What Free Speech?

02/09/2017

“Fear of serious injury alone cannot justify oppression of free speech and assembly… It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears.” – Louis D. Brandeis

 

The University of California at Berkeley was once the scene of perhaps the greatest example of free speech in America. I should know; I was there for a time. Some of the free speech was pretty radical by anyone’s standards. However, all viewpoints were allowed. That’s the beauty of free speech. No one truly has free speech unless everyone has it.

The recent violence on the campus of UC Berkeley shows that some students there disagree with the concept of free speech. An example of their thinking was on display recently in the university’s student newspaper, The Daily Californian, a sample of which is as follows:

  • “To people with platforms who decide when a protest should and should not be violent: You speak from a place of immense privilege. As I recently wrote in a tirade against this brand of idiocy, asking people to maintain peaceful dialogue with those who legitimately do not think their lives matter is a violent act.”

Comment: We are a Republic, a nation of laws. Therefore, no individual gets to decide    what is a “violent act.”

  • “…with President Trump threatening to cut UC Berkeley’s federal funding if it does not allow all opinions to be shared… the president is threatening the freedom of speech of these protesters.

Comment: No one violated the protestors free speech. The problem is the violence, not the rhetoric. In reality, the opposite is true; that is, the protestors caused other peoples’ free speech to be violated. You may hate what someone has to say, but you have to allow him to have his say. Otherwise free speech is no longer free.

  • “…the hate speech that fails to respect the humanity of undocumented people.”

Comment: The lack of respect is actually on the part of the violent protestors. Certainly, if any of these were my kids, I’d wonder who brainwashed them into hating America.  As Dana Carvey once said, “I think free speech is probably the coolest thing we have in this country, and again, you can label it hate speech and dismiss it, and then you’re allowed to censor it.”

  • “When mass call-ins, faculty and student objections, letter-writing campaigns, numerous op-eds (including mine), union grievances and peaceful demonstrations don’t work, when the nonviolent tactics have been exhausted — what is left?…These were not acts of violence. They were acts of self defense.”

Comment: Of course, this form of “self-defense” violates the civil rights of others. Self-defense? No further comment is necessary.

  • “I urge you to consider whether damaging the windows of places like banks and the Amazon student store constitutes ‘violence.’”

Comment: Suggest that we ask the people who had property damaged whether or not it was violence.

 

Yes, we are a nation of laws. When we cease to respect those laws, we spiral down into anarchy. At some point, we actually cease becoming a nation. Instead, we are hostage to mob rule. Perhaps, that’s what was intended all along by the violent protests.

 

“Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man, as far as by it, he does not hurt or control the Right of another. And this is the only Check it ought to suffer, and the only bounds it ought to know. This sacred Privilege is to essential to free Governments… Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing the Fteeness [sic] of Speech….”

 – Cato’s letters

As I mentioned in my last post, there was no hue and cry when President Obama imposed immigration restrictions in 2011.  However, the hypocrisy goes far beyond that, as witnessed by the following quotes:

 

  • “All Americans…are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country.  The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants.  The public service they use impose burdens on our taxpayers.  That’s why our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders….”  – President Bill Clinton

  • “Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we are a nation of laws.  Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws and I believe that they must be held accountable, especially those that might be dangerous.  When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system and I began by doing what I could to secure our borders.  But today, our immigration system is broken and everybody knows it.  There are actions I have the legal authority to take as President…The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they are the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half-century….”  – President Barack Obama

Given what President Clinton and President Obama said and did, why is there even a debate today?

Immigration dominates the headlines these days and, even though I try to avoid the news, it’s constantly in my face. So, if I must, here’s my take.

One of the key issues in the immigration issue centers around “open borders.” Every nation decides for itself on this question. Look at China and Saudi Arabia, for example. Their immigration policies are unbelievably restrictive, especially when compared to America. For a nation to be considered sovereign, it must, therefore have the right to determine who can and who can’t migrate to their country. The Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, has come out in support of Trump’s executive order because, as he says, the United States has the right to make a “sovereign decision” regarding its immigration policy.

