If you’re looking for people to blame for the events in Charlottesville, you can add liberals to the list, particularly those in the ACLU and the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ability to march in Charlottesville comes directly as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1977, with the ACLU arguing for neo-Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois, where many Holocaust survivors lived.

In the case, National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1977), the ACLU got the liberal bloc of the court to determine that the use of the swastika was a symbolic form of free speech entitled to First Amendment protection. The court also ruled that the neo-Nazis, under the right of assembly in the First Amendment, could march through the predominantly Jewish city near Chicago.

As a reporter for Newsweek, I covered the Skokie story and found myself puzzled about the events back then. Today, as I teach media law, I still am rather puzzled why the neo-Nazis in Chicago and Charlottesville were allowed to protest. Here is some background on those events: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-neo-nazi-skokie-march-flashback-perspec-0312-20170310-story.html

On its website, the ACLU lauds its stance as “taking a stand for free speech.” Moreover, the organization notes: “The notoriety of the case caused some ACLU members to resign, but to many others, the case has come to represent the ACLU’s unwavering commitment to principle. In fact, many of the laws the ACLU cited to defend the group’s right to free speech and assembly were the same laws it had invoked during the Civil Rights era when Southern cities tried to shut down civil rights marches with similar claims about the violence and disruption the protests would cause.”

The ACLU says now that it will not defend people’s freedom of speech and right to assemble if they carry guns. I guess the Second Amendment doesn’t count anymore.

Nevertheless, here’s some of what is protected under the First Amendment:

–People can burn a flag.
–Burn a cross.
–Say “f***” in public but not on the radio.
–Curse a police officer.
–Use hate speech.
–Show sexual intercourse on HBO and the Internet but not on ABC.
–Call Marines homosexuals during a funeral as long as you are on a public sidewalk.

Many members of the liberal bloc on the U.S. Supreme Court supported these protections, while some, if not all, of the conservative bloc did not.

The argument usually follows the notion of the marketplace of ideas—a theory put forward by John Stuart Mills that all ideas should be allowed to be expressed because only those with the most validity will triumph. Furthermore, an arbiter of what constitutes improper speech might exclude disagreeable opinions.

Somehow, I think the founders may have had other ideas about what should constitute freedom of speech and right to “peaceably” assemble. The founders generally agreed that freedom of religion was the most important characteristic of the First Amendment, but there was a split when it came to other parts.

As the Heritage Foundation notes in its extensive background on the U.S. Constitution:

[John] Marshall and other Federalists argued that the freedom of the press must necessarily be limited, because “government cannot be…secured, if by falsehood and malicious slander, it is to be deprived of the confidence and affection of the people.” Not so, reasoned [James] Madison and other Republicans: even speech that creates “a contempt, a disrepute, or hatred [of the government] among the people” should be tolerated because the only way of determining whether such contempt is justified is “by a free examination [of the government’s actions], and a free communication among the people thereon.” It was as if half the country read the constitutional guarantee one way, and the other half, the other way.

The founding generation undoubtedly believed deeply in the freedom of speech and of the press, but then, as now, these general terms were understood quite differently by different people. Many people did not think about their precise meanings until a concrete controversy arose; and when a controversy did arise, the analysis was often influenced by people’s political interests as much as by their honest constitutional understanding.

When people argue that President Trump should be blamed for the actions of neo-Nazis, just tell them to read about Skokie and thank the liberals for providing the ability for wingnuts to speak and to assemble.

An Ivy League professor, a Google engineer, and a writer for a leftist publication walked into a bar…

Even though they didn’t actually join one another over a round of drinks, the group provided an interesting cocktail of ideas that provided some inconvenient truths and interrupted the annoying noise of news in recent days.

Amy Wax, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Larry Alexander, a law professor at the University of San Diego, have offered insights into the role of diversity and today’s culture. It is not a pretty picture.

In a recent column in philly.com, they wrote: “A combination of factors — prosperity, the Pill, the expansion of higher education, and the doubts surrounding the Vietnam War — encouraged an antiauthoritarian, adolescent, wish-fulfillment ideal — sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll — that was unworthy of, and unworkable for, a mature, prosperous adult society.

