Monthly Archives: September 2017

IS THIS A CULTURE CRISIS OR THE BEGINNING OF A CIVIL WAR? – PART III

As we’ve explored in the last few blogs, we are living in the middle of what I believe is a national crisis of solidarity, growing racial bitterness, pervasive distrust and political dysfunction.

When and how did all this start?  We have had intense political battles, scurrilous election campaigns and public protests since the foundation of our great nation.

Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson didn’t agree on very much about what our nation needed to get started or how to structure where it was going.  When Jefferson ran for president against Aaron Burr, however, Hamilton supported Jefferson, despite all their differences.

When Ronald Reagan was president, he and House Speaker Tip O’Neill differed sharply on many issues, but found enough areas on which they could agree to get legislation through Congress.

It would be difficult today to even count the number of bills co-sponsored by a Democrat and a Republican.  None of this cooperative history seems possible in this era of no compromise.  The rancor and hostility which appears to characterize the people in Congress or in the public arena today do not appear to have any chance of compromise or even civility.

So, I repeat my question:  Where and how did all this start?  Certainly the seeds of all this enmity have grown over a very long time, but I would speculate that three things have been the major influence in creating this discord.

First and foremost, I think the spark that set off this battle was the attempt to impeach Bill Clinton.

The grounds for impeachment, “conviction of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors” were stretched a bit to try to impeach Clinton and I’m not sure the wounds have ever healed.

Another factor contributing to the inability of Congress to get along and get anything done has been the “airplane.”  How could that be, you ask?

Congress works basically Monday through Thursday in Washington.  With the airplane, members now scatter on Fridays.  This has limited Congress members getting to know each other as people, rather than just as political opponents.  I know this may seem somewhat far-fetched, but I believe these factors help explain how the battle got started in the political arena.

Like all the battles, this one has escalated with increasing contentious issues and presidents who haven’t bent much to negotiate.  Over time, the wounds continue to fester.

As I wrote on the last blog, the election of Donald Trump his ignited a roar we have never seen before.  Granted, he didn’t win the popular vote, but that has happened before.  His somewhat bellicose and combative nature has ignited an opposition who tries to outdo him in hostile rhetoric and actions.

It’s all very troublesome!

Where are all our thought leaders to recognize this growing crisis in all three arenas and  try to take steps to counter the disastrous effects of all this negative activity?

Where are our past presidents?  Where are the heads of all our major universities?

Why isn’t there a collective chorus and direction from our past presidents?  And where are all the intellectual elites who will take a stand to sound the warning signals of this impending crisis against the disintegration of our basic values?  Where are the think tanks and their annual conference of business and thought leaders to call out the idiocy of the “destroyers”?

They’re no longer just protestors or activists in the name of their advocacy, they are “destroyers” of property and the fundamental tenets of our liberty, our freedom and the very foundation of a Democratic Republic.

The media have fanned the flames of all this discontent and have contributed to the polarization going on in all three arenas.

Diversity and compromise is in full retreat.  It is evident in all levels of our society.  It is alarming and I am fearful of where it can possibly lead.

There appears to be no voices of reason out there to steer us away from this impending crisis.

While we wait for some direction from our nation’s leaders, the one movement that would help tone down the angry activists and bring some sanity to the Congress as well as the speech police would be a significant improvement in the economy; more jobs, increased wages and lower taxes.

If we could somehow get back to 3% annual growth, it would be a huge boost to not only the economy but to the state of mind of our fellow Americans.  We can’t sustain our way of life on 2% or less annual growth.

Since 2000, the economy has lost a million jobs; and wages, compared to inflation, used to go up 2% to 3%.  Now, they only go up to 1.5% and tax reform has been the cry of both parties for 10 to 15 years.  It would help if it could happen now.

Improving the economy will help solve a lot of the problems and angst in the public arena, but it won’t do much for the other two sides of our crisis triangle.

As I said before, Trump didn’t create this crisis problem.  His election was the beneficiary of all this brewing hostility and he will not be able to do much to defuse it, or resolve it.  His only real influence could be in the economy.

How about you?  How do you feel about all this dissent and hostility in the three arenas of our society?  Are you sanguine about it or as disturbed as I am?

If you’re concerned, what else can be done to help find some resolution?

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IS THIS A CULTURE CRISIS OR THE BEGINNING OF A CIVIL WAR? – PART II

In our opening salvo in this series, we looked at what is going on in the educational arena; the attempts to curtail free speech, the distorted view of political correctness, the increasing segregation of campus life and the lack of faculty diversity.

