Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby(Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Sunday, 20 December 2015 08:08

Ramblings

Ramblings

Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Every Tragic Incident - Such as That in Missouri - Produces Cries That America Is a "Racist" Society, but Overlooks a More Complex Reality

The killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who is black, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri led to days of demonstrations, rioting, and looting. There has been criticism of the overwhelming police response, as well as charges that racism was involved in the death of this teenager. Beyond this, many have proclaimed that this incident shows us that America is a "racist" society, and that talk of racial progress and a movement toward a genuinely "color-blind" society is false.

Exactly what happened in Ferguson will be determined by a thorough investigation, including participation by the FBI and the Department of Justice. If there was wrongdoing by the police officer involved, this will be documented and appropriate action will be taken. In the meantime, we can only withhold judgment on what actually occurred.

What we can properly lament, however, is the manner in which a chorus of voices is immediately heard after every negative event telling us that racism is alive and well in almost every sector of our society. The reality is far more complex.

Typical of this phenomenon is a column in The New York Times by Charles Blow, who is black. He declares that:

The criminalization of black and brown bodies, particularly male ones, [starts] from the moment they are first introduced to the institutions and power structures with which they must interact. . . . Black male dropout rates are more than one and a half times those of white males, the bias of the educational system bleeds easily into the bias of the criminal justice system, from cops to courts to correctional facilities. The school-to-prison pipeline is complete.

Earlier this year, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights released "the first comprehensive look at civil rights from every public school in the country in nearly 15 years." Attorney General Eric Holder said:

The critical report shows that racial disparities in school discipline policies are not only well documented among older students but actually begin during pre-school.

The fact that more young black men drop out of school, that they are over-represented in our criminal justice system, and that they are more often subjected to school discipline, is not necessarily an indication of "institutional racism" in our society, as Mr. Blow and so many others rush to proclaim. There are other, much more plausible explanations.

By 2004 federal data showed that black Americans, 13 percent of the population, accounted for 37 percent of the violent crimes, 54 percent of arrests for robbery, and 51 percent for murder. Most of the victims of these violent criminals were also black. If black men are over-represented in our prison population, the reason appears to be that they are guilty of committing an over-represented amount of crime. Commentator Juan Williams, who is black, laments that:

Any mention of black America's responsibility for committing the crimes, big and small, that lead so many people to prison is barely mumbled, if mentioned at all.

In a column titled "Our Selective Outrage," The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, who is black, notes that:

The killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown has rightly provoked widespread outrage, drawing international media attention and prompting a comment from President Obama. The same should be true, but tragically is not, of the killing of 3-year-old Knijah Amore Bibb. Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri; Knijah died the following day in Landover, Maryland. Both victims were African-American. Both had their whole lives before them. The salient difference is that Brown was shot to death by a white police officer, according to witnesses, while the fugitive suspect in Bibb's killing is a 25-year-old black man with a long criminal record.

Robinson points to statistics showing the dimensions of the problem. According to the FBI, in 2012, the last year for which figures are available, 2,614 whites were killed by white offenders, and 2,412 blacks were killed by black offenders, similar numbers. "But," writes Robinson,

. . . the non-Hispanic white population is almost five times as large as the African-American population, meaning the homicide rate in black communities is staggeringly higher. . . . We need to get angry before we have to mourn the next Knijah Bibb.

It is not "white racism" which causes black-on-black crime, and it may be something other than racism that causes disciplinary disparities and the number of school dropouts. The breakdown of the black family is a more likely cause for such disparities.

In 1940, the black rate of out-of-wedlock birth was around 14 percent. Now, it's 75 percent. In 1870, right after slavery, 70 to 80 percent of black families were intact. Today, after segregation came to an end and the enactment of legislation making racial discrimination illegal, and myriad affirmative action programs, 70 percent of black children have single mothers, and estimates are that an even larger percentage will grow up without a father in the home.

Blaming the problems we confront on "racism" misses the point of the real dilemmas we face. Attorney General Holder does black Americans no favor by ignoring the disintegration of the black family in explaining disparities in school dropouts and disciplinary problems. White racism is not, somehow, compelling out-of-wedlock birth in the black community, a far more plausible causative factor in statistical disparities than blaming an amorphous "institutional racism."

What was missing in the response to developments in Missouri, which included rioting and arson, and cries of "No Justice, No Peace," was "the calming voice of a national civil rights leader of the kind that was so impressive during the 1950s and 1960s," writes author Joseph Epstein:

In those days, there were Martin Luther King, Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, Whitney Young of the National Urban League, Bayard Rustin of the A. Philip Randolph Institute - all solid, serious men, each impressive in different ways, who through dignified forbearance and strategic action, brought down a body of unequivocally immoral laws aimed at America's black population.

The NAACP, the Urban League, and the SCLC still exist, notes Epstein,

. . . . yet few people are likely to know the names of their leaders. That is because no black leader has come forth to set out a program for progress for the substantial part of the black population that has remained for generations in the slough of poverty, crime, and despair. . . . In Chicago, where I live, much of the murder and crime that has captured the interest of the media is black-on-black and cannot be chalked up to racism. Except when Bill Cosby, Thomas Sowell, or Shelby Steele and a few others have dared to speak about the pathologies at work, and for doing so these black figures are castigated.

Soon enough, exactly what happened in Ferguson, Missouri will become clear and the matter will be resolved through our legal system. It will take a much longer time before our society begins to confront the real causes of the racial disparities and pathologies which are all too easily, and falsely, attributed to "white racism." Until we do, the sad story of Ferguson is likely to happen again and again.

Family Breakdown: One Important Cause of Many of Society's Ills

In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then assistant secretary of labor who went on to serve as Democratic U.S. senator from New York for nearly a quarter century, issued a report warning of a crisis growing for America's black families. It reported a dramatic increase in out-of-wedlock births and one-parent families and warned of the "tangle of pathologies" which resulted. Among these were poor performance in school, increased drug use, and a growing rate of incarceration for crime.

"The Moynihan argument . . . assumed that the troubles impending for black America were unique," writes Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute:

. . . a consequence of the singular historical burdens that black Americans had endured in our country. That argument was not only plausible at the time, but also persuasive. Yet today that same "tangle of pathology" can no longer be described as characteristic of just one group within our country. Quite the contrary . . . these pathologies are evident throughout all of America today, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Single motherhood has become so common in America that demographers believe that half of all children will live with a single mother at some point before age 18. Research from Princeton University's Sara McLanahan and Harvard University's Christopher Jencks shows that more than 70 percent of all black children are born to an unmarried mother, a threefold increase since the 1960s.

In a new paper, McLanahan and Jencks assess the state of children born to single mothers, nearly fifty years after the Moynihan Report warned that the growing number of fatherless black children would struggle to avoid poverty. The report looks prescient. Black children today are about twice as likely as the national average to live with an unmarried mother. Research is confirming Moynihan's fears that children of unmarried mothers face more obstacles in life.

In the studies reviewed by McLanahan and Jencks, it was found that these children experience more family instability, with new partners moving in and out, and more half-siblings fathered by different men. The growing number of studies in this field also suggest that these children have more problem behaviors and more trouble finishing school.

The growing debate about income inequality ignores the evidence that shows that unwed parents raise poorer children. Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution calculates that returning marriage rates to their 1970 level would lower the child poverty rate by a fifth. There may be a partisan political reason why this point is not made more often. The Economist suggests that, "This omission may be deliberate. Democrats are reluctant to offend unmarried women, 60 percent of whom voted for the party's candidates in 2014."

There may be, some observers point out, a connection between government welfare programs and the breakdown of the family, as well as the declining number of men in the workforce. As late as 1963, on the eve of the War on Poverty, more than 93 percent of American babies were coming into the world with two married parents. According to the 1960 census, nearly 88 percent of children under 18 were then living with two parents. For the quarter century from 1940 to 1965, official data recorded a rise in the fraction of births to unmarried women from 3.8 percent to 7.7 percent. Over the following quarter century, 1965-1990, out-of-wedlock births jumped from 7.7 percent of the nationwide total to 28 percent. The most recently available data are for 2012, which shows America's over-all out-of-wedlock ratio had moved beyond 40 percent.

The trends discussed in the 1965 Moynihan Report for black families have now extended to American families of all racial backgrounds. Among Hispanic Americans, more than 30 percent of children were in single-parent homes by 2013, and well over half were born out-of-wedlock by 2012. Among non-Hispanic white Americans, there were few signs of family breakdown before the massive government entitlement programs began with the War on Poverty in the 1960s. Between 1940 and 1963, the out-of-wedlock birth ratio increased, but only from 2 percent to 3 percent. In 1960, just 6 percent of white children lived with single mothers. As of 2012, the proportion of out-of-wedlock births was 29 percent, nearly 10 times as high as it was just before the War on Poverty.

In his study, The Great Society at Fifty: The Triumph and the Tragedy, Nicholas Eberstadt argues that:

What is indisputable . . . is that the new American welfare state facilitated these new American trends by helping to finance them: by providing support for working-age men who are no longer seeking employment and for single women with children who would not be able to maintain independent households without government aid. Regardless of the origins of the flight from work and family breakdown, the War on Poverty and successive welfare policies have made each of these modern tendencies more feasible as mass phenomena in our country today.

The War on Poverty, of course, did not envision such a result. These were unintended consequences that, as we have seen, are often the case with many well-intentioned government programs. President Lyndon Johnson wanted to bring dependence on government handouts to an eventual end, and did not intend to perpetuate them into the future. Three months after his Great Society speech, Johnson declared:

We are not content to accept the endless growth of relief rolls, of welfare rolls. . . . Our American answer to poverty is not to make the poor more secure in their poverty but to reach down and to help them lift themselves out of the ruts of poverty and move with the large majority along the high road of hope and prosperity.

In Eberhardt's view:

Held against this ideal, the actual unfolding of America's antipoverty policies can be seen only as a tragic failure. Dependence on government relief, in its many modern versions, is more widespread today, and possibly also more habitual, than at any time in our history. To make matters much worse, such aid has become integral to financing lifestyles and behavioral patterns plainly destructive to our commonwealth - and on a scale far more vast than could have been imagined in an era before such antipoverty aid was all but unconditionally available.

Any serious discussion of poverty and the growing gaps in income must confront the reasons why, for example, in the past 50 years, the fraction of civilian men ages 25 to 34 who were neither working nor looking for work has quadrupled and that for many women, children, and even working-age men, the entitlement state has become the breadwinner. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, "the issue of welfare is not what it costs those who provide it, but what it costs those who receive it."

At the heart of the social and economic decline we face at the present time is the breakdown of the family. Few in the political arena, in either party, are addressing this question. Unless they do, their proposals to move our economy forward and lessen the gaps in income and wealth are unlikely to succeed.

There Is a Growing Danger That Police Are Being Made Scapegoats for Larger Racial Problems That Society Ignores

The attacks upon police for "racism" have been mounting as a result of the killings of black men in Ferguson, Staten Island, and elsewhere. Many with a history of demagoguery when it comes to questions of race relations, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton among them, have done their best to keep this issue alive. Sadly, they have cast more heat than light on a question that is far more complex than their self-serving analysis would lead Americans to believe.

Recently, FBI director James Comey addressed this question. At the outset, he declared certain "hard truths," including the fact that the history of law enforcement has been tied to enforcing slavery, segregation, and other forms of discrimination. "One reason we cannot forget our law enforcement legacy," he said, "is that the people we serve and protect cannot forget it, either."

Mr. Comey also acknowledged the existence of unconscious racial bias "in our white-majority culture," and how that influences policing. He conceded that people in law enforcement can develop "different flavors of cynicism" that can be "lazy mental shortcuts," resulting in more pronounced racial profiling.

But he then warned against using police as scapegoats to avoid coming to grips with much more complex problems affecting minority communities, including a lack of "role models, adequate education, and decent employment," as well as "all sorts of opportunities that most of us take for granted." In his address at Georgetown University, Comey declared:

I worry that this incredibly important and difficult conversation about policing has become focused entirely on the nature and character of law enforcement officers when it should also be about something much harder to discuss.

Citing the song "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" from the Broadway show "Avenue Q," Comey said that police officers of all races viewed black and white men differently using a mental shortcut that "becomes almost irresistible and maybe even rational by some lights" because black men commit crime at a much higher rate than white men.

Comey said that nearly all police officers had joined the force because they wanted to help others. Speaking in personal terms, he described how most Americans had initially viewed Irish immigrants like his ancestors "as drunks, ruffians, and criminals." He noted that, "Law enforcement's biased view of the Irish lives on in the nickname we still use for the vehicle that transports groups of prisoners. It is, after all, the 'Paddy Wagon.'"

If black men are committing crime out of proportion to their numbers, it is important to consider the reason. According to a report just released by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI), by age 17 only 17 percent of black teenagers live with two married parents. Professor Orlando Patterson, a Harvard sociologist who is black, published an article in December in the Chronicle of Higher Education, lamenting that "fearful" sociologists had abandoned "studies of the cultural dimensions of poverty, particularly black poverty," and declared that the discipline had become "largely irrelevant."

Now, Patterson and Ethan Fosse, a Harvard doctoral student, are publishing a new anthology called The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth. In Patterson's view, fifty years after Daniel Moynihan issued his report about the decline of the black family, "History has been kind to Moynihan." Moynihan was concerned about an out-of-wedlock birth rate in the black community of 25 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the equivalent rate for 2013 was 71.5 percent. (The rate for non-Hispanic whites was 29.3 percent.)

The inner-city culture that promotes the social dissolution that results in crime has been written about for many years by respected black observers. In 1899, the scholar W. E. B. Du Bois drew on interviews and census data to produce The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study. He spent a year living in the neighborhood he wrote about, in the midst of what he described as "an atmosphere of dirt, drunkenness, poverty and crime." He observed in language much harsher than Moynihan's, the large number of unmarried mothers, many of whom he referred to as "ignorant and loose." He called upon whites to stop employment discrimination, which he called "morally wrong, politically dangerous, industrially wasteful, and socially silly." He told black readers they had a duty to work harder, to behave better, and to stem the tide of "Negro crime," which he called "a menace to civilized people."

In 1999, on the hundredth anniversary of Du Bois's study, Elijah Anderson published a new sociological study of poor black neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Code of the Street, and recorded its informants' characterization of themselves and their neighbors as either "decent" or "street" or, in some cases, a bit of both. In The Cultural Matrix, Orlando Patterson lists "three main social groups" - the middle class, the working class, and "disconnected street people" that are common in "disadvantaged" African-American neighborhoods. He also lists "four focal cultural configurations" (adapted mainstream, proletarian, street, and hip-hop).

Patterson views the "hip-hop" culture of the inner city as a destructive phenomenon, compares MC Hammer to Nietzsche, contends that hip-hop routinely celebrates "forced abortions" and calls Lil Wayne "irredeemably vulgar" and "all too typical" of the genre. Thomas Shelby, a professor of African and African-American Studies at Harvard, writes in The Cultural Matrix that "suboptimal cultural traits" are the major impediment for many African-Americans seeking to escape poverty. "Some in ghetto communities," he writes, "are believed to devalue traditional co-parenting and to eschew mainstream styles of childbearing."

In his speech on race in 2008, President Obama said that African-Americans needed to take more responsibility for their own communities by "demanding more from our fathers." Fifty years ago, Daniel Moynihan worried that "the Negro community" was in a state of decline with an increasingly matriarchal family structure that led to increasing crime. In the fifteen years after he published his report, the homicide rate doubled, with blacks overrepresented among both perpetrators and victims.

Orlando Patterson, in a recent interview with Slate, said: "I am not in favor of a national conversation on race," and noted that most white people in America had come to accept racial equality. But whether or not such a "national conversation" is useful, we are now in the midst of such an enterprise. FBI director Comey is contributing to that exchange. He asks:

Why are so many black men in jail? Is it because cops, prosecutors, judges and juries are racist because they are turning a blind eye to white robbers and drug dealers? . . . I don't think so. If it were so, that would be easier to address. . . . The percentage of young men not working or not enrolled in school is nearly twice as high for blacks as it is for whites. . . . Young people in those neighborhoods too often inherit a legacy of crime and prison, and with that inheritance they become part of the police officer's life and shape the way that officer, whether white or black, sees the world. Changing that legacy is a challenge so enormous and so complicated that it is, unfortunately, easier to talk only about the cops. And that's not fair. *
Wednesday, 16 December 2015 12:07

Ramblings

Ramblings

Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

What Dennis Hastert's Case Tells Us about Washington's Institutional Corruption

We now know that J. Dennis Hastert, who served for eight years as speaker of the House of Representatives, was paying a former student hundreds of thousands of dollars to not say publicly that Hastert had sexually abused him decades ago. According to The New York Times this information became public from "two people briefed on the evidence in an F.B.I. Investigation."

Federal prosecutors announced the indictment of Hastert late in May on allegations that he made cash withdrawals totaling $1.7 million, to evade detection by banks. The federal authorities also charged him with lying to them about the purpose of the withdrawals.

This is a personal tragedy for Hastert and his family. But it also paints a vivid picture of institutional corruption in Washington, how men and women of modest means are elected to public office and, before long, become very wealthy, using their public positions to do so.

How, we may ask, did a former high school teacher who held elective office from 1981 to 2007 leave Congress with a fortune estimated at $4 million to $17 million? When Hastert entered Congress in 1987 his net worth was reported to be at most $270,000. The record shows that he was the beneficiary of lucrative land deals while in Congress and since leaving office he has earned more than $2 million a year as a lobbyist - influencing his former colleagues.

Writing in National Review, John Fund recalls that:

Denny Hastert used to visit The Wall Street Journal where I worked when he was speaker. He was a bland, utterly conventional supporter of the status quo; his idea of reform was to squelch anyone who disturbed Congress' usual way of doing business. I saw him become passionate only once, when he defended earmarks - the special projects such as Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" - that members dropped at the last minute into conference reports, deliberately giving no time to debate or amend them. Earmarks reached the staggering level of 15,000 in 2005, and their stench helped cost the GOP control of Congress next year. But Hastert was unbowed. "Who knows best where to put a bridge or a highway or a red light in his district?" I recall him bellowing. I responded that the Illinois Department of Transportation came to mind, and then we agreed to disagree.

The Sunlight Foundation found that Hastert had used a secret trust to join others and invest in farmland near the proposed route of a new road called the Prairie Parkway. He then helped secure a $207 million earmark for the road. The land, approximately 138 acres, was bought for about $2.1 million in 2004 and later sold for almost $5 million, a profit of 140 percent. Local land records and Congressional disclosure forms never identified Hastert as the co-owner of any of the land in the trust. Hastert turned a $1.3 million investment (his portion of the land holdings) into a $1.8 million profit in less than two years.

Once he left Congress, Hastert joined the professional services firm of Dickstein Shapiro, working all sides of various issues and glad-handing his former colleagues in Congress often for controversial clients. From 2011 to 2014, Lorillard Tobacco paid Dickstein Shapiro nearly $8 million to lobby for the benefit of candy-flavored tobacco and electronic cigarettes, and Hastert was the most prominent member of the lobbying team.

Hastert also pressed lawmakers on climate change for Peabody Energy, the largest private sector coal company in the world, in 2013 and 2014 - then switched sides this year and pushed for requiring renewable fuel production for Fuels America. Lawmakers and fellow lobbyists compared Hastert's qualities as a lobbyist to those he displayed as speaker: affable and low-key, but attractive to clients. In the post-earmark world, notes Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, Hastert pressed for policy "riders" in appropriations bills and programmatic changes that helped his client's interests.

"As you'd expect, he was very effective," said Cole, "Number one, he knew the process extremely well, and he knew all the players. When the former speaker calls no member rejects it." Former Rep. Jack Kingston, a Republican who led the Appropriations Committee, says, "Yeah, it's possible, he could amass in a 10-year period a nest egg of $5 to $10 million. I'm not saying it's easy, but it's not that hard."

Sadly, Dennis Hastert's use of public office as a path to wealth is hardly unique. National Review reports that:

In 2004, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) made $700,000 off a land deal that was, to say the least, unorthodox. It started in 1998 when he bought a parcel of land with attorney Jay Brown, a close friend whose name has surfaced multiple times in organized crime investigations. Reid transferred his portion of the property to Patrick Lane Industrial Center L.L.C., a holding company Brown controlled. But Reid kept putting the property on his financial disclosures and when the company sold it in 2009, he profited from the deal - a deal on land he didn't technically own and that nearly tripled in value in three years.

In addition, according to Judicial Watch, Reid, the Democratic leader of the Senate, sponsored at least $47 million in earmarks that directly benefited organizations with close ties to his son Key Reid.

