entertainment preferences, to the highest bidder. Or to multiple bidders, if they choose. It’s all right there in those EULA’s nobody ever reads before clicking “ok.” I would tell anyone who says they don’t pay a social media company any sort of fee they’re not only wrong – they paid them tens of thousands of dollars before they created their first post. In fact, you could say I pay several publishers (social media) to print and distribute my modern pamphlet (this blog).
Finally, there is the argument that we do not regulate any other media company in such a manner. The Washington Post, for instance, is free to only air virulent anti-Trump opinions. But therein lies the rub: are companies like Facebook and Twitter only media content companies, existing to compete with other media content companies? Or are they more like akin to media distribution companies, which are prohibited from excluding content (with certain narrow exceptions)?
First, let’s examine the real-world business of social media. Yes, there are competitors to Facebook and Twitter. But those two companies account for over 80% of global traffic. After all, the key to being a “social” media company is the social part. The entire business is predicated on being a near monopoly. You go there because your friends, acquaintances and family are there. Sure, I could get together with a couple of friends, raise a few billion dollars and try to start my own social media company. But unless I could compel people to move en masse from Facebook or Twitter to my platform, I would either be out of business (or if I had developed enough “cool” features, swallowed by one of them).
Next, let’s look at their own mission statements. Facebook aims to, “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” What Twitter wants “is to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers.” Remember our Town Square analogy? It looks as though both social media giants are fully on board with that concept, in word if not in deed.
And that, my friends, should be enough to nail this down. By their own mission statements, these are not media creation companies. They are media distribution companies. Therefore, they should be classified as such – and their censorship should end immediately.
The alternative is wonder which of us will be the socialist, the unionist and the Jew to some future philosopher.
Unless you live under a rock, you know that actor Jussie Smollett is in the center of a firestorm of his own making. To wit: in January, he claimed he was attacked at 2am by two masked men wearing “MAGA” hats, a noose was placed around his neck and he was doused with bleach while they screamed racial and anti-gay epithets at him, finishing with “This MAGA country!”.
Now, anyone with more than two active brain cells immediately noticed some oddities with his story. First, it seemed rather strange that two whack jobs of this type would just be hanging out at 2am on any January night in Chicago, never mind the coldest one in 30 years, looking for a B list actor. It also seemed weird that despite the violence of that attack, the actor’s sandwich remained undisturbed. It was equally odd that he still had that noose around his neck, even while at the hospital. Finally, the attack happened to take place in one of the most liberal neighborhoods in Chicago, an area that favorably compares to Greenwich Village or Haight-Ashbury in terms of gay acceptance, one that is peppered with surveillance cameras – yet, the attackers knew exactly where a camera was turned the wrong way to catch them in the act.
None of what’s written above is in dispute. The possibility that the entire thing was staged was there from the beginning. There were enough red flags in the initial story that nobody should have assumed the actor was not acting. Yet – and this is the most disturbing part of the story – the media jumped to accept it as gospel truth.
Indeed, even at this late date, when the Chicago PD no longer considers Smollett a victim, when a grand jury is being convened, when the “attackers” (a pair of Nigerian brothers) have admitted to being paid by Smollett and rehearsing the “attack”, there are still those in mass media who refuse to admit the entire story is a hoax. Why would these “reporters” still have blinders on regarding the story?
The reason is simple: journalism is no longer about reporting facts and letting the reader decide for themselves the import of a story. It is about advocacy, almost always in favor of the most extreme liberal positions. This change in journalistic standards is what has led to the rise of what we deride as “fake news” but perhaps should actually call “false advocacy.” The merging of the long-standing liberal op-ed sections with the reporting division of a news organization means that Americans no longer get straight news, but a very slanted, often inaccurate, version of the news.
Look, it isn’t like the Smollett story happened in a vacuum. Since the 2016 campaign, there has been a concerted effort by the media to define the typical Trump supporter as a racist, homophobic, misogynist with a propensity of violence towards minorities. The Daily Caller has published a list of reported “hate crimes” that turned out to be hoaxes, so has Hot Air. The only thing that should be surprising at this point is if we go a month without one of these hoaxes being perpetrated on us.
Yet the media continues to push these hoaxes as if they were actual newsworthy events. It’s as if they intentionally want to beclown themselves. 2019 is not even 7 weeks old and already the national media has fallen prey to two massive hoaxes: Smollett, and the Covington Catholic students. In each instance, the national media whipped a frenzy of outrage against the supposed perpetrators and natures of the “crimes,” but then was forced to eat crow when the truth came out. The alleged victims have been thoroughly disgraced, largely because the media attention lavished on them led to a backlash once their complicity in the hoaxes became apparent.
The media loves to lament how Americans no longer trust the news that is being reported. But they fail to recognize how their own actions in creating false narratives around the stories they’re reporting led to that distrust. Their insistence on editorializing, rather than reporting, created a climate in which everything that is reported has to be taken with a grain of salt.