Now we turn to explore two other segments of our societal life—the public arena and the government/political arena—both as disturbing as the school culture.

The Public Arena

Just as is happening in the educational arena, the activists and loud mouths in the public arena try to sway the debate by name calling.

On America’s immigration crisis, if you use the term “illegal alien” or “immigrant,” you’re branded as a racist.  The Left wants you silenced to ensure their political agenda can’t be challenged.

Or try this:  mention to a liberal that you have doubts about man-made climate change.  Suddenly, you’re a denier and you must be silenced!

Say anything positive about capitalism and the freedoms it has ushered in and you’ll be told you support “white male privilege” and “you’re part of the problem!”  The same holds true about many other important national discussions—from radical Islamic terrorism to attempting to address violent inner-city street gangs.

Conservatives, libertarians and anyone who refuses to toe the line are being told to shut up—or else!

In the first days of the Trump presidency we had anti-Trumpers yelling about impeachment, and the impeachment chorus continues.  Somebody ought to tell them not liking someone is not an impeachable offense.  The anti-Trumpers created a mantra we haven’t heard after previous elections.  and the continuing cry of “He’s not my president.”

All violate the historical precedent that once elected, like it or not, he was the president.  Their protests were not just vocal but destroyed property to emphasize their bitterness.

This isn’t dissent, this is anarchy.

There now appears to be an ongoing and very uncivil war against Confederate statues.  The impoverished and crime-ridden city of New Orleans recently spent more than $2 million to take down four monuments.  Other cities and towns across the south are making plans to move or demolish dozens of other statues, and Baltimore trashed four monuments in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

Of course, reasonable people can make a powerful argument that statues of Confederate soldiers have no place in America.  These men fought to defend the odious practice of slavery.  But no one should ever believe this will end with a few dozen statues.  The left is on the warpath against anything it considers distasteful in America’s past.

Slaveholders appear to be next in line; and in that regard, Yale University is especially instructive.  Last year, university president Peter Salovey vowed that Yale’s Calhoun College would keep its name, even though John C. Calhoun, Yale class of 1804, was a powerful defender of slavery.

Just a few months later, Salovey caved to pressure and announced that Calhoun’s name would be sandblasted off any buildings.  Salovey exemplifies the “courage” many college administrators are displaying these days.

But why stop with John C. Calhoun?  Elihu Yale, himself, was a slave trader whose actions were arguably worse.  You don’t think there are lots of aggrieved people who want the entire university renamed?  Think again!

Princeton has its own issues, but not with a slave owner.  Former school president Woodrow Wilson, who later moved to the White House and was a liberal hero, held some truly retrograde views of blacks.  The university recently removed his photograph from a dining hall because it was deemed “unduly celebratory.”  It was also, you know, not in keeping with Princeton’s eternal desire to be “truly diverse and inclusive.”

While Princeton and Yale are in the north, hundreds of schools in the south are named for slave-holders and Confederate officers.  If statues of Robert E. Lee have to come down, why in the world does Washington and Lee University get to keep its name?  General Lee became the school president soon after he surrendered to General Grant at the Appomattox Court House.

When the left is finished with Robert E. Lee, they might begin tearing down all the monuments dedicated to slave-owners George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.  Sure, that’ll take a while, but left-wing protestors seem to have little on their minds these days but time and anger.

The war between the states was a defining moment in American history and all Americans need to understand the two sides—who they were and who did what.  Ripping down their statues doesn’t advance the cause or history or the understanding of that period.

Maybe there are a few too many statues but we must be very careful about overkill and the attempt to expunge history with so-called liberal political correctness.

We’ve always had activist groups in the public arena, but there’s a new air of anger and volatility in the groups we see today—in the white supremacists, in Black Lives Matter, and the anti-fascist ANTIFA—all disturbing signs.

This is all reminiscent of the Soviet Union or China’s Cultural Revolution, where out-of-favor officials simply got whitewashed.  Their images vanished from photographs; their names were eliminated from history books.

In the Soviet Union, the whitewashing of history finally ended when the evil of communism was toppled, along with statues of Lenin and Stalin.  Now we are the ones doing the toppling—Civil War generals, slave owners, just about anyone who is not deemed politically correct by the standards of 2017.

Personally, I’m more offended by the protests and the mayhem than I am about the statues.

Colin Kapernick started it and now, USA Sports reports, 17 other millionaire NFL football players are protesting by not standing for the national anthem.  This is a game with rules they are forced to respect.  What exactly are they protesting?