In 2009, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband, Paul, made the first of three purchases of Visa stock - Visa was holding an initial public offering, among the most lucrative ever. The Pelosis were granted early access to the IPO as "special customers" who received their shares at the opening price, $44. They turned a 50 percent profit in just two days. Starting March 18, the speaker and her husband made the first of three Visa stock buys, totaling between $1 million and $5 million. Peter Schweitzer, a scholar at the Hoover Institution, notes that, "Mere mortals would have to wait until March 19, when the stock would be publicly traded to get their shares." He points out that the Pelosis got their stocks just two weeks after legislation was introduced in the House that would have allowed merchants to negotiate lower interchange fees with credit card companies. Visa's general counsel described it as a "bad bill." The speaker squelched it and kept further action bottled up for more than two years. During the time period, the value of her Visa stock jumped more than 200 percent while the stock market as a whole dropped 15 percent.

Another former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, served as a paid consultant for the drug industry's lobby group, and, according to conservative columnist Timothy Carney:

Gingrich worked hard to persuade Republican congressmen to vote for the Medicare drug subsidy that the industry favored. . . . Newt Gingrich spent the last decade being paid by big business to convince conservatives to support big government policies that would profit his clients.

The role of former members of Congress reaping financial gain by lobbying their former colleagues, as Dennis Hastert did, is increasingly widespread. Former Rep. Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, originally elected as a Democrat but later switching to the Republican Party, left his post as chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee to become a lobbyist for the drug industry. In 2009, he reportedly earned $4.48 million as the head of the Pharma drug industry lobby, a huge increase from his congressional salary.

The idea of politicians enriching themselves as a result of their holding political office is something new. Bill and Hillary Clinton have amassed millions from various special interest groups - and foreign interests - hoping to influence a future president. Bill Clinton reported being paid more than $104 million from 2001 through 2012 just for speeches. As recently as the presidencies of Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower it was considered unthinkable to trade upon having held high office to enrich oneself. Until 1958, former presidents did not even receive a pension. Congress finally awarded Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover pensions and funds for staff. Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Monroe and other early leaders lost a great deal of money while serving in office. George Washington, it is reported, had to borrow money to make the trip from Mt. Vernon to New York for his own inauguration. Now, public office has, for many, become a path to riches.

A recent Rasmussen Reports poll finds that 82 percent of the American people now believe that we have a professional political class that is more focused on preserving its power and privilege than on conducting the people's business. Dennis Hastert has become the new face of this phenomenon, along with the Clintons, Nancy Pelosi, Newt Gingrich and a host of others. Whether public dismay with our current politics can be transformed into an effective effort to alter this behavior remains to be seen. Too many in Washington have a vested interest in today's corrupt system as it exists. How to change the incentive structure for those in political life is our real challenge.

Remembering the Real Heroism of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox

The surrender of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant 150 years ago effectively ended the Civil War. What few remember today is the real heroism of Robert E. Lee. By surrendering, he was violating the orders given by Jefferson Davis, the elected leader of the Confederacy.

The story of April 1865 is not just one of decisions made, but also of decisions rejected. Lee's rejection of continuing the war as a guerrilla battle, the preference of Jefferson Davis, and Grant's choice to be magnanimous at Appomattox, cannot be overestimated in importance.

With the fall of Richmond, Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government were on the run. Davis, writes Professor Jay Winik of the University of Maryland in his important book April 1865: The Month That Saved America:

. . . was thinking about such things as a war of extermination . . . a national war that ruins the enemy. In short, guerrilla resistance. . . . The day after Richmond fell, Davis had called on the Confederacy to shift from a conventional war to a dynamic guerrilla war of attrition, designed to wear down the North and force it to conclude that keeping the South in the Union would not be worth the interminable pain and ongoing sacrifice.

Davis declared that:

We have now entered upon a new phase of a struggle the memory of which is to endure for the ages. Relieved from the necessity of guarding cities and particular points, important but not vital to our defense, with an army free to move from point to point and strike in detail detachments and garrisons of the enemy, operating on the interior of our own country, where supplies are more accessible, and where the foe will be far removed from his own base and cut off from all succor in case of reverse, nothing is now needed to render our triumph certain but the exhibition of our own unquenchable resolve. Let us but will it, and we are free.

But Robert E. Lee knew the war was over. Grant was magnanimous in victory and, Winik points out:

. . . was acutely aware that on this day, what had occurred was the surrender of one army to another - not of one government to another. The war was very much on. There were a number of potentially troubling rebel commanders in the field. And there were still some 175,000 other Confederates under arms elsewhere; one-half in scattered garrisons and the rest in three remaining rebel armies. What mattered now was laying the groundwork for persuading Lee's fellow armies to join in his surrender - and also for reunion, the urgent matter of making the nation whole again. Thus, it should be no great surprise that there was a curious restraint in Grant's tepid victory message passed on to Washington.

Appomattox was not preordained. "If anything," notes Winik:

. . . retribution had been the larger and longer precedent. So, if these moments teemed with hope - and they did - it was largely due to two men who rose to the occasion, to Grant's and Lee's respective actions: one general, magnanimous in victory, the other gracious and equally dignified in defeat, the two of them, for their own reasons and in their own ways, fervently interested in beginning the process to bind up the wounds of the last four years. . . . Above all, this surrender defied millenniums of tradition in which rebellions typically ended in yet greater shedding of blood. . . . One need only recall the harsh suppression of the peasants' revolt in Germany in the 16th century, or the ravages of Alva during the Dutch rebellion, or the terrible punishments inflicted on the Irish by Cromwell and then on the Scots after Culloden, or the bloodstained vengeance executed during the Napoleonic restoration, or the horrible retaliation imposed during the futile Chinese rebellion in the mid-19th century.

Lee was not alone in rejecting the idea of guerrilla war. General Joe Johnston, offered generous terms of surrender by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, cabled the Confederate government for instructions. He was ordered to fight on. Johnston was told to take as many of his men as possible and fall back to Georgia. Johnston refused and decided to surrender. Later, he acknowledged that he directly "disobeyed" his instructions. But Johnston, who wired back to Davis that such a plan of retreat was "impracticable," saw no other way. In his view, it would be "the greatest of crimes for us to attempt to continue the war." To fight further, he declared, would only "spread ruin all over the south." By brazenly violating the chain of command, he helped to save many lives and to heal the country.

In early May, when the Mississippi governor and the former governor of Tennessee rode out and urged General Nathan Bedford Forrest to retreat with his cavalry to continue a guerrilla war, Forrest responded: "Any man who is in favor of further prosecution of this war is a fit subject for a lunatic asylum." The attempt to establish a "separate and independent confederacy had failed," Forrest noted, and they should meet their responsibilities "like men." He added: "Reason dictates and humanity demands that no more blood be shed."

In words that echo the sentiments of Robert E. Lee before him, in places almost word for word, Forrest added:

I have never on the field of battle sent you where I was unwilling to go myself, nor would I advise you to a course which I felt myself unwilling to pursue. You have been good soldiers, you can be good citizens. Obey the laws, preserve your honor, and the government to which you have surrendered can afford to be and will be magnanimous.

"April 1865," writes Professor Winik:

. . . was incontestably one of America's finest hours: for it was not the deranged spirit of an assassin that defined the country at war's end, but the conciliatory spirit of leaders who led as much in peace as in war, warriors and politicians who, by their example, their exhortation, their deeds, overcame their personal rancor, their heartache, and spoke as citizens of not two lands, but one, thereby bringing the country together. True, much hard work remained. But much, too, had already been accomplished.

If it were not for Robert E. Lee's decision not to blindly follow irrational instructions to keep fighting a guerrilla war indefinitely, the surrender at Appomattox never would have taken place and our nation's history might have been far different. Fortunately, our American tradition has never embraced the notion of blindly following orders, particularly if they involved illegal or immoral acts. No American could ever escape responsibility for such acts by saying, "I was simply following orders."

The Civil War era poet James Russell Lowell makes this point:

"Taint your eppyletts an' feathers,
Make the thing a grain more right;
"Taint afollerin' your bell-wethers
Will excuse ye in His sight;
Ef you take a sword an' dror it,
An' go stick a feller thru,
Guv'ment aint to answer for it,
God'll send the bill to you.

Without Robert E. Lee's decision to surrender - against his instructions - we would not be celebrating the 150th anniversary of Appomattox at the present time. This heroic act has not been widely recognized. It deserves to be.

The Proposal to Remove Alexander Hamilton from the $10 Bill Is an Assault on American History

Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew announced in mid-June that the Treasury Department's 2020 redesign of the $10 bill will feature a female portrait. While including women on our currency is long overdue, and a welcome step, removing Alexander Hamilton makes no sense. In fact, it is an assault upon American history itself.

Alexander Hamilton is a towering figure. His story is an inspiring one. The illegitimate son of a British officer who emigrated from the West Indies, Hamilton rose by the sheer force of intellect to shape our entire nation. He died at the age of 50 in 1804. In those short fifty years, his achievements were extraordinary.

Three years before he died he founded The New York Evening Post, which is still being published. George Washington promoted him from an artillery captain to a colonel on his staff during the Revolutionary War. In 1785, Hamilton helped found the New York Manumission Society to work for an end to slavery in that state. Emancipation was not achieved in New York until 1827, long after Hamilton's death.

In 1787, Hamilton, along with collaborators John Jay and James Madison, produced a series of 85 opinion pieces to support the ratification of the Constitution, what we now know as The Federalist Papers. Hamilton wrote 51 of the 85 essays himself, using the pseudonym Publius. When we speak of an American political philosophy, the starting point is The Federalist Papers.

That government should be clearly limited and that power is a corrupting force was the essential perception of the framers of the Constitution. The Founding Fathers were not utopians. They understood man's nature. They attempted to form a government that was consistent with, not contrary to, that nature. Hamilton pointed out that:

Here we have seen enough of the fallacy and extravagance of those idle theories which have amused us with promises of an exemption from the imperfections, weaknesses, and evils incident to society in every shape. Is it not time to awake from the deceitful dream of a golden age, and to adopt as a practical maxim for the direction of our political conduct that we, as well as the other inhabitants of the globe, are yet remote from the happy empire of perfect wisdom and perfect virtue?

As our first Treasury Secretary under George Washington, Hamilton set the nation on a path of financial stability. He had the new federal government assume the debts of the states along with its own. He also declared that all holders of U.S. debt would be paid in a non-discriminating manner. Many were opposed to Hamilton's plans, arguing the assumption of state debts rewarded those states which had been lax in meeting their responsibilities and that a policy of non-discrimination in paying holders of U.S. debt rewarded speculators. In the end, Hamilton prevailed.

Hamilton also established a central bank - the Bank of the United States. This, again, was highly controversial. It would also be a private bank, selling stock and making loans. His collaborator on The Federalist Papers, James Madison, thought the bank was illegal, since there was no mention of a bank in the Constitution. Hamilton responded that a bank was necessary to fulfill a function the Constitution did mention, borrowing money on the credit of the United States. This was, Hamilton argued, an implied power. George Washington and the Congress agreed.

The response to the idea of removing Hamilton from the $10 bill has been uniformly negative from observers of all points of view. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said he was "appalled" by the idea of Hamilton's removal. He said:

Replace Andrew Jackson, a man of many unattractive qualities, and a poor president, on the $20 bill. Given his views on central banking, Jackson would probably be fine with having his image dropped from a Federal Reserve note. Another, less attractive possibility, is to circulate two versions of the $10 bill, one of which continues to feature Hamilton. . . . The importance of his achievement can be judged by the problems that the combination of uncoordinated national fiscal policies and a single currency has caused the Eurozone in recent years.

Ron Chernow, the author of a highly regarded biography, Alexander Hamilton (2004), laments that:

There is something sad and shockingly misguided in the spectacle of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew acting to belittle the significance of the foremost Treasury Secretary in U.S. history. . . . Hamilton was undeniably the most influential person in our history who never attained the presidency. . . . Drawing on a blank slate, Hamilton arose as the visionary architect of the executive branch, forming from scratch the first fiscal, monetary, tax and accounting systems. He assembled the Coast Guard, the customs service, and the Bank of the United States. . . . He took a country bankrupted by Revolutionary War debt and restored American credit.

Chernow declares:

Yes, by all means let us have a debate about the political figures on our currency, and, yes, let us now praise famous women. But why on earth should we start the debate by singling out and punishing Alexander Hamilton, who did so much to invent our country.

Alexander Hamilton believed that genuine freedom could only be found in a society which guaranteed economic freedom. In his Second Treatise John Locke, the philosopher who most significantly influenced the thinking of Hamilton and the other Founding Fathers, stated that:

The great and chief end . . . of man's uniting into commonwealths and putting themselves under government is the preservation of their property. . . . Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself. The labor of his body and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever, then, he removed out of the state that nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labor with it, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.

Those who advocate an "equal" distribution of property claim that, in doing so, they are simply applying the philosophy of the Founding Fathers to matters of economic concern. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In The Federalist Papers, it is written that:

The diversity in the faculties of men, from which all rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interest. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results.

Writing in The New York Times, Steven Rattner notes that:

The various women who've been put forward for this pioneering role - including Susan B. Anthony (a second try after her dollar coin flopped twice), Harriet Tubman and Eleanor Roosevelt - are all outstanding individuals worthy of recognition. Just don't push Alexander Hamilton aside to make room.

Writing in The Washington Post, Steven Mufson charges that, "By pushing aside Alexander Hamilton . . . the Obama administration has committed a grave historical injustice."

Jack Lew's assault on U.S. history has almost no defenders or supporters. Removing Alexander Hamilton from the $10 bill is clearly a bad idea. What, we must wonder, was Mr. Lew thinking when he came up with this proposal? *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 12:04

Ramblings

Ramblings

Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Anarchy and Conservatism: Two Contradictory Philosophies in Danger of Collision

The original post-World War II conservative movement asked the basic question which the 19th century British Conservative Benjamin Disraeli said was essential. The first thing a conservative must ask, he declared, was what it was he meant to conserve.

What these original modern conservatives sought to conserve was the American political tradition that embraced principles upholding constitutional government, division of powers, freedom of speech, press, and religion, and a respect for individual rights that, they believed, came from the Creator.

Today, some who call themselves conservatives have developed elements of an ideological cult, embracing a series of apparently non-negotiable "principles" which take it far from the sensibilities of those in whose name they speak. A contemporary "conservative," it seems, must reject evolution, must deny climate change, must oppose any restriction on gun ownership, even for the mentally ill, and must reject almost any role for government in American society. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) recently said of government, "We need to shut the damn thing down." To reject any element of this virtually religious creed is to be a "RINO" (Republican in name only). What would Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, or Ronald Reagan think of such an enterprise?

Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who served in the last three Republican administrations, notes that:

Conservatives are rightly proud of our Constitution, yet many of them are disdainful of our government. But the Constitution created our system of government, and our goal in political life should be to reform that government back into one we can be proud of again. Understanding government in this way, and taking the steps necessary to enable it to work better and therefore regain the trust of the American people is a worthy calling. And a deeply conservative one, too.

What early conservatives rejected was ideology - Nazism, Communism, fascism, and socialism - that made a wasteland of the 20th century. The American political tradition, from the beginning, was not against government, but was against its abuses, and wanted it to be limited so that freedom would be preserved. In the Federalist Papers, James Madison makes this clear:

It may be a reflection on human nature that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

Russell Kirk, whose book The Conservative Mind, really launched modern conservatism, believed that the major problem faced in the 20th century was its commitment to "ideology."

In his book The Politics of Prudence (1993), he commends political prudence, one of the four "classical virtues," as opposed to "ideology," a word that signifies political fanaticism. In the initial chapters, some of which were delivered at the Heritage Foundation, he outlines the principles of conservative thought, summarizes important conservative books, and offers brief accounts of eminent conservatives, among them Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, Sir Walter Scott, T. S. Eliot and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The book, he tells us, is meant to be a "defense of prudential politics as opposed to ideological politics." He hoped to persuade the rising generation to set their faces against political extremism and utopian schemes by which the world has been afflicted since 1914:

"Politics is the art of the possible," the conservative says; he thinks of political policies as intended to preserve order, justice, and freedom. The ideologue, on the contrary, thinks of politics as a revolutionary instrument for transforming society and even transforming human nature. In the march toward Utopia, the ideologue is merciless.

The ideologies which have been so costly in our time - Communism, fascism and Nazism - are, Kirk points out, really "inverted religions." But, he notes:

. . . the prudential politician knows that "Utopia" means "Nowhere"; that we cannot march to an earthly Zion; that human nature and human institutions are imperfectible; that aggressive "righteousness" in politics ends in slaughter. True religion is a discipline for the soul, not for the state. . . . It is the conservative leader who, setting his face against all ideologies, is guided by what Patrick Henry called "the lamp of experience." In this 20th century, it has been the body of opinion generally called "conservative" that has defended the Permanent Things from ideological assaults.

Conservatism, Kirk writes:

. . . is not a bundle of theories got up by some closet philosopher. On the contrary . . . the conservative conviction grows out of experience: the experience of the species, of the nation, of the person. . . . It is the practical statesman, rather than the visionary recluse, who has maintained a healthy tension between the claims of authority and the claims of freedom. . . . The Constitution of the United States, two centuries old, is a sufficient example of the origin of conservative institutions in a people's experience . . . . (T)he Constitution . . . was rooted in direct personal experience of the political and social institutions which had developed in the Thirteen Colonies since the middle of the 17th century, and in thorough knowledge of the British growth, over seven centuries, of parliamentary government, ordered freedom and the rule of law.

The triumph of ideology would, Kirk notes, be the triumph of what Edmund Burke called the "antagonist world." This, in Kirk' s view, is:

. . . the world of disorder, what the conservative seeks to conserve is the world of order that we have inherited, if in a damaged condition, from our ancestors. The conservative mind and the ideological mind stand at opposite poles. And the contest between these two mentalities may be no less strenuous in the 21st century than it has been during the 20th.

The basic difference between conservatives and the advocates of the many ideologies which clutter the intellectual landscape, including extreme forms of "libertarianism" which often border on anarchy, and "neo-conservatism" which are often confused with conservatism, relates to the nature of man himself:

Man, being imperfect, no perfect social order can ever be created. Because of human restlessness, mankind would grow rebellious under any utopian domination, and would break out once more in violent discontent - or else expire in boredom. . . . To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says, "We are not made for perfect things." All that we can reasonably expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk. By proper attention to prudent reform, we may preserve and improve this tolerable order. But if the old institutional and moral safeguards of a nation are neglected, then the anarchic impulse in mankind breaks loose. . . . The ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the 20th century world into a terrestrial hell.

Russell Kirk advised the new generation to explore the past, discover the roots of our civilization, and work to restore its sensibility. He concludes:

Time is not a devourer only. With proper use of the life-span allotted to us, we may do much to redeem modernity from vices, terrors, and catastrophic errors.

Many who now claim to speak for conservatism, among them glib radio talk show hosts and partisan politicians, have forgotten Disraeli's question about what it is that conservatives really seek to conserve. If it is the American political tradition, embodied in our Constitution and in the thinking of the Founding Fathers, contempt for government and belief in virtual anarchy is no place to be found. Neither is adherence to a form of political orthodoxy enforced by inquisition-like tribunals. Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison would find little they would recognize as an American political tradition in such phenomenon. Many of those who proclaim themselves most loudly to be "conservative," are, in reality, something quite different.

"White Racism" Is the Scapegoat in Baltimore, Not the Culprit

Unrest in Baltimore, and legitimate questions about the death in police custody of Freddie Gray, a young African-American, have produced the usual charges of "white racism" and comparisons with the death of another young black man in Ferguson, Missouri several months ago, as well as similar incidents in North Charleston, South Carolina, and Staten Island, New York. Each of these cases is different, and characterizing them as part of a single pattern of police behavior may be missing the reality of what is, in fact, taking place.

In Ferguson, for example, it was pointed out that the community was majority black and the police force was largely white. In Baltimore, however, the mayor, City Council president, police commissioner and nearly half of its 3,000-member police force are black. It is unlikely that young black men are being unfairly targeted by black city officials on the basis of race.

What we see in Baltimore's inner city - a breakdown of family life, massive unemployment, drug use, and school drop-outs - has not been created by "white racism." There are many, far more complex causes.

Baltimore was once a city where tens of thousands of blue-collar employees earned a good living in industries building cars, airplanes, and making steel. Thomas J. Vicino, the author of Transforming Race and Class in Suburbia: Decline in Metropolitan Baltimore, points to major manufacturing facilities operated by Bethlehem Steel, General Motors and Martin Marietta. In 1970, about a third of the labor force in Baltimore was employed in manufacturing. By 2000, only 7 percent of city residents had manufacturing jobs, and losses have been continuing.