If the media wants to regain the public’s trust, the answer is staring them in the face. Instead of following in the footsteps of Dan Rather and Brian Williams, they need to return to the journalistic practices of Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow. Instead of Brian Stelter defending the lack of integrity in journalism, they need Brian Stelter to call out the journalistic malpractice that leads to stories like the Smollett hoax being given credibility.
Will they? Probably not anytime soon. The pronouncements of media malfeasance from Lara Logan and Cheryl Atkinsson are so much shouting into the wind at this point, The vast majority of media types are focused on their advocacy to the point that they no longer care about accurate reporting, only ensuring the stories they report fit their preferred narrative.
In the meantime, learn from the Smollett story. Do not believe the media narrative. Dig deeper, find the facts (which means multisourcing every story of interest) and come to your own conclusions – and hold those opinions to yourself until you’re certain all the facts are available.
It seems you can’t pick up a newspaper (ok, I’m being quaint, but some of us do still read newspapers) or turn on your television without hearing about how our elections are under assault. If the Russians aren’t rotting our minds with memes of Hillary Clinton drunkenly gazing at balloons, the Chinese are hacking into our voter rolls. When the Chinese aren’t hacking into voter rolls, the Iranians are hacking the voting machines themselves. When the Iranians aren’t playing centrifuge subterfuge with the voting machines, the North Koreans are actually changing vote totals.
It’s a wonder a beloved TV sitcom character hasn’t been elected to Congress with all this electronic doo-dah. Oh, wait…
Okay, the security of our electronic voting systems are important. I don’t mean to belittle them. But that insecurity highlights a much bigger problem our nation faces: in a representative republic, the integrity of the electoral process cannot be open to interpretation. When it is, then the legitimacy of the election outcomes that select our representatives comes into question. No government without said legitimacy can stand for long.
It seems to me that I’m not the only one thinking the way we vote has become an absolute mess over the last twenty years. You would have thought that after the disaster of the 2000 election, the one in which “Hanging Chad” came to mean something other than executing a yuppie horse thief, we would have gotten our act together. But as the most recent election demonstrated, if anything we got worse at both voting and counting the vote. Of course, much of the coverage centered on our favorite county (Broward) in our favorite state (Florida) for electoral shenanigans. This overlooks that there were nearly four dozen House races that still weren’t called a full week after the election. It overlooks serious charges of vote tampering and fraud in California, New Jersey, Illinois, Georgia, Alaska, North Carolina, and Utah.
Since we didn’t learn from the disaster that was 2000, allow me to propose some simple changes that would be relatively simple to implement that would go a long way to ending the nonsense. Will it end voting irregularities forever? No, of course not. They are a feature of any voting system since man-made systems are imperfectible. But we can do much better than we have to date.
Step 1: Implement a national Voter ID system
Look, forget all the nonsense about poor people, or black people, or Hispanic people, not being able to get a valid state ID. It’s the 21st century, for chrissakes. There is absolutely no reason an adult should not have a valid ID. I challenge you to find me a state where you can buy a beer or pack of cigarettes without a valid ID. If we demand you have a valid ID for something as mundane as getting a cold brew at a restaurant, any argument against having one for something as important as voting is ridiculous on its face. Remember this sob story? The only reason he was prevented from breaking the law was due to Tennessee’s voter ID law.
Yeah, Voter ID laws work exactly as intended. Which may be why the same crowd that is all for open borders and illegal immigrants voting in our elections are so against them.
Step 2: Get rid of early voting
It seems many of the problems we run into with counting the vote (and where some of the greatest opportunities for general screwing with the ballots) comes from the fact that in some jurisdictions, people can actually begin voting up to a month before election day. There are other reasons to get rid of early voting (seriously, who but the most partisan hack is 100% certain of who they’re going to cast their ballot for a month before election day?), but that’s another post for another day. Anyway, the nonsense we witnessed around the country last November, with ballots mysteriously materializing from car trunks and classroom closets, would immediately end simply by getting rid of early voting. I understand voting in the middle of the week is inconvenient for a great many people, but that brings me to my next suggestion, which is…
Step 3: Make all national elections a national holiday
See, now nobody has the excuse they can’t get off work to go vote. Yes, the lines might be long. But if voting becomes a holiday, think about this: how long will it be before the nation’s retailer’s start offering discounts when you present that “I voted” sticker? I bet Friendly’s even starts offering a free scoop of ice cream!
Step 4: End “ballot harvesting”
Look, I don’t know who came up with this piece of insanity. I’m ambivalent about absentee ballots, to begin with (I can’t get around particularly well these days, but I still show up to vote in person), but if your state is going to allow them, shouldn’t the very least expectation be that you put the doggone thing in the mailbox yourself? I don’t know who thought the idea of letting party operatives handle them was a brilliant idea, but they need to be taken out back and put out of their misery the same way we do horses with broken legs. Heck, we’re ten weeks past the election and one district in North Carolina got so fouled up with ballot tampering as a result of this idiocy that they likely need to call a special election. Stories have come from California of voters just signing a blank ballot and handing it over to a party apparatchik. I’m 100% certain no tampering happened in those instances whatsoever, right?