Aside: Even Saint Thomas Aquinas understood that principle when he expounded on the subject in his seminal work, the Summa Theologica.

The truth is that in the context of recent world-wide immigration, diversity doesn’t work. It doesn’t work, in part, because immigrants have to want to assimilate. However, Muslims, in particular, are adamant about not assimilating. For example, a vast majority of Muslims in the UK have said that they consider themselves to be Muslims first and UK citizens second. Sharia Law, which is incompatible with Western culture, then becomes a major roadblock to assimilation. As Lee Kuan Yew, the former Prime Minister of Singapore, said about diversity, “In multiracial societies, you don’t vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with race and religion.” This should serve as a warning to all counties, but especially America.

Aside: To all the women protesting against the current immigration restrictions, perhaps you should go talk to the women of Europe, particularly in Sweden, who have seen rapes committed by Muslim immigrants skyrocket through the roof. You should ask those women if immigration is a good thing or not.

On a more practical note, America does not have an overabundance of resources. In fact, it’s basically bankrupt with the national deficit sitting at over three trillion dollars annually. Moreover, there are not enough jobs to go around and as a result there are some 41 million people on food stamps. Therefore, for every new immigrant there is one more person added to the unemployment rolls. So, for all of you who are promoting immigration, I suggest that you volunteer to give up your job for a new immigrant. I suspect, however, that no one will take me up on that offer, now will they?

What is really hard to fathom for some is that the immigration protestors never objected when Obama imposed similar immigration restrictions back in 2011.  Maybe, it’s because most of the protestors today are left-wing ideologues and opposing Trump’s immigration restrictions is in reality a political ploy to marginalize and demonize political opponents. Ain’t politics wonderful? That’s why I try to avoid the news whenever possible; so much of it is Fake News anyway.

 

 

A recent study by research and analysis gurus, the Economist Intelligence Unit, says that America is now a flawed democracy due to a steep decline in Americans’ trust in their government, elected representatives and political parties.

Slight correction.  America has never been a democracy, it’s a republic. It’s like calling a filet mignon a hamburger. If you don’t know the difference, you should look it up. Are you listening there at the Economist?

The Real Israel

01/16/2017

Once upon a time, almost half-way around the world the biblical kingdom of Israel existed; that is, until it was wiped off the map by the Roman Empire. Today, the country of Israel has been resurrected but there is something very strange about it – almost unrecognizable in fact. You see, it’s now very different, geographically speaking. So, why and how did that happen?

In biblical times, Israel existed as two kingdoms; one was called Judea and the other Samaria. Interestingly enough, those two kingdoms make up, more or less, what today is referred to as the West Bank. Yes, the West Bank rather than Israel. How does one explain how the creation of a 20th century Jewish homeland never had them return to what was truly home for them. It’s sort of like someone who grew up in New York City going back home as an adult to live in New Jersey. How does that make any sense?

Well, actually there is one way that this all makes sense. The reality is that the Jewish homeland was never about geography, but rather about politics. Today, more than half of modern-day Israel is made up of the Negev Desert, which could never be considered to be a homeland for anyone, with the exception maybe of the Bedouins who have lived there for thousands of years. Further, important biblical cities/sites like Bethlehem, East Jerusalem, Masada, Jericho and Qumran are, today, all in the West Bank.

So, the true Jewish homeland is really what is now referred to as the West Bank and not some arbitrary lines drawn on a map by some politicians who carved up what was then British Palestine. The West Bank was also then part of Palestine and later became part of Jordan. After the Six-Day War in 1967, Jordan (having lost the war) ceded the West Bank to Israel, and so it remains today. Therefore, why would anyone expect that Israel would give up their true homeland? Why? Would you?

 

Epilogue

Palestine has never existed as a country, so it’s hard to see why it should exist today. This is especially true since the majority of British Palestine was spun off into an Arab nation that today is called Jordan and which is populated predominately by Palestinians. That’s why King Hussein, the former king of Jordan, said that Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan.

Of course, Jordan could just become a Palestinian state (as opposed to be being a Saudi/Hashemite kingdom). However, that would be too easy. Why promote a peaceful solution when you can promote one that creates chaos instead.

