Thursday, October 12, 2017


Learning to protest...

Paul Mirengoff, Powerline

Stanley Kurtz reports on the escalating campus free speech crisis. He notes that last night’s disruption of Charles Murray’s speech at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor means that every working day for the past week has seen a significant shout-down.

Here are the specifics:

Thursday, October 5: Students at Columbia University stormed into a class on sexuality and gender law to protest its instructor, Suzanne Goldberg. Goldberg is both a professor of law and Executive Vice-President of the Office of University Life. She is also a Title IX compliance officer. The classroom invaders were protesting Columbia’s handling of Title IX sexual assault claims.
Stanley observes that Goldberg is considered a pioneer of LGBT civil rights law. Thus, this disruption was an attack on the cultural left.

Friday, October 6: University of Oregon President Michael Schill was prevented from delivering his State of the University Speech when about 45 chanting students took over the stage. Although Schill knew the disruption was coming, he pre-emptively capitulated by pre-recording his speech for later distribution. Those who attended the event may have wondered why they bothered.

Monday, October 9: Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain was shouted down before he could begin a talk sponsored by the Federalist Society of Texas Southern University Law School. After the shouters were ejected by campus police, TSU President Austin Lane called them back and canceled Cain’s talk. Lane’s capitulation is astounding even for a college administrator.

Tuesday, Octboer 10. Student protesters at Columbia University shouted down and largely stopped a talk via skype by Tommy Robinson, the controversial former leader of the English Defense League. Students blocked entrances to the speech, shouted over Robinson, then stormed the stage and forced him to abandon his talk.

Wednesday, October 11: Charles Murray’s talk at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor was severely disrupted. Murray was able to speak only for brief periods in between disruptions lasting 40 minutes before the protesters finally walked out.

The presence of an administrator and campus security may have prevented a total shut-down. However, as Stanley says, forty minutes of chaos cannot become the norm for controversial talks or else free speech and civil exchange are over.

* * * * * *
Shout-downs like these are well-calculated to enforce left-wing orthodoxies on campus. They serve as a warning to students who reject such orthodoxies to hold their tongue. They also discourage invitations to controversial speakers, discourage acceptances, and inhibit debate on controversial topics, even at campuses that merely read about disruptions elsewhere.

The remedy is the adoption of codes that promise (and deliver) tough discipline against the disrupters. Recently, the University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents adopted such a policy. It mandates suspension for students twice found responsible for shouting-down visiting speakers, and expulsion for three-time offenders.

The policy follows the lead of the Wisconsin Campus Free Speech bill, which passed the State House last spring. That bill is based on model legislation that Stanley wrote, along with Jim Manley and Jonathan Butcher of Arizona’s Goldwater Institute.

The impact of the University’s policy was in evidence earlier this week when conservative author Katie Pavlich spoke at the UW Madison. Stanley reports:

The protest against Pavlich was obscene, sophomoric, and just plain stupid, but it took place outside the venue. The demonstrators decided not to disrupt Pavlich’s talk, and specifically attributed their decision to the new “three strikes” discipline policy. Had that policy not been adopted, we would likely have seen two shout-downs on Tuesday instead of one.

The alternatives facing state legislators and college administrators are clear. Either adopt and enforce serious discipline policies on the Goldwater model or experience more frequent and increasingly serious shout-downs.

The correct course is obvious for anyone with the slightest regard for free expression.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Ken Burns, shill of the international left

Ken Burns, shill of the international left
Passed along for another perspective.

By Terry Garlock

Some months ago I and a dozen other local veterans attended a screening at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta - preview of a new documentary on The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. The screening was a one hour summation of this 10-part documentary, 18 hours long.

The series began showing on PBS Sunday Sep 17, and with Burns’ renowned talent mixing photos, video clips and compelling mood music in documentary form, the series promises to be compelling to watch. That doesn’t mean it tells the truth.

For many years I have been presenting to high school classes a 90 minute session titled The Myths and Truths of the Vietnam War. One of my opening comments is, "The truth about Vietnam is bad enough without twisting it all out of shape with myths, half-truths and outright lies from the anti-war left." The overall message to students is advising them to learn to think for themselves, be informed by reading one newspaper that leans left, one that leans right, and be skeptical of TV news.

Part of my presentation is showing them four iconic photos from Vietnam, aired publicly around the world countless times to portray America’s evil involvement in Vietnam. I tell the students "the rest of the story" excluded by the news media about each photo, then ask, "Wouldn’t you want the whole story before you decide for yourself what to think?"