Step 5: Get rid of electronic voting machines
I don’t know if the Russians or Iranians or little green men from Mars are trying to break into the electronic voting systems in use around the US. What I do know is there is enough distrust that those systems can be secured against sophisticated hacks (or even hacks from 300 pound couch potatoes) that we should have already stopped using them.
Step 6 : JIT ballot verification
This is little more technical, but every bit as important as anything else. During the latest Broward “Whose Vote is It Anyway” episode, we were once again treated to election workers trying to decipher illegible ballots. Just because that wasn’t enough fun, then we heard that poll workers could, in the even a ballot was indecipherable, just fill out an alternate one. Just fill out an alternate one? Are you kidding me?
In software engineering, we use “Just-In-Time” testing to validate that our code at least has the correct syntax and spelling to not cause a digital rejection of our work when trying to make it do something. It isn’t that hard to do something similar with a paper ballot. Optical scanners, which have been around for longer than most of you who read this blog, can detect if too many circles on a line (or a row) are filled in, and if they’re filled in correctly – and check this out, they CAN EVEN COUNT THE VOTE IN REAL TIME. If your ballot is illegible, for whatever reason, the poll worker can hand you another blank, destroy the bad one and scan the corrected ballot all before you leave the voting booth! Amazing!
This won’t completely end the questions about voting. Some states will complain vociferously about Congress passing any further restrictions. I can already hear the Chamber of Commerce harping on yet another paid holiday. Democrats will kvetch about Voter ID and the loss of early voting, Republicans about JIT verification. Both will scream bloody murder over ending harvesting.
But these six steps will make our elections more secure and provide for quicker vote tabulation. They address some of the biggest questions the nation has about our elections. It puts what is the most vital process in republic back into the sunlight, restoring the trust that the process isn’t corrupted. In short, it is the first step in injecting some sanity back into our politics.
Ladies and Gentlemen, My Fellow Americans,
We’ve been along a perilous path for 30 years now. After the end of the first World War, our Nation entered a new period in history. Historians have dubbed it “The American Century.” Five generations of Americans survived the Great Depression, defeated the forces of fascism in the Second World War, created the most prosperous period ever experienced by any nation at any time in history, and held the forces of communism at bay until the final victory at the end of the 1980’s.
Ever since the Berlin Wall crumbled to dust on a cold night in 1989, a winter’s night warmed by the glow of freedom, our nation has been adrift. The fight against communism which had defined our purpose for 45 years was suddenly over, exposing for all our underlying tensions and divisions. That common foe had allowed us to paper over those divisions with a thin veneer of comity. But just as ripping a scab from an old wound will cause an infection to grow unabated, so too the collapse of the Soviet Union has caused the cultural divisions that have always been unique to us to rise anew.
I say these things not to fill with you a longing for the past or fear of the future. I do not believe the end of the American Century means the end of the American Experiment. I believe we have the ability to bind our differences in a more lasting, permanent way; a way that relies not as much on agreeing to disagree as discovering why our disagreements arose in the first place.
Let me highlight just one such example.
Whether we are a banker or truck driver, farmer or doctor, we all know, we all can sense that the modern marvels of technology are changing the nature of work. Whether your fingers are calloused from years of manual labor or manicured for life in an office, we all can see the ways in which we earn our livings have changed. More than that, we know these changes will not end, no matter what we might wish.
This is not the first time our nation has faced such a dramatic change in the very nature of what it means to work. At the dawn of the Industrial Age, we moved, often in fits and starts, from a society of farmers to one of factory labor. Some of the same challenges we faced then, we face today.
One of those challenges was immigration. The new, industrial America needed labor and we found it overseas. Many of us can trace our origins in the United States to the great wave of immigrants that crashed across our shores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As much as it might pain us to remember it, those immigrants – Italian, Irish, Poles, Croats, Hungarians, Germans and so forth – were not readily accepted into their new country. So it is today; we are not always welcoming to those who look to make their lives among us from foreign lands. Yet at the same time, much as we funneled those newcomers through inspection 150 years ago, we should reserve the right to do so today.
Likewise, another lesson we can learn from our forebears is also rooted in the Industrial Age. Prior to the need of an educated workforce to run the great machines that powered industry, most children finished school after 5th or 6th grade. Indeed, most high schools were privately funded and beyond the financial reach of those children’s parents. Yet, by the advent of the 1920’s, publicly funded high schools were the norm. By the 1960’s, the vast majority of American citizens were high school graduates and able to earn a solid living at a multitude of trades.
Now, we are told our children need more than a high school education can provide. We see our children graduating from college and working the sorts of jobs we might have expected to start with as a high school graduate a generation ago. But while we acknowledge with our minds that some post-secondary training is required in the new economy, our actions belie our words. We make entry difficult for all but the most affluent. Once our children are ensconced on a university campus, their heads are filled with values and ideas that most of us can barely identify, much less relate to.
I see some heads nodding out there. We know these are the problems. We may disagree on the solutions, but we can agree that these problems will not solve themselves.
