April 28, 2017

My Middle-aged White Lady Perspective: Free Speech

Ann Coulter, the long-standing outspoken conservative, she who was Tomi Lahren before there was a Tomi Lahren, she who may have tossed out a brief Nazi salute at the Republican National Convention (although we know she really didn't), was planning on speaking, in a public square or a triangle park or a traffic circle or something like that on or near the campus of the University of California at Berkeley.

No, seriously, she was going to speak at Sproul Plaza, the site of iconic free speech protests back in the 60s, when free speech was all the rage.

Coulter was invited to speak at Cal-Berkeley by two groups, Bridges USA (politically moderate) and the College Republicans. That invitation was rescinded -- too dangerous, bad, not safe -- but then the University offered her a different date but Coulter was not having it. She wanted Thursday and she was going to take Thursday, whether the university wanted her to or not And whether the police wanted her to or not.

As it turned out, the groups that had invited her backed away, not wanting to be associated with the promised violence and protests. And Coulter, after noting that it was "up to the police to keep her safe" backed down and decided not to show up. Interestingly, she also reminded us that former Homeland Security Security Janet Napolitano is the president of the University of California. And that
She had to keep the entire nation safe. I think she can keep a college campus safe. 
She's got a point there. And of course she's got a way with words, which is why she would make an interesting speaker, whether you agree with her or not.

What the hell is wrong with us that we cannot allow her to speak her mind, at Berkeley of all places? Yes, she's a provocateur; yes, she's opinionated; yes, she's brash, and surely, she's not a lefty. But does that preclude her from speaking anyplace other than on conservative TV and radio shows?

Do her words justify violent protests? Of course they don't. Neither did Milo's, really - and yet, he too was shut down and not allowed to speak at Berkeley, even before the videos suggesting he 'supported' pedophilia were brought to light -- by conservatives -- with the purpose of keeping him from speaking at CPAC.

According to this report, Milo is not done with Berkeley yet. He's planning to "occupy the public plaza" and to host free speech rallies this fall, protesting how the university is handling appearances by folks like him, and Coulter. And, he blamed liberals for the fear of violence.
It's happening because the left knows it's losing. It's losing the political battle and losing the free speech battle. And like a dog being kicked to death, it is lashing out.
He, like Coulter, has a point.

We have a problem, whether it's because the left lost, or because the right thinks everyone on the left is a snowflake. Or, because we have become intolerant of anyone and everyone who does not agree with us.

From my middle aged white lady perspective, threatening violence in an effort to keep someone with whom you disagree from exercising their constitutional right to free speech is not brave, or strong. It's cowardly, and nothing to write home about. And how it got to the point where we interpret our rights to apply only to us and those who agree with us, and not to those who disagree, is beyond me.

Is it our intractable politicians, their heels dug so far into their own ideology that they can barely walk upright?

Perhaps it's the Internet, which encourages anonymity and stokes slowly burning embers of hate?

Or maybe our president, who employed a take-no-prisoners approach to winning, and who, when faced with statements of fact from an opponent, simply yelled "wrong" over and over and over and then moved on to verbally assault the next one?

Or fear, real fear, of being 'taken over' by the other side, by the other guy, by "those people" - you know, the ones who don't look like you or think like you or talk like you or pray like you?

Or patriotism? Are these folks all acting out of some deeply held belief that their vision of America is the only vision, and that only those of the same ilk are allowed to speak?

Former Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, who served in the House for ten years and the Senate for 30 before retiring this year, once said
America is not a melting pot, it's a sizzling cauldron.
I don't know the specific context for her remark, but it seems so true, and so sad. Is rage our new identity?

Above I pointed the finger at five possible 'causes' of this, to show how easy it is to blame someone, or some thing, for the actions of others. We're told to do that, we're taught to do that, it seems that's one of the first things we learn.

But we all know where the answer lies - and we know who to blame.  We just have to look in the mirror.

April 26, 2017

Wondering on Wednesday (v87)

Well, well, well. It's Wednesday again, already. Time for some healthy wondering.

Ann Coulter will not be speaking at Berkeley after she was going to be speaking after she wasn't going to be speaking after she was going to be speaking, at the invitation of Bridge USA and the College Republicans. The two groups (the former a bunch of moderates, the latter a bunch of conservatives) professed an interest in having an open conversation about ideas.

What that all turned into was an open conversation about threats and protests and safety; the first two were guaranteed had Coulter spoken; the third could not be guaranteed in the face of the first two. I wonder, though, would that have been the case had the speaker been more pleasant? We know that Milo wasn't pleasant enough, and now Coulter. Is there anyone on the right would could pass?

Speaking of things that could pass, I hear president Trump has signed another decorative order, um, sorry, Executive Order setting the stage for all kinds of carnage to occur at our national monuments. That's right -- drillbabydrill and minebabymine and digbabydig and blastbabyblast and burnbabyburn and all the rest.

Trump's plan is to put the states back in charge, let them control what happens on the lands within their borders, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has 120 days to issue a full report on 30 sites created over the past couple of decades, and 45 days to issue his report on what to do with Bears Ears. designated by President Obama in December 2016.

I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one wondering how long before we see Trump hotels, Trump spas, Trump golf courses, and the like where we used to see unspoiled natural resources? Or, will the developer-in-chief decide to stay away, once we have our oil derricks and sawmills and pipelines and the rest crisscrossing our formerly protected sites?

I mean, we say how well he took the idea of wind turbines off the fairways of his golf course at Aberdeenshire, right? According to this report, Trump sent 16 letters to the government complaining about aesthetics, and advising that the turbines would cause economic and political problems.
Don't destroy your coastlines and your countryside with these monstrous turbines. Your economy will become a third world wasteland that global investors will avoid.
I wonder, does he remember saying this? And would not the same thinking apply to pipelines, derricks, fracking rigs and mines? Or does that only happen in Scotland?
Its adverse visual impact on my development and the beautiful Aberdeen coastline will be disastrous and environmentally irresponsible. 
Or, more likely, I'm thinking. does it only matter where Trump has skin in the game?

And finally, speaking of having skin in the game, rumor has it that Trump himself would be a big beneficiary of his tax plan, which will cut the corporate tax rate from 35%  to 15%, even for billionaires like him who file their multinational corporate taxes under their personal returns. The fact that lots of data, such as this example, suggest that US corporations don't pay the 35% top rate but in fact pay something considerably less, with major corporations paying $0 year over year.

It's disingenuous to pretend that the rate on the books is the one that is paid; Trump knows it, Congress knows it, and so do most Americans. That said, I wonder if there's any plan to ensure that corporations, including Trump himself, actually pay that percentage? And if not, why bother making the change?

Is that enough wondering for one night? Well, let's do just one more, circling back on free speech.

Did you hear about Ilie Nastase and his (alleged) delightful comment about Serena Williams' baby, due in the fall?
Let's see what color it has. Chocolate with milk? 
Um, Berkeley, would you have Nastase speak on campus, I wonder?