One of those photos is the summary execution of a Viet Cong soldier in Saigon, capital city of South Vietnam, during the battles of the Tet Offensive in 1968. Our dishonorable enemy negotiated a cease-fire for that holiday then on that holiday attacked in about 100 places all over the country. Here’s what I tell students about the execution in the photo.

Enemy execution by South Vietnam’s Chief of National Police, 1968 . . . "Before you decide what to think, here’s what the news media never told us. This enemy soldier had just been caught after he murdered a Saigon police officer, the officer’s wife, and the officer’s six children. The man pulling the trigger was Nguyen Ngoc Loan, South Vietnam’s Chief of National Police. His actions were supported by South Vietnamese law, and by the Geneva Convention since he was an un-uniformed illegal combatant. Now, you might still be disgusted by the summary execution, but wouldn’t you want all the facts before you decide what to think?"

The other one-sided stories about iconic photos I use are a nine year old girl named Kim Phuc, running down a road after her clothes were burned off by a napalm bomb, a lady kneeling by the body of a student at Kent State University, and a helicopter on top of a building with too many evacuees trying to climb aboard. Each one had only the half of the story told by news media during the war, the half that supported the anti-war narrative.

Our group of vets left the Ken Burns documentary screening . . . disappointed. As one example, all four of the photos I use were shown, with only the anti-war narrative. Will the whole truth be told in the full 18 hours? I have my doubts but we’ll see.

On the drive home with Mike King, Bob Grove and Terry Ernst, Ernst asked the other three of us who had been in Vietnam, "How does it make you feel seeing those photos and videos?" I answered, "I just wish for once they would get it right."

Will the full documentary show John Kerry’s covert meeting in Paris with the leadership of the Viet Cong while he was still an officer in the US Naval Reserve and a leader in the anti-war movement? Will it show how Watergate crippled the Republicans and swept Democrats into Congress in 1974, and their rapid defunding of South Vietnamese promised support after Americans had been gone from Vietnam two years? Will it show Congress violating America’s pledge to defend South Vietnam if the North Vietnamese ever broke their pledge to never attack the south? Will it portray America’s shame in letting our ally fall, the tens of thousands executed for working with Americans, the hundreds of thousands who perished fleeing in overpacked, rickety boats, the million or so sent to brutal re-education camps? Will it show the North Vietnamese victors bringing an influx from the north to take over South Vietnam’s businesses, the best jobs, farms, all the good housing, or committing the culturally ruthless sin of bulldozing grave monuments of the South Vietnamese?

Will Burns show how the North Vietnamese took the city of Hue during the 1968 Tet Offensive, bringing lists of names of political leaders, business owners, doctors, nurses, teachers and other "enemies of the people," and how they went from street to street, dragging people out of their homes, and that in the aftermath of the Battle of Hue, only when thousands of people were missing and the search began did they find the mass graves where they had been tied together and buried alive?

Will Burns show how America, after finally withdrawing from Vietnam and shamefully standing by while our ally was brutalized, did nothing while next door in Cambodia the Communists murdered two million of their own people as they tried to mimic Mao’s "worker paradise" in China?

Will Burns show how American troops conducted themselves with honor, skill and courage, never lost a major battle, and helped the South Vietnamese people in many ways like building roads and schools, digging wells, teaching improved farming methods and bringing medical care where it had never been seen before? Will he show that American war crimes, exaggerated by the left, were even more rare in Vietnam than in WWII? Will he show how a naïve young Jane Fonda betrayed her country with multiple radio broadcasts from North Vietnam, pleading with American troops to refuse their orders to fight, and calling American pilots and our President war criminals?

Color me doubtful about these and many other questions.

Being in a war doesn’t make anyone an expert on the geopolitical issues, it’s a bit like seeing history through a straw with your limited view. But my perspective has come from many years of reflection and absorbing a multitude of facts and opinions, because I was interested. My belief is that America’s involvement in Vietnam was a noble cause trying to stop the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia, while it had spread its miserable oppression in Eastern Europe and was gaining traction in Central America, Africa and other places around the world This noble cause was, indeed, screwed up to a fare-thee-well by the Pentagon and White House, which multiplied American casualties.

The tone of the screening was altogether different, that our part in the war was a sad mistake. It seemed like Burns and Novick took photos, video clips, artifacts and interviews from involved Americans, South Vietnamese, North Vietnamese, Viet Cong, civilians from south and north, reporters and others, threw it all in a blender to puree into a new form of moral equivalence. Good for spreading a thin layer of blame and innocence, not so good for finding the truth.