Friends, this is a discussion we’ve needed for some time. As in the Festivus celebration of Seinfeld fame, an airing of grievances is good for the soul – but only if it leads to a reconciliation. After a generation of airing our grievances, we should be ready for that reconciliation. Let us resolve, here and now, to lay aside any embitterment we harbor towards our fellow Americans. It doesn’t matter if your forebears arrived on the Mayflower, a slave trader, a tramp steamer from Italy or in the Mariel boatlift. We are united in this simple fact: that as a reward for their trouble in getting to this country, they were met with hardships, ridicule, scorn, derision, and trouble but they persevered, they overcame, they thrived. And they gave this wonderful nation to us.
We understand that America is the sum of what those who came before created and what we create for ourselves and those who follow. We understand that the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness” are not mere ink on dusty old parchment. They define the American creed.
I am a conservative. Some in the audience call themselves liberals. Others may identify as libertarians or greens or some other political ideology. But regardless of politics, we need to agree on what the real problems facing our nation and our society are before we can debate -vigorously and strongly, as is right – what the solutions should be. I mentioned earlier that we seem to be stuck in a funk, a profound disagreement over what the very nature of our problems are and what type of society we are.
For our sakes, the sakes of our progeny and the good of not only the United States but the world, we must make this our mission. We must seek not only to confront but to learn. We must not only listen but understand. Compassion for your fellow American is not weakness. Compassion also does not mean that you throw them to the merciless care of the government. Yes! I said that we must address this cancer, we must excise it, not only for the good of the Nation but for the world.
For the United States is still the greatest nation our planet has ever known. Despite what may seem our torturous present, I truly believe our best days are ahead of us – but only if all 350 million plus of us are willing to do the things that are difficult. As a Nation, we have overcome far greater challenges throughout our history. Solving seemingly intractable problems is in our DNA. Why should our modern difficulties prove any more strenuous?
We have always been the shining light upon which the world gazes when desiring proof that free people can overcome any test, any difficulty that is thrown their way. From the days when our society amazed a French aristocrat named Alexis de Tocqueville until the present day when a Slovakian emigré became our First Lady, we have been both the envy and hope of mankind. Are we so vain, so caught up in our own disagreements as to throw that legacy away? I propose that is not the case. We shall always remain as we have, the guide towards a more prosperous, more peaceful planet.
None of this is to trivialize the import of the disagreements that are currently tearing at the fabric of our society. The reality is that those quarrels are based on competing ideologies. Yet, it is possible to agree on a path forward. Doing so requires every American put aside their preconceived notions. It means actually practicing the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It means putting aside our anger and agreeing to meet once again as Americans first. Not as Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and progressives, Black and white and Hispanic and Asian, rich and poor, but as Americans. The divisions we have created amongst ourselves need to be retired now. The tired politics of identity have missed the most important identity of all: that of being an American.
So as I leave you, I want all of you to sit back and contemplate what is important to you. More than that, you need to ask yourself why that is important. And then ask yourself, is that thing more important than your standing in a country that has always been and will always be willing to accept anyone who can shed all other labels save one: American? For if we all make a common goal of simply being Americans, there is nothing we cannot achieve, no task that is insurmountable and no aspiration that cannot be obtained.
Thank you. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
When I saw this tweet the other night, it got the ol’ gears a-turnin’, as my grandfather would say. John Podhoretz was making a point about one particularly one decidedly unserious lawyer promoting a seriously insincere story based on an even more insincere allegation. It’s the kind of nonsense that never would have seen the light of day, other than on some anonymously written blog, not that long ago.
But I contend the problem runs much deeper than a one ambulance chaser engaged in some shameless self promotion. No, the problem is we have a whole bunch of unserious people filling serious positions.
For instance, the entire “Russia collusion” narrative was driven by the campaign staff of a presidential candidate, who contacted a Washington legal firm, who contracted a former spy to write up a salacious “dossier.” And there the story might have ended, except a US senator then was passed this dossier, who took the absurd revelations in the dossier and gave it to the career prosecutors at the Justice Department. Those prosecutors then gave the dossier to the career investigators at the FBI, who used it to gain a “secret warrant” to spy on the other presidential campaign (and after the election, the President of the United States – elect).
So, people in serious positions who got snookered by this bit of legerdemain:
- Hillary Clinton, Presidential candidate; former Secretary of State, US Senator and First Lady
- James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence; former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency
- Loretta Lynch, US Attorney General
- James Comey, FBI Director
- Andrew McCabe, former Deputy Director of the FBI
- Peter Strzok, Asst. Director of the FBI for Counter-Intelligence
- Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General; former US Attorney for Maryland
- Lisa Page, Federal prosecutor, assigned by the FBI to assist Special Counsel Robert Mueller
- Glenn Simpson, Fusion GPS co-founder; former investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal and Roll Call
- Marc Elias, lead elections attorney for Perkins Cole; formerly the lead counsel for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign
- Rosemary Collyer, current FISA court presiding judge
- Michael Mosman, FISA court judge who approved the first Carter Page warrant
That’s a dozen very well paid people in positions that at one time were considered some of the most important and prestigious in government, the legal profession, the courts and the media. These were positions that once would have been filled with people who understood how serious those positions were to maintaining the apparatus that is the US government, from both inside and out. Instead of people. Those serious positions would have been held by serious people.