“All cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy,” they continued. “If the bourgeois cultural script — which the upper-middle class still largely observes but now hesitates to preach — cannot be widely reinstated, things are likely to get worse for us all.”

Professors Wax and Alexander obviously did not swallow the academic pill that promotes diversity over everything else and sees all cultures as equal.

“Would the re-embrace of bourgeois norms by the ordinary Americans who have abandoned them significantly reduce society’s pathologies? There is every reason to believe so. Among those who currently follow the old precepts, regardless of their level of education or affluence, the homicide rate is tiny, opioid addiction is rare, and poverty rates are low. Those who live by the simple rules that most people used to accept may not end up rich or hold elite jobs, but their lives will go far better than they do now. All schools and neighborhoods would be much safer and more pleasant. More students from all walks of life would be educated for constructive employment and democratic participation,” they said.

Read the entire column at http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/commentary/paying-the-price-for-breakdown-of-the-countrys-bourgeois-culture-20170809.html

But Professors Wax and Alexander are not alone. James Damore, a software engineer, wrote the now-famous treatise: Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.

“At Google, we talk so much about unconscious bias as it applies to race and gender, but we rarely discuss our moral biases. Political orientation is actually a result of deep moral preferences and thus biases. Considering that the overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left, we should critically examine these prejudices,” he wrote in the 10-page memo.

Damore, who lost his job after the document went viral, described himself as a “classic liberal.” His argument that some women may be less temperamentally suited to work as engineers than men got him into hot water. Here is the entire memo: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/evzjww/here-are-the-citations-for-the-anti-diversity-manifesto-circulating-at-google

But there’s more. The Nation, a historically left-leaning magazine, published an article arguing that Russia may not have been behind the hack of the computers at the Democratic National Committee. Instead, the hack may have been the work of a DNC insider, The Nation reported. Here is the article: https://www.thenation.com/article/a-new-report-raises-big-questions-about-last-years-dnc-hack/

Not surprisingly, the left attacked each of these individuals who failed to conform with today’s overarching memes. Nevertheless, it was refreshing to see alternative viewpoints as part of an actual debate about important issues that run against the grain of conventional wisdom, particularly in light of the continuing screeds after the events in Charlottesville.

The leading organization of journalism educators has invited a representative from one of the most troublesome publications as the keynote speaker for its annual convention.

Craig Silverman, the media editor of BuzzFeed, will be featured this week at the convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

AEJMC describes Silverman as an “internationally renowned expert on verification and fake news.” His big story was locating pro-Trump websites in Macedonia that produced fake news. Trump has nothing to do with the websites. But I guess if you can get Trump and fake news in the same paragraph, you get a lot of page views and a lot of buzz.

What AEJMC fails to mention is the problematic role BuzzFeed plays in today’s media landscape. Moreover, it is one of the least-trusted news organizations, according to a recent survey by the University of Missouri. BuzzFeed’s credibility is less than Breitbart, Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, and The Blaze. In fact, Occupy Democrats, which really isn’t a source of news and information, is the only website in the survey that ranks lower than BuzzFeed.

But back to Silverman. Just a few weeks after he joined the “news” organization, BuzzFeed published the memo that alleged Russia had a dossier with which it could blackmail President Trump.

BuzzFeed published the document without any attempt to verify its claims, which have led to the continuing onslaught of Russia nonsense. I don’t intend to repeat the scandalous and unverified claims from the 35-page document.

Ironically, Silverman ignored whether his own publication dealt in fake news. Editor Ben Smith defended the January release of the salacious document. “We thought that it was important when you have a blanket claim like he was compromised by Russian intelligence to share the details,” Smith said. “I think we are trying to best inform our audience, to be true to our audience, to treat our audience with respect.”

Having spent many years doing investigative reporting, I was appalled by this statement. To simply put information into the public space—irrespective of whether it was true or false—does not qualify as journalism to me. The actions of BuzzFeed demonstrated its role as a gossip monger.