Maybe they ought to donate 80% to 90% of their bloated compensation to the problems they would like to see corrected.  In the meantime, respect the flag that has offered you the opportunity to make so much money.

Now The Political Arena

The biggest accomplishment of the Trump presidency is that they finally got his hairdo under control.

It might have helped if Trump had concentrated on learning how to govern in his first days instead of launching a re-election fundraising effort.

I personally didn’t like Trump before he was a candidate but when he became our president I was hopeful that with a Republican Congress we could get tax reform, a real infrastructure program and an overhaul of Obamacare and our health care system.  It doesn’t look promising.

The White House staff has been in total disarray.  The only clear functioning appointees so far appear to be the retired military people.  Donald, unfortunately, doesn’t have a clue on how to lead, how to govern or how to negotiate with the Republican leadership in Congress.  Maybe his approach to the Democrats will work better.

Congress, apparently, can’t function any better on their own.  The Republicans spent seven years screaming about repealing Obamacare and in seven months this year they couldn’t come up with an alternative and couldn’t even muster enough votes even for repeal.

Congress ceases to function as a forum of debate and compromise.  They obviously need a strong presidential leader and they don’t have one.

Trump was not qualified by experience or temperament to become president of the U.S.  His future is clouded by the Mueller investigation, not the Russian collusion fantasy, but what Mueller will uncover about the finances he didn’t want exposed by not releasing his tax returns.  That may well be his downfall.

Let me be clear, I don’t believe Trump has contributed substantially to the fraying of our democratic principles but he has done nothing to help it.  He’s just an obstacle in the way.  Actually, I personally think his election was a beneficiary of all this craziness.

If things weren’t bad enough on the national scene, there are hardly any government entities—city, county or state—that are not on the verge of bankruptcy, all mainly due to the overblown pension benefits accorded to employees, some starting at age 55.  How ludicrous!

College Park, Maryland and five other towns have decided to let illegal aliens vote in their local elections.  Are people on death row next?

In our final blog, we’ll try to tackle how this came about, where it’s going and what may help remedy the problem.

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IS THIS A CULTURE CRISIS OR THE BEGINNING OF A CIVIL WAR?

I don’t know about you, but I’m alarmed and disturbed.  Actually, I’m frightened!  We appear to be witnessing the fraying of the basic foundations of the America we’ve known for over 200 years.

It’s bad enough we are confronted with the threats of North Korea, ISIS and Iran, but my concerns today are what’s going on here in our country.  Our country is more polarized and volatile now than at any time in my life and it’s scary!

Yes, we’ve always had political disagreements, as well as hotly contested protests and elections, but we’ve never seen anything like what is going on now in every facet of our society.

I have been concerned for sometime about the increasing segregation of students on college campuses, the absolute stupefying efforts to curtail or even respect free speech in the educational environment, as well as the increasing lack of diversity in the makeup of college faculties.

The shocking tragedy in Charlottesville last month was horrifying.  The neo-Nazis came to try and preserve a statue they didn’t care a whit about.  The black-clad ANTIFA activists came to confront the white supremacists.  Both sides came armed, not with arguments, but with weapons to inflict personal harm, while a governor attempting to be politically correct had the police stand by to watch the mayhem.  It was all disgraceful.

Then we have to add in a Congress so stagnated with bitter and hostile feelings on both sides of the aisle that there is no compromise and nothing gets done.

To try and understand all this disintegration of the basic fundamentals of our democracy, let’s try to explore what is going on in the educational, the public, and the political arenas.

Quite frankly, it’s all very upsetting because it can’t land to anything good.  It’s diversity in full retreat.

The College/University Arena

In his retirement address, the provost of Stanford University said, “The biggest threat to the future of higher education is the decline of free speech and the rise of intolerance on college campuses.”

Only a generation ago, colleges were places that celebrated free speech and the expression of many different viewpoints.  Students came to college with the expectation that they would be exposed to a variety of ideas and opinions, in the classrooms and in the dormitories.  It’s one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children.

But lately, something insidious has been taking over college campuses.

Left-wing academics and administrators have advanced a frighteningly fascist-like movement—political correctness.  It comes with speech codes, sensitivity training and “rapid response” teams to help enforce “correct thinking,” as Mao called it.

Like a cancer spreading across our nation, speech control has oozed into our homes, our workplaces, our news, our movies and television—it’s destroying our culture and our heritage of freedom.