Not any longer. It is the crux of the problem Americans see all around us. Is it any wonder we’ve lost our collective trust in these institutions? We have some very unserious people filling positions that are still vital to the nation. It isn’t confined to those dozen people listed above. It is a plague, infecting every level of government, of business, religious life, media and science. The institutions that I and millions of my fellow Americans were taught to admire and respect as youngsters, have spent the past two decades proving that they are filled with people who do not deserve that respect.
I hate tossing out problems without having solutions ready to propose, but I honestly can’t find any to this problem. I learned early on in my career that the best person for the job understood the nature of it, had the skills to perform it and was trustworthy. Obviously, the more senior the positions become, the skills required change, but the person filling the role should still have the first and third qualities. But as we’re witnessing, there aren’t a whole lot of those people around right now.
No matter how many people claim to be well informed and skeptical of the MSM, this week’s outrage over illegal alien children being separated from illegal alien adult guardians proves the lie to their claims. To hear the MSM (and many of the well-intentioned, but easily led astray sheep) tell it, the Trump administration has engaged in the most despicable act against migrants in recorded history. They first tried this tack a few weeks ago, when a slew of “journalists” shared the above picture on social media. What they failed to mention at the time was that the picture is four years old and depicts the way the Obama administration treated the illegal alien children of illegal alien adults. Say what you want about Trump (he is certainly an immigration hard-liner), at least his administration hasn’t taken to putting children in dog kennels. Caught in their lie, within 48 hours the scurillous dogs were forced to recant. But they only regrouped and freshened their assault.
The other thing they won’t mention is that this has been the policy of every administration dating back to that Bill Clinton. There’s a very good reason for this, and no, it isn’t because anyone thinks the kids are carrying backpack bombs.
It’s because it is what the law requires.
The President and his media critics are both guilty of dissembling here. There is no individual law that requires children caught entering the country illegally be separated from their parents. Rather, it is the result of several individual laws and court precedents that require being detained separately.
The United States is no stranger to crime waves. What made the crime wave of the late 1960’s and 70’s different than prior crime waves was the ages of many of the suspects. The number of juveniles arrested for felonies skyrocketed, straining the resources available for detaining juveniles prior to adjudication of their cases or even bail hearings. At a loss, many jurisdictions began housing these juveniles in adult detention centers, usually (but not always) in a segregated unit. Most Americans were shocked and appalled at the thought and in 1974, Congress amended 18 USC 5035 to require that juveniles not be held with adult prisoners:
The Attorney General shall not cause any juvenile alleged to be delinquent to be detained or confined in any institution in which the juvenile has regular contact with adult persons convicted of a crime or awaiting trial on criminal charges. Insofar as possible, alleged delinquents shall be kept separate from adjudicated delinquents.
So here we have the first stage of the current problem: we’ve had a law on the books for 44 years now that strictly precludes housing children accused of an illegal act with adults accused and/or convicted of an illegal act.
But is entering the country without advance permission from the federal government a crime? I mean, we’ve all heard the mantra “People are not illegal!” Well, actually – yes. 8 USC 1101 defines who is, and is not, permitted to gain entry into the United States. 8 USC 1325 makes it quite clear what the penalties are for entering the country without permission:
Any alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States … shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.
Despite all the liberal caterwauling about gaining illegal entry to the country being a civil offense, this statute is black-letter law defining that act as a criminal offense. Yes, a subsequent section of the statute does allow for the imposition of civil penalties (specifically, a fine of $50 to $250). But the act of entering the United States by persons not permitted entry is an illegal act (hence the term, “illegal alien”) and we have the second piece of the puzzle.
As noted above, juveniles held on suspicion of an illegal act (such as entering the country with out prior authorization) cannot be held in the same facility as adults held on suspicion of illegal acts (such as entering the country without prior authorization). By statute, both the accompanying adult and the child are guilty of the same offense. By statute, the children cannot be held in the same facility as the accompanying adult. By statute, they must be separated.
“But wait!” your liberal friends cry. Can’t we just release the parents and kids on their own recognizance? Or send them back across the border to await an immigration hearing? This is where things get a bit murkier. For starters, Congress decreed in 8 USC 1225 different classes of illegal aliens. The liberal media loves to focus on those whose country of origin is in the Western Hemisphere, but does not share a border with the United States, and is applying for asylum. Conservative media focuses on those from Mexico. Nobody talks about the fact that over half of illegal aliens are from the other half of the planet. Yet, under this statute each is a distinct class of alien – and each has separate procedures for immigration hearings. And this is only a few of the more than a dozen distinct alien classes established in law.
As for those procedures, they are established under 8 USC 1229a. In some cases, a hearing before an immigration judge is required. In others, an asylum officer. In some cases, an ICE or Border Patrol agent can unilaterally decide to deport a detainee.