But such is the niche of BuzzFeed in today’s journalism environment. The organization is best known for its animal memes, lists, and quizzes. It is a media darling because it makes money, mainly because the organization closely monitors what people want to know rather than what people should know.

Recently, BuzzFeed has been trying to gain some credibility by expanding bureaus throughout the country and the world, including the creation of an “investigative” team.

Nevertheless, I am nonplussed and embarrassed that a group of journalism educators–an organization of which I have been a member for more than 20 years–would bless BuzzFeed and its antics. I have decided to skip the convention this year rather than give MY blessing to such “journalism.”

Let’s take a look at the competence and morality of some of our past presidents.

Jimmy Carter was the epitome of incompetence. As a young reporter for Newsweek, I was assigned almost weekly to the “Jimmy f***-up stories.” They were many and varied, particularly his economic program that lead to double-digit inflation, double-digit interest rates and double-digit increases in the price of gasoline.

The Iran crisis demonstrated his ineptitude and held the entire country hostage for 444 days.

Lyndon Johnson was the worst president in my lifetime—a president whose policies still hold an iron grip on many American cities.

In domestic policy, Johnson shackled many through the War on Poverty. Just think how many people remain tied to the government trough by these ill-conceived programs. Moreover, we have LBJ to thank for the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which created the poor system Trump faces today. The Voting Rights Act may have had noble intentions, but it has lead to the inability to ask voters for identification during elections.

Then there’s Vietnam. LBJ managed to mismanage the war so badly that the United States had its tail between its legs for nearly two decades until the First Gulf War in 1990-91.

JFK brought his tarts into the White House, but Bill Clinton had sex in the Oval Office. I have to thank Clinton, however, because his reckless acts made me rethink my political orientation.

For many years, I embraced the liberal policies backed by baby boomers like me. I even voted for George McGovern in 1972! As a journalist and an academic, I had to go along and get along with the liberal point of view. Otherwise, I would have been shamed for my stances and lost my job. In fact, I did lose one academic job because of my conservative views.

Simply put, I could not bide the disgrace that Clinton brought to the office. If someone had such little regard for the presidency, I could not support him or his party, which supported him through impeachment.

It started me down a path of evaluating my political views. I found that I was a conservative on both economic and social policies.

Sure, Nixon had Watergate; Reagan had Iran-Contra, and Bush 43 failed to clean up Iraq. But Nixon brought China into the international fold, Reagan crushed the Soviet Union, and Bush 43 brought us together for a while after 9/11. Ironically, Bush 41, who brought victory during the First Gulf War, may have been the best president during my lifetime despite his read-my-lips gaffe.

For those who criticize the Trump administration and for those who have forgotten their history, I hope this trip down memory lane might be a useful review.

Certainly, President Trump has made mistakes. But my shorthand response to critics of Trump goes like this: unemployment and debt are down; stocks are up; and Neil Gorsuch is on the bench, with more to come. To me, that’s an awfully good start!

The Annual Wellness Visit, a provision of Obamacare, is one of the most significant invasions of personal privacy you’ve probably never heard of.

I didn’t know about AWV until strolled into my doctor’s office for my annual physical and received a four-page questionnaire about my health. Some physicians decided not to offer the assessment because of the complexity of the requirements, which includes 54 different parts, but many doctors adapted to Medicare’s version of preventive care and provided these visits

Little did I know that the form would be sent to the federal government for its perusal. Also, the form is for those on Medicare, which I do not use. But I had turned 65 since my last checkup, so the front desk gave me the form.

The form asks for an extensive personal and family medical history. Here are some of the other questions:

–Are you sexually active?
–Do you have more than one sexual partner?
–Do you use illegal drugs?
–Do you always fasten your seat belt?
— Is there any clutter in your walking space at home?
–Do family members report that you have difficulty remembering things?

Here’s a beaut:

–Draw a clock in the space below.
–Set the hands to show 11:10.

