During my recent trips in Asia, I was struck by how many Catholic churches and seminaries existed in places like Yangon, Myanmar, and Da Nang, Vietnam. In Hong Kong, I happened upon a standing-room-only church service, and in Guangzhou, China, the Sacred Heart Cathedral has become a tourist stop for many Chinese.

After the 1949 takeover of China, the Communist Party outlawed religious groups and continued attacks during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, which included the destruction of numerous Buddhist temples and Christian churches.

The government still controls the land for religious buildings and constrains the leadership of congregations, particularly those with foreign ties. There have been significant religious crackdowns, such as that against the Dalai Lama and the Falun Gong movement. The Dalai Lama fled China in 1959 after Tibet came under the control of the central government. The case of the Falun Gong, who faced a concerted attack in 1999 and was later banned, is a bit more complicated. See https://www.pri.org/stories/2014-07-14/why-china-fears-falun-gong

In recent years, however, the Communist Party of China has become somewhat more tolerant of Christian churches. All told, an estimated 300 million Chinese, or 25 percent of the population, including about 30 million Christians, expressed a belief in some faith.

Officially, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an atheistic state under its Communist government. According to 2010 estimates by the Pew Research Center, Buddhists constituted about 16 percent of the population, and around 8 percent of the Vietnamese were Christians who are mostly Catholic. It was a nice treat to stop by a large roadside shrine on Highway 1 between Da Nang and Hue.

In Myanmar, which has only recently cast aside five decades of socialist/Communist rule, more than 6 percent of the population follow Christianity. The Baptists have become particularly strong, although the Catholic Church has a seminary and large cathedral in the capital.

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Yangon, Myanmar

Just around the corner from my hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand, stood a Mormon meeting house. I’ve seen Mormons all over the world, but I guess I didn’t expect a site in northern Thailand.

According to the church’s website, the first Mormon missionary to Thailand arrived in 1854. The congregation in Chiang Mai got started in 1970. In 2009, the Mormons reported that they had 16,000 members in Thailand.

A sign for a Mormon meeting house in northern Thailand

After many trips through temples devoted to Buddhism, which remains the dominant faith in Asia, I had a greater understanding of the religion’s intentions, which, although still rather foreign to me, stress good works and conscientious, ethical living.

As the Dalai Lama, who has his own significant disputes with the Chinese government, wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal:

“Today the world faces a crisis related to lack of respect for spiritual principles and ethical values. Such virtues cannot be forced on society by legislation or by science, nor can fear inspire ethical conduct. Rather, people must have conviction in the worth of ethical principles so that they want to live ethically.”

Whatever the case, the embrace of religion among many people throughout Asia—whether Buddhist or Christian–gave me hope, particularly when the West has seen the role of faith drop precipitously over the past few decades.

Many college students have become increasingly strident in their views about the U.S. Constitution despite understanding little about the document.

These trends have grown more troublesome in the past few years in the media law course I teach. In the past, most students recognized that they didn’t know too much about the U.S. Constitution. Now many think the most important treatise in U.S. history got many things wrong.

This generation–known as iGen–were born between 1995 and 2012. These young people have spent much of their lives with a smartphone in their hands. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, has written about this generation–many of whom populate today’s colleges and universities. “Opposing viewpoints can’t just be argued against; they have to be shut down,” she wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal. For the most part, it appears that these viewpoints come from the social justice warriors they had as teachers.

In an online discussion for my law class, some students said they simply want to do away with the U.S. Constitution and start over. “The Constitution is America’s sacred cow,” one student wrote. “It was written by a bunch of rich, white men to protect other rich, white men. The framers did not trust ‘ordinary’ people to make every day decisions. It is a racist document, although others would argue this. It is completely ambiguous. It was written in 1787 and it is now 2017 and we still refer back to this document and debate what the framers truly meant…. Progressives want government to change things while conservatives favor the status quo.”

The student was nonplussed when I pointed out that 12 states—almost all controlled by Republicans—have passed legislation to call a constitutional convention. The central focus of the bid to rewrite the U.S. Constitution comes from people who want to limit government power. For more information, see http://prospect.org/article/march-toward-constitutional-convention-slows-crawl

The argument that the U.S. Constitution is racist and sexist was a constant theme in the students’ responses.

A typical response came from one student. “It was stated that slavery was not prohibited, and it basically encouraged taxing on these human beings that were deemed as property. One simple section made way for racism, prejudice, and everything in-between…. Since this was the foundation of our country, it has obviously led to more issues involving race hundreds of years later.”

It was rather ironic when I asked if anyone in class whether they could describe the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments for me. No one could. These amendments eliminated slavery and provided the power to enforce the change. No one could name the five freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment–let alone provide the protections of more than two or three amendments. Alas, that is probably true for many Americans.

Other complaints centered on the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment—a constant meme from leftists, including many educators.

“[T]here is no reason a regular citizen needs an assault rifle for ‘protection,” one student wrote. “It is too vague and has allowed for people to get away with literal murder in some cases because they can invoke their ‘right to bear arms.’”

Anti-Trump sentiment appeared in many comments. Many students thought that the Electoral College should be abandoned because Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016. One student argued that the law should require that presidential candidates must have political experience.

Another student maintained that no one over 50 years old should be allowed to seek the presidency.

“If anyone under the age of 35 is considered too young, then anyone over the age of 50 should be considered too old,” the student argued. “They are still yearning for the good old days, and they try to replicate their youth or young adulthood. They are not in touch with the changes that are going on around them, or they refuse to accept the changes.”

I pointed out that such a requirement would violate laws—much like those against racism and sexism—under which age cannot be used as a criterion for discrimination.