So, we’ve established summarily deporting illegal aliens is not permissible under US law and that the vast majority of illegal aliens are due some form of immigration hearing. We’ve also determined that the law requires detaining them for said hearing. But why can’t we detain them, issue them bail and send them on their way, hoping they’ll appear for their hearing? A little more history is in order here.
18 USC 3142 is the federal statute regarding bail and pretrial detention. Paragraph (b) defines the classes of person who should be held without bail:
(1) such person—
(A) is, and was at the time the offense was committed, on—
(i) release pending trial for a felony under Federal, State, or local law;
(ii) release pending imposition or execution of sentence, appeal of sentence or conviction, or completion of sentence, for any offense under Federal, State, or local law; or
(iii) probation or parole for any offense under Federal, State, or local law; or
(B) is not a citizen of the United States or lawfully admitted for permanent residence, as defined in section 101(a)(20) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(20)); or
(2) such person may flee or pose a danger to any other person or the community;
This particular piece of law has been fraught with controversy over the years. It’s application to immigration law is no different. In 1994, Lithuanian immigrant Kestutis Zadvydas (who had been granted residency) was ordered deported for a felony conviction. However, the three other countries where he might have been sent refused to take him (after all, dude was a bad apple) and he wound up languishing in prison with no hope of being released. In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that the section of 8 USC 1231 which provided for indefinite detention of legal aliens awaiting deportation was in violation of the Constitutions 5th and 8th Amendments.
It was a controversial decision at the time. It is the basis for what has been termed our “catch and release” policy of granting illegal aliens a bail hearing and never seeing them again. Indeed, within the first three years after the ruling, USCIS was forced to release 134,000 aliens convicted of other crimes. It’s estimated another 56,000 have found a sort of limbo asylum in the US since then, as the Bush administration USCIS determined that even though Zadvydas did not specifically apply to illegal aliens it was better to broadly interpret the ruling.
But that administration did not entirely give up the idea of deporting illegal aliens who, despite not being in the country legally, commenced with committing other crimes. In 2004 USCIS ordered the indefinite detention of Alex Rodriguez, a Mexican national convict. It was this application of law that led the Obama administration in 2013 to implement the policies that led to the above picture. It that application of law that the Trump administration has been dutifully following since assuming office.
The case of Jennings, et al v. Rodriguez, et al was first heard (and defended by the Obama administration) in 2016. The justices deadlocked. It was then re-heard in 2017, this time with the Trump administration defending. In February of this year, the Supreme Court ruled that illegal aliens do not have the right to bail and may, in fact, be detained indefinitely.
Which brings us back to where we started. Anyone entering the country is breaking the law. Our laws demand that children crossing the border be removed from their parents and held separately, and further can make that separation permanent.
We can debate until our faces are blue on the morality and necessity of such laws. Given our history with immigration, we probably will. And given the media’s fascination with conveniently forgetting how 35 years of immigration law and jurisprudence have shaped this situation, I’m pretty certain that the Trump administration will continue to be unfairly browbeaten about it. At least until next week, when another scandal will be created and sensationalized.
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” –Benjamin Franklin
This past week, two seemingly unrelated events occurred that brought the 18th century to life in our modern age. Unless you are completely unaware (and if you are, I doubt you would bother to read this), Saturday was the “March for Our Lives,” the highly contrived display of juveniles calling for an end to an essential freedom. But earlier in the week, an Uber autonomous taxi struck and killed a pedestrian. Later reports laid the blame on the pedestrian, but that didn’t stop government from forcing every company testing autonomous driving technology to pull their vehicles off public roads.
What Franklin and the other Founder’s understood is there is a dynamic tension between safety and liberty. The reality is that they cannot perfectly coexist, and so the question is about how to set the dynamic to serve the most good. Think on it for a moment, and you’ll realize the two are polar opposites. Any society that promises absolute safety for it’s citizens offers no liberties, not even within the confines of the home. Conversely, the society that offers unlimited freedom has nothing in the way of societal protections.
What those wise old men created was a system that separated a subset of freedoms from everything else, and referred to them as “essential liberties.” They considered them essential for the simple reason that these freedoms guarantee every other human liberty. Among those considered absolutely necessary are the freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into an individual’s life and incarceration without first being tried by one’s peers, the right to peaceably assemble and address the government’s representatives, the right to worship and the right to defend oneself against the government, by force of arms if necessary. They packaged the essential liberties into the Bill of Rights – something the anti-federalists* demanded in order to secure their votes for ratification of the new Constitution.
What wasn’t mentioned, in the Constitution, the Articles of Confederation or the Declaration of Independence was the idea of a personal safety. Personal safety was generally accepted as an individual responsibility in the new republic.
Generally, but not universally. There have always been those who believe the duty of government is not the assurance of liberty, but dedication to protection from danger. While the nation was founded by, and throughout our history has rewarded risk takers, those who are risk averse have also made their homes among us. As the nation has aged, our society has reached agreement that certain personal liberties could be exchanged for government assurances of a sort of communal safety. Big Brother might not be watching your every move, but he’ll watch enough to make certain that some actions are prevented (or at least punished).