I wonder what will happen when those who use digital readouts are asked to draw a clock!

The idea behind this form is to standardize treatment for those on Medicare. To me, the motive is far more sinister. Under the guise of helping seniors, the government can collect key information for Medicare benefits and approval for healthcare costs.

If, for example, you admit that you are more than a social drinker, you may be unlikely to get much help for problems associated with alcohol abuse. If you don’t eat a government-recommended diet, you may be unable to get help for myriad issues. The potential exclusions seem endless.

I am more than willing to discuss various issues with my doctor, but I don’t want the government prying into the information on the form.

It turns out that you don’t need to have an Annual Wellness Visit, and you don’t need to fill out the form.

After I learned that I didn’t have to answer the questions for the federal government, I asked that the form be shredded. I suggest anyone over 65 do the same. It seems rather ridiculous that I can vote without providing ID, but I’m supposed to give up all this private information to the feds. I suggest Congress eliminate this serious intrusion to our privacy under Obamacare. Maybe the Republicans can at least agree on this!

Not surprisingly, the media failed to report a recent analysis of the lies told ABOUT Trump as chronicled by snopes.com, which is considered one of the most reliable sources of fact checking news and information.

The article’s title says it all, “The Lies of Donald Trump’s Critics, and How They Shape His Many Personas.”

Snopes.com reports: “Broadly speaking, most of the falsehoods leveled against Trump fall into one or more of four categories, each of them drawing from and feeding into four public personas inhabited by the President.

They are: Donald Trump: International Embarrassment, Trump the Tyrant, Donald Trump: Bully baby, Trump the Buffoon….

“Generally speaking, we discovered that they are characterized and driven by four types of errors of thought:

Alarmism
A lack of historical context or awareness
Cherry-picking of evidence (especially visual evidence)
A failure to adhere to Occam’s Razor — the common-sense understanding that the simplest explanation for an event or behavior is the most likely.”

Snopes lists a variety of errors, including interpretations of Trump’s handshake, his lack of interest in meetings because he was not taking notes at the G-7, and the continuing focus on his incompetence to serve as president. See http://www.snopes.com/2017/07/12/trump-lies/

For example, snopes.com notes the example “…of how rushed and alarmist conclusions, a lack of context, and a pre-existing caricature of Trump as an incipient dictator have played a role in false claims made against him came early on in his presidency. In the days following Trump’s inauguration, claims emerged that his administration had literally rewritten the Bill of Rights, changing all mention of ‘people’ to ‘citizens.’

“The story horrified readers. ‘Not a joke,’ read one widely shared tweet, ‘not a drill.’ But also, not true. The administration had changed WhiteHouse.gov’s summary of the Constitution but not the Constitution itself. What’s more, the change from ‘people’ to ‘citizens’ in this summary had already been made during the tenure of President Barack Obama.”

In conclusion, snopes.com advises that “in some ways, these sorts of massive exaggerations and gross distortions are even more corrosive and destructive than fake news.”

Perhaps news organizations need to turn the mirror back on themselves to determine whether they are ones telling lies.

h/t to my wife Elizabeth

New Yorker writer A. J. Liebling put it rather succinctly: “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

For many years, I dismissed the notion that corporate power in the media had corrupted the news process. But I have had to rethink my position, grudgingly agreeing with the lefties who see problems with corporate ownership of news.

The leftist freepress.org has a useful website to document the concentration of media ownership at https://www.freepress.net/ownership/chart

As AT&T and Time Warner, the owner of CNN, wait for approval of a merger, I couldn’t help but ask whether this concentration of business interests is really good for news consumers. I doubt that the founders anticipated this power.

Journalists like to wrap themselves in the First Amendment, which by the way was actually the Third Amendment when the Bill of Rights was first written. The other two amendments failed in the ratification process, so journalists really weren’t “first” in the grand thought process of the founders. Moreover, the freedoms of religion and speech precede freedom of the press in the First Amendment itself. But I digress.

Here is what Time Warner owns:

Company Overview: Time Warner is the world’s second-largest entertainment conglomerate with ownership interests in film, television and print.