Simply put, the attitudes in the discussion struck me as a fundamental change in the views of my students. I think these attitudes are largely a result of the increased number of social justice warriors in academia.

Unlike many of my colleagues, I don’t impose my conservative views on my students. Nevertheless, I do try to point out the logical fallacies of many of the positions leftists take about the U.S. Constitution.

It appears that I have a lot of work to do this semester.

Get your hammers and chisels out! Ready the bulldozers! Tear down the statues and remove the names of presidents who are considered “racists”!

Writing in The Huffington Post last year, Ibram Kendi, a professor at American University, provided the names of the most racist U.S. presidents. Kendi won the 2016 National Book Award for his analysis of racism in which he saw Angela Davis and the Black Panthers as the good guys.

I just want to make certain everyone knows just how crazy it could become. Here’s the list from No. 11 through No. 1:

No. 11. George W. Bush

Kendi’s rationale: No Child Left Behind Act and Katrina

No. 10. Calvin Coolidge

Kendi’s rationale: The Immigration Act of 1924 rationalized discrimination against Asians and restricted immigration from southern and eastern Europe, severely restricted African immigrants and banned the immigrations of Arabs and Asians. “America must be kept American,” President Coolidge said during his first annual message to Congress in 1923.

No. 9. Dwight Eisenhower

Kendi’s rationale: President Eisenhower did not endorse Brown v. Board of Education and dragged his feet to enforce it. He “did not wage war against segregation. And he remains as much to blame as anyone for its persistence, for the lives lost fighting against it.”

No. 8. James Polk

Kendi’s rationale: President Polk waged the Mexican American War (1846-1848). “War propagandists framed the U.S. as bringing freedom and civilization to the backward Mexicans. From the war spoils, the U.S. seized from Mexico nearly all of what is now the American Southwest—a gargantuan land seizure that mirrored the ongoing violent seizures of Native American land and the ongoing violent seizures of Black labor.”

No. 7. Woodrow Wilson

Kendi’s rationale:  “Professor Wilson and then President Wilson unapologetically backed what he called the ‘great Ku Klux Klan,’ and championed the Klan’s violent disenfranchisement of southern African Americans in the late 19th century. President Wilson began the brutal two-decade U.S. occupation of Haiti in 1915, preventing Haitians from self-governing. And possibly most egregiously, at the Versailles Convention settling World War I in 1919, President Wilson effectively killed Japan’s proposal for a treaty recognizing racial equality, thus sustaining the life of European colonialism.”

No. 6. Franklin Roosevelt

Kendi’s rationale: “President Roosevelt’s executive order in 1942 that ended up rounding up and forcing more than 100,000 Japanese Americans into prisons during World War II is arguably the most racist executive order in American history.”

No. 5. Thomas Jefferson

Kendi’s rationale: He owned slaves. [Note: Kendi doesn’t mention his affair with a slave.]

No. 4. James Monroe

Kendi’s rationale: The Monroe Doctrine, which was aimed at protecting U.S. interests in Latin and South America, was used “as a rationalizing cord for U.S. intervention into sovereign Latin American states, including the toppling of governments unfriendly to U.S. interests. This Monroe Doctrine was as racist and devastating to Latin American communities abroad as the doctrine of Manifest Destiny was to indigenous communities at home.”

No. 3. Ronald Reagan

Kendi’s rationale: “President Reagan attracted voters through racially coded appeals that allowed them to avoid admitting they were attracted by the racist appeals.

“President Reagan took President Nixon’s racist drug war to a new level, and the mass incarceration of Black and Brown bodies accelerated…. Reagan stands on this list as the representative of all these mass incarcerating presidents in the late 20th century.”

No. 2. Andrew Jackson

Kendi’s rationale: President “Jackson stepped into the U.S. presidency as a wealthy Tennessee enslaver and military general who had founded and spearheaded the Democratic Party. Jacksonian Democrats, as historians call them, amassed a winning coalition of southern enslavers, White working people, and recent European immigrants who regularly rioted against abolitionists, indigenous and Black communities, and civil rights activists before and after the Civil War.”

No. 1. Andrew Johnson

Kendi’s rationale: “President Johnson offered amnesty, property rights, and voting rights to all but the highest Confederate officials (most of whom he pardoned a year later). He later ordered the return of land to pardoned Confederates, null and voided those wartime orders that granted Blacks forty acres and a mule, and removed many of the Black troops from the South.

“Feeling empowered by President Johnson, Confederates instituted a series of discriminatory Black codes at the constitutional conventions that reformulated southern states in the summer and fall of 1865. The immediate postwar South became the spitting image of the prewar South in everything but name—as the law replaced the master. These racist policies caused a postwar war since an untold number of Black people lost their lives resisting them.”

Here in Philadelphia, the city is debating whether to remove the statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo, who was the city’s top cop in the 1960s and went on to become mayor. Somehow lost in the debate is how poorly the city has done under African-American leadership, including the bombing of fellow African-Americans in 1985.

But there’s more. The Associated Press reports that there are other non-Confederate monuments that might be toppled. https://apnews.com/c8875d316f5f4c4bab4d48812cb7d253/In-dispute-over-statues,-where-do-you-draw-the-line

Christopher Columbus is a favorite target. But so is Peter Faneuil, whose name graces the colonial meeting place in Boston nicknamed the “Cradle of Liberty,” because he had ties to the slave trade.

Simply put, it’s clear that we need to get rid of the statues of all dead white guys who oppressed the lives of so many Americans! We could build memorials dedicated to Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and many others to replace the symbols of injustice.

It might be funny except more and more people actually think some of these are good ideas.

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.