This brings me back to Franklin, Uber and the “#MarchForOurLives.” While Poor Richard might have been bemused at the idea of the government regulating transportation companies to this extent, he would have been willing to go along. After all, transportation is not an essential liberty. The government could ban all mechanized modes of getting about tomorrow as being inherently unsafe (and a glance at NTSB statistics will tell you just how unsafe they remain, despite government’s best attempts at making them safe), but you could still figure out a way to get from point A to B.
However, Ben would have taken umbrage at Saturday’s connived attempt to toss away one of those essential liberties, the right (and to many of the founders, the responsibility** of all citizens) to own firearms. I understand this concept is alien to the children who participated who, with the surety only born from the ignorance of youth, believe any idea older than they is ancient and outdated. It certainly is not alien to the people of Think Progress and the other left wing organizations that organized the protest. Indeed, removing it from the pantheon of essential liberties has been a goal of theirs from the beginning of the progressive movement, because they understand it is that which undergirds the individual’s ability to ensure his ability to exercise any of the others.
Think Progress has the right to assemble, and the even the right to dissemble on the nature of the Constitution. But the children whose unnatural fears they’re preying upon should also take note of the last part of the Franklin quote above. When he said those who desired safety over liberty deserved neither the safety they seek, nor the protections of liberty, he was referring to this other passage he had a part in crafting:
-That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.
This was the American Declaration of Independence, which stated the case that government does not exist to provide for personal safety, and that the duty of all people when confronted with a government that places benevolent tyranny ahead of individual liberty is to overthrow that government – by force, if necessary. That is the Pandora’s box they are toying with. Beware opening the lid. You won’t like what you find inside.
*For those of you not well versed in US history, the anti-federalists were Americans who opposed the adoption of the Constitution. Indeed, they opposed the idea of any strong government that could bind the individual states into a permanent union. Among their number were such notables as Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams and James Monroe.
**The various Founding Fathers have numerous dissertations on a citizen’s duty to maintain a firearm and remain proficient in its use, but this quote from Thomas Jefferson sums up the prevailing sentiment: “The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.”
Today, we see many things in the news and on social media regarding issues surrounding the US DoJ and law enforcement. As Americans, we know the FBI and the Justice Department are two agencies that must always be above reproach. But today, sadly, we see that is not the case.
Anytime there are officials or leadership in those agencies that use their bountiful resources to operate outside their intended use, there must be consequences. Those consequences should be swift and to the maximum penalty allowed by law. The incident needs to be made public, to show accountability to the American people and restore faith in our system. If nothing was done wrong then those individuals are exonerated. This is the crux of the American system.
Every person in America has their own opinion. They have their individual ideals and beliefs. But impartiality is implicit in the duties of those entrusted with enforcing our laws; bias should never interfere with doing the jobs they signed up for in the Justice Department or the FBI. They must never let their personal feelings interfere with the impartiality of the law.
In our modern era, we’ve listened to those responsible for the fair and impartial application of the awesome power of the American legal system describe the need for powers that made us all blanch. And begrudgingly, we’ve granted them powers they requested, including indefinite detentions and secret courts, even as we feared how those powers could be misused by those with less than honorable intent. We did so on the premise that those applying those powers would remain impartial in their application, that retribution for misusing them would be swift and terrible. We put aside our misgivings and placed our trust in the American system.
This is now beyond debate. This should be past partisan arguments. There is no gray area. The law was either followed or it wasn’t. Resources were used appropriately and as designed, or they were abused. As Americans, we deserve to know the answers to these questions. As Americans, it is our responsibility to know the answers to these questions. And as Americans, we should be in agreement that anyone who misused the authority we allowed them thereby violated our trust. Anyone guilty of such malfeasance is indeed guilty of crimes far worse than any other, for they attempted to murder the very republic they swore an oath to defend.
So yes, release the memos. Stop pretending the investigators are above being investigated themselves. Let us see the facts and judge for ourselves. Only in this way can trust in the institutions charged with guarding the American system be restored.
My daddy always told me that only fools complain without having a solution. Ok, he used more colorful language – after all, he was a Navy man. But this is the PC version of some rather sage advice.
I mention this since day before yesterday I wrote a bit about my frustration (and based on the responses I’ve read, yours as well) with Congress’ unwillingness to actually do anything about immigration, or DACA, or the budget, or pretty much anything else. But I’m following my daddy’s advice. Now, you can say I’m as mad as a hatter. In fact, I’m pretty sure some (if not all) of you will think so by the time we get to the end of this. Then again, if you’re following me here (or on Twitter or Facebook) you probably already think I have a screw or two loose, so what have I got to lose?
First up, these are all separate issues. Stop the grandstanding. Please. The fate of illegal aliens brought here as children is not related to how much we pay our servicemen. How many people we let in (and how we decide who those people are) has nothing to do with kids brought here when they belonged somewhere else. Trust me on this. How many people are employed by the EPA (or even if there should be an EPA) is a completely different discussion from what to do about the roughly 8 million illegal aliens who wouldn’t be covered by some sort of “DACA fix.”