John M. Del Vecchio, author of The 13th Valley, a book considered by many Vietnam vets to be the literary touchstone of how they served and suffered in the jungles of Vietnam, has this to say about Burns’ documentary: " Pretending to honor those who served while subtly and falsely subverting the reasons and justifications for that service is a con man’s game . . . From a cinematic perspective it will be exceptional. Burns knows how to make great scenes. But through the lens of history it appears to reinforce a highly skewed narrative and to be an attempt to ossify false cultural memory. The lies and fallacies will be by omission, not by overt falsehoods."

I expect to see American virtue minimized, American missteps emphasized, to fit the left-leaning narrative about the Vietnam War that, to this day, prevents our country from learning the real lessons from that war.

When we came home from Vietnam, we thought the country had lost its mind. Wearing the uniform was for fools too dimwitted to escape service. Burning draft cards, protesting the war in ways that insulted our own troops was cool, as was fleeing to Canada.

America’s current turmoil reminds me of those days, since so many of American traditional values are being turned upside down. Even saying words defending free speech on a university campus feels completely absurd, but here we are.

So Ken Burns’ new documentary on the Vietnam War promises to solidify him as the documentary king, breathes new life into the anti-war message, and fits perfectly into the current practice of revising history to make us feel good.

Perhaps you will prove me wrong. Watch carefully, but I would advise a heavy dose of skepticism.

Terry Garlock lives in Peachtree City, GA. He was a Cobra helicopter gunship pilot in the Vietnam War.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Trump Keeps Winning on Judicial Nominations

Trump said that he wanted to influence generations... here is how!

Trump Keeps Winning on Judicial Nominations
Paul Mirengoff, Powerline

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised that, under his presidency, America would win so much we might get tired of it. He added, however, that you can never get tired of winning.

So far, Trump’s presidency has not put that caveat to the test. But President Trump is winning big on judicial nominations. He’s nominating outstanding men and women, and most of them seem destined to be confirmed.

This week, Trump made four nominations to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The four are Don Willett, James Ho, Kyle Duncan, and Kurt Engelhardt.

Willett is a judge on the Texas Supreme Court. He made the list of judges considered by Trump for the Supreme Court slot eventually filled by Neil Gorsuch. Ho succeeded Ted Cruz as Solicitor General of Texas. Ilya Shapiro praises Willet and Ho here.

Kyle Duncan was Louisiana’s Solicitor General and, since leaving that post, has been called back to represent the state as special counsel. He has extensive experience as an appellate advocate. Duncan was the lead lawyer arguing for Hobby Lobby stores in the 2014 Supreme Court case that successfully challenged Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate. Carrie Severino endorses the Duncan nomination here.

I want to focus on Kurt Engelhardt, currently a district court judge — in fact, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. He’s the judge who wrote a scathing 129-page order denouncing the misconduct of lawyers at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the local New Orleans U.S. Attorney’s Office in a prosecution of New Orleans police officers. As Christian Adams says, Judge Engelhardt’s order “offers a look behind the curtain of some of the worst ideological misconduct that occurred at the Obama DOJ.”

I wrote about that case, the judge’s order, and its affirmation by the Fifth Circuit here. You can read Judge Engelhardt’s blistering 129-page “Order and Reasons” here.

The misconduct of DOJ attorneys included: (1) using a fake name to post commentary on the website of the Times-Picayune that castigated the defendants and their lawyers and repeatedly chastised the New Orleans Police Department as a fish “rotten from the head down;” (2) lying to the court about the scope of DOJ’s online activity and its culprits; (3) intimidating defense witnesses from testifying; and (4) using plea bargains and charging practices that produced inexplicably gross sentencing disparities.

Judge Engelhardt did not exaggerate when he described the Obama Justice Department’s conduct as “bizarre,” “appalling,” and “grotesque.” The Fifth Circuit did not err in finding that the Justice Department lawyers stoked a “mob mentality” against police officers, and in affirming Judge Engelhardt’s decision to order a new trial.

Judge Engelhardt deserves great credit for blowing the whistle so loudly and decisively on the misconduct of the Obama Justice Department. If his decision in the New Orleans police case is a good indicator of his overall jurisprudence, then his nomination is another win for President Trump and for justice.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Progressive Octopus

The Progressive Octopus
Victor Davis Hanson, National Review

Politics lost, culture won. 

It is the best and worst of times for progressives and liberals.

Politically, their obsessions with identity politics and various racial and gender -isms and -ologies have emasculated the Democratic party: loss of governorships, state legislatures, the House, the Senate, the presidency, and the Supreme Court. 

Democrats, for the time being at least, are now reduced to largely a coastal, big-city party. It can certainly pile up lots of blue electoral votes. And, thanks to California, Democrats can capture the popular vote, without necessarily winning presidential elections. 