 

 

Palestine Fake News

01/06/2017

So, Palestine is back in the news again. One really has to ask the question why. That is, why do the Palestinians deserve a homeland?

In recent days, the UN Security Council passed a resolution whereby Israeli settlements in the West Bank were deemed to be illegal (i.e. occupied territories). I say “deemed to be” because the UN Security Council has no legal power to tell any sovereign nation what to do. If we’re going to play the “occupied territories” card, it would only be fair to first demand that China give Tibet its freedom back or that America return the country to the Native Americans. By definition, then, the West Bank, Tibet and America are all occupied territories. The West Bank arguably falls into this category because it was won as the result of a war… and the treaty that ended that war said that the West Bank now belonged to Israel. So, that should be the end of it, right?

Aside: The fake news is that an actual, sovereign nation of Palestine has never existed; not even in biblical times. Some scholars say that a Palestinian identity did not even become a reality until after 1948, with some saying as late as 1967. Ethnically, Palestinians are actually no different from other Arabs living throughout the Middle East.

However to understand the politics of the present, one has to know a little something about the politics of the past. At the conclusion of World War I, the former Ottoman Empire was carved up and a part of it was given the name Palestine. Arabs, Christians and Jews lived in Palestine at that time and they were all considered to be Palestinians. Palestine was governed by the British under what was called the British Mandate of Palestine. Part of Palestine would later be spun off and become the Arab state of Transjordan. In 1948, Transjordan (now called Jordan) and other Arab states invaded the remainder of Palestine (then called Mandatory Palestine). The trigger for the war was Israel’s declaration of independence. The resulting treaty that ended the war gave the West Bank to Transjordan with the remainder of Mandatory Palestine recognized as the Jewish state of Israel.

Those borders remained in place until the Six – Day War of 1967. That war was initiated by various Arab nations, including Jordan, who still did not recognize the creation of the state of Israel. At the conclusion of that war, Jordan ceded the West Bank to Israel. It’s interesting to note that The United Nations did not call for a homeland for the Palestinian Arabs at that time.

However today, some fifty years later, politicians have reinvented the issue of a separate Palestinian state. Never mind that the biggest minority population in the Middle East, the Kurds, still do not have a homeland of their own; never mind that an Arab nation (Jordan) was previously carved out of Palestine and could be used to provide for a Palestinian state; and never mind that the West Bank is, more or less, the biblical Jewish lands of Judea and Sumeria, the loss of which was the reason for a Jewish homeland in the first place.

Finally, and most importantly, never mind that the Palestinian Arabs still do not recognize Israel as a sovereign state as evidenced by their rejection of John Kerry’s recent two-state solution. In those circumstances, why would anyone want to create a Palestinian state which would be next door to a nation (Israel) that they, the Palestinians, do not recognize, a nation that they would like to wipe off the map? After all, that’s how we got the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 and the Six-Day War of 1967. So, you have to ask yourself if the real reason the politicians want to create a Palestinian homeland is to create a lasting peace or to start a war. Last I checked, no one makes money off of peace, only off of wars. Fake peace anyone?

 

“The truth is that Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan.”  –  King Hussein of Jordan

 

Fake News

11/30/2016

The topic of so-called Fake News is prominent in the headlines these days. However, it’s just one person’s opinion as to whether news is fake or not. After all, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, right?

So, what if anything should one make of the furor over Fake News? Most of the debate seems to center around the mainstream media vs. certain alt-right internet sites. However, differing opinions are in reality not necessarily differing viewpoints. By that, I mean that some opinions are in reality based on ideology, ideologies that often do not require proof. These ideologies are the result of agendas of control which are not interested in the truth, but rather only in the promulgation of the ideology itself.

Aside: Perhaps, the American people have already decided this issue since the mainstream media’s approval rating has fallen to around 6%. More to the point, when you lose credibility your ideology suffers (i.e. you lose elections).

Beyond the obvious debate concerning the media, there is a less obvious example with regards to ideology shaping the world that we live in. I’m talking about one of my favorite whipping boys – science. As philosopher Paul Feyerabend put it, “Thus science is much closer to myth than scientific philosophy is prepared to admit… it is inherently superior only for those who have already decided in favour of a certain ideology, or who have accepted it without having ever examined its advantages and its limits.”  Yes, even in science, any process inherently begins with a person’s ideology.