So, do the simple stuff. The House passed all twelve of the appropriations bills for this fiscal year last September. Pass those out of the Senate. That is entirely up to Democrats. If they ended their charade now, they could pass the current CR tonight, then spend the next month debating those appropriations bills and where there are differences with the House bills, go to conference to hammer them out. That is the “regular order” which liberals spent all last summer demanding the Congress return to, but have conveniently forgotten about now that they want to execute “leverage.” Have I mentioned recently what a bunch of hypocrites politicians are?
Second, stop pretending Congress can only work on one issue at a time. Or, if there are congresscritters who can only tackle one problem at a time, they need to retire immediately. Think about your job. How long would you be employed if you couldn’t do more than one thing a month? Oh, you would be looking for another job? Then why haven’t your fired your representative?
Of course Congress can address multiple issues at once. So while debating the appropriations bills, there is nothing stopping them from beginning real work on all those other issues.
And here’s my proposals around each of them.
The DACA program ends on March 5. So address that first. My position hasn’t changed since the President first announced he was ending the highly illegal program. Grant those who’ve applied to the program permanent residency. Allow those who have reached adulthood and lived here for at least ten years, without incurring a felony charge, to apply for citizenship immediately. Otherwise, it’s the same restrictions as for any other alien resident. See, that was simple.
Next, all other illegal aliens (or undocumented migrants, or whatever the term du jour happens to be): they gotta go. Again, my position hasn’t changed since I first wrote about this 4 1/2 years ago. And yes, proper and aggressive enforcement of our immigration laws will get the majority of them to self-deport. Nobody wants to live in a place where they can’t eat.
Our immigration system needs an overhaul for current times. The idea of “diversity visas” and lotteries is not just stupid, but asinine and awkward. For my less prurient readers, it’s like getting drunk, walking into a whorehouse, grabbing the first available girl, and going off to do your thing without wearing a condom. You’ll spend the rest of your life regretting that decision – and that’s if it didn’t kill you. We obviously can’t take everyone who wants to live here, but that gives us leverage. We can pick and choose, and we should pick the very best candidates. And we should have back-end enforcement of that selection process: anyone granted alien residency in the United States should be required to become a citizen within ten years of arrival – or they should be sent packing.
As an aside to that point – I can’t recall where I read it, or heard it, but there was a legal resident who said she would never become a US citizen, because she was proud to be Jamaican. I have no problem with her being proud to be Jamaican; it’s a beautiful island with some great people. But be a proud Jamaican in Jamaica. If you’re going to live here, then you need to be a proud American. That shouldn’t even be up for discussion. And anyone not willing to give up allegiance to their country of origin should not be granted residency here.
What this means in practical terms is ending the hodge-podge of work and travel visas that currently muck up both our immigration system and allow so many illegal aliens to stay here after their visa expires. No more H-1B or H-3N or any of that other nonsense. You can get a tourist visa to visit, or you can get a residency visa. Period.
Finally, there is the both the federal debt and federal deficit. We aren’t even in February yet, which means there is plenty of time to start working on these problems now, before the appropriations bills for FY2019 have to be ready. Before Congress gets to work on them this time, I would have them ask themselves one thing: if 40% of what the federal government does is “non-essential,” why is the federal government doing those things? Think about it. Our budget deficit is about $600 billion, on around $4.2 trillion of spending. A little math says the recently passed tax bill, assuming no increased revenues from economic growth, will add $180 billion to that deficit. A little more math says reducing federal spending by 40% would yield around a $900 billion surplus. That won’t get rid of the nearly $21 trillion federal debt, but it sure will put a serious dent in it.
Okay, that’s a lot for now, I realize. This ending the partisan idiocy that grips Capital Hill is enough to send your head spinning, but the solutions aren’t that hard. They certainly aren’t as hard as the heads of our congresscritters. But that’s where it’s up to you. If they won’t do the job, then it’s time to fire them all.
You get your chance (again) in November.
It looks as though (once again), the federal government is about to “shut down.” But what does that mean, exactly?
We’ve been down this road before, and quite a few times. What a government shutdown actually means is the roughly 40% of the federal government that is deemed “non-essential services” will cease functions until the latest hissy fit ends. Here’s a brief list of things that won’t be affected:
- The military
- Border patrol
- Air traffic control
- Social Security payments
- Most operations of the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc
- Tax collections
So, if Congress is going to shut down those non-essential services but the essential functions of governance continue, then I hope it’s a long shutdown. Not a few days or even a month. No, let’s make it a go right through the end of the fiscal year in September.
Why? Simply put, after seven months of realizing that non-essential services are just that – not essential – we can finally start wresting control of the budget back from the bureaucrats. Once Americans recognize that they’ve been hoodwinked for generations into supporting things nobody really needs, they won’t be anxious to start those operations up again.
So, yes. Let’s have us a shutdown. But this time – let’s leave it shut down permanently.