TV: One television station and the Warner Brothers Television Group; Warner Brothers Television; Warner Horizon Television; CW Network (50 percent stake); TBS; TNT; Cartoon Network; truTV; Turner Classic Movies; Boomerang; CNN; HLN; CNN International; HBO; Cinemax; Space; Infinito; I-Sat; Fashion TV; HTV; Much Music; Pogo; Mondo TV; Tabi; CNN Español

Online Holdings: Warner Brothers Digital Distribution; TMZ.com; KidsWB.com

Print: Time, Inc.; 22 magazines including PeopleSports IllustratedTimeLifeInStyleReal SimpleSouthern LivingEntertainment Weekly, and Fortune

Entertainment: Warner Brothers; Warner Brothers Pictures; New Line Cinema; Castle Rock; WB Studio Enterprises, Inc.; Telepictures Productions, Inc.; Warner Brothers Animation, Inc.; Warner Home Video; Warner Premiere; Warner Specialty Films, Inc.; Warner Brothers International Cinemas

Other: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment; DC Entertainment; DC Comics

Here is the rundown for AT&T:

Company Overview: AT&T is the second-largest U.S. wireless provider and the largest company providing local phone service in the U.S. AT&T offers its wireless services to over 97 percent of the U.S. population and serves wired customers in 22 states. AT&T offers cable television services in portions of its service territory under the brand name “U-Verse.”

Does anyone truly believe that this merger would be better for people who want news and information?

Walter Mossberg, the dean of U.S. tech writers, offered his assessment. “If this $85 billion merger goes through, it would, in my view, represent an unhealthy concentration of power between a distributor and a maker of content,” he wrote last year. “For media companies, for consumers, for advertisers, the best solution is to keep distribution and content separate, so consumers and creators meet on a level playing field. AT&T, which seems more excited right now about owning media than running a network, should be forced to choose whether it wants to be in one business or the other.”

Mossberg suggested spinning off CNN into a separate company. I would prefer to see it die on its own.

President Trump has hinted he opposes the merger, mainly because he doesn’t like CNN. I think he should oppose the merger because it would be bad for America.

But, as Liebling reminded us many years ago, “People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news.” That holds true today for TV, the internet, and many other “news” outlets.

If you are tired of and disgusted by the persistent attacks against the American way of life, an advertisement and an event in Chicago should make you feel better on this Fourth of July.

Budweiser has released a new ad in which actor Adam Driver, a veteran himself, surprises a fellow veteran and his family by delivering in person a scholarship to his daughter.

U.S. Army veteran John Williams sustained a serious injury while training for Operation Desert Storm. Driver was also injured shortly before he was deployed to Iraq, putting an end to his military career.

That’s apparently why Driver was chosen to give Hayley Grace Williams a scholarship to nursing school.

The scholarship is part of a joint effort between Budweiser and Folds of Honor, which has awarded numerous scholarships to veterans and their family members since 2011.

In a letter, Hayley explained that her father’s military injury was so severe that he needed steel rods and six screws to stabilize his spine.

“They sent me your letter; I was in the military too,” Driver said as he met the family. “[Folds of Honor] reached out to me, and they told me to let you know that you got the scholarship. But also, Budweiser and I thought that you shouldn’t have to worry about school, so Budweiser is gonna be covering all your remaining school expenses for the rest of next year.”

Here is the video:

In Chicago, more than 250 wounded, ill, or injured athletes representing the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Special Operations Command, the Australian Defence Force, and the U.K. Armed Forces are taking part in the Warrior Games.

“Sport has played a part in all of our guys’ lives at some part of their career,” said U.K. Armed Forces Sports and Recovery Coordinator Emily Griffith. “But we are finding out that quite a lot of our guys are getting involved for camaraderie because they feel they can open up more while in the sport rather than in a group environment, so it is a part of their recovery whether it’s physically or psychologically.”

Scheduled to take place June 30 through July 8, the Warrior Games feature Paralympic-style competition in eight sports, including archery, cycling, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track, and wheelchair basketball.