Dr. Vicino, a professor at Northeastern University and a Maryland native, argues that:

We need to reframe the problem more broadly than racial profiling and police brutality. . . . The bigger context is the globalization of the economy, technological change and de-industrialization. This is a double whammy for poor black people left in the city. They are not in a position to share in the development downtown and, with the loss of manufacturing jobs, they are left, at best, with access to relatively low-paying service jobs. This, in turn, creates a spiral for those left behind, damaging families and devastating neighborhoods.

Professor William Julius Wilson of Harvard, who teaches a course based on "The Wire," the HBO show set in Baltimore, says:

Regular employment provides the anchor for the spatial and temporal aspects of daily life; it determines where you are going to be and when you are going to be there. In the absence of regular employment, life, including family life, becomes less coherent.

Globalization, as embodied at the present time by the Trans-Pacific Partnership, promotes what it calls "free" trade. Yet some critics, both on the right and left, argue that trade which is not also "fair," puts Americans at a great disadvantage. American corporations must pay a minimum wage, obey OSHA rules about worker safety, follow environmental regulations, and deal with labor unions. None of this is true for companies in China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, or India, among others. Is such "free" trade really "free"?

Beyond all of this is the very real breakdown of the black family in our inner cities, where 72 percent of babies are born to single mothers. We know that children with absent fathers commit more crimes and are more likely to drop out of school. In his book The Best Parent Is Both Parents, David Levy, who served as president of the Children's Rights Council, reported that neither poverty nor race, but the fragile structure of the family, is the primary cause of crime.

Douglas A. Smith and G. Roger Jarjoura published findings in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency analyzing victimization data on over 11,000 individuals from three urban areas. They discovered that the proportion of single-parent households in a community predicts its rate of violent crime and burglary while poverty level does not. Furthermore, the percentage of non-whites in an area has "no significant influence on rates of violent crime."

Because so many Americans have, in large numbers, abandoned the responsibility of child rearing, many young people are particularly vulnerable to the inducements of the drug culture. Dr. Lorenzo Merritt of Project Heavy West, a nonprofit counseling center in Los Angeles that tries to help children stay out of jail, said that they join gangs and the drug culture:

. . . fundamentally because of a need for acceptance and identity. It generally means an absence of a cohesive . . . family life where there is a sense of belonging and respect.

If black men are committing crime out of proportion to their numbers, it is important to consider the reason. According to a recent report issued by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, by age 17, only 17 percent of black teenagers live with two married parents. Professor Orlando Patterson, a Harvard sociologist who is black, has published an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education lamenting that "fearful" sociologists had abandoned "studies of the cultural dimensions of poverty, particularly black poverty," and declared that the discipline had become "largely irrelevant."

Patterson asks:

Why are so many black men in jail? Is it because cops, prosecutors, judges, and juries are racist because they are turning a blind eye to white robbers and drug dealers? . . . . I don't think so. If it were so, that would be easier to address. . . . The percentage of young men not working or not enrolled in school is nearly twice as high for blacks as it is for whites. . . . Young people in those neighborhoods too often inherit a legacy of crime and prison, and with that inheritance they become part of the police officer's life and shape the way that officer, whether white or black, sees the world. Changing that legacy is a challenge so enormous and so complicated that it is, unfortunately, easier to talk only about the cops. And that's not fair.

In Baltimore, 25-year-old Freddie Gray, whose death in police custody has led to the growing unrest in the city, grew up in Sandtown-Winchester, one of Baltimore's most impoverished and crime-ridden communities. It has the highest incarceration rate in the state, an unemployment rate of over 50 percent for males ages 16 to 64 and a medium household income of under $25,000, according to research from the Justice Policy Institute and the Prison Policy Initiative.

Gray's rap sheet was a long one. His criminal history started in July 2007 with an arrest on charges of "possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute." Overall, he had more than a dozen arrests, mostly drug-related. The latest was in March on a charge of "possession of a controlled dangerous substance." Drugs are a major reason why police patrolled Gray's neighborhood. David Simon, creator of "The Wire" and a former Baltimore Sun journalist, says that:

. . . the drug war . . . was transforming in terms of police/community relations, in terms of trust . . . the drug war was as much a function of class and social control as it was of racism.

The real issues in Baltimore go beyond questions of racism and police behavior. Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Legislative Office of the Fraternal Order of Police, says that:

The real issue is poverty and lack of quality education, lack of economic opportunity, a decaying city infrastructure, lack of sound parenting and mentorship. These kids, the odds are against them from the time of their conception, and it's a very, very convenient political outlet to blame the police for things that go on in the inner cities. But the fact of the matter is that these are problems that generations of bad elected leadership has resulted in.

The Baltimore Police Department has numerous outreach programs that connect police with underprivileged families and give communities a chance to communicate directly with officers. It holds monthly council meetings throughout the city where community leaders can express concerns over issues in their neighborhoods. Some community leaders have even been placed on boards that determine executive promotions within the police departments.

There have been some hopeful signs amidst the chaos in Baltimore. After rioting, residents by the hundreds cleaned debris from streets and stores that had been looted. Churches organized food drives for neighborhoods hit by rioting and teachers, who knew that closed schools meant children would go without meals, set up food stations in churches. Police and firefighters, the targets of rage when rioting began, were inundated with cakes, pies and thanks for their service. Church, community and political leaders took to the streets to urge calm and help enforce the curfew.

Events in Baltimore highlight the crisis being faced in our inner cities - from a variety of causes, from the de-industrialization of our urban areas due to globalization to the breakdown of the black family and the absence of fathers in the home. No problems can be confronted or resolved if they are misdiagnosed. The charge of "white racism," in reality, is the scapegoat for the problems in Baltimore and other urban areas, not the real culprit.

What Hillary Clinton's Attempt to Re-create Herself Tells Us About American Politics

Hillary Clinton, in announcing her presidential candidacy, is now engaged in an effort to re-create herself. The unusual commercial she used to introduce her campaign has received critical reviews, from liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats. Liberal columnist Richard Cohen wrote that:

It looked like one of those Vaseline-lensed dog-food commercials, so lacking substance that I wondered if I had summoned the wrong video from the Internet. . . . All I can remember is a bunch of happy people and Clinton saying something about being on the side of the middle class. . . . I think it is no mere coincidence that the Clinton campaign now has the services of Wendy Clark, a senior marketing specialist from Coca-Cola. Maybe Clinton will "teach the world to sing."

This announcement video was followed by Clinton's strange van ride to Iowa, complete with video of her ordering a burrito bowl at Chipotle. She did this while wearing dark glasses, as did her aide Huma Abedin, which produced security-camera pictures making if appear that they were traveling incognito. She said that she would be an advocate for people like "the truckers that I saw on I-80 as I was driving here."

Perhaps appealing to authenticity would fail in Mrs. Clinton's case. After losing to Richard Nixon in 1968, the Democratic Party candidate, Hubert Humphrey, conceded that his effort to be authentic, his real self, might have done him in:

It's an abomination for a man to place himself completely in the hands of the technicians, the ghost writers, the experts, the pollsters and come out only as an attractive package.

After all of her years in public life, no one really knows where Hillary Clinton stands on any issue. The one constant is her desire to be president. In a cover article "What Does Hillary Stand For?" The Economist declares:

For someone who has been on the national stage for a quarter-century, her beliefs are hard to pin down. On foreign policy, she says she is neither a realist nor an idealist but an "idealistic realist." In a recent memoir, she celebrates "the American model of free markets for free people." Yet to a left-wing crowd, she says, "Don't let anybody tell you, that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs.". . . Some candidates' views can be inferred from the advisers they retain, but Mrs. Clinton has hundreds, including luminaries from every Democratic faction. Charles Schumer, her former Senate colleague from New York, called her "the most opaque person you'll ever meet in your life."

In The Economist's view:

Skeptics raise two further worries about Mrs. Clinton. Some say she is untrustworthy - a notion reinforced by the revelation that she used a private server for her e-mails as Secretary of State, released only the ones she deemed relevant and then deleted the rest. The other worry, which she cannot really allay, is that dynasties are unhealthy, and that this outweighs any benefit America might gain from electing its first female president.

The Clinton candidacy tells us a great deal about the current state of American politics. We often forget that public opinion is usually carefully manipulated, in the present era by an army of public relations consultants. Discussing the start of a campaign some years ago, David R. Altman, chairman of the Altman, Stoller and Weiss advertising agency, assessed the influence of advertising upon American politics this way:

The annual exercise in political irrelevance has begun. Once again, the American viewing public is being subjected to a barrage of flashy thirty- and sixty-second spot announcements urging votes for this candidate or that. TV has become the most destructive political force we have known. It is an open invitation to the demagogue, a path to elective office for the incompetent but glib candidate, and it is a definite deterrent for the brilliant but full office seeker. It has changed the rules of the game of politics from "let the better candidate have a chance to win" to "let the most appealing candidate win."

Mr. Altman charged that:

For the most part, political ads on TV perform what I consider to be a massive confidence game on the American people. Why? Because political commercials do not as a rule inform the electorate. They stimulate the emotions. They arouse passions. They polarize people on different sides of the political street. They use trickery - trick lighting, trick makeup, a full gamut of Hollywood special effects - and occasionally candidates have been known to tell lies on television. What has been the result? We consistently elect candidates who later "surprise" us - who turn out to be different from the image perceived during the campaign.

The well-known political consultant David Garth once said, "You've seen one of my campaigns, you've seen them all." His technique was to put together cinema variety clips of his candidate and show them on television. Illustrative of his technique was the 1969 reelection campaign of New York City Mayor John Lindsay, when Lindsay was an unpopular mayor. He won a second term in large part because of Mr. Garth's advertising campaign in which Lindsay repeatedly told voters, "I made mistakes." This approach, Garth recalled, was highly successful.

Now, Hillary Clinton is trying to become a person different from the one all of us have come to know, realizing that victory in the presidential race requires such a radical make-over. Is this really going to be a successful enterprise? Former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, who is considering a presidential run of his own, says that "people are looking for leadership they can trust" and that Americans would like to go back to the party of Harry S. Truman and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Webb states:

Think about Harry Truman, what he would be saying to someone who told him he needed a consultant to show him how to dress or a lifestyle consultant to tell him that he needed to go to Wal-Mart. You know, we need people who will, in politics, lead the same way that they live.

Enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton's candidacy is difficult to find among the liberal commentators who might be expected to be a bit more supportive. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote that:

The choreographed launch was over-thought, over-produced and, in the scheme of things, not terribly important in details. Everyone already knew she was running.

Hillary Clinton's candidacy tells us a great deal about contemporary American politics, none of it good. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 12:01

Ramblings

Ramblings

Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

As Extremism Grows Among Europe's Muslim Immigrants, There Are Lessons to Be Learned from America's Melting Pot

Young Muslims from Europe are traveling to the Middle East in growing numbers to join ISIS. They have been involved in the beheadings of Western hostages and are busy urging others to leave Europe and the United States as well to join their ranks.

There is, if seems, at least some level of support for this extremism within immigrant communities. A poll of British Muslims found that 27 percent had some sympathy for the motives behind January's Islamist attacks in Paris against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket. Eleven percent agreed that those who publish images of the Prophet Mohammed deserve to be attacked. The poll was conducted for the BBC between January 26 and February 20. There are about 2.8 million Muslims in Britain, about 4.4 percent of the population. "These are, as far as I'm concerned, worrying statistics," said Sayeeda Warsi, who was Britain's first female Muslim minister, before resigning last year over the government's policy on the war in Gaza.

In France, as the nation reeled from the terrorist attacks in Paris, reports filled the newspapers and T.V. newscasts of young Muslim students refusing to honor the dead, highlighting the sharp divisions in French society. Young Muslims in France live largely in a separate, segregated world. A 2012 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that France leads Europe in educational inequalities stemming from social and ethnic origins. France's National Council for the Evaluation of the School System has spoken of "school ghettos," referring to districts where dropout rates are high and performances exceptionally weak.

Starting in the 1950s, immigrants from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia began arriving in France. They were often sent to isolated housing projects that bred alienation. The expected smooth integration never took place. Despite a high unemployment rate, approximately 200,000 immigrants have arrived in France every year since 2004. Muslims now make up about 8 percent of the country, constituting the largest Muslim population in Western Europe. Four out of ten French recently surveyed said they considered Muslims "to be a threat to our national identity." Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's increasingly popular National Front, referred to Muslims praying in the street as an "occupation" of France.

The failure of France and other European countries to assimilate their growing Muslim immigrant population into the larger society is sowing seeds of future turmoil. The exodus of young recruits to ISIS from the immigrant neighborhoods of Paris, London, Brussels, Copenhagen, and other European cities is a indication of further turmoil to come. These young people with British, Danish, and French passports are likely to return and emulate the terrorist attacks we have recently witnessed.

Americans are not immune from this phenomenon. The attack upon the Boston Marathon is one example. The numbers of young American Muslims who have joined ISIS are, thus far, small, but efforts to recruit in immigrant communities, as among Somalis in Minnesota, are growing. But our own society has some experience with assimilating immigrants from around the world, integrating them into our society, and making them Americans. As Herman Melville said in the 19th century, "If you shed a drop of American blood, you shed the blood of the whole world." For its own survival, Europe would do well to study our melting pot experience.

Some time ago, Professor Seymour Martin Lipset of the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, criticized those who were promoting bilingualism and multiculturalism in American public schools:

The history of bilingual and bicultural societies that do not assimilate are histories of turmoil, tension and tragedy. Canada, Belgium, Malaysia, and Lebanon - all face crises of national existence in which minorities press for autonomy, if not independence. Pakistan and Cyprus have divided. Nigeria suppressed an ethnic rebellion. France faces difficulties with its Basques, Bretons, and Corsicans.

Remembering the way American public schools served to bring children of immigrants into the mainstream, Fotine Z. Nicholas, who taught for 30 years in New York City schools and wrote an education column for a Greek-American weekly, notes:

I recall with nostalgia the way things used to be. At P.S. 82 in Manhattan, 90 percent of the students had European-born parents. Our teachers were mostly of Irish origin, and they tried hard to homogenize us. We might refer to ourselves as Czech or Hungarian or Greek but we developed a pride in being American. . . . There were two unifying factors: the attitude of our teachers and the English language. . . . After we started school, we spoke only English to our siblings, our classmates and our friends. We studied and wrote in English, we played in English, we thought in English.

Successive waves of immigrants have assimilated into the American society. They entered a United States that had self-confidence and believed in its own culture, history, and values, and was determined to transmit them to the newcomers. And the immigrants themselves wanted to become Americans. Our traditional response to the problem of assimilation, The Economist points out:

. . . was to treat each immigrant as an individual. . . . The essential American promise is that individuals will rise or fall on their own merits. . . . Waving the banner of diversity, opponents of the melting pot are in danger of promoting ethnic division as a matter of public policy. . . . The government should not only oppose legal distinctions between ethnic groups; it should also do more to build a common American culture through education. . . . If children are taught to see themselves as members of an ethnic group, rather than as Americans, the U.S. will rapidly become disunited.

If some in the U.S. have retreated from our melting pot philosophy, the countries of Western Europe have never properly embraced it. They seem not to know how to make their Muslim immigrants French, British, or Belgian. Perhaps they should have considered this dilemma more carefully before they opened their doors to these immigrants. They now have a lot of catching up to do.

It is important to remember that by coming to the U.S. and Western Europe, immigrants are voting with their feet for our system and our way of life. They should be helped to assimilate into our societies, not to recreate here and in Europe the very systems they have escaped at such high cost.

In his Wriston lecture on "Universal Civilization," V. S. Naipaul, the son of immigrant Indian laborers who grew up in post-colonial Trinidad and was educated in England, contrasts some of the static, inward-looking, insular, backsliding "non-Western" cultures with that spreading "universal civilization" that he finds to be based on Jefferson's idea of the pursuit of happiness. Discussing the essence of Western civilization, which sets it apart from others, Naipaul characterizes it in these terms:

The ideal of the individual, responsibility, choice, the life of the intellect, the idea of vocation and perfectibility and achievement. It is an immense human idea. It cannot be reduced to a fixed system nor generate fanaticism. But it is known to exist and because of that, other more rigid systems in the end blow away.

The American society traces the rights we take for granted back to the Magna Carta. The idea of trial by jury, due process of law and limits upon government power come from this ancient English charter. The fact that the majority of present-day Americans cannot trace their individual ancestry to England bears little relationship to the British nature of American culture. In America's British Culture, Russell Kirk argues that:

Two centuries after the first U.S. census was taken, nearly every race and nationality in the world had contributed to the American population, but the culture of America remains British. . . . The many millions of newcomers to the U.S. have accepted integration into the British-descended American culture with little protest, and often with great willingness.

The challenge for Western Europe is to assimilate its growing Muslim immigrant population into the French, British and other cultures and societies in which they now live. The American experience provides a model of how this might be achieved. If these immigrants remain isolated and alienated, Europe will face increasingly stormy days ahead.

Family Breakdown: One Important Cause of Many of Society's Ills

In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then assistant secretary of labor who went on to serve as Democratic U.S. senator from New York for nearly a quarter-century, issued a report warning of a crisis growing for America's black families. It reported a dramatic increase in out-of-wedlock births and one-parent families and warned of the "tangle of pathologies" which resulted. Among these were poor performance in school, increased drug use, and a growing rate of incarceration for crime.

"The Moynihan argument . . . assumed that the troubles impending for black America were unique," writes Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute.

. . . a consequence of the singular historical burdens that black Americans had endured in our country. That argument was not only plausible at the time, but also persuasive. Yet today that same "tangle of pathology" can no longer be described as characteristic of just one group within our country. Quite the contrary . . . these pathologies are evident throughout all of America today, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Single motherhood has become so common in America that demographers believe that half of all children will live with a single mother at some point before age 18. Research from Princeton University's Sara McLanahan and Harvard University's Christopher Jencks shows that more than 70 percent of all black children are born to an unmarried mother, a threefold increase since the 1960s.

In a new paper, McLanahan and Jencks assess the state of children born to single mothers, nearly fifty years after the Moynihan Report warned that the growing number of fatherless black children would struggle to avoid poverty. The report looks prescient. Black children today are about twice as likely as the national average to live with an unmarried mother. Research is confirming Moynihan's fears that children of unmarried mothers face more obstacles in life.

In the studies reviewed by McLanahan and Jencks, it was found that these children experience more family instability, with new partners moving in and out, and more half-siblings fathered by different men. The growing number of studies in this field also suggest that these children have more problem behaviors and more trouble finishing school.

The growing debate about income inequality ignores the evidence that shows that unwed parents raise poorer children. Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution calculates that returning marriage rates to their 1970 level would lower the child poverty rate by a fifth. There may be a partisan political reason why this point is not made more often. The Economist suggests that, "This omission may be deliberate. Democrats are reluctant to offend unmarried women, 60 percent of whom voted for the party's candidates in 2014."

There may be, some observers point out, a connection between government welfare programs and the breakdown of the family, as well as the declining number of men in the workforce. As late as 1963, on the eve of the War on Poverty, more than 93 percent of American babies were coming into the world with two married parents. According to the 1960 census, nearly 88 percent of children under 18 were then living with two parents. For the quarter century from 1940 to 1965, official data recorded a rise in the fraction of births to unmarried women from 3.8 percent to 7.7 percent. Over the following quarter century, 1965-1990, out-of-wedlock births jumped from 7.7 percent of the nationwide total to 28 percent. The most recently available data are for 2012, which shows America's over-all out-of-wedlock ratio had moved beyond 40 percent.

The trends discussed in the 1965 Moynihan Report for black families have now extended to American families of all racial backgrounds. Among Hispanic Americans, more than 30 percent of children were in single-parent homes by 2013, and well over half were born out of wedlock by 2012. Among non-Hispanic white Americans, there were few signs of family breakdown before the massive government entitlement programs began with the War on Poverty in the 1960s. Between 1940 and 1963, the out-of-wedlock birth ratio increased, but only from 2 percent to 3 percent. In 1960, just 6 percent of white children lived with single mothers. As of 2012, the proportion of out-of-wedlock births was 29 percent, nearly 10 times as high as it was just before the War on Poverty.

In his study, The Great Society at Fifty: The Triumph and the Tragedy, Nicholas Eberstadt argues that:

What is indisputable . . . is that the new American welfare state facilitated these new American trends by helping to finance them: by providing support for working-age men who are no longer seeking employment and for single women with children who would not be able to maintain independent households without government aid. Regardless of the origins of the flight from work and family breakdown, the War on Poverty and successive welfare policies have made each of these modern tendencies more feasible as mass phenomena in our country today.