The old liberal idea that the new demography is progressive destiny did not work out as planned. when the Blue Wall crumbled; Hillary Clinton lost a sure-thing election. Large Latino populations in red Texas and blue California are not likely to turn either one into a swing state. Inner-city voters so far have not transferred prior record levels of turn-out and bloc voting to candidates of the Hillary Clinton sort. Identity politics did not ensure that the white liberals who created it were always exempt from the natural boomerang of their own ideology.   

24/7 Sermonizing 

Yet culturally, the progressive octopus continues to recalibrate popular life according to the new orthodoxies shared by a minority of the population. 

Indeed, the octopus has formidable and far-reaching tentacles that reach into every crevice of modern American life. Our progressive mollusk is big, and he swims with us everywhere. 

Most Americans are quite willing to concede spheres of partisanship — but not lawlessness. Some colleges, such as Evergreen State or UC Berkeley, while public and tax-supported, are, by definition, leftist in the manner that a private Hillsdale College or Saint Thomas Aquinas are traditionalist and conservative. But whereas the latter are calm and tolerant of dissent; the former, with public monies, are hysterical and often Stalinist when confronted by opposing views. That disconnect is unsustainable.

 Most citizens are fine with the fact that Fox News is the conservative cable-channel bookend to the progressive MSNBC. Americans realize that a different sort of crowd goes to a NASCAR race than watches the Tour de France. 

But what is bothering half the country is not such ideological birds-of-a-feather tribalism per se. The rub instead is the progressive attempt to undermine all shared public institutions by turning them into left-wing megaphones and in the process condoning the use of violence, obscenity, and racialism. 

So it is not quite accurate to complain of the “politicization of everything,” given that the phenomenon is largely a progressive project in which nothing is much sacred from left-wing political hectoring — our vocabulary, the very cars we drive, even the TV shows we watch.   

No Escape 

Why are the major private research universities such as Yale, Harvard, Duke, and Stanford, not just liberal but fully in service to a left-wing social agenda? Do they not all pile up huge billion-dollar endowments that are not taxed, thus robbing taxpayers of considerable annual revenue, while they turn out more biased yet less educated students? 

Network news was always liberal. Yet in the last decade, ABC, NBC, and CBS, along with PBS and NPR, as well as their cable counterparts such as CNN, have become veritable progressive operatives. Mention of transgenderism, gay marriage, abortion, global warming, and identity politics will be massaged to promote a progressive position that was once held only by minority — until the position morphs into an intolerant mainstream orthodoxy that does not allow dissent.

 Sometimes the scripted metamorphosis takes just a few years. Obama’s loud support of traditional marriage in 2008 changed to support for gay marriage in 2012. And when he left office, he conformed to the idea that only homophobes agreed with the position he’d held a few years earlier. Bill Clinton’s stance not too long ago on legal-only immigration would reduce him to a nativist racist by today’s progressive standards. 

Whether it is a 2006 or 2016 Oscar ceremony, it matters little. Some actor, some screenwriter, some director is eager to lecture the audience (to applause) and a national television audience (to mute disdain) that George W. Bush or Donald Trump (the conservative names come and go; the progressive hysterical outrage stays the same), is a fascist, or a Nazi, or a buffoon, or a criminal.   

Thanks, but No Thanks 

The result is that increasingly millions of Americans do not watch the Oscars as they once did in the days of the liberal but mostly sensible Hollywood of Doris Day, Paul Newman, Gregory Peck, Sidney Poitier, Debbie Reynolds, Jimmy Stewart, and John Wayne. The Emmy Awards are even more polarizing in their lockstep messaging that resembles the dreariness of a May Day parade on a cold Soviet Moscow morning. 

Half of America no longer goes to the movies, for reasons that transcend the advent of cable TV and computer viewing. They are bored with the latest predictable remake of a far better earlier movie — now updated with tattooed, white villains speaking in a Russian, South African, or southern accent, diabolically seeking to harm a young, picture-perfect progressive social-justice warrior as she uncovers the racist, sexist, and homophobic machinations of an evil corporation or government agency, run by a white male cabal, that aims to pollute the water, dirty the air, or rob noble progressive victims. 

Much of America finds Hollywood a boring Pravda enterprise. It is hypocritical too in the Soviet style of a privileged apparat — given that movies are the products of huge corporations and multimillionaire actors who live apartheid existences. 

Sports used to be sacred. Not now. 

ESPN op-eds dressed up as sports analyses are not subtle. The working-class audience is often assumed to be bigoted in some way; the wealthy and elite sportscasters, athletes, and media celebrities imagine that they themselves are virtuous and exempt from their own criticism. 