So it should no longer surprise us when we learn, for example, about administrators at Vassar College last fall shredding a copy of the United States Constitution, all because one student complained that she felt “triggered” by its distribution on campus.

Then there is research by Samuel Adams, Professor of Political Science at Sarah Lawrence College in New York:

  • He found that in 1989, the faculty numbers were 40 percent liberal, 40 percent moderate, and 20 percent conservative. But by 2014, 60 percent call themselves liberal, 30 percent moderate, and just 10 percent conservative.
  • Nowadays, self-proclaimed liberal professors outnumber conservatives nearly five to one! The general public and the student population is not moving so firmly in this same direction.  It’s only the professors.
  • What’s more, it’s incorrect to believe that some campuses have moved far left while others are more balanced. Almost all colleges—91%– have seen an increase in the proportion of liberal faculty members.

While in the South, the ratio of self-proclaimed progressive professors to conservative ones was three to one; in the Northeast, where many of the nation’s top universities are found, the ratios are far more unbalanced.  Progressives now outnumber conservatives by a factor of 28-to-one!

Recent polls suggest seven out of 10 college students favor banning “intentionally offensive” speech.

Can you believe that?  Well, neither can I.  But it’s the truth; our country’s next generation of leaders would rather sacrifice the First Amendment than suffer the possibility of hurt feelings.

And what, you ask, may be considered “offensive” speech?  Well, here are just a few examples that have surfaced in recent months:

  • Chalk marks supporting the election of Donald Trump.
  • A Yale lecturer defending the right of blonde children to wear a “Mulan” Halloween costume portraying the female Chinese warrior featured in the Disney film.
  • Questioning the priorities of Black Lives Matter.

While the anti-free speech bullying on college campuses has drawn the most media attention, the problem really starts…in high schools.  We must reach students before they reach college.  This means turning the tide in secondary schools away from stifled “tolerance” and towards a true diversity of viewpoints.

  • A high school student in Woodbury, Connecticut, was researching gun control for a class paper. The school computer blocked access to the website of the National Rifle Association, while those sites supportive of gun control were easily accessed.  So he dug further and found that the high school had also blocked access to numerous websites sponsored by conservative or Christian organizations—including the Vatican.  The reason?  The superintendent was trying to weed out “hate speech.”
  • When a senior at Central High School in Philadelphia published an opinion piece in his high school newspaper that was critical of the recent protests at the University of Missouri, his piece was removed from the paper’s website as “insensitive.” Even worse, other students threatened on social media to “deal with” or “shoot” him.

Such stories are, unfortunately, commonplace.

Lively discourse—the free and unfettered exchange of ideas that made our country great and serves as the basis of true intellectual diversity—is dying in contemporary education.

Taking its place is a poisonous mixture of intimidation, bullying, and, on the part of those intimidated and bullied, silence.  In the long run, this spells disaster.

Here are just a few more of the outrageous actions we’ve witnessed:

  • California’s Modesto Junior College threatened a student with disciplinary action for distributing a copy of the U.S. Constitution in celebration of Constitution Day. The student was not in the “free speech zone.”
  • Students at the University of South Carolina were disciplined for hosting an event promoting free speech.
  • At UC-San Diego, the student newspaper satirized “free speech zones.” The administration took away all of the paper’s funding.
  • For years campuses have bullied and sought to ban conservative speakers. In 2014, Rutgers faculty and students succeeded in getting former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice scratched as their commencement speaker.  UCLA students and faculty did the same to First Lady Laura Bush in 2002.
  • The University of Oregon’s Bias Response Team works to control student behavior. In one instance, the team investigated a student who put up a sign that encouraged students to “clean up after themselves.”  The complaint?  The sign was “sexist.”

This is insanity.  Every inch of every college campus in America should be a free speech zone!  This march of anti-diversity must be stopped.  It benefits no one and our country will be its victim.

Next week, we’ll tackle how the public and political arenas are doing their part to help the disintegration of our democracy.

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THE PHOTOGRAPHS IN MY MIND – PART V

Here’s the last installment in this series.  My memory of all our trips has just about given out.  I hope you find some places you might enjoy visiting.

The Great Lakes – Our sail started in Duluth, Minnesota and went through four of the freshwater lakes mostly on the Canadian side.  We saw a bit of Lake Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario, as well as the rivers and channels which connect them.

We had stops at Thunder Bay, Mackinac Island with its storied mansion and spectacular views of Niagara Falls on the Canadian side.