The War on Poverty, of course, did not envision such a result. These were unintended consequences that, as we have seen, are often the case with many well-intentioned government programs. President Lyndon Johnson wanted to bring dependence on government handouts to an eventual end, and did not intend to perpetuate them into the future. Three months after his Great Society speech, Johnson declared:

We are not content to accept the endless growth of relief rolls of welfare rolls. . . . Our American answer to poverty is not to make the poor more secure in their poverty but to reach down and to help them lift themselves out of the ruts of poverty and move with the large majority along the high road of hope and prosperity.

In Eberhardt's view:

Held against this ideal, the actual unfolding of America's antipoverty policies can be seen only as a tragic failure. Dependence on government relief, in its many modern versions, is more widespread today, and possibly also more habitual, than at any time in our history. To make matters much worse, such aid has become integral to financing lifestyles and behavioral patterns plainly destructive to our commonwealth - and on a scale far more vast than could have been imagined in an era before such antipoverty aid was all but unconditionally available.

Any serious discussion of poverty and the growing gaps in income must confront the reasons why, for example, in the past 50 years, the fraction of civilian men ages 25 to 34 who were neither working nor looking for work has quadrupled and that for many women, children, and even working-age men, the entitlement state has become the breadwinner. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said "the issue of welfare is not what it costs those who provide it, but what it costs those who receive it."

At the heart of the social and economic decline we face at the present time is the breakdown of the family. Few in the political arena, in either party, are addressing this question. Unless they do, their proposals to move our economy forward and lessen the gaps in income and wealth are unlikely to succeed.

There Is a Growing Danger that Police Are Being Made Scapegoats for Larger Racial Problems that Society Ignores

The attacks upon police for "racism" have been mounting as a result of the killings of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, Staten Island, and elsewhere. Many with a history of demagoguery when it comes to questions of race relations, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton among them, have done their best to keep this issue alive. Sadly, they have cast more heat than light on a question that is far more complex than their self-serving analysis would lead Americans to believe.

Recently, FBI director James Comey addressed this question. At the outset, he declared certain "hard truths," including the fact that the history of law enforcement has been tied to enforcing slavery, segregation, and other forms of discrimination. "One reason we cannot forget our law enforcement legacy," he said, "is that the people we serve and protect cannot forget it, either."

Mr. Comey also acknowledged the existence of unconscious racial bias "in our white-majority culture," and how that influences policing. He conceded that people in law enforcement can develop "different flavors of cynicism" that can be "lazy mental shortcuts," resulting in more pronounced racial profiling.

But he then warned against using police as scapegoats to avoid coming to grips with much more complex problems affecting minority communities, including a lack of "role models, adequate education, and decent employment," as well as "all sorts of opportunities that most of us take for granted." In his address at Georgetown University, Comey declared:

I worry that this incredibly important and difficult conversation about policing has become focused entirely on the nature and character of law enforcement officers when it should also be about something much harder to discuss.

Citing the song "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" from the Broadway show "Avenue Q," Comey said that police officers of all races viewed black and white men differently using a mental shortcut that "becomes almost irresistible and maybe even rational by some lights" because black men commit crime at a much higher rate than white men.

Comey said that nearly all police officers had joined the force because they wanted to help others. Speaking in personal terms, he described how most Americans had initially viewed Irish immigrants like his ancestors "as drunks, ruffians, and criminals." He noted that, "Law enforcement's biased view of the Irish lives on in the nickname we still use for the vehicle that transports groups of prisoners. It is, after all, the 'Paddy Wagon.'"

If black men are committing crime out of proportion to their numbers, it is important to consider the reason. According to a report just released by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI), by age 17, only 17 percent of black teenagers live with two married parents. Professor Orlando Patterson, a Harvard sociologist who is black, published an article in December in the Chronicle of Higher Education, lamenting that "fearful" sociologists had abandoned "studies of the cultural dimensions of poverty, particularly black poverty," and declared that the discipline had become "largely irrelevant."

Now, Patterson and Ethan Fosse, a Harvard doctoral student, are publishing a new anthology called The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth. In Patterson's view, fifty years after Daniel Moynihan issued his report about the decline of the black family, "History has been kind to Moynihan." Moynihan was concerned about an out-of-wedlock birth rate in the black community of 25 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the equivalent rate for 2013 was 71.5 percent. (The rate for non-Hispanic whites was 29.3 percent.)

The inner-city culture that promotes the social dissolution that results in crime has been written about for many years by respected black observers. In 1899, the scholar W. E. B. Du Bois drew on interviews and census data to produce The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study. He spent a year living in the neighborhood he wrote about, in the midst of what he described as "an atmosphere of dirt, drunkenness, poverty and crime." He observed in language much harsher than Moynihan's, the large number of unmarried mothers, many of whom he referred to as "ignorant and loose." He called upon whites to stop employment discrimination, which he called "morally wrong, politically dangerous, industrially wasteful, and socially silly." He told black readers they had a duty to work harder, to behave better, and to stem the tide of "Negro crime," which he called "a menace to civilized people."

In 1999, on the hundredth anniversary of Du Bois's study, Elijah Anderson published a new sociological study of poor black neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Code of the Street, and recorded its informants' characterization of themselves and their neighbors as either "decent" or "street" or, in some cases, a bit of both. In The Cultural Matrix, Orlando Patterson lists "three main social groups" - the middle class, the working class, and "disconnected street people" that are common in "disadvantaged" African-American neighborhoods. He also lists "four focal cultural configurations" (adapted mainstream, proletarian, street, and hip-hop).

Patterson views the "hip-hop" culture of the inner city as a destructive phenomenon, and compares MC Hammer to Nietzsche, contends that hip-hop routinely celebrates "forced abortions" and calls Lil Wayne "irredeemably vulgar" and "all too typical" of the genre. Thomas Shelby, a professor of African and African-American Studies at Harvard, writes in The Cultural Matrix that "suboptimal cultural traits" are the major impediment for many African-Americans seeking to escape poverty. "Some in ghetto communities," he writes, "are believed to devalue traditional co-parenting and to eschew mainstream styles of childbearing."

In his speech on race in 2008, President Obama said that African-Americans needed to take more responsibility for their own communities by "demanding more from our fathers." Fifty years ago, Daniel Moynihan worried that "the Negro community" was in a state of decline with an increasingly matriarchal family structure that led to increasing crime. In the fifteen years after he published his report, the homicide rate doubled, with blacks overrepresented among both perpetrators and victims.

Orlando Patterson, in a recent interview with Slate, said: "I am not in favor of a national conversation on race," and noted that most white people in America had come to accept racial equality. But whether or not such a "national conversation" is useful, we are now in the midst of such an enterprise. FBI director Comey is contributing to that exchange. He asks:

Why are so many black men in jail? Is it because cops, prosecutors, judges and juries are racist because they are turning a blind eye to white robbers and drug dealers? . . . I don't think so. If it were so, that would be easier to address. . . . The percentage of young men not working or not enrolled in school is nearly twice as high for blacks as it is for whites. . . . Young people in those neighborhoods too often inherit a legacy of crime and prison, and with that inheritance they become part of the police officer's life and shape the way that officer, whether white or black, sees the world. Changing that legacy is a challenge so enormous and so complicated that it is, unfortunately, easier to talk only about the cops. And that's not fair.

A New Look at the Declaration of Independence

American students are less proficient in their nation's history than in any other subject, according to results of a recent nationwide test, with most fourth graders unable to say why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure, and few high school seniors able to identify China as the North Korean ally that fought American troops during the Korean War.

Diane Ravitch, an education historian, was invited by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which conducted the test, to review the results. She said she was particularly concerned by the fact that only 2 percent of 12th graders correctly answered a question concerning Brown v. Board of Education. Students were given an excerpt including the following passage and were asked what social problem the 1954 ruling was supposed to correct:

We conclude that in the field of public education, separate but equal has no place, separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.

Ms. Ravitch declared: "The answer was right in front of them. This is alarming." Secretary of education Arne Duncan said, "The results tell us that, as a country, we are failing to provide children with a high-quality, well-rounded education."

Yet, if we are not teaching history in our schools, there is widespread interest in our history in the larger society. Biographies of figures such as Abraham Lincoln, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson have all been best sellers in recent years. Television series about major historical events such as the Civil War have attracted large audiences.

Now, much attention is being given to a new study of the Declaration of Independence, Our Declaration, by Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Danielle's father, Bill Allen, is also an academic and scholar. He was one of the early black conservatives and has long opposed race-based programs that judged men and women on the basis of their race and ethnic background rather than their individual merit.

While many Americans think of Thomas Jefferson as the sole author of the Declaration, Danielle Allen points out that, "The monumental achievement of Thomas Jefferson is, ultimately, to have produced a first draft."

She notes that Jefferson shared his draft with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, who offered suggestions. It then went through the Committee of Five and on to Congress, that from July 2 to July 4 edited the Declaration extensively, "much to Jefferson's chagrin." Congress cut about a quarter of Jefferson's words, added some references to divinity and took out a section attacking slavery.

In Allen's view:

With changes such as these, with God edited in and a condemnation of slavery elided, Congress achieved a text that the men of that day and age could live with, including Jefferson, grumpily.

She views this process in positive terms. Jefferson, she writes, produced a work of such "philosophical integrity and unquestionable brilliance" that it could survive the "intense committee work." And, she argues, the committee work reflected the Founders' belief in equality.

This process of "democratic writing," coming after many months of discussion and argument not only in Philadelphia but throughout the colonies, is, Allen believes, worthy of celebration:

There is no other way for a free and equal people to chart its course. Our only chance to achieve collective happiness comes through extensive conversation punctuated here and there with votes, which will themselves over time, in their imperfection, simply demand of us more talk.

The Declaration declares the right of a people to create a government "most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." This in turn, writes Allen, rested on a radical notion: "As judges of our own happiness, we are equals," and, as a result, "the unrelenting work for which each of us, in face of this equality, must take responsibility."

The book Our Declaration is a line-by-line, often word-by-word commentary on our Founding document. The inspiration to write the book was stimulated by Danielle Allen's experience teaching the Declaration to night school students in Chicago. She writes about growing up in a mixed-race African-American family whose dinner conversations often turned to the Declaration and its pronouncement that "all men" are created equal.

The book has stirred some controversy. Reviewing Our Declaration in The New York Times Book Review, Professor Steven B. Smith of Yale writes:

This book makes three large claims about the Declaration of Independence, one that is profoundly true, another that is debatable, and a third, I would say, that is false. Its principal truth is that when Jefferson wrote "all men are created equal," this genuinely meant to apply to all, black as well as white. There is moral cosmopolitanism in the Declaration's language.

Second, Smith notes, is the considerable attention Allen devotes to the famous "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" clause. He asks:

How much does the Declaration depend on a theistic orientation? Jefferson and his colleagues speak of rights as being endowed by our Creator. An endowment suggests that these rights are not self-created but a gift. Yet as Allen correctly notes, the God invoked by the Declaration is certainly not the God of the Bible. . . . Allen seems to argue . . . that the language of divinity is entirely marginal to the text . . . she says the Declaration's language of "self-evident" truths is drawn not from Scripture but from logic. . . . She confidently affirms that one does not need to be a theist to accept the arguments of the Declaration. It is not at all clear that this confidence was shared by the authors of the text.

What Smith finds to be Allen's "least plausible" assertion is her claim about the "group writing" that went into the composition of the Declaration. She expresses the view that group writing shows how something called the "collective mind" contributes to the production of our shared moral vocabulary. Smith disagrees. He notes that Jefferson's original draft contained a strong denunciation of the slave trade as a "war against human nature," and writes that:

The passage was deleted by the Continental Congress as too inflammatory. . . . Jefferson's relationship to slavery was, as Allen observes, "maddeningly complex," but had his words not been compromised by the group, they would have rendered impossible later misrepresentations of the Declaration as expressing the economic self-interest of the slave owners.

Another area of debate has been Allen's belief that "equality" is central in the Declaration.

Traditionally, American society has seen the claims of liberty and equality as pulling in opposite directions. And in the battle between liberty and equality, the claims of individual liberty have held the dominant position. There is, of course, some historical evidence to back up Allen's claim. In Democracy In America, written in 1835, Alexis De Tocqueville wrote that, "Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom."

More often, however, we have understood "equality" to mean equal opportunity to go as far as our individual talents and hard work will take us, as well as equality before the law, and in the eyes of God, not equality of condition. In Capitalism and Freedom, economist Milton Friedman states that, "The 19th century liberal regarded an extension of freedom as the most effective way to promote welfare and equality; the 20th-century liberal regards welfare and equality as either prerequisites of or alternatives to freedom."

Whether or not one agrees with all of Danielle Allen's conclusions, the fact is that she has produced an important book. Her passion for each of the Declaration's 1,337 words is extraordinary. And to see Americans focusing on their history, exploring what Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and their colleagues really meant, is hardly a minor achievement in our era of popular culture and political correctness.

Urging Jews to Flee France Is Calling for a Posthumous Victory for Hitler

In the wake of the terrorist attack in Paris, which included an assault on a kosher grocery store, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to France and urged French Jews to flee their country and emigrate - make "aliyah" - to Israel.

He declared: "I wish to tell all French and European Jews - Israel is your home." He said that he would convene a special committee to promote emigration from France and other European countries.

Yair Lapid, Netanyahu's former finance minister, said: "European Jewry must understand that there is just one place for Jews, and that is the state of Israel." This, of course, is what Zionism believes, that Israel is the "homeland" of all Jews and that those Jews living in France, England, the United States and elsewhere are really in "exile."

This, of course, is an ideological construct that has no relationship to reality. The overwhelming majority of American Jews, for example, have always believed that Judaism is a religion of universal values, not a nationality, and that rather than being in "exile" in America, they are fully at home. This view has been expressed repeatedly in our history. In 1841, at the dedication ceremony of Temple Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina, Rabbi Gustav Poznanski declared: "This country is our Palestine, this city our Jerusalem, this house of God our temple."

There is widespread dismay in France at the Israeli notion that French Jews are not really French and their real "home" is Israel. The horrors of terrorism that have been inflicted upon Paris and elsewhere are being confronted by the governments involved. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, "If 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure."

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association, said that far better than emigration to Israel, would be the preservation and protection of Jewish life in the many countries Jews call home. He regretted that

. . . after every anti-Semitic act in Europe, the Israeli government issues the same statement about the importance of aliyah rather than employ every diplomatic and international means at its disposal to strengthen the safety of Jewish life in Europe.

He said: "The Israeli government must stop this Pavlovian response every time there is an attack against Jews in Europe."

Yonathan Arli, Vice President of CRIF, an umbrella group of Jewish institutions in France, says that he believes Jews should remain in France, which is their home. "We have had a Jewish community living here for more than a thousand years," he said.

We went through bombing attacks, the Holocaust, acts of terrorism, and we are not about to leave now. We just want to be safe.

Writing from Paris in The Forward, Laurent-David Samama notes that while some French Jews might be considering emigration:

. . . others - including young Jews like me - feel that making aliyah is a too-easy escape; it's simply not the answer. Those of us who remain in Paris, Marseille or Lyon are determined not to let the terrorists win. Throughout French history, Jews have experienced many periods of crisis. We've always overcome them, and we will overcome them again. Now more than ever . . . there is another communal faction that believes France needs us to stay here, to play the role of social whistleblower.

Smadar Bar-Akiva, executive director of JCC Global, a network of Jewish community centers, declared:

Jews in France clearly feel that last week's events were a turning point in their lives. Yet the calls for French Jews to pack their bags and make aliyah are disturbing and self-serving. . . . It will be more constructive to help French Jewry continue the educational and social work they are already doing.

Uri Avnery, the leader of Israel's peace movement, Gush Shalom, noted that:

The blood of the four Jews murdered in the kosher supermarket was not yet dry when Israeli leaders called upon the Jews of France to pack up and come to Israel. Israel, as everybody knows, is the safest place on earth. This was an almost automatic Zionist gut reaction. . . . The basic belief of Zionism is that Jews cannot live anywhere except in the Jewish state, because the victory of anti-Semitism is inevitable everywhere. Let the Jews of America rejoice in their freedom and prosperity - sooner or later they will come to an end. They are doomed like Jews everywhere outside of Israel. The new outrage in Paris confirms this basic belief. There was very little real commiseration in Israel. Rather a secret sense of triumph. The gut reaction of ordinary Israelis is: "We told you so!" and "Come quickly, before it's too late."

Israel is doing its best to make Jews feel unsafe in their native countries. In mid-January, the Israeli embassy in Dublin posted an image on Facebook showing the Mona Lisa wearing a hijab and carrying a large rocket. The line underneath read, "Israel is the last frontier of the free world." In a similar vein, the Arab Affairs correspondent of Israel's Channel 10 broadcast a fear-mongering "investigation" from London supposedly proving that the city was overrun with Islamic extremists.

Writing in Mondoweiss, Jonathan Cook points to the similar worldview of Zionists and traditional anti-Semites:

Israeli politicians of both right and left have parroted his (Netanyahu's) message that European Jews know "in their hearts that they have only one country." The logical corollary is that Jews cannot be loyal to other states they live in, such as France. . . . In this regard, Netanyahu and the far right share much common ground. He wants a Europe free of Jews. The far right wants the same. . . . One Israeli commentator noted pointedly that Israeli politicians like Netanyahu "were helping to finish the job started by the Nazis and their Vichy collaborators: making France Judenrein.

Sadly, the Israeli government has never recognized that Jewish citizens of France, the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries are not "Israelis in exile." Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly called upon American Jews to make a "mass aliyah" to Israel. No other foreign government argues that millions of Americans, because of their religion, are in "exile" in the United Stated and that their real "homeland" is that foreign country.

Such claims distort the meaning of Judaism almost completely. In 1929, Orthodox Rabbi Aaron Samuel Tamarat wrote that the very notion of a sovereign Jewish state as a spiritual center was "a contradiction to Judaism's ultimate purpose." He wrote:

Judaism at root is not some religious concentration which can be localized in a single territory. Neither is Judaism a "nationality" in the sense of modern nationalism. . . . No, Judaism is Torah, ethics and exaltation of spirit. . . . It cannot be reduced to the confines of any particular territory. For as Scripture said of Torah, "Its measure is greater than the earth."

Israel should be content to be the "homeland" of its own citizens, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, and stop attempting to speak in the name of millions of men and women who are citizens of other countries. No other country does this. And its call for French Jews to abandon their country at a time of crisis is unseemly in the extreme. Claude Lanzmann, the widely respected French Jewish filmmaker, best known for his Holocaust documentary film Shoah, said, quite wisely, that following Benjamin Netanyahu's advice would have only one result, giving Hitler, who did his best to rid France and all of Europe of Jews, "a posthumous victory." *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:58

Ramblings

Ramblings

Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

When American Society Is Called "Racist" - to What Is It Being Compared?

In recent days, in the wake of a number of questionable interactions between the police and black men, there have been demonstrations, sometimes violent, proclaiming that "racism" is embedded in the American society. Addressing these protests, President Obama said that racism is "deeply rooted" in our country.

In an interview with BET early in December, Mr. Obama declared:

This is something that is deeply rooted in our history. When you're dealing with something as deeply rooted as racism or bias . . . you've got to have vigilance. . . .

Those who proclaim that America is a "racist" society do not tell us which other countries - either contemporary or historical - they are comparing it to. If they did look around the world - or through history - they would find that our society, although flawed as is every human endeavor, is unique - not for drawing lines between people but for embracing something quite different. American nationality is not based on common race, religion, or ethnic background, but on a commitment to live in a free and open society, with the fulfillment of the responsibilities of citizenship. Americans come in all colors, religions, and backgrounds. Japanese, Swedes, Nigerians and most other nations do not.

Those who proclaim the "racist society" thesis often go back to the question of slavery, as if this inhumane practice was an American invention. From the beginning of recorded history until the 19th century, slavery was the way of the world. Rather than some American uniqueness in practicing slavery, the fact is that in 1787, when the Constitution was being written, slavery was legal everyplace in the world. What stands out is that in the American colonies there was strenuous objection to slavery and that the most prominent framers of the Constitution wanted to eliminate it at the very start of the nation.

Slavery is as old as recorded history. Most people in the ancient world regarded slavery as a natural condition of life, one that could befall anyone at any time. It existed among nomadic pastoralists in Asia, hunting societies of North American Indians, and sea people such as the Norsemen. The legal codes of Sumeria provide documentary evidence that slavery existed there as early as the 4th millennium B.C. The Sumerian symbol for slaves in cuneiform writing suggests "foreign."