Colin Kaepernick was the straw that broke the viewing audience’s proverbial back. He is lionized as Martin Luther King Jr. rather than portrayed as a confused young man of so-so talent, pampered by a multimillion-dollar salary. He and his newfound followers will not stand for the anthem of the country that ensured that the National Football League would be the most ethnically diverse athletic corporation in the world, with the most highly compensated players, and dependent on fans who would scrimp to pay outrageously high sums for tickets and cable packages just to see a simple football game — only to be insulted as the supposedly guilty party. 

The result is Orwellian on two counts. 

One, the NFL is an admirably meritocratic enterprise, absolutely immune from the progressive dictums of “proportional representation” (diversity in the workplace and university must reflect the race, gender, and ethnic ratios of the general population) and “disparate impact” (there is no need to show that the NFL is racialist in order to force it to diversify). Otherwise, the NFL, as in the case of universities or other publicly subsidized entities, would demand that player rosters “look like us.” That is, they’d make the necessary adjustments to ensure affirmative action for underrepresented Latino, Asian, and white players — in the manner that UC Berkeley currently takes steps apparently to keep it from becoming an Asian-majority university based on merit and skills.

Two, the subtext of not saluting the flag seems predicated on the notion of a racist white America, which in overwhelming numbers watches, enjoys, and pays for a mostly black NFL. Do the players, then, not wish their viewer base to keep watching, given its supposedly illiberal temperament and contemptible respect for the National Anthem? 

The Soviet Strangulation of Thought 

Major weather disasters are now almost immediately contextualized in progressive terms (often on the air by news readers) — and not just by politicians. (Do we remember Barack Obama’s saying “10,000” died in a Kansas tornado because George W. Bush had shorted the National Guard?) 

A drought is proof of climate change. But so is a deep freeze. Storms or the doldrums, it doesn’t matter: Greedy corporations and clueless, in-hock consumers are the carbon culprits. A tsunami or a receding sea, fog, or sun — climate change did it. When everything is proof of climate change, then nothing is.

Before 2017 there may have been a decade-long dearth of hurricanes into the Caribbean. There may have been a number of scientists who stated on the record that two large late summer storms in 2017 were not proof of global warming. Surely there is room for reasoned debate? 

Again, no. All the pop-culture talking heads, from somber pundits to late-night television hosts, explained Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in a drearily similar way: Americans’ wasteful consumption of carbon energies had heated the planet and brought down upon them a Biblical retribution of bad weather. 

Some even went so far to point out that the work of divine retribution had deliberately targeted Florida and Texas. The reason was not the obvious one that coastal states have long shorelines on the tropical Gulf of Mexico. Instead, they were hit by Nemesis because they were red states with populations more likely to doubt theories of catastrophic man-made global warming. Even the telethon for victims of the hurricanes turned into yet another media event in which celebrities trashed Donald Trump and his supporters. When Facebook is caught censoring, when Google fires its employees for talking freely, the sanctimonious high hand predictably comes down on the values of Middle America. 

Nothing is spared from rank politicization. Late-night TV? Superman comic books? Marquee chefs? 

The weary messaging is everywhere and always predictable: Superman now protects illegal aliens, so we are no longer to imagine him as an oversized cartoon hero but instead as a newly muscled Jorge Ramos.  

 No Mas 

As the progressive octopus squeezes the country, its dominance comes at a price. Lately fewer and fewer want to waste precious time watching the pampered adolescents of the NFL. Fewer wish to blow an afternoon viewing preachy mediocrities from Hollywood. 

Madonna is a tiring bore who needs to go away and age gracefully. Ditto ESPN.

 Who wishes to pay for the latest overpriced Apple gadget, because an aging zillionaire dressed in black prances back and forth on stage before stockholders as if he were Mick Jagger with a mic?

Most yawn that Mark Zuckerberg and Pope Francis have given one too many sanctimonious rants that project their own hypocrisies. And one too many sober and judicious ex-diplomats (of the sort whose mellifluous prior appeasement led to a thermonuclear North Korea) bores us with warnings about Trump’s “incendiary rhetoric.” 

Apparently in 2016, the deplorables and irredeemables struck back. Donald J. Trump symbolically served as a radiologically hot CAT scan that revealed long-festering inner metastases. Next, as deadly chemotherapy, he unpleasantly saturated the patient until the cancers within slowly began to fester and shrink — even as the convalescent resented the harsh therapy as much as he did the symptoms of the disease. 

If the diagnosis and treatment are clear, the prognosis is not: Will America the patient buckle under the treatment and its side effects before the malady is mastered?

 — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, to appear in October from Basic Books.