You can follow the path of the great lakes to the St. Lawrence River through all of the eastern Canada and right into the Atlantic Ocean.

For us, the cruise ended in Toronto and was a most enjoyable treat.

Hearst Castle will rival any European castle, and it’s right here about half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Hard to imagine one man built this opulent estate with an indoor swimming pool and its own zoo.  There are three tours to see this extravaganza.

Japan – We had a short land tour of Japan and liked what we saw, so we took a cruise around the whole island.

We’d been to Tokyo before—an amazing overcrowded city.  On this trip we started out in Yokohama and headed south.  We saw some truly spectacular gardens and had stops at Hiroshima and a port town in South Korea.

It was an enjoyable way to see more of Japan.

Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine – A true delight in the fall when the leaves are changing colors.  We started with a bike trip in Vermont, and the colors were already changing.  We kind of circled the area around Stowe and enjoyed it all including the stop at Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream headquarters.

Then it was back in the car and headed to the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  The scenery is beautiful everywhere.  The highlight for us in New Hampshire was a visit to the Toland Sand Glass Studio.  He specializes in colorful prisms and it was fascinating to see how he creates and produces his beautiful glass sculptures.

Maine was something of a surprise.  Bar Harbor and the coastal towns were picturesque and charming.  The biggest surprise was Acadia National Park—what a treat.  It is 49,000 acres of islands, lakes and coastal shoreline.  A great place to bike or hike and a wonderful place to visit!

Egypt – We were in Alexandria on a USAID assignment and got a chance to visit Cairo a few times.  The traffic and the reckless speed of the cab drivers is unbelievable.  People living in the cemeteries are hard to fathom!

The pyramids outside of the city are a must to see and visit and the Cairo Museum is a huge wonder.  The King Tut Exhibit was colorful and well organized.  The rest of the huge museum is filled with priceless antiques, all scattered about with no organization or order.

After our five-week assignment concluded, we got to take a cruise down the Nile where we visited Luxor, the Aswan Dam, the Valley of the Kings, and Abu Simbel, a thousand-year-old temple carved into a mountain that had to be moved to make way for the dam.

What a fabulous trip!

Down south in Charleston and Savannah – Charm and history just oozes out of both cities.  Savannah is built around a series of squares with good restaurants in old manor houses.  You can even sit on the bench where Forrest Gump talked about his mama’s chocolates.

Charleston is a whole different kind of city with houses you enter from the side and a bay where the opening shots in the Civil War were fired.  It is home to the Citadel, the oldest Jewish Temple in America and well preserved Southern architecture.

Visiting both is a great vacation trip.

Sicily – An Italian island filled with great ruins and remains from a rich history.  It’s a rewarding seven or eight-day destination.

Morro Bay, California – Sometimes called the Gibraltar of the Pacific, the Bay is dominated by the picturesque Morro Rock.  Just 12 miles north of San Luis Obispo, which is a delightful town by itself.  Half of the town’s area is water and open for kayaking, beaches and home to the annual avocado and mango festival.

Brazil – Rio de Janeiro is the popular attraction in this big diversified country, home to famous Ipanema Beach and the Christ statue on the mountain.  The highlight for us was Salvador de Bahia, a coastal city about 200 miles north of Rio.  It was the port of entry for the slaves of West Africa and maintains a rich history of many colored houses and the emancipated slaves.

Another highlight is Manaus, a city of two million with its own opera house.  It is also the gateway city to the Amazon and a look at how people are still living on the river as they have for hundreds of years.

The visual of seeing the brown Amazon and black Negro rivers where they actually meet is quite a picture.

New Zealand – A great country with great scenery and great friendly people.  The north and south islands both offer a wide panorama of beautiful sites.  The parks and trees of Christchurch and the snow-covered mountains around Queensland are terrific sites.

San Francisco – Wow!  So much to see and do!  The Golden Gate Bridge, Embarcadero, Union Square, Chinatown, the great museums, the cable cars, fabulous food, major league sports—you can’t get tired of visiting.

Seattle and Chicago – Two very different but great cities to visit.  Seattle has Pike’s Fish Market and the gateway to Mt. Rainier.  Chicago, right on the shore of Lake Michigan, has some of the best museums and both cities have on/off buses/trolleys which offer great, easy-to-use city tours at reasonable prices.  They’re available in most major cities in America and Europe.

That about wraps up this series of The Photographs In My Mind.  I hope some of my memories stimulated you to put some of these destinations on your travel list.  I enjoyed visiting them and remembering them with you has been enjoyable, too.

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