The poems of Homer supply evidence that slavery was an integral part of ancient Greek society, possibly as early as 1200 B.C. Plato opposed enslavement of Greeks by Greeks, regarding bondservants as essentially inferior beings. His pupil Aristotle considered slaves as mere tools, lucky to have the guidance of their masters. At the time of Pericles, Athens had 43,000 citizens, who alone were entitled to vote and discharge political functions, 28,500 metics, or resident aliens, and 115,000 slaves. A century and a half later, Demetrius of Phalerum took a census of the city and counted only 21,000 citizens, 10,000 metics and 400,000 slaves.

The Bible ratifies slavery, although it called for humane treatment of slaves. In England, 10 percent of the persons enumerated in the Domesday Book (A.D. 1086) were slaves, and these could be put to death with impunity. Portugal imported large numbers of African slaves to work her estates in the southern provinces and to do menial labor in the cities from 1444 on. By the middle of the 16th century, Lisbon had more black than white residents. In 1515, the Portugese king ordered that they be denied Christian burial and thrown into a "common ditch" called "Poco dos Negros."

When the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in 1787, not a single nation had made slavery illegal. As they looked back through history, the framers saw slavery as an accepted and acceptable institution. It was not until 1792 that Denmark became the first Western nation to abolish the slave trade. What stands out historically is that so many of the leading men of the American colonies of that day wanted to eliminate it - and pressed vigorously to do so.

Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton were ardent abolitionists. John Jay, who would become the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was president of the New York Anti-Slavery Society. Rufus King and Gouverneur Morris were in the forefront of the opposition to slavery and the slave trade. One of the great debates at the Constitutional Convention related to the African slave trade. George Mason of Virginia made an eloquent plea for making it illegal:

This infernal traffic originated in the avarice of British merchants. The British government constantly checked the attempt of Virginia to put a stop to it. . . . Slavery discourages arts and manufactures. The poor despise labor when performed by slaves. . . . Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of heaven on a country.

While many criticized the framers for not eliminating the slave trade immediately, others understood that they had set in motion an opposition to slavery that would bear fruit in the future. Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut stated:

Slavery, in time, will not be a speck in our country. Provision is already made in Connecticut for abolishing it. And the abolition has already taken place in Massachusetts.

Professor Samuel Huntington points to the truly historic meaning of the Constitutional Convention and its product:

This is a new event in the history of mankind. Heretofore most governments have been formed by tyrants, and imposed on mankind by force. Never before did a people, in time of peace and tranquility, meet together by their representatives and, with calm deliberation, frame for themselves a system of government.

It took a Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, the civil rights movement, and legislation ending racial discrimination to move our society toward the goal of color-blindness, to judging each citizen, as Martin Luther King urged, on the content of his or her character, not the color of their skin. Today, black Americans face no glass ceilings. We have a black president and attorney general and have had two black Secretaries of State. Things are not perfect, and they never will be. But we should sometimes pause and remember how far we have come.

In a recent interview with New York Magazine, comedian Chris Rock, who is black, discussed his daughters:

I drop my kids off and watch them in the school with all these mostly white kids, and I got to tell you. I drill them every day: Did anything happen today? Did anybody say anything? They look at me like I am crazy. . . . My kids grew up not only with a black president but with a black Secretary of State, a black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a black Attorney General. My children are going to be the first black children in the history of America to actually have the benefit of the doubt of just being moral, intelligent people. . . . The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced.

Ellis Close, who is black, wrote a book, The Rage of a Privileged Class, in 1993 in which he argued that many successful black Americans "were seething about what they saw as the nation's broken promise of equal opportunity." More recently, Close, a Newsweek columnist, wrote:

Now, Barack Obama sits in the highest office in the land and a series of high-powered African-Americans have soared to the uppermost realms of their professions. The idea of a glass ceiling is almost laughable. Serious thinkers are searching for a new vocabulary to explain an America where skin color is an unreliable marker of status. . . .

The history of the world, sadly, shows us people at war with one another over questions of race, religion, and ethnicity. Today, radical Islamists are killing people because they are of another religion. In Israel there are efforts to define the state as legally "Jewish," thereby making its 20 percent non-Jewish population less than full citizens. Russia has invaded and absorbed Crimea to absorb its ethnic Russian population. Anti-immigrant parties are gaining strength in Sweden, Denmark, England, Germany, and other European countries. When Britain left India, millions of Muslims were forced to leave Hindu-majority India and form Pakistan - at the cost of an untold number of lives. We have seen millions of Armenians slaughtered by Turks. We have witnessed genocide carried out by Nazi Germany, by Rwanda, by the Khmer Rouge. We could fill pages with a record of such horrors.

Those who glibly call America a "racist" society are not comparing it to anyplace in the real world, either historically or at the present time. They are comparing it to perfection and here, of course, we fail, as would any collection of human beings. But our collection of human beings includes men and women of every race and nation. There are problems and difficulties but the real story is our great success in molding a nation from people who have journeyed to our shores from every place on earth. As Herman Melville said many years ago, "If you shed a drop of American blood, you shed the blood of the whole world." This, not "racism," which, after all, is prevalent in one form or another, everywhere, is America's genuine achievement. Occasional eruptions of intolerance should not obscure this greater reality.

Anti-Police Rhetoric Misunderstands the Reality of Inner-city Life

The killings of two police officers in New York City has focused attention upon the anti-police rhetoric which, in the view of many, helped to create an atmosphere in which such an action could take place.

The New York gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, wrote on social media that he intended to kill cops, and was angry about the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who were killed by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York.

Police in New York believe that Mayor Bill de Blasio has helped create an anti-police atmosphere in the city. After two police lieutenants were attacked by protestors on the Brooklyn Bridge, de Blasio described them as having been "allegedly assaulted," terminology which many police officers found offensive.

There have been a number of instances in which the mayor's statements have antagonized the police. Earlier in December, de Blasio spoke to George Stephanopoulos of ABC News about his fears for his biracial son:

It's different for a white child. And with Dante, very early on with my son, we said, "Look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do, don't move suddenly, don't reach for your cell phone," because we knew, sadly, there's a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color.

This echoed previous statements the mayor had made, going back to a campaign ad in which he pointed to his Afro-wearing teenage son to explain his opposition to the New York Police Department's controversial "stop and frisk" tactic, which entailed stopping hundreds of thousands of people a year for what was deemed suspicious activity. The vast majority of those targeted were nonwhite and innocent of any wrongdoing.

The new mayor, the first Democrat to be elected in New York for twenty years, represents a sharp turn from the close alliance between his predecessors, Rudolf Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, and law enforcement. Recriminations against de Blasio began within hours of the news that officers had been shot at point-blank range as they sat in their patrol car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, and that the gunman had been motivated to kill them as retribution for the deaths of black men at the hands of police.

A video of the arrival of de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton at the hospital, where officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos had been taken, showed dozens of police officers silently turning their backs. "There's blood on many hands . . ." said Patrick Lynch, president of the largest police union,

. . . those who incited violence on the street in the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day. We tried to warn it must not go on, it shouldn't be tolerated. That blood on the hands starts at the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor.

Former New York City officials are critical of what they call the "anti-cop" environment created by the White House, activists such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, as well as Mayor de Blasio and Attorney General Eric Holder. "We've had four months of propaganda starting with the president that everybody should hate the police," said former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. "They have created an atmosphere of severe, strong, anti-police hatred in certain communities, and for that, they should be ashamed of themselves."

Former New York Governor George Pataki said that Mayor de Blasio and Attorney General Holder have frequently used divisive "anti-cop rhetoric." Relations between Mayor de Blasio and uniformed police officers have become so strained that "he probably needs an intermediary to go between himself and the unions, maybe a religious leader," said former New York police commissioner Ray Kelly. "I don't know how receptive the unions would be."

Steven Cohen, a professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, says that:

The mayor needs to understand he's not an advocate anymore. He's an executive, and that means he has to act more as the mayor of the entire city than as the leader of a faction that helped him become mayor.

The fact is that the effort to stir hostility to the police, particularly in minority communities, is both divisive and based on a misunderstanding of reality. This does not mean, of course, that there are not occasional missteps by police officers, some of which have a racial element. These should be investigated and prosecuted, when appropriate. The larger picture, however, is quite different.

Neither of the police officers killed in New York was white. The officers in the patrol cars of New York City come from 50 countries and speak scores of languages. The Police Department, The New York Times reports:

. . . looks more like the city than ever. In two generations, as the city was becoming ever safer, the Police Department utterly changed its makeup.

Minorities make up the majority of the New York Police Department.

Heather MacDonald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Writes in City Journal:

. . . a lie has overtaken significant parts of the country, resulting in growing mass hysteria. That lie holds that the police pose a mortal threat to black Americans - indeed that the police are the greatest threat facing black Americans today. . . . President Obama announced that blacks were right to believe that the criminal-justice system was often stacked against them. . . . Eric Holder escalated a long-running theme of his tenure as U.S. Attorney General - that the police routinely engaged in racial profiling and needed federal intervention to police properly. In an editorial justifying the Ferguson riots, The New York Times claimed that "The killing of young black men by police is a common feature of African American life, and a source of dread for black parents from coast to coast."

In fact, MacDonald points out:

Police killings of blacks are an extremely rare feature of black life and are a minute fraction of black homicide deaths. The police could end all killings of civilians tomorrow and it would have no effect on the black homicide risk, which comes overwhelmingly from other blacks. In 2013, there were 6,261 black homicide victims in the U.S. - almost all killed by black civilians - resulting in a death risk in inner cities that is ten times higher for blacks than for whites. None of those killings triggered mass protests; they are deemed normal and beneath notice. The police, by contrast, according to published reports, kill roughly 200 blacks a year, most of them armed and dangerous, out of about 40 million police-civilian contacts a year. Blacks are in fact killed by police at a lower rate than their threat to officers would predict. In 2013, blacks made up 42 percent of all cop-killers whose race was known, even though blacks are only 13 percent of the nation's population. The percentage of black suspects killed by the police nationally is 29 percent lower than the percentage of blacks mortally threatening them.

Prior to leaving New York to attend a White House summit on policing, Mayor de Blasio told the press that a "scourge" of killings by police is "based not just on decades but centuries of racism." After the Staten Island grand jury declined to indict an officer for homicide in Eric Garner's death, de Blasio declared:

People are saying black lives matter. It should be self-evident, but our history requires us to say "black lives matter." It was not years of racism, but centuries of racism.

He said he worries "every night" about the "dangers" (his biracial son Dante) may face from "officers who are paid to protect him."

The mayor seems to misunderstand the reality of today's New York City. There is no institution more committed to the idea that "black lives matter" than the New York City Police Department. Thousands of black men are alive today who would have been killed years ago had the data-driven policing under Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg not brought down the homicide levels of the early 1990s. The police in New York fatally shot eight individuals last year, six of them black, all posing a risk to the police, compared with scores of blacks killed by black civilians.

Al Sharpton, who now is pictured standing as a key advisor beside both President Obama and Mayor de Blasio, first rose to fame by promoting the story that a black teenager, Tawana Brawley, was sexually assaulted by white law enforcement officials. There was not a word of truth to this story. Al Sharpton has never stopped his racially divisive agitation. Yet now he is welcome at the White House and at City Hall. At one New York protest, marchers chanted, "What do we want? Dead cops." Two public defenders from the Bronx participated in a rap video extolling cop killings. At a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, a group of people tried to throw trash cans onto the heads of officers on the level below them. Social media is filled with gloating at the deaths of the two New York officers. A student leader and a representative of the Afro-American Studies Department at Brandeis University tweeted that she has "no sympathy for the NYPD officers who were murdered today."

In Heather MacDonald's view:

The only good that can come out of this wrenching attack on civilization would be the delegitimation of the lie-based protest movement. Whether this will happen is uncertain. . . . The elites' investment in black victimology is probably too great to hope for an injection of truth in the dangerously counterfactual discourse about race, crime and policing.

Historically, contempt for those in uniform who protect us - and keep society safe - is nothing new. In his poem "Tommy," about the poor treatment encountered by British soldiers - except when "it comes to fightin'" - Rudyard Kipling wrote - as if he had contemporary police officers in mind:

O makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;

An' hustlin' drunken dodgers when they're goin' large a bit

Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.

Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red lines of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red lines of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

Terror in Paris Raises the Question: Is the West Prepared for Jihadis Returning from Syria and Iraq?

The terror attacks in Paris raise many questions about how prepared the West, including our own country, is to confront Islamist terrorism, particularly in the face of thousands of young people holding French, British, American, and other Western passports who are now in the Middle East fighting with groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda. Before long, many of them will return, and events such as we have witnessed in Paris - and also at the Boston Marathon, the Madrid and London subways, and in Ottawa and Sydney - may proliferate.

In France, the assault on the journalists at Charlie Hebdo, the satirical journal, came at a time when tension was already growing between mainstream French society and its large Muslim immigrant community, the largest in Europe. The current best-selling book in France is the novel Submission by Michel Houellebecq who imagines France in 2022 with a Muslim president. Another best-seller at the present time is The French Suicide, in which journalist Eric Zemmour argues that the 1968 student uprisings and immigration, among other things, have set France on a path to ruin.

"I think this anxiety is the idea of seeing France give up on itself, of changing to the point of no longer being recognizable," said the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, whose 2013 book, The Unhappy Identity, discussed the problems immigration poses for French identity and cultural integration. "People are homesick at home," he says.

Both Zemmour and Houellebecq approach the subject differently, but speak to the same anxiety. Christophe Barbier, the editor of L'Express, says, "It's the same book, in that both talk about the same subject: the irreversible rise of Islam in society and politics."

France has, it seems, failed to assimilate its immigrant population and transmit to them the Western values of, among other things, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. In many neighborhoods, city officials have virtually ceded control to Islamists. Soeren Kern, an analyst at the Gatestone Institute and author of annual reports on The Islamization of France, declares that:

The situation is out of control, and it is not reversible. Islam is a permanent part of France now. It is not going away. I think the future looks very bleak. The problem is a lot of these younger-generation Muslims are not integrating into French society. Although they are French citizens, they don't really have a future in French society. They feel very alienated from France. This is why radical Islam is so attractive because it gives them a sense of meaning in their lives.

The Muslim population of France reached 6.5 million, or 10 percent of its 66 million people. Some Muslim activists predict that France will be a Muslim-majority country in the not too distant future. Gatestone reports that an intelligence document leaked to Le Figaro said that Muslims are creating a separate public school society "completely cut off from non-Muslim students." Over one thousand French supermarkets are selling Islamic books that call for jihad and the killing of non-Muslims. Last year, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said:

We are fighting terrorism outside of France, but we are also fighting an internal enemy since there are those French who fit into the process of radicalization. This enemy must be fought with the greatest determination.

One of the two brothers involved in the Charlie Hebdo killings traveled to Yemen in 2011 and received terrorist training from al Qaeda's affiliate there before returning to France. Said Kouachi, 34, spent several months training in small arms combat, marksmanship, and other skills. Both French and American officials were aware that Kouachi had trained in Yemen, inspired by Anwar Al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who by 2011 had become a senior operational figure for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Before he was killed in an American drone strike in Sept. 2011, he repeatedly called for the killing of cartoonists who insulted the Prophet Muhammad.

France has struggled for years to keep track of extremists while avoiding measures that would alienate ordinary Muslims and increase the risk of a violent response. Jonathan Laurence, author of The Emancipation of Europe's Muslims, reports that intelligence services in European countries had so many residents with jihadist sympathies that it was very hard to separate those who merely offer verbal support for groups claiming to fight for Islam from those who are prepared to take up arms. "Mass surveillance of an entire community is not an option because civil liberties also need to be balanced with the potential benefit it will gain," said Laurence.

The Islamic State has attracted a large number of European-born Muslims, and some Americans, to Syria and Iraq in recent months and is seen to be encouraging blowback terrorist attacks in the countries from which they come and whose passports they carry. Targeting Charlie Hebdo was

. . . . deftly chosen: not a religious symbol, but a symbol of what democratic freedoms are, exactly where the Islamic State wants to drive a wedge between European Muslims and their fellow citizens. . . .

said Jean-Pierre Filiu, a French scholar who studies Islamic extremism.

In Filiu's view, the "plan backfired because of the unanimous condemnation of this heinous attack in France and throughout the Muslim world." He said that the widespread expressions of disdain toward the incident from Islamic leaders across Europe, several of who publicly called for tolerance, were underscored by the fact that one of the 12 people killed in the attack was a French policeman who was Muslim.

"As a Muslim, killing innocent people in the name of Islam is much, much more offensive to me than any cartoon can ever be," wrote pro-democracy activist Iyad El-Baghdadi in a statement that was re-tweeted more than 26,000 times in a single day.

It is important for Europe's long-term well being that all Muslims are not demonized, but that radical Islamists are isolated and carefully monitored. Muslims will clearly play an important role in Europe's future. In Germany, it is projected that there will be 4.8 million Muslims in 2020. The number will account for roughly 6 percent of the nation's total population, up from 4.5 percent in 2000. Even bigger surges are underway in Britain, Spain, and France, according to a Pew Research Center study. Muslims are projected to make up 6.5 percent of Britain's population by 2020, up from 2.7 percent in 2000.

The difference between traditional Islam and the radical religion promoted by the Islamic State, al Qaeda and other extremists is something non-Muslims often do not understand. The Koran, for example, does not anywhere forbid creating images of Muhammad, although there are later commentaries and traditions that do -"Hadith" - to guard against idol worship. This is hardly unique. The Old Testament forbids "graven images." The word "blasphemy" does not appear in the Koran. Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan points out that:

There are more than 200 verses in the Koran, which reveal that the contemporaries of the prophets repeatedly perpetrated the same act, which is now "blasphemy or abuse of the prophet.". . . but nowhere does the Koran prescribe the punishment of lashes, or death, or any other physical punishment. . . . In Islam, blasphemy is a subject of intellectual discussion rather than a subject of physical punishment.

Historically, Islam has not been an intolerant religion. In 1492, when the Catholic King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella expelled the Jews from Spain, they were welcomed into the Ottoman Empire and other Muslim countries. When the Spanish Inquisition was killing men and women for their religious beliefs, Jews and Christians found much more tolerance and religious freedom under Islam. Now, unfortunately, many Muslim majority countries look very much like medieval Spain. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Egypt, Turkey, and Sudan have all used blasphemy laws to jail and harass people, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Saudi Arabia forbids the practice of any religion other than its own Wahhabi version of Islam.

Europe has a choice. It can try to assimilate its Muslim immigrants into Western society, transmitting the values of freedom, democracy, and tolerance of diverse views. It can, in doing so, use America as a model, in which immigrants from every part of the world, of every race, religion, and ethnic background have been transformed into Americans, Muslims included. Or it can isolate immigrants, telling them that they can never be "French," or "German," or "British," and alienate young people so that they are driven into the hands of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

If European countries did not intend to assimilate immigrants into their societies, they should not have permitted them to enter. Now that they are there, and appear increasingly alienated, it is essential that positive steps be taken to avoid future chaos. And it is important that Muslims themselves isolate the extremists in their community and become determined to become full citizens of the countries in which they live. As those engaged in jihad in the Middle East return to Europe, a perfect storm will be faced unless positive steps are taken. If those who rail against immigrants, and Islamic fundamentalists, come to dominate their respective communities, Europe's future will be bleak. This may be a lesson to take away from the Paris terror attacks.

Confronting Torture: A Violation of American Values

The heated debate over the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on our government's use of torture is often asking the wrong questions. The report is being criticized for not having interviewed CIA personnel involved in the program. This is a legitimate criticism. The report is criticized for categorically stating that no worthwhile information was obtained by such procedures. We have no way of knowing whether this is true. The CIA argues that it is not.

The real argument against the use of torture is not that it is ineffective in gaining worthwhile information, which most experts argue is the case, but that it is illegal, immoral, and in violation of American values. Both liberals and conservatives should be in agreement on this matter. Liberals object to inhumane treatment of prisoners, and conservatives are concerned about out-of-control big government, conducted in secret.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who was taken prisoner during the Vietnam War and suffered years of torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese, declared that America never engaged in torture against German and Japanese prisoners of war during World War II, against North Korean prisoners during the Korean War, or against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong prisoners during the Vietnam War. We put on trial those who were guilty of torturing Americans. Torture, McCain declared, is not the American way. Beyond this, he noted that, "I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence."

Ironically, one of the reasons repeatedly stated by President George W. Bush for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the maintenance of "torture rooms" by Saddam Hussein. Andrew Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, and an analyst for Fox News Channel, says of the Senate report that:

. . . it is damning in the extreme to the Bush administration and to the CIA leadership. It offers proof that the CIA engaged in physical and psychological torture, some of which was authorized - unlawfully, yet authorized - most of which was not. The report also demonstrates that CIA officials repeatedly lied to the White House and to Senate regulators about what they were doing and they lied about the effectiveness of the torture. If the allegations in the report are true, we have war criminals, perjurers, computer hackers and thugs on the government payroll.