A couple of well-known scientists who admitted to what Feyerabend said about ideology are Edwin Hubble and Richard Lewontin, as follows:

Such a condition would imply that we occupy a unique position in the universe…The hypothesis cannot be disproved but it is unwelcome… Therefore we disregard this possibility…. the unwelcome supposition of a favoured location must be avoided at all costs…. Such a favoured position is intolerable…Therefore, in order to restore homogeneity, and to escape the horror of a unique position…must be compensated by… spatial curvature. There seems to be no other escape.” – Edwin Hubble, astronomer

“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a priori commitment, a commitment to materialism.  It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” – Richard Lewontin, geneticist

So, is it theory or is it fact? Is it real or is it fake? How is a person to know? Maybe, we should just play another one of those videos from physicist Michio Kaku. He wouldn’t lie to us…now would he?

 

Epilogue

One needs to keep in mind that things are rarely what they seem. In reality, it’s the people crying Fake News who are the ones putting out the Fake News. It’s a strategy taken right out of the playbook of Saul Alinsky. Of course, that’s just one man’s opinion, isn’t it? No doubt some would even claim it’s Fake News.

 

 “Everything is backwards, everything is upside down. Doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, psychiatrists destroy minds, scientists destroy truth, major media destroys information, religions destroy spirituality and governments destroy freedom.” 
    – Michael Ellner

 

 

Some people think that capitalism is in serious decline. Does it really matter? The thing is that capitalism is already dead and buried… but they forgot to write the obituary. The bank bailouts of 2008 were, perhaps, the final nail in the coffin.

Results from a recent survey by Harvard University found that a majority of millennials do not favor capitalism. Interestingly enough, the same survey said that those same millennials favor a free-market system over a government-managed economy. What’s wrong with that picture? The problem is that those two responses stand in stark opposition with one another. That is, you can’t favor a free-market system and in the same breath reject capitalism. Can you?

So, on what level does this make any sense? Here’s how. Those surveyed don’t truly understand what capitalism is. That should be intuitively obvious since, by definition, capitalism is a free-market system. I said should be intuitively obvious.

All that the millennials know is that they object to the 1% controlling most of the nation’s wealth. As a result, capitalism becomes a convenient whipping boy.  Little do they realize that a free market system is not truly free if it’s controlled by the same 1%. The truth is that the economy is run in a concerted partnership between corporations (the 1%) and government. Historically, this is more correctly labeled as fascism – not capitalism. Just ask Mussolini.

 

    “Fascism is capitalism in decay.”

              – Lenin

 

This post certainly isn’t Shakespeare.  However, it is about a tragedy, a modern-day version.  That is, politics rarely results in anything productive. Today, with all the backroom deals and secret handshakes, the world is upside down. As Shakespeare put it, there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark.  That said, a little background is probably in order.

 

Historical background

After World War I, the Ottoman Empire was carved up by the victors (the Western Powers). They took a magic marker to the map of the Middle East and completely redrew all the boundaries. As a result, countries like Syria and Iraq were created out of thin air.

Further, the British were given a mandate by the League of Nations to administer certain occupied territories in the Middle East which would be used, for among other things, to create a Jewish homeland. That mandate is referred to as the Palestine Mandate, with Palestine referring to what is now the combined areas of Israel, Jordan and the West Bank. The original term of Palestinian referred to anyone then living within the boundaries of this new territory of Palestine, including Christians and Jews.

Fast forward to 1967, at which time various Arab countries attacked Israel in what would become known as the Six-Day War. Those Arab countries, which included Jordan, were on the losing side of that war and as a result Jordan ceded to Israel those lands west of the Jordan River (the West Bank). To the victors go the spoils, or so they say. Ever since, there has been an international dialogue to have Israel give the West Bank to the Palestinians to create a new and separate Arab state.