The games are open to the public and will be held at a variety of prominent locations throughout the downtown area of Chicago, including the McCormick Place, the United Center, and Soldier Field.

For more information, see http://www.dodwarriorgames.com/

Have a Happy and Memorable Fourth of July!

Sing Sing poised to attack any interloper with her famed, right-front paw.

Sing Sing was one tough cat.

Born just outside the gate of the famous prison near New York City and named for it, she was the only kitten from her litter to survive.

Sing Sing was a gift to our daughter when Cecylia was almost six. The kitten promptly bit and scratched her and ran off to hide under something.

She weighed about five pounds and stood about a foot tall. For the first part of her life, she spent much of the time outside, hunting snakes and toads near our home in upstate New York. She often would be gone for several days at a time during her hunts.

It took about 10 years before anyone could hold her without getting bitten.

I was never a cat person, but somehow she became my cat. She enjoyed jaunts around the outside ledge of my apartment building in Philadelphia when I commuted between the city and upstate New York. She only fell off the ledge once.

About five years ago, she decided that being petted and sitting in my lap or on my chest were somewhat enjoyable until she would bite me and head off to sulk.

Three years ago, she couldn’t hear anymore and had trouble eating. But she was still the queen of the house, beating back our dogs and other cats. No one messed with Sing. If a cat could yell, she did, along with a fair amount of hissing. But she did purr sometimes from her perch on the kitchen island, where she often planned her attacks on people and animals.

When we got a new dog in 2015, she promptly smacked the 100-pound Great Pyrenees in the snout to demonstrate who was the boss.

Sing Sing lived for the sun and spent hours baking outside. If she’d been a person, she clearly would have been a beach bum.

At the end, she didn’t suffer. But it was clear she couldn’t rally yet another time from the brink of death.

Sing Sing died last week at the age of 19, arguably the most interesting and independent animal I’ve ever met. She will be missed.

The Terra Cotta warriors in Xi’an

My students in China made me smile today.

One of them sent me a heartfelt message that I had made a difference in her life. It wasn’t the usual end-of-the-semester note from my American students, who often are looking for a slightly higher grade.

The note read: “Thank you for your patience and kindness all of the time. I always learned a lot from your courses. Those good websites and videos opened new worlds to me. And sincerely, it was the practice of finishing your assignments that made me decide to be a journalist in the future. I’ll keep on going. I wish that someday I can be a good journalist as well as a cool person like you! “

Several others agreed with the student, sending me notes that echoed the sentiment. My Chinese colleagues told me that such praise is rare.

For the past two months, I have tried to teach more than 20 students how to become better journalists. As they often do, the Chinese students came up with some interesting stories, which you can see at www.writingforjournalism.com.

It’s not an easy path becoming a journalist in China. The rules are complicated; the work difficult. But I think some of my students may well make it.

Several young journalists wrote about health issues, including Bipolar disorder, cerebral palsy, child abuse and nursing homes. Others focused on providing interesting slices of life in Guangzhou, the third-largest city in China with more than 13 million residents.

One story even centered on news kiosks, a Chinese cultural icon that has been facing tough times because people don’t buy newspapers and magazines anymore because of the internet. Another story told of student entrepreneurs, who are creating businesses like barber shops while they are still in school.

Also, I have a greater understanding of China from my third trip there. I traveled to some fascinating places, which I had not seen in my previous trips.

A buddy I met along the way in Chengdu.

Chengdu, for example, is the heart of China’s efforts to save pandas from extinction.

Dunhuang is an ancient link on the Silk Road, the transit route from China to Europe from roughly 400 to 1400 A.D. On the opposite side of the Silk Road stands Xi’an, the home of the Terra Cotta warriors.

Hangzhou is the home of Alibaba, the Google of China, and a lovely city on a lake.

I also traveled to Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar, where Bagan, a site like Siem Reap in Cambodia, is home to some awe-inspiring temples.

All told, it was an exhilarating trip—one that I will never forget.