The fact is, as Judge Napolitano points out:

All torture is criminal under all circumstances - under treaties to which the U.S. is a party, under the Constitution that governs the government wherever it goes, and under federal law. Torture degrades the victim and the perpetrator. It undermines the moral authority of a country whose government condones it. It destroys the rule of law. It exposes our own folks to the awful retaliatory beheadings we have all seen. . . . It is a recruiting tool for those who have come to cause us harm.

Historically, in wartime, we have done things we later regretted. Civil liberties have been abused. Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War. During World War II, we imprisoned more than 127,000 Japanese-Americans. Similarly, after the attacks on 9/11, there was uncertainty and fear, which led to the actions recorded in the Senate report. "Still," The Washington Times noted editorially:

. . . it's difficult to argue with John McCain . . . a man who learned something about torture and its limits in the notorious North Vietnamese prison the American prisoners called, with grim irony, "the Hanoi Hilton."

Defending the release of the Senate report, which was opposed by many of his fellow Republicans, Sen. McCain said:

What might come as a surprise, not just to our enemies, but to many Americans is how little these practices did to aid our efforts to bring 9/11 culprits to justice and to find and prevent attacks today and tomorrow. That could be a real surprise since it contradicts the many assurances provided by intelligence officials on the record and in private that enhanced interrogation technique were indispensable in the war against terrorism. I suspect the objection of those same officials to the release of this report is really focused on that disclosure, torture's ineffectiveness, because we gave up much in the expectation that torture would make us safer. Too much.

We now know that 26 of those detained - and tortured - were held in error. One of these, Mohamed Bashmilah, was held in secret prisons for 19 months. He was kept shackled alone in freezing-cold cells in Afghanistan, subjected to loud music 24 hours a day. He attempted suicide at least three times, once by saving pills and swallowing them all at once; once by slashing his wrists; and once by trying to hang himself. Another time, he cut himself and used his own blood to write "this is unjust" on the wall.

Until 9/11, the U.S. had officially condemned secret imprisonment as a violation of basic international standards of human rights. But like the program on torture, it was set aside in an effort to prevent another attack. In one case, Laid Saidi, an Algerian identified in the Senate report as Abu Hudhaifa, was held in Afghanistan for 16 months. The Senate report says that he "was subjected to ice water baths and 66 hours of sleep deprivation before being released because the CIA discovered he was not the person he was believed to be."

John Sifton of Human Rights Watch notes that:

You have an agency that has been presenting itself to Congress and the public as very professional, on top of everything. The report shows that they were flying by the seat of their pants. They were making it up as they went along.

In a democratic society, non-elected government bureaucrats are responsible for carrying out the laws passed by our elected representatives in the Congress, which are thusly executed by the executive branch. In the instance of torture, we see something quite different - secret government with men and women who have not been elected by anyone, engaged in actions which are illegal, and keeping such action secret from elected officials. For four years, according to CIA records, no one from the agency ever came to the White House to give President George W. Bush a full briefing on what was happening in the dungeons of Afghanistan and Eastern Europe. For four years, interrogators stripped, slammed, soaked and otherwise abused their prisoners without informing the president - or the congressional oversight committees. Finally, in April 2006, the CIA director gave President Bush his first briefing about interrogation practices being used since 2002.

In that briefing, the president was told about one detainee being chained to the ceiling of his cell, clothed in a diaper and forced to urinate and defecate upon himself. The president is reported to have "expressed discomfort." According to the Senate report, "The CIA repeatedly provided incomplete and inaccurate information" to the White House. But it may be that the White House, and the congressional oversight committees, really didn't want to know exactly what was going on, in which case they are equally culpable.

We must, of course, recognize the fears that were widespread after 9/11 - as was the fear after Pearl Harbor. People fearful of another brutal attack often act in ways that, in a more tranquil time, would never be considered. As Sen. McCain said:

I understand the reasons that governed the decision to resort to these interrogation methods, and I know that those who approved them and those who used them were dedicated to securing justice for the victims of terrorist attacks and to protecting Americans from further harm. . . . But I dispute wholeheartedly that it was right for them to use these methods, which the report makes clear were neither in the best interests of justice nor our security nor the ideals we have sacrificed so much blood and treasure to defend.

Even in the worst of times, concluded McCain, "We are always Americans and different, stronger, and better than those who would destroy us." With the Senate report we are acknowledging before the world that in a moment of great tension and fear, we violated our own deeply held principles. We always used to say, "Americans don't torture." Hopefully, we can say this again and make certain that our government is not conducted in secret but in the light of day, as was intended by the Founding Fathers. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:52

Ramblings

Ramblings

Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Eric Cantor: New Poster-Boy for the Transition from Congressman to Well-Paid Lobbyist

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the House Majority Leader, and long-time defender of Wall Street, including bailouts of failed firms with taxpayer money, was defeated by the voters of Virginia's Seventh Congressional District. Rather that continue to fill out his congressional term until January, Cantor abruptly resigned and joined the Manhattan-based global investment bank Moelis & Company as vice chairman and managing director and will serve as a "strategic counsel." He will receive a reported $3.5 million in cash and stock.

"The news that Eric Cantor has taken a job on Wall Street comes as little surprise," says Kevin Broughton, national communications director for the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.

After Dave Brat's upset victory in June, many analysts accused Cantor of paying more attention to Wall Street than to the people of Virginia's Seventh District. He certainly didn't waste any time validating that theory.

Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) was not surprised. He said:

He's got a lot of private-sector friends he has done favors for. So I think it would be easy for him to become Eric Cantor Inc. and make a few million dollars a year.

Cantor's attractiveness to Wall Street has nothing to do with any experience managing large amounts of money. Before his first election as a state legislator in 1991, he practiced law in his family's real-estate development firm in Richmond. As The New York Times pointed out:

What he brings to that world are the connections he built in what is still known, innocently enough, as public service. From his first assignment on the Financial Services Committee, Mr. Cantor courted the favor and donations of Wall Street. He . . . personally eliminated a requirement that hedge funds disclose how they gather market-sensitive intelligence. . . . He has been well-rewarded, raising more than $3 million since 1999 from the securities and investment sector. In the last few years he has been the top congressional recipient of its generosity.

Representing Wall Street and big business, Cantor was perhaps the most persuasive advocate in Congress for the Export-Import Bank, which subsidizes certain large corporations. The Bank will exhaust its charter on Oct. 1. The new House Majority whip, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) opposes renewing the Export Import Bank charter, as does the new majority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have mounted an all-out campaign to save the Bank, but without Cantor's influence, they may not succeed.

In Congress, Eric Cantor and others in the leadership showed contempt for any members who challenged the traditional influence of Wall Street, the subsidization of big business, and the bail-out of failed enterprises. Consider their treatment of Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI). Last December, after Amash repeatedly opposed Republican budgets, congressional leaders removed him from the House Budget Committee. At a town-hall meeting in Middleville, Michigan he told those assembled: "I was kicked off the budget committee for wanting to balance the budget."

After law school at the University of Michigan, Amash began to receive daily e-mails from the Mackinac Center, a free market think-tank. "They were always pointing out how Democrats and Republicans in Lansing voted the same way on economic matters," he says.

It seemed like everyone was for industrial policy - targeted tax breaks and subsidies rather than lowering tax rates and letting markets work. I wanted to know if any economic philosophers shared my views. So I entered a few search items into Google and found myself on Hayek's Wikipedia page.

From there he went on to read The Road to Serfdom and other classics.

Sadly, Eric Cantor is far more typical of Congress than Justin Amash. Ideas and the public interest seem to take a back seat to personal advancement and enrichment. And Eric Cantor is hardly alone.

In 2009, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband, Paul, made the first of three purchases of Visa stock. Visa was holding an initial public offering, among the most lucrative ever. The Pelosis were granted early access to the IPO as "special customers" who received their shares at the opening price, $44. They turned a 50 percent profit in two days. Peter Schweitzer, a scholar at the Hoover Institution, points out that the Pelosis got their stocks just two weeks after legislation was introduced in the House that would have allowed merchants to negotiate lower interchange fees with credit card companies. Visa didn't like the bill, and Pelosi kept it bottled up for two years. During that time, the value of her Visa stock jumped 200 percent while the stock market as a whole dropped 15 percent. "Isn't crony capitalism beautiful?" Asks Schweitzer.

Soon after he retired from Congress in 2011, one of the leading liberals in Congress, Rep. William D. Delahunt (D-MA) started his own lobbying firm with an office on the 16th floor of a Boston skyscraper. One of his first clients was a small coastal town that agreed to pay him $15,000 a month for help in developing a wind energy project. While in Congress, Delahunt personally earmarked $1.7 million for the same energy project. According to The New York Times:

Today . . . his firm . . . stands to collect $90,000 or more for six months of work from the town of Hull . . . with 80 percent of it coming from the pot of money he created through a pair of Energy Department grants in his final term in office.

Members of Congress, with safe seats, now seem willing to give them up to become lobbyists and make millions. This is what Senators John Breaux (D-LA) and Trent Lott (R-MS) did. Others, such as Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO) wait to be defeated before selling their services to various special interests to influence their former colleagues.

In July, former Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) was hired as a lobbyist by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) whose interests he had long promoted in Congress. The MPAA is led by former Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT).

Former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich often criticizes big government, but has been happy to be a highly paid lobbyist in support of enlarging government dramatically when out of office - or not seeking it. Conservative columnist Timothy Carney notes that:

When Newt Gingrich says he never lobbied, he's not telling the truth. When he was a paid consultant for the drug industry's lobby group, Gingrich worked hard to persuade Republican congressmen to vote for the Medicare drug subsidy that the industry favored. . . . Newt Gingrich spent the past decade being paid by big businesses to convince conservatives to support the big government policies that would profit his clients.

Congress, for many of its members, seems something quite different from an opportunity to serve the public interest and work for the good of the community. They seem to view it as a farm team for the riches to be earned in the future by persuading their former colleagues to serve the interests of their new masters. Of course, as members of the farm team, players like Eric Cantor were doing their best to impress their future employers with bailouts, subsidies, tax breaks, whatever it took to get in their good graces and qualify for future lucrative employment. It is the rest of us, citizens and taxpayers, who pay for this corruption of our system.

Until Americans understand how this bipartisan political game works, we are unlikely to change it. Republicans and Democrats are co-conspirators in this enterprise. Thus far, we have let them get away with it. And some, like Eric Cantor, are making it pay very nicely.

One Thing Congress Has Managed to Achieve: Legalizing What Always Used to Be Viewed as Corruption

Congress for good reason is held in disrepute by most Americans. The latest Gallup Poll tells us that only 8 percent of Americans think Congress is doing a good job. It is difficult to imagine who these 8 percent might be, other than relatives or employees of those holding office.

But if Congress has no inclination to fulfill its constitutional responsibility when it comes to going to war, or to balance the budget, protect our borders, or do the many other essential tasks which are left undone, it has been successful in one area. Both Republicans and Democrats, in bipartisan cooperation, have done their best to legalize their own conduct that, in many cases, used to be viewed as corruption.

In an important new book, Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin's Snuff Box to Citizens United, Professor Zephyr Teachout of Fordham Law School argues that corruption is the most pressing problem our democracy faces. In her view, corruption, broadly understood as placing private interests over the public good in public office, is at the root of what ails American government.

The Framers themselves predicted that corruption would be a constant threat. George Mason warned "if we do not provide against corruption, our government will soon be at an end." In James Madison's notebook from the summer of 1787, the word "corruption" appears fifty-four times. Teachout writes that, "Corruption, influence, and bribery were discussed more often in the convention than factions, violence, or instability."

By corruption the Founders of the country did not mean simply the exchange of cash for a vote, what the Supreme Court in Citizens United came to call "quid pro quo corruption." Teachout reports that the word "corruption" came up hundreds of times in the Constitutional Convention and the ratification debates, yet "only a handful of uses referred to what we might now think of as quid pro quo bribes," constituting "less than one-half of one percent of the times corruption was raised."

The Framers believed that corruption involved using public office for private ends, which was the opposite of public virtue. A republican form of government required that men act as citizens concerned for the public good, not as private, self-interested individuals. The philosopher Baron de Montesquieu, who had great influence on the Founding Fathers, maintained that:

The misfortune of a republic . . . happens when the people are gained by bribery and corruption: in this case they grow indifferent to public affairs, and avarice becomes their predominant passion.

James Madison believed that without civic virtue,

. . . no theoretical checks, no form of government, can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea.

Professor David Cole of the Georgetown Law School notes that:

The concern with corruption, broadly conceived, has remained a dominant theme of American law and politics. Indeed, because of these concerns, lobbying itself was treated as illegal for much of the nation's history. This seems inconceivable in today's political culture, in which "K Street" lobbying dominates Washington's political and financial economies alike. But until the 20th century, lobbying was considered contrary to public policy. Some states such as Georgia made it a crime. And even where lobbying was not a crime, courts refused to enforce contracts for lobbying on the ground that such conduct was contrary to public policy.

Consider the 1874 case of Trist v. Child in which the Supreme Court declined to enforce a contract for lobbying. N. P. Trist, an elderly man too frail to travel to Washington, hired a lawyer, Linus Child, to try to persuade Congress to authorize payment of an 18-year-old debt owed to Trist. Trist told Child he would get one quarter of the recovery as his fee. When Child succeeded, however, Trist's son refused payment, and Child sued to recover the fee.

The Supreme Court declined to enforce the contract. Lobbying was contrary to public policy because the lobbyist was paid to advocate not for the public good, but for someone's private interest. It risked corrupting the political process. The Court reasoned that if individuals were allowed to hire lobbyists, soon corporations would be doing so, a practice "every right-minded man would instinctively denounce."

The Court declared:

If any of the great corporations of the country were to hire adventurers who make market of themselves in this way, to procure the passage of a general law with a view to the promotion of their private interests, the moral sense of every right-minded man would instinctively denounce the employer and employed as steeped in corruption, and the employment as infamous.

Now, in 2014, we see a much different picture, in which Republicans and Democrats, self-proclaimed "liberals" and "conservatives," work closely together not to advance the public interest, but to promote their own - and they have made it all legal.

In 1974 only three percent of retiring or defeated members of Congress became lobbyists. Today, that number is 42 percent for members of the House and 50 percent for Senators. In 2010 Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), after writing in The New York Times about the "corrosive system of campaign financing," joined with Andrew Card, the former Bush chief of staff, in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to lobby against corporate regulatory reform. After BP's oil spill in the Gulf BP recruited a former top spokesman for Dick Cheney and the Democratic fund-raiser Tony Podesta as lobbyists.

Two of the top three political action committee donors to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are the same: Comcast and AT&T. The former Republican Senate leader Trent Lott and former Democratic House Leader Dick Gephardt are united in lobbying for GE. And members of Congress often go to work, for million dollar salaries for the very industries they were responsible for regulating while in Congress. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantors regulated banking in Congress, and is now at work on Wall Street. And this clear conflict of interest is legal, because members of Congress, in bipartisan agreement, have made it so.

Trust in our democracy is eroding. In 1964, 29 percent of voters believed that government was "run by a few big interests looking out for themselves." By 2013, that view had grown, with 79 percent feeling that way. In 2006, 59 percent of Americans were convinced that corruption in government was widespread; by 2013, that number had jumped to 79 percent.

Since Congress writes the laws, we have seen members of both parties simply make legal what would ordinarily be viewed as simple corruption. Consider Leadership PACs, which permit politicians to solicit and spend money without the same restrictions they face when using their campaign committees. According to Peter Schweitzer, a fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, these groups have become slush funds that enable lavish lifestyles while they exist, in theory, to help members of Congress finance their own campaigns and help political allies. He cites such examples as these: Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) presided over a leadership PAC that spent $10,000 on golf at Pebble Beach, nearly $27,000 at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, and $107,752 at the Breakers resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Senator Roy Blount (R-MO) spent $65,000 at a resort at Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) used his leadership PAC to spend $64,500 on a painting of himself. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) used hers to pay for catered parties at her home several times a month.

Beyond the abuse of money, members of Congress regularly pass laws for the rest of us from which they exempt themselves. In the recent controversy over the Affordable Care Act, Americans learned that congressional staff members were to receive subsidies not available to other Americans, many with lower incomes. Traditionally, Congress has exempted itself from laws and regulations it imposes upon other Americans - from Social Security, to affirmative action, to occupational health and safety rules. Recently, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a constitutional amendment stating: "Congress shall make no law applicable to a citizen of the United States that is not equally applicable to Congress."

Much time is spent lamenting the "gridlock" in Congress. But there is bipartisan cooperation between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, when it comes to making legal what has historically been viewed as corruption, and which most Americans properly understand to be corruption today. This is something the Founding Fathers feared. Their fears have become our current reality, to the detriment of all, except the favored few who have enriched themselves at the public trough, and cleverly avoid any penalty for doing so by making their self-serving acts perfectly legal. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:48

Ramblings

Ramblings

Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Every Tragic Incident, - Such as That in Missouri - Produces Cries That America Is a "Racist" Society, but Overlooks a More Complex Reality

The killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who is black, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri led to days of demonstrations, rioting, and looting. There has been criticism of the overwhelming police response, as well as charges that racism was involved in the death of this teenager. Beyond this, many have proclaimed that this incident shows us that America is a "racist" society, and that talk of racial progress and a movement toward a genuinely "color blind" society is false.

Exactly what happened in Ferguson will be determined by a thorough investigation, including participation by the FBI and the Department of Justice. If there was wrongdoing by the police officer involved, this will be documented and appropriate action will be taken. In the meantime, we can only withhold judgment on what actually occurred.

What we can properly lament, however, is the manner in which a chorus of voices is immediately heard after every negative event telling us that racism is alive and well in almost every sector of our society. The reality is far more complex.

Typical of this phenomenon is a column in The New York Times by Charles Blow, who is black. He declares that:

The criminalization of black and brown bodies, particularly male ones, from the moment they are first introduced to the institutions and power structures with which they must interact. . . . Black male dropout rates are more than one and a half times those of white males, the bias of the educational system bleeds easily into the bias of the criminal justice system, from cops to courts to correctional facilities. The school-to-prison pipeline is complete.

Earlier this year, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights released "the first comprehensive look at civil rights from every public school in the country in nearly 15 years." Attorney General Eric Holder said:

The critical report shows that racial disparities in school discipline policies are not only well documented among older students but actually begin during pre-school.

The fact that more young black men drop out of school, that they are over-represented in our criminal justice system, and that they are more often subjected to school discipline, is not necessarily an indication of "institutional racism" in our society, as Mr. Blow and so many others rush to proclaim. There are other, much more plausible explanations.

By 2004 federal data showed that black Americans, 13 percent of the population, accounted for 37 percent of the violent crimes, 54 percent of arrests for robbery, and 51 percent for murder. Most of the victims of these violent criminals were also black. If black men are over-represented in our prison population, the reason appears to be that they are guilty of committing an over-represented amount of crime. Commentator Juan Williams, who is black, laments that:

Any mention of black America's responsibility for committing the crimes, big and small, that lead so many people to prison is barely mumbled, if mentioned at all.

In a column titled "Our Selective Outrage," The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, who is black, notes that:

The killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown has rightly provoked widespread outrage, drawing international media attention and prompting a comment from President Obama. The same should be true, but tragically is not, of the killing of 3-year-old Knijah Amore Bibb. Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri; Knijah died the following day in Landover, Maryland. Both victims were African American. Both had their whole lives before them. The salient difference is that Brown was shot to death by a white police officer, according to witnesses, while the fugitive suspect in Bibb's killing is a 25-year-old black man with a long criminal record.

Robinson points to statistics showing the dimensions of the problem. According to the FBI, in 2012, the last year for which figures are available, 2,614 whites were killed by white offenders, and 2,412 blacks were killed by black offenders, similar numbers. "But," writes Robinson,

. . . the non-Hispanic white population is almost five times as large as the African American population, meaning the homicide rate in black communities is staggeringly higher. . . . We need to get angry before we have to mourn the next Knijah Bibb.

It is not "white racism" which causes black-on-black crime, and it may be something other than racism that causes disciplinary disparities and the number of school dropouts, The breakdown of the black family is a more likely cause for such disparities.

In 1940, the black rate of out-of-wedlock birth was around 14 percent. Now, it's 75 percent. In 1870, right after slavery, 70 to 80 percent of black families were intact. Today, after segregation came to an end and the enactment of legislation making racial discrimination illegal, and myriad affirmative action programs, 70 percent of black children have single mothers, and estimates are that an even larger percentage will grow up without a father in the home.