 

Making a bad situation worse

Today, the world is stuck with the political deals that the Western Powers made with each other at the end of World War I. Unfortunately, there is no way to unwind what has already been done and moving forward with a reasonable solution has proved to be elusive. So, as world leaders answer the clarion call, it would be good to remember a few salient points:

  • There has been a lot of discussion of returning the West Bank to the Palestinians, as if there ever was such a country. However, there has never been a country of Palestine – not in modern times and not even in ancient times. So, creating an Arab state for the Palestinians would not be a case of returning the West Bank to them, but rather it would be creating a Palestinian state for the very first time in history.
  • The Palestinians are not the only group in the world without a homeland. There are significant minority populations in any number of countries who have never had their own homeland. For example, the largest minority population in the world is actually the Kurds (who also live in the Middle East). However, there has never been any talk of giving them a homeland.
  • If Israel is forced to give up the West Bank, it could set a dangerous precedent.  If that were to happen, who might be next? Is it possible that America might be asked to return the Southwestern United States (stretching all the way from California to Texas) back to Mexico, since it was acquired as a result of the U.S./Mexican War.

Unfortunately, a precedent such as this would likely have an unexpected ripple effect. So, is there a reason why the world is hell-bent to make a bad situation worse?

 

The run-up to WWWIII

Although the status quo is far more palatable to me than the solutions offered up so far, I do have a proposal that might end the stalemate. Actually, it wasn’t very difficult to come up with it either. That is, simply have Israel give the West Bank back to Jordan. Yes, the very same Jordan that the West Bank used to be a part of. Jordan is a pretty stable government and they can probably be counted on to keep the peace.  Besides, a majority of the people currently residing in Jordan are actually Palestinians!

Despite its appeal, this proposal will no doubt fall on deaf ears. That’s because there is more money to be made from war than from peace. World War III anyone?

 

Epilogue

While we’re at it, let’s return North America (Canada and America) back to the Native Americans, have China return Tibet to the Tibetans and give North Korea back to South Korea.  Who would like the task of breaking the news to Kim Jong-un?

 

“The truth is that Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan.”

      – King Hussein of Jordan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was visiting Israel recently and while driving around I was thrown off by their street and highway signs. The street signs, you see, are in Hebrew, English…and Arabic!  I wondered, why Arabic?  Well, it turns out that Arabic is an official national language of Israel (along with Hebrew naturally) and that’s why the street signs are also in Arabic.

Show of hands.  How many people already knew that Arabic was an official national language of Israel.  No one, of course.

That got me to thinking.  What else didn’t I know about Arabs in Israel.  Turns out that I didn’t know very much.  Here’s a short list:

  • The Arab population in Israel is approximately 1.7 million, which is more than 20% of the country’s total population. One in five Israelis are Arab!
  • Arab citizens are granted the same rights as Jewish citizens under law.  They are, in fact, Israeli citizens.
  • Arabs are allowed to serve in the Israeli military (although service is not mandatory).
  • Arabs have political representation in the Israeli Knesset and currently hold 17 of its 120 seats.  There currently is even an Arab serving as a justice on the Israeli Supreme Court.

During my stay in Israel, I also noticed a number of other somewhat unusual things, at least from my perspective:

  • While shopping, I noticed that some of the shop owners were actually Arabs.
  • I saw an Arab woman jogging on the beach boardwalk (in jogging gear and headphones no less).
  • In the malls, I repeatedly ran into Arab women shopping without their husbands, sometimes attired in blue jeans (of all things).
  • Arabs from other countries come to Israel for medical care – even the King of Jordan, so I am told.

All of which made me question what an Israeli really is. There are over 1 million Russians that came to Israel in the 1990s. The current immigrant wave is from France and when you walk the streets in some cities you see large numbers of Anglo-Saxon looking people.  It’s very multi-cultural…

and, then, there’s the Israeli Arabs.

Turns out that Israeli Arabs enjoy more civil rights than Arabs living in any other Middle Eastern country. In fact, a study by the Harvard Kennedy School found that 77% of Israeli Arabs would rather live in Israel than in any other country.

So, street signs, blue jeans and headphones.  It sort of tells you something about the new reality of Israeli Arabs.