Blaming the problems we confront on "racism" misses the point of the real dilemmas we face. Attorney General Holder does black Americans no favor by ignoring the disintegration of the black family in explaining disparities in school dropouts and disciplinary problems. White racism is not, somehow, compelling out-of-wedlock birth in the black community, a far more plausible causative factor in statistical disparities than blaming an amorphous "institutional racism."

What was missing in the response to developments in Missouri, which included rioting and arson, and cries of "No Justice, No Peace," was "the calming voice of a national civil rights leader of the kind that was so impressive during the 1950s and 1960s," writes author Joseph Epstein:

In those days, there were Martin Luther King, Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, Whitney Young of the National Urban League, Bayard Rustin of the A. Philip Randolph Institute - all solid, serious men, each impressive in different ways, who through dignified forbearance and strategic action, brought down a body of unequivocally immoral laws aimed at America's black population.

The NAACP, the Urban League, and the SCLC still exist, notes Epstein,

. . . . yet few people are likely to know the names of their leaders. That is because no black leader has come forth to set out a program for progress for the substantial part of the black population that has remained for generations in the slough of poverty, crime, and despair. . . . In Chicago, where I live, much of the murder and crime that has captured the interest of the media is black-on-black and cannot be chalked up to racism. Except when Bill Cosby, Thomas Sowell, or Shelby Steele and a few others have dared to speak about the pathologies at work, and for doing so these black figures are castigated.

Soon enough, exactly what happened in Ferguson, Missouri will become clear and the matter will be resolved through our legal system. It will take a much longer time before our society begins to confront the real causes of the racial disparities and pathologies which are all too easily, and falsely, attributed to "white racism." Until we do, the sad story of Ferguson is likely to happen again and again.

Ferguson, Missouri: Making Things Worse with Al Sharpton Fanning the Flames

The unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, unleashed by the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, is being made worse by the involvement of the usual racial demagogues such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who wasted no time making their way to Missouri.

Exactly what happened in this case is not yet known. Investigations by local police, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department will, in the end, make all of this clear. If the police officer in this case acted improperly, he will face the criminal justice system, as he should.

But the Sharpton/Jackson rhetoric makes things worse, encourages violence, and is far from the truth. Jason Riley of The Wall Street Journal, who is black, points out that:

There's this false narrative being pushed out there by folks like Michael Eric Dyson and Al Sharpton and the rest of the hustlers that black men live in fear of being shot by cops in these neighborhoods. That too is nonsense. I know something about growing up black and male in the inner city and it's not that hard to avoid getting shot by a cop. They pull you over, you answer their questions and you are on your way.

In Riley's view,

The real difficulty is getting shot by other black people, if you are a young black man in those neighborhoods. That is something we need to talk more about. Cops are not the problem. Cops are not producing these black bodies in the morgues every weekend in Chicago, in New York, and Detroit. That's not cops. That's other black people killing black people.

Al Sharpton, who now has his own show on MSNBC and presents himself to the world as a clergyman, "Rev. Al," has built his career on denigrating the police. He first became famous in 1987, with his biggest lie about police officers.

The facts of the case, which he falsely used to accuse white police officers of racism and brutality, are these: Tawana Brawley, 16, was found November 28, 1987, outside an apartment in Wappingers Falls, New York that had recently been vacated by her family. Her body was smeared with feces and had racial slurs written on it. She claimed she had been held captive for four days and raped by a group of white men, some of who were police officers.

Sheriff's deputies took Brawley to St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie. After examining her, a female doctor determined that she had not been raped. A rape kit exam later confirmed this.

Miss Brawley, with the advice and encouragement of a group of advisers, Al Sharpton prominent among them, refused to testify before a grand jury. In October 1988, a grand jury concluded that Brawley had apparently concocted the entire story. The 170-page report said that there was "no evidence that any actual assault had occurred," and suggested that the girl herself was responsible for the condition in which she was found after a four-day disappearance.

During the period between November, 1987, and the grand jury report almost a year later, the Brawley family refused to cooperate in any way with the investigation, accusing authorities of engaging in a racially-motivated "cover-up."

The grand jury declared:

. . . there is nothing in regard to Tawana Brawley's appearance on November 28 that is inconsistent with this condition having been self-inflicted.

The panel also found that there was no evidence whatever of a cover-up by law enforcement officials. Miss Brawley's mother, Glenda, was sentenced to 30 days in jail for defying a subpoena to testify before the grand jury, but she defied arrest by living in a church.

For nearly a year the Brawley case was in the news. The American judicial system and, in particular, law enforcement agencies in New York, were accused of "racism." Without a bit of evidence, the media took such charges seriously and transformed Miss Brawley's "advisors" - Sharpton and lawyers Alton Maddox, Jr. and C. Vernon Mason - into celebrities and, in New York City, almost household names. They appeared on the leading T.V. shows of the day (Phil Donohue's, Morton Downey's, Geraldo's) and were featured in Time and Newsweek, The New York Times and The Washington Post, not to mention the regular banner headlines in such tabloids as The New York Post and The Daily News.

Echoing what we are hearing in Missouri at the present time, radical attorney William Kunstler went so far as to say that it really didn't matter whether the alleged attack on Tawana Brawley ever took place. He declared:

It makes no difference any more whether the attack on Tawana happened. If her story was a concoction to prevent her parents from punishing her for staying out all night, that doesn't disguise the fact that a lot of young black women are treated the way she said she was treated. The advisors now have an issue with which they can grab the headlines.

What Sharpton and his colleagues proceeded to do was raise a great deal of money to achieve "justice" in the Tawana Brawley case, just as they are doing now in Missouri. Investigating this hoax cost the taxpayers of New York approximately $1 million.

The real story, of course, was that there was no story. Perry McKinnon, who broke ranks with the advisors, declared that: "The Tawana Brawley story may be that there is no Tawana Brawley story." He said that he went to Newburgh, fifteen miles from Wappingers Falls, and found youths who claimed that they had seen Brawley in the neighborhood partying at the time of the alleged abduction. Al Sharpton is alleged to have told McKinnon that, almost from the outset, he believed that Tawana Brawley's story "sounded like bull ____."

Yet the media and much of the civil rights establishment eagerly embraced the Brawley hoax. In article entitled "The Brawley Fiasco" (New York Magazine, July 18, 1988), Edwin Diamond writes that "the great paradox" of the entire affair is that it had been "encouraged by the authorities and the media." He declares:

For months, "the white power structure" - as Sharpton calls it - all but propped up the "advisors'" shaky scenarios. The governor and the attorney general, their eyes on electoral politics as well as the case, gave the appearance of trying to avoid offense to any constituency, black or white. The New York television stations and the city's three tabloids, all locked into tight competition, amplified almost every wild utterance from the Brawley camp. Reporters muttered privately about McCarthyite big-lie techniques, but the Brawley family's spokesmen had access to what the media wanted: the story everyone was talking about.

Al Sharpton's Tawana Brawley hoax cannot be considered victimless. There were victims. One, of course, was the truth itself. Others were those who suffer from the real racism which may exist in American society and which will be taken less seriously in the face of false cries of a phony case such as this. Those who embraced the lies of the Brawley case, particularly those in the media who promoted and transmitted them, have trivialized racism in the most extreme manner.

Now, in 2014, we have a 24-hour cable news megaphone. Sadly, Al Sharpton continues to fan the flames of racial division along with his current colleagues. Many younger Americans may not know that Sharpton's career was built on the big lie of the Tawana Brawley case. Before they take seriously what he says today, they should review his record. Heat, not light, is his trademark.

Hopefully, justice will be done in Ferguson, Missouri. The racial demagoguery of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the others make the search for the truth more difficult. They would do well to heed President Obama's words: "Let me call once again for us to seek some understanding, rather than simply holler at one another." Hollering, however, is what they continue to do, and they have found a way to make it pay. It is the rest of us, and truth and justice, who are the losers. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:46

Ramblings

Ramblings

Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Why Is New York's Mayor - A Self-Proclaimed "Progressive" - Challenging School Choice for Minorities and the Poor?

New York City's mayor, William De Blasio, repeatedly tells us that he is a "progressive," committed to making life better for minorities and the poor. Yet, ever since coming to office in January, he has launched a crusade against a vehicle that has the ability to rescue poor and minority children from failing public schools. That vehicle is charter schools, which are elementary or secondary schools that receive public money but have been freed from some of the rules, requirements, and regulations that apply to other public schools.

Last year, 82 percent of the students at a charter school called Success Academy, in Harlem, passed citywide mathematics exams, compared with 30 percent of the students in the city as a whole.

The first Success Academy opened in 2006, and the network, which is supported by both private and public funds, is now the largest charter-school group in New York City, with a thousand employees and 22 schools. Last fall, Mayor Bloomberg approved 45 proposals for 2014, including eight for Success Academy schools that wanted to "co-locate" - that is, move to underused space in public school buildings. Now, Mayor De Blasio has reversed nine of those decisions.

Andrew Malone, the principal of Success Academy Harlem Central, points out that on state tests, Success Academy students score far above average. "And yet, no one from the Mayor's office is asking us, 'How do you do it?'"

Charter schools around the country, argues Thomas Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University,

. . . have given thousands of low-income minority children their only shot at a decent education, which often means their only chance at a decent life. . . . Why would anybody who has any concern about minority young people - or even common decency - want to destroy what progress has already been made?

Dr. Sowell, who is black, notes that:

One big reason is the teachers' unions, one of Mr. De Blasio's biggest supporters. . . . The teachers' unions see charter schools as a threat to their members' jobs, and politicians respond to the money and the votes the teachers' unions can provide. The net result is that public schools are often run as though their main function is to provide jobs for teachers. Whether the children get a decent education is secondary, at best. . . . Not all charter schools are successful, of course, but the ones that are completely undermine the excuses for failure in the public school system as a whole. . . . Charter schools take power from politicians and bureaucrats, letting parents decide where their children will go to school.

The fact is that in an era of more enlightened teacher union leaders, charter schools were welcomed. When Albert Shanker headed the New York teachers' union, he viewed himself as an education reformer, not an advocate of a status quo that was failing poor and minority students. He believed that charter schools were to be viewed as "laboratories" of success - models for traditional public schools to emulate.

Paul Hoss, a retired public school teacher and author of Common Sense: The Missing Link in Education Reform, asks:

If Success Academy charter schools have proved to be so helpful to so many poor minority youngsters across New York City, why have neither the Bloomberg or De Blasio administration ever attempted to take this model to scale so more youngsters could benefit? . . . How about putting politics aside and doing what's best for the children of your great city?

Even many liberals have expressed dismay with Mayor De Blasio's hostility to charter schools. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen writes:

De Blasio seems cool on charter schools. He has said they have a "destructive impact" on the school system and in his campaign, demanded that they pay rent for using public school facilities. As a result, charters have become emblematic of the "two cities" mantra - one really rich, the other disproportionately poor. The rich are characterized as having their way with the school system for their own benefit. The hostility is so illogical it has to be based on raw resentment. Pardon me for suspecting that some charter school critics would rather hurt the rich than help the poor.

Under Mayor De Blasio, in Cohen's view,

New York is witnessing progressivism run amok. So far the damage has been minimal and the pushback has been fierce, but charters are in a real fight. Say what you will about New York or Washington charters, but by the usual measurements - test scores, etc. - they are succeeding, some of them stunningly so. Maybe in time the gains will prove ephemeral and failure is just over the horizon. Still, that's better than the old system. With it, failure was a certainty.

Consider the record of the Eagle Academy schools, a consortium of five schools, four of them in New York and one in Newark. The schools educate boys, mostly black and poor. The schools operate in conjunction with their own foundation, which raises about $1 million annually to help pay for the staff required to hold longer school days, offer intensive college counseling, and provide mentoring programs. Last year, on standardized tests for students in the sixth to eighth grades, only about 13 percent of black boys scored as proficient as opposed to just under 30 percent for students citywide. Across its network of schools, Eagle sent 82 percent of last year's graduating class to college, a rate significantly higher than college enrollment for black male students across the country.

The founder of New York's Success Academy, Eve Moskowitz, says that:

I have some sympathy for the view that says, '"Why can't we have one system that works for everyone?" But, speaking empirically, our system is broken. . . . I've offered to speak with the mayor many times. We disagree on some things, but I take him at his word when he says he wants to work on inequality. Although a little humility in his part would help.

Giving poor and minority students a choice of where to go to school - a choice which more affluent students already have - should be a natural cause for a "progressive" like Bill De Blasio to embrace. Why he finds himself on the opposite side, is something he will have to explain if he continues his campaign against New York's charter schools. The same is true for the Obama administration, which has cut spending for charter schools in the District of Columbia, and whose Justice Department has intervened to try to stop the state of Louisiana from expanding its charter schools. Charter schools and other forms of school choice - such as vouchers - may not be a panacea, but they do appear to be an important step in the right direction.

Jon Utley at 80: From the Beginning, A Life Touched by the Tragedies of 20th Century History

Recently, Jon Utley, a friend of this writer for more than forty years, celebrated his 80th birthday. During his life, Jon has been a successful businessman, a prolific writer, a commentator for Voice of America, and now serves as publisher of The American Conservative. After living for fifteen years in Latin America, Jon published widely on Communism and third world economic development, including for, among others, The Harvard Business Review, The Washington Post, and The Times of the Americas.

Jon's personal story is that of a man who, from the beginning, was touched by the tragedies of the 20th century. It begins with his mother, the prominent author Freda Utley, also for many years a close friend.

Born in England, Freda's social conscience in the 1920s and early 30s caused her to accept the Communist answers to the social problems of that time. Later, she married Arcadi Berdichevsky, a Russian Jew, and went to live in Moscow, where she witnessed the realities of what Communism in practice was really like. After her husband was arrested by Stalin's police, she returned to the West and told the world the truth about Communism in her book, The Dream We Lost.

Jon was two years old when his father was taken by the Moscow secret police in the middle of the night and was sentenced to a Soviet labor camp. We now know that Arcadi was executed two years later for being one of the leaders of a hunger strike, a fact that Jon discovered only several years ago when he traveled to Russia to learn the fate of his father. At a birthday celebration for Jon at the Metropolitan Club in Washington, D.C., I was one of the speakers. Among other things, I declared that, "Every man who has an untold story, needs a son like Jon to discover the truth and tell it to the world." Jon took a film crew from Boston College to Russia and produced an excellent motion picture telling the story of his father's fate.

Freda Utley discovered the evil of Communism while many intellectuals in the West were of the opinion that a workers' paradise was being created in the Soviet Union. She became a "premature anti-Communist," and her life was radically altered as a result. When she came to America, she found that, despite her impressive academic credentials, the doors to the academy were closed to her, as were most literary outlets.

Her father used to recount a story about his bachelor days. His "laundress," as the temple charwomen were called, had come to him one day with a woebegone face and said: "Sir, you have seen my pretty daughter?" "Yes, and a nice attractive girl she is." "Well, Sir, a terrible thing has happened; she has fallen and I don't know what to do." After Freda's father had commiserated with her, she remarked with a Juliet's nurse smirk: "She would fall again for a trifle."

In her memoir Odyssey of a Liberal, written in 1970, Freda points out that,

In later years I often recalled this story because it seemed apposite to the behavior of many liberal "fellow travelers" of our time. After first falling for the lure of Communist promises of a good time to be had by all and later disillusioned with "Uncle Joe Stalin" after the war, they are still today all too ready to "fall for a trifle," whenever it suits the Kremlin's purpose to appear conciliatory.

Freda Utley presented some insight into two of the intellectual giants of her time, George Bernard Shaw and Bertrand Russell. Shaw was blind to Communism's real nature, while Russell understood it very clearly. She recounts that when she returned to England in 1931 for a brief visit, she stayed with the Russells in Hampshire and

. . . I believed that the horrible society I was living in (Russia) was Stalin's creation and that if Lenin had lived or if Trotsky's policies had been followed, all would have been well. Bertie would bang his fist on the table and say, "No! Freda, can't you understand even now that the conditions you describe followed naturally from Lenin's premises and Lenin's acts. Will you never learn and stop being romantic about politics?

Later on, when Freda tried to enlist the help of George Bernard Shaw in gaining her husband's release from the Soviet prison, Shaw wrote on July 8, 1937, that

. . . five years will not last forever, that imprisonment under the Soviet is not as bad as it is here in the West; and that when I was in Russia and enquired about certain engineers who had been sentenced to 10 years for sabotage, I learnt that they were at large and in high favor after serving two years of their sentence.

Freda Utley's path diverged from those intellectuals who remained unaware of Communism's true nature because she put her own beliefs to the test. She writes that

. . . it was precisely because they never fully committed themselves to the Communist cause that they continued to believe in it. Those of us who fully engage ourselves in the causes we believe in submit our ideals to the hard test of personal experience. By publicly professing our opinions, we risk being proved wrong, or being defeated, and have to take our punishment. But those who refrain from risking their "lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor" in any cause . . . have no right to call themselves idealists or liberals.

Jon has followed in his mother's footsteps in being an individual of high principle who has tried to learn from history - and to think for himself, rejecting the ideological blinders worn by too many on both the left and right. When the Cold War ended, there were some, in his view, who wanted to keep us on a war footing, and searched for new enemies to fight. Jon became a vigorous opponent of what he viewed as costly and unnecessary military adventures, as in Iraq. Devoted to individual liberty, he lamented the embrace of so many who called themselves conservatives for the Patriot Act, which put limits on individual freedom in the name of "national security." He opposed the idea of an American "Empire," and embraced the ideal of the American "Republic."

Freda Utley lamented the manner in which Palestinians were dispossessed in 1948 as a result of the creation of Israel. She noted that

Most of my enduring friendships have been with Jewish men and women. . . . Today, survivors of the Nazi concentration camps supported by international Jewry have themselves become super-nationalists convinced that their salvation lies with a "blood and soil" Israeli state in Palestine, founded at the price of expulsion and expropriation of its Arab inhabitants. The Zionists have repudiated the international outlook of the Jews who were my closest friends.

Jon, who strongly identifies with that part if his background which is Jewish, seeks a just peace in the Middle East which would be fair to Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Palestine and has long urged an even-handed U.S. policy in the region.

A graduate of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Jon speaks four languages. After studying in Germany during the Allied occupation, he learned French in Paris. Later, he worked in Latin America. While based in Peru, Jon became a foreign correspondent for Knight-Ridder newspapers and married his Peruvian wife Anna.

In Febuary, 1936, Freda wrote a letter from Moscow to her mother in England. Jon was two years old:

We wished so much that you were here to see Jon. We were having dinner. First, he climbed upon his chair himself, took a plate, put it down in front of him and demanded tatoes (potatoes). He ate them beautifully himself with a fork, and then, when he had finished, he reached for cigarettes, took one, put it in his mouth and said, "mak, mak" (match). All perfectly serious and naturally! So you see what kind of grandson you have! You always said he shouldn't smoke till he was 3. It was so funny we couldn't stop laughing. He has begun to say quite a lot of words. He also says "come here" as "Komm" (German) Sude (Russian). He speaks a lot - a real Utley says Arcadi - but one can't tell what language he is trying to speak.

Now we all know what kind of grandson Freda's mother had. He has kept the ideals of his mother and father alive and has brought them into the 21st century. They would all be proud.

Jon arrived in America when he was five. He still remembers sailing into New York City and seeing the skyline and the Statue of Liberty. We were certainly lucky to get him.

Happy birthday, Jon. All of us look forward to many more. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:40

Ramblings

Ramblings

Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

"Being White in Philly" Explores "Whites, Race and the Things That Never Get Said"

The March 2013 issue of Philadelphia Magazine features a cover article, "Being White In Philly," with the sub-head, "Whites, Race, Class and the Things That Never Get Said."

Written by Robert Huber, the article explains how white and black Philadelphians live in largely separate worlds - and rarely communicate frankly with one another.

According to Huber:

White Philadelphians think a great deal about race. Begin to talk with people, and it's clear it's a dominant motif in and around our city. Everyone seems to have a story, often an uncomfortable story, about how white and black people relate.

The author provides a number of examples of such inter-actions. In one case:

Dennis, 26, teaches math in a Kensington school. His first year there, fresh out of college, one of his students, an unruly eighth grader, got into a fight with a girl. Dennis told him to stop, he got into Dennis's face, and in the heat of the moment Dennis called the student, an African-American, a "boy." The student went home and told his step-father. The step-father demanded a meeting with the principal and Dennis, and accused Dennis of being racist. The principal defended his teacher. Dennis apologized, knowing how loaded the term "boy" was and regretting that he'd used it, though he was thinking, "Why would I be teaching at an inner-city school if I'm a racist?" The stepfather calmed down, and that would have been the end of it, except for one thing: The student's behavior got worse. Because now he knew that no one at school could do anything, no matter how badly he behaved.

Relations between black and white Philadelphians, in Huber's view, are characterized by:

Confusion, misread intentions, bruised feelings - everyone has a race story. . . . There's a dance I do when I go to the Wawa (a convenience store) on Germantown Avenue. I find myself being overly polite. Each time I hold the door a little too long for a person of color. . . . On one level such self-consciousness and hypersensitivity can be seen as progress when it comes to race, a sign of how much attitudes have shifted for the better, a symbol of our desire for things to be better. And yet, lately, I've come to fear that the opposite might be true: that our carefulness is, in fact, at the heart of the problem.

Fifty years after the height of the civil rights movement, more than 25 years after electing its first African American mayor, Huber argues that Philadelphia:

. . . remains a largely segregated city, with uneasy boundaries in culture and understanding. . . . Everyone might have a race story, but few whites risk the third-rail danger of speaking publicly about race, given the long, troubled history of race relations. . . . Race is only talked about in a sanitized form, when it's talked about at all, with actual thoughts and feelings buried. . . . Race remains the elephant in the room, even on the absurd level of who holds the door to enter a convenience store.

Many racial interactions reported in this article show ill-will being demonstrated on both sides of the racial divide. White students in predominantly African American schools, for example, report being singled out for a variety of race-based harassments. The level of racial division and segregation in contemporary Philadelphia, which is mirrored in many other American urban areas, is, in many ways, incongruous with a society in which we have elected - and re-elected, a black president. Throughout contemporary America - in government, business, sports, entertainment, every sector of society, men and women advance on the basis of individual ability, regardless of race. Yet, for many, segregation remains an unfortunate fact of life.

"We need to bridge the conversational divide," concludes Robert Huber:

. . . so that there are no longer two private dialogues in Philadelphia - white people talking to other whites, and black people to blacks - but a city in which it is okay to speak openly about race. That feels like a lot to ask, a leap of faith for everyone. It also seems like the only place to go, the necessary next step. . . . Meanwhile when I drive to North Philly to visit my son (a Temple University student who lives in a predominantly black neighborhood), I continue to feel both profoundly sad and a blind desire to escape. Though I wonder: Am I allowed to say even that.

Philadelphia Magazine and Robert Huber have given us much to think about - as our country becomes increasingly diverse. Unless Americans of all races and ethnicities begin to speak openly and frankly with one another we will lack the cohesiveness necessary to bind our society together. We have come a great distance from the years of segregation, through which many contemporary Americans lived. This article shows us that there are still problems to be addressed and resolved - on the part of both white and black Americans. We have made significant strides in moving toward a color-blind society - something men and women of good will have long hoped to achieve. That some problems still remain does not make our achievements any less significant and noteworthy, and we continue to provide an example to the world - where the very idea of American nationality is not based upon common race, ethnic background or religion - but on a common commitment to live in a free and open society and bear its responsibilities. In this sense, despite problems that exist, America is genuinely something new and unique in the world.

Father's Day with Bill Cosby, an American Original

This Father's Day, I was invited by my son Burke and his fiance, Amelia, to attend a performance by Bill Cosby at Wolftrap National Park for the Performing Arts in Northern Virginia. Cosby proclaimed himself "old" - soon to celebrate his 76th birthday - but he sat on stage for nearly three hours, without a break, and there was never a lull in the laughter.

Cosby is truly an American original. Born in Philadelphia, he and his family lived in the Richard Allen Homes, a low-income housing project. He started shining shoes at nine and later found a job at a supermarket. Despite their hardships, Cosby's mother stressed the value of education and learning. She often read to Bill and his brothers, including the works of Mark Twain. While a student at Temple University, he landed a job as a bartender at a coffee house. He told jokes there and eventually landed work filling in for the house comedian from time to time at a nearby club. The rest is history.

In 1965, when he was cast alongside Robert Culp in the "I Spy" espionage series, he became the first African-American co-star in a dramatic series. At the beginning of the 1965 season, a number of stations declined the show. It quickly became a hit.

He later starred in his own sitcom, "The Bill Cosby Show," and was one of the major performers on the children's T.V. series, "The Electric Company," and created the educational cartoon comedy series, "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids," about a group of young friends growing up in the city.

During the 1980s, Cosby produced and starred in "The Cosby Show," which aired eight seasons from 1984 to 1992. It was the number one show in America for five straight seasons (1985-89). The sitcom highlighted the experiences and growth of an affluent African American family. In 1976, Cosby earned a Ph.D in Education from the University of Massachusetts. His dissertation discussed the use of "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" as a teaching tool in elementary schools.

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante included Bill Cosby in the book, The 100 Greatest African Americans.

One thing Bill Cosby has little patience for is political correctness or the politics of racial polarization embraced by some in the black community.

In 2004, on the fiftieth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, Cosby addressed three thousand of black America's elite at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Cosby called on black Americans to keep their self-help traditions alive. His speech challenged black Americans to take a hard look at poor parenting and the cultural rot preventing too many black children from throwing off the veil of ignorance covering them, including disproportionate fatherlessness, bad schools, high rates of unemployment, and lives wasted in jails. In his talk, Cosby was critical of African Americans who put their priorities on sports, fashion, and "acting hard," rather than on education, self-respect, and self-improvement. He pleaded for black families to educate their children in many different aspects of American culture.

Speaking of the generation of civil rights leaders, be declared:

. . . these people opened doors, they gave us the rights. But today. . . in our cities we have fifty percent dropout (rates among young black men) in our neighborhoods. We have (the highest percentage of any American racial group with) men in prison. No longer is a person embarrassed because (she is) pregnant without a husband. No longer is a boy considered an embarrassment if he tries to run away from being the father.

Cosby told his audience that the problems weighing down black America fifty years after the Brown decision, had nothing to do with white people or the racism of the past. "We can't blame white people," he said:

They've got to wonder what the hell happened. . . . These people who marched and were hit in the face with rocks and punched in the face to get an education and today we got these knuckleheads walking around who don't want to learn English. . . . These people are not funny any more, And that's not my brother. And that's not my sister. They're faking and they're dragging me down because the state, the city . . . have to pick up the tab because they don't want to accept that they have to study to get an education.

The immediate reaction to Cosby that night was a standing ovation. Later, he came under attack from some in the civil rights establishment. The respected black journalist Juan Williams noted that:

Cosby had broken with the civil rights establishment's orthodoxy of portraying blacks as victims. That was the reason no other modern black leader or personality had previously pointed out the obvious problems bedeviling black America. Cosby had broken the code of silence.

Three weeks after he ignited the debate, Cosby kept a commitment to appear at the annual convention of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. Speaking to the Chicago activists, Cosby responded to criticism that he had betrayed the black community by exposing problems of the black poor to the world:

Let me tell you something. Your dirty laundry gets out of school at two thirty every day. It's cursing and calling each other nigger as they walk up and down the street. They think they're hip. They can't read; they can't write. They're laughing and giggling and they're going nowhere.

When he was pressed about taking the pressure off white people and continued racism, he got fiery. This is the time to "turn the mirror around," he said.

. . . Because for me it is almost analgesic to talk about what the white man is doing against us. And it keeps a person frozen in their seat, it keeps you frozen in the hole you are sitting in.

His words were greeted with thunderous applause.

Juan Williams writes that:

The essence of the negative behavior he was railing against was behavior that the NAACP, the black church, the Jesse Jackson activists, and the black intellectuals had long ago decided not to address. Not one civil rights group took up Cosby's call for marches and protests against drug dealers, pregnant teens, deadbeat dads, and hate-filled rap music that celebrates violence. The only saving grace was that he had built up such a deep reservoir of goodwill that the official black leadership still didn't launch a public attack. They simply ignored him.

In his book Enough, Williams writes:

Cosby recounted to this author a conversation among teenaged boys he visited in a classroom. The boys told him they did not expect to live beyond the age of twenty-eight - some of them said twenty-five. "If you don't expect to be alive beyond twenty-five, it is easy to do certain things, like make a lot of babies without worrying about taking care of them," said Cosby. "You don't care if you give AIDS to a woman. And the women don't care if they have baby after baby, because they don't believe they are going to raise those babies." And there is no shame, he added. When he grew up in Philadelphia, Cosby said, a man who got a woman pregnant without marrying her often left town or went in the military or to a reform school. Now it's acceptable behavior, celebrated in hip-hop's corrosive culture.

Bill Cosby is an American original. Now, approaching 76, he is touring the country with his show. It was a treat to see him on Father's Day.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:39

Ramblings

Ramblings

Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Focusing Attention on the Real Impediments to Black Progress

In February, President Obama launched an initiative for black young men. As he announced a $200 million, five-year initiative, "My Brother's Keeper," he declared:

I didn't have a dad in the house. And I was angry about it, even though I didn't necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn't always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short.

He called the challenge of ensuring success for young men of color a "moral issue for our country" as he presented troubling statistics: black boys are more likely to be suspended from school, less likely to be able to read, and almost certain to encounter the criminal justice system as either a perpetrator or a victim. "These statistics should break our hearts," he said, "and they should compel us to act."

The president challenged black men to do better themselves, and said they must not make excuses for their failures or blame society for the poor decisions they have already made:

You will have to reject the cynicism that says the circumstances of your birth or society's lingering injustices necessarily define you and your future. It will take courage, but you will have to tune out the naysayers who say if the deck is stacked against you, you might as well just give up or settle into the stereotype. Nothing will be given to you.

In a show of support, leaders from more than a dozen nonprofit foundations and executives from some of the nation's largest companies joined the president, along with Magic Johnson, the retired basketball superstar, and Gen. Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State.

The initiative features $200 million worth of commitments by organizations such as the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies to invest in programs that help young black and Hispanic men.

Some black critics have argued that the problems faced by young African Americans are primarily a result of racism in American society. Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of African and African-American studies at Duke, for example, said the president's initiative did not focus enough on the more systemic forms of racism in America. He said:

These young men weren't killed because of structural situations that didn't give them opportunities. It's other kinds of racism that those boys were dealing with. The initiative is not addressing those things.

No problem in society can be properly addressed if it is misdiagnosed. To blame "racism" for the problems of young black men addressed by President Obama is to miss the point of what is, in fact, taking place in contemporary American society. This is not to say that no racism exists - that it has been completely eliminated from our society. Sadly, wherever men and women of diverse backgrounds live together, tensions are often to be found. It is to say, however, that the real dilemma is more complex.

The reality is, as the respected black economist Walter Williams points out:

. . . that black Americans as a group have made some of the largest gains over some of the highest hurdles in the shortest time of any group in history. If black Americans were a nation, they would be the sixteenth richest on earth. Some of the richest, and most famous, people in the world are black Americans. Colin Powell led the mightiest army in human history. In 1865 neither a slave nor a slave owner would have believed this kind of progress was possible in a little over a century, if ever. As such it speaks to the intestinal fortitude of a people and, just as important, to the greatness of the nation where such gains were possible - gains that would have been impossible anywhere except in the United States.

Yet, Williams notes:

For many blacks, these gains are elusive - perhaps for 30 percent of our community. It does the poor no favors to blame their problems on racism - which has been diminishing as the pathologies got worse. In 1940, the black illegitimacy rate was around 14 percent. Now, it's 75 percent. In 1870, right after slavery, 70 to 80 percent of black families were intact. Now, only 30 percent of black kids live in two-parent families. Some 51 percent of homicide victims are black, as are 95 percent of their killers. You can't blame this on white people. The rotten schools black kids attend are mostly in cities where black adults are in control and spending a lot of taxpayers' money on those schools.

Census statistics indicate that nearly 70 percent of black children have single mothers, and estimates are that an even larger percentage will grow up without a father in the home. As comedian Bill Cosby said during a visit to Milwaukee, a city with a high murder rate, black children are hurt by the absence of parents and eagerly follow any example of leadership - from gangs to older friends to parents who offer bad examples. So they get a gun, and then, as Cosby described it

. . . you're asking for trouble . . . you have guns in the hands of people who are already angry because they've been abandoned by a father or mother, or they have lives with very low self-esteem, the anger level is so high.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times in June 2004, Cosby asked:

What can the future hold for us with a 50-percent high school dropout rate in many urban areas and with a 60-percent illiteracy rate among inmates and a prison population that is 45 percent black?

His goal in speaking out at the time of the commemoration of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, said Cosby, was to "ignite righteous indignation" as a basis for action against this scourge. He was embraced by Washington, D.C.'s police chief Charles Ramsay (now police chief of Philadelphia). Ramsay, who is black, declared:

I'm with you 100 percent. Behavior has to change. Responsibility for your own behavior has to change. We have people who just let TV and video games and music raise their kids and instill values . . . and then we wonder why we have a problem.

Within the black community more and more respected voices are speaking out against those who tend to blame the problems we face upon "white racism." In his book Enough, the journalist and commentator Juan Williams laments that in the face of mounting crime rates:

. . . civil rights and black church leaders pointed a finger at white cops, prosecutors, judges, and jailers as the source of the black crime problem. They said the increase in incarcerated black people was largely the result of an unfair increase in sentences for drug possession and drug dealing as part of the late-1970s and early-1980s "war on drugs.". . . Instead of speaking out against gangs, drug dealers, and pimps - and the clothes and hip-hop music that celebrated these outlaws as black heroes - left-wing intellectuals preached against the sins of the white racist American establishment.

Williams laments that:

Never a word was spoken about the need for black Americans to take up their own war on drugs and on crime as a matter of personal responsibility. And no one testified that crime by black hands undercut the advances in racial justice and the opportunities opened up by the great civil rights movement. . . . By 2004 federal data showed that black Americans - 13 percent of the population - accounted for 37 percent of the violent crimes, 54 percent of arrests for robbery, and 51 percent of murders. Most of the victims of these violent criminals were their fellow black people. . . . Oddly, the increase in the black prison population begins around the time of the 1954 Brown decision. At the start of the 1950s, 65 percent of all state and federal prisoners were white and 35 percent were black. At mid-century, poverty, bad housing, racist cops, legal discrimination, and high unemployment all were cited as the reasons that the percentage of black people in prison was more than triple the percentage of black people in the nation. By the end of the century the percentage of white prisoners had declined to 35 percent, while the black inmate population approached 50 percent. Something terrible had happened.

If the "My Brother's Keeper" initiative seeks to examine the real dynamics at work in the problems faced by young people in minority communities, all of us will be the beneficiaries. If it simply recites the clichs of the past, it will not move us forward. All Americans have an interest in promoting the upward mobility of all our citizens. But a proper diagnosis of the problems we face is essential if we are to succeed.

Economic Inequality, Upward Mobility, and the Decline of the American Family

The subject on everyone's lips at the present time seems to be growing income inequality and a decline in upward mobility. President Obama appears ready to make this question central to the remainder of his term.

There are, of course, many examples of excess at the top. JPMorgan Chase, after a year immersed in scandal, has decided to award its chief executive, Jamie Dimon, $20 million in compensation for 2013. This amount is 74 percent higher than the $11.5 million he earned in 2012. Under his leadership, JPMorgan suffered a series of major legal setbacks, including a record $13 billion settlement with the Justice Department. JPMorgan, under Dimon's leadership, paid this amount to resolve allegations that the bank knowingly sold faulty mortgage securities that contributed to the nation's financial crisis. Other senior executives at the bank got lush compensation packages as well.

Wall Street, which played fast and loose with the nation's economy, was bailed out by the U.S. Government. American taxpayers were called upon to pay the bills for financial institutions that failed. This is hardly free enterprise at work. What would Adam Smith - or Milton Friedman - think of the concept of "too big to fail?" They might have a name for it, but it wouldn't be free-market capitalism. The excessive salaries earned by those who presided over failed institutions which taxpayers rescued is certainly a legitimate cause for concern.

Still, wretched excess by a few at the top has little to do with our larger economic problems. It is important that we not misunderstand the real challenges we face.

While many politicians argue that upward mobility in our society has declined, the evidence seems to paint a different picture. According to a large new academic study, the odds of moving up the economic ladder have not changed appreciably in the past 20 years.

Both President Obama and Republicans such as Rep. Paul Ryan have recently argued that the odds of climbing the income ladder are lower today than in the past. Yet, a new study, based on tens of millions of tax records, finds that the mobility rate has held largely steady in recent decades.

Raj Chetty, a professor of economics at Harvard and one of the authors, suggests that any advances in opportunity provided by expanded social programs have been offset by other changes in economic conditions. Increased trade and advanced technology, he points out, have closed off some traditional sources of middle-income jobs.

The study notes that "it is not true that mobility itself is getting lower," said Lawrence E. Katz, a Harvard economist and mobility scholar who was not one of the study's authors, but has reviewed the findings:

What's really changed is the consequences of it. Because there's so much inequality, people born near the bottom tend to stay near the bottom, and that's much more consequential than it was 50 years ago.

Incorporating results from a previous study dating back to the 1950s, the authors concluded that that "measures of social mobility have remained remarkably stable over the second half of the 20th century in the U.S."

A leading voice on mobility issues, Manhattan Institute economist Scott Winship, said that he found a similar trend in mobility - no change for children born in the 1980s compared with those born in the 1940s - using a different set of data.

"The facts themselves are pretty unassailable," said M.I.T. economist David Autor. For example, the study found that about 8 percent of children born in the 1980s who grew up in families in the bottom fifth of income distribution managed to reach the top fifth for their age group today. The rate was nearly identical for children born a decade earlier. Among children born into the middle fifth of the income distribution, about 20 percent climbed into the top fifth as adults, also largely unchanged over the last decade.

One factor that few have discussed is how the decline of the American family has had an impact on economic mobility. We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of single-parent families and out-of-wedlock births that have harmed the upward mobility of working-class families.

Some liberals seem to have a vested interest in misunderstanding the real problems we face - as do some conservatives and their allegiance to large business interests. New York City's new mayor, Bill de Blasio speaks of New York as being composed of "two cities," one rich and one poor. One of the speakers at his inauguration called it "a plantation." Time columnist Joe Klein, hardly a conservative, calls this "myopic inaccuracy."

In Klein's view:

New York contains multitudes. It is the very opposite of a plantation. For the past 25 years especially, it has been a fierce incubator of opportunity for a kaleidoscope of new immigrant groups who have come and worked hard and succeeded. Studies show that the American Dream of upward mobility is more alive in New York than in much of the rest of the country - a fact that its new mayor should not only acknowledge but also crow about.

Another respected columnist, also not a conservative, Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, declares that:

Conservatives are, I think, correct to highlight family stability as a fundamental issue that goes to the welfare of children as much as food stamps or anything else. Children raised by a single parent are more than three times as likely to live in poverty as those raised by two parents, according to census data. After Daniel Patrick Moynihan raised the issue in 1965 in the context of black families, he was condemned in liberal circles as intolerant, if not a racist. Over time, though, there has been a growing appreciation that he was ahead of his time, and as the Urban Institute notes, the percentage of white babies born to unwed mothers is now the same as it was for black babies when he sounded his alarm.

Almost 36 percent of births in recent years in the U.S. were to unmarried women, according to census data. The birthrate for unmarried women is up 80 percent since 1980. Census data also shows that a majority of high school dropouts having babies are unmarried; only 9 percent of college graduates are. Two-thirds of black women giving birth are unmarried; just over a quarter of white women are.

How to improve marriage rates is something we don't seem to know how to do. Perhaps there is a way to improve parenting skills. Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institution argues that if we could teach the weakest parents to behave like average parents - by reading more to their children, speaking more, using consistent, encouraging discipline - then millions of children might have more secure attachments, more structure, and a better chance at upwardly mobile careers.

Robert Putnam of Harvard believes that when we design early education programs, they need to be "wrap-around" - to have formal and informal programs that bring parents in and instill communal skills. With teenagers, more guidance counselors are needed to help them understand how to advance and to respond when their needs are not being met. Putnam emphasizes skills for toddlers and teenagers. Human capital development is, in his view, what is really necessary to improve mobility and to help those who are born with disadvantages to advance.

There is no doubt that the twin problems of income disparity and the stagnation of the middle class must be addressed. But the many causes - technological advances, free trade with countries such as China, whose factories do not have to meet our environmental and other standards, and the decline of the American family - and of our educational system - must be understood as ingredients in the problems we face. Too much of our political rhetoric, unfortunately, tends to downplay the complex factors at work in order to come up with simple "solutions," which are unlikely to have positive results since they seem to purposely misunderstand the real and complex, dynamics at work.

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